Posted on May 17, 2014 by

Altis Life Mod and ArmaCon Progress

So, the last time I wrote, I talked about how ARMA III was taking up a good bit of my time and over at GSNGaming we have shifted our efforts over to it fully. We have dropped support for the battlefield series for the time being since the game is just so broken. This sucks, because we have so many members that are AWESOME to play it with, but we were paying a lot of money to have servers that just constantly sit empty, so this was the clear decision.

We searched around for some of the best Altis Life servers around and started seeing what people wanted and liked. We have experience being admins of many servers, and a lot of people are just looking for good admins that don’t abuse their power. We have that taken care of because those are the beliefs that GSN is built on.

Almost exactly a month ago, we launched our initial version of Altis Life. We took the core mod and made some tweaks and enhancements to it to fit our needs and to give it a little bit of custom flair. Things have been going very well with it and we have been pushing out as many bug fixes and features as possible. We also built auto-admin tools around it to make sure our admins can all manage the server and the players effectively and efficiently. We have a custom support system built around it as well. We also automated the entire donation process. There is no manual intervention to donate and then get your donator perks. It all happens automatically and instantaneously. In just a months time, we have taken the rank of our server from ~700 (where you start out nowadays), to 44th in the world, which it currently sits at the time of this post. You can check out the details of our server and you can check out the changelog. We have acquired a pretty good following so far and are looking forward to adding more features in the future. We might even look into opening another server or two. Who knows.

Next up we have ArmaCon. The last post said a week or two until the BETA, but that clearly hasn’t happened. I am being too damn picky about the tool and am afraid to launch it with too many bugs. The good news is that it is coming along nicely and the feature set keeps growing. I welcome any feedback that you have for it in any way possible. Feel free to reach out and let me know. It will be out for people to use soon enough. I can assure you, the wait will be well worth it. Until next time, frag on!

Posted on March 25, 2014 by

Arma, Arma, and a little bit of Arma

Just in case that wasn’t obvious, it’s Arma III (note how there are three of them in the title – I’m so clever….). Anywho, I have been getting back into the swing of Arma III and it has been taking a lot of my spare time recently.  All of us over at GSNGaming have been spending a lot of time playing Wasteland and Altis life.

Wasteland has a very simple objective. Kill people and survive. It’s a modified version of TDM, honestly. The only difference is that there are 3 factions. BluFor and OpFor are both team based, while independent is a FFA slot. You can kill any player you want when you are Independent. While on BluFor and OpFor your goal is to work together as a team to take out the other team and the independents along the way. We have our very own Wasteland server that we usually play on that has been modified a bit to our liking. It has more weapons available and it tuned to give you some good fire fights.

Altis is a “life mod” in the sense that its a role playing game that takes on the aspects of daily living. You need to earn money to buy stuff, which you can then use to make more money, become a rebel and kill cops, or just do some drug trafficking. There are some servers out there that are doing really well with this mod, but many of them are suffering from childish admins, bad cops, or just poor management. After trying many of them out there, we have decided to try to run one ourselves. With our mature admins and our custom in-house admin tools, I think we can really make some amazing life servers. We are working on the admin tools, and the automation of the donators, whitelisting, and banning right now. We are going to be starting with a vanilla mod and then build out from there. We want to take every precaution we can to ensure that we keep it as efficient and fast as possible.

Next up, we have ArmaCon. Since all Call of Duty games now suck, and aren’t providing hostable dedicated server support and thus defeating the purpose of working on Paronicon, I am finally shifting my efforts over. ArmaCon is coming along nicely and is about a week or so out from having a BETA-able version for people to work with. You can keep track of the status updates on the gsn forums, or on twitter. We are looking for BETA testers to help make it the best tool we can, so please let me know if you want to see anything or have any feedback. It is all welcome.

Posted on October 14, 2013 by

Left, Right, or Straight?

Holy crap. It has been a long couple of months and everything has been going haywire in every faucet of my life that it could. Not that it has been bad, most of it is exciting and am looking forward to seeing where it goes, it has just taken a lot of time and I look forward to being able to breathe again soon. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going and which way I am heading.

