Tag Archives: PHP

Diablo II Mods and Code Stuff

Hello all. My apologies for not updating this website more.  My life has become complicated lately, and in these uncertain times I find it difficult to want to write about it.  A shame really, as the site has never been more popular.  Seems like every time a new game comes out lacking multi-monitor support, I get hundreds of new visitors and users for Cursor Lock; a few weeks ago, it was Cites: Skylines.  And today with the announcement of another new Deus Ex game, my version of the soundtrack is hotter than ever.  It does make me feel good to know that I can produce things that people need, even if it’s only for video games.

Speaking of video game content, I spent a lot of time a few months ago working on a new class for Diablo II.  Well, it’s not really a completely new class, more like a subclass since I only changed one skill tree for the Amazon.  It just really bugged me how the Amazon felt so lame compared to the Diablo 3 Demon Hunter.  It’s really difficult to keep the monsters from swarming the Amazon, so I designed some Demon Hunter-inspired skills to help remedy the problem, such as caltrops, turrets, and smokescreens.  You can see these skills in action in the video below.

I also just wanted to fulfill my desire to do some really hardcore modding for Diablo II.  The game has a rather awkward system for making modifications.  If it were made today, we’d probably have XML files and LUA scripts to work with.  But since it was made 15 years ago, we instead have to settle for massive CSV files.  You can find the Demon Hunter mod on my Diablo II mod page.  And massive props to the Phrozen Keep for continuing to support D2’s modders.

Another thing that bothered me about Diablo II for so long is that when you die your corpse keeps all your equipment on it, and you respawn basically naked and unarmed.  Your only options are to run in, snatch everything off your corpse, and teleport back to town, or rage quit and hope that your corpse returns to town like it’s supposed to.  Obviously, this is almost always zero fun and is why no games handle death like this anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to change this in the game’s CSV tables.  But I didn’t let that stop me.  Every now and then, a problem comes along which must be solved through assembler hacking, and this was one of those times.  But I didn’t really have a clue which function was involved in character death.  So, I just put breakpoints on every function in IDA and attached to the running process.  It took a while of breaking, disabling breakpoints, and resuming, but I eventually narrowed it down to several dozen functions involved in death.  Some functions did death animations, some saved character data, but then I found a suspicious bit of code that would loop 14 times—the number of equipment slots.  This was the code where the game looped through each equipment slot and moved the item from the player to the player’s dead body.  And then there was nothing left to do but some trial and error to figure out where I could safely jump over the offending code and re-enter.  Now the only problem is that this mod will have to be updated every time there’s a Diablo II patch. 😥

Here we see the fateful jump operation to bypass the character equipment being removed.

Here we see the fateful jump operation to bypass the character equipment being removed.

Since then, I’ve been turning back to more PHP/HTML/CSS/JS coding.  I’m working on a project that I can’t disclose at this time but which quite possibly could be my most epic work yet.  Wish me luck in completing it.

Recently, I’ve also been using PHP as my go to scripting language for everyday projects.  A couple days ago, I wanted to be able to pull all GPS image data from a directory and display it in Google Earth.  PHP has file IO, EXIF, and XML libraries, so it was real convenient to bash out a script using that.  Then I realized I had created an account on Github recently to comment on some projects and thought why not just put this code on there.  So I did.  Maybe I’ll add more small projects like this in the future.

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We have explosive.

(i.e. Lightboxes)

I’ve been really into web development lately, especially anything requiring a lot of JavaScript control of the DOM and CSS control over layout and style. I’ve spent a solid week (at least) working on adding lightboxes to replace some of my lighter scripts: image viewing and downloads. I’ve been pretty fascinated by lightboxes ever since I saw them on addons.mozilla.org. The idea to actually employ one on this site didn’t come to me until I was doing the remake of the content system and thought it would be awesome to combine a lightbox with the ability to preview the contents of archives (rar and zip files).

Although there are tens if not hundreds of lightbox implementations, I felt like creating my own to avoid all the code bloat and because I’m that much of a control freak. The first hurdle was figuring out how the hell these other lightboxes could be triggered on the click of a link without navigating to the link URL immediately after the script finishes. Googling didn’t turn up any leads, but I eventually found out the answer by just reading the code comments of another lightbox. It’s simple and makes sense but isn’t obvious: the onclick function must return false. It kinda works like a message chain in Windows.

