Seth answers Growtopia questions (FAQ)

What is a F.A.Q.?

It means frequently asked questions.  It’s a single webpage that I can direct people to for detailed answers to common questions.  I also have one for my BBS games here which I sold to another company.

I’ll update it to modify and add questions as needed. (last updated 8/17/2020)

Why did you sell Growtopia in 2017?


I can only speak for myself for all of these answers, but after four years Growtopia had gotten too big. Too many players, not something I’d ever consider a problem before it happened.

While we were able to hire great customer support folks, it was still only Hamumu and myself developing and running the game.  

We were stretched too thin.  When you’re taking money for a product, you have a responsibility. 

The legal responsibility grows proportionally to your player count and how much they’re spending.  Too much cash was being spent for us to claim ignorance if something went wrong.  

What if a backup failed?  What if we screwed up on COPPA compliance?  The excuse of “hey, we’re just two people” wouldn’t cut it anymore.

The pressure builds.  After four years of running Growtopia I started to have regular nightmares, usually involving backups failing during a rollback or other server problems.

In the end, selling the game meant it could continue to see new features and grow, without us having to become bosses and have employees and all that, things we never wanted.

We got to use the profit from the sale to remain small and happy indies that can work on what we want, when we want.

In my experience that’s extremely rare you get a chance like that so I feel really lucky it worked out.


Would you ever come and work on the game as a real dev?

No. Assuming I was ever asked, I couldn’t accept the job.

Working on an MMO is not something you can do part time, you have to eat and breath it and get woken up by alarms at 3 AM when something breaks.

My life has changed now, less stress and very different kinds of challenges including running a cafe and hotel with Akiko. (Hotel? Well, er, it’s only one (amazing) room, but we are officially licensed as both a restaurant and hotel)

Growtopia is being ruined!

Ok, that’s not really a question but it’s something people say to me sometimes, especially when the server is down.

People tend to remember the positives of history rather than the negatives.  But if you go back to the forums there was no time after the first year we ran the game there were not “Growtopia is ruined and dying now” threads being made.

The life of this kind of game is all about change – breaking, fixing, adding, and very little removing.

The bigger the change or addition, the greater the risk.  The more systems piled on top of each other it is increasingly challenging it is to keep it all running smoothly. I have a lot of sympathy for the developers as I know their pain. :)

I hope they succeed and the game runs forever but there isn’t really any kind of comment I can make on this kind of thing, especially since I don’t play much or know what the issues are.

If the game isn’t for you, try something else for a while, it’s perfectly normal and ok to get tired of a game and bounce around.


I was banned for no reason, please help me by contacting Ubisoft

Sorry I can’t.  I don’t have access to the logs or support system, I’m the wrong person to ask. 

It would be really awkward if I was trying to do any kind of modding while not actually on the support team!

You need to go through the normal Growtopia help channel here.

Do you still play GT?  Can you sign my board?  Take a selfie with me in the game?

This is kind of complicated to answer.  Currently my @Seth account remains completely locked (even from me) unless I specifically ask for it to be unlocked for a period.  I like it this way.

The reasons for this are: security (it’s VERY bad if this account gets hacked), performance (if people see I’m online, they ALL msg me at once, can cause problems), and also something I call “the rumor wildfire” – sometimes a rumor starts that a hacker is using my account and mods and support gets flooded with emails about this emergency – so it’s important that they know in advance when I’ll be online.


So in the end, I almost never ask that my account be unlocked because it’s a hassle for everybody and I don’t want to cause any trouble.  (Ubisoft has been very cool about it, but I still feel bad)

I tried using another account but.. Mehhh, it’s just not the same.

It’s pretty rare that I login these days for anything other than P.A.W. for reasons stated above.  

However, if I’m online in the game I will make every effort to accommodate those kinds of requests, I use /rgo a lot.


Note: One of the conditions of the sale was nobody would ever pretend to be us, so if you ever see @Seth or @Hamumu talking to you, it’s really us!

Are you annoyed that every tweet or video you make has Growtopia related comments and questions on it?


The truth is I’m really not.  It’s proof that we made a big impact in people’s lives.  I hope nobody forgets our work on old school GT and I appreciate those players because without them I’d likely still be sweating over contract work instead of enjoying the freedom I do now.

