Tag Archives: Company of Heroes

Tis the Season for Blog Updates

Fa la la la la…

It’s been a mixed enjoyment holiday season this year. I won’t get into all the personal details, but here’s some things that were delightful recently.

I finally released my little map for Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts earlier in the month. As mentioned in previous postings, I decided to call it “Hurtgen Forest”. I’ve only published it on two sites other than my own for the moment, trying to get some initial feedback in case tweaks need to be made. So far, the lurkers on my RelicNews thread have been rather useless douchebags (I think they feel threatened), but the review on Filefront both praised my map while giving helpful feedback to consider. More info and download for Hurtgen Forest.

I also did a snazzy trailer video to promote the map (and because I LOVE editing video). Although I’ve embedded it everywhere the map is, here’s the video again:

I did another video to demonstrate how to use my program, File Lister, as well. It shows how to use it to do batch renaming. To limit the number of videos I have embedded in one post, just see the File Lister page to watch. I’m quite surprised by how often I end up needing File Lister at work and at home. I think it’s almost as essential as Regex Buddy for any geek. I’m also finding more and more sites publishing or linking to File Lister since it’s naturally the most advanced and feature-rich program of its kind.

And finally, the obligatory 100% completion screenshot for Lego Harry Potter. The girlfriend and I just finished it last weekend. Also, 100% completion for all the other lego games we’ve played. Can’t wait for Lego Pirates of the Caribbean so we can continue our addiction. Actually, co-oping with your girlfriend is probably half the fun.

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File Lister and Company of Heroes

A new version of File Lister is in beta now. I’ve been repeatedly finding it useful both at home and at work, so I figured it was the most deserving of an update. Besides a few bug fixes, there are also performance improvements, some more regex matching options, and the addition of counters and regex capturing groups in the output format. I’m hoping to release a final version within the next month. And this next release may not even be the end of the updates to File Lister as I’m also looking at adding features like command line modes in the future.


Hurtgen Forest at night

I’m also trying my hardest to get my Company of Heroes map finally done (damn me and my perfectionism!), even if there’s no one around to play it anymore. It’s just too good and too close to completion to let it go unfinished. There’s just 1/8th of the playable area left to create and some of the out-of-bounds yet to be filled with trees–it really shouldn’t take but another concerted effort of a weekend.

And I’ve finally decided on a name for the map: “Hurtgen Forest“. Since my map is pretty much a fictional setting, I didn’t want to be too specific with the location. Though, I had always considered that it would probably be named after some area in Belgium or northwest Germany.

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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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Killing Fields

Regretfully, it’s been more than a month since my last post. Mainly, I just haven’t found the time, which is funny considering I only have classes three days a week this semester. Some of the reason for my lessened time is that I’ve been working on a new Company of Heroes map/scenario. You may recall about this time last year, I was dabbling in making a map based on my university. That map was doomed from the start because it was too large, and the gameplay suffered as a result of building scaling issues.

Thankfully, my new map is very small, so I may actually finish it. It was inspired while I was playing through the Panzer Elite campaign of the COH expansion pack, Opposing Fronts. One map called Best (after a town in Holland) has an expansive pine forest area littered with makeshift fortifications and the occasional burning tree/scorched earth. I found it made for very intense combat weaving through the trees and defenses. Perhaps I just wanted an excuse to play around with the World Builder again, but the burning pine forest was the early inspiration.

    The main physical features of my map include:

  • A stream that divides the two players’ halves of the map
  • A road that runs perpendicular to the stream, crossing it with a simple earth and stone bridge
  • A small church with adjacent parking lot and graveyard
  • Farmland where the axis base is
  • The rest of the map is all pine forest with some clearings for the various control points and existing defenses.

Obviously, the bridge over the stream is the major chokepoint; however, the stream is shallow enough to allow crossing at any point. The resource control points are arranged so that advancement will take considerable time (i.e. there is little fuel). Unless one chooses a doctrine that has tank reinforcements, it’s unlikely the game will take long enough to see tank combat. The map focuses on infantry combat, as tanks are difficult to move through the forests and the one road is easy to defend. The choice of doctrines, units, and strategies is immensely important in this small map as the room for error is minimal.

Of course, I am equally concerned with the visual appeal of the map. For each of the 11 sectors, I have gone through the laborious task of adjusting the heightmap through coarse and fine brushes, painting the various terrain tiles, adding decorative and defensive 3D objects, laying out texture splines for paths and edging, placing splats (basically texture patches) to reduce terrain texture redundancy, and finally placing grass (where applicable). I’ve even gone through the trouble of creating time passage through environmental changes (mainly lighting, fog, and sky adjustments). I’m hoping all this work is producing a believable world for the player that is nearly on par with Relic’s (the developer) maps. I’ve noticed many COH mappers don’t even bother placing much more than roads, buildings, other 3D objects, and the necessary control points and HQ.

