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Please Automate
Cipher is working hard in getting our turns done on time but his job would be much easier if turn processing was fully automated. So please automate this game Smile

I mentioned in another post that you can save file attachments into a directory automatically via the mail server. For example, if Rails was being used, it's just a setting like:

ActionMailer::Base.file_settings = { :location => Rails.root.join('/alamaze/games/') }

So depending upon what mail server/daemon is being used, you may only have to set a configuration value without any programming and you're all set. Heck, we can even use FTP to upload our orders to a directory of your choosing if the mailer you're using is too difficult to change. Automating the collection of turns from players would allow us to submit unlimited number of corrections in the game without bothering the game administrator.

In addition, I recommend automating the game processing of turns at each due date. In other words, create a Windows service (or Unix daemon, DOS TSR, ...etc.) that triggers every Monday at 2pm and Thursday at 10pm automatically. This program which runs in the background can process the game's orders each turn and send out the results to the players via email. So players will get their turns in less than 15 minutes after the due date satisfying customer requests for a quicker response. Again, without bothering Cipher to do all of this.

Besides, you have to automate this game anyway when more players join otherwise it'll be too hectic for Cipher to manually process dozens or even hundreds of games. Also, games won't be delayed if the game administrator goes on vacation or gets sick.

Automating this game isn't difficult to do and should take less than 2-3 days worth of development. Then Cipher's time would be better spent on answering questions, handling errors that may occur, creating an order validation program (to help new players with orders), or enhancing the game (e.g., random map, less than 15 players required in game, ...etc.).

So please automate this game Smile
Seconded, though I'm a tax guy and don't know much about rails, etc.
-The Deliverer
2-3 days for someone with the know-how to do it, possibly. We all agree that it is something that must be done and I'm quite certain that Cipher and Rick are even more frantic about it than we are. It'll happen, is has too, but I doubt it's as simple as you make it out to be. Not for the folks currently involved anyway.
 Lord Diamond

Please do not take any of my comments as a personal insult or as a criticism of the game 'Alamaze', which I very much enjoy. Rather, I hope that my personal insight and unique perspective may, in some way, help make 'Alamaze' more fun, a more successful financial venture, or simply more sustainable as a long-term project. Anyone who reads this post should feel completely free to ignore, disregard, scorn, implement, improve, dispute, or otherwise comment upon its content.

Amen, we are working on a few things to improve the situation. Like everything else, all it takes is time and money....
Hate to say it, but I second UncleMike's suggestion!
Just anecdotally, at a time just before I turned Alamaze over to Phil, when it had about 1000 player positions, a very nice, tech knowledgeable and all-around smart chap said to me, "If you cared more about your customers, you would take a week to reprogram Alamaze." I was stunned at the comment, after all, he was a player so would seem to have some insight into the depth of Alamaze. It took me two+ years working every evening to design and program Alamaze, after all.

Anyway, when Phil got it, this gentleman was friends with Phil and got his chance to reprogram it. About five months after starting, he had generated, I think it was, an 80 page but not yet finished technical documentation of the game, and I don't know if he went on to complete that document, but then confessed to me his astonishment of how involved the project had already been. The reprogramming then began.

According to Cipher, in its current program, Alamaze is over 80,000 lines of code to execute a turn.

Of course we want it as automated as Fall of Rome, where there is no human intervention at all required, from signing up, to forming games from a queue, to billing, to running turns, to awarding Valhalla, to completing games, sending email reminders about turn status and service level, to changing service level: there is no human intervention.

The goal would be to get Alamaze to that level. Fall of Rome took five professional programers about eight months to get to that point, and the lead was the lead software engineer for a well established game development company with more than 20 programmers and who had written a textbook on the Mathematics of 3D Gaming.
Just curious to know. What language did you write the original program in Rick?
English, I'll bet.
:Rim Shot:
Yes, English. Tongue

It was built in Symphony, which was the Lotus 123 integrated product combining spreadsheet, word processing, database, and macro programming language. Alamaze needed all that functionality.

I had to figure out quite a few techniques on my own. I'd call Symphony support, "I need to do X, then run Y, then have Z take over." They would say, "You can't do X. That's not possible." "No, I've already done X, and Y. I am just missing something on how to get Z to follow." "Sorry, can't help you."

At Origins, the Flying Buffalo guys, Rick Loomis and his programmer (they're still around last I heard) stopped by the Alamaze booth to ask questions (this was like the first year they hadn't won best PBM in five years and wanted to kick the tires). What they really wanted to know was how I programmed it. When I told them "Symphony", they said, "No, really. Be serious." "Really."

Symphony is the only programming I've done. Weird thing is, many, many programming languages have come and gone, but Symphony is still available, now from IBM, although I think how it comes now is shorn of its macro programming. But because it was in spreadsheet and d-base and results formatted in word processing, I could make most changes in about a minute, aside from new macros. In Fall of Rome, I was/am completely dependent on first Fletch, now genome, to make any change, and the changes can take quite awhile.

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