From there, I just kept chugging out JavaScript. On DOM readiness, the script adds onclick events to trigger the lightbox to any existing links to image or download pages. On click, the script does the appropriate HTTP request (AJAX) for the content to fill the lightbox. On request received, it puts the HTML into a lightbox container that automatically enlarges to fit content. Meanwhile, the script is fading in the obligatory black overlay; I chose to fade it in not only because it looks awesome but it also helps your eyes to adjust to change in light. It’s all a delicate ballet of scripting, but surprisingly IE performs quite well with it and only minimal hassles (e.g. filter: alpha(opacity=#); instead of opacity: #.#; for overlay opacity in CSS).

It didn’t stop with lightboxes, though. I’ve also been wanting for a while to have a display of the most recent uploaded images on the front page but was underwhelmed by the prospect of cramming only a few images on there. Then I got to thinking about how I might make a scrolling marquee for the images and realized it wasn’t too hard to code. You simply need an inner container for the images with position: relative and an outer container with overflow-x: hidden and on button script events move the inner container’s style.left property by negative the amount to scroll. Then, obviously, you have to do some code to detect the beginning and end of the marquee to keep it within bounds among other things. Quite snazzy.

I also made another slight change to front page (beyond adding the latest blogs). I was a little displeased by my method of finding the most popular content given that it merely sorts the database by the total downloads. Thus, it’s not at all responsive to changing trends. For example, if file A gets 1000 downloads over five years but not much recently, and file B has only 300 downloads over a couple months but gets several hits a day, then file B is obviously more popular than file A. The best solution to calculate what’s more popular would be to log all the hits for a day for every file and calculate popularity trends often, but that’s a logistical nightmare and too much hassle for this small site. However, I came up with a simple solution that requires only one new field in the database (last_dl_count) and a monthly cron job to do UPDATE `content` SET `last_dl_count`=`dl_count`;. Finally, I switched the front page popular query to the following:

SELECT `id`, `title`, `sshots`, `dl_count`, (`dl_count`-`last_dl_count`) as `delta_count` FROM `content` WHERE `type` = '$type' ORDER BY `delta_count` DESC, `dl_count` DESC LIMIT 2;

It works fairly well, except at the beginning of the next period after the update cron runs. Since all the deltas are 0, you get only the all-time popular again until someone downloads something.

Well, I think that’s enough web developer theory for now. However, I’d like to point out three academic columns I recently added. There’s one from Fortran Programming class with all my source code and most of my documentation. The second is on the Parallel Programming with PVM project I did last year, including a Flash slideshow (first mentioned here), presentation notes, and source code. The last is a paper I wrote on the Aspects of Overpopulation, a subject that greatly concerns me; too bad the class it was for was completely worthless.

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The Monolithic Procrastination Post

Yes, I’m aware that I’m a bastard for not posting for a whole two months despite not having any work obligations. I was honestly going to post last month following the release of the new Cursor Lock version, but got sidetracked with other projects. The story of my life really–project ADD.


Cursor Lock 2.5 alpha

However, for anyone yearning for a new version of Cursor Lock, I can assure you that I will finish it soon as it’s practically complete already (as the screenshot at right will show). I’ve already completed a majority of the testing and just have a few more issues to resolve and documentation to update. I’ve also found a game that puts the new features to use: DX-Ball 2. The new window locking mode works perfectly in the game’s windowed mode to keep the paddle’s responsiveness from drifting out of the window with the mouse.

Another project that I wanted to post about alongside Cursor Lock last month is my newest Age of Empires 3 mod, Banner Army Reforms. It’s a relatively simple tweak that makes a big difference to the manageability of the Chinese civilization. It allows the player to train units individually instead of in unique groupings (Banner Armies). While a key facet of the Chinese, Banner Armies were just a strategic annoyance to me. Too bad the Chinese still suck.

Last post, I mentioned a PHP script that used PEAR’s Text_Highlighter package, but which I had some concerns about and thus wasn’t ready to go live with. Since then, I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with a way to securely show external source code files (that have been parsed with Text_Highlighter) embedded inside a formatted page. My second implementation idea was to use my inflatable wrapper technique that places a formatting script inside the target source code file; however, that would force me to make the source code files have .php extensions. I also considered a database of IDs and associated code files, which would be secure but also a hassle and it would obfuscate the underlying source code files.