I do feel bad if someone I replied to on Twitter gets a lot of GT related stuff they didn’t want though (they probably don’t even know what GT is!), and if I reply it makes it worse, so just tweeting at me (or emailing) directly is the best way to go for a GT related question that isn’t answered here.

Will you give me DLs and make me a mod so I can stop casinos?

No I can’t.  I’m not a GT mod or dev anymore, I’m just a player like you.  

By the way, my own kid would DEFINITELY ask developers of Fortnite for vbucks and skins before even saying hello, so I totally understand why younger players ask me that question.  I can’t ever actually say yes though.

Will you make another MMO?

No plans right now.

Can you try to buy back Growtopia?

No, I mean, even if it was for sale and I could afford it, I don’t want to run it again for the reasons mentioned above.  

Maybe in twenty years ask me again though. :)


Will you be in GT during Player Appreciation Week 2020, whenever that is?

Yep, I’ll be there and using /rgo like a madman so feel free to msg me if you see me!

When will <insert thing> be fixed or <insert thing> be added?

Sorry, I don’t know the answers to that kind of thing.

If I see the @Seth account online, is that you?

In most cases yes, but keep in mind this account may be logged on for maintenance reasons by GT staff. (To stop small locks from decaying, for example)

How were the original mods chosen?

Some were carried over because they were trusted mods in my other game Tanked, some were hand picked by me. In later days they were probably mostly suggestions from existing mods or chosen by Solorian. I can’t remember Hamumu ever picking a mod but maybe I’m forgetting.

Why don’t you wear clothes

Bodies need to breathe! Oh you mean in the game? I had the look (the cape, etc) early on and it just sort of stuck.

Oh, you know what, it was originally for a kind of super-hero alter ego I would use called “Heroman” who would run around punishing scammers but maybe I got tired of changing the clothes and just left it on. That’s why the item’s name is “Heroman Cape”.

Technical questions about servers: Were they run in RAID?

Yes, Growtopia’s server used custom picked super fast PCIe SSD raid arrays. Of course I can’t speak to the current technology state or challenges, only what we were using in 2017 and earlier.

How much did you sell GT for?

Er, I avoid answering this because it might fall within an NDA I signed, not sure. However, I’m pretty sure the number is just sitting there in the Ubisoft 2017 public financials so you might be able to figure it out.

Where did you get the music and sound effects?

Both Hamumu and I used a lot of sounds (and music) from our older games as well as new ones. (Some licensed, some created by us) As for music, Cory Mollenhour was commissioned to do the main Growtopia soundtrack. When characters talk it’s usually Hamumu’s voice.

Is there any update you regretted making? Or wish you could change how it worked entirely?

Not really, but I was worried about the vending machine update. I knew it would fundamentally change the game and giant vending machine worlds would replace “trade worlds” where people communicated more. In the end I guess it did, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I was against a global market method of buying/selling items for the same reasons. (that’s a feature that never made it in)

What did Hammu do after and do you still talk?

He’s still making great games, go play Robot Wants It All, it’s packed full of Hamumu-humor goodness.

Yes we still talk occasionally. Well, if text counts as talking, but that’s how we always communicated, we never liked meetings or phone calls!

How’s Cosmo doing, does he still play Growtopia?

He doesn’t play these days but there was a time when he and his friends from school were addicted. That’s never happened with any of my other games.

Over the years “Little cute sweet Cosmo” changed into “studies too much math genius teenager Cosmo” who is great in a different way but I’ll never forget this little guy:

Dang, just teared up posting this pic.

Even more stuff to read

If you got this far, why not go all the way and read this stuff too:

Two guys made an MMO – The Growtopia postmortem (2013)

Seth’s old Growtopia question/answer forum thread (2014)

Unity editor script: No BS Cut and Paste

As far as I can tell, Unity doesn’t offer a way to drag an object around the hierarchy in the editor (moving it to a new parent) without also modifying its local transform to keep the rotation/position in the same final worldspace/orientation as before.  (The default copy/paste options have the same issue too)

Sometimes you absolutely don’t want this and I got tired of using work arounds so made this simple script that adds an additional “no frills” cut and paste option to the editor that can be used instead.

