Evil Genius

Evil Genius is one of the few games I’ll dust off every couple of years and play again. There aren’t very many games where you can play the bad guy, and I love base building type games. I remember when it was first announced on Gamespot, and I anxiously followed its development over the years. It’s by no means fully polished, there are a few errors and glitches, but that rarely detracts from the experience.  However, they can screw up your gameplay occasionally.

In Evil Genius, you play as a Bond-esque bad guy, intent on world domination.  The world is divided into 5 Get Smart inspired regions, each with their own acronym and super agent, and each super agent has a weakness to exploit in order to get rid of them for good.  The super agent for the greater China/SE Asia region is a martial artist, and in order to get rid of him you need to interrogate his master to find out what his weakness is.

In order to interrogate the master, you send out your minions into the world and have them do a mission to kidnap the master.  They will then bring him back to your island and place him in the depot, waiting for your other minions to pick him up and move him to a jail cell.  However, in my game the minion tasked with picking him up glitched and just sat there stuttering.  Like any good evil genius, I executed him for his insubordination, expecting another minion to carry out those instructions.  I guess the game engine never expected the minion tasked with picking up the master would ever get killed or executed or be otherwise occupied.

So what do I do now?  Like any good geek, I hacked the save game file.  An 87,000 line behemoth of a text file.  Finding the area of the file that describes the object for the master was trivial, he was the only object with “master” in its name.  But is the location line above the name or below it the proper location?  I did a search on each location to see what I could see, and boom, the location line above matched the location of an object called “depot”.  Now the question is where to put him…  I could easily beam him into a wall like that one episode of ST:TNG (“The Pegasus”, S07E12 in case you want to look for it).  The solution?  Look up the location of one of my henchmen (which was easy to search for) and put him down in the same spot.  Viola, I’m back in business.

 

As an aside, I would have posted this on the Evil Genius Chat forums, but phpBB doesn’t make it easy to retrieve a forgotten account (you have to remember your login as well as your email address), and the registration process is a little bit of a pain when you’re spoiled by “Log in with FB/Twitter/G+”.

Third Time is the Charm

Welcome to the third reboot of my website.  I’m not really expecting many people to read it, just those that see my email address and are curious.  It’s really just more of a collection point for my thoughts, ideas, and other musings.

Just another number…

I’m a very loyal kind of guy.  And I don’t expect a lot in return, just to be treated fairly and consistently.

My old hosting company, JaguarPC, used to be awesome.  They would help you with any issue, even if it was to repair damage you caused yourself.  And their pricing was fair.  Not the cheapest, but very reasonable when combined with their great customer service.

As they grew, they lost that hunger, that personal touch that made them special.  Tickets that they used to help with starting falling on deaf ears.  A complaint about PHP being misconfigured and causing the error log to fill up was replied to with “most people just ignore it”.  If it weren’t such a pain to switch hosts that would have been the last straw.  But the last straw came this week.

I have one web application.  It has a MySQL table with about 7k rows that was optimized and indexed as well as was feasible.  The table was parsed once every 5 minutes to sanitize the data.  For comparison, I moved the app to my home server (less CPU, not shared, MySQL restricted to 250MB), and the parse only takes about 3 seconds and the CPU never spikes about 29%.  A “tiny” MySQL instance on a small Windows VM can handle tables with 100k rows pretty easily.

I was moved to a new “more powerful” shared server a few months ago.  The server was never stable, and I asked to be moved to a different server, and the answer was “no, we fixed it”.  It was never fixed.  Last week I received a new ticket confirmation in my email saying simply “cron jobs causing server instability”.  I immediately logged into my server and they had deleted the cron jobs for my web app.   Wow, great customer service there.  Not “We’re still having problems with the server, could we turn off your cron jobs to see if that makes a difference?”  Just a blunt email with an implication that I was causing the stability issues on the server.   Of course, the issue isn’t resolved, and that server has been down several times since then.  So seeya later Jag.

Maybe they just put way too many accounts on their new shared servers, but why blame yourself when you can blame your customers?  It seems to be a real trend the last few years.  Good customer service is a “free” way to increase customer retention.  During economic downturns like this, with companies complaining about how slim their margins are and how little their customers are spending, it seems like a no brainer to treat your customers better, not worse.

The kicker – I had typed up a thoughtful response on their cancellation form.  There was a textbox titled “Did you know we have affiliate programs?” that I didn’t fill out.  I skipped it, and got an error page.  When I clicked on the back link on that page, my nice thoughtful reply was gone, so forget that.  No way I’m taking the time to fill that out a second time.  They need to learn some basic UI/UX and do some simple functional testing.

Double bonus kicker – They billed me even though I had filled out their cancel form.  They did refund it fairly promptly, but being that it’s 2014 you’d think that the cancellation form would automatically turn off the account instead of requiring manual processing.

P.S. – vDeck is a terrible hosting platform.  Steer clear.  As dated as it is, cPanel is still king.

Third time is the charm…