.:: Alex Erne :: PHP/MySQL & Unity3D/C# projects ::.
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  28 August 2016 - Merging blogs :: Posted in General

With my decision not to focus (and thus stress) too much on developing games (see my post earlier this month) to avoid stress and get too many mood swings from my bi-polar disorder, I've just merged the old AE games blog into this one.

However, I also stated that I'd be (silently) closing the AE games Facebook page, but I've changed my mind about that. Eventhough I'll be closing the AEgam.es site, I will keep using the trademark I own on AEgames and thus still have some use for the facebook page. This will also mean that I'll include the facebook button that's currently on the AEgam.es site into this one.

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  08 August 2016 - ALL PROJECTS ON HOLD INDEFINITELY :: Posted in General

I've been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and ADD back in 2009, but I always felt that was not all there was to me. Only recently I've been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder, which is most likely the missing piece of the puzzle of my mental state of mind. The last 20 years my moods have been going up and down like that of a 7 month pregnant woman (no offense to the female readers), and the cycle in which the mood changes happen went from about a year to around 3 months now. That does not mean that I have 90 'good days' and 90 'bad days' - it's just the general state of my mind, with peaks both up and down from one minute to the other at times.

Earlier today I've had yet an other such peak in the form of a very sudden deep depression. It was that bad that I gave my wife my wedding ring and I was about to walk out the door never to return. Good thing she was there to talk me out of it. The next 2 hours suicidal thoughts were on my mind constantly and I had to restrain myself not to take the pills that I have lying around the house, or just grab some knife and start cutting myself. Instead I just used my nails to inflict the pain I was yearning for...

This all is somewhat related to my programming work. I can only work on my prejects when I'm doing well and with those times getting shorter and shorter, the progress will become very slow. Not to mention, the stress caused my the need to code and deliver the project to the public is not doing my mental state any good either.

Of course, programming is still one of my greatest hobbies, and I will keep programming. I just will not make any big projects like the d20 project, or the re-coding of TetraGems and complete overhaul of Burst-a-Bubble. That's just the stress I can't need anymore and I have to put it down for that reason. Will I completely quit making games? Not at all! I just won't be making announcements or anything like that, and when I think the game I made is good enough, I'll just drop it on you all.
With that, the main site of my programming activities (AE games) will be closed down as well later this year, as well as a (silent) closure of the Facebook page I created for it. I will keep my twitter account, but don't expect a lot of tweets from me there...

Then TetraGems... I was busy re-coding it and it's basically ready on the 1st stage. I will make some (simple) modifications to code to so that the highscores, which are stored through the aegam.es site, will stay available after the closure of the site. I can't tell any date yet for that release though - it all depends on how I'm doing...

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  24 May 2016 - PHP.net's 8-year old stripslashes() bug :: Posted in General

Today while working on the MySQL connection tests with Unity3D I identified a bug in PHP. This bug concerns the stripslashes() function. This function should be used in conjunction with addslashes(), which add escape codes to ', ", \ and null while stripslashes() SHOULD remove them again.

Since these 2 functions are not native to MySQL, but PHP, I had to write them for Unity myself. Using an old copy of this blog locally, I have enough data to read and test, while I can edit it as I please on my local server. During these editings I found out that the \ was processed normally using addslashes(). But when I requested the blog entry on the local webserver, the \\ which was stored in the database was compeltely removed instead of returning a single \.

This is clearly a bug, because how else can we store stuff safely in a MySQL database..? And therefor I wanted to make a bugreport about the issue.

Having no account though (after having laid out the whole bug, I was shown similar reports and one caught my eye: https://bugs.php.net/bug.php?id=44876&edit=2. This report dates back to 2008 and describes the same bug I've encountered. But the response from the PHP.net team is just baffling: "This is expected behaviour and has always been this way.". Yeha, the description of the function is clear, but it's not conform it's counterpart addslashes().

Basically, a piece of code like:
should return '\' (without quoted) and not the empty string '' (without quotes, but hard to display an empty string without them )

Clearly there is no solution for this issue, other than make your own function in PHP to substitute stripslashes(). It's a good thing that I found this one so that I can change the code of the I am Blog project (eventhough I have declared it dead yesterday, but this is a bug I MUST fix).

