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Evolution of Phoenix

Evolution of Phoenix

Unlike many online games, Phoenixs origins make it surprisingly complicated. For a typical online game there is effectively a server that runs the game. Players log into this either through websites or an installed interface. Data transfers between the two locations updating the game in real time. Changes can be instantly relayed to other players as soon as they occur if this is required. Phoenix however does not work in real-time. Its game engine is off-line and therefore everything to do with the game has to be shunted through the internet in both directions. This has advantages and drawbacks. The primary advantages are that we have the program and data off-line, there is no direct access to it while normally playing the game making the data secure and allowing for moderation on non-live data. The primary drawback however is the convoluted way data has to be shared. It can also be confusing to new players that submit orders for their positions then have to wait until they are downloaded, processed and the results uploaded. In a world dominated by instant gratification gaming the concept of waiting (other than for people to log in so that a raid can start) is almost alien.
So, how did this set-up occur?

Phoenix started out as a Play-by-Email game that has organically grown to be primarily an online game. So with that said, lets take a look at how it started.


Way back, we were looking to completely reprogram Beyond the Stellar Empire (a play-be-mail game that had been upgraded to play-by-email) from the ground up because nearly a decade of ever expanding qbasic code had meant that many of the modules would no longer compile. Added to this, the whole structure was beginning to bulge at the seams as data allocation within files had long since maxed out in many cases.

I will not go into the philosophy behind the changes, suffice to say that we worked on a completely new game into which the old data could be parsed.

Initially Phoenix comprised of two components, one at our (KJCs) end called the Game Editor and one at the player end with which to generate orders for their positions, pragmatically called the Order Editor.

Order Editor
This allowed player to add positions to a database and give them a type, i.e. ship, starbase etc. The type defined which orders could be issued. After orders had been created for the various positions, they could be saved as a file. This file could be attached to an email and sent to the phoenix email address.

Game Editor
This consisted of a single program that would check a specified email account, download everything and parse data out of the emails. These would then be processed in a two part run maintenance for positions that needed weekly adjustments or in the main run for everything else. After this battles (initially space only) would be run. Next was the attach-manifest stage then running the email program to send everything out.

Evolution
This sufficed for around three years while we completed other necessary upgrades including adding ground combat and squadrons. The full list of modifications, tweaks and updates is now lost in the mists of time though may still exist somewhere on the internet.

The website however was pretty much nothing more than a few largely static pages with an off-the shelf forum bolted on for rules discussion. It had a minor amount of game data. This data was simply dumped into a few tables through which players could access commonly known system maps and restricted ones if they had the password and look at a list of common items and markets. It also includes a simple area for viewing subspace static. It came in two sizes for differing monitors (as 15 screen was not that uncommon a decade ago). Back then, virtually all roleplaying was conducted via mailing lists.
In 2004 an online order editor was added. This necessitated the first serious venture into uploading data to a website. The editor can still be found supporting KJCs other games.
For a few years this sufficed while the main game engine was improved.

Internal Compiler
What initially started out as a challenge quickly escalated into an internal compiler. This allowed for the writing of soft code. This is code that remains uncompiled at the time of running the game. The purpose of this was to allow for the writing of simple customised orders that would be useful in a few situations but had no obvious time critical aspect, i.e. because they were used infrequently, they could take longer to process than more heavily used orders without significantly adding to the processing time for a run.

Nexus
Around 2006 I showed Darak an online forum style gaming site and we discussed how the site drew players in, bringing them together but also giving ex-players somewhere where they could catch up on stuff. More importantly, from Daraks view, integrating order editors, maps, forums and even affiliation libraries would give the game a solidly professional appearance. Over the next couple of years, while still dealing with various other game improvements, Darak worked on this vision. My personal contribution was massive taking the form of demands, suggestions and generally adding to his workload.
At the beginning of 2008, Nexus, the new website was launched and has been added to ever since. What started off as data, forums, libraries and a basic order editor, evolved to include turns, ship editor, voting, much more besides. I will not go into details about Nexus because simply wandering through the various locations will give you an idea of the sheer scale of this site. There is probably more to Nexus than there is to quite a few web-based online games.