To install:  Download NoBSCutAndPaste.cs and put it in any folder named “Editor” that is in your Unity project’s assets folder.  (The “Editor” folder being in a sub-folder is also ok)

Notes:

  • No multi-select, only works on a single object (which can contain sub-objects)
  • Nothing actually happens until you paste a gameobject (it isn’t actually moved until then)
  • If you paste without an object selected, it will be moved to the hierarchy root
  • Undo doesn’t work for this cut and paste
  • (barely) Tested with Unity 2019.3.2f1

The file above is this:

/*
 
 Name:  Cut and paste without changing shit
 Release Date:  2/25/2020
 Version: 1.0
 Credits: Written by Seth A. Robinson except where otherwise noted
 License: No rights reserved, do whatever with it

 Description:

 In the Unity editor, if you drag gameobjects around in the hierarchy, their local position and rotation will be modified so they end up in
 the same final rotation/world position as they had before.  This adds an option so you can do a "pure" cut and paste without that silliness.

 To use:

 Make a folder called "Editor" somewhere in your assets folder (or a subfolder of it) and put this file in it.

 If you right click a gameobject in the editor hierarchy, you should now see two new options "Cut without changing shit" and
 "Paste without changing shit".  Using those you can move an object without Unity modifying its local transform like it normally does.

 Notes:

- No multi-select, only works on a single object (which can contain sub-objects)
- Nothing actually happens until you paste a gameobject (it isn't actually moved until then)
- If you paste without an object selected, it will be moved to the hierarchy root
- Undo doesn't work for this cut and paste
- (barely) Tested with Unity 2019.3.2f1

 www.rtsoft.com
 www.codedojo.com

*/

using UnityEditor;
using UnityEngine;

public class NoBSCutAndPaste
{
    static GameObject _tempObj;

    [MenuItem("GameObject/Cut without changing shit (Shift-Ctrl-X) %#x", false, 0)]
    static void CutWithoutChangingShit()
    {
        var go = Selection.activeTransform;

        if (go == null)
        {
            EditorUtility.DisplayDialog("Woah!", "First click on a gameobject in the hierarchy!", "Ok");
            return;
        }

        var s = EditorWindow.focusedWindow.ToString();

        if (EditorWindow.focusedWindow.ToString() != " (UnityEditor.SceneHierarchyWindow)")
        {
            EditorUtility.DisplayDialog("Woah!", "Don't use the 3D window, click on the gameobject in the hierarchy tree instead before doing cut/paste.", "Ok");
            _tempObj = null;
            return;
        }

        _tempObj = go.gameObject;

        Debug.Log("Cutting" + _tempObj.name+ ", now choose Paste without changing shit");

    }

    //This part by Jlpeebles taken from https://answers.unity.com/questions/656869/foldunfold-gameobject-from-code.html
    public static void SetExpandedRecursive(GameObject go, bool expand)
    {
        var type = typeof(EditorWindow).Assembly.GetType("UnityEditor.SceneHierarchyWindow");
        var methodInfo = type.GetMethod("SetExpandedRecursive");

        var window = EditorWindow.focusedWindow;

        methodInfo.Invoke(window, new object[] { go.GetInstanceID(), expand });
    }

    [MenuItem("GameObject/Paste without changing shit (Shift-Ctrl-V) %#v", false, 0)]
    static void PasteWithoutChangingShit()
    {

        if (_tempObj == null)
        {
            EditorUtility.DisplayDialog("Woah!", "Nothing to paste.  Highlight an object, right click, and choose 'Paste without changing shit' first.", "Ok");
            return;
        }

        if (EditorWindow.focusedWindow.ToString() != " (UnityEditor.SceneHierarchyWindow)")
        {
            EditorUtility.DisplayDialog("Woah!", "Don't use the 3D window, click on objects in the hierarchy tree instead before doing cut/paste.", "Ok");
            _tempObj = null;
            return;
        }

        var go = Selection.activeTransform;
        if (go == null || go.gameObject == null)
        {
            Debug.Log("Pasting " + _tempObj.name + " without changing its local transform stuff.  (Pasted to root as a gameobject wasn't highlighted to parent it to)");