After much googling and frustration, I finally found a way to make certain file extensions be passed to a handler script. This obscure Apache manual page shows how to add an action to extension handlers. If the target of the action is a script, it will receive the originally called file as some sort of CGI parameter; in PHP, it’s placed in the ENV variable $PHP_SELF (don’t use $PATH_INFO, it can be spoofed).

Once I had all that snazzy handler business figured out and implemented in the script, I noticed a glaring oversight in the Text_Highlighter package. Since they place all the source code in a <pre> tag, no word-wrapping is done. Quite frankly, I never care enough to bother with manually line-breaking code and just let it run off as far as I need. However, on a webpage, horizontal scrolling is a cardinal sin. So, I spent more time than I’d like to admit rewriting the output module of Text_Highlighter to put the source code in a table which would allow it to wrap effectively while preserving line numbering and line indentations. I ended up actually having to put the indentation whitespace in a cell by itself. The script still needs a bit more polish, but can be seen in action on the files in this parallel program directory.

Those source code files are actually part of a column I’ve been working on lately to show off the parallel program I wrote for my final college project. Besides having beautified code, the column is also to have a web-based version of the Powerpoint slideshow I gave during my results presentation. I had originally made a simple PHP script that took a page number as a parameter and showed the appropriate slide image with all the formatting and such. I had two problems with this, however: there was no ability to copy the slide’s text and it was a bit underwhelming in this Web 2.0-hyped world. So, on a whim, I decided to have a go at making a Flash movie with all the typical play controls as well as Fullscreen and Copy Text buttons, which could load in an external SWF file with one slide per frame. Of course, it has all sorts of delicious alpha effects, too. The parallel presentation slideshow isn’t quite live yet, but you can see the new Flash in action on the lovable old Tony the Worm column. It still needs a smidgen of work yet, though, such as tooltips. I find Flash a decidedly quirky and frustrating format; finishing one button is enough for celebration.

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A Full Month of Doings

I’ve been working on so much stuff lately that it’s hard to decide what to devote each day to. Of course, practically everyone I know doesn’t give a shit about the awesome stuff I do and rather I just jump into the rat race. But anyways, here’s an overview of what I’ve been working on…

Not long after my last post, I updated my mod for the Age of Empires 3 expansion The Asian Dynasties called Gatling Guns for All!. Previously, you could only use the mod with a specific unmodified version of TAD, but I wanted the mod to be usable by all versions of both The Asian Dynasties and The Warchiefs expansions even if they’ve been previously modded. Thus, I had to create an installer (similar to the one I did for Stalker) that would modify only the aspects of the game that I changed. Originally (as I did in the Stalker mod installer), I tried to use regular expressions to find the appropriate setting to change. However, being that the game data is stored as XML, Regex had problems matching certain XML formatting quirks. So, I moved to a query language that I’d never used before called XPath, which is basically XML hierarchy-aware Regex. Though getting some of the nodes in AOE3’s settings files to match was still tricky, XPath in .Net did the job perfectly.

When I went to package the new version of the mod, I actually found out that I had incorrectly archived an essential file in the wrong path in the first versions of the mod. Thus, nobody that downloaded it would have gotten the mod to work as intended :( . And only one person called me on it, though I thought he was a noob at first. But all has been rectified now.

Next, I started working on a script for this site that would color-code programming language syntax and elements so I can attach beautified code to some columns. The script uses a PEAR PHP library called Text_Highlighter to do the color-coding on the fly. However, at the moment, my part of the script still presents certain security risks that I will have to mitigate before it goes live.


Lego Indiana Jones

That project was interrupted by a visit from Kaylen that turned into non-stop gaming in the form of Lego Indiana Jones 😉 . Although the game was littered with some annoying little bugs (having just been released), we did manage to get 100% completion. As most reviews have said, it wasn’t really as fun as Lego Star Wars–how can you beat lightsabers and the force? Though bazookas and bushes you can jump into come close.

The next week, following a concern from a user, I began working on a major new feature for Cursor Lock. Though not really having anything to do with multimonitor gaming, the feature is a natural progression of the existing code. It allows the user to select whether to lock the cursor into the current screen (what it did originally), the selected window, or the selected window interior (client area). Locking the cursor into the window interior is particularly useful for playing windowed 3D games. While I was at it, I decided to completely overhaul the setup GUI to be much more intuitive, separating the selection of the different modes with pretty, graphical buttons. It’s looking rather nice already and should only take a few more days of testing and fixing bugs until public release.

