Don't worry, we're nowhere near April 1 :-)

Hey everyone,

I am very pleased to announce new development and growth of the ZunTzu 1.x platform!

I have been in contact with Jerome over the past month or so, and I have volunteered and agreed to continue the work on ZunTzu (1.x, Windows-only edition).

Jerome continues to be busy with Real Life[tm], but he will continue to monitor my progress from the sideline and OK any "big steps" we take with the platform. During periods where I have been able to get a slice of his time, we've already had design discussions about the direction ZunTzu should take.

I have been a site admin for about two weeks, and set up my development environment and with some work was able to run a debug version of ZunTzu 1.2 about a week ago.

It is my intention that we won't see any major changes in the way that ZunTzu plays or operates.
The interface will continue to target a non-computer, intuitive feel (so if you were hoping for right-click menus, that will remain out of the picture).
(though we are considering moving the interface closer to a tablet form of interaction).

----

There is another piece to the puzzle. Part of what drew me to this work was an agreement I've made with LnL Publishing to build gameboxes for their products.

Part of that agreement is that all future changes to ZunTzu will remain free, and accessible to ALL gamebox authors, so any company that continues to allow gameboxes to be built will have full and equal access to all new features.

For instance, we are currently working on a way of integrating the LnL online chat functionality with ZunTzu, and the method and parameters will be fully disclosed, so anyone else who is interested in doing the same thing will be able to do so.


----

I'm a huge fan of ZunTzu, just like you. I want to see it grow and thrive. The ZunTzu community remains very important to Jerome, and to me. We don't want any unnecessary changes or disruptions. The forums and web site will remain where they are, and the automatic update feature already present in ZunTzu should continue to operate.

I plan to make smaller and more frequent updates. In the beginning, you should see releases with the smaller items, like bug fixes, and adjustable alpha on the shadows. The stagger size and direction of stacks should be become settable. A "nudge" function.

Later, when I have my sea legs, we should see some bigger changes. I may change how card stacks lay out, or give better functionality to the hand. We have an idea how to ameliorate the issues with control of the tabletop. That doesn't mean separated player views, but we have ideas about how to make it less of a hassle and get the features out to you quickly.

I will say up front, Mac OS, iPad, Linux... these things will not be in the 1.x release schedule. They require a complete rewrite of ZunTzu. PBEM... MIGHT require a full rewrite. Don't expect anything like those features soon. But we have to start somewhere.

Also, I can't give you any news about ZunTzu 2.0 at this point. This news is about the existing, released application. For the time being, 2.0 remains up in the air.

Please feel free to ask further questions in the thread below, and I hope this news finds you all well. Wink


-- joshua


Last edited by dulcaoin on Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
There is a bit of a teaser of the LnL Publishing work in this article:
A Visit With LNL Publishing Old Roads Well Trodden

-- joshua
Why not just open source it and let the entire community work on new updates? If your commitment is that ZunTzu should be free, then why be a gate keeper? Open source will let everyone work on it and it will progress faster. That is why ZunTzu has lagged behind Vassal, it has remained closed source for too long.
Heath wrote:
Why not just open source it and let the entire community work on new updates? If your commitment is that ZunTzu should be free, then why be a gate keeper? Open source will let everyone work on it and it will progress faster. That is why ZunTzu has lagged behind Vassal, it has remained closed source for too long.


That's a good question.

A primary feature that ZunTzu has over Vassal (one that allowed us to get LnL comfortable with using the platform) is the availability of asset encryption, which protects the assets of commercial gameboxes from extraction and external manipulation. Open source would put that protection at risk, because the security methods would be exposed.

Furthermore, I spoke a bit of what I call the "zen of ZunTzu" in my posting. With open-source, right-click menus and panels and windows and all manner of other pet doodads could get added to the interface. To me, one of the drawbacks of Vassal is that every time you download a new module, you have a new system to learn. "Where did this guy put the units? How did he divide them up? Oh, look, there's a custom turn and phase sequencer, how does that work now?" There is power in the consistency that ZunTzu provides: it always works the same way every time.

