New construction options!

The original Red Alert is now freeware. Well, it has been for quite a while, actually, just I never got around to downloading it and attempting to complete it (I was never able to when I was a kid, cuz I sucked really badly :P).

Yesterday, though, I did get around to it, and it’s such a joy to replay one of the very few RTSs I actually like (only four in total). πŸ˜€ Although the intelligence of your own units REALLY gets on my nerves sometimes – sometimes half of the units you selected won’t do anything, other times they’ll just happily blow themselves and their teammates up, and other times they’ll take the most ridiculous route to a target ever. And don’t get me started on the naval units. πŸ˜›

Getting it running wasn’t easy, though, since it has massive problems running on Windows 7. Even if you manage to get it installed (the installer is a 16-bit application, bad for people who run 64-bit Windows), the colours mess up in-game and make it very unpleasant to play. 😦

If you’re one of those people, don’t worry, cuz there is a way to get it to run perfectly, thanks to the awesomeness of some fan tools and fixes. πŸ˜€ Firstly, you’ll need your Red Alert CDs, obviously. πŸ˜‰ If you don’t have the original discs, you can get them here. EA have packed it with a 60MB trailer for RA3 and some other crap, though – I might reupload a cleaner version soon to save yo’ bandwidth. πŸ˜‰ While that’s downloading, you’ll need ze Red Alert Setup Manager from zis page. With that, you don’t need to use the old 16-bit installer, and it comes with the latest patches, too. πŸ™‚ Finally, to make it all work, you’ll need this very excellent DirectDraw hack… thing. Basically, it overrides the old default DirectDraw DLL that Red Alert used to use, and renders with OpenGL instead, fixing the messed up colours.

Oh, and if you’re downloading the CDs, you’ll also need WinRAR and DAEMON Tools (or similar software) to open the archives and mount the CD images. πŸ™‚

When you’ve got everything, follow these steps:

1: If you downloaded the CDs, extract the .ISO images using WinRAR. If you’re using your own CDs, insert the Allied disc and go to shtep 3.

2: When you’ve extracted them, mount the Allied CD using DAEMON Tools. (Just double-clicking on the .ISO should work. ;))

3: If the Red Alert launcher comes up, just close it. Open up the Red Alert Setup Manager instead.

4: Check “Install Red Alert from the original CD” (make sure you browse to where you want the game installed ;)), “Apply Red Alert 1.08 Patch”, “Apply Red Alert 3.03 patch”, “Apply 4Player fix” and “Install music”. You can also check the box to install the WOL API if you’re going to be playing online, but I don’t know anything about it (I won’t be playing this online. :P).

5: Press Apply. It should come up with a dialog at some point asking whether you want to disable the intro or not. No harm in getting rid of it. πŸ™‚ After it’s finished, you can close the Red Alert Setup Manager.

6: Now, take the ddraw.dll that you downloaded, and copy it to wherever you installed Red Alert.

7: Before you try playing the game, right click on ra95.exe, go to “Properties”, open up the “Compatibility” tab, and make sure all the options are unchecked. Yep, unchecked. Trust. πŸ˜‰ Although if you’ve installed Red Alert to Program Files or any access-restricted area, you might want to check “run this program as administrator”. Otherwise it might not save.

8: Next, open rasetup.exe. Make sure the resolution’s at 640×400, and that “Back buffer in Video Memory” is checked, and “Allow hardware filled blits” is unchecked.

9: When that’s done, you can double-click ra95.exe to start the game. MAGIC! No messed-up colours. πŸ˜€ (Hopefully. ;))

10: “I can’t play Red Alert in this miniscule window!” Aye, I hear you. Quit the game, and look in the Red Alert folder. A new file, “ddraw.ini”, should have magically appeared. Go ahead and open it with Notepad. πŸ™‚

11: You can change a bunch of settings in there, but you’ll definitely want to change “windowed=true” to “windowed=false”. πŸ˜‰ Save the file, close it, and open up Red Alert again.

