Developer's Blog

On OpenVMK - January 28, 2013

NOTE: I hurt my right hand pretty badly about three weeks ago so I'll try to keep this short.

A lot of buzz has been flying around regarding OpenVMK especially since the developer of that project has begun working on it again. People are wondering whether it will ever come to fruition and whether it is a true recreation. My response to those people is the following: give the guy some space.

Developing a game, especially one as in-depth as VMK, takes quite a bit of time. The same goes for OVMK_Nick as does for me; we're each one person working on a behemoth. It doesn't matter whose game opens first (as there have been some comparisons between HVMK and OVMK from both sides of the spectrum). Both of us are working toward the exact same goal of bringing back the magic that was the original game. We're working hard and dedicating a significant portion of our lives to the creation of each of our projects. In the end, isn't that all that matters? It's not important who gets there first.

I'll almost certainly catch flak from my members since I'm supporting another project. However, all that matters is that the game is brought back in some playable form. It doesn't really matter who does it; all that matters it that it happens. No, I'm not stopping my development of HVMK even though I'm supporting OVMK. Neither of us are giving up; we're both working towards our end goal. All we want is to give the displaced a home again. OVMK_Nick has a life just as I do too; lighten up and give the guy some room to be creative. Creating a game is a real pain and takes a significant amount of effort.

To all the future players of our games out there: don't be greedy. Our games will be finished when they're ready. All we ask of you is to be patient. It may seem like quite a long time (since 2009 in my case) but we'll each have something totally awesome for you guys when we're ready for a release. Cut Nick a little slack since HOST_Hawk asked you that.









Graphics and Animations - June 10, 2011

So it's been almost exactly six months since the last blog post. Of course, there's always a reason for the delay, though not always a good one.

Ever since the animation templates were changed several months ago, development progress has been slow since the primary focus has been on graphics instead of code. When they were changed, I hadn't seemed to realize a rather volatile situation would result from it: the sheer increase in the amount of necessary images. The number of images that have to be hand-animated was increased by a factor of four, so I now have to do four times as many images for anything related to the avatar (skin, hair, face, eyes, facial hair, skin color, hair color, hats, shirts, pants, and shoes). Along with the increase in numbers comes an increase in time due to the need to trying to align everything properly and making sure that logos and portions of the clothing are obscured correctly on any given animation frame that requires some part of the avatar's base body to cover some part of the clothing.

Basic templates are just about done for everything, but this will of course necessitate another code re-write in order to process the changing of clothes, hair styles, hair color, and skin color properly. Once the template set of walk animation frames are complete, the code re-write can begin again and hopefully we'll see some more implementation progress.

The other thing I want to mention is regarding emails. I'm sorry things have been taking so long and I definitely didn't plan for this to happen. However, if you come across as a jerk or particularly rude when you send me an email or contact message, I'm not going to answer it. Rudeness is and will be met with silence.

You can only watch an avatar run around in his underwear so long without having the temptation to play "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger in the background.









Confusion Regarding Rules - December 11, 2010

Let's discuss something serious for a moment.

It has come to my attention that people have been discussing this site on publicly-visible places, such as forums. For a good example of this, here's the URL I'm referencing for the moment: http://magykkingdom.forumotion.com/off-topic-section-f11/hmm-new-vmk-d-t881.htm. I'm posting some screenshots on the blog from that thread, but you're more than welcome to check out the actual post if you would like.

The first post I'm referencing

Dragon (the forum's admin) forbids you from posting Forumotion sites on her forum. She gets to make the rules for her site, much like I do for mine. At what point in time did I say it was okay to discuss this site publicly? It's specifically a private game for friends. That's it.

The second post I'm referencing

Selfish or not, you violated my rules by posting your thread and discussing it. The request not to do so is on the front page of this site AND it's an official rule in the Rules of Engagement here. If you wanted to talk about it, you could have simply sent out a Private Message (PM) to your friends which is perfectly fine under the Rules of Engagement for the game. Public post? Forbidden. Private message? Perfectly fine.

Something more recent, you say? Okay, here's something from last week (around December 4th). There's a comment about this site on a YouTube video about when the original game closed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE97bm1cPwU

The third post I'm referencing

At least that user got one thing right: it's no joke.

