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News from 1999

         Saturday, December 11th, 1999         

      Development Update: Well, not much to report. Development over the past week was interrupted a couple times to work on a few small additions to
Lunatix Online. However, StarLock development has not been suspended, and we're making nice progress. Below are a few of the new StarLock scenes (scroll down past these pictures for more news).


      The pictures above are shrunken versions of six StarLock scenes. The full-size scenes aren't available here, but may be included in an upcoming “screen shots” page. The screen layout actually includes the graphic at the top portion of the screen with the bottom split into a “chat” half and a “menu/text” half. Read through older news for an example or two of the complete StarLock game screen.

      We've been getting quite a few questions about the story and the plot. “Those are great pics, but what's the game about?” Well, much of that is still a secret at this point. I will say that part of it involves transportation, but it's not another “merchants and traders in space” game. By that, I mean you won't be buying and selling stuff as a means of building your wealth (at least not directly) like you may have seen in so many other “space” games. We're also considering how much (or how little) PVP (player.vs.player) elements to include. We don't really want to focus on “beating each other up.”

      But, several months of development lay before us and anything could change. Stay tuned to this site for more news, a features list, screen shots, and eventual information about the story and idea behind the game.

         Saturday, December 4th, 1999         

      Graphics Development: More StarLock graphics have been rendered. This is one huge game. A new logo has been added as well (see the top of this page). Stay tuned for updated screen shots in a few days.

      Code Development: The StarLock game engine is also progressing just fine. Two more modifications will be made to the space-travel routines. The results of scanning a sector will appear in the graphics frame over a darkened mask (should make for a neat effect - hard to describe). Course information will also be shown over the same area (the quadrant-to-quadrant list of the course you're currently travelling). When completed, all galactic navigation will take place in the upper half of the screen (in the graphic area) and will make gameplay much smoother.

         Thursday, December 2nd, 1999         

      New Development: For the first time in several months, StarLock development has resumed. Today, the space travel interface was refined so that all course-plotting, suspend/resume, cancel, and quadrant-scanning can be done from the graphic scene frame without the need for an additional “navigation” menu. This will make the interface more intuitive and should help streamline galactic travel.

         Sunday, July 18th, 1999         

      Really Busy, In Fact: StarLock had to take a back seat (once again) to other things over the past three weeks. First, we began offering
serving licensing for Lunatix Online. This means other sites can purchase a license to run a copy of the game on their own pay-for-play or ISP web site. This required about a week of finalization on the game code to prepare it for other sites. Next, it came time to end and judge the Lunatix Online IGM Contest. The winners were announced earlier this month at the official Lunatix Online Home Page. Shortly thereafter, we extracted the “chat” portion of Lunatix Online (also being used in StarLock) as a stand-alone web-based CGI program called JabberChat. The JabberChat CGI is available for free download (and can even be demo'd live to see what it's like) by anybody who wants to run their own chat for their web site visitors. Now, most recently, we've redesigned the Prowler Productions Home Page to give it a nicer, fresh look. At the same time, we introduced a brand new links page which features “banner exchange” info for anybody running an online game or game-related web site.

      But, StarLock Continues: As any small team can tell you, it's difficult to focus on new development when so much existing stuff demands attention. However, StarLock should be our priority again very soon (this week, most likely) and more development news should be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

         Monday, June 28th, 1999         

      Brand New Scene: Here's a new screen capture from StarLock, Prowler Productions' upcoming web-based multiplayer RPG/Adventure. This is a shot of the “Neutron Particle Core Extraction” machine, which is an alien artifact found on one of the planets in the StarLock galaxy. Built by the Silorian Empire, the NPCE connects to a parallel dimension. This is one of many Silorian artifacts scattered through the game. Who are the Silorians? Where did they go? Find out when StarLock is done. Stay tuned!

Click the pic above to see the full-sized version.

         Sunday, June 27th, 1999         

      Lunatix Server: The past two weeks have been busy for
Lunatix Online. Because we are now allowing other servers (web hosts, ISP's, and gaming sites) to license the game from us to run at their site, we've been busy getting a “release package” ready. In addition, or web host has been having troubles, and the stress level around here has been out of control having to deal with server down-time and slow response times.

