PowerBuilder – Not Just for Business Apps (Mafia Manager) 30


Mafia Manager is not your Typical PowerBuilder Application

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to illustrate the power of PowerBuilder is not just limited to business applications.  Mafia Manager is an application that I wrote using PowerBuilder Version 10.5.  It is about as far from a business application that you can get and it was relatively easy for me to get it fully functional and from concept to an amazingly popular and

Mafia Manager Version 2.0 - Click for Full Size View

well known tool (Version 2.0) within about 2 or 3 months.  A quick summary of Mafia Manager, is that it is a Windows Application front end to a popular RPG (Role Playing Game) by Aftershock Innovations called Mafia Live.  The tool was later changed from Mafia Live to Mark of Mafia I suspect Aftershock ran into problems where someone was claiming ownership of the Mafia Live game but thats just my opinion.

Most people associate PowerBuilder with business applications, however there is no reason the tool cannot be used for other project types like I used in Mafia Manager. Early in 2009 when I got my first iPhone, I downloaded and installed a game called Mafia Live (by Aftershock Innovations), later the name was changed to Mark of Mafia. The game was your basic RPG (Role Playing Game) about running your own Mafia. You choose from three basic business options such as Capitalist, Psychopath or Executioner. The concept was the same no matter what role you chose, but there were minor differences in play depending on which role you chose.  The Capitalist favoring earning money off investments, etc.

I Had An Idea, and it was Well Received

After playing the game on my iPhone for several weeks and becoming somewhat addicted I found myself taking too much time trying to keep up with players that seemed to work the game 24×7.  I had become good at reviewing my weapons against a potential opponents, and comparing how many assets a competitor had compared to the amount of money they were spending on expensive weapons requiring lots of money in upkeep.  But it was time consuming.  So I decided, why not automate this process?  There was a rule against using “Bots”, but it was allowed as long as the bot did not perform actions for the player.  My idea was to build an application around the program that could instantly provide me the information I was computing manually, along with the exact amount of income and attack/defense score.  This would allow me to not only improve my play, but let me play faster and enjoy the game, but not take too much time from my family.  I posted the idea on a Forum of Aftershocks, first asking if anyone like the idea and second asking Aftershock if it was “OK” with them.   Everyone loved the idea and Aftershock didn’t seem to mind, little did they know that hundreds of players were playing the game as long as they were “because” of my Mafia Manager.  It was very rewarding and fun, and I made a few hundred dollars in donations which was nice but amounted to pennies per hour of effort.  I’m a true programmer, just enjoy helping other people.

Within a Month, Mafia Manager Version 1.0 was Reality

The image above was of Version 2.0 which was far more advanced, there were about ten times as many features as my original plan.  Version 1.0 still had enough bells and whistles to make the front-end a huge hit from the start especially since it was free.  I had a couple very generous persons helping he with a Support Forum and we really hoped we were onto something big.  As it turned out, I was working full time at my job, and full time on the program and I burned out seriously bad about three months later, once actually waking up with a paralyzed hand from falling asleep at the desk on the arm of the chair.  It stayed paralyzed for almost two weeks, apparently a condition called Sunday Morning Palsy, or something like that.  I slept on a nerve that controlled my hand movements and damaged it to the extent it needed weeks to recover… that was a wake up call. But I digress the purpose of this was to show that PB can be used for many other cool applications.  When looking at the image of Version 2.0 you should note that the section on the left, a tall narrow pane, was the actual “Mark of Mafia” game being displayed in the PB app via an Internet Explorer control.  All the other parts of the window were displayed by me parsing the HTML in the OLE control and putting it into a useful format.  It was a lot of dirty work and proved to be a maintenance nightmare because every change Aftershock made affected the HTML in some way that would break some of my parse logic.  In Version 2 I also implemented a database so that every attack could be stored in the database and used as extra information when deciding to attack someone.

Mafia Manager – Future?

Considering that I don’t have a job that pays, I am considering to restart the project, and would welcome any help.  It is more fun working with other developers and learning from each other.  So let me know if it is something you might be interested in.  Late in Version 2.0 I experimented with making the application a Saas (Software as a Service) application; and didn’t have a hard time with a $3.99 monthly subscription, however I just didn’t give it enough time to grow.

Sincerely,

Rich (a.k.a. DisplacedGuy)


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