On my birthday this year, the unthinkable occurred and things finally came full circle. For the first time ever, I’m joining the Apple world with an Apple M1-based MacBook Pro!
Portable, powerful and able to run on battery power for many hours*, this 16” MacBook Pro — which I’ve dubbed Mia — is without a doubt the most beautiful machine I’ve ever used. Although back in 2012 I moved away from using laptops as my daily driver, I can’t help but be more excited about using my MacBook than my desktop right now, probably because of how seamless the entire experience is compared to the usual Linux or Windows fare. Not to mention, of course, the astounding display quality compared to the 1080p 60 Hz dual screen experience.
* Apple claims this is approximately 14 hours of wireless web browsing, but we all know that’s based on an artificial “normal” workload that’s rather unlikely to happen in practice.)
Saying I’m happy would be a massive understatement, basically. 😄 And as you can see, I already customised it a fair bit to suit my personal aesthetic and preferences — sorry, fans of all-default settings!
After years and years of development, drama, script rewrites, field research, technological advancements, budget cuts, and temporal shenanigans, today, March 5th 2013, I can say for sure that After the Storm is complete with the release of the most important milestone yet: version 0.9.0, with all three episodes completed with 13 scenarios each.
A few caveats for people upgrading from the previous release:
This release adds the final Epilogue scenario for Episode III, which will become a bonus feature in 0.9.1. If you had previously finished AtS Episode III using versions 0.8.90 or 0.8.90.1, you will have a start-of-scenario save for the Epilogue scenario which you can use after upgrading to this version.
As usual, for the most stable experience I advise using Wesnoth 1.10.x — preferably 1.10.5 or a newer version when it becomes available. All episodes of this campaign were primarily developed and tested on 1.10.x, and there are subtle behavioral differences in the game engine between 1.10.x and 1.11.x that may break some sequences or cause other unintended side-effects.
Various issues reported by playtesters on Wesnoth 1.11.1 were fixed. Most notably, it implements a workaround measure for mainline bug #20373, which is relevant for Episode III scenarios starting from Dark Sea. People who experienced player information loss (recall and recruit lists, gold reserves) after Dark Sea on 1.11.1 will need to replay that scenario from the start-of-scenario save (NOT the Turn 1 save!) in order for Wesnoth to install the code in charge of solving that issue in later scenarios. This code will not work on Wesnoth 1.11.2 — you will need to finish Episode III on 1.11.1 before switching to 1.11.2 (whenever it is released, anyway).
This... has been a really long journey, to say the least, and I pretty much lost all hope of ever finishing this campaign at various points over past years. Development started in 2008 and quickly stagnated for various reasons:
Perceived lack/loss of interest from the audience
Excessive perfectionism on my part
Various IRL struggles, including health and personal matters
Constant conflicts of interest amongst the few people who were actually interested in IftU and AtS’ development
Mainline development tasks taking up my spare time
Wesnoth.org forums moderation and administration taking up my spare time
To say that I was overjoyed when the Big Mergetook place just a couple of weeks ago would be a big understatement. This campaign became for me more than just another Wesnoth campaign as time passed — it became a part of me I thought I had left behind when IftU was first completed, a testament to my chronic failure to drive my own projects to completion.
After the Storm changed a lot since it was originally conceived in 2008. The original draft was both over-pretentious and subpar, and it was not what I wanted to create after IftU. I wanted to create something better than IftU, but I locked myself in a trap by relying on source material that was already broken by design. Making a better sequel became my obsession, and that obsession led to AtS’ stagnation during the development of Episode I.
But some time mid-2011, I finally saw that trying to achieve perfection was a flawed goal in its own right. What I should have been aiming for all along was to make something fun, something from which I could learn, something I would enjoy to play and create. It was that realization that finally led me to complete Episode I, and the rest was a blaze; a blaze that culminates with this release, today.
