SC4 Devotion is once again open

As of just a few hours ago, the domain transfer went through, and SC4 Devotion is once again fully online.  Thank you to everyone in the SC4 community for their patience and support–it’s great to be back.

-Tarkus

What’s Up With NAM 37 and SC4 Devotion? Mid-August 2019 Edition

If you’ve been following the SC4 community of late, there’s been two very noticeable things: a lack of news related to the Network Addon Mod, and a rollercoaster of uptime and downtime at SC4 Devotion, one of the two major English-language SC4 sites that remains.  As someone who is involved with both behind the scenes, I thought I’d shed a bit more light on where things currently stand on both fronts.

What’s up with NAM 37?  Is it still in development, or is the project dead?

NAM 37 has been in development since the release of NAM 36, back in September 2017, almost 2 years ago.  Features that had been planned for it have actually been in the works since before that.  There is still very much a will to continue, but there’s been additional setbacks since my last post on the matter in March.

We did finally reach the point of having Alpha Build 01 for NAM 37 distributed to our internal testing group, the NAM Associates, but the recent issues with the installer having a mind of its own came to a head–the installer for the alpha build would often surreptitiously skip over some of the most critical files needed for the mod, including all of the main RUL files that make the mod’s added transport network functionality actually work.  More troublingly, the installer proceeded to act as if everything was normal while it completely failed to do its job, and the logs gave no clue as to why it was skipping these files.

The team had already been planning on ditching the existing installer system for NAM 38, after trying to nurse the old one along for one more release, but with the old one completely going GLaDOS, we decided it was necessary to accelerate the timeline for implementing the new installer, rolling it out to the public for NAM 37, which also meant that Alpha Build 02 for NAM 37 also needed to be running the new installer as well.

The new installer is based off a 10-year-old prototype from daeley (of DAMN fame), and is a cross-platform system written in Java–thereby also eliminating a major technical support issue that we were not at all equipped to deal with: installation questions from users playing the game on a Mac.  It’s also scriptless, thereby making the procedure for generating installers for future NAM releases much simpler.

That said, the new system is requiring that we change some things with the file architecture of the mod, and we are also having to rethink how critical things like installing the 4GB Patch (necessary to avoid CTDs on more powerful machines) and compiling the NAM Controller will work under the new system.  The architecture was largely solved by the end of April, but NAM development/testing had to go on hiatus immediately after that, for reasons I’ll describe in a moment.  That hiatus happened before we could solve the 4GB Patch and Controller-related matters.

For those expecting NAM 37 to be a huge release after all this time, I would also advise tempering one’s expectations.  It’s not a particularly substantial release–just one that’s faced an incredible number of roadblocks, on its way to having the longest development cycle of any NAM release to date.

What’s up with SC4 Devotion?

An internal situation (which I can’t fully discuss here at this time) ended up happening at the upper levels of SC4 Devotion, right around the same time that the NAM Team was dealing with the aforementioned issues.  This situation also happened to coincide with a number of technical issues (which could not have been timed worse–not that there’s ever a good time for such things), which knocked the forums and/or the LEX for extended periods between April and June.

The prospect of the site shutting down was a very real possibility–the only way under which it could survive is if the site was transferred to new ownership.  The senior staff debated the best way to handle the situation internally for a fairly lengthy period of time, and ultimately, I ended up having to unexpectedly assume control of the site, also at a rather inconvenient time–just as I was moving.

As of writing, the site is fully moved onto its new home, and is functional, but the domain name is still in the process of being transferred.  The request was placed on August 10th.  The old server was extended multiple times, to facilitate the move, but it will be shut off for good on August 19th.  The forums were shut down on the old server early on August 2nd, so as to prevent anyone from making additional posts, thereby requiring yet another database transfer.  They will remain closed until the “new” SC4D is fully operational.  The LEX remains operational on the old server–there is no way for us to lock it down–though any uploads or comments after August 2nd are not in the database on the new server, and won’t transfer.

I’ve managed to retrieve the one file that was unfortunately uploaded after that date, though I cannot re-upload it until the new site is officially operating as sc4devotion.com.  There are reCAPTCHAs on the registration pages and also on uploads, and since our temporary URL does not have a key, things there are non-functional until then.

SC4 Devotion also happens to be the nerve center for the NAM Team’s developmental and testing operations, so this has further impacted the ability to get to the last phases of the NAM 37 cycle.  The hope is that I will be able to return to working on the new installer system after the “new” SC4D is fully open to the public, and that internal testing can resume in September.

Thank you to everyone for your support through this difficult time in the SC4 community–here’s to hoping for better times in the very near future.

-Tarkus