October 29, 2005

Trojans and the Like

Tonight, someone going by the handle "hypermind" went to the Ritualistic forums and posted links to a site that redirected people to a site that tried to infect people's machines with trojans.

This kind of stuff really pisses me off.

So, if you know the person behind the "whois" dump below, please do me a favor and kick them in the crotch. It's the very least that they're asking for...
Domain ID:D82425367-LROR
Domain Name:NIMP.ORG
Created On:14-Jan-2002 00:52:01 UTC
Last Updated On:13-Jan-2005 09:01:14 UTC
Expiration Date:14-Jan-2007 00:52:01 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:Gandi SARL (R42-LROR)
Registrant ID:0-529765-Gandi
Registrant Name:the Nimp Team
Registrant Organization:the Nimp Team
Registrant Street1:3, rue A. Thomas
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Freyming-Merlebach
Registrant State/Province:
Registrant Postal Code:57800
Registrant Country:FR
Registrant Phone:+33.681122062
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:sam@zoy.org
Admin Name:Samuel Hocevar
Admin Street1:22 rue de Plaisance
Admin Street2:
Admin Street3:
Admin City:Paris
Admin State/Province:
Admin Postal Code:75014
Admin Country:FR
Admin Phone:+33.681122062
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Admin Email:sam@zoy.org
Tech Name:CONTACT NOT AUTHORITATIVE see http://www.gandi.net/whois
Tech Organization:GANDI SARL
Tech Street1:see also whois.gandi.net
Tech Street2:
Tech Street3:
Tech City:Paris
Tech State/Province:
Tech Postal Code:75003
Tech Country:FR
Tech Phone:+33.1
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX:
Tech FAX Ext.:
Tech Email:support@gandi.net
Name Server:NS1.ZOY.ORG
Name Server:NS2.ZOY.ORG
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:

October 27, 2005

Seapined Again

Just a brief bit of ego-blogging here.

For the second month in a row, Seapine Software, makers of TestTrack Pro and other QA-related software, published an entry from my blog in their customer newsletter.

I'd like to thank Seapine Software for giving me the opportunity to share the lessons I have learned with their readers, and for realizing that games care about quality assurance as well.

October 26, 2005

Blog Archive Pages Fixed

The monthly archive pages have been repaired. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Back to work...

October 25, 2005

Welcome to RomSteady.net

If you are seeing this post, you have successfully moved your browser bookmark or syndication feed over to the correct location on my domain, RomSteady.net.


There may be a few minor issues over the next few days while the move is finalized and links are fixed, but this should be a better home overall.

This Blog Is Moving

I'm finally moving my blog over to my personal domain.

Effective immediately, this blog can be found at http://www.romsteady.net/blog/.

The syndication feed can be found at http://www.romsteady.net/atom.xml.

October 24, 2005

Off-Topic: World of Lost Time, er, Warcraft

So, I lost 30 hours of my weekend to "World of Warcraft" this weekend.


Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a blog about my character or anything like that. To be honest, this may be the last time you hear about it here.

But still...30 hours...wow, er, WoW.

October 19, 2005

Mini-Review: "Doom"

First off, I want to thank Universal Pictures and id Software for inviting me out to see the Dallas premiere of the Doom movie. It was an enjoyable experience.

So, the mini-review?

If you liked Doom3, it's a no-brainer to see it.

If you didn't like Doom3 because it was too dark, go see it and give it a chance. You'd be amazed what can happen without a two-light-per-surface limitation.

If you didn't like Doom3 because it was Hell, go see it and give it a chance. It's still Mars, but it's not demons...it's a genetic mutation.

If you like the Rock, go see it. The person I went to see it with is a huge fan of the Rock, and was having lots of little Rock-gasms whenever he was on.

If you get motion-sick easily, when you're looking at a reflection of the main character in the mirror, turn your head away until you hear the Rock.

Essentially, "Doom" is nothing more than an excuse to blow shit up...and to be honest, that's all it's pretending to be. It's a fun movie if you go in with those expectations. Besides, the mutants were cool.

Off-Topic: Such Violent Politicians...

This was too funny not to share.

Senators open fire on Rice in Iraq | Insurgents kill 19

Scoble vs. Mini-Microsoft: My Take

Lately, a lot of people in the blogosphere have been having some major discussions trying to decide who better represents Microsoft, Robert Scoble or Mini-Microsoft. I think that's the wrong question to ask. Personally, I believe that the true question to ask is which aspects of Microsoft are represented by these two individuals.

