March 2005 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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Removed From MTAVC Staff (31st March 2005)

On 2005-03-28 I was removed from the staff at the Multi Theft Auto Forums. The decision appears to have been taken unilaterally for reasons which have yet to emerge. The move was rather unexpected since I was drafting the new forum category structure with many other members of staff at the time he removed me.

GTA 2 Scripting Guide Uploaded (31st March 2005)

Pyro’s outstanding guide to many aspects of writing mission code for GTA 2 is now available online in 16 articles via my Tutorials. He sent me the guide as a 165kB formatted HTML document which I stripped down to an 80kB unformatted XHTML document. I then split it into sixteen (16) pages so that each deals with a specific aspect of mission scripting.

It includes about sixty (60) images showing the icons and graphics that go with the various weapons, powerups, gangs and so forth. There are likely to be additions and updates to it over the coming months.

If you have written any technical documents for the GTA series which you would like me to re-format into the Project Cerbera style, use my Contact Details to find a way to get them to me. I will only accept high quality work submitted by the original author since it takes a lot of work to re-format technical documents.

Elegant Abbreviations (25th March 2005)

On the advice of Icey (creator of the IceyBoard software used by G! Forums) I added abbreviations to all my pages. The actual tag used is <abbr> and it surrounds the letters being used to represent a word, phrase, organisation or whatever. The TITLE attribute contains the full name so that when people hover their mouse over it, they get a tooltip showing the full version. Great stuff…except that the entire IE series seem to ignore the <abbr> tag. This means that I have added a significant amount of filesize and spent dozens of hours adding these tags in TextStudio when loads of people are not able to benefit from them!

After having a nervous breakdown, I happened to look at the abbreviation used in one of the CSS links at the bottom of the page. It struck me that the abbreviation tag and the anchor (link) tag were both using the title attribute. The title attribute is well supported by the IE series; I know for sure it works back in IE4. There is nothing unique about the abbreviations tag, so why not replace it with a tag which is supported by all browsers and which I do not use anywhere? The <em> tag, for example?

Well, this is what I have done. Since the tag won’t accept borders in IE5 (and probably other versions) I have decided to simply use the italicised styling browsers normally give the <em> tag but also set the cursor to the “help” variant. It seems to work pretty well but I wholeheartedly welcome any feedback on this. My contact details offer several ways to communicate with me, so if you have a reason why this is good or bad, let me know!

Curveshire is Recruiting (25th March 2005)

I am looking for landscape modellers to work on Curveshire (Curveshire Development topic at GTAForums).

Archived News (25th March 2005)

Today I created the News Archive page which was yet another thing I had discussed with Icey. I had not been content with the old tabulated news layout for some time but could not figure out how best to solve the problem. I did not want to create a new page but that is the most elegant and practical solution I can think of.

Search Box Refinement (25th March 2005)

The search box in the top-right of the page is now a lot better than it was this time last week. After reading the terms and conditions Google set out, I found out that it is compulsory to have one of their official logos displayed in it. I chose the smallest one and it seems to load quite speedily and sort of suits the page, so I guess all is well. The form now uses a proper <fieldset> and <legend> tag, plus the textbox uses an explicitly applied <label> element. This was also from advice given by Icey.

Header and Footer Update (16th March 2005)

The search area in the header was taking up far too much space for my liking so I sliced off the radio buttons which allowed you to search The Web or Project Cerbera and replaced them with a Google caption.

For the footer, I have changed the names of the links and re-written the title text to be less technical when you hover the mouse over them. A link to a neat validator service for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and USA Section 508 legislative conformance to compliment the links for file format validations. At the time of writing, I am passing all A and AA standards as well as some AAA standards for WCAG, plus I am getting good conformance for the Section 508 stuff, too.

I have changed the normal and visited link colours to be less severe. The hover style now just applies a faint background colour to the link so that you can still see if it is a normal or visited link. This also means that if you click on a normal link it will immediately change colour to the visited style. Images use the same colours as their border, with the hover style using a medium grey border.

(EDIT: These links have been removed because due to the logistical nightmare applying them to all pages fully was becoming.)

TextStudio (14th March 2005)

Over the past week I have made massive progress on TextStudio. It all came together over the past two nights, really, as I finally figured out a stable way to allow the user to pick between filenames or full paths in the dialogue windows. I also added about sixty new settings to the textstudio.ini file so that the size, position and state of dialogue windows is saved.

Additionally, I completely re-wrote the way that read-only files are handled which has drastically sped up multiple file and window operations. It’s all still a bit makeshift, though.

GTA 1 Updates (14th March 2005)

Lots of threads get made about “the old days” in GTA playing and modifying. I have realised that since these topics normally last for a good few pages, there must still be plenty of people out there who would be willing to download levels for it and play it. Therefore, I have committed myself to giving all of my GTA 1 levels a complete overhaul before 2006. It is a really big project to promise when I have so many other things going on (see the Blog) but I will only need to do it once.

Besides, now that I am more skilled at programming and have matured more as a person I should be able to make them all really cracking. I probably won’t add any new missions to them but I will get the current ones working perfectly, change all the messages so that they make more sense and fix all the little bugs in the maps. Not sure if I will fill up the empty areas on the maps but I do not really intend to.

Curveshire Team (9th March 2005)

Good news! Y-Less has officially joined the Curveshire project as the mission maker for both GTA 3 and GTA Vice City editions. So far, he has completely overhauled the GTA 3 script, fixing the random death bug and repositioning all the objects and spawn locations.

I have developed a new type of gameplay for the GTA Vice City edition using the woodenbox object with its generic.col entry modified and its object.dat line removed. The result is a trials riding section offering a totally unique and highly challenging experience. I made this post in the Curveshire Development thread to explain how it works in more detail, as well as show a screenshot of the section and a pair of small videos.

GTA 2 Scripting Guide (7th March 2005)

Yesterday I started work on re-formatting the big hypertext document Pyro sent me which contains loads of parameter lists and command structures for GTA 2 mission coding. Other people who have written script guides or research can submit their stuff to him and he will work with you to sort it all out. Once you have bug-checked it with him and made sure it actually works, he will then send it to me so I can format it, do any final editing and put it up into the Tutorials.

I am not sure when I will start work on this in earnest but rest assured that it will be worked on!

Sister’s Birthday (24) (7th March 2005)

Zoe is twenty-four years old today (she is four and a bit years older than me) and we are all going out for a meal to celebrate. Sort of combining it with Mothering Sunday which was yesterday.

Emma Re-visited (7th March 2005)

I went over to Emma’s place yesterday to pick up the last of my stuff. I am pretty sure that I have got it all back now. Didn’t stay long. Every time I went over there I caught headlice from someone, which my mum is combing out of my hair as I write this. Horrible little critters. Emma was being all friendly and cuddly while I was there though, which was a bit strange.

Application Updates (1st March 2005)

Thanks to Respawn pointing me to a forum where there was a simple tutorial about XP visual controls in VB6. All my applications have now been updated using the technique the tutorial describes so they will be rendered using the fancy Windows XP effects when run in that operating system. I also made some minor bug fixes, increased the width of command buttons and standardised the width of main form elements.

The updated programs are available from the Apps page.