• SDK - Soul Destroying Kit?

    Discussion in 'News' started by Pi Mu Rho, Aug 16, 2010.

    For those of you that don't know me, I made the official maps for the highly-acclaimed Zombie Master mod for HL2. After something of a hiatus, partially caused by not ever wanting to use the Source SDK again, I offered my services to the team currently working on updating Zombie Master. So now I'm remaking my original maps - a relatively simple task, or so I thought.

    I've been using Worldcraft/Hammer since 1996, and the Source SDK since its first release, and you know what? It's got steadily worse in that time. Sure, there's been improvements to individual tools - Hammer, most notably, has a lot of new features. Of course, it also has a lot more bugs. Hammer, however, is not the worst culprit. The SDK launcher is. It's not an application to be taken lightly, as innocent as it looks. Underneath that old Steam veneer (why doesn't it use your selected Steam skin, Valve?) lurks a black heart, full of venom and malice, biding its time before unleashing a wave of destruction guaranteed to infuriate even the most gentle of souls. Exaggeration? Hardly.


    I understand the need for the launcher, if not the underlying philosophy. The launcher exists to let you switch between the different game or mod configurations. It's a necessity - Zombie Master uses HL2's textures and models by default, along with its own. If you were making a map for CS:S, you'd need a different configuration. So that makes sense. What I can't fathom, however, is why we have three different SDK versions to choose from. Are people making new mods based on the 2006 version of Source? Maybe I'm missing something here.

    Anyway, the launcher. It has a nasty habit of periodically resetting your game configurations. No explanation given, and no indication that it's ever going to be fixed. Those in the know make sure that the text file containing the game configurations is backed up and also set as read-only, just to prevent the launcher from eating it.

    Now on to Hammer. As previously mentioned, I've been using it for years. I can more or less use it blindfolded (although I wouldn't recommend trying it.) but again, it has some major issues. Just yesterday, for reasons currently unknown, it stopped working with my Zombie Master configuration. For some reason (and I suspect a collusion with the SDK launcher) it wouldn't load files required for the editor to work. Nothing I tried would fix it. I reset the game configurations (and how telling it is that Valve saw fit to include that button in the launcher.) I created configurations from scratch. I completely deleted all traces of the SDK and re-downloaded it. Nothing. It's still broken even now.

    Fortunately, I was able to find some information about how to move your game configuration to the 2007 SDK (what was known as the Orange Box) - it involves a degree of copying, pasting and editing game configurations to get it to work, but work it does. It's even a better version of Hammer, with a few extra features.

    Except for two small issues.


    First of all, I like to use batch files to compile my maps. A combination of Valve's insistence on using command-line tools, and their refusal to put the Hammer compile window into it's own process mean that Hammer becomes unresponsive until the compile has finished. Personally, I like to check on the progress while it's in progress. So batch files it is. Or rather, isn't - for some reason, the 2007 SDK won't let me do it. All I get is screens full of errors about missing materials. By the looks of it, it's not looking somewhere it should be, and I can't for the life of me work out why. It's most likely something glaringly obvious that I've overlooked, but I shouldn't be in this position anyway. It's quite ludicrous.

    Secondly, Hammer refuses to load certain maps. Now when I say "refuses", I don't mean that it fails to load the map and gives me an error. Or that it displays a big red X with a message saying "No ****ing Way" or anything inbetween. It just closes. It closes Hammer completely, without error or warning, efficiently taking any other open maps with it.

    The bizarre thing about this particular incident is that the maps it fails to open work perfectly well in the 2006 SDK version of Hammer. I even managed to open them in the 2009 Hammer. It's just the 2007 version that dies. Even more bizarrely, the only maps that seem to cause this are the 4 completed maps from Zombie Master. Bear in mind that these are the raw, uncompiled versions of those maps. There is nothing to differentiate them from any other, unfinished, map.

    So now, unless I can find out why this is happening, I'm left with having to deal with a bunch of workarounds just so I can work. (For reference, I'm remaking the maps from scratch, but I need the originals for reference, and for the occasional bit of incipient copy and paste action.)

    A brief note on the 2009 SDK version of Hammer, while I'm on the subject. It adds a few new great features, like Instancing (about time) but the new feature where, after a few minutes of usage, each of the viewport windows goes black is somewhat less desirable. As is the feature where the keyboard shortcuts that I am so used to, randomly stop working.

    [IMG] [IMG]
    Now believe me, I understand how hard it is to QA something like Hammer and the rest of the SDK. Valve's developers will have a pretty narrow and carefully-chosen selection of hardware and software, making it relatively simple to develop tools on. Making those tools then work consistently on the weird and wonderful selection of systems owned and operated by the general public is another thing entirely. I get it.

