Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Donations / Payments

After typing the same message 5 times, I decided to update my TMN profile, requesting players not to ask that question again. What question? "Will you have SMS Donation implemented?"

The message I wrote to all players asking it, did contain an explanation, but I didn't enjoy typing it over and over again (and each time I thought it'd be the last player asking about it!).

As you may have read, my current internship project is all about SMS, so I read lots of boring articles about it, and I'm actually writing my own SMS Service. That means I know how things like SMS work, and why I'm not a big fan of donations over SMS.
However, at least a year ago, I did some research on SMS Donation services, to find two possibilities:
1) We pay €1500 (about $1900) a month (!!), and get about €1.30 (about $2) per SMS
2) We get €0.80 ($1) per SMS, where players still pay €1.30 ($2)

The first one is too much of an investment, and the 2nd one is a scam both we, and the customers wouldn't like. Besides the fact that an SMS would only get the players a few credits.

I got a few requests from Dutch players, about iDeal. iDeal is a service most online shops in The Netherlands offer, to directly pay for the goods online. It has close contacts with banks, and works fast, easy, and safe. I'm not sure if it is used internationally, but didn't have time to have a look at that either.
So, will we implement this? I don't know!

TMN is registered in Canada, and I don't even know if we have a bank account. Therefore I really have no idea.

So, instead of attempting to use other payment methods, I think it's still best to just stick to paypal, which is safe, fast (almost instant), and is used all over the world. In some countries you won't need a creditcard, in case you didn't know.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mess-up and mod tools

It's my task to get some nice mod and admin tools made, that are intuitive and get the job done as fast and easy as possible. Though, with the lack of time, it's not going too fast. But: I think it's getting better by the day, especially now I'm starting to empty my (flooded) mailbox.

Yesterday we kind of messed up, giving all new players a server error. The problem(s)? I made a change to the table structure of a certain table, so technically it was my mistake. But... If DC had written some better statements, it wouldn't have happened! So we really both made a mistake haha.

You can insert rows in a database table in 2 ways:
1) INSERT INTO TableName VALUES('1','2','3')
2) INSERT INTO TableName (Row1, Row2, Row3) VALUES ('1','2','3')

The first way was used during the registration process, leaving one column out. The result? Errors! The column added was a column to log some user information, that isn't needed for all users.

My next week is starting, and I hope I'll be able to fully empty my inbox (Unfortunately I failed at that this week).
Goals for this week: Empty TMN mailbox, succeed at writing some functionality and documentation for the internship project.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Busy week, mod interviews

This week both DC and I have been very busy. I've spent about 53 hours at work (including travel time to get there), and really didn't have any energy left for TMN. So, why was I this busy?

I've had a few meetings at the internship company, I went paintballing with the internship company, and went to play soccer with a few collegues too. Those were the past 3 days, exhausting!

Though, with the 0.0 energy I had, I did manage to create some forum mod options, and made those work today (friday). And, this weekend, I'm hoping to empty my inbox and e-mail inbox as well as updating some other things on TMN.

We have had a few mod interviews so far, and some of them do seem Okay to me. We have had one voice interview, and tried another (which failed because Windows Live Messenger kept crashing, nice eh). The text interviews on IRC went quite well, and it seemed like a nice way to communicate.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Things to do, performance, scripting

Many many many things to do. I decided to go for the Post-It method of remembering thing: Writing everything down on small post-it notes. It works nicely, but the pile really is growing... Every comment on TMN is written down, so I can look at them tomorrow.

Tonight I handled my TMN inbox for the first time, and was amazed. Not just by the IQ of the people messaging me (read: No "plzzzz mke ma bruv mod plzzzzz" messages), but by the game's performance. Every time I clicked a link, it'd think for 0.2 seconds, and it'd be done! Not bad.

How is it this fast? Because of the coding. We're using a less good server than we used to, but the coding is all updated, better-looking, and more tuned for performance. It seems like it's working!

