Aug 31, 2008


EVE Online is an interesting game that is open in play style. I remember reading someone else's blog about a rogue in WoW that was attempting to level by never killing. They actually carried around a fishing pole to be sure their combat skills never increased. They had a hard time, as the majority of WoW is based around killing NPC Mobs (computer controlled monsters).

EVE, on the other hand, could handle this pacifist character much more naturally. Mining, trading, and hauling come to mind quickly as violent free options. On the other side, a player could be the good guy and clean up the system of pirates; or be the pirate himself.

Onward from EVE, I'd like to point out an excellent skill management program associated with the game. EVEMon, short for EVE Monitor, is an app that helps a player plan out what they want to do with their character. It also servers as an offline means of tracking skill training. (Did I mention that skills train in real time? sry...)

As I've played EVE--and used EVEMon to better understand the game--I thought it would be helpful to have "blank slate" characters to figure out what I wanted to start with as and how it would affect my skill training in the long run. By blank slate I mean a character freshly created in game. EVEMon normally either needs an API ID and key to add a character from your account, or an XML export of a character.

I liked this idea, and spoke of it in the EVEMon suggested features forum. Browsing other people's suggestions, I ran across a developer that responded to a lengthy discussion. The original poster stated an idea, went on and on about how easy it would be to implement, and never returned to the forum.

A lot of people open their mouths (or type) without having any intention of doing any of the work themselfs (sic).

-MrCue source

These words struck home. I hadn't pointed out an idea and said how easy it would be to make, but I had suggested an idea non-the-less. To this end, I set out onto the world to create the very thing I asked for. A blank character XML file for EVEMon to import. This is where the PHP comes in.

The number of combinations posible for a new character in EVE is 216 before considering the Attributes tab (five available points placed as pleased among five attributes, max three on any one), and the Gender and Appearance tabs (both of which have no effect on attributes or skills of the character). That's 17,496 unique combinations that can have an effect on game play.

In other words, this wasn't going to be hard coded.

Wanting the app to be available quickly, and knowing it was a simple app, I choose to use PHP. The lanugage already being available to use via my site by my hosting provider also helped. PHP would also be another language under my belt.

One last thing. Tizag has been an excellent resource for learning PHP.

Update Sept 2008: Its done! Check it out -> EVEMon Template builder
Update Sept 10, 2009: For a reason I haven't investigated, the Template builder of mine no longer works. On the other hand, EVE has altered their character creation process in such a way that the Template builder is no longer necessary (attributes can be altered once a year, skills seem to be the same across the board, instead of profession'ed).

Aug 18, 2008

Programming Practice Problems

What happens when you don't use the knowledge you have? It deteriorates. Why do we let our knowledge deteriorate? Because we lack reason to use the skills we have been given. If you find this happening to you in the programming space, perhaps you should program something for the fun of it.

A friend of mine wanted to brush up her skills in C#, but couldn't think of anything to write. After hearing her dilemma, I created a problem for her to solve.

To see more practice problems, see the label of the same name.