At this point, signing up to the game was still very much a case of registering with Nexus and the next day getting a position on the next day effectively little different from the initial submitting a new start request from the original downloaded order editor. To seriously improve this would require something we had been toying with for some years, a fully integrated mission editor. Of course this wasnt purely for signing up, but this was the first task it had to deal with.

Mission Editor
The design required the development of online functions to deal with data that would change as players selected options (like a typical online game), though it had to also know what options were available based on off-line data that it had absolutely no access to. Essentially options and option results had to be included in uploads. Further, the missions required the code to do things it never needed to before, things like continuously checking if criteria had been resolved so as to trigger next steps in sequences (still working on a few of these).

For example, collect some alcohol and land on such a planet to present it to local farmers seems straightforward enough. When the ship lands it checks whether the cargo has alcohol and if it does, all the mission to move onto the next step, if it doesnt, do not move the mission on. The complication comes in when, after landing without alcohol, another ship lands and delivers alcohol to the first ship. The first ship has been passive since landing, so there has been nothing to trigger the mission to move on.

There is a bewildering list of similar events and situations that will require ever more convoluted methods of resolving.
The actual mission editor is to some degree very similar to Nexus in appearance as it is an interface through which we connect to an off-line database. This allows us to create missions and modify them, creating a spiders web of pathways through the mission, broken down into steps each with its list of requirements, trigger points and effects, along with descriptions appropriate to the step. Supporting this is a function editor. This uses the same compiler built into Phoenix but extends beyond to dealing with online functions required to run the missions on the Nexus side of the game.

Dual Run
Finally, the most recent change to the game has been to split the run into two, removing the special action and Game Master intensive part of the run from the main run. For this to be successful the internal email client had to be removed from the game (actually, the code was copied to a new external client). This allowed the GM to access the game and modify positions while their turns are being uploaded and emailed.



Here and Now
Phoenix now stands with well over a hundred mysql tables, some with more than twenty fields. These are support data and fast find files for the text data which extends to thousands of data requirements most of which require the loading of the specific file. If this was not enough, there are even customisable data fields within the data files that allows for the storing of fluid data fields, allowing for the interpretation of unique data rather than having to add fields throughout the game each time a new concept is added. It was through this that officer data, unique ships and civilian markets became possible.

The Future
Why would we stop here? Our main ambition now is to streamline the game, make it more intuitive to play. Replace some features that have occurred through its organic growth with better defined ones or simplify some concepts. Along with this is to add depth across the game. Concepts such as religion, species and civilian interaction will all be looked at. This is not to add greater complexity, but rather allow players to become ever more involved in the areas of the game that interest them.




 
News
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Don't forget to include your account number in the message.
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

NHS attempt to claim Solo away from DTR

In a shock move the NHS have contested the Solo claim with a huge garrison of 600,000 trained troops. In a move that nobody saw coming, especially as it was unknown the NHS had such a large force of troops to draw upon, the NHS seem to be provoking a response from the DTR. Currently there has been no word from the DTR in how they are going to deal with this claim jumping, although rumours are that they are pretending the Solo claim doesn't really matter to them and so action is unlikely. However this may be a smokescreen and we may yet see the DTR's powerful fleet cause havoc in the system of Solo, which has for a long time been an important junction and fought over by many different factions.

DNA Chairman TonTon resigns

The following communication has been leaked from the DNA to the GTT's PD.