The final product is neither perfect nor it aims to be such. I do not think this campaign is for everyone, seeing as how the gameplay and plot are very tightly knit together, and the overall scenario count goes up to 39 without taking cutscenes, segmented scenarios, and bifurcation into account; however, unlike IftU, every episode is a separate campaign in its own right, and I believe that makes the overall experience more enjoyable and less chaotic, balancing-wise.
When I first wrote IftU, my grasp of the English language was as poor as my handle of storytelling in general was, to say the least. This also applies to AtS Episode I up to scenario 9, part 2 — which became the turning point for the campaign’s development when I finally chose to renounce perfectionism and embrace the fun in creation. But I digress. AtS’ prose is all my own output with minor amendments from my playtesters and proofreaders, and an experiment in style wherein I take breaks from mainline conventions on purpose, in a subtle and calculated manner. Attentive players may be able to point out those inflection points from just paying attention at the characters and their interactions — characters whose flaws and mistakes are not as detached from reality as the game’s fantasy setting or the subtext-based delivery may suggest.
The three-episodes structure was mostly an afterthought. AtS episode III became an amalgamation of a previous planned AtS sequel and an aborted IftU prequel. But this structure fits the narrative better than the original plan. Episode I establishes the setting and motivations for the protagonists, and provides more hints about the overarching plot than IftU did; Episode II gradually develops further on the characters’ inner struggles while providing entertaining gameplay and dropping even more hints about the grand scheme; and finally, on Episode III things go off the rails in pretty much every way possible—including gameplay—and the plot reaches its final resolution within the scope originally intended for AtS.
Reception and expectations
Some people will be unable to find or interpret the hints and may see the finale as an out-of-the-blue succession of events, all because I avoided indulging in long and heavy exposition sequences that leave nothing to the player’s imagination and reading skills. I am perfectly aware that this is an inevitability, because it is absolutely impossible to please everyone, as I have learned from my experience with activities otherwise wholly orthogonal to the storytelling field. I think some UMC authors should really keep this in mind whenever they feel tempted to abandon their efforts just because a vocal segment of their players doesn’t like their output.
Other people will not like AtS because “it’s not like IftU”. Perfectionism aside, it is impossible for it to be like IftU after all that I have learned in the meantime about storytelling, life, people, and myself. The circumstances under which IftU was created were entirely unique and I would have to trade many things which I have gained or lost since then in order to create another IftU — and I would not be pleased by the result in the end.
I think AtS works just fine as an IftU sequel, and a sequel does not have to fully embrace the spirit of the original to be such. It’s not like AtS isn’t littered with callbacks to IftU in direct and meta levels anyway. There are a lot of things in it to enjoy, and a lot of things to hate — and both are part of the plan!
But in the end, all that matters to me is that I like the finished product, had fun making it, and learned lots of things along the road.
For those who might think that AtS’ finale is a definitive conclusion to the involved characters’ respective arcs: no, it is not — but I allotted a specific amount of time and scenarios for telling their origin stories, and the campaign had to end at some point. Is there enough material for sequels? Hell, yes, but I don’t see myself making another Wesnoth campaign given all the technical and non-technical limitations imposed by the platform. The three ultimate protagonists have a whole journey ahead of them (as well as more characters to meet), and I would like to explore that in some other medium in the future. For fellow Wesnoth UMC authors, though, there is plenty of material left to work with if you pay attention to every single minor detail.
Of course, I am open to questions about everything you may want to know about the campaign, be it via forum PM, or posts in the campaign’s development topic. But I would appreciate it if people didn’t post topics for every single thing in Writers’ Forum — when that happens, odds are I will just ignore those topics in their entirety and not take the effort seriously. As a matter of principle, if you want to ask a campaign author about their work, you ask them directly through their official communication channels instead of walking to the closest park holding a massive sign in your hand.
With AtS 0.9.0 released, all I have left to do is to take care of fine-tuning scenario and unit balance, fixing any remaining prose issues (especially those annoying unit type descriptions for the in-game help system), dealing with missing/placeholder/subpar pixel art, and somehow find a portrait artist willing to work under my specific terms. The latter part will probably take ages, so don’t hold your breath waiting for AtS 1.0.0.
I will be forever grateful to the people (and pets) who helped me along this arduous and extended quest, even those who did so unwittingly — if you are reading this, odds are that you know who you are.
To conclude this post, the changelog for this version follows:
* Milestone: all scenarios completed.
* Deployed code to work around a side-switching issue affecting Wesnoth
1.11.1 during post-Divergence (E3S6) scenarios. The corresponding
mainline bug is #20373 and it is fixed on 1.11.2.
* Fixed various "wesnoth.get_side is deprecated, use wesnoth.sides instead"
warnings on 1.11.x.
* Minor story text grammar, style, and punctuation amendments.
* E1S6 - Quenoth Isle (Elves of a Different Land):
UPDATE 2012-11-30: The problem described in this post no longer applies since yesterday 2012-11-29, as the ia32-libs* multiarch transitionals have finally landed in Testing. Installing libgl1-nvidia-glx:i386 after previously installing the rest of the NVIDIA stack from Experimental appears to work flawlessly.
Quite notably, everything is working fine with the latest Debian wheezy packages (although I compiled my own newer kernel later anyway) except for the onboard sound controller.
Ah! But not so fast! I had forgotten that Debian wheezy’s half-baked multiarch support has serious implications for 32-bit OpenGL-based software on the amd64 platform (a.k.a. x86_64 for everyone else), regardless of whether one is using a proprietary (e.g. NVIDIA) or free (Mesa) stack. In Reicore’s (Mesa) case, this meant that I had to stick to the version from ia32-libs in Testing, which is Mesa 7.7.1 — contrast with the native version, which is 8.0.4.
In Nanacore’s case, the implications span even more packages. The description of the libgl1-nvidia-glx-ia32 package in Testing (amd64 arch) says:
This is an empty transitional package to aid switching to multiarch.
Run the following commands to install the multiarch library:
dpkg --add-architecture i386 ; apt-get update
apt-get install libgl1-nvidia-glx:i386
And, surprise, surprise. That doesn’t work in Testing because of bug #686033 — fortunately for me, apt-get was wiser in blocking the operation due to some perceived conflicts.
In an attempt to solve this, I pulled the NVIDIA driver packages from Unstable and then tried to install libgl1-nvidia-glx:i386 again to no avail — it requires me to upgrade ia32-libs from the version in Testing to the one in Unstable, which is really a multiarch transition metapackage. After watching multiarch in Debian wheezy become such a major disappointment over time, I decided to do something different with libgl1-nvidia-glx:i386.
I decided to install it by hand.
The procedure was a little convoluted and involved a lot of symbolic links, and I’m not completely sure whether what I did works because I don’t have Wine installed right now and I don’t really want to install Debian’s packages because—again—they use multiarch support to pull nearly 92 MiB worth of redundant crap:
0 upgraded, 70 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 91.9 MB of archives.
After this operation, 265 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
Not to mention that by pulling Mesa it might as well break my little patchwork setup with NVIDIA’s 32-bit libGL here. This is not something I’m too keen on trying out while stuck on shitty 3.5G mobile broadband.
I intend to revisit and unravel this conundrum at a later point and try to understand and document my libGL installation solution but, again, I have bigger fish to fry.
It was only fitting that the seventh machine—a desktop—would be Nanacore (nana なな) then.
Intel Pentium T4300 2.1 GHz dual core
Debian testing (Wheezy)
Intel Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) 3.5 GHz HT quad core
NVIDIA GeForce GT610
Debian testing (Wheezy), Windows 7 (???)
Quite notably, everything is working fine with the latest Debian wheezy packages (although I compiled my own newer kernel later anyway) except for the onboard sound controller.
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 7 Series/C210 Series Chipset Family High Definition Audio Controller (rev 04)
The Intel HDA codec for these controllers is apparently not quite ready yet; as a result, the mixer sliders are slightly broken in that there is no master channel, the speaker channel has no actual volume slider, changing the PCM channel’s volume causes some slight noise, and I suspect some features are missing as well. Despite this, the driver works for basic usage given some precautions with the KDE sound system to choose the correct (PCM) channel for audio instead of the sliderless (speaker) channel. I would not mind to spend some additional time researching the situation later, but I really need to get back to work on non-audio stuff (a.k.a. AtS) right now, so that will have to wait.
