Off into the wild blue yonder…

Hi guys. Things have calmed down here at the blue houshold, but I’m off this Wednesday for vacation so I’ll be away from the posts for a week or so (I’m sure you guys don’t want to hear about the trouble I’m getting into on my vacation).

I probably won’t be picking up a copy of the latest expansion pack, Makin’ Magic, until after I get back but hopefully I can get the updates to the programs done in a week or so after that. Once I do it for one the others will fall into line. Once thats done at least we’ll have a full set of tools here that are current. They’re woefully out of date right now and I think only support up to Living Large (yes, pathetic I know). There will still be come incompatibilities (like with MenuEditor) but for the most part they’ll work. There are some other tools people have built to handle categories and such which will fill any gap my stuff has.

I haven’t officially heard anything about tools for Sims 2 but someone did mention that Maya (or hopefully the personal edition) would be used for body meshes for Sims 2. Hopefully that means people can create their own, but I’m not sure how much of a boost that will be to the community? I mean, custom body meshes are not really that big of a deal when it comes to showing off your work. How many variations can you come up on the same theme?

As for objects, it seems the Sims 2 world is 3D so it would make sense to either use Maya PE or gMAX for object creation and export. Again, I’m just as in the dark on this as you are. Don H. and I proposed a gMAX plugin for The Sims but nobody seemed to want to take it on (might have been the license fees but I don’t know). gMAX is pretty much the cats meow for object creation as it’s a trimmed down version of 3D Studio MAX. Bit of a learning curve, but there isn’t much it can’t do. I would hope they have some consumer solution for creating objects in Sims 2 and don’t expect people to go out and buy a $3,000 program. Well, one can dream can’t they?

Posted in CDX

Moving forward on expansion packs and The Sims 2

Thanks for the constructive remarks now that the site is back online and I’m in a somewhat regular mode again. Trust me, when you’re out of the game for a few months it takes twice that long to get back into it. Those that go on vacation know what I mean. Anyways, the brain cells are recharged and even though I’m still constrained by time and effort, at least the brunt of the silly work is done. When your main focus is trying to program and solve challenges the last thing your brain wants to do is write HTML tags. The body just refuses to keep interest in it. Anyways.

First off as I mentioned before the first refresh of the tools is to get everything updated to the latest EP. Much to my disconnection to the Sims releases now, I guess Making Magic is still not available on store shelves so I’ll have to wait until that surfaces up here in Canada. With being away for the next couple of weeks on vacation down in New York, it’ll be the 2nd week in November before I can load it up and even look at it.

The second pass is to apply what I hope is valued learnings and split up the software into the modular components it should be. This will result in two things. First a common set of components that all programs will use so if there are any more expansion packs, an update will be just to the common module and the existing apps don’t have to be updated. When there’s a dozen or so to update it’s really a hinderance to have to try to sweep through and apply minor changes and build releases for each one. Secondly it will provide what I’ve always wanted to do and that’s put the power of programming in your hands. Hopefully it will work out as planned and we’ll see new stuff from anyone else who has some creative juices left in them. How long will The Sims live? Who knows. It’s long past it’s due date and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.

As for The Sims 2 support, tools and anything else that’s going on I have a few sources out there that are keeping an ear open. I believe (or at least hope) that Maxis has a slightly different attitude with Sims 2 with regards to providing users with good tools, or empowering people to build things without having to be rocket scientists. I don’t know because I haven’t had any discussions with Maxis for some time now and not sure if I will. However, being the glutton that I am for punishment, I’m willing to listen and play by whatever rules there might be and provide whatever service I can to the community in the form of tools. It’s all about putting something in the hands of the end user that I personally would want to have. The Sims is a rich environment and Sims 2 looks like it has even more farther reaching possibilities. We really haven’t scratched the surface with The Sims yet as there’s lots of rocks to turn over.

Posted in CDX

Strawdog site done and online

Okay, so since my last post (about an hour ago) I decided to stay up and complete the upload to the site. You can now download everything listed under the SimsTools A-Z section. The Coming Soon section is for tools that are either not online or not ready for download yet. If there are any guffaws like broken links let me know.

A few things about the site update. Yes, it’s been a long time coming. I actually bought this domain back in July so that shows how either frustrated I was with building a new site or lazy. You be the judge.