Greetings CEO Fox.
It regrets me to have to inform to you that the DNA nation state will be renouncing its claim on Aladdin system following a ceremony planet side, shortly.
However, it gives me great pleasure to have to inform you that these ceremonies are being planned by Vladimir Tavikovitch, the South Road Traffic Coordinator. He is also responsible for all DNA and .ore. assets in the Outer Naplian (Capellan) periphery so if there are any further issues, please take it up with him.
For any and all other matters, please forward your request directly to the DNA directorate services at NexusID: DNA people.
The Foreign Ministry objects one last time to your illegal claim jump of Aladdin, but we realise it is time to de-escalate.
Normally i would sign off with Naambta, but doing so would be hypocritical. Let me say good riddance instead.
I hereby resign in protest!

Chairman TonTon,
Foreign Minister, DNA
cc: Directorate Services personnel coordinator - !urgent resignation!


DTR threaten WMB with fines for multiple breaches of DTR Law

Lady Sylvansight of the DTR has issued a fine of 1,000,000 stellars to the Wimbles for multiple breaches of DTR Penal and Territorial Law. This seems a very brave move of the DTR to risk upsetting the huge and warlike WMB when they also have the rival NHS Solo system claim to deal with. No word has been recieved yet that the Wimbles are going to pay, but if the formidable WMB warfleet is seen heading for the DTR home systems we will know what their thought are on the matter. The DTR and WMB fleets going head to head would be a sight to behold.

*** Affiliations ***

AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
BLG Bolg Organisation (22) - Akhenaten
CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
DWK Dewiek Packs (19) - <Unknown>
FCN Falconian Republic (70) – Graspien
FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Kr'Shan
FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
HEX Hexamon (23) - Tranquility
KRL Krell (30) - Namica
KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Cyn
KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
MOH Mohache (73) – Listens
NHS Noble Houses (41) – Roy Roberts
NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

* Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
** Only known contact, please update us if this is incorrect.

NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS
Inactive: ANT, COD, BHD, DEN, DOM, GCE, HVE, IDC, IMP, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG,

*** Submissions ***

By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

DNA and GTT clash over Aladdin system claim while Pirates look on.

The GTT have this week launched an attack on the DNA outpost in Aladdin, in what appears to be little more than a turkey shoot. Around 100,000 GTT Naplian Startroopers attacked the DNA position to remove the rival system claim. Reports indicate the DNA garrison were taken by surprise and lost control of the base in the first few hours of the fighting. The base has since been reflagged from [Free Naplian Capital] Peaceful Protest to [Loyal Naplian Capital] DNA claim Ended so it's fair to say there was a clear message being sent by the GTT. We have been waiting for the DNA leadership to comment but so far they have been unusually silent. No doubt when they have crawled out from under their desks they will have something to say on the matter.

While this attack was going on several pirate ships were also seen in Aladdin, according to the GTT in what may be true or may be a diversion, with reports of a pirate GP and scout being destroyed while a 150HH pirate warship slipped away and escaped from incoming anti-pirate patrols.

Secret meeting of the EEM

A recent communication intercepted by one of our top reporters today made us aware of a meeting of the EEM. This is underway in a top secret location called Black Pool, which sounds suspiciously like the lair of a pirate band. After pulling in many favours, we were able to identify some of the attending members. On the bases that they won't be named we were able to find out some slight information of the subjects to be discussed at the meeting and one thing is for certain, there could be huge impacts to the lives of everybody living in the galaxy. Details to follow. When the shadowy figures of the EEM come together with the top political players in a pirate base the possibilities are endless!


You are never more than 6 systems from a RAT 🐀

A new saying has arisen in the bars and spaceport of starbases throughout the many peripheries; you are never more than 6 systems from a RAT.

It is understood that this saying originated in Yank and spread by trade vessels to peripheries far and wide. Many starbases have heightened their security and added additional sensors and locks to various entry points including foul and grey water outfalls. Beer and drug stocks are undergoing increased proofing to avoid the critters gaining entry and consuming the stockpiles.

Will this present as a new plague of proportions never before seen or is this some simple urban myth being spread for the amusement of some mischievous entity? Who knows, but to be certain... check the shadows.

 
This year we will again be returning to the Briardene Hotel. They were welcoming, the bar didn't run out of beer pre-covid and there was room for quiet chats. Along with Wetherspoons there is the Victoria just down the road (Sam Smiths - last time beer was around 2 shillings per pint and a full round was less than £10).

Mostly drinking beer and talking toot though we have a good few things on the agenda.

Bookings are done directly with the hotel. Book by phone and say that you are with KJC Games

Briardene Hotel
Telephone: +44(0)1253 338300
All staff should be able to deal with the booking but if there are any problems ask for Tracy (manager) as she dealt with all our foibles in previous years.
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Dog days are over

With the fall of the DEN and the implosion of their home territory as the AFT, DTR and GTT moved in, it was unlikely the Dewiek would rise again. The DWP gave the species a little hope with the Dewiek Pocket Periphery kept under lock and key. But news has reached us of the AFT's penetration of this private area of space that's been locked down. With a base and claim in one of the three visible systems it seems that the end of the Dewiek is near. A once noble and aggressive race, determined to make an impact on the galaxy is now little more than a species that lives under the command of others. A sad end to a once powerful species that used to control a significant part of known space.

Pirate activity continues

Yet more reports of pirate activity have been received, one from the WMB, losing a freighter in Solo and another from the FET who reported they had engaged and hit the attacking pirate ship with several weapons before it managed to make off with it's prize. Hopefully the pirate ship took significant damage and will now be out of action for some time. The Corewards periphery seems to have been plagued with pirates recently and many travellers would welcome a break from attacks.


MEK incursion into Corewards

The FET and GTT have mounted a joint venture into Nog-Kesri to tackle a MEK force. It isn't known where they have come from, with the only other MEK ships seen so far being located in the Orion Spur. The lack of a known link between where they have appeared in Corewards and the Orion Spur has caused some concern among planetary populations as who knows where they could turn up next! Fortunately the combined FET/GTT task force dealt the MEK a heavy blow and the threat has been eradicated. But we all know this is unlikely to be the last we hear of the MEK in Corwards and we would encourage ship captains to keep a keen eye on thier sensor screens when travelling near Nog-Kesri.

 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

  • CIA freighter fights off overwhelming pirate forces

  • Fin Saine media broadcast, What is Hot in the galaxy?!?!

  • MEKlan forces attack in Corewards Arm


  •  
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    *** Inter Galactic News ***

    Aladdin faces ongoing DNA/GTT tension

    The tensions between the DNA and GTT in the Coptuv system recently spilled over into the DNA system of Aladdin. A significant party of GTT ground troops has reinforced one of their bases in the system and claimed it, forcing the system claim into turmoil as the DNA finds itself under threat of losing the system. With the DNA chairman asking for help, several affiliations have been seen sending ships to evacuate any in the local population that want to escape the GTT. But so far not a shot has been fired and despite the AFT, FEL and DTR assistance no reisistance to the claim jump has been encountered so far. It remains to be seen if the DNA and it's friends will scatter before this hostile take over or put in a last minute counter claim to thwart GTT intentions.

    Increasing pirate activity

    Recent reports indicate a new surge in pirate attacks with the AFT and GTT reporting ships lost. Knowing how some don't like to advertise losses we wouldn't be surprised if this is the tip of the iceberg. Reports passed to us show the ship PIR Scavenger running ID 43174 and another ship of the same name running ID 68668 have both been in action with successful boarding attempts. It's unknown whether these are seperate ships or the same ship reregistered, but our information suggests that it would be hard for these pirates to cover the space where these attacks happened with just one ship. One thing is for sure, be on your guard as open space is not as safe as it once was.


    GCE ships loitering in deep space

    After the fall of the GCE and a lot of their assets being shared or purchased it was thought that the affiliation was no more. Yet deep space scans indicate that there is still a significant number of GCE warships holding station in deep space between Coptuv and Yank on the transport route into the Corwards Arm. Nobody knows what these ships are up to and why they are still flagged GCE, but our best guess is that are captains either awaiting new orders or owners after the fall of the GCE command structure.


