A reminder of what the last version of AutoREALM could do. Click on the thumbnail to see it full-sized.

AutoREALM is open-source mapping software for RPGs. It operates as a vector-art program that operates on various layers, similar to the commercial software Campaign Cartographer. In 2005, development ceased on the software as the people working on it found the need to prioritize activities that actually put bread on the table. As a result, the last Operating System to support AutoREALM is Windows XP.

The Software That Would Not Die

This was a program that would not lie down and die. Kept alive by a sporadically-active Yahoo Group under the direction of Michael Pederson and Keith Davies, successive coders came and attempted to advance the project, only to discover the project taking over their lives and bowing out. In the meantime, programming languages came and went, and it became clear that a complete from-the-ground-up rewrite was going to be necessary if AutoREALM was to live again. The project to do so was pretty much dead and ready for the embalmers when Berenger Morel stepped forward late last year and began a rewrite in C++ 11 which is now progressing to the point where outside contributions become possible.

Berenger has asked members of the Yahoo Group to publicize this need in hopes of finding people to share the workload before he burns out as others before him have done.

Bear in mind that this is a completely new rewrite and as such does not yet come close to the functionality of the original – check out this feature list from the 2005 version at Sourceforge.

The ultimate goal is to advance the new version of AutoREALM beyond the 2005 level of functionality. The code is designed to be more flexible, more easily updated, and more modular. Lots of care and effort is being expended to keep the long-term firmly in view; a less robust version could have been released some time back, but Berenger is aiming to make this software best-in-field, and taking no shortcuts. The end result should be software that can evolve more quickly, and be more extendable.

So where’s it at?

Right now, Minimal Basic Functionality Only. It’s not ready for end users yet. But it IS ready for coders to come in and add functionality to the bare bones. In addition to developers who are able to implement functionality – starting with the 2005 list of functions, Berenger would like:

  • to be able to publish news in a blog, to allow people to discover AutoREALM, and keep people informed in an easier way than mailing lists. Mailing lists are a good way to discuss wanted features and to help people to do things, but are not the best way to inform them of progress. So, Berenger would greatly appreciate that someone became something like AutoREALM’s reporter, to inform people on what is happening on the development side. He could do this himself, but his time is limited and better spent in further development instead of communications.
  • The repository he is using to distribute the software provided, amongst other things, a bug-tracker and a wiki. Berenger would like to give the wiki a better structure, but it is a time consuming task, and he is not very used to wikis. So he would like someone to come in and organize the Wiki.
  • He needs people to create and distribute packages and installers. It is not really a programming task, but it will probably need some knowledge in that domain. Berenger is only able to make the Debian one (for Linux), so at the very least he needs something for windows, and if possible, other Linux distributions and the Mac OS.
  • He needs alpha testers to find and report situations which are able to crash the actual code base. In short, testing the stability, by acting like a really stupid user, by trying to do things he did not think anyone would try, by corrupting configurations and so on.
  • He needs someone to help with documenting the code. he did not take time to write comments on most of it, and the sections which have been documented have since been completely rewritten without that documentation being updated. This task will need someone with appropriate technical expertise.
  • He would also like people to go to sites which have articles about AutoREALM and notify them that the rewrite of AutoREALM has restarted in 2012, and compile their URLs to keep them informed about progress.
  • Finally, he wishes additional Developers working to add all the functionality of the 2005 version plus any new features people can think of! In the near future, if not right now, the binary will have the features it most needs (i.e. it will be capable of loading plugins and managing render windows), but there are only one or two plugins plus the render library (DLL file for windows users) completed just to show that that things works and are easy to use (at least, that’s what is being worked on at the moment – it’s mostly a matter of dotting i’s and crossing t’s before these are ready to go). The idea is to attract other contributors, now that the application’s basic structure is set, because with somewhere near 100 functions (menu items and toolbar buttons) remaining, there is still a lot of work to do in implementing features before the software is ready for more rigorous testing and public scrutiny.

The repository is located here: https://bitbucket.org/bmorel/autorealm

Is anyone interested in helping out? You can get started by joining the AutoREALM Yahoo Group and getting in touch with Berenger. There is also a separate mailing list at Sourceforge for developers at autorealm-develop@lists.sourceforge.net.

Let’s get this great piece of freeware off the launchpad and back into operation before Berrenger suffers the same fate as all the others who have worked on bring AutoREALM back to life! After all his efforts, that would be a shame, and a waste.

Side-note: there are a couple of places in the above where the text is a little hesitant about the current status of the project. That’s a bit of stage-fright on Berrenger’s part – it’s one thing to make promises to a semi-private mailing list, and quite another to put something you’ve invested a lot of effort into on public display. So if things aren’t quite 100% ready or it takes a little while for him to get offers of assistance organized, be gentle with him!

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