After the Storm 0.9.9

Version 0.9.9 is out, just in time for the holidays!

Since I have tested and developed this campaign primarily on Wesnoth 1.11.x since the 0.9.0 release, this version promotes support for Wesnoth 1.11.8 to official status. Because most of the campaign makes use of 1.11.x-specific features (both from me and other mainline developers) when available, it is quite possible that I will entirely drop support for Wesnoth 1.10.x in a future release even before the first Wesnoth 1.12 beta arrives. I still intend to make sure certain additions and changes for episodes II and III land before the last AtS version supporting 1.10.x, if time permits.

This 0.9.9 release primarily deals with prose corrections and improvements, and various other ‘cosmetic’ changes. There are also various fixes for some instances of dysfunctional AI recruitment on Wesnoth 1.11.7 and 1.11.8 resulting from the recruitment_save_gold aspect being enabled by default in those versions (but not 1.11.9 and later).

There isn’t much in terms of new graphics since the prose and code changes (plus some mainline stuff) have kept me far too busy to do much more than some doodles. On the other hand, this release contains various animation fixes and improvements to the Aragwaithi units ported from Era of Chaos. There are also a handful of balancing changes affecting both Aragwaith and non-Aragwaith units.

Also featuring in this release are a number of WML optimizations intended to reduce campaign load times — especially on 1.10.x, which has a slightly slower tokenizer implementation than 1.11.x. Since the affected bits of code have been completely rewritten in Lua, it is possible that I accidentally introduced new bugs in the process that I may have missed during my playthrough, extensive as it was.

There is also a new secret feature that is not mentioned in the changelog. What is it, you ask? Well, if I told you, that would ruin the surprise. Think of it as a Christmas present!

Finally, from this release onwards, After the Storm is no longer part of the Wesnoth-UMC-Dev Project, and will be hosted on GitHub instead. Ever since development of the campaign started, Wesnoth-UMC-Dev provided SVN repository hosting for both After the Storm and Invasion from the Unknown, but over time that has proved to be an inefficient solution due to technical and organizational concerns. Although the conversion process was not easy in the least, I believe that this move will make things easier for me in the long-term, since I had been using git-svn to work on IftU and AtS since late 2008 anyway.

Release tarballs will continue to be hosted by Wesnoth-UMC-Dev for the time being, until I decide to phase them out entirely in favor of GitHub’s Releases page. If anyone is using them because they cannot normally download AtS or AtS_Music from the add-ons server, I’d appreciate it if you let me know so I can make a more informed decision in the future (or point you to, that works too). For the time being, the tarball compression format has changed from Bzip2 (.tar.bz2) to xz (.tar.xz).

Special thanks to vultraz and 8680 for their proofreading assistance, without which this release would be about 1% less awesome. Also thanks to the current and past Wesnoth-UMC-Dev admins, AI/AI0867 and Espreon, for their continued support all these years — IftU and AtS simply wouldn’t be the same without Wesnoth-UMC-Dev.

The complete changelog for this version follows:

Version 0.9.9:
* General:
* Removed Wesnoth development versions warning from the campaign menu entries
as support for 1.11.8 and later is now mature.
* New complete algorithm for calculating the relative direction between two
hex grid locations, handling all six intrinsic facing directions instead
of only SW and SE.
* Updated Aragwaith faction from Era of Chaos 1.3.1+dev up to commit
* Stripped optional whitespace from terrain map and mask files, decreasing
uncompressed directory size by about 62%.
* Graphics:
* New or updated unit graphics: Blood Core, multiple Aragwaith units, Demon
* Assigned a more dignified generic portrait to Cron (1.11.x only).
* Music and sound effects:
* Mitigated `[fade_out_music]` causing a portion of the previous track to be
heard at full volume at the end of the fade-out sequence. It still won't
help in all cases.
* Scenarios:
* Fixed additional bugs with hero ellipses on Wesnoth 1.11.6 and later
affecting Anya on every scenario and Durvan on scenario E3S7B and later.
* Use STARTING_VILLAGES_ALL instead of STARTING_VILLAGES with large numbers
to assign all villages to sides.
* Skip inclusion of death events for characters that are not present during
the first few scenarios of E1.
* E1S3 - Civil War in the North:
* Fixed the first defined on-map unit (usually Galas) becoming permanently
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S4 - Terror at Dusk:
* Balancing changes to make the scenario easier on Wesnoth 1.11.7 and
later, possibly connected to the new AI recruitment gold saving aspect
introduced in Wesnoth 1.11.7 and enabled by default.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S5 - Bay of Tirigaz:
* Made it so Mal Keshar speaks for bat units when investigating shipwrecks.
* Minor map tweaks.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S6.1 - Quenoth Isle:
* Fixed Elynia's ellipse reverting to a generic unit ellipse on 1.11.x
during the faerie fire cutscene.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E1S6.2 - Elves of a Different Land:
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* Extended map for large screens.
* E1S7 - The Search for the Past:
* Improved ending cutscene transition.
* Minor AI adjustments to make the undead minions recruit correctly on
Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E1S7x - Resolutions:
* Minor map tweaks.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E1S8 - Fear:
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E1S9.1, E1S9.2, E1S9.3 - The Triad:
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* Various cutscene improvements and changes.
* E1S10 - Tears:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S11.1 - Return to Wesmere, part 1:
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E1S11.2 - Return to Wesmere, part 2:
* Fixed story text not appearing because of a missing macro inclusion
(long-standing bug that's existed ever since the scenario was first
* Minor map tweaks.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S12 - The Queen:
* Balancing changes.
* Excluded time area for the E1S11.2 starting area on Wesnoth 1.11.7 and
earlier (including 1.10.x) due to a bug with time area ids not being
saved, resulting in a time area with local lighting that interfers with a
cutscene sequence after reloading from a non-start-of-scenario save.
* Fixed long-standing offset-by-one bug with a terrain mask applied near
the end.
* Minor map tweaks.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* Various cutscene improvements and changes.
* E1S13 - Death and Rebirth:
* Minor cutscene improvements and changes.
* E2S1 - By the Moonlight:
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* Now the scenario lives up to its name.
* E2S2 - The Heart Forest:
* Fixed fog not being cleared correctly when Allyna first appears.
* Made it so Allyna introduces herself once three of the five bandits have
been killed rather than all of them.
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S3.1 - Unrest in Raelthyn:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S3.2 - Revelations:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S4 - Shifting Allegiances:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S5 - The Eastern Front:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S6 - The Voyage Home:
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E2S7 - The Voyage Home:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S8 - And then there was Chaos:
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Not-so-minor prose tweaks.
* E2S9 - New Hive:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S10 - The Betrayal:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E2S11 - A Final Confrontation:
* Maybe-minor prose tweaks.
* Minor cutscene tweaks and improvements.
* E2S12 - Fate:
* Minor cutscene tweaks and improvements.
* E3S0 - Opening (Within):
* Minor cutscene tweaks and improvements.
* E3S1 - Beyond her Smile (A Light in the Darkness):
* Minor map tweaks.
* Various cutscene improvements and changes.
* E3S2.1 - Return to Raelthyn:
* Minor map tweaks.
* Increased initial gold supply for the second human player side.
* E3S2.2 - Reckoning:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S3 - Amidst the Ruins of Glamdrol:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S4.1 - Outpost of Hell:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S4.2 - Gateway:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S5 - Pass of Sorrows:
* Minor map tweaks.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* Minor ending cutscene improvements.
* E3S6 - Divergence:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S7A - Dark Fire:
* Prevent crashing Wesnoth 1.11.8 due to a missing initial time of day
(part 1 only).
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Minor map tweaks.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S7B - Dark Sea:
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S8A - Interim:
* Prevent crashing Wesnoth 1.11.8 due to a missing initial time of day.
* Minor cutscene improvements nobody could possibly notice.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S8B - Destiny, part 1:
* Minor aesthetic changes nobody could possibly notice.
* Fixed parts of the map being unintentionally uncovered upon entering
Hemérilyel's chamber.
* Made Hemérilyel more aggressive towards the player on Wesnoth 1.11.2 and
* E3S8C - Breakdown:
* Minor AI adjustments for Wesnoth 1.11.7 and later.
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S8D - Destiny, part 2:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S9 - Dark Depths:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S10 - Blood:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S11 - After the Storm:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S12 - Destiny, part 3:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E3S13 - Epilogue:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* Units:
* Balancing changes:
* Imps are now immune to the plague weapon special.
* The Protection ability affects own units of any lower level again instead
of only level 0 and 1.
* Affected units: Demoness Hellbent Tide, Aragwaith Shield Guard,
Aragwaith Ancient Banner.
* Physical endurance no longer resets statuses (poisoned, slowed, etc.).
* Decreased Lumeril Glyph Mistress' arcane damage resistance from -10% to
* Decreased Fallen Faerie's cold ranged attack strength from 11-3 to 10-3.
* New or improved unit animations: Verlissh Matrix Core, Shaxthal Custodian
Drone, Shaxthal Queen, Verlissh Matrix Flow System, Verlissh Control Spire,
multiple Aragwaith units, Dusk Faerie line.
* Made it so the Falcon unit type and the lightfly movetype are only defined
if the mainline Khalifate faction is not present, by testing the existence
of core/units/khalifate/Falcon.cfg.
* Fixed a minor inaccuracy at the beginning of the Terror ability
* The spawn controller code (used e.g. in Shaxthal hives) has been completely
rewritten in Lua. No behavior changes expected.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, everyone!