My point about ZunTzu staying free, and the features remaining available to all, was an an attempt to quash any fears folks might have that it was "going corporate" because of the involvement of LnL Publishing. They are simple a publishing house that is supporting the platform, and any new feature they request gets the same priority as any other feature on the list, and -- more importantly -- there are never customized features available to just one sponsor.


-- joshua
Well this all looks good to me - I'm in favour of anything that takes ZunTzu's development forward.

Now personally I'm not much interested in any effort to aid gamebox production/editing, because I have my own software routines to handle almost everything I need for that.

So I'd prefer it if you focused on the player experience, so here is my most immediate wishlist:

1) For new ZT installations, have it boot up with all Display Settings set to "Best" (highest) by default. Graphics quality is one of ZT's great strengths, almost any recent PC can cope with this, and we need to do everything we can to "wow" new users right from the start.

2) Fix the one crash bug (apart from Out of Memory) that occurs during play - the "continuous Space/Delete keypress" one.

3) Implement some means by which those many games that use the limited "Fog of War" mechanic that disallows opposing players from examining your stacks (apart from the one on top) can work - I have some ideas on how it could be done...Wink

4) User (in game player) choice of stack orientation. This could be a default set in the gamebox, but players should be allowed to alter it during play.

Regards, Bill.
Bill Barrett wrote:
Well this all looks good to me - I'm in favour of anything that takes ZunTzu's development forward.


Thanks for the support.

Bill Barrett wrote:
Now personally I'm not much interested in any effort to aid gamebox production/editing, because I have my own software routines to handle almost everything I need for that.


As gamebox designers, you and I are peas in a pod, Bill Smile. I can't ignore how most people will find the package useful, though.

That said, a designer mode (or separate app) would be a "down the road" feature that I'll hope to get to. It's simply a lot of work to do. The fact that I've built tools on the side at least means I know the pain that folks face, and can hopefully design something that will make the process easier.

Bill Barrett wrote:
So I'd prefer it if you focused on the player experience, so here is my most immediate wishlist:

1) For new ZT installations, have it boot up with all Display Settings set to "Best" (highest) by default. Graphics quality is one of ZT's great strengths, almost any recent PC can cope with this, and we need to do everything we can to "wow" new users right from the start.


I think this should be easy to do.

Bill Barrett wrote:
2) Fix the one crash bug (apart from Out of Memory) that occurs during play - the "continuous Space/Delete keypress" one.


I had hoped to look into this very early. I haven't seen it. If someone has EXACT reproduction steps, that will help a lot.

Bill Barrett wrote:
3) Implement some means by which those many games that use the limited "Fog of War" mechanic that disallows opposing players from examining your stacks (apart from the one on top) can work - I have some ideas on how it could be done...Wink


Sounds intriguing. PM me if you'd prefer, or -- better yet -- I suggest a general thread so that others can discuss it too.

Bill Barrett wrote:
4) User (in game player) choice of stack orientation. This could be a default set in the gamebox, but players should be allowed to alter it during play.


I had thought about a "swipe" gesture to open up stacks when the player wanted to view them splayed (rather than it happening automatically on mouse hover -- which is tablet incompatible). A double click (double tab) would collapse them again. The angle used for the "open up" swipe would be the one used (in reverse, of course) to "collapse" the pile again.

When I brought it up with Jerome, I had a hard time making my argument with him Very Happy. Maybe I should open that idea to general discussion?

I think one of the things that didn't help my point was that he didn't see that as particularly compelling as a feature (piles that stack in different directions). Bill, please expand on why it's an issue (in fact, one of your TOP issues) -- I'm going to guess right now is that it allows the users to "mark" piles in a personal way. My argument had simply been that gave the board a more natural feel.
Bill Barrett wrote:
Well this all looks good to me - I'm in favour of anything that takes ZunTzu's development forward.


I guess I want to say a little bit more about this.

It comes down to trust.

ZunTzu has now been asleep for quite awhile now. Why? Jerome, like the rest of us, had life come along and present challenges to his free time. Providing a free platform in ones spare time can be a daunting task.

"So what if *Joshua* fades away now? Who is he any way?" [30 years professional software engineer with past 3 years game industry experience and direct experience in the needed areas of C#, .net framework, and DirectX -- I even had the fortune to have the EXACT version of the development enviroment I own be the one it was built with] "How do we know it won't 'go away' again?"

I think they're fair concerns. But I would point to the fact that www.zuntzu.com is still up, and still running. Even without building zuntzu on the side, Jerome has been keeping the lights on all this time. He shared with me the costs. They're not ruinous, but they aren't "spreading around money" levels either. The ONLY point I'm making here is that Jerome cares about this product, and the community around it.

Now he's got another passionate individual (myself) with the qualifications and direction to expand on the project in ways that directly protect its interests and allow it to move forward.

Do I HOPE he'll get fired up and do more than advise on the project? Yes, I do. But it might not happen. That leaves me as backup.

I've been in this industry a long time, I don't take on projects willy-nilly (any more Very Happy -- in my youth, it was a different story), so after a LOT of back-and-forth, a thorough vetting process on Jerome's part, I'm being allowed this shot to work with him, keep his vision intact and moving forward.

I don't intend to let you guys -- the community -- down. If you work with me, the chances are much better for success.

-- joshua
Well done for taking up the baton Joshua.

Looking forward to seeing whats in store for ZunTzu.
Continued development on ZunTzu is great news. I use ZunTzu for rapid prototyping and playtesting. I am currently working on a 10 player card game with simultaneous turns. Here's my input...

My wishlist:
1) Allow players to independently [zoom], [pan] and [view board].
This is the most frequent issue we encounter during playtests. Players cannot zoom in to read card text without disrupting everyone else, accidental pans and zooms regularly disrupt the game and I cannot make use of tabs for players to study and manipulate private or other information without disrupting the other players. I cannot stress this one enough, it would solve SO many other little issues and headaches.

2) Eliminate black bars.
This would likely work best with a solution to item 1 above. I have a lot of players with a lot of game pieces on the board and screenspace is at a premium. On my netbook my resolution is 1366x768 which leaves black bars of unused space on the left and right of the screen, even with [widescreen] checked in display settings. Letting the gameboard fill all available screenspace regardless of each user's resolution and aspect ratio would be great.

3) Private information.
This is a complicated issue with a multitude of different ways it could be approached, so let me simply describe a specific use case: My players collect resources, of which I want both the AMOUNT and TYPE to be kept private. They also have a hand of cards of which the TYPE needs to be private while the AMOUNT is public. The hand is easy: players can place cards in their [hand], the cards can then be privately inspected and the size of the hand is displayed publicly. The resources are problematic however, since putting them a player's [hand] now reveals information about the amount of resources while obscuring the amount of cards also in the [hand]. Ideally, the resources also need to passed from player to player privately.

There is a [hide board] feature which currently isn't very useful to us, since it's impractical to wait for 10 players to inspect their private tabs one at a time. Even if players could view different tabs independently, I'm not sure how useful this would be given the amount of back and forth to the main board that would be required.

An off the wall approach: Allow players to set a flag on a piece of terrain to hide all pieces placed ON TOP of it from everyone but the "owning" player. I already use terrain-based 'player mats' to organize the tabletop, something like this would add a lot of power. Players could easily drop items onto another player's private supply, they can manipulate items in their private space while still seeing the rest of the table and items can be easily shifted from private to public simply by moving them off the space.


Concerns:
A) Above all, I want a stable platform.
The existing version has been quite stable (outside of the spacebar crash) and recovers gracefully from any crash I've had thus far. If updates are made to the game, can I continue to test with my players on an old (known to be stable) version, or will the auto updater force us to install the latest version?

B) The integration of online chat and player matching sounds like you want to implement a centralized server and login system. I may be reading too much into this, but will we be able to continue to host private games with privately distributed gameboxes without requiring a login to your service? Mostly I don't want to depend on a third party's uptime to playtest, and I'm also concerned about "Work In Progress" type files or data floating around on a third party's server.

C) Finally, any chance of getting Jerome to stop by and post? I think we would all like to hear his take on this turn of events. :)



Thanks for your efforts, I look forward to seeing how ZunTzu evolves!
I'll try to dial back later in the week to speak to some of the other points here. I wanted to address one serious, and one light hearted point here...

Easy wrote:
Continued development on ZunTzu is great news. I use ZunTzu for rapid prototyping and playtesting. I am currently working on a 10 player card game with simultaneous turns. Here's my input...

B) The integration of online chat and player matching sounds like you want to implement a centralized server and login system. I may be reading too much into this, but will we be able to continue to host private games with privately distributed gameboxes without requiring a login to your service? Mostly I don't want to depend on a third party's uptime to playtest, and I'm also concerned about "Work In Progress" type files or data floating around on a third party's server.


I'm glad this came up, because I'm sensitive to LnL's involvement looking like a "corporate takeover," the very last thing we ever want to do is make it look like this system is dedicated to any one company. If GMT (or Academy Games, or any other supporting company) asked me for a feature, I'd give it the same weight as any other company [and, if I'm honest, I'd put those requests a BIT above those of Joe User, not because I don't value individual users, but rather because when we have companies that not only "don't say no," but actually feature gameboxes on their sites and therefore actively support us, I'm going to support them back]

How the chat "integration" should work is still being worked out (because I'm trying to figure out how to do the work quickly, and without undue specialization). But it's really not going to be too much of an integration. LnL has a chat server installed now, and a specific chat room has been set aside for matchmaking discussions. The main "integration" being considered would be a button in ZunTzu that would open the user's browser to that chat page when a multiplayer matchup is desired. Users will use the LnL chat on their web site to find a player, and then use the "Host..."/"Connect..." sequence as they do now. As light an integration as one could probably imagine.

The scenario you describe (matchmaking through a server, rankings, ladders, ELO, etc.) WAS discussed at some length. It was decided that such grand schemes would be far better suited to a total rewrite project (the one that would have to happen to get Mac OS), and are far in the future, if they ever happen. The single solitary theme running through those discussions was the idea that the matchmaking server portion would be made available "on the open market." If LnL ran one, GMT could run one, and you could run one. That ideal is simply dust on the wind for now, but if I am there the day it happens, pretty much all of your concerns about it will be my concerns.

Additionally, for the record, any such matchmaking server that I would consider, would handle ONLY the matchmaking. Once the players knew they wanted to be involved in a match, they'd connect between themselves, and stop communication through the server during the game. At least one would be tasked with reporting results, but no game moves or data would flow through the server (chat packets, maybe).

Easy wrote:
C) Finally, any chance of getting Jerome to stop by and post? I think we would all like to hear his take on this turn of events. Smile


While I'd LIKE to selfishly keep what few slices of his time I can get dedicated to the project as possible, that does seem a little unfair. Smile
I will include the request the next time I get the signal and I'm allowed a dead drop. Wink

-- joshua
Good to hear, thanks!
Easy wrote:
Continued development on ZunTzu is great news. I use ZunTzu for rapid prototyping and playtesting. I am currently working on a 10 player card game with simultaneous turns. Here's my input...