12: CONSTRUCTION COMPLETE! Now, you shouldn’t be able to see this text while the game’s running, because it’s in full screen. πŸ˜€

Hope this helps someone to get it working easily, because this was doing my head in – it was just problem after problem. Oh, also, Red Alert might have its music volume set to zero when you play it for the first time for some reason – so you might wanna turn it back up. One of the best soundtracks of all time and such. πŸ˜‰

Right, now I’m off to try and finish this mission. See yaz. πŸ˜€

UPDATE!!
Right, there appears to be a “HOLY CRAP THE SCROLLING IS WAY TOO FAST” issue if you’ve got a speedy processor. By “way too fast”, I mean that just touching the mouse against the side of the screen causes the camera to almost teleport to the edge of the map. πŸ˜›

You can fix this if you open up the “REDALERT.ini” file in the game’s directory, search for ScrollRate, and change it to 7. The camera will move at a much more realistic pace, but make sure you don’t open the in-game Options menu again, otherwise it’ll overwrite your settings, and the camera’ll go back to being Concorde. πŸ˜›

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Wow, WordPress – just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse…

Okay, so I’ve just seen a RED BANNER on my dashboard, which usually means that something bad’s happened. And yes, it has! It’s about my password. Normally, passwords are encrypted with a 128-bit cipher, but apparently, the gormfags at WordPress sort of ACCIDENTALLY stored my password “less securely” than normal because of some bug in some tool. “Less securely”… hmm, very vague. I’m going to take a guess and say it was completely unencrypted. I’m probably right.

So, I’ve had to change my password… well, not really, since my blog is probably the LEAST important thing that someone could hijack. I just set it back to what it was.

But that’s not the most ridiculous part, oh no. The most ridiculous part is this bullshit 15% off coupon I recieved as an apology. “Hey, we sort of didn’t store your password securely – sorry! Here’s a coupon for money off when you buy something pointless from us.” LMFAO, how about fuck off! I mean, what the hell? I wouldn’t buy any of these overpriced shitty upgrades anyway! $60 a year to store VIDEOS? And what the hell? $300 a year for 100GB of storage space?! WHAT? A 1TB hard drive (10x more space) is, like… Β£40 (~$65)? So where’d you get $300 from? Hell, I can get a PROPER website with my own domain name and UNLIMITED storage space for $58 a year somewhere else!

Anyone who’s paying these insane prices is either mentally retarded or one of those fanboys on the news page who say that everything WordPress does is amazing.

My thoughts on time.

So, I was listening to Masterchef Synesthesia, when I thought of an illogical but logical way time could work in the future. The two have NO connection whatsoever, but this popped into my head nevertheless.

It’s written for the ULSG V14 Galactipedia, but I still have to share it here. πŸ˜€

Thyme
Thyme is a common herb, but even so, it is the most important organism in the universe, bar none. Formerly, this miracle herb was not shown much respect, but now, it is widely worshipped.

If you are a recently thawed cryo-freeze patient, you may not realise that thyme, the herb, actually controls the flow of what you call “time”. Hence, the correct name for “time” is actually “thyme”, but to avoid confusion, especially for beings from the past, the word “time” is still used to describe the flow of thyme.

You’re probably wondering how a small herb primarily used for cooking controls the flow of “time”. Well, thyme actually emits hypersonic waves, previously undiscovered by unenlightened scientists of the past. These waves cause all the particles within a very large area to become excited and fly through the previously misunderstood fourth dimension.

Areas of space may be outside the effective range of a sprig of thyme, and hence, can cause problems for space travel. To counteract this, all ships have thyme (the herb) in the engine bay. If a ship did not have this herb on board and entered a time blackspot, they would disappear from the present time until they entered the range of some hypersonic thyme waves in the past time. They would then be accelerated into the present time. This is known as “Thyme Lag”, which is the main thrower of the notorious “TwoParticlesOccupyOnePoint” Exception. The error handling code has improved in recent years, but it is still somewhat buggy.

Contrary to popular belief, eating a sprig of thyme will not pause time, make you live longer, or give you a time extension in Every Extend Extra. It does, however, give the snarfer immunity to Thyme Lag for about an hour.

Where the hell does this crap come from?! No, no, I’m not complaining, or anything. Just intrigued. Yes, intrigued by myself. πŸ˜€

Multimedia Fusion 2 is getting right on my tits.

