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On Ares, Probabilities, the Future and the State of the Community
#1
Let me begin this post by saying that everything that follows is my own, personal opinion. I didn't coordinate it with the other coders, it's not an official Ares news release, or anything of the like. It's just my personal point of view, and I thought I'd get it out there to maybe get a discussion going and get some clarity on a few things.

To put the main issue out there from the start: Working on Ares has been frustrating in recent weeks. Not because of the code, but because of the community.
As far as I know, we're the last patch standing, so to speak. The last exe-enhancement project left for YR, or at least the last one actually delivering anything useful.
Basically, you've got the choice between stock YR, increasingly ancient, unsupported patches, and Ares.
One would think that gives Ares some kind of importance to the modding community.

And yet, if you look around...you don't exactly get the impression anyone gives a shit.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not whoring for the fame or the attention. I've been in this community longer than the vast, vast majority of people I meet these days, I've met my fair share of people, I've pissed enough people off - rest assured, I got enough attention.
This is not about fame. This is about support and meaning.

To put it bluntly, if no one cares, we, as developers, don't have to waste our time on this project.
I don't know if you realize this, but wading through Westwood's crappy code, with no comments, no variable names, and lots of the original code obscured by compiler optimizations, isn't exactly fun or easy. Even those of us who don't do the hard work end up having to work with an API that's less than ideal, riddled with variables of unknown type or purpose, and with no direct access to the surrounding code to change anything on the fly.

Now don't get me wrong - we appreciate the geeky challenge, and we like doing this for the community.
But that last part is where I, personally, increasingly see the problem.
I simply don't see that the community cares anymore.

Take our testers, for example:
Anyone who's been here for a while knows it has become a sad tradition for us to have to either replace the testers or pressure them into working to get any kind of response out of most them.
The truth is, just yesterday, we were discussing how quickly we could release 0.2 - and the unknown factor wasn't how long we'd take for the code, it was whether we had any chance of actually getting the code tested, so we could release it.

We haven't had a single comment on the tracker for four days, and overall, we only had 4 comments in the entire past week - irrelevant comments, giving us no helpful information for development.

No bug reports. No implementation feedback. No resolution confirmations.

Now, I'll readily admit I didn't check any code in recently, either - but I'm one guy, working on one feature.
We're talking about two dozen testers, 38 bugs marked as "to verify", and an unknown army of bugs hidden in the code.
The probability it'd be that quiet if people actually cared is...small, to say the least.

And it's not just the testers. It's the general community as well. Look around you - how many random Ares modders did you see post in the past week?

We have actively tried involving the community numerous times - see the NIPPLES AREOLA thread, the DFDs, ICS, the offer to take an active role in vetting features on the tracker.

But what difference did it make? Deadness abounds. The only times people come around are when they want something from us.

It has been said the community is dead for years on end. I don't believe it's dead. But I'm beginning to believe the critical mass to achieve anything in it is gone.
There simply don't seem to be enough modders left to generate significant interest in a new development.

(And this not even getting into the fact that 70% of active modders today seem to be mentally under-equipped to use Ares anyway, that another 15% seem to be content with the Russian Bug Patch 1.53 SE Turbo HD Remix Edition, and that, of the rest, a bunch of people simply aren't switching because Ares doesn't have features they need - which is fine, but how is Ares ever going to get those features, if none of those modders uses their weight and support to help?)

I'm sorry if that all sounds very emo-blog-ish, but I have an IDE full of source code open in another window, a bunch of very annoying bugs to fix in Chrono Prisons, and I honestly can't tell who I'm fixing them for. Source code doesn't magically appear out of nowhere. Fixing all the currently known bugs will take several hours of my time overall, several tests from god knows whom (since the testers are gone), and compiling effort from either Alex or D.
And I just don't know that anyone even cares.

I am sitting here, looking at the prospect of wasting several evenings on this, and I honestly don't see a reason to do so - as far as I can tell, no one cares anyway.