My wishlist:
1) Allow players to independently [zoom], [pan] and [view board].
This is the most frequent issue we encounter during playtests. Players cannot zoom in to read card text without disrupting everyone else, accidental pans and zooms regularly disrupt the game and I cannot make use of tabs for players to study and manipulate private or other information without disrupting the other players. I cannot stress this one enough, it would solve SO many other little issues and headaches.


I fear this is going to be a major change to the program. I haven't delved far enough into the code to be sure, but I think this will have to involved a decoupling of the "world" data from a view's data, and it'll be non-trivial (but certainly doable).

A workaround I have in mind for the time being would be a "pass the control baton" system where only one person has control of the view at a time, and he passes that control to the next player in turn when his turn is up. It de facto allows observer players, as they'd simply be connected players who were never handed the baton. I'd probably allow this to be disabled for backwards compatibility (a "free for all" mode like we have now).

Another easy change would be to have hover over an item display that item magnified in a corner of the screen (this would be user-preference controllable). It breaks the zen, so I need feedback from Jerome and others to be sure that one's a good idea. I guess I could have the "magnifier" follow the mouse around, so it's more real life accurate. The idea would be that when you don't have control, you could hover over items to see them magnified. You'd still have trouble if the controller panned away from what you wanted to peek at, but it's an amelioration step for now.

Easy wrote:

2) Eliminate black bars.
This would likely work best with a solution to item 1 above. I have a lot of players with a lot of game pieces on the board and screenspace is at a premium. On my netbook my resolution is 1366x768 which leaves black bars of unused space on the left and right of the screen, even with [widescreen] checked in display settings. Letting the gameboard fill all available screenspace regardless of each user's resolution and aspect ratio would be great.

Being the cynic I am about Microsoft and their practices, this might have been a necessary evil. Will look into it.

Easy wrote:

3) Private information.
This is a complicated issue with a multitude of different ways it could be approached, so let me simply describe a specific use case: My players collect resources, of which I want both the AMOUNT and TYPE to be kept private. They also have a hand of cards of which the TYPE needs to be private while the AMOUNT is public. The hand is easy: players can place cards in their [hand], the cards can then be privately inspected and the size of the hand is displayed publicly. The resources are problematic however, since putting them a player's [hand] now reveals information about the amount of resources while obscuring the amount of cards also in the [hand]. Ideally, the resources also need to passed from player to player privately.

There is a [hide board] feature which currently isn't very useful to us, since it's impractical to wait for 10 players to inspect their private tabs one at a time. Even if players could view different tabs independently, I'm not sure how useful this would be given the amount of back and forth to the main board that would be required.

One thought I had about this was to maybe add a private side board for storing things that are private, but not in the hand. This really addresses the symptoms rather than tackling the problem holistically, so it would probably just be a step in the process (I do think this is a good thing to have across lots of games, so it's not a total hack).


Easy wrote:

An off the wall approach: Allow players to set a flag on a piece of terrain to hide all pieces placed ON TOP of it from everyone but the "owning" player. I already use terrain-based 'player mats' to organize the tabletop, something like this would add a lot of power. Players could easily drop items onto another player's private supply, they can manipulate items in their private space while still seeing the rest of the table and items can be easily shifted from private to public simply by moving them off the space.


Long term, I want to make hierarchies of objects into a concept in ZT. If you have a map, with terrain, with counters, and you move the map, everything else moves relative to it, as you'd expect in real life (I'd leave out momentum and things falling over from real life though Very Happy). When I add hierarchies, then ownership would definitely be an attribute of a hierarchy, and how ownership affects visibility and adjustability of objects within the hierarchy. Making that work from a software engineering perspective is fairly straightforward, making sure it's "invisible" to the user (it needs to be intuitive and "just work and make sense" to users) is the important and could-be-tricky part. Let me underscore that this is a LONG TERM goal, and shouldn't be counted on any time soon.

Easy wrote:

Concerns:
A) Above all, I want a stable platform.
The existing version has been quite stable (outside of the spacebar crash) and recovers gracefully from any crash I've had thus far. If updates are made to the game, can I continue to test with my players on an old (known to be stable) version, or will the auto updater force us to install the latest version?


