Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

General debates and discussion about the Guild of Writers and Age creation

Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby Maurus » Sat Jul 27, 2013 7:04 pm

Shorah all,

Maurus here. You might recognize me from The Cavern Today. Well, I've been away from the cavern for a few years now, and haven't really come back until recently.

Initially, back in 2010 I was disappointed that the "open uru" it seems we had been promised, with user-created content and the like, never really came into fruition with MOULa. But seeing Gehn and Deep Island have made me very happy. This definitely feels like what I had imagined Uru could be.

Now this is gonna be kind of a lengthy post, so bear with me. First, since I'm still kind of new to the shards themselves, there are some things I just want to clarify this for myself; make sure that I understand these shards correctly. I realize there are other public servers, but these appear to be the three most-active ones. Here's my understanding of the differences between the shards:

- MOULagain: Run by Cyan Worlds; Many significant bugfixes and improvements that have been developed by GoW have been incorporated into this client; One of the stated goals was to ultimately feature user-created ages, but as of June 2013 none have been added yet.
- Gehn: Run by GoW; This shard has Cyan's blessing, and is based off its own official client, but features many custom fixes and improvements. User content goes under a very strict review process and is held up to a strict standard of quality before it is accepted for inclusion into this client. Currently there are about three such user-created areas featured in Gehn.
- Deep Island: Run by GoW and is the descendant of the ALCUGS, UAM and Drizzle projects. Due to the project's roots in ALCUGS, which were based on on the older URU client, and due to the fact that Cyan does not officially endorse the Deep Island shards (likely due to its ties with UAM/Drizzle), some fiddling must be done on the end-user's part in order to Frankenstein a client for this shard. Features every known user-created age with no bar on content quality.

So I hope someone can confirm that my understanding of these shards is accurate. Now, that being said, let me move onto my main point:

So what's the deal with user content?

I mean this question in a few different ways, and applies in a number of different places, but let's start here: as far as I can tell, there appears to be a food chain of user content. From where I'm standing, it looks like the unofficial Deep Island features *all* such content, the best of which, after scrutinizing the age and ensuring it meets the GoW's quality expectations, will be accepted into Gehn.

Now it was my understanding that Cyan had originally intended this kind of content to be featured in its official shard as well. It's even on the front page of the official MOUL website:
We have also made most of the sources to MO:UL open source. You can see how MO:UL ticks, create your own shards, make improvements, fix bugs, create new ages. We will take some of the best improvements, ages and fixes from the fans and apply them to the live MO:UL server. If this interests you please check out the DEVELOPERS section.

Now, thanks to many of you here at GoW, the live server has in fact received many much-needed bug fixes and improvements - but here they also mention ages. So here's the point I'm getting at: Are we to assume that, similarly to how the very best of the content in DI will, after refining and adjustments, be accepted into Gehn, in turn, the best content from Gehn, after heavy adjustments and refining, might also one day be featured in the official server - and there just haven't been any yet?

One more point thing I want to bring up, about Gehn itself: I really respect the quality control angle you guys are coming from with this, I really do. Having seen a lot of the user ages both many years ago, when I used to Drizzle offline Uru, and now with Deep Island, I gotta agree that while a lot of the community work is pretty imaginative and impressive, it certainly does not hold up to Cyan-quality. I'm sure you guys have that in place to ensure that the user content that gets featured feels as natural a part of the universe as any of the Cyan content does, and I think that's good.

However, due to what can be called a pretty slow trickle of content release in Gehn - not that I'm implying this is bad, or complaining about it, mind you - I do have to ask - what exactly is involved in your review process? I ask because, despite the very large number of user ages out there, so very few are actually featured in Gehn. There's a noticeable imbalance. It can't all be due to content quality - there is lots of user content out there that I'm sure meets a "Cyanesque" bar of quality and then some, or at least rides the line very close. Surely those users would want to to everything they can to get their content featured in a shard like Gehn, even if that meant making lots of refinements to get it up to snuff. Surely they would want that, right? So I gotta assume that's happening somewhere. So I guess my question here really is - is there a sort of pipeline of content for Gehn, like a series of ages that have been submitted and are being checked and bugtested and reviewed?

And again, it's not that I'm complaining about the lack of content. I realize adapting an age to make sure it works with the new client's engine and different physics is a difficult process. If this is the reason new content in Gehn has been a bit of a slow trickle - that each of the ages has to go through this review process one by one - then it does makes sense. It would be a shame if the reason was just that this is the only content the GoW's Gehn team has found acceptable yet.