Everytime I looked at online players, I'd see between 220 and 260 players online, not bad if you ask me. But... It seems like people are already using scripts to get there. Pathetic? Yes, but it's how things go on TMN. We'll probably spend a few hours limiting it, but we won't eliminate scripting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

now I know...

"now I know why you love SVN :D"

That's what DC just said to me on msn, and my thoughts? I did it! I convinced him!

SVN means subversion, and it's a version control system for when you're working in a team, on the same files. I use it on my own too, for backup purposes.

How it works?
I create a file, I enter some code, or just add comments. I Press Commit, and it's uploaded to a server. When DC wants to continue with that file, he presses Update, to get my last version of it, and he can work on it too.
In practise, it means that when there's a bug, I can fix it, commit it, and DC can see I fixed it before starting to fix it himself.

It's a great system, and I'm gladd I convinced DC of using it, so we can now be more productive than ever before.

Wow... stress

We've been working very hard, and got most bugs fixed.... I have to say I'm surprised by the speed DC operates at. The testers also did a good job, though I wasn't too sure of that when I got home yesterday. I think TMN will have a lot less issues than it ever had in the past.

Unfortunately, yesterday I thought of the activities today... to find out I won't be home when TMN is launched. There's a thing at the internship company I'm working, and I really need/want to go there. When I get home (at about 10 PM? I have no idea really), I'll continue to work hard on a few more things I was going to do. I hope the launch goes well, and that the players like the new TMN.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Last night and this morning my time (so till about midnight TMN time) we have chosen about 15 testers, and added them to the test environment of TMN. If you were not contacted, you were either not chosen, or you were too late.

So far we have found a few bugs already, and a few things that influence gameplay in a general way.
We will now try and fix all these minor things, and let the testers find even more, before we launch.

We have thought of who to keep and hire for mods, but haven't really concluded anything. This means DragonCurse and Marc will just look on gameforum often to see what players would be a good addition, and look at their pasts as well.

Earlier today DC e-mailed me asking me about credits... I gave him my opinion:
- We could give credits for donations in the last 3 months of tmnX
- We could give credits for 5% (or anything reasonable) of the donations in the last 3 months of TMN
I don't know what we'll do, but we haven't been able to discuss it any further yet. We'll inform you guys.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Progress Report + Countdown

As of now, TMN is fully functional except for one feature. Marc and I are performing tests on every aspect of the game to make sure it runs smoothly on the launch date. I am looking to expand our testing team to experienced players who are honest to report any bug/exploit found during the testing period. So if you think you are qualified, please send an email to

There was a small problem with the countdown timer on a couple days back. The timer took the local's computer as reference instead of server's time. We have moved the launch time 12 hours later, due to Marc's unavailability for the former time. Plus this will be easier for most players from the UK as it will be 5 P.M. GMT now for the launch time. So again, if you are an experienced tester and wish to join our testing team, email Hope to see you all on the 15th!.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Countdown Until TMN Launch....

You may have seen it already, but we're actually counting down!

TMN seems to be ready, and DC and I are currently testing it, to make sure everything works. I noticed a few changes so far, but those are minor ones:
- Text color and buttons look a little different
- City names
- Login page
- One feature from tmnX added (but don't worry, you'll like it)
- Drive-by button on OC page is gone

There'll be more changes, but I personally think, and hope, they're improvements to the game.

Update #1:
- It will be a total reset
- Scripting at this moment is possible, but if it's up to me, it'll be script-checks on login page and auto-logouts
- DC and I haven't discussed credits in detail yet, but I'll see what's possible there.
- Credits sell & buy will be concidered
- If you need me, get on IRC*

Channel: #jail
My username: marc

Monday, October 6, 2008

Permissions, mod team, progress, internship

I had a nice chat with DC last night, and really made clear how happy everyone (including myself) has been with him. I explained to him why I haven't been to happy with him, and also (finally) got permission to do whatever I think is best for TMN, without verifying it with DC.