This really should have been at the top. I have a new codebase to work through [side note: Jerome is one of the cleanest coders I've ever run across, especially for someone who built this code by himself, it's cleaner than, say, NetHack looks -- other side note that Joshua was a member of the NetHack dev team in the past, if anyone cares], and some learning to do.

My greatest concern is that I not break the world with auto-updates on my first patch. That's why it will be small and of the safer, straightforward variety. Then I'll build from there.

I need to ask Jerome exactly what the issues are. I THINK I could just take a 1.3.1 version out of circulation, and it would back-patch everyone to 1.2; but I need to make sure I could do that if needed.

I also believe there's a way to launch ZunTzu without the auto-patch step; but I have to investigate that too.

Best answer is, I'll be focusing very closely on this issue for my first releases to make sure everything moves forward only.

Easy wrote:
Thanks for your efforts, I look forward to seeing how ZunTzu evolves!


Yeah, me too. Razz

-- joshua
Wow it is GREAT Smile. ZunTzu is still my favourite platform for Board Games. Later I will re-write some ideas which would be superb to develop/add Smile.

Most important on my mind:
1) Temporarily desynchronizing of view (to only look on other part of board without possibility to change anything. After pressing second time resynchronizing - but I know it will be difficult to develop.
2) Key to zoom in element on the board, something like magnifying glass
3) Possibility to bid secretly and show bids in the same time (now I do it by other ways)
4) Fix bugs (crashes and disappear of some cards - after rapidly space hits)
5) Remove black bars
6) Maybe better memory management (increase of memory limit of gameboxes).

IMHO 1) and/or 2) is very important. It would be better and faster game (you can thing on your strategy (see other part of board or zoom things), when someone else manipulate elements).


Geralt
dulcaoin wrote:
A workaround I have in mind for the time being would be a "pass the control baton" system where only one person has control of the view at a time, and he passes that control to the next player in turn when his turn is up. It de facto allows observer players, as they'd simply be connected players who were never handed the baton. I'd probably allow this to be disabled for backwards compatibility (a "free for all" mode like we have now).

I don't have any strong desire for this feature, but a toggle would be a must. Enforcing the baton would add more problems than it solves, I fear.

dulcaoin wrote:
Another easy change would be to have hover over an item display that item magnified

If independent views are a no-go, this would be a workable alternative. Perhaps it requires holding a key, so it's not always on?

dulcaoin wrote:
One thought I had about this was to maybe add a private side board for storing things that are private, but not in the hand.

Would be workable, maybe not such an elegant long term solution though. Honestly, anything would be appreciated.

dulcaoin wrote:
Long term, I want to make hierarchies of objects into a concept in ZT. If you have a map, with terrain, with counters, and you move the map, everything else moves relative to it. When I add hierarchies, then ownership would definitely be an attribute of a hierarchy, and how ownership affects visibility and adjustability of objects within the hierarchy.

This sounds great!

dulcaoin wrote:
My greatest concern is that I not break the world with auto-updates on my first patch. That's why it will be small and of the safer, straightforward variety. Then I'll build from there.
I need to ask Jerome exactly what the issues are. I THINK I could just take a 1.3.1 version out of circulation, and it would back-patch everyone to 1.2; but

I need to make sure I could do that if needed.

Yikes. Small rant, but this part of modern software development worries me. I turned auto-updates off on my phone because devs too often BROKE features in their apps without noticeably improving anything (I'm looking at you, Netflix).

dulcaoin wrote:
I also believe there's a way to launch ZunTzu without the auto-patch step; but I have to investigate that too.

Would love to know how to do this, or some setting to disable it, or voluntarily roll back on the client side.
Joshua, a hearty thank you! I'm quite glad to see activity on ZunTzu again.