And again, I don't mean any offense by any of this - I applaud the team and its efforts to set a high bar for the content in Gehn. But I hope the underlying attitude is that content creators should be challenged and encouraged to continue improving the quality of their work, rather than flat-out rejection.

Sorry about the rambling! These are just a few of my thoughts. I'm looking forward to what a lot of you have to say. I'm very interested in what you guys are doing, and I hope I can get a couple different perspectives on this type of process for you guys.

I have some other thoughts more specific to DI itself, but I'm going to post those in a different thread.
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Re: Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby janaba » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:33 am

Welcome back, Maurus ... It's interesting to see so many Uruites coming back in these days to see and find out what Uru and the community is up to and about ... :D

From what I've been reading above, which is quite a lot and I didn't digest everything too intense, so please everyone else bear with me if I missed sth besides what I'll be adding, it seems you've been catching up with the most innovations and stuff all around Uru/MOULa/Shards etc. pretty well ... 8-)

What I'd like to add is the official Minkata Test Shard where Cyan put its confidence into to grab some bug fixes and code/PhysX improvements etc. every now and then to integrate into MOULa, and there is another not yet so official but well maintained and a little different (a functioning Wall, a second city of Ae'gura called City of Dimensions, Gehn fan ages etc.) TOC MOUL Shard in two different versions 'MOSS' and 'Alcugs' based ...

I'm not an age builder, but from what I've read here I know that the conversion of fan ages to MOUL/MOSS/Dirt Sand format is absolutely arduous, labor intensive and time consuming ... The H'Uru Team is diligently working on a 'Korman' thingy, a plugin or sth like that to alleviate just that and much more ... However, that's why there aren't so many fan ages implemented into Gehn/TOC yet and not because there wouldn't be sufficient ages worth the efforts, because there were many astounding new worlds and ages created over the last years which sum up to about 120 by now ... You can download 2 PDF files (A-Z) (this is the thread) containing all of them to glance through easily if you like directly here (the files) ...

Yeah, I'd say, this is it so far, Maurus, others can add what I've missed, and there might be some things ... In general, just see where you'd like to jump in maybe, there are some ongoing projects and some in the works I'm sure, but first and foremost, welcome back again and have fun ... :)
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Re: Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby Christian Walther » Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:15 am

Maurus wrote:- MOULagain: Run by Cyan Worlds; Many significant bugfixes and improvements that have been developed by GoW have been incorporated into this client

I would say a couple of significant bugfixes and improvements (Gehn has a lot more, although also more new bugs because it’s in more active development). And developed not only by the GoW but by a larger community of developers.

Maurus wrote:- Gehn: Run by GoW; This shard has Cyan's blessing

I don’t think Gehn has any particular blessing by Cyan (but I’ll leave that to the Gehn admins to answer definitely). But, unlike Alcugs shards, no “negative blessing” either.

Maurus wrote:- Deep Island: Run by GoW and is the descendant of the ALCUGS, UAM and Drizzle projects …

Deep Island runs on Alcugs proper and has nothing in particular to do with UAM and Drizzle (although the same machine also hosts an UAM server that can be used with Drizzle and features the same set of ages as available on Deep Island). The reason why Cyan has to turn a blind eye on Alcugs shards is that playing on them requires modifying an Uru:CC installation, which is an EULA violation.

Apart from these nitpicks, your understanding seems to be mostly accurate.

Maurus wrote:as far as I can tell, there appears to be a food chain of user content. From where I'm standing, it looks like the unofficial Deep Island features *all* such content, the best of which, after scrutinizing the age and ensuring it meets the GoW's quality expectations, will be accepted into Gehn. … Are we to assume that, similarly to how the very best of the content in DI will, after refining and adjustments, be accepted into Gehn, in turn, the best content from Gehn, after heavy adjustments and refining, might also one day be featured in the official server - and there just haven't been any yet?

It’s not quite that simple. The main point that you’re missing is: The fan ages on Deep Island are not compatible with Gehn and MOULa. The Uru:CC-era engine that Deep Island runs on and the MOUL-era engine that Gehn and MOULa run on are sufficiently different that ages written for the former cannot be easily played on the latter. Conversion is possible to some extent, but as I understand can still involve some tedious manual work. This is what was done with the three fan ages present on Gehn, and is why there are so few. (Conversion in the other direction, from MOUL to CC, is easier, this is what Drizzle does.)

So, no, there is no food chain (yet).

