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Open Sourcing MMOs

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the create-a-new-community-license dept.

Role Playing (Games) 137

The Stropp's World blog has an interesting editorial of the pros and cons for open sourcing MMOs, especially those that have "died." Stropp examines both sides of the issue and makes some compelling arguments. "So, there are some good reasons for a company to open source the game that it is soon to retire, and there are a couple of good reasons against. What to do? If opening up the client is not an option, open up the server code. This would allow the open source community to take the software, install it on a community server and open it up to the fans. Other players might want to grab the source and create their own private servers, perhaps with different rule sets for PvP and the like. The life of the game could be extended for years, supporting a thriving community."

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137 comments

What's the point? (3, Interesting)

Keruo (771880) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308305)

If you open source the game, anyone can read from source how all the quests and puzzles work.
Kinda defeats the point of playing..

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24308335)

Not that there are any particularly puzzling quests in MMOs...

Re:What's the point? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309267)

But I spent all day figuring out how to kill 20 [insert creature here]s! I mean, sure, I can kill one easy! The next one isn't any harder to figure out either, nor the next... Yet somehow, magically, it gets different when there is a concrete number posted. Even the first one is hard to figure out if that's all you need for the quest!

OK, yeah, MMO quests are easy most of the time.
kill N of [Monster]
get N [object]s that drop off of [Monster] [at a static rate | randomly]
take [object | message] to [person | thing]
go to [person | place | object]

  The only difficulty in MMO quests is finding the target (sometimes) and not getting offed by some critter in the process (sometimes).

Re:What's the point? (1)

Dave Tucker Online (1310703) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308341)

People figure all that out anyway. Those who don't find cheating fun can just ignore it.

Re:What's the point? (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311421)

You can't ignore the inflation it causes, or the deflation of crafting prices if the quest reward is craftable. A simple gold or item dupe can completely destroy a MMO.

Re:What's the point? (3, Interesting)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308355)

If you open source the game, anyone can read from source how all the quests and puzzles work. Kinda defeats the point of playing..

Wouldn't it be less of a hassle to read the Player's Guide, if such was your goal?

Re:What's the point? (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308531)

Wouldn't it be less of a hassle to read the Player's Guide, if such was your goal?

True, but think of your geek cred man!

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24309171)

If you open source the game, anyone can read from source how all the quests and puzzles work.
Kinda defeats the point of playing..

Wouldn't it be less of a hassle to read the Player's Guide, if such was your goal?

Yeah... Digging through lines of C++ code to find "if (carrying_specific_item_in_backpack == true)" is so easy... Maybe it would make people smarter.

Re:What's the point? (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308369)

Yep, those will be the guys taking up the support.
Those that just want to play probably won't be reading the source.
Besides, when was the last time one of the big games didn't have walkthroughs of all the quests within the first couple of weeks anyway?

Re:What's the point? (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308387)

People already have the ability to look up all of the answers to all of a games quests and puzzles online. This would seem to be a non-issue.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Loadmaster (720754) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308393)

The same can be said of any game with cheats like Doom or Civ. Just because someone can do what you are suggesting doesn't mean everyone will, or that those who do it will destroy their enjoyment.

Re:What's the point? (1)

TheSubAtomic (1305939) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308407)

If you open source the game, anyone can read from source how all the quests and puzzles work. Kinda defeats the point of playing..

The point is, that people can create different rulesets, puzzles, and quests, then share with others their creations. Extending the life of the game nearly indefinitely. P.S. It's already possible to look at the game databases and learn how the quests work. It's really simple most of the time. Go to X, kill Y, Z times. P.P.S. This information is also available in a quest log of sorts...

Re:What's the point? (1)

christ, jesus H (1317921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308657)

Absolutely right, it has always made sense to envolve the community of gamers for the long term health and viability of a game. This seems like a great way to do it. I think you would end up with many smaller MMO communties, but many would likely last for a very long time.

Re:What's the point? (3, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308665)

I agree completely with this. Not impressed by WoW and its artificially slow leveling system, my wife and I tried an unofficial shard server that tendered 10x experience and gold. The game was still too plodding for us to play for long, but it was neat to see some higher level areas with only a marginal investment in time. We each bought a $2 official trial game client at the local games store so Blizzard still got a few bucks for their trouble.

