Archive for July, 2006|Monthly archive page

Introducing The Singular: Chaos Gate

well. the day is finally here. i’d like to officially welcome all of you (and your friends. and their friends. yeah — pretty much anyone who might be interested….) to the public alpha of:

The Singular: Chaos Gate

it’s what’s been taking up all of my free time and depriving me of sleep since about last october.

“Chaos Gate” being the fancy, fantasy story tie-in, of course. (these days, you just aren’t cool unless you’ve got a title-dangler like that) like i’ve said before, if this one goes well, there’s a vampire one, a sci-fi one and even a pirate one around the corner. It’s built to be pretty genre agnostic. The sweet arena fighting championship game we are thinking of beyond those, tho, is going to require a whole new engine. heh.

we as a team are pretty happy with the way things are progressing.

i’ll tell you what, tho, it sure is nice implementing new features once the core engine is in place. for example, we just dropped in professions on friday. the modular design just let us plop the functionality right in.

there IS one thing i’m not tremendously excited about yet. tho, i still think it’s the right decision to do a public alpha already just to make sure we’re on the right game design track. what am i not happy with? character planning and goals aren’t up to snuff yet. folks don’t really have any easily discernable direction to build their characters yet.

we’re going to have about 3 (or even more, really) tiers of skills inside the trees. not all of them will ramp up that high, but we’ll for sure give the players plenty to build to. right now, i think, the only one that qualifies is the crafting line. Mundane, Masterwork, Magical. sort of a chaining prereq thing.

it’ll get there, tho. with things like our spirit timers, riposte, disguise, fast healing, typed locations, etc. it should be cool. and, as i said, we’ve got a solid base to work from. we just are at the point where we need a critical mass of folks playing to see where to tweak things. we still have a lot of things to do from style sheets to automatically updating the ui to fleshing out some world events, but, it’s shaping up great.

so, yeah, we’re really happy with where it is right now. god knows we’ve put enough effort into it so far. heh. i mean, the world timer is already in the 12k range. and, for most of it’s life, it was incrementing turns every half hour. (it started with 1 back in october of last year)

so, give it a try. then, let us know what you guys think.

maybe i’m just crazy when i get excited about making a specific magic item for me, then customizing a specific skill to use it so that the history the other guy sees is all pimped out — all stuff any character can do.

damn, but i think that’s cool.

m3mnoch.

Trumpets and Fanfare

it is with terrific trumpets and fabulous fanfare that i announce… an announcement.
we’ll be going live with the public alpha this weekend.  just putting the finishing touches on a demo quest or two.  niggling with this or that.  you know.  the nervous twitching right before you let the world see what you’ve been working for.

we’ve got one thing going for us i suppose.  what we have is already better (even at this early state) than anything you’ll find on lists like apex or oz games.

word.

m3mnoch.

Hosting Update

just a quick note to check in. well. that, and some funny reading material.

my family and i just got back from park city, utah (hosted the winter olympics a few years ago). we have a timeshare down there at the resort. very nice. not real conducive to getting our game launched, but i actually got to sleep a bit. mmmm…. sleep.

anyway. we have that whole server thing figured out! woo hoo! we ended up going with ev1servers.net. thanks for the recommend, mike. they’ve been awesome so far.

now, about that bit i mentioned earlier about the craziness that was our first hosting company — what i’m going to do is catch you guys up via an email i wrote to one of their veeps. turns out he and i have some common friends we’ve worked with in the past, so i got some good dirt on their company and how they work. they really are trying hard to do things right and we just happened to fall into a black hole. it’s really just a case of bad timing.

however. that still doesn’t give me the confidence to use them as a hosting company right now, but i promised him i wouldn’t totally bash them.

that being the case, here’s the email i sent to him explaining what had happened so far — with the company’s name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

[Mr. Veep].

Sorry to bother you with this, but, I’d like to cancel my contract and drop your company as our primary hosting center. [Mr. Sales Rep] hasn’t responded to my request from last week, so I’m assuming he’s on vacation or something as he’s been fairly quick to get back to me in the past.