Incidentally, the Debian KDE desktop task includes PulseAudio now (I believe this wasn’t the case with Squeeze). Rather unsurprisingly, PA continues to be a considerable annoyance for my usage (e.g. lockup during KDE login, 1% extra CPU usage during playback from any application), so I ditched it after a day or two for plain ALSA. I don’t really have a need for the extra layer of indirection since PA uses ALSA anyway and my sound needs are very basic — basically, just playing sound from media players, games, and application notifications.
For graphics I’m using a decidedly inexpensive NVIDIA graphics card for the sake of having an NVIDIA graphics card and parting ways with Mesa for a good while. And while I had intended from the get-go to install the proprietary drivers, a forced and thankfully short Nouveau intermission confirmed that Nouveau indeed eats kittens. And that’s really all there is to say on the matter.
Both the machine and Debian wheezy can do UEFI, but I quickly stumbled upon a couple of issues:
Using the EFI version of GRUB means the only way to get a working text console on Linux is to use a framebuffer console driver such as efifb. This is not supported by NVIDIA and the driver complains quite loudly about it.
The machine appears to enumerate my (USB) 3G modem’s built-in storage as the first and second hard disks when it is connected, breaking GRUB’s expectations about the location of the disk from which it will boot, which becomes the third (SATA) hard disk in such a situation. The PC BIOS version of GRUB only gets to see the real hard disk drive.
Since this is my first time dealing with an UEFI-based system yet, I don’t really know whether the second point is a bug in GRUB, or the platform itself. Regardless, the first point pretty much convinced me to not spend any further time on that and just go back to the BIOS flavor of GRUB. This doesn’t seem to have done anything for my broken Windows 7 installation, which I probably don’t really need.
I have been working on transferring my configuration and files from Reicore since this Monday, approximately, and I think I’m nearly ready to get back to business now.
(I actually wanted to post this on the 7th but I got sidetracked by the system migration and testing.)
First there was an old (1997) Windows 95 OSR 2 box boasting a P55C Intel Pentium processor with an staggering clock frequency of 166 MHz; 16 MiB of RAM (later expanded to 32), a 1.2 GB* hard disk; it had an onboard S3 Trio64V+ with 1 MiB of video RAM.
* Hard-disk manufacturer ‘gigabytes’.
Then, there was another OEM machine (2002), running Windows XP on a 1.3 GHz Intel Celeron (“Celeron-S”) including 256 MiB of RAM and a 40 GB hard disk; before it was decommissioned for good, it ran both Windows XP SP2 and openSUSE 10.0; it was the first machine on which I ever installed Linux (SUSE Linux 9.3), and my original introduction to Wesnoth (0.9.5 from openSUSE 10.0) happened there; the onboard Intel 810E IGP became the victim of various Linux graphics-related shenanigans. (This was the last computer I ever owned that included a 3.5" floppy disk drive; unfortunately, it was broken and it took me a year and various casualties to figure this out.)
Later during 2006, Blackcore appeared: another OEM machine running Windows XP SP2, equipped with a 2.6 GHz Intel Pentium 4 (Prescott) with Hyper-Threading; 1 GiB of RAM, a 160 GB hard disk, and an IGP from the biggest piece of shit chipset manufacturer otherwise known as VIA. This was my first named computer, a practice which has truly paid off to this day. It currently runs the same original installation of Windows XP upgraded to SP3; it has run various Linux distributions and versions and I’ve not stuck with any of them simply because VIA is the biggest piece of shit chipset manufacturer.