Last week, I got distracted when randomly deciding to replay Deus Ex: Invisible War and then subsequently desiring to mod out some of the major flaws in the game. Only a few changes would make the game much more palatable to the PC fanbase. One of the mod ideas I had was to combine the various proximity and thrown variants of grenades (EMP, scrambler, gas, and concussion), which would return the grenades to their vanilla Deus Ex functionality and give the player a lot more inventory space. So apparently, the developer of Deus Ex, Ion Storm, only decided to release the Thief: Deadly Shadows editor and not the Invisible War one, even though the games were made concurrently on the same engine (Unreal Warfare). I tried for days to get the Thief editor to work for Invisible War, but I don’t see it ever working out easily; there are far too many hardcoded elements of the games in both the editor and the game executables. The best I could do was to get the DX2 packages to load in the Thief editor after it had loaded the core Thief packages first. Then, I could get the DX2 packages to save after some simple modifications, but that made it so there were both Thief and DX2 classes mixed together, making a good number of DX2 objects break ingame (e.g. inventory, particle emitters). In other words: Epic Fail. 😕

However, while I was poking around in Invisible War’s resources, I found the plaintext files containing the secret area’s developer quotes. I decided it’d make a good contribution to my Deus Ex column, despite not being from vanilla Deus Ex. Then, whilst I was formatting the quotes for HTML, I got the crazy notion of using the game’s font for the text. Unfortunately, the font was not in a TrueType or comparable format, but rather it was merely a texture and an accompanying text file (DX2_FONT.cel) of comma-delimited texture character widths (in pixels) that were ordered corresponding to their ASCII value. The texture character height was understood to be 23 pixels, so that a width of -1 in the text file meant to go to the next row. Using a quickly thrown together program, I turned the width values into a Paint Shop Pro script (macro) that would cut out all the characters into individual bitmaps. Finally, I manually pasted them into a font editor to complete the conversion. The font can be downloaded here, and then can be tested on the aforementioned DX2 quotes page.

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Keeping Busy

Posts have been slow to come lately, but of course, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on anything. In addition, school just ended at the beginning of the month–this time for good, or so I think. I haven’t actually gotten my diploma in the mail yet. But, I’m pretty sure I graduated.

And now I’m being bombarded with queries about what, when, and where I’m going to get a job. So far, I’ve taken a passive approach to finding employment and, even with that minimal effort, have had a couple offers already. I think once I decide I’ve rested enough and start looking in earnest, I won’t have much trouble finding a great job.

Naturally, now that I’m done with school, I have a bunch of academic papers that I’m wanting to add to the site. Previously, I would just upload a Word “Web Page” version of papers, link them, write a little blurb, and that’d be it. However, I’ve grown weary of the full-frame white document backgrounds of all my uploaded papers and the disconnected feeling it brings to the site’s style. At first, I went about rectifying this with another PHP script where you pass in an ID for a particular paper listed in a database. However, I ran into a snag with this method because Word always exports Web Page image paths (and also <a name> internal links) relative to the document, and the script’s path would differ. My first fix was a client-side workaround using the <base href> tag which forces a document’s path to whatever you want. This worked decently enough, but of course, you can never be too sure of client-side support for a rather obscure tag (though FF2 and IE6 did seem to support it). My final fix was to “include” the wrapper script in the document itself (thereby eliminating the need for the aforementioned fix), obtaining the calling document using the $SCRIPT_NAME environmental variable. From there, the wrapper script reads the calling document’s title, url, body contents, and style contents, outputting them where necessary and giving the page a clean, stylized, embedded document look.

So far, I’ve only applied the wrapper script to some of the existing academic papers. This is taking longer than it sounds because I’m having to redo the Web Page export from Word. Apparently, in Word 2003, there is an option to export a “Filtered” Web Page, which removes all the Word-specific markup and reduces the file size by about 4KB + 10% of the overall size. I’m also doing more robust linking, both internal and external to the document. It should be fairly impressive once everything, previously existing and new, has been updated and linked into databases–I’ve even got some source code to put in this time around.