The reason is primarily support incompetence, but it’s grown into encompassing more of a “black hole of communication” reason.

Let me explain what has happened so far:

Initially, my impression of [Hosting Company] and its staff was outstanding. [Mr. Sales Rep] was responsive and easy to work with. I received several kind and helpful setup emails from support. Everything seemed fantastic and I was very happy to have chosen your company as my hosting provider.

That was the last time I felt like that, unfortunately.

Shortly after our server getting up and having our application loaded onto it, I tested everything and it was fine. The next day, however, the site was mysteriously requiring windows authentication — despite my having set up IIS to allow anonymous users. After much irritation at having issues with something as simple as clicking “the little checkbox” that allows anonymous users, it suddenly started allowing connections after a reboot and 3 attempts at restarting IIS.

Being accustomed to strangeness like that, I just pressed on. Until it happened again. And, again, it just “magically” went down (meaning started dis-allowing anonymous users) and came back up (allowing them again) of, seemingly, its own volition.

The third time, I called in support. This is an important application, otherwise, I would just host the box ourselves at a colocation facility. The whole reason we came to [Hosting Company] was for a managed, dedicated server. In short, we wanted the experts handling the most mission critical part of our operation. If we wanted to setup the infrastructure or build a box and find a colo, we would have.

I was polite and descriptive of our problem in that first message. Shortly afterwards (not counting the automated messages), I received a message from what I would assume is a 1st tier support rep noting that he couldn’t really help me and was escalating the issue. I was notified that it could take 24-72 hours to get a response.

That was fine with me. We were in pre-production and having the Administrator (that’s how I was able to keep us limping along) set up as the IIS user was okay for the short term. We just backed up our data and hoped the server didn’t get compromised. After all, it’s not on my network.

48 hours later (notice that is less than the 72 hour maximum) I received a “ticket closed” email explaining how [Hosting Company] hadn’t heard from me on the issue in 48 hours, so it was considered closed.

You closed my ticket. My ticket that had your server running at a dangerous security level. My ticket that is a showstopper issue for our application. My ticket that I was patiently waiting for an answer back from your support team.

That was the end of my patience.

My response to that was very, very, very angry. That level of incompetence will not be tolerated by myself nor any of your other customers, I’m sure. Here’s why: People can be placated and assuaged as long as there is forward motion. As long as SOMETHING is happening on their issue, they will wait. When you suddenly dismiss their concerns? When all forward progress ends? Yes. They get angry. I did. Others will.

That reason alone was enough of a show of inadequacy to cause me to yank the account. You would think that [Hosting Company] would be concerned or fix the matter. So did I.

There was a prompt response to my flagrantly angry message. A quick apology and a note that someone would get back to me.

No one did.

Although, I didn’t really expect an immediate answer considering the language and tone of my message — But four days of silence? Does anyone actually work at [Hosting Company] ? Just checking.

Eventually, [Mr. Sales Rep] emailed me back and said, again, you were working on it. I’m not really sure what “working on it” was. Maybe getting credit for the account at the close of the quarter — Whatever. I don’t really care. I just want out of a contract where I don’t feel [Hosting Company] is holding up their end of the bargain.

A couple more days go by.

Then, a polite and helpful gentleman from the support team called me. It was approaching the July 4th weekend and he said he would fiddle (my words, not his) with the settings and monitor our server over the weekend to see how it performed because, rightly so, it’s not an easy problem to purposefully recreate.

He said he would call me on the following Monday to discuss and that he would give me his direct line in case there were any other issues.

Fantastic. He (I wish I’d gotten his name. My fault for not writing it down.) restored some semblance of confidence in [Hosting Company]. Internally, my team and I decided that if 1) he addressed the issue, 2) he called me back on Monday and 3) he gave me his direct line as promised, we would stay with [Hosting Company].

To this day, I haven’t heard back from him. That was a week and a half ago.

To make matters worse (for all of us, really, not just you as we are trying to launch our public alpha. We just need a server.) the test website he set up is now requiring authentication. In other words, his experiment broke too. It still is today. You can go in and try to browse the website and it’ll require authentication.

We’ve since pulled all of our data off the server and back into our development environment. We have no ties to the server or your company anymore. No ties except this disappointing contract that promises us acceptable support services.

That’s exactly the contract I want to get rid of. I don’t want free hosting. I don’t even want you to pay US for hosting. I don’t want my application on a server that could cut off my users at anytime and a company who can’t stop that from happening.

And, I know you can’t figure out my issue. I’m pretty sure your team hasn’t “forgotten” about us. And, you know as well as I do that if it were simple “user error” on my part, they would have politely and discretely informed me of such and fixed the server.

As it is, we want nothing more to do with your company and as some remote form of an apology, really, all we want is our money back. At this point, we’re rather just go away.

I don’t want to turn this into a PR mess or a litigation nightmare. I think we can both agree that $1100 just isn’t worth the effort.

Sincerely,

Christopher D. Chapman
Owner, Steel Anvil Studios
[My Direct Number]

so. a couple days after that email, i sent this one:

oh. my. lord.

what on earth are you guys doing over there? what server do you think you are monitoring when you hit [Our Domain Name]? have i asked you to setup any dns yet? why the hell is this ip: http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=%5BA server on their Network] hitting my dev server every 5 seconds?

let me help you out here:
click start > run.
then, type in “cmd” without the quotes.
then, at the prompt, type in: nslookup [Our Domain Name]

does that ip address belong to [Hosting Company]? no? really? that’s weird. then why are you monitoring it? i mean, i appreciate your help monitoring my own servers on my own network, but, seriously? what the hell kind of operation do you people run over there? not only have you failed miserably at every single request i’ve had, but this is… is… is simply staggering.

please god. just give us our money back for this nightmare of an experience so we can just go away and find a company that is capable of hosting our site.

good lord. i should charge admission. you KNOW this whole ordeal is getting published somewhere. it’s just too good not to.

chris.

after all of that, they actually started monitoring my dev server on my network instead of their server on their network. they don’t even know what servers belong to them….

yup. published.

/sigh

anyway. game update!

during the downtime, we’ve pressed on and implemented some stuff that was slotted for beta. (the new help system is damn sexy if i say so myself) fixed a few bugs. tightened up some skill/experience ratio stuff. all good things moving forward. now, we just need to clean up a bit of our mess and release the public alpha.

we’re really excited (scared to death) to get it out there in you guys’ hands.

m3mnoch.

There’s a Phrase For It

yup.  there’s a phrase for it.  and the abbreviation is: BMOC.  you don’t mess with the ‘m.’

Combat Results

m3mnoch attacks Punching Bag 10 with a Ring of Falling Sky!

Punching Bag 10 only has time to look skyward for a moment before being instantly buried under a huge mound of craggy Brimstone and debris. m3mnoch casually climbs to the top of the pile and laughs maniacally.

Punching Bag 10 recieves 1122 points of Physical Damage.

m3mnoch attacks Punching Bag 10 with a Mitre of Misery!

m3mnoch’s flaming mitre rains fire and death down upon Punching Bag 10’s melting body.

Punching Bag 10 recieves 67 points of Fire Damage.

Experience
  • m3mnoch gains 2363 experience points.
  • Punching Bag 10 gains 0 experience points.

fully customizable skills and equipment.  our game kicks ass.

m3mnoch.

p.s.  links removed to keep us secret still….  shhhhh….

Game Hosting

dude.  all we want is a competent place to setup a dedicated server.  is that really so hard to ask?

god willing, if this stupid hosting debacle works itself out, we’ll have a cool alpha (already moving into un-alpha-tested beta actually) game to show you guys.  well.  and depending on our old place’s exit agreement, i may have a funny and frustrating story to recant — with names!  i’ll prolly still tell the story, but change the names for the innocents….

let me just say this: i would be completely and utterly embarrassed by all of this if i worked for ‘hosting company x.’

right now, i’ll just say — wow.

m3mnoch.