After the Storm 0.9.0

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, 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
  • forums moderation and administration taking up my spare time

To say that I was overjoyed when the Big Merge took 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.

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:

Version 0.9.0:
* General:
* Milestone: all scenarios completed.
* Scenarios:
* 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):
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S7 - The Search for the Past:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S12 - The Queen:
* Minor prose tweak.
* E1S13 - Death and Rebirth:
* Fixed minor prose issue ("take risky choices" -> "make risky choices").
* E2S2 - The Heart Forest:
* Minor prose tweak.
* E2S11 - A Final Confrontation:
* Minor cutscene improvements near the end.
* E2S12 - Fate:
* Minor cutscene improvements.
* E3S8C - Breakdown:
* Don't allow summoning Fire Guardians until the player enters the
underground river passage.
* Fix objectives display inconsistencies throughout the scenario.
* Minor cutscene improvements.
* E3S8D - Destiny, part 2:
* Fixed Anya's movements not being undoable.
* E3S9: Dark Depths:
* Fixed minor cutscene glitches.
* E3S10 - Blood:
* Add a context menu item displaying a list of available attack
combinations and their effects.
* E3S13 - Epilogue:
* New scenario.
* Units:
* Balancing:
* Decreased Demon Slashing Gale's melee attack from 11-3 to 10-3.
* Decreased Demon Slashing Gale's ranged attack from 10-5 to 9-4.
* Fixed Chaos Arbalestier ranged attack animation failing to trigger.
* Fixed Shaxthal Turret not getting the biomechanical trait.
* Fix multiple "Descriptions should no longer include the name as the first
line" warnings on 1.11.1 and later.
* Fix unit types with missing faction prefixes in their names:
* Arbalestier -> Chaos Arbalestier
* Cataphract -> Chaos Cataphract
* Crossbowman -> Chaos Crossbowman
* Heavy Longbowman -> Chaos Heavy Longbowman
* Hide private variations for regular unit types from the help system on
* Killed Kri'tan.

The full changelog—for versions 0.3.0 through 0.9.0—can be found here.

After the Storm: Not so fast

Everyone who follows me on Twitter can stop reading here.

This very specific issue is why After the Storm 0.8.90 isn’t published yet. vultraz completed his playtesting within less than 24 hours after the Big Merge, and various critical fixes have already landed in trunk.

After the Storm: Big Merge done, 0.8.90 on the horizon

The first After the Storm commit to Wesnoth-UMC-Dev’s trunk happened on May 17th, year 2008.

Today, February 19th 2013, after years and years of development, with various real life and non-real life issues getting in the way and dooming the campaign to Development Hell until version 0.4.0 with a completed Episode I finally happened on October 16th 2011, I can say for certain that...

After the Storm is finally complete.

With the Big Merge done and all the Episode III post-Divergence content (sans the Epilogue scenario) finally landed in Wesnoth-UMC-Dev trunk, the next step is releasing AtS version 0.8.90 to the public.

r17177 | AtS: bump version from 0.8.5+svn to 0.8.90-svn in the changelog after the Big Merge
r17176 | AtS: [Big Merge] workaround issues with the test suite and macros from data/core/units.cfg
r17175 | AtS E3: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence maps and scenarios
r17174 | AtS E3: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence ancillary macros, story text, character macros, and death handlers
r17173 | AtS: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence units WML, baseframes, halos, and animations
r17172 | AtS: [Big Merge] merge macros used for post-Convergence content
r17171 | AtS: [Big Merge] remove conditional loading of finale-stage scenarios and units
r17170 | AtS: bump version from 0.8.5+svn to 0.8.90-svn before the Big Merge
r17169 | AtS E3S6: enable scenario in regular gameplay

There will be a delay between this and the actual public 0.8.90 release while my primary playtester (vultraz) does the playtesting thing with the scenarios. Some balancing changes before 0.8.90 may also be necessary.

In the meantime, people can check out After the Storm from Wesnoth-UMC-Dev trunk using the Subversion client of their choice, and provide me with feedback via forum PM (in particular, about any possible bugs or balance issues that might plague some specific scenarios), or private messaging on IRC — I am on, channel ##shadowm most of the time, but I would rather avoid people dropping spoilers in the presence of my aforementioned playtester, who also hangs around there.

UPDATE: Since I haven’t gotten around to publish version 0.2.0 of the AtS Music add-on, you will also need to obtain the latest version from SVN separately, since it introduces a few music tracks used in the new AtS Episode III scenarios. Of course, this is only necessary if you want/need to have in-game background music.

UPDATE 2: AtS Music version 0.2.0 is now in the 1.10 and 1.11.x add-ons servers. The previous version was 12.3 MiB in size, whereas the new version is 22.7 MiB. I actually had to do some re-encoding to bring it down from 33.1 MiB, but there shouldn’t be any noticeable compression artifact build-up — or at least, I cannot perceive any with my headphones on.

svn co
svn co

You can also grab tarballs of the latest trunk snapshots through’s SVN web interface:

This last alternative is probably not the best, though, since you will not be able to track future updates. Subversion makes it far easier to update every time a changeset is committed, without having to download the whole thing every time.

I am not going to provide any further instructions for installing using either of these methods, so I’m leaving this to people who actually know their way around Subversion tools or manually installing add-on content. I am not going to post any spoilers either; in particular, I am not going to reveal the Epilogue sequence until version 0.9.0.

Special thanks go to Espreon, Gambit, and vultraz for making all of this possible in their own ways. I will probably explain the deal with AtS’ troubled development in a new post in the near future (probably after 0.8.90 is properly published).

Thanks to all those who waited this long for this to happen. For those who are eager to playtest this and don’t know their way around the aforementioned things, I can only promise that the wait for 0.8.90 will be much shorter. A couple of weeks, tops.

Finally, the usual disclaimer applies: this campaign is not for everyone.

irker-svnpoller: Subversion poller and mail filter application for irker

Just as irker’s adoption rate is increasing, I have just completed work on a very simple application for Subversion repositories — two applications, in fact.

irker-svnpoller is a very simple script that polls a single commit log (not data) from a Subversion repository and delivers notifications to any number of channels using an irkerd running on the same host. It mimics the CIA bots’ formatting, much like nenolod’s irker CIA proxy, from which I borrowed a small amount of code.

irker-svnpoller → irkerd

But exactly how is this supposed to be useful to anyone, you may be wondering right now? Well, irker-svnpoller is not really intended to be used stand-alone. A timed poller script that tracks the last notified revision could come in handy, but people could get impatient waiting for their commits to appear in their IRC channels minutes later. I am well familiarized with the defects, quirks, and virtues of my primary audience—the Battle for Wesnoth and Wesnoth-UMC-Dev projects—and this approach would simply not scale well over time.

