Author Topic: Do we want to work for the character database?  (Read 16915 times)

jacknomind

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Do we want to work for the character database?
« on: September 02, 2012, 11:44:00 PM »
I don't mean to split anyone's focus; getting the game itself running, either via acquisition or emulation, is the most important thing.  But I feel that there's a strong argument to be made to put some effort into acquiring the existing character database(s).

I play for the game, but I know many people play for the story and history of their characters and accomplishments.  We can to some extent artificially restore that after the fact, but I believe it will help us retain or entice back quite a few players if we can offer them their old characters, old SG bases, etc; "just like it never ended."

The timeline for this is short but we do have a few options.  One is simply include it in our requests to NCSoft when negotiations have opened (if negotiations have opened).  If this proves impossible -- if they aren't willing to deal -- there are two other methods available to us.  One is to acquire the databases from the existing servers.  I don't think this will be easy, but it might be possible if anyone has contacts with NCSoft Austin.  I'm... pretty skeptical of this, but, well.  If we can hand somebody a few TB of storage and they're willing to even just mothball this stuff for us for a little while after November, it could make all the difference in the world.

The last and most desperate option is to just tell people in the last couple of weeks to screenshot their badge lists, and possibly costume selection options, builds, SG info, and banks or AH (we *can* just write a blank check for returning players, but without things to work for no one will actually play).

But I think by far the best option to retain a substantial portion of the playerbase is to promise them: We saved everyone.  We have your stories, they're here waiting for you.  Come back.  If we want to run this as a business, and if we want to develop new things we'll have to to at least a small extent, this is the best way to start with as many subscriptions as we can.

(...Not that there isn't something to be said for a brand new world...)

Codewalker

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2012, 11:48:20 PM »
Guy is working on a way to capture what info we can in a "time capsule" file. Basically a specialized Sentinel+. Now mind you, it won't be *everything*, but would be enough so that if we lose the character database you could at least re-create the basics.

For bases, the best way to go is to demorecord them. Little known secret: The entire base is saved in a demorecord file, including the contents of storage bins...

GuyPerfect

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2012, 11:50:21 PM »
I'm presently working on a utility to extract state information on characters for integration with some future game system/server. It can pull out most information pertaining to a given character, as it is a culmination of all the technologies developed for the Sentinel project.

The /demorecord slash command in-game can be used to dump a copy of a super group base, complete with the contents of the storage containers. The combination of my utility and that slash command can provide a means to rescue characters and bases from the void over the next three months.

However, I don't want to be in the business of getting any hopes up, as for the time being, there currently is no target system to integrate these exports into.

jacknomind

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2012, 12:02:42 AM »
Alright, that's excellent, if we're left with no options besides re-eng or nil.  I hope it doesn't come to that.

Juncyard

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2012, 03:13:16 AM »
Oh yes!

If we could save the player database, that would be a guarateed way to get the COH masses behind the project.

None of us want to see our players lost to the cold dark abyss...

chakraflame

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2012, 03:18:42 AM »
One problem that might come with trying to acquire the player database is privacy.

How do we handle it? What would we need to, legally, to ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands?

etc, etc, etc...

laufeyjarson

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2012, 04:03:51 AM »
This is a key question, and I agree that it will matter to a lot of people.

What to do about it has a lot to do with the response from NCSoft.  If they're willing to sell the entire operations of the game, that very probably includes the character databases.  If they're not, we're likely to have to try and archive them somehow.

It's been two days since the announcement; we simply can't know yet.  I'm sure TonyV and a bunch of others are scrambling to find out, but it's not a surprise that we haven't heard back yet.

I am impressed that there's already a tool being discussed to create these things, and really pleased at the thoughtfulness and professionalism of the people working on it.  I need to dig in a little deeper and find out how I can help them more.

TonyV

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2012, 04:46:40 AM »
Just throwing my 2c's worth in here.  I don't want anyone to think I'm ignoring this thread, I'm just deferring to Guy for all talk about this topic.  Guy is, to put it mildly, crazy smart specifically at what is being discussed here.  He is literally the be-all and end-all of Titan Sentinel, which does something remarkably similar to what you guys are talking about.  In fact, we have a crazy beefed-up version of Sentinel almost in the can, and the reason it's not already in the can and out there on your machines is because it's waiting on the back-end development of our web server to process the data that it is capable of collecting.  I hate to say this because I know his head will be all swollen next time I talk to him after he reads this, but confidence in his abilities here is well-placed.

cybermitheral

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2012, 04:59:18 AM »
If the Sentinel+, demorecording options do exist they will need to be encrypted so the players cant modify them.
If the demorecord can be edited who'se to say I dont put a bucketload of Purples, ATOs, PvPs in my bins so when you reload them up I get more than I had.

