Avatar III - Developer's Pages
Created: Saturday, 15th Jul 2000  
by Dabhand
Its been a while since I uploaded the last update to the site. Much has been happening and I've not had a lot of time to either do new coding or report on the web pages about it!
We've taken down the Test version of Avatar, its been too unstable. I cannot put in a game that is less stable than the current one! I'm not sure if its a compatability problem, the internet stack or a hardware problem. Sigh.
In the last update I mentioned that I was looking into doing a VB(Visual Basic) version of Avatar. When I had time to I did bits of work on it and things are looking interesting at the moment. I've managed to move 90% of the Avatar data off the Acorn machine and install it into an Access database. The only files that need moving over now are the Persona (Account details & pockets [inventory info]), the noticeboards and room indexes (which i'm not sure if I should do).
Other bits that I have done is made a start on converting the Avatar Parser to VB code and make it work! I can only do this a little at a time as it gives me headaches to think that every word typed in on Avatar is interpreted via the parser index! Currently the Master Database has over 10,000 words in it, so every time you type a word in its checking that against 10,000 other words to see if it makes sense in context! Aaargh!
Still, looking up 'get all' seems to not take long. I've not done real time tests yet but from within access is seems to be instant retrieving 'get' and 'all'. Phew.
The upshot of all this testing is that I think that Avatar could run within VB as well as it could on the Acorn machines.

The plusses to doing this conversion are many:

  • PCs get faster than Acorn machines over a similar time scale
  • VB allows me to develop in more 'comfort' - I don't have to code things like the WIMP in quite as an extensive way.
  • It will not become harder to get components for the PC (hopefully)
  • I get over the 1024 item/mobile/puzzle limit that has been imposed in the ARM code (which is very hard to understand - no comments in the source code to help me with what the code is doing!)
  • All data is dynamically updatable from within the game (JET gives this ability using ADO/DAO) Room editing on the fly!
If I make sure I continue to use ADO, then we could move Avatar onto a SQL server if needs be. I can host the web pages on this machine as well and create that JAVA web interface that Achy showed us many moons ago.

The Minuses:

  • The code is in effect being re-written
  • I don't know how resilient Access is going to be under 'harsh' user playing.
  • How easy is it to recover Access databases?
  • PCs tend to crash more using Win9x (although I'm intending to use Win2K)
  • I'm not sure how many players will be able to play at the same time (should be more than 8 though!)