Sep 15 2015

Nineteen Month Update

Been a while…

Hi there, haven’t had a good reason to update this since April after I decided to take a break in May. I ran out of lead time and was working too hard to get it back so I decided to let things go for a while and focus on other things. One of them was playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I had carried over the story I had been working on since Dragon Age: Origins. However the more I played the less interested I became in working through some one else’s story and I wanted to get back to creating mine. Still, it took me almost 4 months to decide to come back to KSP and only because I realized that v1.1 would be just as bad an upgrade as v1 which meant if I didn’t go for v1 it would be at least a month or two after v1.1 dropped that all mods would be updated and I would be able to get back to playing. That was just too long to coast.

Still, the Agency was not idle during my “break”, and I had plenty of interesting little side projects to keep things moving along, like Desson’s small scale rocket launches. There were also a lot of celestial events taking place and I really got into “astrophotography” in capturing images of occultations, appulses, eclipses, transits… needless to say I wasn’t slacking off entirely from the game and even bumped my follower count up another 1k over this time. Everyone seemed to stay really engaged and I think the audit storyline worked out pretty well. I didn’t really plan it out much, because I didn’t know how long I would have to drag it out for, I just had the initial idea of the KSA being audited and having a corrupt accountant – I also wanted to move in Mortimer, who is a canon character in the KSP universe as of v1.0. I’m pleased with how it all played out.

Transition to 1.0.4 from 0.90

I knew it was going to be rough, and it was, but nothing that was insurmountable. The save file conversion went off with only a few minor issues – if anyone wonders I simply create a new save file and then run a diff check between it and my old save file to see what settings need to be changed/updated in the default SCENARIO modules. Getting down to the individual VESSEL structures can get a bit trickier as there can be new names for parts that you have to change, and I didn’t catch the fact that I was using an old heat shield with an AblativeShield resource instead of the new Ablative resource. Of all things it caused Distant Object Enhancement to whack out and throw a ton of NREs, that was a tricky one to chase down. Then I had to start adding back in all my mods pretty much one at a time so I could check through the KSP.log file for ERR, WRN and EXC events to make sure everything was playing nicely – of course it wasn’t so I had to run all the major ones down and figure out which ones I could just ignore. Next was the tech tree, which got revamped with 1.0 and there were some nodes with parts in them I should have unlocked already so I had to gift myself some science to put that all back in order. Finally I had to update all my batch files for loading parts as some folders and parts and model references and all that stuff had changed here and there. I’m still dealing with issues here and there but they’re minor and not stopping me from playing. One big thing I noticed is I may finally have the dreaded input lag issue with my joystick that I’ve heard people mention but never seen in my installs. I haven’t really looked into it yet since I’m not flying any launches for a while but that’s yet another thing that’ll take time to track down… but I’m on v1.0.4 after about two weeks of work. I’ve only had to completely rebuild two craft so far…

Memory was a whole other issue. Some mods ate up more than they used to in 0.90 and so I had to put KSP on an even more extreme weight loss program and make double sure I wasn’t loading any unneeded textures like agency logos or flags, moved out all the sounds because I just play to my own music all the time anyways, and stuck to my old habits of only loading the parts I need. I barely deal with any crashes and have about 600-800MB of overhead depending on what I’m doing, which is more than enough for stable play over a decent period of time. I can even load in more part mods that I had under 0.90 and have 300-400MB overhead once I enter the VAB in my build mode with everything loaded. So yea, happy to see I don’t need x64 yet – although it will be a welcome upgrade in v1.1 (hopefully) as the measures needed to keep things running under x86 are a bit time-consuming even after the huge upfront cost in getting it all set up.

Calendaring Scheduled Tweets

I mention previously that I switched entirely over to TweetDeck, but one of the things I missed most about Gremln was being able to see my scheduled tweets in a calendar format rather than a list like it’s shown in TweetDeck. Besides the things that are set for certain times because that’s when they happen in the game, I like to schedule the rest of my tweets in a fashion that doesn’t hold to any sort of pattern and fills out the day and week with content across all times. I even try to plan game events for certain times based on how the previous couple of days have been scheduled. Thankfully GCal has a perfect input format to copy/paste my TweetDeck tweets into easily. For a better idea of what I mean here’s an example of last week:

WGe5K27m.pngIt literally takes me 10 seconds to add a new event. As you can see everything is fairly spread out across all times throughout the week, and I do my best not to clump things around the same time every day to form what I feel is a more natural pacing. Getting to see the gaps between tweets gives me a good relative sense for the “beat” of the stream I’m outputting to twitter and helps to ensure I don’t always swamp people with tweets.