            //Move the object to the root
            _tempObj.transform.SetParent(null, false);
            _tempObj = null;
            return;
        }

        Debug.Log("Pasting " + _tempObj.name + " under "+go.gameObject.name+" without changing its local transform stuff.");
        _tempObj.transform.SetParent(go.transform, false);
        _tempObj = null;

        SetExpandedRecursive(go.gameObject, true);
    }


    /*
     //In theory this would grey out the paste option when it wasn't valid, but due to Unity weirdness it only works in the "GameObject" drop down, not the right
     //click context menu on the hierarchy.  Better to not have it on as it just looks like it doesn't work when using from there.

    // Note that we pass the same path, and also pass "true" to the second argument.
    [MenuItem("GameObject/Paste without changing shit (Shift-Ctrl-V) %#v", true)]
    static bool PasteWithoutChangingShitValidation()
    {
        // This returns true when the selected object is a Texture2D (the menu item will be disabled otherwise).
        return _tempObj != null;
    }

    */

}
 

Magnavox Odyssey 2 Atari Joystick mod

$179 in 1978. That’s $705 in 2019 money.

Meet the Odyssey 2

It’s an old ass game console from 1978 I recently picked up from Ebay. It even has a built in keyboard for some reason.

In the first real “console war” it placed third out of well, three, ending up behind the Atari VCS and Intellivision despite some neat addons like a voice module.

It’s famous for hosting the game K.C Munchkin, a pacman-like game that was forced off the market for being a clone in a giant lawsuit.  However, looking back at it, it played different enough that this really shouldn’t have happened. Sorry K.C, you deserved better.

I buy old systems like this and try to fix them up because it’s a cheap and fun way to learn electronics and gaming history.  Oh, and you get to play your homework!

Care for a game of golf? It’s actually not bad. Your golfer gets mad when he hits trees.

For this one I did a composite video mod as that’s a huge improvement over the original noisy RF that requires a US TV tuned to channel 3 or 4.

The joysticks it came with were completely broken – unfortunately finding replacement controllers for old systems is quite difficult and fixing them to work like new almost always requires new membranes or other parts that are not made anymore.

The solution? Wire it up to accept a standard Atari 2600 controller!  It’s kind of a ubiquitious standard that’s compatible with the Commodore 64 and believe it or not, Genesis/MegaDrive controllers.  I got the idea from ArcadeUSA’s youtube video but I did it a slightly different way so I could also use the original controllers as well.

The electronics for the Atari 2600 controllers are the same but the pinouts are different so you can’t plug them directly in. I used what I had on hand,  a “6inch DB9 Female Port to Dual DB9 RS232 Male Serial Y Splitter Ribbon Flat Cable” for the adapter.  $4 from ebay, I cut off the parts I needed with scissors.

Click for the big version.

I soldered at the pins below the DB9 jacks, easier there.  Above is a labeled picture that might save somebody time.  Notice that the player 2 wiring is SLIGHTLY different from the player 1.

It’s ugly the way they stick out and will surely break soon. But it works great!

Conclusion

It would probably be better to just make DB9 to DB9 adapters to fix the pin differences (could unplug them when not needed), but I didn’t have the right stuff handy.  Someone should make a simple circuit board to do both ports together, something that looks like this useful  joystick port toggle I got for my C128.

Thanks Seth, something I didn’t care about.  When will you actually make a game

Yeah, yeah.  We’ve been working on stuff behind the scenes and will soon be upgrading RTsoft to a new HQ in Kyoto.  The idea is to be a real (well, slightly more legit than now anyway) game studio as well as a sometimes kind of public hackerspace/cafe, more later.

Door game source code release – RTReader

Many moons ago I made a door game scripting engine that read “ref files” (short for reference, I think) to control  what the users see.  Later, this reference file system was used as the base for LORD 2: New World.