      Our Own Server: Prowler Productions currently uses a local web host for Lunatix Online. We are looking at purchasing our own server, though. If we can work out arrangements for an Internet connection, we plan to purchase and build a system of our own in the coming week and have it running live within two.

      What's New With StarLock? Lately, not much, but we're diving back in to development now that Lunatix is ready for licensing. We have been working hard to develop support for Perl ISAPI (also called PerlIS.dll) which is an alternative Perl interpreter for Windows NT systems (and which greatly improves performance and speed). We've incorporated ISAPI support into StarLock already.

         Tuesday, June 15th, 1999         

      Get a Cable Modem! If cable modems are offered in your area, and it's feasible to get one, you should! We just had a cable modem installed with a hub to our PC's. The speed is amazing. This is how the internet should be. It also confirms my suspicion that the
Lunatix Online server is running fast and fairly efficient even with quite a few players online, and that flaky/slow connections and play speeds are on the client's end -- not the server's. Still, we do as much as possible to assure that the game is playable for all.

      IGM Script Parser Changes: So that more of the game can be built quicker with scripts, the parser is being modified so that more of the character values can be changed. Our original IGM concept (a la “Lunatix”) was to limit the kinds of changes scripts could perform (for fairness and game balance). Although if StarLock allows user-made add-ons these limitations will be in place, the core game scripts need to do things like change the player's weapon, hit points, defense, and so forth. Already, a crude “item shop” has been scripted which actually changes the player's weapon info when one is purchased!
      Another exciting change to the script engine, as mentioned briefly on Sunday, is the ability to run custom programs via the new “/spawn:” script command. The uses here are unending. For example, it wouldn't be practical to write an IGM-style script that lists and looks up other players. However, a CGI program that does do this can be “called” from a link in a script. Already, this has been put to use for on-planet battles. Imagine landing on a cold, icy planet and attacking a resident snow beast -- from within a script! A CGI "attack" engine is simply called via “/spawn:” from within the script. This allows for custom monsters and custom battles.

      Yes, It's Turn-Based: After much thought, StarLock will be turn-based. This means a certain number of turns (100, for instance) will be given each day. These turns are used for traveling through space, battling creatures, and probably other things as well. There may be ways to earn/win bonus turns. Trial members will have fewer turns per day than paying subscribers. A count of the number of turns remaining now appears in the lower-right corner of the game window and is updated each time a turn is used.

[Sunday, 6/13/99]: Not Much This Weekend

      Work: Not much development was accompolished this weekend due to “other” work. However, a method for allowing scripts to run programs has been added and will help.

[Tuesday, 6/8/99]: 640x480 Resolution Is Supported

      Two Game Layouts: StarLock is being designed to allow display at 640x480 (originally our intent was to require 800x600, like Lunatix Online). This should make it playable by everybody, although due to the use of dynamic html, it will still require a Netscape 4 or MSIE 4 (or newer) browser.

Click Picture For Full Size
Normal View (800x600)

Click Picture For Full Size
Low-Res View (640x480)

      Course “In-Route” Info: A small floating frame has been added to the main view window which contains quick shortcuts to plot a course, suspend a course, or cancel/resume a course which has been suspended. It also displays the current sector/quadrant location, and the next location when in route. Perhaps the best part of the info box is a time ticker which appears while in-route and shows the amount of time remaining before arrival at the next quadrant. You can see the info box in the lower-left corner of the planet in the screen shots above. The info box can be moved to any of the four corners of the screen kind of like a TV's picture-in-picture.

      Galactic Navigation is almost Done! The sector selection screen has now been added, so a course can be plotted to any point in the StarLock galaxy. A working version of the starship engine speed table has also been created, which is used to calculate the real-time distance between quadrants. For instance, a course that spans 20 quadrants in two sectors might take 30 minutes at impulse speed, 15 minutes at sublight speed, 5 minutes at warp 3, 30 seconds at warp 9, or instant arrival using the rare “hyperfold” engine. Everything is working fine. The only problem remaining to fix here is a strange problem where the arrival time to the next quadrant is sometimes a second or two off, causing the screen refresh to “hiccup” in route.