Let’s get started in the world of gaming. Last I wrote, I was talking about the new game that I had backed called Frontiers and I am still looking forward to that, but there hasn’t been a lot of movement on getting my hands on that one. In the process, I have been buying and backing a few other games that I found quite interesting.

1.) Godus: This game is attempting to set itself up as the new and improved god game that will redefine the genre. While they have announced that they are going to be doing HUGE things to make this the case, right now it’s just not quite there. I have spent a good bit of time in the game sculpting land to perfection and making it look the way I want, but other than that, there is very little game play actually available. The game tends to be on auto-pilot for most of it and it is guiding you down a very narrow path of how to play the game and how to achieve it’s goals. While 22cans says that what they have is a mere 41% completion, some of the things that are “completed” right now are not quite what you would expect. I have good hopes for it, but right now it’s kinda bleak and I have concerns whether they will be able to deliver what they set out to.

2.) Castle Story: This game is a defense game in whichN your goal is to simply protect a cluster of crystals in the middle of the land. I enjoyed what little there is to this game immensely though. You have a set of people (Bricktons) to send to do your chores. You have them collect stone, wood, and even in rare cases, some crystals for your stack. Once you have the materials you can start building your castle. At this point it is completely up to you how creative and imaginative you become. The game is still in early alpha and thus there are issues with AI misbehaving, saves being corrupted, impossible barriers to over come (a brickton may get stuck on a task that has already been completed), and more. Despite the early access and the bug, I have still had a ton of fun playing the game, and expect that the finished product will be well worth the investment made at this point.

Next up is WarZone Secure. This is the project that I have been working on for several months that will allow gamers to compete for real cash prizes without all the overhead that most competition sites require you to have in order to compete. We build the system out to be as user friendly as possible and prevent the need to jump through a ton of hurdles to get in and start playing. We officially started opening sections of the site and forums to start getting some traction to get people signed up and start spreading the word. There are several pieces that are still being worked on and full BETA testing should start very soon. We expect to have people playing through matches in the next couple of weeks.

Finally, my gaming community over at GSN Gaming has been making the move towards trying to get known in the streaming world on twitch.tv. It has been a lot of fun and we have had a blast doing it. We look forward to doing it continually in the future as well. I have been assigned to streaming on Saturday nights. Be sure to check out our stream schedule and of course, watch us when we stream.

 

 

Posted on June 24, 2013 by

Looking forward to a new indie game: FRONTIERS

Being an avid gamer, I tend to try all faucets of gaming because I feel that each one bring a unique game-play, style, and creativity to the table. While I appreciate the big studios for the great games that they make (BF, CoD, ect…), I have always had a soft spot for indie development. This stems from multiple reasons:

  1. Being a software engineer that works on tools and application in my spare time, I appreciate the amount of work, dedication, and self control goes into being able to develop something from the ground up. It’s much more difficult to follow your own guidelines and timelines, than it is to follow those of someone that is hiring you to do something.
  2. These people tend to love feedback. They will listen heavily to the community that is playing their game, because with out them, they have nothing. This leads to a fantastic development process for both the supporters and the designers as they will be developing a game KNOWING that people are going to love it.
  3. They are extremely responsive and exited about their project. We would be naive if we said that weren’t trying to make money from their project, but that is not why they started doing it. They started doing it because of a passion they have to build games and build them in a way they see fit. You can see the excitement in their updates, notes, and communications about the game.
  4. Indie developers tend to go down paths that large studios refuse to go down. They are willing to try new gaming mechanics, designs, or strategies. This leads to truly unique experiences when playing these games,

Since I enjoy indie games so much, I tend to view Kickstarter a lot. They have a lot of great ideas on there, from games to technology, and from applications to hardware. I have backed a handful of games on there, but I don’t think I have been as intrigued and excited about any of them as I am for FRONTIERS. In one paragraph, the creator (Lars Simkins) described it as such:

I can still remember the first time I played Daggerfall. Yes, it was uglier than a monkey’s armpit and controlled worse than a bumper car on a frozen lake.
But it also created the feeling of a world that lived on even after I’d stopped playing, and that feeling still sticks with me all these years later. A world where you could spend hours searching every pixelated nook and cranny. A world of potential. A world of EXPLORATION…
…and then a Dragonling would chomp my face because I hadn’t spent ten hours grinding in the easy regions. Arg! So frustrating!
Other games have touched on that elusive feeling, especially Elder Scrolls and early Fallout games, but as fun as they are and as much as I love hardcore RPG mechanics, I’ve always dreamt of a game that emphasized exploration above all else.
FRONTIERS is that game…..

This game has a lot of great qualities and features built into it and it looks like it’s going to provide hours and hours of fun filled game-play. I honestly can’t wait for this to get underway and start to get my hands on it. I would LOVE to see his goals get to 125K so that we can get some coop game play. That promises to add an infinite amount of time that can be had having a blast in it. I encourage you to check it all and back it if at all possible. I can’t imagine that it won’t be worth it.

Posted on May 26, 2013 by

Hivelocity hosting to the rescue

So, after many discussions and issues with HostDime we finally were able to cancel all three accounts that we had there (my personal colocated machine (which they are charging me $75 just to remove it from their rack), the VDS for GSN Gaming and a couple of other personal sites, and the first server we purchased for out testing of WarZoneSecure). For the startup, we need a company that is willing to be supporting, and assist us in the support area with professionalism, efficiency, and knowledge. We hope that this project grows to become a huge place for gaming and we look forward to working with whatever host we have to ensure we can support the load that will be generated. Hostdime definitely didn’t fit that bill.

After a lot of research and browsing, we decided to give Hivelocity a whirl. So far (it has only been a week), they have been great. Their control panel is superior and much cleaner/responsive than previous panels we had used. They are much more full featured and are easy to navigate.

Their setup was quick and painless, and we have not run into any mistakes as of yet. We had to contact support a couple of times for trivial questions and upgrades and their response was within a couple minutes every time. They are very quick and straight to the point. They have a lot of guidance built around their support areas and look like it’s going to be great to work with them as we push forward.

We got everything switched over and moved DNS to the new server and everything is running perfectly. Ironically, after we moved everything from the old server, it still kept going down even though we were sending absolutely NO traffic to it. Can we say oversold servers?

Here’s to hoping they stay as good as they seem.

Update: They are clever as well. They sent this e-mail:

Server Email

which had this image on it:

Server Image

I lawl’ed

Posted on May 7, 2013 by

Quick C# XML Former

While I was working at FedEx, we had a lot of systems that would need to communicate with each other. These systems often communicated using an advanced messaging queue that was simply called the broker. The broker logged everything it did in great detail, the only issue was that it logged everything in a single line of XML that ended up being extremely long (which means it had no line breaks and made it hard to find the info you were looking for).

I wrote this quick tool that will take any XML and show it in a tree-view. This is a great plugin that many text editors have now that makes this easier, but just in case you want something to mess around with: here ya go.

The code behind is quite simple. The bread and butter fall into two methods mainly:

FillTree is the first method which is the parent method responsible for the flow of adding elements to the tree.

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        private void FillTree(TreeView currenttree, TabPage tabName)
        {
            try
            {
                XmlDocument dom = new XmlDocument();
                dom.Load(Application.StartupPath + "\\xmldump.xml");
                currenttree.Nodes.Clear();
                if (dom.DocumentElement.Name.Contains(':'))
                {
                    currenttree.Nodes.Add(new TreeNode(dom.DocumentElement.Name.Split(':')[1]));
                }
                else
                {
                    currenttree.Nodes.Add(new TreeNode(dom.DocumentElement.Name));
                }
                TreeNode tNode = new TreeNode();
                tNode = currenttree.Nodes[0];
                currenttree.Nodes[0].ContextMenuStrip = treeviewmenu;
                AddNode(dom.DocumentElement, tNode);
                if (chkClearInput.Checked == true)
                {
                    txtInputXML.Clear();
                }
                treecount += 1;
                if (booExpandTree == true)
                {
                    currenttree.ExpandAll();
                }
                booSuccess = true;
            }
            catch (XmlException xmlex)
            {
                booSuccess = false;
                MessageBox.Show("XML Malformed. Reason for Error: - " + xmlex.Message, "Error");
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                booSuccess = false;
                MessageBox.Show("Non XML Error Occured: " + ex.Message, "Error");
            }
        }

AddNode is the second. It is simply responsible for taking the XML node and filling the tree branch with it.