You all know, the way we chose mods isn't perfect. Last round people applied for a job, which was better, but still not perfect. So, how should we pick our mods? Share your thoughts!
Use the comment option (no need to login) to tell me what's best, what requirements we should stick to, and how to pick mods in general. I'll discuss the comments with DC.

I haven't seen any progress since yesterday, but I think DC will have some time on his hands. Next milestone: Converting about 100 pages to .NET 3.5, and we'd like to do that within 2 weeks.

I already told some people about this on IRC, and I also mentioned I'd post about it once or twice. So here it is.
On September 1st I started internship at Logica, researching, and eventually creating an SMS Service. It's very interesting, and I'll use languages, tools, and hardware I haven't worked with before.
Technical: I'll be using a C#.NET application to communicate with a Terminal using AT-commands, to get a service running, that can respond to SMS messages it receives.
Very interesting!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


The server is ready, and the details should come my way later today, when DC gets on msn. From then on we'll be working hard to get it all back up.

I will first set up SVN (SubVersion, version control system), so we can work together. Then we will update the code, so it will be compatible with the newer version of the language we want to use.
Then we will start re-coding it, so it will be more secure, faster, and less buggy in general.

I'm not sure at what step we will launch the game, this could be just after making it compatible with the new version of .NET, or after re-coding it all. It's a decision that will be made, depending on how long certain parts take.

For those who are interested in all this, I'll just include it.
TMN was originally coded in ASP.NET 1.1, this means it's ASP (Active Server Pages), working with the .NET Framework (read: Dot Net Framework). .NET can be seen as a large toolbox, that can do many things for you. It is not just for web applications, but can also be used for desktop applications, I'd assume Microsoft Office requires it as well. The problem about the old version, is that it's old, less secure, and slower than the newer versions (such as 3.5 that's available now).

Update 1 (October 5th):
The server we now have is, as in the past, a dedicated server. This means we're the only ones using it. As promised, DC sent me the server details last night (saturday night, so I wasn't home myself), and I played with it a little today.
Although we got a nice deal for a cheaper server, it's still a very good one. We are, as in the past, running Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server.
Today I set up SVN, and updated the TMN home page's content by adding a link to this blog. This should keep the players updated a little more than that main page.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Future of TMN / tmnX

This is what happened:
All fuzzy, through a full-screen application, I noticed Outlook had come up with a balloon stating I had received an e-mail from DC. I quickly sent an e-mail asking him to get on msn, and, more surprising than the e-mail, he got on msn, and we started talking. We talked through microphones for a while, and chatted over msn some more after that.

A quick summary:
  • TMN will return
  • We'll change as little as possible to the look, feel and gameplay of it
  • We won't merge tmnX into TMN
  • We may use scripttests on login page, and use auto-logouts to prevent 24-7 scripting
  • We will save money by using a cheaper server
  • The server should be up today or tomorrow
  • We will try and really work together this time
  • We may publish PayPal donate records every 3 (or so) months*
  • I will try and keep up this blog, to inform players, staff members, and total strangers
  • DC will be more active for the next 8 months
  • I will no longer wait for his permission, and just act when I feel it's needed
  • We may re-launch tmnX later, when we changed the things we didn't like ourselves
*: Not daily, weekly or monthly, because it may influence the game. I proposed this because I'm a fair person, and think the players deserve to know at least some of it.

So... lets start!

I have to admit: I've never done this before, but I think keeping a staff blog will be fun and informative for both me, the other staff members, and the players of TMN and tmnX.

On this blog I will post my experiences on TMN/tmnX, as well as technical issues and (limited) information on my own life. For now this blog will not be official, but we may later use it to inform players of what's happening when (for example) things go wrong.

For those who don't understand any of this...
TMN stands for TheMafiaNetwork, which is a text-based "mafia" game, launched in August 2004. We started with nothing, grew to 2400 players online at the same time, and shrunk back to about 500 players online at the same time in 2007.
In January 2008, we launched the new version of TMN; tmnX. Unfortunately tmnX wasn't much of a success. We shrunk back to a sad 50-150 active players, because of many things, but I don't feel the need to mention those here.