Someone asked me today for the source and as I don’t think there are any legal entanglements with releasing this, here ya go.  (About the LORD/TEOS/LORD2 source, I’ve been trying to buy back the rights forever so I can legally release them too)

RTReader V??? source code (probably incomplete and can not actually be compiled, written in Turbo Pascal 6, requires Scott M. Baker’s door driver)

Note:  Does anybody perchance have the RTReader door game .zip file I distributed back in the day?  I think it was a weird kind of “RTsoft company update and virtual interview with Seth” thing, please drop a comment if you know where to find it, thought it might be good for a laugh. My google-fu failed.

UpdateHere is the RTReader thing I was talking about (Thanks Jay).  I’ve packaged it with DosBox, just click play.bat and it will run.

It’s just as hilarious and bad as I expected, complete with tons of misspellings and random things such as a virtual interview and a “game” that ends with a madlibs style story.   It calls itself “Bloody Claw Newsletter Issue 2 from June, 1995”.  So there must be an “issue 1” out there somewhere?  Did an issue 3 ever make it out the door? Hrm.

Input lag fun – measuring Atari 2600 latency from controller to display with an Arduino

Input lag.  It’s a catch-all name people use when talking about the latency that gets added in the various places between when you push a button and finally see results on your screen.

Many (especially console) games these days are designed to hide it because the developers cannot predict the latency of the display device the player is using.

There are often additional considerations such as video drivers, vsync, “Game mode” display options, refresh rate, back buffering and dealing with high latency wireless controllers.

If I add 100 milliseconds of additional lag to Red Dead Redemption 2, I’d doubt you’d notice with its mushy-ass controls.  But if you try that with old school platformers and bullet hells designed for ultra-low lag, well, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

If you’re skeptical of the difference input lag can make, try this:

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan) is just mean. See that mushroom? It kills you!

Play the murderous Super Mario Brothers 2 (Japan) directly from a Famicom on an old school CRT and then try the same thing on your Raspberry Pi, PC, or even the same NES console through an upscaler/LCD tv.

As you switch back and forth you’ll probably feel the difference.  The game is more difficult and less comfortable with the extra lag.

It’s not just about reaction times – there is this thing your brain does where it’s forced to jump and move slightly earlier than the onscreen action.  We can all automatically do it, sure, but it’s… different.  It doesn’t feel as connected.  It’s too.. I don’t know, milky.  A lot depends on the number of frames missed as well as when the console polls. (for example, the Atari 2600 polls 30 times a second, during the vertical blank interrupt but )

This goes for much of the 8 and 16 bit action content from consoles and computers of yesteryear.

So real hardware and CRTs are the only way to go for fast response controls?

Woah, settle down, I didn’t say that!  Retro emulation is astonishing and with the right gear and settings it should be possible to match or even beat old-school latency in specific cases such as with Run Ahead on the NES.

That said, I have not been able to do it yet with my setups.  Additionally, there are sometimes trade-offs like screen tearing and visual artifacts when you’re aiming at ultra-low latency.  I’m sure things will continue to improve given the recent focus on reducing input lag on both displays and controllers.

(Note: I was going to say “twitch gaming”  instead of “fast response controls” but I’m guessing that term is too ambiguous these days)

Measuring input lag accurately

Instead of getting lost in subjective testing by “feel”, let’s get scientific about it.  For my purposes, I wanted to measure the exact latency between a button press on an Atari 2600 console and the display pixels changing.  The full trip.

<disclaimer – I’m an electronics amateur and don’t know what I’m doing.  Breaking stuff is how you learn, right?> 

I used a cheap Arduino Uno with an LCD/button shield (they call things you stick on them shields, ok?) to do it.  It’s so simple you don’t even need a breadboard!

The light sensor

First I wired up an LDR (Light Dependent Resistor) to the board’s analog in pin A0, and connected the other end to the ground.  We can now detect light with a analogRead(A0) command.  Oh right, I also put a 100K resistor in there.

To get the light sensor to physically stick on the screen (so it will hover over the pixels in question) I commandeered the suction cup that came in a iFixit kit and glue-gunned a rubber earbud cover to house it.

Just nod and smile please, without commenting how there is glue everywhere and it looks ridiculous.

My light sensor returns a number between 300 and 1024 or so.  When stuck onto a monitor more like 800 to 1000 (black and white… black pixels still have a lot of light coming through I guess) but good enough.