Science Returns Reduced (Again)

One of the cool new features I found in v1 was via the Alt+F12 debug menu’s R&D section. When you’re in the R&D building you can ask it to produce the total amount of achievable science in the game, which it calculates from all the experiment modules you have loaded. This is something I’ve always wanted (there have been mods but they’ve not been very complete in their analysis for one reason or another) because one of the big problems I see people having is maxing out the tech tree so early they’re like “now what?” – literally that’s what I see them post on reddit. So I ran the numbers for my install and it turns out I can achieve 6,399,714 total points of science. Wow. To put that in perspective, I only need 69,160 points to completely unlock the remaining nodes I have in the Community Tech Tree. I had my science gains pulled way down to 5% but that would still give me over 5x as much science as I would need to completely unlock the tree! So I went and turned it down some more to 2.5% – I could go lower because there’s sure to be more mods with more science to collect in the future, and some experiments you can redo and some produce continuous science over time, but that might make things a little too much of a grind.

Sunrise/Sunset Times

A new thing I started doing is calculating the times the sun will rise and set over KSC. I realized it can be a lot more immersive to reference things like “third sunrise” and also allow me to be more general in declaring when things will happen. It also helps when I show images that occur at night or in the day people can look back at the time table and be like – oh yea, it actually is day/nite right now! For the purposes of the times, sunrise is when the stars disappear from the sky and sunset is when they come back. The exact timing is always off by a second or so because the day/night cycle is 43,301.6s and it’s that blasted 0.6s that can throw things off after a time, so I always check after a few days to recalibrate. I considered dropping the seconds entirely but it makes it a lot easier to notice the precession of time as the days go on. Even though they show up at the same time every morning, I’ll get 2-3 people favoriting them quite often, so I guess people like it.

ATN Database Goes Public

Another decision I made was to make the ATN database that has been announced every Monday a real thing. I mean, it’s always been a real thing because that’s how I keep track of all the asteroids but I wanted it to be public. Rather than just release the data of name/type/encounter/etc I also wanted to add orbital properties so people could see which goes out the farthest, which takes the longest to complete an orbit, etc. The database was already past 1,000 rocks so I knew I would have to tackle it piecemeal and update only a handful of asteroids each week while I was adding new ones. The main problem was getting the orbital properties, since the game didn’t provide them in consistent formats – a close periapsis to the sun would show up in Km, and a further one in Mm. I wanted the same numerical precision for all the asteroid data, and for that I had KSPTOT’s Mission Architect which could easily import the orbital data and give me a plot with the information I wanted. Problem – I have a save file with 500 asteroids and I need to select the one I want from a list that is not alphabetized (it’s ordered in the same way the SFS file has them ordered). Thankfully the KSPTOT author Arrowstar was quick to implement a feature I requested to have Mission Architect be able to load data from whatever was the current Active Vessel in the game. Without this I doubt I would have bothered putting in the insane extra effort it would have taken to make the ATN database actually interesting enough to post each week.

Flight Tracker Upgrades

The flight tracker has seen a few tweaks over the past months, mainly very small bug and usability things I can’t really remember to be honest. One major thing I started doing though was making sure the main system overview got updated once a week, and enabled people to page back to previous weeks and see the movements of the planets over time. Over the next week or so I plan to add support for maneuver nodes in the dynamic map view, a clock to the sidebar that shows the current KSC time as well as the next scheduled launch, and I finally figured out why the dynamic map wasn’t loading in a separate window thanks to some help from another web developer doing KSP stuff, so I can finally make the flags view dynamic as well.

I also plan to use the Sketchfab KSP exporter to make the static craft images 3D ones, though I’ve had issues exporting models with lots of mods and I’m not sure how I’ll work it into the pop-up description text just yet.

Staying Ahead

Well as of Sunday I had pushed the game out a week ahead of the current day, but now it’s Tuesday and I haven’t gotten time to really play so I’m back to only 5 days ahead, and will be gone two days this week so that’s more lost time – plenty of issues still popping up that take time and effort to overcome, chasing down bugs, weird game effects, I can’t even begin to get into all that. Then there’s life’s own curveballs like having your PC’s motherboard die and being offline for a week because of it. I have more backup storylines I can put into effect if I need time off due to forced circumstances but hopefully those can remain in my back pocket for a good while.

Crap it took me how long to write all this?? I have work to do!!!

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