All posts by JC the Builder

MMO Video Files – An Untapped Feature

As some of you may already know, I have taken quite the interest in making Ultima Online related videos this year. Most recently I am proud of the production showing a fight of the fabled Meraktus the Tormented, a spawn which had little information published about it. There are now 50 videos in total.

Something that I’ve had in my mind for a very long time is the creation of a program which let you record and play videos directly from the UO client. This tool does in fact exist. Unfortunately it is part of a suite of cheating software, otherwise I think it would be pretty popular.

What am I talking about exactly? Well in a normal video you have tons of image data. If you have any sizable collection of pictures or movies on your computer, you know that is what takes up the bulk of your hard drive space. In a video, each frame (of which there can be up to 32 frames per second) records the data on thousands of pixels to make up the image. For a completely uncompressed 800×600 video running at 24 frames per second, that is 11,520,000 pixels which need to be accounted for, or roughly 32MBs of data. For one second of video!

Of course that is not the entire story. Algorithms known as codecs are used to compress that data into a more reasonable size. A good quality video is going to still need about 10-20MB per minute after all is said and done.

But what if you didn’t store the video as image data. What if it was stored like this….

[00:00:01] [sound] [greater heal]
[00:00:01] [mobile] [dragon turn west]
[00:00:01] [mobile] [dragon walk west]
[00:00:02] [mobile] [dragon fire breath player]

Text data takes up an insignificant amount of space in comparision. In fact this is how your game client knows what is going on. The game server sends data which is measured in the kilobytes per second instead of megabytes. If the client saved all this data to a file and then had the ability to play it back, you have a video player!

This technology has most recently been prominently featured in Halo 3. In that game the server actually saves all the data and lets players who wish to download the video file. But that is now how it would work for a MMO, the client would do the saving.

I think the first MMO which does this is going to have a major hit on their hands. This is a completely unused technology. I cringe at what would happen if Blizzard implemented it for World of Warcraft. Of course I would love to see it for UO.

Going even one step beyond, though this would be a massive undertaking. It would be so utterly amazing if a website could be designed around playing these tiny UO files. As is, you would need a copy of the Ultima Online client installed on your computer in order to play them because that is where all the image data is stored. But UO’s style of art would is actually very good for use in Flash movies. It should be possible to make a website in which you could upload the UO movie file. The site would then run a program which would compile a flash movie, pulling all the relevent UO graphics, animations and sounds. Then you could watch it like any Youtube video.

Of course the file size would not be insignificant. But it would not be anywhere near as large as a normal video file. Instead of having to record every frame, it records the graphic one time and moves it around. One mobile which might take up 2-3MB of video data would only take 100KB in a flash movie. The rest of the client functions could be mimic down to the smallest detail. I wrote a special algorithm several years ago to copy UO’s talk-over-heard text exactly. From the 2-tone coloring of spell text to how many characters fit on one line to the unique font style. It was actually very interesting to do.

Anyway, this was just something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Perhaps one day it will happen.

Make sure you complain to the right person

Two quick blog related notes:

1) I am going to try my best only to post once per day. If I didn’t set this limit then I would probably end up spending way too much time on this.

2) I have disabled commenting for the time being because I just don’t want to have to deal with moderating them. I’d rather just spend my 5 minutes writing the post and that be it. If you really want to send me a comment then there is always private message via Stratics or UOForums. Some day in the future I will enable it.

Ok, on to a topic. This past week Ultima Online players have been experiencing heavy latency and packet loss. This is the worst seen in several years at least. It affects a wide variety of players all over the country.

One thing people should know is that this isn’t just a UO issue. There have been major internet slow downs, an unusual amount, this week. This does not explain all the lag, but it is one source. For me I have been facing a triple threat. There is the general lag, then the EA lag (now identified as coming from the ISP near EA’s servers) and 10% packet loss within my own home network.

Anyway, there was a reveal of some interesting changes coming to the next UO publish. Immediatly people started replying quite rudely that this developer should be focusing on the lag and forget about what she is working on. Stratics moderators have since removed most of these replies.

This person’s job title is “UO Associate Game Designer”. I don’t see anything about network administrator in there. People often take out their anger and frustration at the wrong people. I’m sure she feels sorry about what is going on, but there is literally nothing that she could personally do about it. The world continues to turn whether or not the internet is down.

I guess this post didn’t really go anywhere. I thought it would. Next time I will be sure to post something more insightful then this.

An Event is an Event

As is frequently the case, there is quite a few players requesting that the UO halloween events be extended. The event itself began October 29 and is scheduled to end on November 17. That is 20 full days for every player to participate, just shy of 3 weeks.

If you didn’t have a chance to get out and take part in 3 weeks then it is just tough cookies in my opinion. You can’t please every single person. To let every player take part this would have to be changed from an event to a content addition, something permanent. You would have Skeletal Liches terrorizing graveyards forever. That wouldn’t be very desirable.

People who ask for event extensions are at least as numerous as the ones who plan on the event ending as assigned. Some people will organize their play scheduals around an event if they know it is limited. An extension would mean that their hardship and hard work was for not.

Unless there is some drastic situation, such as the game servers go down or the event content did not happen as planned, then there can of course be changes made to the schedual. But to give an extension just because it is requested is not good. One glaring issue is that Halloween was almost 3 weeks ago. It doesn’t look good to be ringing in the new year with trick or treating.

Instead of clinging to the current event, players should focus on what the future holds and what exciting new event they can take part in.

A blog you say?

Finally a place to post pictures of my dog or rant about how terrible my job is!

Actually, no. I am not going to do that. There are already literally millions of blogs that do that. Why would anyone want to read about your day to day activities anyway. Unless you are some movie star, then they have entire TV shows and newspapers dedicated to that. They don’t even have to write their own stuff. If you have to do it yourself, chances are no one is going to care.

This is going to be a blog about thoughts and ideas I have. It is mostly going to be based on the MMO Ultima Online, video gaming in general and possibly other things. The intended audience is for anyone interested in reading about this stuff.

Why am I starting a blog? Because I don’t feel there is an appropriate forum anywhere for this stuff. On Stratics U Hall there is a multitude of issues, one of which being any good topic I start gets locked because the moderators don’t feel like doing their job. I have tried to post in the past on our own guild forum, but the general community there is not kind to it. First of all most hate my guts because I am the administrator. Second, due to hating my guts, anything I post is going to quickly be put down faster than a raccoon with rabies.

Thus, this was created. A place where I can just dump my thoughts, a thought dump if you will. It is nice that I came up with that name so quickly. Otherwise it would have been left blank like my profile.

The next post is going to be about world events and players complaining that they should be extended indefinitely.