The site is somewhat dynamic. I know I mentioned before on the site design that I wasn’t going to use ASP or PHP and such but the technology allows web developers to build a site without repeating a lot of things. The main pages are actually all driven from a single template file so maintenance is a breeze now and adding new tools or updating them takes no time (from a site perspective, there’s still that programming thing that has to happen). In any case, it’s slick and fast. I can’t guarantee that I accomodated all browser versions and that jazz so let me know if there’s any burps. My main focus isn’t maintaining a website, it’s writing tools.

The forums are also updated with the same look and feel as the site. Even though the forums are hosted elsewhere, it’s neat to be able to tweak things so much that they look like they’re part of the site. Well, okay maybe I need to get out more.

I’ve left most of Tom’s programs intact and on the site. I’m not sure if he still has his own site or not so they’ll stay here until someone (him) tells me otherwise. I haven’t heard from him for some time now so who knows. A lot of us Sim guys seem to vanish for long periods then resurface from time to time.

The links to tutorials, tech, contact, etc. are not working right now. I wanted to get all the downloads up and running so give those some more time. Back later with info on the updates to the actual content around here and what’s happening in that space. At least this is a somehat useable site now. Thanks for your patience.

Posted in CDX

Site progress and plan

Hi guys. I’ve spent the last few days before I leave for a short vacation to get the site completed. The layouts are all done (thanks to those that provided some ideas on design and their work) and most of the content is completed. I didn’t specifically use any one design as things morphed into a semi-dynamic site so maintenance would be minimized. I do want to thank Mike (sorry, don’t know your last name but your logo was excellent) and Jud Hudson for their contributions and input. I have about 10 applications left to get the documentation and such online along with a couple of site pages. I’ll have these completed on or before the weekend, but about 70% of the site is done. Thanks for hanging in there.

Posted in CDX

Overworked and underpaid, what else is new right?

Hi ho. My apologies for the weekend. I did plan on getting the work done for the site and downloads however things have gotten crazy at work so I’m sleeping less and working more to either meet deadlines or get things done before our year end freeze (December 15). In any case, unfortunately I can’t provide directory browsing on the downloads folder so you guys will have to wait until I get the updates done. I will endeavor to get this stuff done as soon as I can. I did say I would get this stuff done by the middle of this month so I’m not that far off schedule 😉

Posted in CDX

Quick update before the weekend changes

Hi guys,

I’ve had to push the work on the site back to hopefully Saturday. Mainly because I don’t have a lot of time right now to do it, and Saturday will most likely be my first opportunity to get to it. Thanks for hanging in there and stay tuned for updates and cool stuff.

Posted in CDX

The cost of making games

While I know this isn’t directly related to The Sims, but what I feel is probably the worst cybercrime in gaming history took place this week, the theft (and release) of the Half Life 2 source code.

As some of you might know, Half Life 2 is the follow-up to Valve softwares Half Life game, which remains to be one of the most popular titles (next to The Sims) since 1998. HL2 was a breakthrough in graphics technology that they had been working on for the last few years. If anyone has seen any screenshots or E3 movies, this thing is the cats meow. Realistic renderings, real-time lighting, etc. that should change the way you look at gaming this December.

Having the source code (and we’re talking about the full code here guys, enough to build any part of the game) is the heart of a game. Imagine if the full source for The Sims was released before it came out? For first-person shooters, it’s an even bigger problem because these guys license their engine so others can make games. Half Life (the original) itself was based on the Quake II engine. Licenses for these engines run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because frankly they can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for someone with an idea, some resources, and lots of creativity.

I don’t know what kind of effect this may or may not have on the gaming industry as a whole, the release of the game, and other things. Commercial companies obviously won’t touch the code to release a game (unless they might license it normally). Independants won’t build it into any kind of GPL software for fear of “Hey, that’s from HL2!”. However from a learning perspective, you can now see how what’s known as a “AAA” engine does what it does. It’s also a big thing from the cheating perspective because people studying the code can now build cheat systems that would defeat what they didn’t know before, how the system worked internally.

From a Sims perspective if this had happened to Maxis before the release of The Sims, would it have been as popular as it was? Would we have had hundreds of tools instead of a handful? What do you think would be the impact on The Sims 2 if this happens?