I believe that Robert Scoble represents Microsoft's inner child. He bounces between energetically secretive ("Ooooh, I know something you don't know...") and the class show-off ("Look at what we did!") to transparently envious ("They have something better than us...") to downright lazy ("This linkblog is too much work, so I'm just not going to do it anymore.")

I believe that Mini-Microsoft represents Microsoft's consceience ala Jiminy Cricket. He sees that Microsoft has made mistakes over the last thirty years, and he is trying to call out some methods for redeeming those mistakes. He also gets frustrated by what seems like dry-rot in the area that would become Microsoft's heart should it ever turn into a "real boy."

I may be right, I may be wrong, but I believe that both have their strong points. Microsoft ignores either one at its own peril.

October 17, 2005


...or should I say, "WoW."

Yes, I'm an idiot. Tonight, I ordered "World of Warcraft" from GoGamer.com.

Why am I an idiot? Well, let's see. We're finishing up our work on "25 To Life," ratcheting up our work on "SiN: Episodes: Emergence," and also ratcheting up our work on "Unannounced Super-Secret Do-Not-Disclose-Under-Penalty-Of-Atomic-Wedgie Project-X..." and in the middle of all that, I pick up the MMORPG-equivalent of crack-enriched crack on crack with crack on the side.

I've got a lot more than that on my plate, though. We've also been searching for a new home down here in the Dallas area, but so far our choices have been demilitarized zones or "quaint" homes that were last inhabitable in the 1940's by people who were suicidally depressed.

So why did I pick it up? If I had an answer for that, I wouldn't be an idiot.

Radiant Right-Click; and the Missing Post

Are you running the Radiant map editor (not GTKRadiant, just Radiant) and having problems with your right-click menu not showing up?

The solution to this one is extremely stupid, but nowhere near as heinous as the Valve tools fix...

1) Press Windows Key+F to bring up the Search Results window.

2) Select "Change preferences".

3) Select "Without an animated screen character".

4) Reboot.

For some reason, the animated search dog in the Search Results window causes the right-click menu in Radiant to not be able to show up.
Also, this is the Missing Post...in other words, this is my 404th blog entry.

Given that I never expected to hit 100, hitting 404 is quite an accomplishment.

October 14, 2005

ESRB Ratings For Parents

Are you a parent? Are you confused by the ESRB rating system for video games? Do you understand the MPAA rating system for movies?

If you answered "Yes" to at least two of the above, then go here for my "ESRB Ratings For Parents" guide. It is a quick reference card that you can use to link the two rating systems as a guideline.

Ignorance of the rating system is no excuse. As a parent, it is your job to take responsibility for what your child plays or watches. If you don't parent your child, who is going to?

VProject Problems?

Are you working on a mod for "Half-Life 2" or some other Source-engine game? When using "Hammer," are some of your entities not properly showing up, or do you get an error about a bad VProject environment variable? Does HLMV just show black instead of your model? Does VConfig take a long time to set everything after you hit "OK?"

I was having the same problems today, and I have a cause and a solution for you.

The issue is a setting in Windows Explorer, under Tools → Folder Options... → View → Advanced Settings. There is a setting there called "Launch folder windows in seperate process." This setting increases the stability of windows, but can cause problems with multiple (and occasionally conflicting) copies of environment variables hanging around.

You have two options to fix the above problem. You can either:

1. Disable the "Launch folder windows in seperate process" option, reboot your computer, then run VConfig again; or

2. Run VConfig. Click "Edit..." Change one character in the path and immediately change it back. Click "OK." Click "OK." Run VConfig again. Click "Edit..." Change one character in the path and immediately change it back. Click "OK." Click "OK." Close all Explorer windows, including Internet Explorer. Open Explorer and run VConfig again. Click "Edit..." Click "OK." Click "OK."

End result:

If you disable the "Seperate Process" option, VConfig will run faster, but Explorer will be less stable. However, the Source SDK Tools will work.

If you use option 2, VConfig will still run slow as molasses, but the Source SDK Tools will work. However, if you have to change to a different game in VConfig, you will have to repeat the steps in option 2 all over again.

October 12, 2005

Hey, IGN...

Ads don't look disabled to me...

Hey, IGN/Gamespy, I'm a Founder's Club member. Somehow, this doesn't look like ads are disabled to me. What do you think?

October 11, 2005

"gmax" No Longer Available

As of October 6, Autodesk has pulled "gmax" from availability.

For those who don't know, "gmax" was a feature-limited version of "3D Studio MAX" meant for the mod community to use. When you saved an object out in "gmax," it was either saved to an encrypted "gmax" format file, or directly to the supported game.

The thought process behind the creation of "gmax" seems to have been pretty simple...

1. Modders have no money.
2. "3D Studio MAX" costs lots of money.
3. Modders are either pirating "3D Studio MAX" or getting the academic version for pocket change so they can mod.
4. We want to reduce piracy, while increasing usage of "3D Studio MAX."
5. We can't release a file-format compatible version of "MAX," because if we do, normal users will buy one copy of "3D Studio MAX," and then have all their peons use "gmax" instead, so we'll make an incompatible file format.
6. Rather than support the game developers who invest in and use our products, we'll charge developers for the right to distribute "Gamepak" export plugins.

So, what were the issues with this plan?

1. Game developers didn't have any real motivation to support "gmax." By the time the asset pipeline had been fixed, they weren't going to derive any cost savings from using "gmax," and they were going to have to pay for the rights to distribute the "Gamepak" anyway. It was free for them to distribute their own plugins.
2. Users who made kick-ass assets in "gmax" couldn't take them with them into "3D Studio MAX." They either had to export them to a game format and then try to extract them back out using an asset converter, or recreate them from scratch when they did move to "MAX."
3. The pirate users didn't care and still snagged pirated versions of "MAX."

If anyone wants to learn a lesson from this, it's pretty simple. It's one thing to expect a customer to pay for a feature that benefits them. It's another thing to expect a customer to pay for a feature that primarily benefits you.

*cough* Visual Studio Team Edition's MSDN bundle requirement *cough*

Anyway, sorry to see the tool go. The mod communities who were using "gmax" really were doing some amazing things with it...

October 10, 2005

Public IP Address Web Service Available

I've made the public IP address code behind "What IP?" available as an XML web service. If you want to use it, just add a web reference to http://www.romsteady.net/whatip/IPHelpers.asmx.

Please try to keep your application's access to reasonable levels (fewer than four times an hour.)

Cool Feedmap Feature

I just noticed a really nice feature about Scoble's Feedmap...

1) Go here.

2) Click on the page by the feedmap...not on it.

3) Hover your mouse pointer over the map so you get the Pointing Hand icon.

4) Use your mouse wheel to scroll up and down.

Results: You can scroll into street level, or out to half a state.

Only issue I've found with it is that if you scroll too fast, the scroll command goes to the page instead and your browser window scrolls.

Still, it's cool.

October 8, 2005

New Web Tool: What IP?

I've uploaded a new web tool to RomSteady.net. "What IP?" tells you what external IP address is being reported for your machine.

Given how often I need to know what IP address I'm coming from, I'm amazed something like this hasn't popped up before...

Update 10/10/05, 1:53pm: After viewing some of the alternatives listed in the comments, I've decided to keep the tool up. It's still one of the smallest pages (byte-wise after total load) out of the multitudes out there, and one that doesn't use pop-up, pop-under or Flash-overlay ads to subsidize it.

That being said, I want to make it more useful, so I'm going to put up an XML Web Service API for it tonight that will let you retrieve all of that information from a client application. I'm also going to add in some components that are currently missing.

October 7, 2005

California, There They Go...

Leland Yee introduced AB 1179 back in February of this year. It was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger today.

Unfortunately, this bill will have several unintended effects for the video game industry.

1) It requires that all games "imported into or distributed in California" to bear a 2"-square black and white "18" on the front if the game meets some vague set of criteria. The criteria is so vague that any jury in California would find almost any game meets this bar, as the state of the player's mind comes into effect when handling the judging.

Unintended side effect: Pretty much any game outside of "Reader Rabbit" needs to be stickered. For example, I love multihopping on turtle shells in "Super Mario Brothers." If I'm doing it to prove my skill, the game is okay. If I'm doing it to mess with the turtle inside the shell, the game needs to be stickered, as per 1746(2)(E).