...all instances of \ were changed manually in the database into \ to make this post show up correctly...

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  28 April 2016 - ...or stick with Unity3D..? :: Posted in General

Earlier this month I posted about a possible change to Unreal Engine because the RPG a friend is working on will be build in that engine. Of course, being invited I figured to change to Unreal Engine, but now I'm not so sure anymore. Reason for this change of mind is twofold....

First off, I've recently done my annual tax stuff and looking at it, I saw the monetary investments I've done last year and they are already pretty hefty. Including the investments I've done in 2014 the total is a bit over €900 already (approximately $1000). And while some of that invenstment is on generic tools that I can also use for Unreal Engine (talking about €560 here), a lot of tools I've bought are Unity specific.

The other reason is probably more important to cosider sticking to Unity3D, and that's my knowledge of the engine and the C# programming language. Certainly with the d20 project my knowledge of both is growing exponantionally and I think it's a real waste to hop to a new development environment. With that, Microsoft also has made .NET for Linux and Unity3D is very busy on making a Linux client (running the beta now), while Unreal sticks to Windows and Mac as platforms for it's client.

The only reason to change to Unreal Engine would be to make 'better looking' games. But I doubt that'd be something I really want. I'm an indie developer and I won't be able to make a game looking like a AAA title. I even don't want to make one looking like that, because of all the ranting that'd be done by the players when something isn't like they want (wich is 'extremely normal' by the average spoiled AAA gamer). I'd much rather make something I like and if it looks less like an AAA title but the gameplay is okay, then I'm already happy. And for that Unity3D is a good engine for me to use...

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  04 April 2016 - Possible change from Unity to Unreal :: Posted in General

I've been working with the Unity 3D engine for about 3 years now and I've grown quite fond of it. The only problem though with the Unity 3D engine is it's graphical quality. And while since I started using Unity (with version 4.2) a lot has changed already in terms of graphical quality (with the release of Unity 5 the shaders have become very good), it's still below par when comparing it to the Unreal Engine.

An other problem that comes with the Unity 3D engine is the language used. The main language is C# (it also supports JavaScript and BOO - whatever that might be ), a language basically only used by the Unity 3D engine and mostly only on the Windows platform as extention to .NET. This compared to the UNreal Engine that uses C++, a language that's also used by the Cry Engine (in case I want to use that one) and across almost all platforms available.

The reason for this change is that lead designer for the RPG I've been invited to work on has decided to change from Unity to Unreal. And because of the graphical quality I've mentioned above, I can understand the change. The problem though, I have no real knowledge of C++ and it differs quite a lot from C#, even while the 2 languages are related.

To get to know C++ a bit better, I've already bought a book to learn the basics of the language (which is all I need - I learn a programming language by it's structure, not the statements it's using) and I think I can master the language in a couple of weeks. My only concern is that for the RPG I've been very busy on the d20 project and that has already grown pretty big in size (275Kb of code already ) and converting it from C# to C++ will take me quite a while. Therefor I figured to complete the d20 project in Unity (and release it as a plugin) and then convert it to C++ for the Unreal engine and thus the RPG project I've been invited for.

Even with the change to Unreal, I think I'll still be using Unity a lot. I've made a list of investments in tools for Unity I've made the last year (for tax purposes) and the amount is HUGE. It'll be a waste to throw that all overboard, even more when I'm more skilled in Unity than Unreal at the moment...

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  13 December 2015 - Hive-mind AI :: Posted in General

I'm still not feeling 100% and thus not ready to get back to coding, but it feels like I'm getting there slowly. It certainly shows when I get ideas on mechanics that I can use in future games (read: the RPG I want to make).

Yesterday all of a sudden I had a brainsurge that gave me rough lines on how to make a hive-mind AI. And as said, though I'm not ready to start coding it yet, I can trust these mechanics to paper on how they roughly work for future use. And while thinking about these mechanics, the mechanics are getting more and more clear to me.

So how does the hive-mind work..?

