A better "game"?
Post by iconPost by zezo | 2009-06-11 | 21:59:26

I have this idea about developing "game" platform for some time now.

But I'd prefer to call it "sailing simulator" and not a game. A newbie post in the VORG forum just reminded me about the difference.

What I have in mind is something developed by sailors and for sailors. It may be open-source if there are enough people interested in working on it, or at least 'Open' platform in the sense that it allows sailors to define their own races, rules and regulations. Like you can define Atlantic crossing with wave windsurf board polars.
And should be as realistic as possible.

Some considerations:

Development effort:
I can write the back-end (game server) myself in maybe a month or less. But there are other things, most notably the user interface. Ideally web-based, and no flash if possible. Additional mobile html/wap gateways to control your boat. And documented API so you can write your own perl/java/python interface.

Financing:
The project can be developed by volunteers in their spare time, but it would still require hardware and bandwidth. This does not worry me too much, because if it stays low-profile the expenses will be low, and if it becomes popular there will be possibility of income by ads or sponsors.

Technical ideas:
The best possible simulation should have winds smoothly averaged both in time and space. But that would be impossible to steer with the existing game interfaces, and it will require very capable auto-pilot/wind vane. And does not match the idea of we-based interface.
Other possibility is using the route optimizer for steering so you can concentrate the strategy and leave the tactical decisions to it.
Tacking should definitely affect performance, how much exactly depending on the size of the 'boat'.
Waves can be considered, but it will be hard to visualize.

So this topic is open for discussion.

commenticon 23 Comments
Post by iconPost by Oceans_United | 2009-06-11 | 23:00:21
That is a great idea.
I am not a skilled programmer myself, definitely not as good and fast as your are.
But since im working in the mapping industry with geospatial data, map projections and datums. I think a can contribute on these issues.

To overcome some of the most answered problems in the VORG-forum. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a game map much like Google Earth - an oblique orthographic projection. The math is relatively simple. And the map can be prepared for different zoom levels, by simply cutting it into tiles. Then it will only be nessecairy to load in the tiles in question and make a 1. order linear transformation. A procedure most graphics cards are capable of.

With regards to wind. I think the 1 square degree wind cells are to big. I would generaly like to lower the impact of discreteness, that would make it more like real sailing.

What about current?
And tides?
Post by iconPost by zezo | 2009-06-11 | 23:27:33
Not really a programmer. I've written more lines of code for this project than in the past 12 years. I think that 'Engineer' would be the best description, but I digress.

I've tried how classic Mercator will look before the start of this leg, but it's too stretched at the current latitude to be practical for on-line tile-based presentation.

So it's interesting indeed what projection will be best suited. Maybe not strictly conformal, but close enough, and different projections at different zoom levels are possible too.
Post by iconPost by bigamist | 2009-06-11 | 23:33:17
Sure a Great idea.

As I think II already mention, I am working on a comparative between all the Navigation sailing Simulators, that I will publish here (of course if Zezo allow).

Concerning Maps, I would prefer Mercator Nautical charts. If you are building something for sailors, I think that would be the best option. Of course that designers could work a bit for the maps to become more atractive having in mind the gammers. Sailors like good design as well.:)

Waves, currents and tides, would be a thing to tottaly avoid, since would be far from reality and not have it is only missing the reality.

The winds are one of the best things that the Virtual-loup-de-Mer simulator have. Pure UGrib maps with full interpolation. You don't notice windcells and between a wind of 10 and a wind of 20 you will find a 15 wind. That happens too with the wind direction.

The tools, you need to have a look on the VLM also. Everything is basic but works well. The pilot there give you the chance to program long distances, changing between Wind-Pilot and Auto-helm, programing by time or coordinates. The only thing that they don't have is sails. (On VLM the Sails are full automatic without player interference). On this case, the implementation of diferent sails would be crucial.

We need simple things that can be understood by all quickly. Sailing is simple and natural, not complicated at all. :)
Post by iconPost by Oceans_United | 2009-06-12 | 00:05:15
VORG is perhaps initial percieved and thougth as simple. But the surges in the forum speeks for it self with regards to simpleness of play.