I don't want to close registrations, nor do I want to start banning or deleting people before the game even opens. However, if this continues I'll have no choice but to give the Rules of Engagement their teeth and enforce them.

Another thing: two people (nice try, Help and Sparky) have tried to register names that begin with HOST_ that I have not already added to my staff. I removed the prefix from both names and added validation to the Register page to prevent this from happening again. I can appreciate the attempts though; I have the same kind of spirit that would make me try something like that too :-)

I know this blog entry was a downer, but sometimes business needs to be taken care of and problems handled.









Captain's Log - November 28, 2010

Hey all!

I know I've been a little lax about posting updates lately, but that's only because SO MUCH AWESOME STUFF HAS BEEN DEVELOPED. I haven't really had the time (or the resources since I've been nearly passing-out tired at the end of each night) to update the Development Progress or push update notifications out to you all lately. However, I updated the Development Progress page this morning and am pushing out an update notification to you all now!

Here's some of the awesome stuff I mentioned:

  • Adventureland (the whole land) is more-or-less done, just need to add the animations for the public rooms

  • Main Street (the whole land) is more-or-less done, just need to add the animations for the public rooms

  • Fantasyland looks painful and will probably take some time to complete.

  • All five shops are currently available for inventory purchases.

  • SOUND. All the currently-implemented Public Rooms have their original sounds from the original game. In addition, some familiar music plays when you start up the game.

  • Guest Rooms. You can now customize the title, description, and your own Music Stream URL (thank The Skurvy Monkeys for this one; it was their idea) in your Guest Room.

  • Castle Fireworks (of my own design but close to the original in gameplay) is implemented and DONE. I just need to create the lobby room and figure out how to handle starting the game for multiple players at the same time.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean (of my own design but close to the original) is currently in development. So far, ships move, cannons fire, and things explode. Sounds awesome.

  • Lots of back-end improvements, stability updates, and efficiency changes.

  • Depth Sorting. All of Adventureland is now depth-sorted, which means you can now stand behind or in front of things. This adds the element of depth to the game that the original had and HVMK so desperately needed. No longer does the game look flat!

Be on the look-out for a new video soon, too. I'm not saying when though, but soon :-)









Sounds and Music - October 26, 2010

Today I finished fully (I hope) implementing audio support for HVMK. What does this mean? Well, now you can actually hear music and sound effects from the original game when you're in the rooms. Let the nostalgia commence!

Also, I've added a neat feature to the game that enables you to replace the music in your Guest Room with an online audio stream of your choice. You don't have to, of course, if you really like the music that comes with the rooms, but it's up to you. If you do choose to customize your in-room audio, you can do so in one of the following ways:
  • Winamp .pls playlist file
  • .m3u playlist file
  • .mp3 file if you just want to hear one thing over and over
  • Link to a streaming audio server

The .pls, .m3u, and link to a streaming audio server are probably the best choices when you want to listen to a streaming online radio station such as those found at http://www.shoutcast.com.

A few restrictions/features on the allowed file types:
  • With an .m3u playlist, HVMK will find and play the first valid audio stream it detects. That is, it's the first entry in the file that begins with "http://". An .m3u file is essentially just a text file, so you can open it in a text editor and take a look to see which file will be played. If it can't find a valid stream, it won't play anything.

  • With a .pls playlist, HVMK will play the first valid and running audio stream it finds. This stream also would be the first in the file that begins with "http://". If it cannot play that stream for some reason, it will try the next available stream and so forth. A .pls file is also essentially just a text file, so it can be opened in a text editor. The streams are listed as "FileX=http://www.somesite.com", where X is the stream's ID number.

  • If you opt to just link to a streaming audio server, you should be fine and probably won't have to worry about the file restrictions. HVMK should handle everything automatically once you've inserted the URL.

  • If you just want a single MP3, that's basically all you'll be listening to over and over.

In order to change your Guest Room audio, you would click on the "I" (Information) button on the HVMK toolbar and enter the URL of the file/server in the "Music Stream URL" box. Press OK to save your changes, then exit and re-enter the room and you'll hear your music playing if there was a successful audio connection. Sometimes it may take a little longer depending on the speed of your Internet connection, so give it a little while to start.

As HVMK nears its starting date, I'll be adding a list of some radio stations I've found for those who don't want to have to go searching for a certain type of music. Just copy the URL into the game window and you'll be set.

You can also delete what you put in the Music Stream URL box and press OK to return back to the original room music. Just leave the room and re-enter it to hear your selection!

A big thanks to Monkey and HaoleByDesign for the idea to implement this.

As always, keep checking for updates and more regarding new fun stuff!









Mini-games and Persistent Connections - October 21, 2010

As you may have heard, mini-games will definitely be included within HVMK. Specifically, the game I'm using to test the concept and the functionality is Castle Fireworks. At this point in time, there is a working multi-player competitive version of Castle Fireworks running and I'm constantly creating new levels and fireworks. This version of the game will be based more on the original Fireworks game than the Remixed version, though the levels and rounds are entirely of my own design. There are some new fireworks and explosions, too, so keep an eye out for those!

In addition to the inclusion of the Castle Fireworks game, I've been working a lot on the system infrastructure. What does that mean for you? Well, I've found and eliminated the connection problems that would cause the game to crash and display the dreaded "Your connection has been lost" message. Instead, the game now can tell when your connection has been lost and will re-connect you AUTOMATICALLY without missing a beat and without having to log-in again. This way, you can keep playing and not worry about dropped connections.

With all of that having been said, get ready for some awesome games of Fireworks that don't cause you to lose your connection to the server. Also, look for another podcast in the future, this time featuring a special guest.









Items, Items, and More Items! - October 7, 2010

Well, it looks as though it's been a little long since I last updated the Blog section of this site! I'd say just short of four months is a little long.

Even though this page hasn't been updated for a while, the development efforts of HVMK have kept going. They've produced some pretty cool things in that time, such as the Inventory and Shopping systems. Even these last few days, neat things have been happening. Yesterday, the Clothing system was completed, so you'll now have the ability to customize your avatar's clothing! There's a new video about it in the Members Area, actually.

While we're on the subject of clothing, I want to mention that there is now a Black Cowboy Hat available in addition to the regular Cowboy Hat. One of the biggest hat-related requests was that there be a black version of the Cowboy Hat... and I'm quite fond of the idea too! It always seemed to me like there should be one, so I'm glad other people wanted it as well.

In terms of the site resources, I'm intending to record another podcast early next week and make it available. Also, I'll be answering some of the questions that you all have sent in during the show. It will also be a show with guest appearances by some friends of mine and you'll get to hear us talk about stuff, so it should be fun!

Finally, there are some test releases planned soon in order to see how certain things work together, as well as to put a realistic user load on the server. They aren't full releases, but they'll be able to demonstrate certain awesome things :-)

Keep checking back and let's make this thing work!









The Approach of Beta - June 19, 2010

HVMK has been constantly moving forward in its development as more and more features are implemented. Because of how far this project has come since its inception, I think it's fair to say that the Beta phase of the game is approaching. As you may have already seen on the left-hand column of the site, there is a widget called Server Status. Under the "Server Version" portion of that widget, you may have noticed that it says "Beta" and now has a "Players Online" count.

So what's the big deal about Beta? Well, everyone who signs up for the Beta phase before it opens will receive the following items:
  • 1000 Credits
  • Dancing Inferno Magic Pin
  • HVMK Virtual Pin
  • Here From Day One Badge
Originally, it was only going to be the Inferno magic and the Day One badge, but I started to feel like it just wasn't enough. I added more stuff in order to let people have more ways to do stuff with the game when they first start, so now you can just jump right into things without having to earn a bunch of credits first.

I'm looking as forward to the eventual release of the Beta phase as much as all of you are, so let's make it happen!









Content Ratings - June 19, 2010

Now, we all know that the original VMK was strictly for G-rated content... and sometimes PG given some of the character titles we saw!

Being that this is HVMK and a custom-built version of VMK, I tend to use the following phrase: "My game, my rules".

Of course, this brings about a slight problem. A lot of us here are adults, though a lot of us here are kids as well. I wound up having a moral debate with myself for about a week while trying to figure out how I could accommodate everybody's interests and come to a compromise. Eventually, I did.