I will be very clear at this point; I hate that it'll sound like a threat, or like a whiny child going home, but it needs to be said: I have recently started a new job, so my spare time is severely limited. And as it is right now, I honestly have no motivation to waste that little spare time on Ares.
I'll help release 0.2, no doubt about it, and I'll probably do 0.3, too, since I invested way too much organizational effort into 0.3's release already to let it slip, but after that...no guarantees.

I'd be happy to see that the community cares, to see an outpouring of support and the community uniting to help improve YR's engine for the benefit of all of us, and I'd gladly help with a project that actually matters to people.

But right now, I'd be surprised if more than five people even read this post, let alone do more than promise they will actually start testing for a change.

And before this turns into a post-fest of "I like Ares": I'm not talking about lip service. 50 posts by random people about how much they love Ares and want it continued are nice, but they mean jack shit for development. RandomDude45's love for Ares doesn't help me fix my bugs or test my features.
I'm talking about actual, active support.
I'm talking about feedback, both on the forums and on the tracker.
I'm talking about useful bug reports.
I'm talking about active feature vetting, including trying to kick out the useless ones.
I'm talking about helping to proof-read, update and improve the documentation.
I'm talking about tutorials.
I'm talking about screenshots.
I'm talking about a reference implementation.
I'm talking about goddamn coding help, if you're capable.

Love is nice.
But love doesn't change the fact that, right now, 95% of the work is done by 3-4 people, and there's no sign it actually matters.

And even if it did matter - it's also a simple question of sustainability: pd already left. VK already left. I just said I might focus on something else. If the community truly wants Ares to continue, it's in its own interest to get some more coders involved - 'cause the ones currently active aren't gonna be around forever.
Especially not if their workload increases because they lack a third/fourth coder and they have to test everything themselves.


So yeah. This is how I feel. Looking at the forum statistics, I can't even be sure anyone will read this post. But at least no one can say there was no warning.
If the community truly does care, it should get off its ass and show it. If not...well, then nobody will care if I focus on something else.

(For those who forgot, this was my opinion and my opinion alone, not coordinated with the other coders, and not as an official statement by the Ares developers.)

P.S.: In anticipation of select people complaining about me not being "cooperative" of "receptive" - I'm talking about helpful contributions. Not useless shit that wastes even more of my time. You will find that, if you actually make a helpful contribution, I can be very friendly and thankful.
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(01.06.2011, 05:43:25)kenosis Wrote: Oh damn don't be disgraced again!

(25.06.2011, 20:42:59)Nighthawk Wrote: The proverbial bearded omni-bug may be dead, but the containment campaign is still being waged in the desert.
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#2
I could help to proof-read the documentation if you wanted me to.

@everyone who claims to support or want Ares: C'mon, get up off your lazy behinds and get this thing rolling!!
"The present is theirs. The future, for which I really worked, is mine."
- Nikola Tesla

"My - y - my - your - my vision has permutated. My - y - my - your - my plans have followed a path unpredicted by the union of Nod and GDI. Your - my - our - our directives must be reassessed." - Kane/CABAL

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#3
I have noticed this too. I believe if super weapon clones get done then Ares will be a lot more widely supported. I have no idea why people don't care right now. Possibly because the forums aren't used or looked at very much. May want to try some more promotional stuff, PPM has a few tutorials of Ares application and Mental Omega is in development of a new version using Ares, but the community otherwise doesn't seem to know much about it.
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#4
Quote:(since the testers are gone)
Oh for God's sake. Are the testers gone again?


That's really disappointing.
Really. The people actually churning out Ares developments work so hard on such a variety of tasks, but the wider base of people who ensure that the development works are gone?
That's really disappointing.


I'm sort of tired of the drama. Testers are chosen, do nothing, are replaced, and the cycle continues. I know that I can't keep up stringent testing of new Ares features, but people who asked to be given that privileged position should really be willing to put in some effort of their own.

...I don't want Renegade to resign, but if the community is so happy to ignore the massive efforts which make up the development cycle then I can't see why he shouldn't. I don't think the 'community' could even care. Yay.

...On the other hand, this thread shouldn't just devolve into a blame-passing session. I would suggest that it is time to work out exactly what everyone needs to do, and get some accountability going in regards to screenshots and tests. It'd be nice to get this wagon train rolling.
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#5
...Is it too late for me to join the testing group?

I have a big project to work on (A mod that no one expects), but I'll gladly test some functions for future releases.
Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it if I can.
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#6
I'm going to:
Read through the manual,
Pick a feature,
Implement,
Screenshot,
Post in appropriate NIPPLES AREOLA thread.


At least, that'd be the single easiest thing to do, seeing as I'm likely to implement those features too for any mods I might be making.
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#7
Now I let modders in China all know Ares,but they all don't ues Ares. On the contrary,a guy whose name is LH_Mouse modified 'NP' by ASM since mid-September,and named it as 'NP Ext',he already release 150 version when I am writing this reply. It achieves many feature that Ares has not have.and modders are crazy about it,they are more willing to use it. If I mention Ares,they will compare 'NP Ext' with Ares,including LH_Mouse."does Ares have nukebomb that can attack flying unit? and unit deploy to another unit(convert unit's Image,Speed,and weapon in deployment) and EMP that can use on Animation? projectiles that can custom scatter radius? cyclic gattling? and many more bug fixs? can Ares run more speeder than 'NP'? can Ares run without llllllarge .NET Framework?

I have no reason refute them. and I do not know why.
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#8
Wow, the one evening I can't be bothered to come to IRC is the one when Ren decides to rant. I'm sorry I missed that last night (though you could have pinged me on MSN).

Thanks for the support, you guys.

I am not surprised by the lack of activity, it's nothing new. I'm almost 25. The generation I grew up with - CannisRabidus, Ren, Turn-A Gamer, Rattuskid, DZ, Blade, Mig Eater, Mooman - are all older than me, and mostly moved on. It's reasonable. I have been holding a full time job for two years. I know how little free time remains after that. We're not kids any more and we all have real life to deal with. Including the testers.

Besides, the game turned 9 years old last month. All the fresh blood is playing the games of last month, not last decade. At best, they try Ares for a bit, can't wrap their head around the basics of modding, and give up.

We tried to be professional about this whole project, we established a bug tracker, version control system, branches, revisions, roadmap... but we forgot that the community is not made up of geeky software engineers who understand all that, know what a process is, and can follow it. I am not going to change our process, but it might be an additional obstacle to some people.

Quote:Possibly because the forums aren't used or looked at very much.
Yeah, I've been wondering about that ever since these forums were established. The only attraction that seemed to get people to visit was RockPatch and Ares, despite the fact that we have the normal modding section, ModEnc (we even had a competition to motivate people to add content to it, a whole lot of good that did), and later added UMP, TX and other stuff. A call to action like this one usually stirs up activity for a week or two and then we're back to graveyard mode. fffuuuu.

On the other hand, that mostly frees us from having to deal with the noobs. okay.

I can't run promotions at PPM (you know why) and Ren doesn't particularly want to go to PPM. News of Ares 0.1 were posted at PPM and Revora, thanks to the people who did that. But I'm not sure our own time is best spent advertising instead of developing.

Quote:a guy whose name is LH_Mouse modified 'NP' by ASM since mid-September
Yeah, and he filed several issues in the tracker about specific bugs. But:
1) We can only fix problems that we know about, that's about 10 issues he posted. If he fixed them, information about what he changed would be quite helpful too.
2) We don't agree with 100% of his solution recommendations.
3) We can only implement features that we think of or the community requests. If a feature you want isn't in the tracker, what are the odds we'll implement it?
4) Our time is limited, and not all reported issues can be fixed rapidly. Turn around, does it have every feature Ares does?

Quote:can Ares run more speeder than 'NP'?
The main lag isn't Ares, it's the shitbrewn image blitting routines in the game. I'm working on an additional fix for Syringe to remove any additional delays in memory de/allocation Syringe used to incur (which you couldn't see anyway). Once that is done, I see no reason for Ares to run any slower ingame, except that every feature costs execution time, so whoever has more features is slower.

Quote:can Ares run without llllllarge .NET Framework?
Lift eyebrow Uh, absolutely? Ares is a plain C++ DLL, Syringe is a plain C++ executable, no .NET involved unless you want to compile your own build.
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#9
I'll admit, this last month has been an utterly shit one, I'll be back to testing, screenshotting, and all that gubbins soon though.
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MRMIdAS: No longer allowed to criticise Westwood on PPM
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#10
I keep a watchful eye on the issues and I'm willing to make time for testing stuff I reported or requested, but I have so many other draws on my time, its hard to dedicate enough time to features I'm only sort of interested in. I do try and support ares in other ways such as responding to threads concerning it on ppm and revora if needed. It's a shame that LH_Mouse has gone the route he has, there was obviously some language barrier but if he'd made more effort to implement the chinese modders needs into ares everyone would be much better off for it rather than just requesting the features.
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#11
Well, in my case university started in October, so I have less free time than during the weeks before.

*sigh* But yeah, I know I need to get my ass up and do some more testing. I'm going through the list of To-Verify issues as we speak.

Though testing the Chrono Prison is somewhat problematic for me, I have a hard time wrapping my head around a feature I'm absolutely not interested in personally, which makes testing difficult because I tend to miss key aspects (especially when there are so many things to consider like in this case).

About the lack of activity on the tracker and forums in general though, I think it's a combination of several factors.
- the community is shrinking. Slowly, but steadily.
- Most reasonable features have already been requested.
- Most bugs in the vanilla game have already been reported.
- Most modders that DO visit the tracker have already voted and/or commented on those features they care about, so there's no much else for them to do than waiting for their implementation or actively testing stuff. And the vast majority resorts to the former, it seems.
- I guess some people were following the tracker some time, noticed the slow progress, moved on and forgot about it.
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#12
As one of the few testers who does do his job fairly often (yes, I'm always implementing new Ares features to be safe that they work) I have to say that real life is becoming more of a dominant factor.

- I work two jobs now, so whatever time spent modding isn't done in large blocks. It's generally done within 10 minutes of the time between jobs.
- I'm trying to get out on my own. Moving out is quite a time eater.
- I'm reregistered for college, and thus more of my time will vanish.
- Real life has been throwing a lot of it's heaviest hits at me. Many know of all the crazy events that have happened.
- I can never find anyone willing to load up a testing rulesmd.ini and trying features out online for stability purposes. Who knows how well Ares works online? No real mod that extensively uses the patch have gotten to the online stage.

And then there are other factors, such as:
- Most mods utilizing Ares have much longer development times, generally involving working from the scratch as opposed to the drop-in development when Rock Patch/ NPatch were wout.
- Other modders believe Ares is still too developmental to use, and plan to use it in later years.
- The community is shrinking, and so are the number of active mods.
- The rather professional approach to Ares, the BugTracker, and testing can be quite intimidating to some of those not experienced in the community.
- Some of the community drama has limited some of the support for Ares. Members on PPM may not be quite interested in Ares when they know the developers won't come support them (with the exception of AlexB, who is amazing. Tongue 2)

EDIT: The line between tester and person-in-wait-of-new-version aren't drawn very clear. Testers and non-testers both can get developmental versions. Why not make those lucrative builds harder to obtain? Limit access of the developmental versions, and I bet those people who use Ares and weren't testers 'all of a sudden' become much more interested in being involved. Another thing that may or may not help would be seeking some hosting offers for mods that use Ares, to help grow more activity here in RenProj. I'd be willing to move if it would mean anything. Big Grin

So it's two-fold, and often the end of the year tends to be more chaotic in the community due to a lack of free time. I've always noticed winter slowdowns (I'm from the northern hemisphere) and I expected it to impact Ares as well.
Leader of Soviet Dawn: Incursion. Representative of the CnC Guild, moderator and PR staff. Go make the Guild alive!
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#13
I'll start verifying some issues this weekend. Shouldn't take long to test some more things.

Is there an official list of issues that need verifying? or would it be the roadmap?
I'm what Willis was talkin' about.
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#14
@M666: http://strategy-x.com/ ? Tongue

@Fen: check the top right corner of the issue list - http://img514.imageshack.us/img514/7184/verify.gif .
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#15
Ah, kk. I gotcha. Thanks. I'll start knocking some of those out this weekend.
I'm what Willis was talkin' about.
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