Unintended side effect: Only retail is affected, so electronic distribution systems like Steam are immune from the effects of this bill, thereby driving adoption of alternate delivery systems in California. Good for us...

Unintended side effect: The ESRB rating system has been given a large "No Confidence" vote by one of the largest states in the Union. Never mind the fact that the games are already labeled for the appropriate age groups, and the new sticker will most likely be placed on top of the ESRB rating...

Unintended side effect: You won't be able to see the front cover of GameBoy Advance or GameBoy DS games.

2) Only owners and store employees with management duties are liable for fines. Sales clerks are immune.

Unintended side effect: If I'm pissed at my manager, I can sell all the stickered games I want to kids and my manager and owner will get the $1,000 fines.

Unintended side effect: This bill encourages everyone to be promoted to a manager so that they'll have a stake in whether or not the stickered titles get sold.

3) You just added a massive weight to the shoulders of several industry giants in your jurisdiction. You think they're going to want to reward that behavior by sticking around? Especially the ones that have locations in other states?

Unintended side effect: Unemployement rate among game developers is going to rise.

4) The state doesn't rate the games. The rating of each game is left to "community standards," which as we all know, range from overly permissive to overly restrictive. A game that needs to be stickered in one town would not need to be stickered in another town.

Unintended side effect: Even if a company does do due diligence and decides that it doesn't need to sticker the game, one community out in Podunk County could decide to proscecute sales of the product anyway. End result: I'm expecting even "Reader Rabbit" to get stickered on the way to California.

In short, Schwarzenegger did the wrong thing. Bad Governator...bad, bad.

Update 10-08-2005, 12:30am: Corrected typo, added one item that was left from the list, two additional side effects.

October 5, 2005

Off-topic: Poker Nickname

I received my first poker nickname today.

According to Wyeth, I am hereby to be known as Captain Chuckles "Hemorrhage" McRandom III, Esq, or just Chuckles McRandom for short.

This is the first semi-legitimate nickname I've received since "RomSteady" back in the Atari 8-bit days. The "rat bastard" and "lucky son-of-a-bitch" nicknames really don't seem to fit...

October 3, 2005

The Downside of Shims

As some of you may know, Microsoft has included a "shim" mechanism in Windows XP.

This mechanism lets Microsoft drop in "compatibility" fixes for older Windows products. Unfortunately, there can be issues.

I've been spending the last week trying to track down a bug in the original "SiN" that only manifests itself on certain configs with Windows XP Home SP2 German Edition. The application crashes on launch. We haven't been able to reproduce this bug internally.

I finally just sent off a copy of "Dependency Walker" to the person experiencing the crash because the address that was being reported for the crash wasn't anywhere near our code. ("Dependency Walker," aka depends.exe is a tool that ships with Visual Studio, but can also be downloaded from the official website.)

I had him open "sin.exe" using File->Open, then had him go Profile->Start Profiling. The next instruction was to make sure that everything was checked, and for him just to hit "OK." After it crashed, I had him save out a .dwi file using File->Save, and had him send me the .dwi file.

Turns out the access violation was occuring in ACGENRAL.DLL, the Application Compatibility manager. It seemed to occur when UXTHEME.DLL was loaded by a second thread.

End result: this is a customer that I can't help. I don't know what ACGENRAL.DLL is doing, so we can't work around it. I can't reproduce the issues locally to try to trace through it. There is literally nothing I can do.

So beware the shim...it may not always help.

Quake 4 Gold

Congratulations to Activision and Raven for getting "Quake IV" out the door.

I managed to spend some time with the single player game back at QuakeCon, and they've done a very good job of immersing players in "Quake II" universe. As for the multiplayer, it felt like a refined version of "Quake III: Arena."

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing what the mod community does with this one. I'd love to see the "Team Arena" role powerups implemented, as well as some large-scale terrain maps for machines that can handle it.

Anyway, I'm picking it up on the day it comes out. I have to have something to torture-test my new machine with.

Update 10-07-2005, 9:55am: Evidently, the "Arena CTF" mode does include "Team Arena" role powerups.

Release Candidate Period for X360 Titles

Just as a gentle reminder to those of you who are working on Xbox 360 launch titles...

If you aren't at least in "release candidate" phase by end of next week, you might be at risk of slipping past launch.

I'm just sayin'...