Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trackside Interview: Revian@HSpace 5.0




For those who remember the old-school MUSH space engine known as HSpace, which had its origins on Hemlock MUSH, there's good news: A new incarnation of the project is underway at hspace.org

Revian, one of the main developers working on HSpace 5.0, took some time to answer a few questions from the MUDdy Hobo:

MH: HSpace used to be THE top-of-the-line RP MUSH space engine - so what happened to it?

Revian: It went through the hands of several coders, initially HSpace 4 was done by Gepht. When he didn't have the time anymore I took it over and developed it into 4.2, from there it was developed on my several developers, most notably Mark Hassman, who, assisted by Gepht I believe, did some work on it. This lead to the 'trueline' branch, which eventually died off as the people working on it didn't have the time anymore to work on it.

MH: How did the new resurgence come about? What drove the revival to create HSpace 5.0?

Revian: Well, I was away from the community for a bit as I settled into my real life and didn't really have the time to work on anything. Now that my life calmed down a bit I felt I should have a look how HSpace was doing. When I discovered the state it was in I decided it was time to do something back for the community where I learned many of the skills I now use in my life on a day-to-day basis. And I decided I should contribute something back, developing a new, better version of HSpace seemed like the right thing to do. Since Mongo(Shawn Sagady) had been working on a revival attempt for HS 4, I decided to contact him, he immediately responded with great enthousiasm. Because of my greater programming experience I took the programming lead role, while Shawn does more of the design side, since that's where his skill vastly surpass my own.

MH: What do you consider to be the most promising features in the works for HSpace 5.0?

Revian: It's hard to say, but I'm very excited about the modular system design, which should allow players huge flexibility in configuring and tweaking their own ships. We also have the new pseudo-Newtonian physics system, which should allow a whole new level of ship control during ship to ship combat. Additionally I'm very glad with the somewhat integrated economy, which will allow cargo mass affecting ship maneuverability. And also harvesting of resources in space. Finally, I hope that the integrated autopilot will make the system much more easy to use and attractive to the community's none-code-heavy players.

MH: The old HSpace had some mods that allowed the engine to be used on games that weren't necessarily space-oriented but did have vehicles, such as aircraft, boats, and submarines. How much support will HSpace 5.0 have for that kind of functionality?

Revian: Initially we do not plan to support that, simply because it is not our main target. We will focus on supporting space very well, as I honestly believe it's better for us to do one thing well than a lot of things and features mediocre. As a development team we're always moving though and the future might very well offer such functionality.

MH: How are you approaching HSpace development to make it more RP-friendly?


Revian:
Well, first of all we've already received a lot of great suggestions from the community. We will be integrating better automation systems meaning on regular patrols more time can be spent roleplaying, and less to monitor every single gauche on the vessel. Also we will allow for more types of ship to ship (and bridge to bridge) communication. Finally we'll try and make the messages aboard the ship give more 'feel' to the vessel, we are examining the possibilities of windows in ship rooms for example that offer players in those rooms a view of space. We are not sure how much of that we can get into the first release though.

MH: What's the biggest challenge facing HSpace 5.0?

Revian: Well, asides from the things that will be challenging and we have control over, which is making it a true contribution to existing MUSHes and there system. A challenge we have less influence over lies in bringing it to the people and getting it to be used (and improved through feedback, suggestions and patches!) by the community.

MH: When are you aiming to release HSpace 5.0 for public consumption?

Revian: Currently we believe summer 2009 is a feasible time to have a fully functional initial release. That does not mean that it will contain all features requested, since we will continue to improve and develop it past that point. But it will provide all functionality needed to run a solid roleplaying (or social) environment on.

MH: Can HSpace 5.0 be used for platforms beyond PennMUSH? If not, are there any plans to eventually try to create mods that work with other platforms?

Revian: We will not be providing that functionality from the current development team, however we did take great care to make sure integration on other platforms is as easy as possible. For those technical amongst us, there are two files to be implemented, all functions from HSIface.h need to be implemented in a CPP file, and all hooks in HSIfacePennHooks.cpp will have to be duplicated for that platform. Internally HSpace uses no code that depends on Penn.

MH: What's your background with HSpace? With other coding projects?

Revian: I am a long time roleplayer(although time has not permitted me to roleplay for quite a while), I have experienced HSpace on several MUSHes, and also tried to develop a couple MUSHes using it, but never quite succeeded. In my daily life I'm a Software Engineer for a internet media company and I have experience with many open source packages (for example Mozilla, VLC, Qt), and have contributed to some.

MH: What inspirations colored the development of HSpace 5.0? (In the past, we've talked about how physics in 5.0 will let you mimic the spin-around-under-velocity-and-shoot maneuver from Babylon 5, for example.)

Revian: Well, I've always loved Sci-Fi, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica will most definitely have colored the development. Of course Star Trek, even though we will not Trek-orient the space system, and related technobabble will most definitely have had an influence. Last the people working on it and playing with it have inspired us, Shawn has contributed some great ideas and beaten some stupid ones out of me.

MH: What's been the biggest headache in trying to get HSpace 5.0 off the ground?

Revian: Getting people to take it seriously, thanks for helping with that!

MH: Developing a space system for a niche MUD population - a niche within a niche within a niche - seems like it might be a real boulder-up-the-hill sort of task. Why do it? Do you worry that you're investing a lot of time and energy in a system that might not get many eyes on it?

Revian: My personal ambition is mainly to learn, both in coding and in human relations it is a great learning experience to work on such a project. Although my real life job provides me with plenty of experiences and completely different learning experiences, it is within a strict corporate environment. This project gives me a chance to educate myself outside of that environment in different directions.

MH: Are there other similar applications you'd like to see developed for MUSHes?

Revian: I can't think of anything at the moment to be honest. I would love to eventually develop graphical extensions which would maintain the richness of text-based roleplaying but truly augment to the experience of the users environment.

Thanks to Revian for taking the time! And, if you're of a mind to check out the new HSpace, be sure to visit their testbed MUSH at the following telnet address: mindgames-studio.com 4201.

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