I’ve been working on the Company of Heroes map mentioned last time some more. I haven’t made a lot of progress, but nevertheless, I’m almost done with the playable area of the map. Beyond the playable area is the “out of bounds” (OOB) area, which is mainly just for making the map setting look realistic and “not like a table-top” so they say. It’s basically the same idea as my wrapper script, smoothing out the differences between the playable area and the surrounding environment. The OOB won’t take nearly as long to construct as the playable area has, though, because it will mostly be low-poly pine tree groves and the stream and road rolling off into the distance. Anyways, here’s a screenshot of the area I have been working on lately–a raided German AA site. It looks a bit stylized because I’ve been playing around with filters for the final version’s loading screen.


In other news, I did my first No-DVD crack for a game last week. Of course, I can’t give any more information about availability of the crack or what game it was for. But still, it’s a notably L33T personal achievement and a stepping stone in my learning assembler (or disassembler rather) through practical uses. Previously, I’ve already done a bug fix for a game in assembler and a mod for a game in pseudo-assembler. Besides a thorough disassembler (like IDA), I’ve learned the best tools are NOP (No Operation) and JMP (Jump) to either “comment out operations” or make conditional statements (various forms of Jump If) always or never take the jump. Even though I love this kind of reverse engineering programming/troubleshooting, sifting through millions of lines of assembler code takes a lot out of a person, and thus I don’t expect to be doing a lot of it in the near future.

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Snake gets nostalgic with the new Blog Archive

Over the weekend, I finally got around to coding the new blog archive. As one can see, it displays a list of the most popular tags in one table and a calendar broken down into years and months in another. This is, of course, leaps and bounds better than Coranto’s single column list of months, which was getting absurdly long.

This was the first page in a while that required me to start from mostly scratch. Although the style is similar to the rest of the site, the design is different. Before I even touched the code, though, I had to make sure my design would work. One of the key features of the design is something I’ve used before and been quite pleased with: adjustable numbers of columns for different frame widths (i.e. from different resolution monitors). It uses a bit of JavaScript to calculate the optimum number of columns and then reloads the page to pass in the number; then, the page’s script adjusts the tables accordingly. The code consisted of two major tasks: loading the data into an acceptable format and then outputting with HTML formatting. Instead of doing a lot of SQL queries, I decided it was more efficient to just parse post dates and store them in a multidimensional array of years, months, and posts. Finally, outputting merely requires array traversal with some iterative control structures, printing HTML as you go. It loads surprisingly fast for the amount of data it handles.

news258Since then, I’ve been reading back over old posts to fill out the tags–understandably, the popular tags list looks more impressive when there’s something there. One side effect, though, is that it’s making me rather nostalgic. It’s actually quite interesting seeing the number of posts …my life splayed out over time; it puts things in perspective. One may notice the two large voids in posting around summer 2000 and March 03 to May 04. Although there’s not many posts to go by, these were actually the most satisfying times in my life–they were so great, I couldn’t even be bothered with posting (that and Danky broke the news system in 2003).

news256In early 2000, Loogie and I started getting into our first online gaming experience with Team Fortress Classic. We played so much that in May we started our own clan, S&L. We spent many a night honing our skills with clanmates against our arch-nemesis, the CDD clan. And although we kept playing TFC for years, nothing quite lived up to that first summer.

In March of 2003, I started dating Beckie, my first girlfriend. Things were fast and crazy around that time (graduating high school and all) and I scored. There were so many awesome and horrible feelings and situations that it was an orgy of senses and emotions. But it got boring after a while and would never again live up to the first few months.

But what I’m trying to get at here is that our first real experience with some amazing social ventures, like dating or online gaming, may just be the most gratifying times of our lives in retrospect. I’m not even sure if timing or the persons or places (games) involved make that much difference to this fact, just that it is our first time. I also don’t believe that there’s any moral to this story; I just hope that if you took the time to read this, maybe it has attuned your sensitivity to memories of such things.

Perhaps these feelings may make us slaves to the memories of our former selves, always trying to recapture our best times. While this may be true in part for me, it’s also given me a need to sample as many things as possible (within comfortable limits, of course) to find my next great first. (Maybe I won’t even know I’ve had one until I look back.) Though, I’ve always been bitter that my first relationship got in the way of my one true love: computing. I know some of this sounds bad for my current girlfriend, but I want to assure her that she’s my number two. Hmm…no, lemme try again: You’re my favorite person in the world, Kaylen.

Sorry I got all personal on this post. I’ll try not to let it happen again. 😉

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