    But, Valve, you have had years to get this fixed. It's shoddy.

    In a conversation I once had with Mike Durand at Valve (coincidentally after I'd written a long rant about the then-state of their SDK. See a pattern?) he said that they were too busy making cool games to work on the tools, and I considered that to be a fair point at the time. Now, though, it seems like something of a cop-out. When Valve provide the engine and games that the majority of popular mods are based on, and that this is seemingly a point of pride for them, then they should put more effort into making those tools work. It's not like they don't have the resources.
    Categories: Uncategorized


Discussion in 'News' started by Pi Mu Rho, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. 63
    Yeah no kidding.
  2. Vegeta897

    JESUS ****
  3. A Big Fat CoW
    There's a pretty big difference between an intelligent, well constructed, thought provoking editorial, and someone just bitching about as if their opinion matters and posting it on the front page. In my opinion, the post in question falls into the latter category.

    Just seems like this site is getting desperate, is all.
  4. Vegeta897
    Desperate would be posting about insignificant mod media updates consisting of unskinned AK47 models and terrible concept art drawings.

    At least this is original content, both in the subject matter and the fact that it was written by one of our own people.
  5. Pi Mu Rho
    Yeah, you're right. We're so desperate for news to post that I just pretty much sat at my keyboard and hammered on the keys.

    It was something I felt strongly about and so I decided to write an editorial about it. Interestingly, you and your opinion seem to be in the minority here.
  6. Krynn72
    This site needs more things like this. Frankly this was one of the most interesting thing's I've read on here recently. Not a dig on the site, just saying I liked this kind of article.
  7. Barnz
    I'd love to see more articles from Pi.
  8. windlab
    Hi all, I'm windlab, and I came here after Pi's article was linked to over at Interlopers.net

    The article (quite rightly) caused a stir, for though criticism of the Source SDK is nothing new (a section of the Wikipedia page is even dedicated to its criticism), this is the first time in a while the issues with the SDK have been dragged into the public spectrum.

    A Steam group with the aim of raising these issues with Valve has been set up, and a thread started here for organisational purposes.
    Please show your support by joining the Steam group, and together we will achieve that which isn't possible individually.

    I am open for communication via PM, or Steam, and I will always attempt to reply within 24hours.
    Thanks for reading, and cred to Pi Mu Rho for speaking up.
  9. Rossjg
    This just in: Valve fly Pi out to Seattle for him to test run the SDK updates.
  10. Druckles
    I assumed the awkward, tedious and fiddly features of the SDK was a rite of passage.
  11. DarkDamo
    The tools for Unity3D are nice, although I hate the overall engine so much. As a programmer I have come to hate Unity for the fact that I was merely a scripter when using it. Want to debug that line of code? Hell no, we don't do no code debuggin here. Get back to your fancy engines.

    I don't even put Source and UE3 (tools) on the same page. I have used Hammer for a bit and UE3 as well and UE3 blows Source out of the water in my eyes. UE3, while initially unstable as shit (UDK is much more stable), was a whole lot more easy and intuitive to use. I haven't done much coding in either engine but Source does get points for being c++ based ;)

    Whenever I open Hammer I feel like I have gone back 10 years. It doesn't feel like the tool set for a modern engine at all.
  12. A Big Fat CoW
    Once again, your sarcasm is adorable.

    So I'm not allowed to have an opinion if it doesn't coincide with the majority? I'm just saying that I didn't like the article. I guess having an opinion must be against the rules now.
  13. Pi Mu Rho
    Your ability to (mis)read between the lines is even more adorable.

    Did anyone say you couldn't have an opinion that goes against the majority? Were you told, or was it even hinted that having an opinion was against the rules?

    Climb down off that cross and stop being such a fool.
    My point was exactly as stated - you didn't see the article as being newsworthy, but the majority of people so far have. So congratulations on not only completely missing the point, but also on completely making up your own.

    Round of applause, please. A Big Fat CoW, ladies and gentlemen!
  14. Vegeta897
    No, you weren't just saying you didn't like the article. You were saying hl2.net must be 'desperate' for content because someone wrote an editorial. Makes no sense, and you completely ignored Pi's (and my) answer.
  15. Krynn72
    Haha, well, I can't attest to anything on the programming end. But I was using it as an artist and gameplay designer at my last job, and it was bliss for what I was doing. Especially after working on a proprietary engine for so long *shudder*
  16. Pi Mu Rho
    As an interesting (to some) aside, I fixed my major current problem with the SDK, by the equivalent of applying ducttape, strategically-positioned pencils, painting half of my face blue and hopping on one leg while gargling the national anthem.
    That was a metaphor, obviously. The actual solution was similarly stupid and nonsensical, though.

