December 23, 2009 - Belated excuses

It’s been a very busy year for me, mainly due to my commitments at work (let me assure you this won’t be a long winded entry which eventually leads to ‘so thanks for your support but I quit’!) and as such the big project that I’m sure 99% of visitors to this site are waiting for is still under slow methodical planning and development.

It’s dawned on me that I’ve been very secretive even about the name of the project, so I think at the very least I owe you guys that – so here it is!


I think this is slightly more pleasing than ‘Chaos Enhanced Enhanced’!

I’d also like to talk about the plans regarding its launch and features, because I’m taking quite a different approach to the norm. Early on in the planning I wanted to make sure Archaos could be playable by as many people on as many different formats as possible. The general idea I had was that I’d write the game in haXe and then generate the various sets of code for servers and clients from that one source, and ‘et voila’ I’d have a cross-platform game. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time at work playing with various web-based JSON APIs, and I’ve watched some fantastic projects appear (such as node.js, Persevere and CouchDB) and realised that, in fact, Archaos’s core could live on the web as a data-based API.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it – you have a scalable server with a scalable database, written in Javascript (a language which I simply adore), using JSON as its end-to-end data format, accessible by anything with a web connection. Being turn-based, it doesn’t need to rely on any complicated comet solutions, and (and here’s the really exciting part) you can make your own client in whatever language, format or platform you like!

I’m really big on open source and open web, and so it’s really exciting for me to think that, although I will still be creating clients in Flash and (with Flash CS4’s leave) for iPhone, there’ll also be a well documented API out there that can be used by anyone. You can easily have pure HTML/Javascript clients, text-based clients to run in terminal windows and so on – and no matter which client you use, you’ll be able to play Archaos with anyone else.

As I said before, I’ll also be making the server and client source available (though the server source will likely need a closed development phase after launch so I can work out bugs, security issues and exploits before I make it available to all) so anyone with a Linux box can host their own server – though I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to do this at the moment, as a server will handle many hundreds, or possibly thousands of concurrent games with ease, and take care of matchmaking, login and so on. In fact this area of development will probably result in the separation of the login/matchmaking master server from the core gameplay servers.

So, to summarise:

  • My current work focus has shifted away from a unified client/server architecture, and my time is now being devoted to creating a robust HTTP-based server for Archaos.
  • In tandem to the server work I’ll have to develop a client for testing purposes, and so the first client may be a simple HTML/JS or Flash visual interface.
  • Once these are at a satisfactory level, I will announce a beta period to work out bugs, and then shortly after that I will release full API documentation for the Archaos server (which will have its own snappy name, already got a few ideas) and allow interested parties to get the ball rolling on their own clients.
  • Finally, I’ll finish and release my own client for Flash, and hopefully soon after for iPhone.

As you can probably tell, I’m fantastically excited by this whole project; indeed I can’t see why this hasn’t been done before – though no doubt it has, and I’ve just not looked hard enough… I’d love to hear your opinions on all of this – and I’d also love to find out if other people have attempted something similar!

Edit: Looks like someone has thought of this – in fact pretty much verbatim!

November 17, 2009 - Perseverance pays off

Imagine having a web server that stores your objects and data just like a live app. Imagine being able to write in the same language on the server and on the client. Something this awesome has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here!

I’ve of course been playing with Persevere and absolutely loving it. Part of the big delay with ‘the Chaos remake’ has been the complexity of creating a robust way to get data from the clients to the server, and for the server to remember that data and be able to process it in the same way. Well now, thanks to this fantastic piece of kit, I can do all of that. Each server instance is a live JavaScript interpreter, with its own persistent object storage database – i.e. objects created are both accessible at any time, and saved.

What does this mean? Well, with the help of haXe (another brilliant tool) I can now write the code for the remake in one language, and ‘compile’ various parts of it to different platforms. I can write most of the game logic and other critical stuff and then have it work the same on the server as it does if it was just running on your own machine – and Persevere will make sure that it acts in that same ‘in-memory’ persistent way.

There are other projects on the go which I’m going to use as testbeds for Persevere – it’s not without possible issues, scalability being the big one at the moment, as one of my projects may end up being quite heavily used (one hopes anyway) and Java (the underlying tech behind Persevere) may not be up to that kind of task.

I can see Persevere being just the beginning of a whole paradigm shift for many parts of the internet into persistent object-based servers – it certainly doesn’t make sense with rich web apps to have to jump through all the current hoops and endure the inefficiences that go with the current ‘single shot’ model of web languages. Bring it on!