Enter the first companion script, svnmail-filter. It reads email message headers from stdin to determine a commit’s revision number and the pertinent repository to probe using irker-svnpoller. Configuration is mostly done through a ruleset file using the JSON format.

Of course, svnmail-filter is not that useful on its own either. The idea is that procmail or some other MDA should pipe incoming email headers through svnmail-filter — and preferably, only those from legitimate sources, such as subscribed commit mailing lists. This is actually simpler than it sounds, and it is more or less inspired by’s perpetually broken mail-based SVN poller.

MDA → svnmail-filter → irker-svnpoller → irkerd

Since no service in the pipeline other than irkerd runs persistently in the background, this should be significantly more fault-resilient than’s approach, which apparently required a poller service to listen and act upon local requests. The downside is that the host running irker-svnpoller may need to create many short-lived SVN repository connections for individual commits in a chain. In Wesnoth’s case, SVN commit chains are rare enough, but their size often goes around a dozen individual commits or so. Regardless, this shouldn’t be terribly concerning for a production server with a decent low-latency uplink, and the overhead on the repository provider should be rather small compared to pushing massive commit diffs across the network.

Right now, the Wesnoth and Wesnoth-UMC-Dev projects are using this service as a stopgap measure until their respective providers— and—allow installing a hook that can either talk directly to an irkerd server, or to an instance of the aforementioned CIA proxy using the CIA XML-RPC method.

I am not all that keen on other people using a piece of software I developed and tested within less than three days without any prior experience working with Python. There are also various problems inherent to any application depending upon Subversion and its incompetent network transport layer.

Nonetheless, I published a Git repository on GitHub including a small amount of documentation to get started:

I am open to possible improvements coming from people intending to use this on production servers. In particular, if someone out there works with a commit mailing list where revision numbers can’t be found in mail subjects it would be necessary to adapt svnmail-filter a little to handle that case. Perhaps it might even be possible to skip the irker-svnpoller step for mailing lists where the notification message structure is constant and well documented.

Exit, enter irker

Following’s untimely demise, ESR and a small ad hoc group of coders and testers including nenolod (from Atheme) and our very own AI0867 (who has led Wesnoth-UMC-Dev in my absence) finally completed the work required to get irker 1.0 out. irker itself has been a work in progress for a while since the last CIA outage in August.

It’s advertised as a replacement, but in reality it is something far less ambitious in scope: a write-only IRC bot that serves its own message bus. From its own README:

irkerd is a specialized IRC client that runs as a daemon, allowing other programs to ship IRC notifications by sending JSON objects to a listening socket.

It is meant to be used by hook scripts in version-control repositories, allowing them to send commit notifications to project IRC channels. A hook script,, supporting git and Subversion is included in the dustribution (sic); see the install.txt file for installation instructions.

The author’s intention is for existing code forges to adopt this service, and perhaps optionally run it on their own facilities alongside their VCSes, allowing repository admins to opt in for using hooks that deliver notifications to those internal irker instances. irker’s pipeline is extremely flexible and can be summed up as follows:

Repository hook → irker instance → IRC server’s pipeline is not entirely clear to me and I did not have the opportunity to inspect it from inside, unlike ESR. However, there’s enough evidence suggesting that it was more or less like the following:

Repository hook → XML-RPC or mail provider → database manager → IRC front-end → IRC server

Note that there was also a web front-end, which was integral to CIA’s mission as it was the only way to define projects and bots. A commit notification occurred for a given project; say, Wesnoth-UMC-Dev. The IRC portion of the pipeline made sure that all relevant bots (each one associated to a single channel from the model standpoint) would report the same commit. A less relevant Web front-end in the pipeline took care of adding the commit to the project page (including statistics and an XML feed).

The IRC portion was flexible enough to accommodate the simplest use case (notifying a single project’s commits in a single channel), and more elaborate yet still reasonable use cases (notifying commits from multiple projects in a single channel) without much hassle, all done by tweaking the bots’ configuration in the web-based configuration front-end. Even more advanced use cases were possible by choosing the Advanced Filtering option in the same front-end. This allowed me to have a bot in ##shadowm on freenode report commits as follows:

  • Commits from wesnoth-umc-dev (already reported in #wesnoth-umc-dev) with paths matching */After_the_Storm/* and */Invasion_from_the_Unknown/*, regardless of author
  • Commits from my own CIA-registered projects (morningstar, weldyn, dorset, etc.) regardless of author
  • Commits from any other CIA-registered project (such as Wesnoth or Frogatto) with an author matching my real name or any of my preferred screen names (fun fact: never got any false positives since I set it up a couple of years ago)

I should emphasize that this required no changes to hooks in each repository. Hooks delivered just a minimal set of information, including the commit hash or number, the commit message, affected path, affected branch (when applicable), affected module (when applicable), the author name, and the project name. Everything else was done on CIA’s side, including deciding which channels should get notified of individual commits.

irker does not do this.

irker’s perceived elegance stems from its very basic and versatile design. Essentially, it serves as a mechanism for a repository hook to interact with IRC without having to establish a short-lived connection to a server for every individual commit or commit batch — an approach that GitHub currently allows via a separate, seldom used IRC service hook. irker is not novel in design by any means, and the hype around it is only justified by the fact that nobody bothered to create and advertise any other service that could properly replace before and be inherently extensible maintainable over time.<

irker’s extensibility and maintainability stems from the fact that a good portion of the work is done by the repository hooks, and irker is near completely stateless — the obvious opposite of’s architecture.

Unfortunately, this renders advanced use cases such as the above ##shadowm CIA ruleset completely incompatible with the irker pipeline.

From ESR’s post on’s design and its shortcomings:

[...] the original designer fell in love with the idea of data-mining and filtering the notification stream. It is quite visible on the CIA site how much of the code is concerned with automatically massaging the commit stream into pretty reports. I’m told there is a complicated and clever feature involving XML rewrite rules that allows one to filter commit reports from any number of projects by the file subtrees they touch, then aggregate the result into a synthetic notification channel distinct from any of the ones those projects declared themselves.

(He somehow got this part slightly wrong. Incidentally, it was me who brought it up in #cia around August 25th in the first place. The projects’ own notification channels were as synthetic as any others from’s point of view. That is to say, not at all. Additionally, they weren’t XML rewrite rules, but rather commit matching rules.)

His opinion is, naturally...

Bletch! Bloat, feature creep, and overkill!

Yes, I admit that it is overkill, but it was a nice thing from our point of view as users of the system. There’s a line between using a service, and administrating it.

On the plus side, seeing as how irker aims to become an actual standard for IRC feeds of any sort (not just for VCSes), it is good that it only implements the most basic functionality by itself. This should later allow us to come up with ingenious applications such as nenolod’s CIA proxy for irker (delivers XML-RPC requests in a format suitable for irker). Some people have even proposing building new services using irker’s protocol, adding an authentication layer on top and integrating it to IRC networks as a hosted service!

But replicating the end-user functionality a few people like me enjoyed will invariably take some additional effort. ESR suggests:

Filtering? Aggregation? As previously noted, they don’t need to be in the transmission path. One or more IRC bots could be watching #commits, generating reports visible on the web, and aggregating synthetic feeds. The only agreement needed to make this happen is minimal regularity in the commit message formats that the hooks ship to IRC, which is really no more onerous than the current requirement to gin up an XML-RPC blob in a documented format.

Of course, if the #commits channel on freenode ever regains its former glory, this would require a bot to listen to and filter possibly thousands of messages per minute, all coming from multiple clients. I don’t think I am fit to become the pioneer who’ll conquer this new land.

