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Blog Entries posted by evandixon

  1. evandixon

    ROM Editing
    Since the release of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, it has been unknown how a proprietary archive file called FARC linked filenames to files. It functions like a hash table, where the game gets a filename somehow, does something to hash the filename, then corresponds that with a file. Until recently, the somehow and something have been unknown. Editing files in these archives required either putting up with the lack of filenames, or somehow knowing which filenames corresponded to which hashes. A little over a month ago, I discovered the something was a simple CRC32 hash. While I previously tried this hashing algorithm, I was unaware that in the files I was testing, the somehow involved appending a ".bin" file extension to the end of a file. While it is not possible to determine the filenames of files, it is possible to infer filenames from other parts of the game, and use coding and algorithms to match them to the appropriate file. Knowing how to do this makes it possible to do so much more with Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon.
    The first practical application of this was updating Sky Editor's starter editing project to replace placeholder Pokémon portraits with the default emotion. This makes it so that when one plays the game as a non-standard starter, the game no longer shows emotions like surprised without the face of that Pokémon.
    The next practical application that is planned is to start substituting certain story-related models. For example, right now, when a non-standard Pokémon sleeps in a bed, the default attack animation is used instead. The player Pokémon just can't get a good night's sleep apparently. I hope to change that soon by substituting that animation with the sleep animation used in dungeons. If model behavior in Ohana3DS is any indicator, things should work out well. That is as long as the correct animation is used. Things can get amusing if the wrong one is used:

    A Zorua, using Riolu's walking animation
    While seeing this in-game will take more work, I've have a new build of Sky Editor that comes with support for extracting pokemon_graphic.bin with all the filenames. This is only useful for researchers or those who want to play around with models with Ohana3DS or SPICA or something. Basic instructions can be found here, and look for the new PsmdPokemonGraphicsProject project, which can repack the pokemon_graphic.bin file for anyone who's brave enough to try manual model edits. Download it here.
    [Edit] Updated the build link to fix a memory leak. I don't think I mentioned it before, but you'll need 1-2 GB of free RAM because using all the RAM makes things go like 10x faster. I didn't do any actual measurements, but that's what it feels like at least.
  2. evandixon
    I've written a new tutorial for how to use the ROM editing capabilities. Unlike the previous one on GitHub, this one has lots of screenshots, and is far more in-depth.
  3. evandixon
    I fixed the crash I reported a few days ago:
    I'm not 100% sure why it was an issue in the first place, but one of the characters must work a little differently than others, so substituting animations broke something.
  4. evandixon
    Remember last week's blog post? Turns out it causes a crash during the final boss battle. I'm working on fixing it, and everything should work fine until the final boss battle, but everyone should be prepared to recreate any starter modification projects made since I announced the new feature:
    It has something to do with substituted animations, and that's all I know. No idea why this is an issue yet.
  5. evandixon
    User-friendly interface over vague, impossible-to-guess-without-documentation step
    I have a new build of Sky Editor's ROM editor available that adds some fun new features. First up is the new wizard you can see above. This should make the whole process more user-friendly (I hope). At the time of posting, there is a glitch where the Finish button won't be enabled when the extraction is complete, but this can be worked around by clicking Back then Next. The second feature is the addition of PSMD substitute animations in the starter project that was hinted at 2 months ago and showcased in the Mystery Dungeon Hacking club. The demonstration shows major spoilers, so if you haven't played the game, you should not follow this link here.
    As always, please let me know what you think or if you encounter any issues.
    Usage Guide
  6. evandixon
    [Edit] If anyone is reading this after the fact, clubs can be found here.
    A new forum update is coming soon, and one of the features I'm hyped for are Clubs. Clubs are sub-communities where you can discuss various topics that you define.
    From the IPS Community website:
    Access Levels
    Each club can have their own forums, download categories, blogs, and calendars.

    Club owners can add forums where members can create topics. Club leaders and club moderators have control over these forums and can pin, lock, move, merge, and hide threads in these forums.
    These screenshots depict a single forum "Topics".