I really wish I could go out and buy the Auto Assault client (pretty despicable that stores still sell a worthless client to a long dead MMO) and play on a private server somewhere, or better yet, host my own. What could possibly benefit the publisher more than continuing to profit from game a game after the official service has been cancelled? What do they have to lose?

Re:What's the point? (1)

HanClinto (621615) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308771)

What could possibly benefit the publisher more than continuing to profit from game a game after the official service has been cancelled? What do they have to lose?

Perhaps their packet encryption algorithm. Sure, it usually gets reverse-engineered, but if they have untapped extensibility built in that they could use in a newer game, then keeping their network security layer proprietary can help for future games.

Re:What's the point? (3, Informative)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309859)

If their "SUPAR SECRET" network encryption algorithm needs to be "SUPAR SECRET" to be secure, then its not. Security through obscurity != Security.

Re:What's the point? (1)

HanClinto (621615) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310229)

It's never going to be secure as long as you give a somewhat intelligent client for the user to run. The DRM fiascos have taught us this.

The most an MMO can do is hope to stall the crackers for as long as possible. The only way to make your game secure is to not give the players a client. As soon as you distribute a client, you have no security, and obscurity is all you've got.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Clovis42 (1229086) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309389)

Not impressed by WoW and its artificially slow leveling system

Levelling is slow in WoW? I just starting playing, and I've found it to be lightning fast. Besides single player RPGs, I've only played DragonRealms and Tale in the Desert. They both featured insanely slow levelling systems. It took weeks to gain a level in DragonRealms. I was like level 14 in WoW in about 8 hours maybe. I know it will slow down as I go, but I thought that WoW got a bad rap for having a super easy quick leveling system.

Oh, and don't pat yourself on the back for buying the $2 trial. While stealing would be the wrong word for it (there's no property to steal), it's clearly immoral to use the trial like that. The cost of the game is obviously subsidized by the monthly fee to play it. You could at least drop $20 on the full version. Regardless of how good a game it is, clearly thousands of hours went into its developement. You'd at least be consistent if you simply downloaded the free trial and never paid them a cent because you don't believe in copywrite/IP, etc. I guess you would also be ok if you only played the game (on any server) for 14 days.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24312259)

Not impressed by WoW and its artificially slow leveling system

Levelling is slow in WoW? I just starting playing, and I've found it to be lightning fast.

Leveling got a boost several patches ago so it now takes about 30% less experience per level to level up. Combine this with rested XP and you can fly through the levels pretty fast. Even when you run out of rested XP it proceeds at a fair pace.

Before this taking your first character to 60 could take quite a while. Taking alts to 60 was fairly tedious as well. Going from 60 to 70 was pretty speedy as well but doing it again for all your alts, once again, got tedious.

The boost to leveling was nice for long time users as it made alt leveling easier. It does help newer players to get up to the big leagues a lot quicker but they miss out on what long time players had to go though. And new users will never, ever get to experience and enjoy world PvP as old timers did in the days before battlegrounds.

Re:What's the point? (1)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24313677)

Level 20-60 got a boost. In this case the parent said he was level 14 which is the same xp rate as before:

2.3 patch

"Experience: The amount of experience needed to gain a level has been decreased between levels 20 and 60. In addition, the amount of experience granted by quests has been increased between levels 30 and 60."

Levels 1-10 have always been really quick so you can get an initial feel for a class. Compared to other MMOs overall leveling has been pretty quick in World of Warcraft.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310107)

Server emulators really only re-create about a 1/10th of the game though.

I've found none of the spells work properly, none of the encounters work properly (unless you count a boss who either stands there or just auto-attacks working), npc's are missing etc.

I feel bad for someone who judges the game based on a "private server", however one of the things I discovered setting up my own emulator was just how much game state is controlled by the server - quite a bit it turns out.

Re:What's the point? (3, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310367)

It's already possible to look at the game databases and learn how the quests work. It's really simple most of the time. Go to X, kill Y, Z times. P.P.S. This information is also available in a quest log of sorts...

