The Toybox Experience

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The Toybox Experience

Post by Damian Payne on Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:33 pm

Damian's Log

From concept to actuality, Toybox has changed quite a lot. I couldn't imagine what it would turn into, but here we are... even having started so recently, we're already nearing its expected end.

Left 4 Dead 2, for me, began with modded servers. As another creative outlet, I wanted to experience all that L4D2 had to offer, making every possibility a reality with game and mod. Spawning became building, building became sculpting. And for nearly a year of residing under the care and watch of the SGC Servers, I had taken in what I thought was everything.

Enter: the opening of Toybox

One might find it hard to define what Toybox is and even I can't describe it in full to grasp the scope of it. The initial intent and motivation that drove Toybox was to take all that I had come to love about the SGC servers... and then take it to the next level.

So Toybox comes standard with all the necessities: low gravity, increased crouch speed, jetpack, tankbuster, building, and an element of competition, which for SGC was the ranking system. There were two ways I could get to that 'next level' I had wanted. Either pile on all the fancy plugins I could find and let everyone play with all the toys in the server, or improve on the necessities. I tried doing both.

FIRSTLY, to improving necessities was to make the overall experience better for players. There wasn't much that could be done other than address issues that were brought about by them. Spamming was always a possibility with building and the tankbuster menu. The ranking system at times became too competitive and caused much, dare I say, drama. Ranks were merely aesthetic and didn't affect gameplay.

With those two issues in mind I created the Toybox RPG. That competitive element took form with leveling. Helping the team gave you EXP, killing infected gave you both EXP and Cash. Higher levels unlocked abilities to buy. Some of those abilities included what was brought by all the extra plugins and some were written by me. Players were rewarded more experience points for reviving, healing, and defibing players, strengthening what little teamwork there was.

The tankbuster menu was replaced by the Buy menu, now you needed to spend earned cash to spawn items which discourages spamming, especially for newcomers. The prices were kept relatively low for items that could hardly affect other players and that couldn't affect the server unless in large quantities. Prices increased for items that could better affect/annoy players like the grenade launcher (lag bomb), bile jar (finale stopper+zombie grinding), and explosive ammo (annoyance).

Even though the plugins were there, many players didn't know they existed. You either needed to watch as other players typed in chat commands, have known about them before, were told about them by friends or actually looked up the command index under sm_help. Because of this, building became somewhat of a secret, available only to the select few that knew how to use the console and the prop spawning commands. Players saw it as something that put them about others, a withholding of knowledge...

Players needed to be informed. They'll never read the message of the day unless told to. Chat advertisements were displayed informing players that, if they wanted to use these chat commands, needed to open the MOTD to find them. And the Toybox MOTD... does not fuck around. It's complete with an entire listing of all the chat commands, console commands, and plugin features that are publicly accessible by players. It has tutorials on enabling the console, binding keys, and tutorials on building and finding models. But let's not stop there. What I also thought was needed was a centralized, uniform method to access these plugin features. Players didn't want to type out all this stuff to start off with, so let's just give them 1 command. 1 universal command. And with that, spawned the Toybox Universal Menu which categorizes almost all features provided by the plugins.

The Toybox menu also houses the Build Menu, a menu intended only for beginners just entering modded servers. It lists out a few pages of what I thought were essential props and also has options for rotating/deleting. It has a spam block mechanism and a separate menu for spawning working doors. In a sense, it even discourages using it. The spam block and adverts to bind rotate/delete to keys tries to deter players and persuade them to instead use key binds (like a boss).

Low gravity affects special infected as well. This makes the hunter and jockey almost completely harmless since they they'd pounce/jump right over your head. I added a fix that sets their gravity back to default when they spawn.

SECONDLY, to add to the server's arsenal of 'toys', I tried looking for a bunch of fancy plugins to throw into the mix. While I did find many that were useful, there are even more that just seem silly - even for Toybox. I can't keep up with their updates. There are conflicting plugins that cause issues. Overall server stability seems off because of it all. It's hard to even trace which plugin is responsible for crashes and bugs. There were actually so many issues I had to create an entire Toybox Fixes plugin just to resolve them. Many of these plugins I plan to rewrite eventually to address compatibility and general bugs. But for now, I plan to scrap them.

Toybox Fixes
  • Helps Fix the Spectator Bug - players would get stuck in spectator after Taking A Break or going afk and having the bot automatically takeover.
  • Fixes Infinite Tank Death Loop - When a tank handles damage awkwardly before death, its hardcoded temporary health doesn't function properly.
  • Fixes Bots Missing/Disappearing



Toybox Here and Now

It's hard to continue both writing plugins and maintaining the server with all the plugins at the same time. Toybox, as it is currently, is kind of a mess. It's not very stable and it's riddled with inconsistency. I don't like it being as bloated as it is, but I'd like to keep and improve on what makes Toybox unique, so here's my plan:

  • Remove the RPG
    The plugin itself is huge. ~4000 lines of code just to keep competition and spamming in check. To save players' stats, it sends and receives data from a text file stored on the server. Because there had been issues in one of its earlier versions with saves not working properly, I tried to ensure the data was sent by adding save calls at various points in the code - when the player gets a kill, heals, defibs, revives, etc. This made saving work ~99%. I still can't figure out what's causing that 1% failure as just yesterday someone's stats got reset. Because so many calls are being made to access this text file, it also has potential to cause quite a bit of lag. There's just too much room for error.

