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2007
Jul
27

Putting Together Web Site Components

Categories: Random Thoughts

These days, developing a web site can be very overwhelming, especially if you want to include a lot of features. However, you can usually just look around and use freely available resources, instead of reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

I have always wanted to have some sort of a News page, where I can inform players about the recent developments on the site. In my previous attempts (over at BC for example, the first bingo gaming site I developed), this started out as a simple one-page approach. I just kept on updating this single page, and from feedbacks, I was surprised that some players were actually even reading it. However, it soon became apparent that this one-page approach was not enough. After a few months, there’s just a lot of stuff written, that the page really needed to be broken down into smaller pieces (e.g. monthly postings).

So when I developed HB, I decided to use WordPress, a free, full-featured blogging software. Postings are better organized, and it’s also a lot more functional.

Then came the need to integrate some banner ads. When I was still working on TTG (my first attempt at making my own gaming site), I actually started out making my own banner codes. As expected, things got complicated, and my basic banner codes just couldn’t cut it anymore. So my friend (who is now the one working on the TTG site) was tasked to adapt and use phpAds. This open source software pretty much takes care of anything related to banners, and it’s the same one I used on HB when it already has enough traffic.

This really speeds up development time. Instead of wasting time developing my own blogging and banner codes, I can instead concentrate on what I do best, which is gaming. Sometimes it’s an overkill, I probably use just a very small percentage of WordPress’ features for instance, but it gets the job done, and more efficiently than if I had written these codes myself.

However, that’s also the downside. Because these 3rd-party software have a lot of features and are popular, it also opens up more issues like security loopholes and such things. I still remember the time when I had a major server security issue with HB, I almost ended up hiring a network administrator to help me fix it and prevent it from happening again.

Basically, because of my choice of OS and control panel, plus a security loophole in an outdated version of WordPress, some automated scripts were able to hack into the system and use the server’s bandwidth and resources to (I presume) share illegal files and also be an accessory to finding other servers with similar vulnerabilities. Good thing I was able to detect and eventually put in place the necessary fixes, or my host could have kicked me out of their network (plus bandwidth overage is VERY expensive).

Anyway, for this new bingo site, one of the major things I wanted to immediately introduce is social networking. This is also where the avatar concept will be put into good use. Now, I have the option to code things from scratch, but I recently read an article about open-source social networking projects, something you can use for your own sites. I did some quick research, and there has been some interesting stuff. I just don’t know if I can find something that will be easily usable for the features I am planning.

You see, when I was developing HB, I also came across and even considered using 3rd-party game servers. There are actually some general-purpose Java servers available, but in the end, I opted to still develop my own because:

  • I have been working on this area for a few years now, so I now have a solid background of all the issues and complexities involved in it
  • Similar to say WordPress, these efforts try to do so many things, making them more complex in nature. Because I will only code the stuff I really need, the game server doesn’t become bloated (less memory footprint, faster speed etc)
  • Sometimes, it’s just easier to code things myself and develop something from scratch, rather than relying on an existing framework. This also makes it easier to introduce features that may not have been possible yet if I had to rely on a 3rd-party solution

And the list goes on. Well, let’s just say that because the server is gaming related, it really makes sense to develop my own, because it’s the core of a gaming site.

Going back to social networking, at the very basic level, all I need are friends linking and integration of player avatars as well as some game-related stuff like game statistics. But I know along the way, this has to evolved. Players are gonna look for a way to send messages to each other, share photos, create testimonials, blogs etc In short, things that are already being done by all other social networking sites out there.

So should I write my own and keep things simple? Or try to incorporate all the features that people already come to expect from a social networking site? Hard decision. Most likely, I’ll keep things simple (because this is supposed to be a gaming site primarily), but if I find something usable and easy to integrate, I just might try that other option instead.

We’ll see in the coming days…

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2007
Jul
22

The Other Bingo Site

Categories: Random Thoughts

If you notice, I haven’t been mentioning the full name of that “other” bingo site, HB. I know in the future, those coming from the HB site will immediately notice the similarities (for one, I’ll be doing the same 3 games initially), but in the meantime, I would like this new project to be as independent as possible.

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2007
Jul
22

First Look At Bingo Game Server

Categories: Bingo Game Server

This month, I have finally sat down and started some work developing a new bingo game server for this project. I revisited some sites in my bookmarks from 2004, when I last developed a new server base for HB, and then I did a couple more research. That means lots of reading for me the past couple of days.

Basically, it’s all about developing a Java server supporting multiple simultaneous connections, which is the core of a game server. What I found in 2004 were basically the same things I found online today, but I discovered enough new materials to help me solidify my understanding of the basic concepts.

So with that, I have done a new working core of server codes, where I will be building things from. In the bingo game server I developed for HB, I knew there were some potential but rare socket writing issues, which I never tried to fix due to time constraints. Also, because of the nature of how I designed things before, it became unnecessarily complex and more prone to deadlocks (although I don’t recall this happening yet).

The HB site grew much faster than I anticipated, that I usually ended up doing quick fixes just to keep the site running smoothly, instead of coding for efficiency or better overall design in general. While working on this new game server, I have been able to verify and fix/improve these issues, so I feel better knowing that I am starting off with a more reliable code base.

It actually surprised me, because this code base has been a lot less complex in approach, but actually ended up being more stable. But then again, things get more complicated as you add more functionality.

Anyway, I have been doing some stress tests, and so far, things are looking good. I can NOT get the server to hang-up, or even throw some unexpected runtime errors. I’ve been testing with 600+ simultaneous connections with constant reading/writing and other potential scenarios, and it’s still ok. I could test with more connections, and longer test times, but Windows appears to have some socket limits on 1 PC plus the JDK Windows implementation also has some known issues (that I just recently verified) when firing off socket connections simultaneously.

Anyway, I think the core functionality is stable enough, so I will be adding some actual game functionalities in the coming days, and see how this works out.

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