I think I get why I’ve been developing ULSG so slowly recently. It’s not the heat or anything distracting like that. It’s motivation. But not in the “I’m making this game but no-one actually cares” sense, because I know that’s not true. MMF2 is the problem.

I’ve been doing some work on ULSG for the past few days, on both V13 and V14. V13’s not so bad, probably because it’s coded so inefficiently, and that’s the way MMF2 prefers you do it. However, V14 has been a nightmare.

It has severe problems sometimes which literally make no sense. For example, you can group objects into “Qualifiers”, and you can address all the objects in a qualifier at once. Sounds good. Works well in some situations. However, when it comes to choosing a specific object in the qualifier depending on an object’s alterable value, MMF2 poos itself.

Let’s take the main menu that I’m developing as an example.
Here you're supposed to see the concept for the V14 menu system.(That’s just a concept image, but it will look almost exactly the same in-game, just with a background and some other changes. :))

I have an object which keeps track of the current selection in the main menu, called “CurrentPositionInList”. It increases when you move down, and decreases when you move up. In each of the menu options is a value called “PositionInList” which basically says where the menu option is in the list. For example, the Single Player option has a value of 1. Multiplayer has a value of 2. And so on. The idea is that when “CurrentPositionInList” and any of the menu options’ “PositionInList” values are equal, that option should poke out to the right to show it’s the current selection. If not, it should go back to where it was. So if CurrentPositionInList is 1, Single Player should poke out, and all other options should slide back to where they were.

What’s the problem? Well, if you compare CurrentPositionInList with PositionInList, all options pop out for some reason. However, if you compare PositionInList with CurrentPositionInList, it works fine. SENSE. IT MAKES NONE. It’s like MMF2 is saying 1 is equal to 1 in one direction, but 1 is not equal to 1 in the other direction! WHAT THE…?!

That’s not the worst problem, oh no. You see, even if I ignore this stupidity and just compare PositionInList with CurrentPositionInList without questioning how it works in that order and not the other, then if you select any of the last four options in the menu, they slide out just fine, but WILL NOT SLIDE BACK TO THEIR OLD POSITIONS WHEN DESELECTED. And that makes EVEN LESS SENSE. They’re in the same group. The formulae I’ve written to make the options slide out and slide back are perfect, and I know, because I’ve used them elsewhere, and the first six options use the same formulae and work just fine. There’s NO PROBLEM AT ALL, but it doesn’t work. And this isn’t one of those bugs you can never seem to spot for hours on end, oh no, this is actually MMF2 being a dumbass.

How do I know that? Because I just wrote the exact same code for each individual object instead of using a qualifier, and it WORKS FINE. Great, but that’s 10 times less efficient. And there was nothing wrong with the old code! And the worst part – if something needs changing in these menu objects, I need to go through every object and change it, which is the exact reason why V13 is so tedious to code now! No matter how hard I try, I CAN’T write V14 perfectly efficiently, because of how dumb MMF2 is.

I love how easy MMF2 is to use. But I hate how frustrating it is to find out that one of these progress-halting bugs is actually caused by MMF2 itself, and not me. I’ve NEVER had this problem with C#. Which is why I’m seriously considering this to be my last game with MMF2. If so, Dragon Storm will be ported to C#.

But anyway, might as well update on progress. πŸ™‚ ULSG V13 is slow as usual, but it’s going fairly well. Just another four challenges to update, then some more testing, then I’ve gotta do the last of the Achievements. After that, Lame Survival Mode updates, and that’s everything. πŸ™‚ Then, I’ll need to decide whether to scrap multiplayer and leave it for V14, or fix it up a bit and release it with a disclaimer saying it’s experimental and therefore buggy and crap. πŸ˜›

ULSG V14, despite the retardation of MMF2, is actually going quite well. Keyboard and controller support are both there, but there’s a bit of a problem with controllers – if one is unplugged and then reconnected, ULSG won’t pick it up again until I repoll the controllers. And I can’t just constantly repoll them, because it drops the FPS to zero for about half a second every time I do it. Again, a bug which isn’t my fault; it’s the joystick extension’s fault this time. I’ll have to figure out some sort of workaround for that. Something that pauses the game when a controller’s been unplugged should work. SHOULD. Might not. This is MMF2, remember. πŸ˜›