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        private void AddNode(XmlNode inXmlNode, TreeNode inTreeNode)
        {
            string strCheck;
            XmlNode xNode;
            TreeNode tNode;
            XmlNodeList nodeList;
            int intLength;
            int intStart;
            int intEnd;
            int i = 0;
            if (inXmlNode.HasChildNodes)
            {
                nodeList = inXmlNode.ChildNodes;
                for (i = 0; i <= nodeList.Count - 1; i++)
                {
                    string tester;
                    xNode = inXmlNode.ChildNodes[i];
                    tester = xNode.Name.ToLower();
                    if (xNode.Name.Contains(':'))
                    {
                        inTreeNode.Nodes.Add(new TreeNode(xNode.Name.Split(':')[1]));
                    }
                    else
                    {
                        inTreeNode.Nodes.Add(new TreeNode(xNode.Name));
                    }
                    tNode = inTreeNode.Nodes[(int)i];
                    tNode.ContextMenuStrip = treeviewmenu;
                    AddNode(xNode, tNode);
                }
            }
            else
            {
                if ((inXmlNode.OuterXml).Trim().Contains("></"))
                {
                    strCheck = (inXmlNode.OuterXml).Trim();
                    intStart = 1;
                    intEnd = strCheck.IndexOf("></") + 3;
                    intLength = strCheck.Length - intEnd;
                    strCheck = strCheck.Substring(intStart, intLength - 1);
                    if (strCheck.Contains(':'))
                    {
                        inTreeNode.Text = strCheck.Split(':')[1];
                    }
                    else
                    {
                        inTreeNode.Text = strCheck;
                    }
                    inTreeNode.ContextMenuStrip = treeviewmenu;
                }
                else
                {
                    strCheck = inXmlNode.OuterXml.Trim();
                    inTreeNode.Text = strCheck;
                    inTreeNode.ContextMenuStrip = nodemenu;
                }
            }
        }

I added it to a WinForm and added some exporting functionality. You can see it below, I took my RSS feed from here, and put it into the tree view:

You can download XML Former for you to try for yourself. Let me know if you have any questions.

Posted on May 7, 2013 by

SurpassHosting (HostDime) Support Quality is Deminishing

Oh, Surpass, why must things be this way?

I have had a co-located server from SurpassHosting for several years. In my time there, I would have gladly recommended any one to use them (or their parent company, HostDime for that matter), but as time goes on, and as they continue to grow (I’m assuming here), their support is getting much less helpful, quick, and efficient.

There have been several support cases that I have had with them where they have shown a very lackadaisical approach to support. I think it’s pretty clear that their left hand isn’t talking to their right, and they are having their level one tech spend more time troubleshooting issues that are out of their realm. These cases went on for a very long time with very little progress being made. It wasn’t until we tweeted about them, that we started going any sort of help assistance. Even then, they started doing “troubleshooting” that they had already previously done. I finally tweeted that I was done with @HostDime and this is when they asked to help. I sent them a message that contained this:

The issue is not one ticket in general. It’s the overall view of the support and your support staff. They don’t seem to care, nor do they seem to be operating as they should.

They are unable to explain why anything happens, why anything is wrong, or why anything magically occurs. Granted hardware is a slippery slope and CAN be very difficult to work with. Especially when you deal with virtualization and servers that other people manage. I get that. I am a senior support engineer for IBM and work with all OSes on very complex applications. I know what it’s like to work on these types of issues so I sympathize, but when the issues you are dealing with are very complex, you need to make up for that lack of “knowing whats wrong” with the customer by making them feel like you are organized, structured, and are on top of the issue. This is where you have fallen short. If I were to support my customers anywhere near the way you guys have, I would be without a job.