Anyways, I thought it was worth spreading the news so here’s a note from Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve software, describing the theft.

Ever have one of those weeks? This has just not been the best couple of days for me or for Valve.

Yes, the source code that has been posted is the HL-2 source code.

Here is what we know:

1) Starting around 9/11 of this year, someone other than me was accessing my email account. This has been determined by looking at traffic on our email server versus my travel schedule.

2) Shortly afterwards my machine started acting weird (right-clicking on executables would crash explorer). I was unable to find a virus or trojan on my machine, I reformatted my hard drive, and reinstalled.

3) For the next week, there appears to have been suspicious activity on my webmail account.

4) Around 9/19 someone made a copy of the HL-2 source tree.

5) At some point, keystroke recorders got installed on several machines at Valve. Our speculation is that these were done via a buffer overflow in Outlook’s preview pane. This recorder is apparently a customized version of RemoteAnywhere created to infect Valve (at least it hasn’t been seen anywhere else, and isn’t detected by normal virus scanning tools).

6) Periodically for the last year we’ve been the subject of a variety of denial of service attacks targetted at our webservers and at Steam. We don’t know if these are related or independent.

Well, this sucks.

What I’d appreciate is the assistance of the community in tracking this down. I have a special email address for people to send information to, helpvalve@valvesoftware.com. If you have information about the denial of service attacks or the infiltration of our network, please send the details. There are some pretty obvious places to start with the posts and records in IRC, so if you can point us in the right direction, that would be great.

We at Valve have always thought of ourselves as being part of a community, and I can’t imagine a better group of people to help us take care of these problems than this community.

Gabe

UPDATE. There are some more details on the recent Half-Life 2 source leak from Gabe Newell. This was verified that this is legit (thanks to Shacknews). Here’s the latest:



1) We’ve taken our network connection down to pretty much a minimum. We’re still finding machines internally that have been compromised.

2) The suite of tools that the attacker was using included the modified version of RemotelyAnywhere (basically a Remote Desktop-style remote admin tool), Haxker Defender (a process, registry key and file hiding tool), the key logger, and various networking utilities that allowed them to transfer files (compressors, NetCat, and FTP). We also are pretty sure they were sniffing our network to gather passwords and other information. Haxker Defender includes a file system driver that allows an attacker to have stuff on your machine that is invisible, unless you do something like mount the drive under another OS that has NTFS support.

We have determined one way of detecting some infected machines, which is using a connection viewer to detect connections to anomalous hosts external to our network.

We still don’t know their entry method.

3) In general, the community has been remarkably swift at tracking down the sources of the leak. What would be most helpful now are IP addresses of the people who were responsible for the intrusion or for the denial of service attacks.

4) Also, please continue to send in URLs of websites hosting the source code. We’ve been contacting people and asking them to take it down.

5) There’s anecdotal evidence that other game developers have been targeted by whoever attacked us. This hasn’t been confirmed. We’ve been providing other game developers with more detailed information about the exploits and evidence of infiltration.

6) We’re running a little bit blind with our network shut down, but it seems like some of the press has picked up the story. I’ve been fielding calls from the mainstream non-games, non-technical press.all day. Hopefully they will get to report shortly what a mistake it is to piss off a whole bunch of gamers and get them hunting you around the Internet.

For any information related to this, please send it to helpvalve@valvesoftware.com, or you can always send to gaben@valvesoftware.com as well.

Posted in CDX

What time is it?

Hi ho. Sorry about not responding to recent emails and such. I’ve been away for the most part giving some training sessions on development around the province and trying to squeeze in time with the site. I’m also working with my ISP for the website as we had a database available all along and I’ve wanted to have the site driven from the database for each piece of software here. It makes for serving up the content a lot easier, but there are some issues right now getting that running. I guess the site contest sort of fizzled but I will recognize those that did contribute something and I appreciate it. Just have to figure out how. Anyways, it’s off for a few hours of shut eye and back to the office to try to get caught up. I’ll be back online tommorow night and hopefully we’ll have the site challenges resolved and I can update it for downloads. I have time set aside this weekend to start the tool updates so I’ll have some progress on that as well. Seeya!

Posted in CDX