Click the pic above to see the full-sized version.

[Sunday, 6/6/99]: Scripting Engine Added

      For Easier Development: The Lunatix Online scripting engine has been modified and added to StarLock. This may pave the way for user-made add-ons (like IGM's) at some point, but the main benefit is added ease of development. Places like planets or starbases or asteroids or moons can be built quicker and easier now.

[Wednesday, 6/2/99]: New Screen Shot

      Here We Go! Here is a new shot of the game screen (captured while running it in Netscape 4.07). The planet “Rigel VII” doesn't actually (and probably won't) exist in the game. The scene shown will most likely be named something else (some planet with an air shield surrounding it). Keep in mind that we are still in the very early stages of development and the road ahead is a long one.

Click the pic above to see the full-sized version.

      Space travel now works! In addition to being able to plot a course, it can now be executed and the position in space actually changes along the route! What remains to be done in that regard is being able to pick a destination in some other sector, and the ability to calculate the distance between quadrants based on the sector and engine speed. It probably sounds pretty complicated, but it's not. In fact, the interface for plotting a course and travelling through space is insanely easy.

[Tuesday, 6/1/99]: More StarLock Progress

      “Set a Course for the Amulon Asteroid Base, Ensign.” Stellar navigation is almost finished. A course can now be selected between quadrants in a single sector. The functions to plot a course between quadrants of different sectors is also done (and working I think), however there is no overall sector map yet so picking a destination in some other sector isn't an option (yet). In case you're wondering, the StarLock “galaxy” is made up of 33 “sectors” (which includes central sector “Prime”). Each sector is a 16x8 grid of 128 “quadrants.” Each quadrant is a unique destination/location in space which may or may not have planets, space stations, moons, asteroids, or other stellar anomolies. As previously reported, this movement will be in “real time.” If you lay in a course that spans 5 quadrants, and your ship is capable of traveling at a rate of 2 minutes per quadrant, then you can expect to reach your destination in 10 minutes. As you approach the outer sectors, the quadrant-to-quadrant rate is much larger, so a faster ship is necessary for farther travel.
      In route, you will arrive in each quadrant along the way where you can always halt your course to investigate something if it looks interesting. This may include the option of landing on the planet, docking at a starbase, and so forth. It's difficult to explain, but the result should be a somewhat realistic “travel” through space, even though it's web-based.
      The game will not be strictly “space travel” though. With lots of planets and moons and starbases and other cool points of interest, you'll be able explore and adventure as well! Look for updated screen shots to be posted soon!

[Sunday, 5/30/99]: StarLock Progress

      We're At It Again! StarLock development has resumed. We recently upgraded our graphics software to Bryce 4 and Poser 3. Anna now has a larger, much nicer monitor and a screaming video card for her graphics development. As for the program, it's coming along as well (although it's still in very very early stages). It's hard to focus on any aspect of the story and plot yet when so much demands attention with the game mechanics. It's looking sharp so far! Stay tuned for more information, and a revised look at the game layout screen.

[4/17/99]: Completion Deadline Pushed Way Back

      But Only For A Little While: Anna and Steven, being Air Force Reservists, are probably going to be away for 3 to 6 months in the war effort (that Kosovo thing). I personally have been sooo busy that StarLock development has had to take a lower priority. Meanwhile, StarLock development moves along at a slug's pace.
      How long of a delay will this be? We aren't sure. Development will continue, just not as fast as anticipated, causing the final product to arrive later than we had hoped.

[3/24/99]: Mapping The Galaxy

      ...And it's pretty big! The concept for the StarLock galaxy is done. There are 8 sectors built like slices of a pie. Each sector is chopped into 4 quadrants. Each quadrant is a star map of 128 “areas” (screens) on a 16x8 grid. An additional sector (Sector Prime) is in the very center of this galaxy and maps entry points into the first quadrant of the other 8 sectors. This equates to 4,224 points of interest in space (with lots of emptiness though, I'm sure), not counting the views of “landing” (or “beam-down”) places like planets, space stations, asteroid bases, and so forth.
      Plotting a course will be simple. A graphic of the galaxy map will be shown. After a sector/quadrant has been selected, a star map of that sector/quadrant will be shown, from which an exact location can be chosen. The quickest course is then calculated. Since the galaxy fits together like a huge pie (not sure what other analogy to make) there are actual logical paths between sectors and quadrants. If you've played BBS games like Trade Wars before, you'll recall that there was no such visible galaxy. The whole thing was just a meaningless series of linked areas in space.

[3/22/99]: New StarLock Scenes at BetaZine

      BetaZine Launches Prowler/StarLock Area: Here's a site to bookmark! BetaZine has put a Prowler area on their web site to keep tabs on StarLock development, kicking it off with three new StarLock pics!

[3/18/99]: Development News

      Graphics Development: Steven and Anna have been hard at work on StarLock scenes. In fact, we are about to buy more new rendering software especially for doing the people and aliens who will populate the galaxy.

      Program Development: I just started back to work at Accu-Scan so the past few days have been very busy in that respect. Progress should move along quicker soon, although we still cannot say with any certainty when a beta will be ready for play.

[3/10/99]: Screen Shots and Interstellar Travel

      Some Game Graphics: We've received quite a few requests for samples of what is done so far. We had planned to wait a few more days so that the game interface has “real” looking information in the chat and content frames, but here are some early shots. The first pic is a very very early shot of the browser game screen. The remaining pics are a few early graphics planned for inclusion in the game. Click on any thumbnail to see the corresponding full-sized image.


      Movement in “real” time: After much thought, we've figured out how we will handle movement through space so that a player can't simply jump around all over the galaxy in the space of a few minutes. Travel from sector to sector will occur in “real” time, meaning that once a course is layed in, it could take a while to get there. For instance, to span several dozen sectors to reach some far-away point might actually take several hours, so long-distance movement would be best plotted right before exiting the game so that upon return, the destination has been reached. However, there will be better ships (or better engines) to obtain, which make travel much faster.

[3/9/99]: The Joys of Modular Code

      StarLock Progress: The screen layout is done. It may need a little work because of the way frames show up differently between Netscape and Internet Explorer though. Also, login and chat are both working, as are many miscellaneous functions such as the color codes features (like in Lunatix). By borrowing functions from the Lunatix code, we've saved a good deal of time already.

      However, this isn't “Lunatix in space” by any means. It made sense to re-use some of the code that makes up the game shell, but the game itself is being built from scratch.

[3/7/99]: Interface Design Underway

      Developing The Layout: Work started today on the layout of the StarLock game screen. The graphics area will be a wide-screen view (an improvement over the “square” graphics area in Lunatix Online). We may post a few preliminary screen shots soon.

[3/6/99]: Welcome to the Official StarLock Web Site!

      We're Getting Started: Development and Planning of StarLock is now underway. We still have a few miscellaneous things to do for Lunatix Online but we'll finish those things as we work on this new game. We're very excited about this new project. Like Lunatix Online, it will be a web-based multiplayer role-playing game. However, StarLock will attempt to go further with better graphics, awesome worlds, and a richer, more involved role playing experience. Stay tuned as we bring this universe to life.

      Meet The Team: StarLock is being developed by the same team that brought you Lunatix Online: Global Insanity Crisis. The team consists of Mike Snyder (Concept and Programming), Anna Kasl (Lead Graphics Artist), and Steven Tucker (Assistant Graphics Artist).

      What Will It Cost? StarLock will be available under the same system we created for Lunatix Online. This means new players will receive a free trial period (probably two weeks) after which a subscription can be purchased for $5 a month or $25 for 6 months. However (and this is the good part), there is no additional charge for Lunatix Online subscribers! A subscription to either game will be a subscription to both!

      When Will It Be Ready? As a rough estimate, we think a beta version may be up and running sometime in the summer or even late spring. We may completely wrap up development as early as September or October and have StarLock available for public play at that time. No release dates are absolutely set at this time, though.

      What Is StarLock About? Stay tuned for that information. We are still in the early planning stages, and the game has not yet been mapped out.

StarLock Home Page | Newer News (2000)