    *** Affiliations ***

    AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
    BLG Bolg Organisation (22) - Akhenaten
    BHD Brotherhood (63) - de Molay
    CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
    DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
    DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
    DWK Dewiek Packs (19) - <Unknown>
    FCN Falconian Republic (70) – Graspien
    FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Kr'Shan
    FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
    FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
    GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
    HEX Hexamon (23) - Tranquility
    KRL Krell (30) - Namica
    KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Cyn
    KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
    MOH Mohache (73) – Listens
    NHS Noble Houses (41) – Roy Roberts
    NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
    SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
    WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

    * Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
    ** Only known contact, please update us if this is incorrect.

    NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS
    Inactive: ANT, COD, DEN, DOM, GCE, HVE, IDC, IMP, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG,

    *** Submissions ***

    By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
     
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    *** Inter Galactic News ***

    Tension in the Corewards Arm

    With the DNA obtaining several ex-GCE bases in the Coreward Arm it has found itself in the middle of an asset grab of serious proportions and aggression. Our reporters witnessed several GTT troop carriers heading for the Corewards system as the DNA published information suggesting they were accidental owners of the system and that the assets were to be moved on. As the GTT ships started to arrive the bases were quickly passed to the CIA, thus thwarting the GTT intentions as they were hardly likely to start dropping troops on their allies bases. This shrew move by the DNA seems to have calmed matters in the Coreward arm temporarily, although the shift in relations between the GTT and DNA has taken a negative turn. When asked what their next move might be the GTT refused to comment.

    GCE collapse

    The GCE are no more, save for some scattered light freighters. The affiliation which enjoyed a sharp rise and profiltable relations with many has ceased trading. Rumors point to the GTT buying up GCE assets before stripping the rival corporation of anything of value. Although our reporters at the SSS have been quick to point out that any GCE assets not in GTT systems have been taken over by both the DNA and FET. So it seems many different affiliations were able to profit from this development including a new group called the HSH who appear to have taken over the GCE war fleet. No doubt many in the peripheries will be watching with interest where these ships are used, who the HSH are and how they were able to get thier hands on so many warships so quickly.


    Secudus trials

    In the Cluster Secudus has continued his trials, claiming to root out terrorists working against the Empire. With tends of thousands of beings being sent to the camps or worse. There is no sign of these actions stopping as the NHS clamp down on the locals and bring them under the harsh control of the Empire.


    *** Affiliations ***

    AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
    BLG Bolg Organisation (22) - Akhenaten
    BHD Brotherhood (63) - de Molay
    CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
    DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
    DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
    DWK Dewiek Packs (19) - <Unknown>
    FCN Falconian Republic (70) – <Unknown>
    FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Juris
    FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
    FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
    GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
    HEX Hexamon (23) - Tranquility
    KRL Krell (30) - Namica
    KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Cyn
    KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
    MOH Mohache (73) – Listens
    NHS Noble Houses (41) – Roy Roberts
    NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
    SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
    WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

    * Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
    ** Only known contact, please update us if this is incorrect.

    NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS
    Inactive: ANT, COD, DEN, DOM, GCE, HVE, IDC, IMP, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG,

    *** Submissions ***

    By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
     
    ******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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    Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite and most reliable unbiased publication in the known universe from our home in the Heartland,

    And so with the news from the last couple of weeks,


    Cluster War! DNA Gather Fruit
     
    ******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

    user image

    Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our home in the Heartland,

    And so with the news from the last few weeks,


    Cluster War! MZC attacks DNA
     

    Free Ship when you sign-up
    Complete missions for in game rewards
    Control everything, up to an entire empire
    Dedicated human moderators
    Player and Moderator driven plotlines
    Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
    Over 20 years of content development
    Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

    I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

    Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
    -Zigic