The profile menu is much more advanced than V13’s…
Here you're supposed to see a picture of the V14 sign-in screen, but WordPress is shit, so you can't.V13 has a really lame system – it doesn’t actually scan for files, it just ASSUMES you delete and create all profiles in-game, which is just stupid. V14 scans for valid profiles properly, and puts them in a pretty list. It also figures out whether the profile is from V13 or V14. It can create new profiles, delete profiles and rescan without exploding. The only thing left is to allow players to convert their V13 profiles to V14 ones. You’ll lose almost everything, but in return, you can keep up to 14 levels of experience, and you’ll get bonus Creditz. Maybe even an exclusive ship or Booster! *audience OOOOHHHHHs*

The gameplay is very easy to implement right now – ULSG isn’t a particularly complicated game at its core. πŸ˜‰
ULSG V14 GameplayAlmost everything to do with the core gameplay works. Multipliers spawn and can be collected, but MultiMultipliers don’t spawn yet. You can even get Insane Stunt Bonuses. The new Awesometer works, and the new Miss Counter fills, but nothing happens when it reaches 100%. You can shoot and destroy Failiens, and scoring works just fine – you can’t crash or level up yet, though. πŸ˜‰

Those powerup bars are my pride and joy at the moment. πŸ˜€ They’re different colours now, which looks nice. They slide into the correct position automatically when created, and smoothly fade in and out when time’s running out. They also count down much more smoothly. And the best part – if a powerup bar runs out and leaves a gap, other powerup bars will slide up and close the ugly gap! πŸ˜€ I even had a try at animating the different powerup symbols, and did quite well for once – they look great! I’m especially proud of Quad Damage – two red particles spin around the lightning bolt. πŸ˜€ Sure, it’s not much, but I didn’t think I could make it look that nice. πŸ˜‰

So ya, that’s my update for now. I’ll keep pressing on with V13, and I’ll try not to go too mad with V14. πŸ™‚

LEAK!

Well… this isn’t technically a leak, since I’m the only person who’s making this game, and I want to show you the image. More of a “release”. But that doesn’t sound much like peeing, and something sounding like peeing makes people laff. πŸ˜›

Anyway, have an image:

First Look at V14!(First time I’ve used WordPress’ upload thing. It makes the border light up when you hover over it. Probably to help morons distinguish linked images from normal ones. :P)

That’s ULSG V14. πŸ˜€ The code is so much better already. The starfield is recycled code from V13, but with a few improvements and tweaks to work with the new resolution. The HUD works, and that uses brand new code. The movement engine is pretty much finished, but only responds to controller input. Enemies can spawn, but the spawn rates need changing. You can’t take damage or destroy enemies yet, unfortunately, since I had to stop because… well, you’ll never guess what happened. A bit of my controller’s wire, for some extraordinary reason, has slightly split, causing the controller to stop working when the wire is at a specific angle. In fact, it flickered on and off so much that it caused the Windows Driver Framework to panic and smack the Blue Screen of Death button. πŸ˜›

I really don’t understand how it suddenly broke like that. It was perfectly fine back when I was in Huddersfield. I don’t even get how it doesn’t work properly anymore – the wire isn’t exposed or anything. For some reason, I think it’s the heat in this stupid house; it must’ve softened the wire and caused it to snap. It’s ridiculous – it’s actually COLDER outside than it is in here. And if I open the window, every insect in the world flies in. And since I hate the heat, this is NOT helping my concentration. 😦

So, I’ve decided to get an Xbox 360 wireless reciever for my PC. Costs about as much as a wired controller, but I can connect my wireless controller to it and not worry about wires. πŸ˜€ Well, apart from the wire on the reciever. ‘S’not technically wireless, is it? πŸ˜›

Anyway, if I can manage to concentrate in this heat or if the heat goes away, I’ll continue work on V13. I just wanna get it out of the way now. Starting on V14 was a bad idea. πŸ˜›