I think one of the problems with simpleness is that sailors are used to a lot of terms and ways of doing things, where as the nonsailors (the landlubbers) have a different perception of the world. They generaly don't know or care about maps and the different maps advantages or distortion effects.
Combine this with the way the program works like only saving trackinfo every second hour and all the other issues. The discreteness issues - the 10 min. blocks, the windcells and so forth.
If game should include both landlubbers and sailors, some compromises must be made I think.
Therefore I propose the oblique orthographic projection. In the center part it is almost both conformal and equal area and is also true to distances. Regardless of what latitude is chosen as the centerpoint. Ofcourse the map will change slowly when moving the center to another position, just like Google Earth, wich most people are used to.

I like the wind interpolation proposal.
Post by iconPost by Antonio | 2009-06-12 | 00:46:00
Check out www.sailonline.org they have a pretty smooth interface although it is flash based!
Post by iconPost by zezo | 2009-06-12 | 01:04:30
Thanks.

I've seen the screenshots and have wondered if it's flash or executable application. And the language/tools usually matter less than the skills of the programmers who use them, so writing good flash interface should be possible.

BTW by the descriptions it seems that sailonline.org is pretty good simulation too.
Post by iconPost by Antonio | 2009-06-12 | 01:51:35
It is a pretty good simulation. I've been doing their version of the "Around the World Race" and it rocks! You should definately check it out. Actually I found the sailonline site by doing research on the net for routing software for Mac users since I could not use VR Tool. I downloaded a software called Sailplanner (www.sailplanner.net) which apparently was developed by the same guys who run the sailonline.org website. I started using Sailplanner on Leg 3 with pretty good results. Sailplanner was of great help for long term routing but since it was meant to be used a a real life router (there are no discrete steps) one had to take the results with a grain of salt! On Leg 6 I started comparing your results with the ones given by Sailplanner with different boats. It is needless to say that since you take into account the "discrete step" nature of the game your routes worked out much better than the ones given by Sailplanner. On Leg 5 Sailplanner did help me to catch that famous Low Pressure system though!
Post by iconPost by bigamist | 2009-06-12 | 12:32:50
Just a few infos:

Sailonline.org started Leg6 of the "Around the World Race " VOR similar, 6 days later due Big Server problems. Nevertheless they made all the Inport races.

VLM - Virtual Loup de Mer also have a VOR version.

The Figures: VORGame - 220.000 registed players : 120.000 active players (boats)
Sailonline - ??? : 1.200 active players
Virtual Loup - ??? : 800 active players

Impressive, no?

So, for a future game this can be good to understand first.
Post by iconPost by Antonio | 2009-06-12 | 16:09:07
Hi!

As I understand it, the problem with Leg 6 wasn't the sailonline server but they had problems with their ISP and had to change providers so they couldn't start the race on time. Never during actual racing has there been a server crash! Since its more of a simulation to actual racing you have to dedicate a lot more time to it if you want to do well! So maybe thats a reason for lower active players...

Regards
Post by iconPost by latenite | 2009-06-17 | 03:07:21
IMHO, any of the games mentioned probably would have the same numbers (and probably higher) I understand VORG has better numbers than the competitors, but is it a better game? I don't think so. I would also challenge the 120,000 active players. On Leg 7, I created a boat 3 days after my primary boat finished. That boat "started" at 76000 and finished at 70000. How many of those boats currently over position 58000 are really "racing" and how many are just playing (trying to sail over the pole, seeing how far away from the fleet they can go and other stupid games). The way _I_ interpret the numbers is you reached peak active participation in Leg 5 and the numbers have been declining since

Does anyone know if VOR organizers looked at any other products other than United Games? Does anybody have personal knowledge that these other products will not scale to support the VORG number of players?

As a real sailor who does long distance racing, I find several of the deficiencies of VORG frustrating. The only reason I kept with VORG is because I found other tools (like this site and VRTool) which enabled me to do some real routing, planning and strategy (and not just follow the leaders around). THe VORG very quickly became something to only track your position in the fleet and set course and sails. I found the interface useless for anything else.
Post by iconPost by zezo | 2009-06-12 | 17:18:58
A quick roundup before I get back to packing luggage:

Thanks for the good points so far - there is some food for thought there.

The 3h winds are a must, and not hard to do - in fact the winds are represented as vector components in the GRIB format so they can be interpolated easily. And grib2 comes with 0.5 degree resolution.

I agree that currents and tides are too unpredictable to make realistic model. Waves are possible, as they are part of the GFS model, but it remains to be seen if and how it will work in practice.

Sailor/player distinction is really important, but if the platform is flexible enough there can be races with different difficulty, or 'classes' within one race with different options.

bigamist: I don't mind publishing the research here. I haven't seen such comparison so far, so it should be useful reference for everyone.