That compromise came to be known as the "Content Rating System". Simply put, it's a new tab in the Settings window of the HVMK toolbar that allows you to choose the appropriate level of content you wish to see while you're in-game; it's not perfect, but it does the trick. You can choose from the following ratings: G, PG, PG-13, and M. When you choose a content rating level, you'll see content from that level and below but nothing above.

What do the content ratings apply to? Currently, they cover furniture, pins, posters, and in-game chat. Everybody defaults to "G" at the beginning.

What about the Dictionary? Here's where one of the biggest problems within the original game started. There IS a dictionary within HVMK now, however it doesn't function like you would think. Instead of the dictionary containing all the possible words you CAN say (and limiting your conversations), it contains all the words you CAN'T say at a certain content level. Each content level (G, PG, PG-13) has its own separate dictionary which allows people at the same content level to communicate the same way but would potentially filter out inappropriate language if a player with a higher content level was communicating with a player who had a lower content level.

All of this is done to try to make sure each player only sees as much as he wants to and nothing more. If he doesn't want to see PG, PG-13, or M content, he shouldn't have to.









Hidden Traditions - June 9, 2010

Well, to be completely honest, I didn't know whether or not I could actually create something of this caliber. I'm a damn good software developer, but something of the nature and size of HVMK is friggin' huge. Hell, just ask Craig... he had to live with me while I built most of the system.

I didn't want to make any announcements until I was sure I could create a stable framework for the system. If I wasn't confident in my abilities, it wouldn't be fair to issue statements to you all. However, because I waited until I had a solid system with lots of video clips (and met with a lot of you at Disneyland to discuss the project itself face-to-face), I felt as though I could start making announcements and bulletins because the project seems solid.

Other than that, I trust you guys. Trust plays a big factor in the progression of HVMK. Since November 2009, we have 83 people currently registered for the game, and that number is forever-growing as more and more publicity gets out. Here's hoping we have a nice community of people (though I love the current community with all my heart)!









The History of HVMK - June 7, 2010

How did this project start?

It's a question I ask myself every day. In early 2009, I came across my screenshot of the VMK Gallery public room with absolutely nobody in it... not even myself. Creepy? Yes. However, it also proved to be beneficial.

Being in IT for the last 13 years and developing in Java for all of them, my first instinct was to try to make something around that screenshot just for fun. What I wound up coming up with was the isometric Room Editor. I never really had a thought past that; I just wanted to make a generic editor that could let the user create a grid for a room.

I started putting more and more effort into it, building a bunch of features and getting to the point where I could literally paint a room grid (complete with Walk, Obstacle, and Exit tiles) just by selecting a few options and then clicking and dragging over the image. It seemed really cool and I kind of let things be.

A few months later, I came across my Room Editor, forgetting I had even built it. I remembered how cool I thought it was and drew a few room grids on top of that VMK Gallery image just for nostalgic purposes. Then, I found an image of the Boot Hill Shooting Gallery Guest Room... my first guest room ever from 2005. I switched out the VMK Gallery image for this one and started drawing some more.

From there, I thought "Yeah, this is cool... but I kind of want to see the room without this clunky editor interface". Out of that desire and the next few days came the Room Viewer. With that program, I could load up the room I created in the Room Editor and it would play the animations, the sound, track the mouse and change the tile reticle to either "Walk" or "Exit" depending on what you were hovering on, and so forth.

After building the combination of both the Room Editor and the Room Viewer, I finally said "You know what? I'm just going to make the whole game myself". At that point, the long process of creating Hawk's VMK had begun and I never looked back.

Fun Fact: I still use the Room Editor to this day in order to visually create the public and guest room grids.









Server Status - June 7, 2010

Just added a new widget to the official site called "Server Status" on the left-hand side. It gives real-time displays of the server's current status, its version, and how many people are connected (which will just be me and my testing accounts for now while I develop the code more and more).

So far, though, according to my latest stress-test results, I can support at least 5,000 connections at once, though I'm afraid to try any higher out of fear of my box exploding. Here's a screenshot:

So... many... connections!