Everquest I, in particular would be a great counter example. Sure nearly all the quests were documented on the various sites, but the information was often sketchy or even outright wrong. Often it would say 'go to an area and kill everything that moves for a while and eventually the named will pop', but in reality the spawn was triggered elsewhere. Other times, the spawn you were interested in only popped from one particular place, or lots of mobs named X spawned in the area, but only the ones that spawned at (x,y) dropped z. So if you needed 5 z's you could spend hours killing all the mobs named X, until you had 5 z's... or you kill them until you get 1 z, then rush over to (x,y) and kill everything that respawns from that point, and get your 5 z's MUCH MUCH quicker.

A few quests -were- documented to this degree by people who had done the quest dozens of times, and -really- understood it. But far more quests exist where the sort of information you could get from the source code just isn't available.

Hell, in everquest, even some of the most basic mechanics weren't well understood for years. For example, whether the mobs spawned with loot, or whether it was generated on their death -- for -YEARS- people swore up and down that they had better drop rates of x if they had y equipped when they killed it.

This information is also available in a quest log of sorts...

Another feature EQ1 didn't have. (To its detriment really)

But there were elements of EQ1 quests that were really quite brilliant -- Its one of the few games that actually required the community come together and solve quests as a group. For one quest you needed two coins -- one on a high stump in a dark forest that was only somewhat safe to enter when the quest was level appropriate... and even then only during the day, the other in at the bottom of a frozen river, where you had to enter a hole in the ice.

The quest giver gave almost no direction to finding these coins, and a player playing 'solo' really had no chance in hell of ever completing the quest before he had levelled FAR beyond it... unless he communicated/collaborated with other players -- one of whom might have discovered the first coin while levitating through the forest, and another who discovered the 2nd coin exploring under the ice.

It was truly brilliant when playing it 'back in the day' when those quests were still being solved; sure after it was solved the locations and screenshots of where to go were up on the web, but many of the quests even today are only partially documented. People have reported you can get an X here or a Y there... but often there are much better places to get X's and Y's.

And any longtime player has lots of insights into the game that simply aren't documented.

New MMO's have really 'dumbed it down'. In WoW you just run from question mark to question mark on your map.

Re:What's the point? (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24314877)

Yeah, EQ was pretty terrible like that.

AoC does it right, I think. If you have a "find the missing boy" quest, instead of wandering aimlessly through an entire zone, or looking online for spoilers (which is how WoW works), it highlights a circle on your map, so you only have to look around in a restricted area. Makes it much more fun.

Re:What's the point? (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308415)

There are plenty of quest guides out there. If anything, this allows people to change the quests and make them more fun.

Re:What's the point? (1)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308423)

You could open up the source for the engine etc. and just provide place holder info for quests, as an example of how they may be made, and just keep the actual quest code from the releases.

Re:What's the point? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308567)

If you make the game engine flexible and put the quests and such in the data, then open-sourcing the code won't give much away.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308857)

Um, if you can look at the source and see how the quests and puzzles work, you can write your own quests and puzzles and incorporate them into the game. After all, isn't that the point of open source?

Re:What's the point? (1)

AndyG314 (760442) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308893)

for most if not all video games there are online spoilers available. The point is kinda moot.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309139)

If you open source the game, anyone can read from source how all the quests and puzzles work.
Kinda defeats the point of playing..

Do something like Nethack: the source code is available, there are extensive guides, and it's still a difficult game with a great deal to discover.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309195)

I wouldn't worry so much about the quests as the skills/spells/gear etc.

If you think people obsessively spreadsheet their min/max now, just wait 'till the code is out there.

But maybe it wouldn't make much difference, on a popular game people are willing to spend hours and hours experimenting with min/max theories, and come up with pretty overpowered stuff.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24309741)

Opening the code doesn't open the content. The quests and such aren't in the code, but in the database of content at the backend. That way you can change the quests and not have to recompile and patch all those clients...

Re:What's the point? (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310795)

It would still work for PvP-heavy games like EvE Online. Because the fixed quests/missions are less important. Much of the game dynamics comes from player interaction (to a large part in the form of players trying to take others' territory).

Not that I think CCP will open source EvE soon... they are still making a nice amount of money as it is.

OSS MMO = Free Leet Gear! (2, Funny)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308399)

The sword of 1000 truths is mine!