Antonio: Thanks for mentioning sailonline/sailplanner. It's good to know that someone writes quality software, even if you look at it as possible competition. BTW it seems that they have created sailonline mostly to advertise the real tool, so there may be room for another simulator with somehow different idea.
Post by iconPost by Lauren2 | 2009-06-16 | 00:46:49
Hello

You may have easy access to some hosting facility but just in case you will be seeking for a server, drop me a direct mail.
I must admit I'm not actively monitoring forums.
If precise target hardware is required, I may get it online as a sponsor.

Tell me also if you will use the one I opened or if I should discard it.
(no problem letting it run)

And once again, bravo for the whole site.
Both the simulator but also the forum were a great entertainment for me these last weeks.

Yes ! I can be your non professional/addict/integrist but fun/diletante/casual sailing ressource ;-)
Post by iconPost by latenite | 2009-06-16 | 20:45:56
Many thanks for an interesting site. It is something the VORG is missing.

I've "raced" on all the sites mentioned above plus one not mentioned so far: Oceans - Virtuel. They've been around for quite some time (I believe they pre-date Virtual-loup-de-Mer by one or two years).

I liked some of the features of Sailonline/sailplanner but thought VLM handled most things as well if not better.

While I like many of the features of Virtual-loup-de-Mer, I think sail changes should be part of the mix.

Regarding the comment about keeping it simple to attract a wider audience:
Maybe you have an option for "automatic sail changes" but the speed of the auto sails is less than the manually chosen sails (much like the difference between the standard and "Pro" sails in the VORG).
Post by iconPost by zecdarmor | 2009-06-16 | 22:48:29
Hey all,

I found your site & program towards the end of VOR, zezo. The program been very helpful & I'm fresh new in the forum.

I can't technically ( or financially, for that matter ) help the making of your project, which sounds highly interesting. But here are a couple of "user's" ideas.

Geography : You put a lot of city names on this map. I like it a lot. In VOR or the Vendée Globe, it was very frustrating not to see islands & countries names. & run google earth at the same time to check is just not the same feeling, you know ? The map, the boats, the names have to be in front of you alltogether for the " immersion factor ".
You answer a call to a m8 or send an SMS, or brag at a bar saying : " I'm heading for the East of the Fidjis". You don't mention a waypoint & a route in degrees & minutes. No dream there.

But I guess it's hard to make it neat. With names everywhere, you can't see a thing & hit a whale easy... Pop ups with arrows that move away from the center of the map, maybe?

Tide & current : In some known places, for example, between the tip of Bretagne & the island of Ouessant ( yes, I'm french ) tides & currents can be huge. It could be translated by an "open or closed door". Wrong time : the tide, current & waves are against you : the pass is "grayed" or something on the map & you just can't go against it( which is just the plain truth ). Right time : You get an accelerator factor.

Now, I've time to browse around the forum. The vendee & VOR are thru. WATTA MY GONNA DO NOW ???

Damn, still no decent pirate or sailing game on Playstation or else. I wonder what they are waiting for...
Post by iconPost by saregidas | 2009-06-17 | 07:23:52
I have written a few lines of code myself. Started on Univac 1050 (rotating magnetic drum). Worked up to a Burroughs 263 (9.6K) which could actually sort 100 80 column cards. Got out of the business 20 some years later after working on many IBM mainframes. Do they still use the term "mainframe"?
I found Zezo 1/2 way through leg 7 and used it all leg 8 and had my best finish. Leg 9 I couldn't use it all the time because it just didn't look right......half of the black dots were on land. Did others have a problem or was it just me?
Anyway, the site is really great and I have enjoyed using it.
Post by iconPost by latenite | 2009-06-17 | 16:51:51
Yes, this site appeared to have severe problems with short term, close to shore routing.
Even the final 5 hours. I was in the wind "box" directly below the finish and the router was recommending I sail 1 hour to the east so I could then sail 1hour 20 minutes to the finish circle.

This is when I was under 2 hours away from sailing directly to finish line by going north.
Post by iconPost by pbz | 2009-06-17 | 21:36:17
It's a great idea. I'm developer now mostly in j2ee, that I can write interface for mobile, or I can localizing into Polish.

For me VORG was quite good for practising routing meteo. If wind will be updated every 6 or 3 hours that be great.
The other variables as waves, tide currents or else may be introduced lately.