Furthermore, since the task of formatting messages for individual commits is exclusive to individual hooks, we may end up with a highly fragmented and inconsistent ecosystem. For example, as things stand right now, no-one is required to include #commits on freenode as a destination for commit notifications, and I imagine very few people will bother to do so in the future.

All in all, it was our own incompetence that allowed to die prematurely despite the multiple calls for replacing it, and the obviously deplorable service conditions. We can’t really complain now. is dead

I normally don’t comment or report on other sites’ statuses in here since this is my personal blog, but this situation actually impacts Wesnoth, Wesnoth-UMC-Dev, and me directly; especially me, considering I went to ridiculous lengths the other day to solve a related issue on GitHub.

The point is literally the title of this post: is dead.

You know,; that amazing service which provided real-time VCS commit notifications on various IRC networks and that everyone took for granted. This is by no means the first time it bites the dust, but in this opportunity it’s suspected that nobody really bothered to make backups.

nenolod (who was merely hosting the instance running explained the situation in freenode’s #cia channel about an hour ago.

Assuming the other people who had admin access don’t have their own recent backups,’s future looks particularly bleak right now. Here’s hoping that a dedicated team of competent coders with access to a suitable server for hosting will quickly build a better replacement within the next few days. (Ha, ha, ha. Right.)

After the Storm 0.5.0

The idea of continuing and developing the Invasion from the Unknown storyline further was in my mind from the beginning, and I apparently started to work on a sequel on May 2008, if the Wesnoth-UMC-Dev registry is anything to go by.

After the Storm’s development has been repeatedly impacted and put at risk by various “real life” issues.

Earlier this year, I decided to go back to work on the campaign after a long hiatus — so long I don’t remember how long anymore — but my attempt ultimately failed anyway. I promised a delivery, but the delivery did not happen.

Until I rediscovered the fun in video games. Then, magic ensued.

I said I would try to finish the first episode of the campaign before December. I am glad to say that mission has just been accomplished. After the Storm 0.5.0 is out in the Wesnoth 1.9.x add-ons server, with the first episode (that’s 13 scenarios) complete!

For those who’d rather read a terse piece of text with no emotive speech in it, the changelog for this version follows:

Version 0.5.0:
* Scenarios:
* 09 - The Triad (part 3):
* Fixed problems with the final cutscene on Wesnoth 1.9.8 and earlier.
* 11 - Return to Wesmere (part 2):
* New scenario.
* Completed episode I.
* Units:
* Removed Skirmisher ability from Elynia.
* Spawners have a small chance of deactivating themselves after spawning a

I have tried to make sure AtS remains playable on Wesnoth 1.9.8, but my primary development target is still 1.9.9 and support for 1.9.5, 1.9.6 and 1.9.7 is mainly theoretical at the moment. If you encounter any “Invalid WML errors” or such, and you are using Wesnoth 1.9.7 or earlier, try with Wesnoth 1.9.8 or 1.9.9 instead if you can, and give me some feedback in the forum thread so I can address any such issues as soon as I may.

I take this opportunity to remind you that you can also find and follow me on Twitter as @irydacea or join my personal channel ##shadowm in the freenode IRC network.

Have a lot of fun!

Wesnoth-UMC-Dev: A Retrospective

Today, after Wesnoth-UMC-Dev reached its most important milestone, I have decided to step down from the project administrator position to leave the decision making and user support tasks to Espreon and AI0867, who have done an undeniably good job in my absence the last year while I was busy working on other projects.

This does not mean that I’m completely breaking my ties with this exciting platform for add-on development which ESR and I founded. I’ll continue to take care of infrastructure matters such as the website design, content and coding, the Registry tools and miscellaneous utilities whenever I have time; I’m not going to abandon After the Storm either, since I continue to be a user of the project either way.

I mentioned that I’d be following up the official r10000 announcement with the history of the Wesnoth-UMC-Dev Project. Most of the content below is taken from an interview I recently had with BfWEthnographer which eventually touched this subject.

Continue reading “Wesnoth-UMC-Dev: A Retrospective