Newsletter February 2015

On (not) Writing

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Hello, and welcome to this month's Von Neumann Defense Force newsletter! I'm Hanno, VNDF's lead developer and chief newsletter engineer. This month, I'm going to talk about the following topics:

  • Writer's Block: I'm going to mix things up a little by writing about something different from our usual topics. Please enjoy my take on literary techniques, starting with everyones favorite: Writer's block!
  • Development Update: What happened since the last newsletter and what do I plan to work on next?
  • In Other News: Happenings from around the web that VNDF aficionados might take an interest in.

Have fun with this month's newsletter and please email any feedback to Do you have any questions about VNDF in general or the contents of this newsletter specifically? Let me know!

Writer's Block

So yeah, I don't really have an article this month. I had planned to start a new series, but when I sat down to actually write its first article, I failed to create anything coherent.

I went through the other planned topics too, with the same result. After a bit of struggling, I finally realized the reason: I don't have anything to say about those topic. I had just picked something that seemed related to VNDF and somewhat interesting, without really considering what my message was supposed to be.

At this point, I was sitting on a newsletter that had, except for the article, been ready to go for several days. I thought about alternative topics, but in the end decided to write this stupid apology instead, so I can get the newsletter out and get back to actually working on the game.

I'm very sorry for the lack of an article this month. I will put some thought into better topics over the next few weeks and I hope regular programming will resume with the March newsletter. Until then, have fun with the Development Update.

Development Update

The last few weeks of development have been pretty solid. These were my plans that I announced last month:

  • Finish work on the networking infrastructure
  • Figure out the remaining user interface issues
  • Deploy the new text-based version of the game, so newsletter subscribers can access it
  • Add space flight back into the game

I've managed to complete all points beside the last one, which is slightly better than I expected.

I got the networking stuff out of the way pretty fast. Shortly after sending out the last newsletter, I realized that I was being overambitious. The old networking code was certainly crappy and needed to be replaced, but I was wasting my time trying to create the perfect solution when all I needed was something simple that worked.

So that's exactly what I did. I scrapped the new networking infrastructure and replaced it with the new new networking infrastructure. It's not perfect, but it is reasonably clean, was quick to write and can be extended to handle more demanding situations as the need arises. Problem solved!

Next up was the user interface. This was way more work than I expected. There was a large number of details that I needed to figure out, both in the way I want the interface to work and in how to implement that reasonably. I managed to get the existing interface into a state I'm pretty happy about. I think the code that supports it leaves a lot to be desired, but it's good enough for now and can be improved along the way.

There's not much to say about the deployment of the new version. It's up and running now, and newsletter subscribers can access it through the link they got when signing up.

But enough talking, let's look at screenshots. Here's what the game looked like last month:

(click to enlarge)

And this month:

(click to enlarge)

Looks pretty similar, but there have been significant improvements to the user interface. The list of received broadcasts can be scrolled, there are colors to indicate what is currently selected and/or active and it works a bit better overall.

So what's up next?

  • The biggest priority right now is adding more features to the game, starting with navigation through space. Technical groundwork is important and a prerequisite for pretty much everything else, but more than anything I need to expand on the actual game right now.
  • There are still a few issues with the user interface, but those are smaller and can be done on the side. Not sure how much I'll do here beyond what's absolutely necessary.
  • This is not directly related to the game, but the website definitely needs some work. I'm not talking about the design (although that could use some work, too!), but the behind-the-scenes stuff. That's currently just hacked together and causes me more and more work the more content I write. I'd also like to learn a bit more about who visits the site, where they come from and what they do here.

I don't know yet how much I can get done, especially since I'm not sure yet what I will do about the website. You'll find about it next month, I guess!

In Other News

As always, I'm going to close the newsletter with some space- and gaming-related news from around the Internet.

New Pictures of Ceres

Dawn shot some new pictures. If all goes well, the spacecraft will have arrived at Ceres by the time next month's newsletter arrives in your inbox. Very exciting!

Successful Test Flight by ESA

ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) has completed its test flight. IXV is, as the name says, only a testing vehicle, but it will hopefully lead to new and interesting technology in the future.

Rockets of the World

A comparison of rockets, their sizes, payloads and number of flights: Rockets of the World.

See You Next Time

Do you have any questions about this newsletter or Von Neumann Defense Force in general? Send them to me! I'd love to do a Q & A in some future newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and see you again for next month's newsletter!