Following the color-themed naming scheme, Greycore became the first laptop I ever owned around mid 2007; an Acer Aspire 5050 including an AMD Turion 64 MK-36, an amount of RAM I don’t remember anymore, 80 GiB hard disk drive, and Windows Vista. It first ran openSUSE 10.2 and openSUSE 10.3 besides Windows for a long time, until I got fed up with an incident involving a security update utterly ruining my system with terrible timing. It took a while before I finally decided to switch to another distribution instead of keeping the same old 10.3 installation around, but it was worth it — Debian Lenny (testing at the time, Q3 2008) was my choice and I have stuck with Debian ever since.
Bluecore started with 2 GiB of RAM and ended up with 4 GiB as Wesnoth began to demand significantly more memory for compiling. The 2 GHz dual core AMD Athlon 64 performed very well at the beginning, but our favorite open source game’s development largely outpaced it. The 250 GB hard disk served me well despite running into low space situations in various opportunities as I began to experiment with the processor’s hardware-assisted virtualization capabilities. This overheating beast (51 °C - 64 °C idle, 65 °C - 92 °C under load) has only run Debian as its native operating system besides Windows — first Lenny (testing, later stable), then Squeeze (testing), and very recently, Wheezy (testing). The ATI Radeon HD 3200 was an infinite source of frustration when it came to OpenGL on Linux until very late 2009.
Its untimely and infuriatingly IGP-driven demise resulted in Reicore taking over; first temporarily, and then permanently as its 2.1 GHz dual core Intel Pentium T4300 and Intel GM45 graphics processor ended up proving far more worthwhile than Bluecore’s AMD-based configuration. Reicore (an HP Pavilion dv4-1624la) was purchased for someone else at first, and ran Windows 7 until she became mine, and then I proceeded to wipe it out to make room for Debian — first Squeeze (stable), and now Wheezy (testing). I have never run out of space with its 500 GB hard disk, and even today my /home partition has a little more than 50% of free space. It helps that the processor’s lack of virtualization capabilities has not been very encouraging in the virtual machine department, I guess.
Intel Pentium (P55C) 166 MHz
Windows 95 OSR 2.0
Intel Celeron (‘Celeron-S’) 1.3 GHz
openSUSE 10.0, Windows XP SP2
Intel Pentium 4 (Prescott) 2.6 GHz HT
Windows XP SP3, Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 (Squeeze)
AMD Turion 64 MK-38 2 GHz
ATI Radeon Xpress 1100
Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (Lenny), Windows Vista
AMD Athlon 64 X2 QL-62 2 GHz dual core
ATI Radeon HD 3200
Debian testing 2012-10-22 (Wheezy), Windows Vista SP1
As I previously reported, reicore’s hard disk might be dying. This is not surprising in the least, since I have been hearing loud noises from the drive during high activity since a long while — playing vanilla Minecraft is apparently the most straining task for it for some reason. Considering reicore didn’t present any such issues at the beginning, it’s possible the person who gave her to me when bluecore croaked did something bad to her while I wasn’t looking. He’s unlikely to confirm such a thing, though.
A short drive self-test last night revealed that one of the bad blocks is currently part of the very root filesystem. Since I started to consistently hit a bad block while logging into KDE, I decided to run e2fsck -c on all partitions from a Grml live CD system (also Debian-based).
(Yes, I just realized I inadvertently left the swap partition out of the emergency check procedure. I just ran badblocks on it in read-only mode and it appears to be clean.)
Scanning a 466 GiB hard disk for bad sectors isn’t a quick task, but it took just as long as it did with the 1.18 GiB disk on my first computer back in 1998 — about two hours and some minutes — and here are the good news: there are only two damaged sectors, both of them within the root filesystem, and only one file was lost: /usr/lib/libQtDesigner.so.4.7.3, provided by the libqt4-designer package in Debian wheezy.
Why the dynamic linker felt it necessary to access this file while launching Akregator and KMail during the login process is beyond me, but it’s good that nothing was lost, as I promptly reinstalled the package. Either way, I had a fresh pre-upgrade backup in my external 2 TiB hard disk drive ready just in case.
I’ll certainly have to get used to making backups more often than my previous, sloppy biweeklyn-weekly schedule. Thanks goodness for rsnapshot.