Tinkering with Software & RPG Utilities

Jul 15, 2010

I’m a big fan of online RPG aids — the free and open ones. A decade or ago I wrote a Lifepath and Fast & Dirty Expendable Generator for Cyberpunk 2020. CP2020 has since been updated to Version 3. My original utilities still get a used on occasion but CP2020 was a niche system in its day and today its dead rarely used. My original utilities used C/C++ code via the antiquated cgibin capabilities of the web server. I’ve been looking for an excuse to learn PHP for a while but couldn’t come up with a project.

As I was cleaning up my web detritus, it dawned on me I could add Fast Fortress Construction. Having it would pretty much complete the “random table” features of CP2020 other than perhaps a full up character generator. There really isn’t any point of adding it other than to actually have a semi-useful reason for learning PHP. As a language, the syntax is pretty close to C++ with minor deviations. As most programmers know, once you know one language picking up another one isn’t all that difficult. Automatically generating the graphics is going to be tricky mostly due to layout restrictions of code gates, CPUs and memory units. The rest of the process is pretty trivial.

My one gripe about PHP is debugging. Using text based error messages as a debugging process makes me feel like I’m back in the late ’80’s. There has to be a better mechanism. Perhaps I’ve just not found it yet but if its as limited as I’ve experienced, I’ll withdraw my judgemental attitude about PHP based online games being chuck full of bugs. I’m not willing to toss down major dollars for a integrated suite of development tools since its a hobby exercise. Anyone have suggestions?

On the plus side, there are dozens and dozens of open source add-ons for the core language. So many I’ve pretty much been able to either re-use or adapt open sourced items for everything I’ve written thus far. I haven’t successfully found a rock solid random number generator yet but haven’t looked deeply. TRNG isn’t a requirement, I just prefer them over the mock solutions in most languages. For now, I just encapsulated the rand() method in a class that I can replace without impacting the other code.

Developers all over the world have released so much great PHP code, it would be pretty trivial to toss together a MMO with minimal features in a few days. Most of the work would be setup, site layout and a bit of customization. Perhaps not pretty to start. feature rich but do-able. Once I get the general FFC utility complete, I may delay updating the other utilities in favor of a simplistic MMO based on CP2020’s rules so I can fulfill my netrunner desire.

If I’m not that motivated, perhaps just a few utilities for another RPG. I’m sure there are plenty of candidates for automation among those still in print.

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  • I use mt_rand() for my generators. It’s theoretically better and faster than just rand() and it’s always worked fine for me.

  • Thanks Swordgleam. I’ll check it out. I appreciate the advice.