Re:OSS MMO = Free Leet Gear! (1, Funny)

Loadmaster (720754) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308501)

Ha, Ha! I parry your sword of 1000 truths and strike back with my Bushian Flail of a billion duhs.

I really like this idea for an open source MMO. Seems like fertile ground for political/social commentary.

Re:OSS MMO = Free Leet Gear! (1)

Behrooz (302401) | more than 5 years ago | (#24313839)

The sword of 1000 truths is mine!

I'd rather have the sword of 1000 dares, based on my teenage experiences.

Myst Online (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308467)

It would be great if Cyan open-sourced Myst Online [mystonline.com] . They are now in the process of resurrecting the game for the second time. Myst Online has a crowd of almost religious followers who would be very happy to be able to keep the servers running after the games final death.

Re:Myst Online (1)

Skrapion (955066) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309151)

Well, they're planning on releasing binaries for the MO server, as well as binaries and source for the content creation tools, so users can create their own content. Cyan will still be running central auth and avatar servers, though, so you don't need to start from scratch on each shard.

All this and MORE (pun intended) is discussed on the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Myst Online (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309935)

I'm pretty optimistic about what Cyan's doing with MORE. They're moving to a very open model, even though they aren't (probably can't) open-source the actual game code. And for a game like Uru, it seems that community participation in content development is a lot more important than in software development.

It doesn't seem to be much of a stretch to imagine Cyan eventually open-sourcing most of the game code, and allowing the community to fill in the gaps left by the proprietary libraries they've used. It seems to be a logical next step if MORE is successful.

Why on earth would they do that? (4, Insightful)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308505)

Why would they want to extend the life of their game? They want you to buy the new one!

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308579)

Buy a new one? Not really, they want to do just enough to keep you paying that monthly fee. Bringing out new games tend to splinter any established player bases a game might have.

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308635)

TFA says to open source games that are no longer supported. Thus, they aren't being played anymore.

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310459)

TFA says to open source games that are no longer supported. Thus, they aren't being played anymore.

Thus most of the players are playing something else, and paying for it.

Thus open sourcing the no longer supported game will attract players from existing paid games, reducing their profitability.

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310571)

Exactly my point, they will attract PAID players away from your PAID games.

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308679)

And patents. Patents also exist in MMO's. Open Sourcing would potentially give make those worthless (not that I approve of SW patents, mind you).

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308765)

I'm amazed the author of the article didn't have this obvious insight. :)

Or maybe the whole article is making a rhetorical point?

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (3, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309433)

Who's more likely to buy Doom 4, someone who hasn't played any doom game in decades or someone who still plays doom 1 & 2 regularly using different mods? Communities build up, buzz is generated through the grassroots, if the community's any good it may even grow and spread, which would make your next game even bigger.

Re:Why on earth would they do that? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#24310845)

Who's more likely to buy Doom 4, someone who hasn't played any doom game in decades or someone who still plays doom 1 & 2 regularly using different mods? Communities build up, buzz is generated through the grassroots, if the community's any good it may even grow and spread, which would make your next game even bigger.

Maybe. Maybe not. And once the game is OpenSourced, you can't put it back in the box if it doesn't work out.

Plus subscription MMOs are different from other games in that most players won't play more than 1 or 2. So by open sourcing a game, you are creating competition for your other games.

Suppose Sony were to say, shut down and then OpenSource EQ1, nevermind the loss of revenue from EQ1 [lets say they were going to shut it down anyway, regardless so that revenue is gone either way].

But by opensourcing it, and giving it a life of its own, it could also have the net effect of actually pulling subscribers AWAY from their other paid MMOs like EQ2 and Vangaurd, etc, without any gaurantee that it will help subscription rates of their 'next mmo'.

UO? (4, Interesting)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308519)

Didn't they do this with UO?

Oh, wait, they reverse engineered the protocol, made a ton of implementations of the server, and the game is still played. There was even a new official client version in 2007, according to the Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultima_Online [wikipedia.org]

I'd love to play Galaxies or Matrix Online, but I'd never pay for them, just like I never paid for UO, yet played it religiously for three years.

Re:UO? (3, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309053)

The question that pops into my mind after reading your post is:

Would you shop at "Ye Ole' Nike Blacksmith"? Would you venture forth to save Prince Sony? Would you have the intestinal fortitude to sit at an inn with architectural features and iconography identical to that of a Pizza Hut?