First off there's a Queen (or any other main 'intelligence') that controls the hive. This is the main NPC that the hive will protect no matter what. Around that Queen there are workers to fulfull her needs (healing/buffs in game mechanics) and only a few of these workers are normally alloweed to be around herm while other workers in the hive will tend to maintaining the hive itself. These workers have little to no offensive or defensive power and willnot engage in combat by theirself, unless it's a last-resort to defend theirself.

Then you have the warriors. These are (of course) the main force to protect the hive. A small group of these warriors are elites and in the hive 24/7 to protect the area aroudn the Queen, while the other warriors roam around the surroundings of the hive to protect the workers who are gathering food and resources.

In combat the warriors will (obviously) be the ones who will fight off the enemy they face, while most of the workers will retreat to the hive (if possible). The small number of workers that stay behind will mainly heal/buff the warriors and (from a save distance) help the warriors to debuff the enemy.

That's the hive-mind AI in very rough lines. There's more spinning around my head and I will work it out on (digital) paper the coming days/weeks. And as said, I will use this in a future game. Be it the RPG I want to make (I can use it for any NPC that lives in groups, be it ants, goblins or small animal packs) or some strategy game I might make in the future.

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  01 April 2015 - About development updates (and a bit about me) :: Posted in General

You might have noticed that I'm giving unregulated updates about the development progress on the social media (this blog, Facebook and twitter). Mostly I post a lot of updates in a couple of days, only to be followed by a week of silence. Let me (try to) explain why this is...

First of all, programming is a hobby of mine and I want to keep it like that. It's not a profession where I have to work on the games I'm developing each and every day, but that doesn't say I won't try to work around 4 to 5 days a week on my projects for at least 3 hours a day...

With that, I'm also a full autodidact when it comes to programming. Aside from a quick course PHP/MySQL I took in 2008 (more to learn to work with databases than to learn to program ), I have never followed a single lesson. This all started back in '83 when I was only 14 and started to play on ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64 to get to know BASIC. From there on I've also learned to program in ASM (Atari 800XL) Pascal and C (x86 machines) and now Unity3D/C#, with the last one being completely different (OOP) from what I was used to in the past. With not having taken any lessons in programming at all, it does mean that I have to do a lot of trial & error, which slows down development a lot at times (like now, where I had to figure out how to use List<t> in the Bubbles project).

Then there's the issue of my handicap(s). Oh yes, I have more than one - lucky me
The first 'set' is Asperger syndrome and ADD. This combination is pretty uncommon and at times totally no fun at all. So let me start with the bad part of it: CHAOS, and lots of it. Thoughts raze through my brain without any structure. When I suffer from chaos, I simply sit for the computer and just play games or listen to music just to relax - there's not much more I can do.
The other side of the combination of Asperger syndrome and ADD is hyperfocus.And while ADD is an attention disorder (and thus lacking a focus on most things for a long time), it does give spurs of focus. Asperger syndrome on the other hand (like most forms of autism) has it's focus on only a couple of subjects. Lucky for me, my hobby is a major part of the focus from my Asperger syndrome. And the 2 focuses from Asperger syndrome and ADD combined gives me a HUGE hyperfocus when I'm programming.

I was talking about handicaps. If you're following my gaming blog Pages from Sages, you might have noticed that lately I'm talking about chronic fatigue and chronic pain syndrome. Sadly last 8 month these two have been bugging me a lot up to a point where I'm even too fatigued or suffering too much pain in my hands to even use my PC (or PlayStation 3 to play games for that matter). Even worse is that the condition has been there already for years (thanks to the long-term B12 deficiency I had), but those last 8 months I've noticed that they're progressing rapidly. I am under care of a reumatologist for it now and I hope that I'll get a definitive medical diagnose later this year and (more importantly) that there's a cure for them.

In all, if you don't hear from me about progress in development for a week or two, don't get worried. I'm still working on the projects, but as you can see, sometimes things are slowed down. I have set 'deadlines' for my projects that I know I can make (won't mention them openly though for obvious reasons ) to make sure the development of my projects will continue. And yes, I have to adjust them from time to time, but I'll make sure that I won't go into years like Square-Enix does

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