    Project Pokémon recently got Blogs. With clubs, you can create a blog managed by the club leaders and club moderators.

    Clubs can also have files, similar to our downloads section.

    And finally, the calendar.

    And who knows? Maybe there'll be something else in there too
  7. evandixon
    Yesterday, I managed to extract models and animations from pokemon_graphic.bin, so they can be viewed with standard 3DS model viewers. Today, I did the next logical step, and wrote code to change these animations. Observe:
    I don't have special builds ready just yet, but if you're a developer who's anxious to make changes, I have some sample code here. (That link might be dead if you're reading this a week or so after this post was published.)
  8. evandixon
    At the company at which I work, we have this legacy application written in C#. (It's different from the one written in Classic ASP.) Let's call this the dragon. It's old, it's previously defeated many brave knights, and its name is an acronym that shares a letter or two with the word "dragon". The dragon is responsible for breathing fire to defend the village from intruders. (It uses coding and algorithms to do Things to Products because of business logic. While the details aren't important, I doubt I could say what it does beyond giving a brief overview of what it looks like to an outside observer.) However, the dragon also has this habit of attacking the knights who control it, so we need a new village gaurdian (the dragon is composed mostly of spaghetti code, and if we are ever to replace it, we need to understand how the spaghetti works). And so, a week or two ago I undertook a challenging task: to shrink the dragon so it'll fear the knights again (to refactor things to make it more readable). Armed with a mouse, keyboard, and the support of a fellow knight (a coworker who's dealt with this application before), I got to work so I could deal a mighty blow to the dragon. (Disclaimer: this post contains a lot of technical C# stuff that can't all be hidden behind dragon metaphores. Hopefully anyone who's not a programmer can still follow.)
    On my journey of code cleanup, the dragon presented many obstacles. A lot of it was superfluous spacing, redundant comments, and generally painful code, like so:
    //// //// Configure processing /// this.ConfigureProcessing(); //// //// Do the thing //// try { this.DoTheThing(); } catch { // eat it } if (this.SomeProperty == SomeValue) { // throw new SomeKindOfException(); // this was commented out // to-do: figure out why this was commented out } To make it even better, this.ConfigureProcessing does nothing and is referenced nowhere else, meaning we can easily remove most of the above. Also you should never ever ever ever ever catch an exception without handling it somehow. It will cause pain further down the line (but not in this blog post). If nothing else, log it somehow.
    Taking all of that into consideration, I reduced that code to this:
    try { this.DoTheThing(); } catch (Exception ex) { Trace.WriteLine($"Got an exception in TheType.TheFunction: {ex.ToString()}"); } There were also some things outside of general cleanup that I did. Imagine a class like this:
    public abstract class Magic : IAlgorithm { private string spellName = "Alakazam"; public string SpellName { get { return spellName; } set { if (value == null) { throw new ArgumentException("SpellName can't be null"); } spellName = value; } } private IWizard wizard = null; public IWizard Wizard { get { return wizard; } private set { if (value == null) { throw new ArgumentException("Wizard can't be null"); } wizard = value; } } #region IAlgorithm Methods public void SetWizard(string wizard) { this.Wizard = wizard; } public void Cast() { if (this.Wizard == null) { throw new Exception("Cannot call Execute before SetWizard"); } this.PerformMagic(); } #endregion protected abstract void PerformMagic(); } Not shown: 20 or more classes that inherit from this
    My fellow adventurer made the observation that the only times SetWizard was called was right after constructors of child classes, kinda like this:
    public Magic GetMagicInstance(string magicType, string spell, IWizard wizard) { Magic magic = null; switch (magicType) { case "white": magic = new WhiteMagic() { Spell = spell }; magic.SetWizard(wizard); case "black": magic = new BlackMagic() { Spell = spell }; magic.SetWizard(wizard); case "lost": LostMagic magic = new LostMagic() { Spell = spell }; magic.SetWizard(wizard); } return magic; } // Somewhere else calls magic.Cast after all instances of Magic have been created So using this knowledge and the knowledge of new C# features, we made the appropriate changes everywhere to make the class (and related classes) look like this:
    public abstract class Magic : IAlgorithm { public Magic(string spellName, string wizard) { SpellName = SpellName ?? "Alakazam"; Wizard = wizard ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(wizard)); } public string SpellName { get; } public IWizard Wizard { get; } #region IAlgorithm Methods public abstract void Cast(); #endregion } They say that if it bleeds, you can kill it. The dragon was certainly bleeding, if the code review tool was anything to go by: there were red lines (removals) all over the place in the pull request (Git terminology basically meaning we're publishing our changes). Two other knights in our party came to inspect our triumph (they reviewed the code to make sure it was done right). When it was all over, a total of 4 people (2 of us were involved in the refactoring) thoroughly reviewed everything and approved. Then we released the changes to be applied to the dragon down in the village (along with some other minor quality-of-life changes).
    About a week later*, one of the villagers called for help because the dragon that's supposed to defend the village was unable to breathe as much fire (a user opened a support ticket because the Things being done to Products weren't being done correctly). I was skeptical that any of my changes would have that effect. After all, when I shrunk the dragon, I made sure to quintuple-check my changes before releasing it to make sure its fire breath was as unchanged. So I investigated for a few hours to find out why. I ruled out places that could have been affected and was thoroughly stumped. That's when my fellow party member used his influence with the king to learn the secrets known only to the villagers (he used his higher permissions to debug the application, reading data from the production database). That's when I spotted the issue. Remember that constructor in the Magic class that was created? Take another look at the SpellName assignment:
    SpellName = SpellName ?? "Alakazam"; That should be:
    SpellName = spellName ?? "Alakazam"; In C#, variables are case-sensitive, so the property was being assigned to itself, and all Magic classes (WhiteMagic, BlackMagic, LostMagic, etc.) all only used the Alakazam spell. No wonder the flames were weak!
    We fixed the issue, and gave the villagers a dragon capable of properly defending them, and spent the rest of the day identifying how many intruders snuck into the village while the dragon was powerless to stop them (we had to find out which Products didn't have the Thing done properly).
    Case sensitivity can potentially lead to a lot of pain and suffering. In this case with the constructor, that's standard practice in C#, and it's perfectly understandable that no one caught that one mistake, especially since it's just one letter in commit full of thousands of other changes. The tooling didn't catch it, because it checks for useless assignments. This wasn't useless, it says "make SpellName be Alakazam if it's null". Always be careful of casing when variable names are similar.
    * I massively simplified a lot of things. While a week is probably a bit long to go without noticing anything wrong, there's reasons. Also it didn't affect everything, because it just broke some hacks that are there because business logic.
  9. evandixon
    For about 8 months, the latest build of the ROM editor had a fatal error in the patcher, used when building a ROM from a project. I put off fixing it because it required updating and cleaning up all of the ROM Editor's dependencies, but today I finally got around to it. Look here for the Usage Guide, which should work with the latest version.
    Download (Build 53)
  10. evandixon
    I have a new development build of Sky Editor ready. Since Build 33, the following changes have been made:
    Add: UI for editing held items in Friend Rescue Add: Controls for parameters for adding new items are enabled or disabled as appropriate Fix: New held items aren't saved Download (Log in as a guest if prompted)
    There's a lot that needs to be done before the next version of Sky Editor can be fully released. However, I intend to keep releasing development builds until then. If there's a particular feature you'd like to see in a development build, please vote in the poll or leave a comment below.
  11. evandixon
    I'm working on releasing a new version of Sky Editor at some point. I currently have no ETA, because the new version will come with a pretty heavy refactor, and things are currently a bit unstable. However, I have a development version ready for anyone who wants to try the latest features. 
    This version (Build 33) comes with the following enhancements to inventory management for PMD: Explorers of Sky save files:
    View and Edit the stack size of stack-able items like sticks and rocks View and Edit the contained item of a box View and Edit what a Used TM used to teach  
    Disclaimer: Back up your save files before using this. This may corrupt saves for PMD: Explorers of Sky, and this will corrupt saves for PMD: Red and Blue Rescue Team and PMD: Explorers of Time and Darkness. Use this at your own risk.
    Download (Log in as a guest if prompted for login)
    If you encounter any problems, please let me know by commenting on this blog post, opening an issue on GitHub, or by sending me a PM.
  12. evandixon
    Today I learned about a feature in our new Gallery app: notes. The feature is best described using pictures.

    One of the old Project Pokémon banners I had lying around, uploaded to a private album
    When your mouse is in the giant dark-gray area, there's some buttons. One of them is the Add Note button.

    The Add Note Button
    Clicking the Add Note button adds a transparent, resizable, and movable rectangle to the image, which comes with a text box that lets you add text.

    Once notes are added, they can be read by mousing over the image.

  13. evandixon
    By night and by weekend I'm an admin here at Project Pokémon (when I'm not busy saving Hyrule or doing other stuff). But by day, I'm a software developer for a certain company. This company has an internal legacy system written in Classic ASP (a really old language used to make websites) that we have to maintain, and releasing changes to it is never fun. Today we released a month's worth of changes, far more than we like to release at one time. (We couldn't release because reasons; although, we probably should have added a feature switch. Lesson learned.)
    Within this legacy system, there's a page that is designed to be printed out. Users will then scan an I2of5 barcode on it with a handheld scanner, making it easier to continue their work. After the updated the system, however, we got reports that the barcodes wouldn't scan anymore. Barcodes that were printed before this update worked fine. We reprinted the barcode that was working, and sure enough, the new release gave a different barcode generated from the same source text.
    I had my hands all over the page with this barcode, but I know I didn't touch the barcode itself. Thanks to source control, we were able to use git blame and looked at the entire code path responsible for the generation of this I2of5 barcode. This kind of barcode is generated by encoding some text into what looks like garbage, but looks like and scans like a barcode when this garbage is displayed using a particular font. Unfortunately, nothing in that code path has changed for years, and since we released this thing a month ago without any (related) issues, we had to find out what changed. Yet comparing the output of the old and new code showed different barcodes. The new barcode's garbage-looking text had some special characters in it called "replacement characters", which is a special kind of character to indicate something's wrong with the character encoding (more on that in a bit). We inspected the HTTP headers and HTML metadata, and there was no difference, so it wasn't a matter of the web browser interpreting the raw text data incorrectly. So we had to try something else.
    We used a git bisect (or rather a manual version of it, because of a bunch of branching weirdness - don't ask) and eventually found the exact commit that introduced the issue. The only thing that changed about the page in question is that a new ASP file was included. This ASP file, along with the ones it in turn includes, are simply containers for functions and classes and are not intended to write anything to the page. To debug what was causing the problem we removed parts of this included file until finally there was nothing left. We tried removing the reference to this file altogether, and that made the problem go away. We put it back and made sure the file was empty, and to double check, we removed that file and re-created it to make double sure it was empty. Turns out including an empty text file causes issues with our barcode!
    What is a text file? It's just a file containing bytes that programs interpret as text. But there's different kinds of text. ASCII text interprets one byte as one character. One byte can have a value from 0-255, and while standard ASCII only has characters for 0-127, extended ASCII has characters for 128-255 too. There's also variants of Unicode, where multiple bytes can be used for a single character, which is useful for characters that aren't found in English. How is a program to know what kind of text is in a text file though? By adding extra bytes to the beginning of the file to indicate the text encoding: the Byte Order Mark (BOM). Using HxD, I found that these "empty" text files weren't in fact empty, they had the BOM bytes to mark the file as UTF-8, which is a variant of Unicode that looks like ASCII until the 128-255 byte value range. By including this "empty" file, we were including the BOM, which changed the character encoding of the entire page, completely changing the meaning of the text that's used to display the barcodes (because it uses extended ASCII characters for some reason).
    Thankfully, this whole release didn't go as bad as it could have. Because of our Blue/Green deployment setup, we weren't under as much pressure as we could have otherwise been, and we only had to revert to the previous version twice, and the release only took 8 hours (because of testing and debugging other issues*).