    Also, if Toybox were to expand and we gained more servers, that data wouldn't be accessible across servers. I would have to store all the stats on some external database and include an entirely new system for saving into the RPG code.

  • Replace the RPG
    While I can't completely abolish some elements that the RPG brings, I can still rework it into a simpler system. I can make a dumbed down version of the RPG where players stats are instead saved in the players' cookies. I have no experience with coding in the cookies, so I don't know their limitations and how long they will last, this might only be a temporary save. A system where the players' stats are reset when they leave is also a possibility. Of course with that, maximum level would be something like ~20. I can make everything open without the need for cash, just like before. BUT, instead of using cash to keep spamming in check I can instead use a similar (and upgraded) spam block mechanism that the build menu has.

  • Remove All the Unnecessary Plugins
    I already have a list of plugins I'm definitely removing. Though some of them, which are more minor, I'll let the public decide if they want them or not:

    1. Slowmotion/BulletTime
      - Can seem laggy when the server is stressed or already laggy
      - Cuts out Voice Chat during
    2. Lasers (from pistols and sniper rifles)
    3. Meteor Shower
      - Just seems to annoy players
      - Triggered seemingly randomly
    4. Zoom with All Weapons
    5. Survivor Bot Takeover

  • Advanced Building/Building Priority
    Some players put building above everything else when playing in Toybox. Some have said they'd like to see it be building only. While I can't make the only Toybox server only building, I can make building better. I plan to create a more advance building plugin with many more features. Remove Last Prop, optional build notifications (who spawn, rotated, and deleted what), more prop packs, and an advanced interface for binds and other settings.

If anyone already knows SourcePawn language hit me up with a message if you want to help out. Toybox is going to need all the help it can get if this will continue.

The Toybox Experience has only begun.

The first phase of beta is nearing its end.
What's after this? Well... we'll have to stick around to find out...


Your input would be appreciated.


Last edited by Damian Payne on Sat Sep 03, 2011 7:11 am; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : Minor changes.)
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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Defonos on Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:54 pm

1. Remove
2. Remove
3. Remove
4. Remove
5. Keep
-it's handy, but not super important.

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My reccomendation.

Post by Tilux on Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:13 pm

The only this I could possibly thing of that can be good if done would be more slot on the server, since its a nightmare trying to get in with the regular that have a priority.

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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Damian Payne on Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:29 pm

Tilux wrote:The only this I could possibly thing of that can be good if done would be more slot on the server, since its a nightmare trying to get in with the regular that have a priority.
More Toybox slots can be achieved two ways:
1. Server owners would allow their server to be added to the Toybox series so we would just have more 8 Slot (4 for coop/survival) Toybox Servers.
2. The 1st server, or any added servers, would increase slot count for Coop/Survival to 8+ slots. Though, this would mean players would have to connect directly and couldn't through Quick Match. So no newcomers would appear on that server unless they connected through the server browser.
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Opinion on this.

Post by Tilux on Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:03 pm

DamianPayne wrote:
Tilux wrote:The only this I could possibly thing of that can be good if done would be more slot on the server, since its a nightmare trying to get in with the regular that have a priority.
More Toybox slots can be achieved two ways:
1. Server owners would allow their server to be added to the Toybox series so we would just have more 8 Slot (4 for coop/survival) Toybox Servers.
2. The 1st server, or any added servers, would increase slot count for Coop/Survival to 8+ slots. Though, this would mean players would have to connect directly and couldn't through Quick Match. So no newcomers would appear on that server unless they connected through the server browser.
I would go with the 1st since we would get more slot and their would be a influx of new player in the server. There is only 2 drawback to this.
1st: More people getting in = More people liking the server and getting it full.
2nd: MORE KIDS.

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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Damian Payne on Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:10 pm

Tilux wrote:I would go with the 1st since we would get more slot and their would be a influx of new player in the server. There is only 2 drawback to this.
1st: More people getting in = More people liking the server and getting it full.
2nd: MORE KIDS.
1st is definitely not a problem, as long as there's enough servers. I'm estimating like 3-4 would be enough. As for the 2nd, I'm still working on that. They're probably the most susceptible to votekicks though since they're annoying and violate rule 7.
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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Tilux on Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:12 pm

DamianPayne wrote:
1st is definitely not a problem, as long as there's enough servers. I'm estimating like 3-4 would be enough. As for the 2nd, I'm still working on that. They're probably the most susceptible to votekicks though since they're annoying and violate rule 7.

Isnt there an option to turn off votekick?

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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Damian Payne on Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:24 pm

That's the point. If people really want to votekick them, then they're not that big of an issue.
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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by XD on Mon Dec 27, 2010 8:04 pm

No mention of me or Zombiegrill? anyway....
More slots on the ever is needed, you said that the mod wouldn't allow players to connect via lobby with 4+ slots so we needed the people, now however we have more than enough regulars for the server so I fell 4+ slots is apporpriate

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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by pigtailsboy on Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:20 pm

I figure it will stay but the zoom option helps a good deal. Careful building and careful placement is easier with the zoom function on all primary weapons. Wouldn't like having to have or buy a sniper every time I needed more precision. Plus I usually build beyond the start time and a sniper isn't best for close combat.

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Re: The Toybox Experience

Post by Damian Payne on Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:29 pm

This thread is ancient. Everything of concern mentioned here has already been resolved, so you're a bit late Pigs. =p
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Re: The Toybox Experience

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