The real trouble comes from the lack of mannerisms and management of the cases. Let’s take a look at a few examples for you to find my frustration.

1.) My current issue: 682905 – This issue could have been simple. The server halted for whatever reason. I opened a ticket for the issue as when I tried to trigger the restart from the core panel, I received an error. It took an hour and 15 minutes for your level one tech to tell me that the server had been “restarted” by him and that I could have done that myself in my panel. An hour and 15 minutes….. At any rate, after I replied to this, the case was escalated to level 2 and they found that my BIOS settings had magically changed, because ya know, those values stored on CMOS always magically change. Now, I have asked for what I need to get a minor refund on this issue since your SLA was not met. Since that request is has moved from Accounting to Client Relations, no less than 3 times. People must not think that gets paid attention to. Here we are, past noon Eastern Time and they still haven’t replied but it has been “actively viewed” several times throughout the day….

2.) [Name Redacted]‘s issue 645984 – Now, while I am sure that you can’t talk to this one since I am not on his account, I can assure that I was involved in every piece of it and most of those replies were from me. There were SEVERAL instances where your support staff couldn’t even tell us what had changed from the last technicians post. This in itself is asinine. If they make changes, they need to be documented! Additionally, they spent 2+ weeks chasing a rabbit down the rabbit hole and they weren’t even close. Which I pointed out to them several times. It wasn’t until we tweeted we started getting someone that was competent to look into the issue. At that point we had to go down the route of several things we had ALREADY TRIED. I am not sure whether this is because we were lied to before, whether it wasn’t done correctly before, or what, but this type of stuff should not happen.

These are the kinds of things that have been rampant in the more recent cases that we have both had on our accounts. It is becoming more of a burden then we can afford to have at this point in time. The 3rd account is a startup company which promises to grow very large, very quickly. We CAN’T afford to have improperly supported servers when that time comes. We have been exploring our options and you are likely going to lose 3 accounts over this. My goal is to not hurt you, or make you afraid, as I am sure that we are merely a drop in a bucket for how many clients you have, but you should know I do have some resentment over this though, as I used to love hostdime and would recommend you to anyone in a moments notice. I now feel like I would be doing that person an injustice if I recommended your services.

We never received a reply from anyone, or any kind of sign to show us that they would do their best to prevent these issues from occurring again. At this point in time, I am looking at my options to move to another host as soon as I find the right price/support/reliability ratio.

Posted on May 2, 2013 by

Why you shouldn’t use Hypernia gameservers

One month before the release of Battlefield 3 & Modern Warfare 3, we at GSN Gaming realized that because of our recent growth it was time to get away from pay per slot servers and rent a dedicated gaming machine. We only had one requirement: It had to be able to handle multiple Battlefield 3 64-slot servers. After shopping around for different server providers we ended up having to decide between Nuclear Fallout & Hypernia.

After many clan meetings to go over details and pricing, we finally decided that a 2x Intel Xeon Westmere E5620 2.4GHZ server from Hyperniawould support the growth of our community. We were assured over phone calls and emails with Hypernia that this server would be handle many 64-slot Battlefield 3 servers, as well as any other games we wanted to run. (This is after they had done testing of their own during the open beta). We were excited to finally have our own box. Little did I know how big of a mistake this move would be.

One Month Later
Battlefield 3 launched and many servers from many providers were not able to run 64-slot servers without lagging, rubber banding and crashing. We contacted Hypernia and they told us it was not the performance of the server, but rather the actual BF3 game files. DICE did the best they could to quickly release patches to fix these issues. In the meantime to decrease the lag, rubber banding and crashes, we reduced our slot count to 48 on each battlefield 3 server. Anymore then 48 players would cause issues. Patch after patch came, but none that fixed our problem. We continued to submit support ticket after support ticket to Hypernia about these issues. They assured us again it wasn’t their server and instead was DICE & Punkbuster and it would probably be fixed in the next patch. So we waited.