The main reasons why there are no fan ages on MOULa yet, apart from the scarcity of compatible ages, to me seem to be that
  • Cyan hasn’t quite worked out yet how to integrate them into the game (or their preliminary ideas of how to do it have clashed with those of the potential providers of such fan ages) and issued the necessary licenses (if any) for fans to make the required changes. This is being discussed in various places, I recommend reading
    http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=25935 and
    http://forums.openuru.org/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=876.
  • To my knowledge (at least in recent years, where the engine is open source and with the Minkata shard a potential path is at least rudimentarily defined), nobody has actually come forward saying “Hey, here’s my age, I want this in MOULa”. (This is planned to happen with Sekvor once it’s done, but it’s not there yet.) The discussion of how to integrate fan ages is moot in some way as long as there are no fan ages waiting to be integrated, which I suspect is one of the reasons why it’s progressing slowly.

About Gehn’s quality control procedures, the Gehn admins can tell you more about it, but I assume it’s going to be something along the lines of “we take whatever we happen to like whenever we feel like putting in the effort”. :)
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Re: Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby diafero » Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:06 am

The summary of the Shards you mention is pretty accurate.

Deep Island runs on Alcugs proper and has nothing in particular to do with UAM and Drizzle (although the same machine also hosts an UAM server that can be used with Drizzle and features the same set of ages as available on Deep Island). The reason why Cyan has to turn a blind eye on Alcugs shards is that playing on them requires modifying an Uru:CC installation, which is an EULA violation.
Deep Island is a bit more "interleaved" with Drizzle as it also hosts the converted MO:UL, Myst V etc. ages. Furthermore, Deep Island requires the Offline KI to function, which in turn relies on patches to the Uru:CC prp files which Drizzle can perform. So It's all pretty interdependent in development ;-) but at run-time, you are right, Deep Island is just an Alcugs Shard, and the UAM database hosted on the same machine is happening to use the same set of ages as source as the Shard's dataserver.
Also, unlike Gehn, Deep Island does not run on the GoW server, but on a server by Old Wolle - but they all share the same authentication database, so that's probably just a technical detail for users.

I suggest you read through the wiki page on the various Uru versions, which also mentions some more Shards.
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Re: Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby Tsar Hoikas » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:39 am

Christian Walther wrote:About Gehn’s quality control procedures, the Gehn admins can tell you more about it, but I assume it’s going to be something along the lines of “we take whatever we happen to like whenever we feel like putting in the effort”. :)


That's a good informal summary. If I had to sum it up in some nice, official statements, I think I would go with these:
  • Does it work?
    Does this age make sense in the game? A garden age does because of the infamous Garden Binge. D'ni locations work because the game is about D'ni ;). Ages about mining companies and ages that are used to explore engine capabilities, while nice, useful, and appropriate in their place, don't actually work with the overall feel (or purpose) of the game.
  • Does it work well?
    Now we refine the first question. Does the age look good? Does the lighting make sense (am I really in the age, or am I just playing a game from 1998)? Are the textures clear (not muddy)? Do the mechanics (if any) work consistently as they were designed to?
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Re: Some thoughts and questions about the shards!

Postby Doobes » Fri May 16, 2014 12:50 pm

As someone who is about to have their work featured on Gehn Shard soon, I'll throw in my two cents. The Pub took several months of near-constant work and tweaking to get it to look just right, which requires a LOT of time and energy (and URU restarts). Lighting in particular is the toughest to get right, but it's worth it. Basically, if you think you can just throw together an Age in a week and expect it to fly, you might be disappointed.

The best piece of advice I can give: get as much feedback on your work as you possibly can! From the start, I had Nev'yn glancing over nearly every addition to the Pub, acting as quality control. He introduced a lot of ideas and suggestions I probably never would have thought of on my own. As time went on, I showed the work to a few other people to get their opinion, including members of the GoW, and they did the same.

And believe me, all their suggestions made things that much better, IMHO. Never be afraid of constructive criticism when it comes to your work, especially Age building. Nobody knows great-looking Ages better than your fellow fans of Myst and URU. ;)

The final stages of getting the Pub "shard-ready" are pretty much out of my hands (although I'm offering assistance where I can) as they are now working to get the Age working on the Gehn client. I can safely say that, as long as you're willing to work WITH the GoW (ie NOT just toss them an Age and say "make it happen" :D ), they are happy to help.

EDIT: I should also note that the reason content has been slow with Gehn Shard is because converting Ages from Blender (where a vast majority were/are made) to MOULa is far more difficult than if they'd been made in 3DS Max (which I think only Vothol was; Tre'bivdil and Fehnir House were Blender though). The good news is they are smoothing out a LOT of rough spots in the conversion process as we speak, so content may start flowing in a bit faster after this.
KI #s: MOULa - 6302, Minkata - 35287, Gehn - 14291,
TOC - 82340, DI - 44387
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