However, while I was mapping one day over spring break, a most unfortunate tragedy occurred. Our newest kitty addition to the family, “Crush”, was killed in the street. I had trouble not being overcome by flashbacks for a while. I had to watch helplessly as he died when only three hours prior, we had cuddled up for a nap together. A sweeter, more lovable kitty I have never known. As such, I will dedicate this map to him, and in it, I have composed a digital grave for him to cat-nap forever.

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Image Browser, CoH Mapping, Titan Quest

I spent most of spring break drinking on the beach, and then I had sex with a fugly, fat chick cause I was drunk and thought she was hot. No wait, that was probably you. I actually spent most of my spring break coding an image browser in PHP.

It can mostly just read the files in the directory and match up thumbnails to full images. But it tries to link up images to entries in a database for extended information, like description and hits. Directories are a little more involved, requiring a full traversal of subdirectories for random thumbnails; but the product of those thumbs in my cunning folder graphic table is way snazzy. It also has the usual sorting and page selection options. The link in the nav frame goes directly to the Photo Album directory, but it’s possible to navigate up to the image root and view all my images. The only thing left to do on the image browser is keyword searches, which wouldn’t be too hard, but I’ve been engaged in other projects lately.

For one, I recently started making a map for Company of Heroes set in an interesting locale, Longwood University’s campus. It came to me in a dream (the result of too much school and CoH, probably). I saw myself commanding a German force comprised of some friends against the entire rest of the student body. I’m only roughly 10% into the project, but it should be rather interesting, whether it’s playable or not. It’s already obvious Brock Commons will be the major chokepoint of the map. A couple 88s could defend the whole thing, causing the Allies to find a way through the various buildings to flank.

But for the last couple weeks, I’ve mostly been playing Titan Quest. It’s pretty much just a Diablo clone, albeit many enhancements. I think I actually prefer TQ because of its familar story elements (Greek mythology anyone?) and less dreary atmosphere.

I had to overcome several problems to really get into TQ, though. First of all, it crashes all the time for me, even when patched. The solution I found was to just use a NoCD patched executable. This makes sense because the patched exe disables the shoddy Securom code–stuff that the developers can’t fix but are forced to include. Another problem was that my extra mouse buttons would often lag for several seconds. As one can imagine, this is really annoying and can sometimes put my character’s life in danger. I eventually noticed that Titan Quest really doesn’t like to share the CPU with other apps. Thus, the simple fix is to set its process priority to below normal. Lastly, the game doesn’t lock the mouse into the game window. But, of course, my CursorLock program easily fixed that.

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Gaming, Photo Album, and Search Engines

I’ve been secretly working on a photo browser script for this site from scratch. I’ve completed two of the three parts to this project: augmentation of viewimage.php with extended image information (file details, dimensions, EXIF, hits, keywords), and an updater script that creates thumbnails and links images in the photo album directory with an image database, which holds some of the extended information. The only part left is the actual image browser frontend, which I expect to finish within the next week. Woot. 8)

Since my last post, I’ve been keeping an eye on how the search engines have been crawling, indexing, and caching my site. Google and Yahoo! seem to be getting the idea now–slowly phasing out nonexistent pages and indexing existing pages, eventually with a correct cache (although the caches just send you back to my site). I’ve begun doubting my usage of frames. In the near future, I may start examining DHTML and other alternatives. At least the search engines are cooperating now.

As for my recent gaming trends, I’ve been mostly playing Company of Heroes lately. I’ve pretty much given up on NWN2 near the beginning of Act 3. My Ranger 15/Rogue 1/Shadow Thief 2 character isn’t all that interesting and the story has been way too convoluted. But as for COH, I finished the campaign last week. Then a couple days ago, I discovered the goodness of skirmishes. My favorite tactic is to use a camouflaged sniper to direct artillery fire and then overwhelm the enemy with armor superiority.

Since Kaylen doesn’t like the wargames, we played a few crazy sessions of Super Mario 3 on Snes9x this weekend. To alleviate some of the tedium, I whipped up some memory cheats for infinite lives: addresses 7E0736 and 7E0737 set to 99 (63h) for Mario and Luigi respectively (All-Stars version). Also over the weekend, I discovered a user mod that I had been hoping would be made: Classic Doom for Doom 3. The levels are designed really well–true to the original layouts with upgraded art and decor to up the realism. However, some of the continuity-breaking attributes of Doom 3 persist: more agile/tougher monsters, weapon effectiveness, and monster teleports (I know Doom had these, but they were kinda scarce comparatively). Still, it’s a lot of fun romping around these new renditions of a classic game.

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