Three Months Later
Around the R12 patch we were still having these issues. I quickly started reaching out to other server companies to see if their servers were still seeing these issues with 64 players. Many server providers responded with “We haven’t seen these issues since the R8 patch.” My jaw dropped. This whole time Hypernia was saying that it was DICE, when it clearly was our 2x Intel Xeon Westmere E5620 2.4ghz server. I quickly brought this to the attention of the support staff at Hypernia. Over and over I asked them straight and to the point questions on whether our server could handle Battlefield 3. Every reply I received ignored my direct question and blamed the lag on everything but them. I knew Hyperniahad lied to us and they just gobbled up $1,200 (3 months) of our community donations. I was furious.

Around this time I found a forum thread from another gaming community called Geezer Gaming that was having the same exact issues as us. Guess who was their host? Hypernia. Guess which server they had? The same server as us. I quickly got ahold of the clan leader, and after 20+ emails, we realized we had both been ripped off. Geezer Gaming then told us after 7+ years of hosting with Hypernia they could not believe they did this to them, and that they planned on moving to NFO servers as soon as possible.

Time To Take Action
The next day I started talking with Nuclear Fallout support about switching over. Both the support team and the NFO president John were EXTREMELY helpful with my questions and always replied within minutes of my email. Even though it was clear at that point that we needed to move server providers, I felt bad because the community here at GSN had worked so hard everyday to keep our servers running and full to raise the rank of the server. Moving meant we were going to disappear from players favorite list and have to start all over. After talking with the members at GSN, everyone quickly agreed we needed to move. That day we put in a cancellation for our server with Hypernia, and put in a new order for a E3-1270 dedicated server from Nuclear Fallout. This was the best decision we could have ever made for GSN Gaming.

Within 1 day, our server was installed and ready to be used. (We waited 9 days for our server to be setup with Hypernia). We quickly installed (4) Battlefield 3 64-slot servers on our new machine from NFO and played for hours without any type of lag or rubber banding. Within 2 weeks we have been able to get our server ranks back to where they were with absolutely no lag, rubber banding or frequent crashing.

I took the initiative to write a lengthy e-mail to Hypernia in hopes to explain why we were frustrated and felt that it was largely their responsibility. Their response to this e-mail was simply: “no”. They claim they couldn’t do anything we had asked for and refused to be of any assistance at all.

The Moral of the Story
If your thinking of going with Hypernia, don’t do it. Save yourself the hassle, stress and disappointment and just sign up with Nuclear Fallout. They are more expensive then the competition, but their service, servers and support is worth every single penny.

Posted on April 30, 2013 by

Welcome to ParoniLaw

My name is Paronity (Mike, actually) and I am an engineer by trade, engineer by hobby, and engineer by birth.

I have always had a fascination for all things technical from programming and networking to mobile-electronics and all things web. The ParoniLaw things was thrown at me by a member of a community that I am involved in. I am not sure why, but it just stuck. Now, some stuff about me…

I spend a lot of my time taking care of my amazing family:

  • Wife: Lynn
  • Sons: Alex, Thomas and Kevin
  • Daughter: Cadence
  • Dog: Duke
  • Cats: Ducky, Sam, Wheezy

They take a lot of my time, but that does not prevent me from being extremely active in my gaming community over at GSN Gaming. I am a Head Admin over there and I put a lot of time in making sure our servers and community as a whole, run as smoothly as they can. It is a great community to be a part of and it really has some great people in it.

I work as a Software Support Engineer for IBM on a piece of their software called DataExplorer. It is a corporate search engine tool used to help companies take advantage of their data by providing a centralized location of all of their indexes and various faucets of data. In my spare time (what little I have), I program tools and applications daily just to increase my knowledge and skills in that area. I am self-taught in everything that I know and am eager to learn new things every day.

One of the biggest projects that I took on was a Call of Duty RCON tool that I designed and coded from the ground up. It’s called Paronicon. It can manage multiple server from one application and can do them simultaneously. It will mange CoD4 MW, World at War, MW2 (4D1 servers), and Black Ops I.

Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions. You can also reach me on twitter @Paronity