Getting the Arduino Uno to push the Atari fire button digitally

Next I cut the cable off a broken Atari 2600 controller (it was a cheap clone from Ebay that I broken during a particularly exuberant C64 performance) and using this diagram figured out the wires for the fire button and ground.

I connected the controller ground wire to the Arduino’s ground pin, then the fire button wire in the D2 pin.  I can now control the fire button like this:

 pinMode(C_ATARI_BUTTON_PIN, OUTPUT);

//To turn button off
 digitalWrite(C_ATARI_BUTTON_PIN, HIGH);

//To turn the button on
 digitalWrite(C_ATARI_BUTTON_PIN, LOW);

I didn’t know you could directly wire it like that, mixing the 5v high signals from both the Atari and Arduino, but whatever, it works.  Read this post by BigO to understand why setting it to LOW causes it to be “on” as far as the Atari is concerned.

I noticed if the Arduino is NOT powered buts its joystick lead is plugged into the Atari, there are weird video glitches.  I guess due to the unpowered Arduino draining amperage from the fire button lead, enough to cause fluctuations in the entire system?  Ignore any smoke, move along.

Adding support for more buttons would be as easy as plugging the additional wires into more Arduino pins.  In the picture of the whole device above, it’s only the Red and Yellow wires I’m using, the blue/white ones aren’t connected to anything.

The code

All that’s left is to write some code so the device can be controlled with the LCD shield’s buttons.   Here’s what those buttons do:

  • Select – Show current light level reading
  • Left – Nothing
  • Up – Increase light change timing required to trigger
  • Down – decrease light change time required to trigger
  • Right – Start measuring.  (Will cause the Atari’s fire button to click, then it waits until the light has changed enough.

Here is the code for the Arduino sketch. (I did all this in a messy few hours, don’t judge me)

Tip: I leave the button in the “pressed” state for 100 MS (I guess 33.333 MS would technically be enough for an Atari 2600, but whatever, doesn’t matter), and I look for about a 60 change from the light sensor to count as “hey, this part of the screen has  definitely changed, stop the timer, we’re there”.

You can’t see it, but I’m pulling the Reset button on the Atari 2600 between tests so it’s on the right screen for the Arduino to send the “fire button” when I start a measurement.  The game is Xenophobe.

Testing results:  Atari 2600 console on CRT

  • Sensor in the upper left of the CRT return between 0 and 33 MS.
  • Sensor in the buttom left of the CRT returns between 16 and 33 MS.

This seems about what it should be, give or take 1 MS or so?  It’s possible to get near 0 MS from button push to pixel display.  I mean, I guess I knew it was, but it’s still fun to measure it.

So why did I use the Xenophobe cartridge?  Because it’s just the first game I found that clearly changes a dark block of the screen to a lighter color instantly when a button is pressed. (I wouldn’t want to use light to dark due to possible ghosting issues)

There are probably homebrew roms built to do this for most system but I couldn’t find one with a cursory googling so here we go.

Testing results: Atari 2600 console with upscaler, various video switchers & old Dell LCD monitor

  • Sensor in upper left of panel returns between 79 and 130 MS

Ouch.  Well, I knew it wasn’t going to be good, I can only imagine how bad it would be with a Pi or something instead.  Anyway, I won’t go serious into testing (I’m no My life In Gaming)  or my exact hardware in my retro area (it’s weird…), I just want to be ready for when I need to compare latency on my setups down the road.

Conclusion & random thoughts

I’d like to test the full “controller to display” latency on my Raspberry Pi & main computer setups as well but I think that means I’d have to hack into a 360 controller so the Arduino can control the button as we did with the Atari.   Maybe later.

Would be wondrous to get to a place where we could once again write games counting on the C2S  (controller to screen) lag being low and knowing everybody is getting the best experience.

You always want to know your server ping time when you play online, right?

Well, maybe we could start building in latency test systems so a console (using its camera? or maybe all TV/monitors’s should have a tiny light sensor in a corner that could be queried via HDMI) would know its own latency (both visual and auditory) and a game could use that data to automatically sync up stuff for rhythm games, adjust game timing of quick-time events, or even to just display a “congratulations, you’ve got horrible latency” warning if needed.