    I'd also like add as a corollary to my last response to ABFC that this article has stirred up a lot of interest, enough so that a major campaign is now underway to try to get Valve to deal with some of the issues. I take no credit for this, but I'm happy to have been the catalyst.
  17. windlab
    Hi everyone

    Due to the unnecessarily long and cumbersome nature of the old group name (AOGIMMDRSDKI! (SDK outdated)) (even all that was an abbreviation), a new group has been created due to the lack of an ability to change group names.

    The new group is named the SDK Improvement Group, and you are cordially invited/requested/compelled to join, and leave the old group if you were a part of it already.

    The links contained in my last post have been updated, as always, the coordination thread (when not taking place in the Steam group chat) can be found on Interlopers.

    I will continue to monitor this thread, and can always be contacted.
  18. A Big Fat CoW
    Wow, you guys sure showed me. Score!

    Grow up. This whole thing started when I asked an inoffensive question and was insulted for it, and every step of the way my responses have been met with sarcasm, condescension, and more insults. If I'm on a cross, as you say, it's because you put me there.

    The only point that I'm trying to make is that I don't think this article should have been on the front page. That's my opinion. I'm not insulting anyone for disagreeing with me (unlike my opposition, it seems), I'm just saying that I don't like it. It seems, to me, to be more like a rant someone would write for a blog, than a news editorial. I'm sorry that my opinion isn't the popular one, but there it is.

    If posting it has caused good things for the community, such as improvements to the SDK, cool. Good for you. I just think that the article could have been written from a more objective perspective.
  19. Krynn72
    Apology accepted.
  20. Pi Mu Rho
    Shouldn't that tell you something, perhaps?

    Yes, it was your opinion, which you were allowed to air. That doesn't make it sacrosanct, though, and people are allowed to disagree with it (just like you are). Also, you have quite the post history of being abusive and argumentative. You reap what you sow.

    There, that wasn't too hard now, was it?
  21. ZoFreX
    While at first I was like "why is this on the front page?" I actually found it really informative. I had a discussion elsewhere just last week regarding why more developers don't use the Source engine, and the relative weakness of the SDK was my answer. I haven't used it for a few years though, I'm sad to hear that if anything it has gotten worse. I certainly won't be going back if batch compiling is broken, that was absolutely essential.

    Does it matter? I'm not sure. Valve are making plenty of money, and it would take a lot of time and effort to polish the SDK. Even then, the engine itself is also basically made for Valve's purposes, not anyone elses, so even with a good SDK I doubt that many people would want to use it (versus UE which was designed to be a 3rd party engine, or CryTek with its live editing/testing).
  22. Varsity
    The whole SDK launcher can also be skipped with the Source SDK Windows Gadget.
  23. Bluestrike
    Having worked with the sourceSDK & hammer and Unity3D,
    from my leveldesign point of view I would have hammer any day over unity,
    on that field Unity just sucks.
    Tough I have to say Unity is always improving and the 3.0 release will have lightmappers and some better snapping etc.
    The terrain still does not feature materials and there are things you can do with source its displacements that you can't with untity terrain and vice versa.

    The reason I use unity at this time is because I am new and coding and had no clue where to start with the source SDK while unity is well documented and probably a good way to start of people like me ;-)

    I'd say no SDK or tool is perfect unless somebody merges them all into one and makes it stable ;-P
  24. Shinobi
    The Bad

    Hammer is archaic, it needs a lighting preview badly, the sourceSDK launcher has a habit of breaking the day you planned to get all your stuff finished for a new patch, but the worst thing is the art pipeline. Getting a model into the source engine with proper looking materials etc takes an order of magnitude longer than other current engines.

    I could almost code a model inline into an XNA viewer as fast as I can get a model looking good in Source.

    The Good (and why I keep working on it)

    Source multiplayer games just "feel" better than other multiplayer games. I think it mostly has to do with the inherited quake input system.

    Also doing BSP mapping is still the best on Source, I can still bang out a map in a weekend for fun if I want to :)

    That said, I am moving on to other engines, I do Source mapping as a side hobby, but it's not as prevalent as it used to be.
  25. Kaptain H
  26. Pi Mu Rho
    I still can't see any reason at all why there's nothing in Hammer to import textures or models. It's nonsensical.

    Yeah, and scalable meshes would be nice.
  27. ríomhaire
    Isn't one of the rules of that contest that you cannot use outside help?
  28. Kyorisu
    At least working with Alien Swarm the compile window is separate from Hammer. The one thing that has always annoyed me.
  29. Kaptain H
    He's doing all of the world building himself, and it's his map. It is actually stated in the rules that you're allowed to art from other people, as long as you have permission from the artists and have access to the source files upon submission.
  30. Shinobi
    batch files.... the only way to go