Wednesday, Feb 7, 2007

A very sad news for DRAMA series fans: AzTech Drama Player might not be released. The How and Why is a big story and is related to many technical issues. However, in this article I'll try my best to give a brief description of the problem.

All the DRAMA series programs, use an engine that plays the Drama. Now, a Drama is not like a movie. It is a collection of "written" commands. Any DRAMA series program passes these written commands to the DE (Drama Engine) which in turn converts these written instructions to Microsoft Agent Server instructions. What's Microsoft Agent Server?: The Microsoft Agent server is actually a process that administers Microsoft Agent Characters. Any application that uses Microsoft Agent(s) has to pass some command to the Microsoft Agent Server. This Server then tells the Microsoft Agent Character to do something depending on the command passed to it. In other words, Microsoft Agent Server is a translator that translates any application's language into Microsoft Agent Character understandable language. (Microsoft Agent Character means characters like Merlin, Genie etc.)

What is the problem?: The problem is with the looping animations. Any looping animation has to be stopped for the character to do the next animation. DE gets a little bit screwed up here. The DE is designed to give looping command to the agent server and start a kind of stopwatch. When this stopwatch runs for X seconds (X seconds is the second that you set under the caption "number of seconds the animation has to be played"), it automatically stops and passes a signal to the DE. The DE then tells the Agent server to stop the looping animation. Now the problem is that if the Drama is long, then the stop command is given before the animation is even started. The Agent Server, as a result, doesn't play the animation at all.

After weeks of vigorous coding, the bug was fixed but unfortunately the DE becomes unstable when Classic Style Dramas are played with all four characters and all of them doing looping animations. This problem is almost unsolvable and switching to a new engine seems to be the only way out. Dumping this DE is not a good idea because the new engine may play dramas differently which means that Dramas created in the current DE will be totally different in the newer DE. AzTech will try its best to get rid of this problem while developing other softwares such as E-Diary and PIANO.

screenshot of drama player in development

The screen shot above shows AzTech Drama Player in its early stage of development. If all goes well, and AzTech manages to get rid of the bugs, Drama Player will be released somewhere around next month. However, AzTech is still sceptical about the successful release of Drama Player. But don't be frustrated; AzTech is planning to release Drama Player Beta which will be usefull to some extent.