Sorry to add this to the pot :(

Codewalker

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2012, 05:06:10 AM »
We're already planning to cryptographically sign the output of the Sentinel+ tool, so that if we are able to host an official, licensed server, we can import character data without much chance of cheating. It will still output plain text or XML so that you can preserve the information yourself if you just want it for posterity.

As for bases in demorecords... Well it's possible that someone could deduce the format and modify one, however it's unlikely given that it's encoded in a fairly esoteric way (and if they can pull that off then they definitely need to contact us about working on the project!)

cybermitheral

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2012, 05:34:49 AM »
Awesome :)
I was sure it would have been thought of but wanted to add it just in case. Im surprised how often at my work I say "Why isnt X included?" and the answer being "we didnt think of that" /headdesk.

eabrace

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2012, 05:53:33 AM »
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Sleepykitty

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2012, 06:12:55 AM »
o.o err... a Sentinal+ would be great.. but in the meantime, and just to be safe, the titan network can be used to record a lot... CIT stores a characters lvls, bio, cash, badges, primary/second/origin.. mids can grab a person's build.. and with in-game, icon can save all your costumes (I suggest doing this format "charname_cc#" to keep things straight..). Sure, it doesn't get your souvenirs, sg contributions, contact list or progression and whatnot, but its something that can be done right now and might give some peace of mind.
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DarthDelicious

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2012, 06:23:22 AM »
I've heard of an off-game costume creator... It's out there... it only needs to be updated to all the new stuff that's in-game now.
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Sleepykitty

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2012, 06:32:28 AM »
o.o the off-line costume creater was made back with City of Hero. it was pre-i2. it had at best the i0 costumes and maybe the ones made for us by the Lineage 2 ppl (clipping issues like mad...). It was never released stateside, much less kept up to date... there where ways to sneak newer costume bits in, but.. that all ended around when CoV came out, they altered the costume engine a tad bit with that, and have several times since. Even if you had a copy of it, the CC in-game now is so different there's no hope. we have at least a third more options in the costumes alone, ignoring the power customizing
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Koopak

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2012, 08:18:28 AM »
Dunno if this has been thrown around yet, but one suggestion is that if someone can throw together a program that saves the charterers data, to another online database, ie, the one to be used for new operations, one could since their NC Coh account data successfully

haven't read the full thread so just throwing my idea, im also not aware how easy or hard it would be or even how legal

Aggelakis

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2012, 09:21:36 AM »
We got some folks workin' on it.
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MisterMagpie

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2012, 11:22:14 AM »
I'm presently working on a utility to extract state information on characters for integration with some future game system/server. It can pull out most information pertaining to a given character, as it is a culmination of all the technologies developed for the Sentinel project.

Brilliant!
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Magia

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2012, 06:06:58 PM »
Is anyone else reading this and thinking how incredibly sexy coders are?!

GuyPerfect

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Re: Do we want to work for the character database?
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2012, 11:46:44 PM »
Okay, I've got the utility pretty much finished up. Its output looks like this:

http://cit.cohtitan.com/sentinel/Example.xml

I won't be releasing it to the public just yet, since we don't know how NCsoft will want to approach the situation going forward. But in a worst case scenario, in the event the servers are going down for good, everyone will have plenty of opportunity to produce one of those for each of their characters.

But as you can see, various information pertaining to characters was pulled right out of the game, so there's no risk of losing all your work. In some form or another, regardless of what happens, we can rescue our characters from the end of days. If it comes to that, people will produce these XML files and keep them handy, to be used in a future CoH system for importing characters after the end of the world occurs.
__________

But what's to keep someone from, say, typing in a bunch of purples in all of their Enhancement slots, you ask?

Take note of the very last line of the file:

Code: [Select]
<!-- VKEY 7DADDF5E -->
This "VKEY" here is the validation key, a cryptographic checksum that will be used to detect whether the file has been edited at all. Every file will have a different validation key, and this can be checked to guarantee whether the rest of the file is the same data that was produced alongside the key in question.

Consider the following line:

Code: [Select]
<salvage quantity="2">S_Fortune</salvage>
After producing this XML file, I deleted one of my Fortunes and ran it again, meaning the only difference in the entire file is that quantity="2" there became quantity="1". In doing so, the validation key became 0212E2BB. That's nothing like the previous one (7DADDF5E), despite only one byte of the entire file changing its value by only one unit. That's the beauty of cryptography. This particular scenario is known the avalanche effect.

The algorithm being used to produce these validation keys is a custom one not in use by anyone else in the universe, in this time period or at any point in the past or future. It is unique to this one application. If someone makes any changes to their files, it won't work because the validation key won't match, and because they won't know how to make a new validation key.

Each file has exactly one possible matching validation key, and there's a total of 4,294,967,296 different possible validation keys. So that's one in almost 4.3 billion that can work for each file. And trust me, if someone attempts to upload 4.3 billion different XML files in an attempt to cheat the system, they're not going to get very far. (-: