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SOFTWARE SIMULATIONS

SOFTWARE - TASK LIST

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This page is a list of software tasks that we know would be useful, either for GMs or for players, that anybody who's interested might want to have a go at. They're all things that can be done without having to integrate very closely with the parts of our software that are commerically sensitive. Whether any of these projects would produce anything that can be used to make money is open to question. Some will, some might, some won't, and you'll have to judge for yourself whether that's important.

Apple Mac Printer Utility An Apple Mac version of our printer utility would be useful, as we have quite a high proportion of Mac users (turn-based games do seem to suit creative people). We're thinking that C might be the tool to use for something to work on older Macs if that's thought worthwhile, and Object C should do the job for newer ones. The Delphi source code of the printer utility is not commercially sensitive, and the Pascal source of the original DOS version is even less so, which means we should be able to provide those to work from.
Linux Printer Utility A Linux version of our printer utility will probably be wanted sometine. We can easily produce a Kylix version, since the Windows version is maintained in Delphi, but Kylix is installation dependant. Not all Linux users would be able to use it. So the same situation applies as for Macs, to duplicate the printer utility using a system that does deploy across different Linux platforms. Not as important as a Mac version right now, but probably more important in the long run.
Turn Analysis In almost any of our games there's lots of data that could be extracted from the game reports and stored, analysed and presented in other ways, cross-referenced, summarised or turned into graphs or graphics. The game report is a simple text file, so it's not too difficult to read. It's a fair bet that other players would be interested in utilities that did things like that.
Map Utility We've got a number of games that use maps. For several the maps are available as image files. Quite a lot of players colour them in, using either the paper or the electronic versions. A smart piece of software might be able to extract the information in a game report and colour the map automatically. Then the same map could be made available to everyone online very quickly, or people could generate their own.
Printer Graphics At present we have no graphics in our game reports, just text. Even for the games that have maps there's only the very limited map in Dark Age (which hardly qualifies as a graphic). The printers we use are quite capable, however, and a mixture of line graphics and text is quite feasible (that's how the Dark Age map works - the same approach would still work with a more detailed image).
For maps what's need is a utility to convert a simple image file into an even simpler bitmap with a format and dimensions specific to the capabilities of the printers (which in this case is a linewise bitmap). That could be handled by our software (in Pascal) and so integrated with our game reports. The same system could then be used for all sorts of other purposes.
It looks feasible in Delphi, where there's bitwise access to the canvas object and a facility to read images directly to the canvas, and that probably means it can be done the same way in any other modern language for Windows or anything similar.
It's something we'd be doing ourselves, except there's always something more urgent that needs attention.

A second note of caution is that if you've thinking of working on any of these, the first thing to do is make sure you understand exactly what's wanted and stick with it. It's very easy to produce something quite smart that's absolutely useless because it doesn't actually answer the requirement, isn't compatible with the existing processes, or isn't cost effective in terms of time or money. In the past we've found it's actually more common for people to go off at tangents than produce something that any use ofr the purpose that was intended at the start.

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