The idea that sailors may define own races will be very interesting for meteorological studies...
Post by iconPost by TSIONA | 2009-06-17 | 23:11:20
Some advices as a VORG player:
1.Pluralism : Create a new tool is a must, and add boat polars of the most races.
2.Migration. How to "capture" the attention of tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands players from VORG to another game. It seems not so easy(publicity)
3.Accessibility1: The game has to be accessible from any place/device for people working far away from computers.
4.Accessibility2: In the same spirit( and like in Sailonline), allow auto-pilot to define several waypoint forward. This is especially good if you are going to a picnic today ! And it for sure avoids players frustration and family problems...
5. The technical sailing level of the game must be high as possible, with options of not using/using professional tools. (no less than MaxSea!)
6. Be loyal with sailors because they are playing with passion, and put lies and money away or you will have (like in the last leg) a lot of Kamikazes killing themselves on the rocks...
7. It is easy to pay for a game if it is complete, attractive, and reliable.
Post by iconPost by serge | 2009-06-18 | 11:48:32
Bravo for your tools, I currently testing the VOR and I say that it is super, ½ 1hrs day I arrived before my competitor.
Unfortunately I can not help you to develop this because I am no computer, but I have ideas for development for other games.
Able to adapt to other polar boats
Able to use this program for other interfaces that Many Player
Able to connect an autopilot
Able to change the sails
Able to download grib files

There will be another race Many Player with Loïc Peyron, if I can change the polar I will test for this race

Greetings
Post by iconPost by MaxHipshot | 2009-06-27 | 01:06:54
My two cents:

Websites that are about communities are booming.
A scissor company called Fiskars is running a site where a massive amount of 'Fisketeers' exchange ideas about handycraft.
Do you have natural curls? Then naturallycurly.com is your place.

Both mentioned sites have tens of thousands subscribers.
Nobody would even think that both these communities would amount to much.
They are generating healthy ROI though.

Now imagine a sailing site populated by a community of sailing afficionados. Occasionally a centrally organised (sponsored) race is hosted, but heck why not have groups of friends organise fun races amongst themselves, challenge competitive clans whatever. Similar to 'silly games' mentioned in an earlier post.

If you would have the 'zezo' equivalent of the vorg site up, where one could log in, take their boat for a tour, or join a mass competition, you would have a huge number of eyeballs on your site. I don't have to tell you that you'd probably be shopping at Ikea for a new desk in no-time :)

I for one wouldn't mind at all if you manage to turn a decent buck for all the great work you've done on your site, and hope the ideas in this thread help you along somewhat.

Hip
Post by iconPost by Vigilante | 2009-06-27 | 06:58:16
Hear! Hear! Seconding Max Hipshot!
Post by iconPost by mic_smac | 2011-08-06 | 12:11:50
Hi Cvetan,

Making a long story short. I started VR, as I had to quit my job as a research scientist in meteorology. I wrote some simple tools (fortran and tcsh) on my mac to help me. Naive, I was filling by hand my polar matrices by turning the MP steering wheel…

A few days ago a playmate kindly indicated me zezo. I am very impressed.!.

In-between, I had this idea of an equivalent game for sky navigators. Because, for some special events, I once wrote the code (based on existing routines) for a balloon competition. The winner was not the one whose balloon was found furthest, but nearest it's guessed landing position, based on our trajectories. It was a great success, with thousands of found balloons sent back.

I thus offered my services to solarimpulse.com. I have very clear ideas of how it could look like: ECMWF forecasts, heading, pitch plus battery load and turbulence handling, etc, etc. (...) Of course, a player interface inspired from the very intuitive and good-looking one of MP is a must (although I love the unix aesthetic of yours).

I thought I had very good arguments to convince the people from the solarimpulse project, but it seems that Bertrand Piccard is more interested in himself than in democratizing his experience. That's why, I'm now offering my skills to you for an unofficial game. As your future plans are "Nothing left to do ;-)", you might be interested in the challenge and potential ROI of an extension of your kernel.

What do you think? Already working on it?

Kind regards, Mic_smac
Post by iconPost by Catov | 2011-08-26 | 18:19:32
Why not adapt the actual zezo so that everybody can import winds and boat properties and polars and sell it.
I am not programmer, but what is the difference with this clipper and the clipper 2009-2010 ?
Cant we use the ugrib winds and import them ourelves in a program like zezo ?
A lot of people will buy such a program I suppose, i would !
Sincerely
Winny
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