    * Bonus material: when using Powershell to create a virtual application in IIS, note that "userName" is case sensitive in some versions of IIS. In 7.5, it's fine to use "username", but when using 8.5, that case sensitivity will cause setting the application credentials to silently fail. (Not that we encountered a situation exactly like this one or anything.)
  14. evandixon
    A new forum update is coming soon, and one of the features I'm hyped for are Reactions. We already have post liking, but sometimes a "like" just isn't specific enough.
    From the IPS Community website:
    We have the ability to create custom reactions, so if you have any requests for reactions, let us know in the comments!
  15. evandixon
    Project Pokémon now has blogs. As the creator of Sky Editor and admin of Project Pokémon, I've moved the Sky Editor blog to Project Pokémon.
    I'm currently rewriting the save editing library in C# so I can finally move away from the PCL project towards a .Net Standard project that can target both .Net Standard and the .Net Framework. I tried the lastest VS2017 preview which supposedly supports Visual Basic in .Net Standard; however it lacks understanding of basic VB features such as the "vbCRLF" constant and inferred variable types The advantage of multiple framework targets is that any .Net Framework applications that reference SkyEdtior.SaveEditor will no longer have to carry around all of those those .Net Core DLLs. Last week I introduced this same change to PKHeX, and so far it's working well.
    After rewriting the save editing library, I'll likely keep the WPF UI in VB. I do, however, intend to touch some things up, perhaps finally getting around to adding item management features such as editing what's inside of a Box, or what a Used TM used to be.
    As always, please feel free to suggest new features, since I'm more likely to prioritize suggestions.
  16. evandixon
    A new forum update is coming soon, and one of the features I'm looking forward to is the blog sidebar. Project Pokémon recently got Blogs. They're already your personal corner of the site, and with this, you can customize them even further.
    From the IPS Community website:
  17. evandixon
    The Background
    I'm a professional developer using mainly C#. On the side, I write a ROM editor using VB.Net. They're very similar thanks to them mostly wrapping the .Net Framework, and because of how complex this application is, I'm in no hurry to rewrite it. This application knows the ins and outs of a few dozen file types and can, well, edit them. One such file type is a compiled LUA script. In order to edit these, they must first be decompiled. Rather than try to figure out that myself, I use a 3rd party tool that can do that for me (sometimes the best code is the code you didn't have to write). To use it, I point it to the compiled script on disk, and it spits out the decompiled text into its standard output. Integrating with it is simple thanks to .Net: I can use a Process object to start it, redirect its standard output, and read the decompiled text as it's written. This is all part of a larger process, where transparent to the user, I decompile a bunch of these scripts, automatically make some changes, and recompile them, all in one go, so people can play a game using different characters.
    A few days ago, I did some refactoring to it so I can more easily get notified of unsuccessful exit codes when recompiling (previously the program would just continue fine, and any files with syntax errors would simply remain unmodified). Unfortunately for me, I was in a hurry and didn't test anything except that program before I pushed the change to the master branch and let my CI server publish a development build, currently the only way for people to get precompiled versions of my application. (The CI server is Team City, since they've generously given me unlimited everything with my open source license.) Also I don't have any tests covering this part of the code.
    The Problem
    One of my application's users encountered some (well, dozens) of exceptions when my program tried to recompile the decompiled scripts. I try reproducing the issue, and I indeed find a syntax error in the same spot the newly-created error message said it was. After looking closer, I found the issue was there before the decompiled scripts were automatically modified. The script looked something like this:
    function addTheNumbers(numberA, numberB) function addTheNumbers(numberA, numberB) return numberA + numberB return numberA + numberB end end print(addTheNumbers(10, 20)) print(addTheNumbers(10, 20)) It should be fairly obvious what the problem here is. The lines are doubled. I facepalm on the inside and start investigating.
    The Adventure
    Because the code I changed is being called about a dozen times on different threads, I did the responsible thing and wrote a test for it. After getting my test to fail for the right reason, I look at my code, and here's what I see:

    That looks like pretty standard stuff. The variables "captureConsoleOutput" and "captureConsoleError" are both true, telling the Process to redirect standard output and standard error, and the code will proceed to register event handlers. When I place breakpoints on the event handlers, I find that they're being hit twice per line the LUA decompiler writes. I scour the code and make sure that I only call Start once, and the event handlers are only added once as shown.
    I tried a bunch of other things too. What you see above is actually after another thing I tried. Previously, I was dumping standard output and error into the same StringBuilder , in case the program was outputting to both for some reason.
    I finally went to GitHub to check what actually changed when I did the thing mentioned in The Background above, and while it was a substantial change to the class shown above, it all seems pretty sane. But then I spot it. One crucial thing that didn't change.

    Oh. The event handler was registered twice. I added lines 39 and 40 (the two AddHandler lines) and forgot completely about the Handles clause.
    How Events Work And Why It Took Me So Long To Spot This
    Events are magical things that can be called, and event handlers that have been registered to the event are run, being given the data that was provided when the event was called. This isn't so much like method calls as it is interrupts.
    The syntax for adding an event handler in C# looks like this:
    myEvent += myEventHandlerMethod; And the syntax for adding an event handler in VB.Net looks like this:
    AddHandler myEvent, AddressOf myEventHandlerMethod Usually C# and VB.Net are very similar thanks to the .Net Framework, but sometimes there are some differences, where one language can do a thing that the other cannot.
    There are some gotchas when it comes to events, so they need to be used with care. .Net is a framework that tries its best to clean up after you and prevent memory leaks. Simply remove all references to an object, and .Net makes it go away. But when you register an event handler to an event in another class, that event handler has a reference to the event, and by extension the class. If you get rid of the references to that class, the reference to the event is still there, and .Net can't clean it up. But you also can no longer remove the event handler since the reference to the class is gone. That's why it's important to remove event handlers as you would pointers in C/C++.
    The syntax for removing an event in C# looks like this:
    myEvent -= myEventHandlerMethod; And the syntax for removing an event in VB.Net looks like this:
    RemoveHandler myEvent, AddressOf myEventHandlerMethod To help make managing this easier, VB.Net has some extra syntax. Instead of manually adding event handlers, you can declare a variable as WithEvents, then use the Handles clause on a method, like so:
    Private WithEvents _myMemberVariable As SomeRandomClassWithEvents Private Sub _myMemberVariable_OnPropertyChanged(sender as Object, e as PropertyChangedEventArgs) Handles _myMemberVariable.PropertyChanged 'Do the thing End Sub With no additional setup, when I assign something to _myMemberVariable, _myMemberVariable_OnPropertyChanged will automatically be run whenever _myMemberVariable.PropertyChanged is raised. If I change _myMemberVariable to some other SomeRandomClassWithEvents, it'll take care of removing the old handlers and adding the new ones for me. And setting _myMemberVariable to Nothing (aka null) will clean it up for me.
    I've been using C# a lot more lately, I've had to start doing events the old fashioned, no hand-holding way. I've been doing it for long enough now that I forgot to even check for the Handles clause when all evidence pointed to an event handler being registered twice.
    VB.Net is a fine language, and IMO it's easier to read and easier to type (not having to constantly type '{' and ':' when simply pressing enter works instead). However, it no longer has language parity with C#, meaning C# will continue to evolve, and VB.Net won't grow with it. The future is C#, and it's sad to see VB.Net be left behind.
    Guess I'll have to get around to rewriting this thing for it to be part of the future.
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