If there were integrated marketing merged into these free games, would you still be willing to play them (for free of course). Knowing that your viewing of integrated advertisement would be offsetting the server side costs?

-Rick

Re:UO? (1)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311681)

This is how free Anarchy Online subs work (for the most part), and that's a decent system. Great game, no monthly fee (but you miss out on expansion content, etc.)

Re:UO? (1)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309237)

The open source MMO business model should be similar to Linux.
A commercial company similar to RedHat can use server fees to fund development of engine improvements which are then contributed back to the open source development. They shouldn't have to contribute back all the artwork or the data sets.

The biggest problem is resistance based on the perceived lack of cheat detection/prevention. The current thinking on this in commercial MMOs is firmly in the security by obscurity camp, and we all know how thoroughly that has been debunked.

This model would allow those who wouldn't pay to play, and those that wanted to show off their investment in a recognizable manner to do so. If cheating and the economy are not managed, you will lose the second group.

Hit the nail on the head (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308523)

The simple fact is, its volunteer work and as such it is not a priority for those doing it.

Lets throw in a few other issues.
1. Differences. It is very hard to have a leader over a project like this in an environment where a dissatisfied group can up and fork their own
2. Feature creep.
3. Boring crap. All the graphics needed for the client. This collides with issue #1. Designers want X but available artists deliver Y.
4. Time, time to deliver something playable isn't quick if they want a lasting product. Linux didn't spring up overnight.
5. Mindset. Too many would come at it with the mindset that "if only game X did this". Well see #1. Everyone can't agree and many lock into a pattern of wanting to do X because either they liked X or didn't.

Really I don't see any large scale MMORPG like those given. I can see a contribution based one where the approach is modular like Never ending nights yet that still would require a good deal of client and server work. Yet the base framework could be created to allow people to sub the art in and if the scripting language is good enough to build their own. I am sure there are many examples of this already but it probably comes down to #1 again. Differences.

Re:Hit the nail on the head (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308851)

Really I don't see any large scale MMORPG like those given.

"Large scale" may be over-rated for open sourced, formerly-commercial MMOs. Post-market MMOs are going to be run on a hobby level: very few hobbyists can afford the bandwidth or servers necessary to make a post-market MMO a truly "large-scale" experience.

If the game will translate to the smaller-scale of the hobbyist, then it's a win-win situation: the players win, because they can keep playing; the company wins with customer goodwill. If it's a game where they can still sell the clients after open-sourcing the server, then the company wins twice.

Security trough obscurity (3, Insightful)

jfclavette (961511) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308557)

I'm willing to bet most MMOs trust the client to some extent, in order to reduce their load. Open Sourcing them might not be such a good idea.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

fractic (1178341) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308809)

I believe you are right about this. This would explain why hacks work. They basically change something clientside and then convince the server to accept the change. Clearly not all communications get checked serverside.

Re:Security trough obscurity (4, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308861)

I'm willing to bet most MMOs trust the client to some extent, in order to reduce their load. Open Sourcing them might not be such a good idea.

You massively overestimate the power of security by obscurity and massively underestimate the power of reverse engineering. Just about every instance of server-client gaming where the server trusts the client has resulted in subverted clients to cheat using that trust. Modern MMOs (and any other server-client games) do *not* trust their clients.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309537)

It's been a couple years since I played EverCrack, but there were definitely tools that allowed you to do things because the server assumed the client was telling the truth. For example, you could instantly warp around to anywhere on a map, even if you couldn't run that fast, even if it was an inaccessible location, etc.

It also allowed you to see all the mobs in any given zone. Once upon a time, the server even told you what the monsters were carrying, so you knew exactly what to hit to maximize your farming. Even though they "fixed" that by not telling the client what the mob had until it dropped, SOE still never fixed the rest of the problem.

And, yeah, it was a problem. I've seen people leap deep into raid zones while we were raiding them to take out the top named mobs long before we could get to them. Nothing like being 4 hours into a 6 hour raid only to see a few hardcores come into the zone, warp ahead of you and take out your loot and progression mobs (think an Anguish equipped group (when that was the top zone) warping in while you're doing VT and taking out all the good loot mobs or warping around SRo's Tower to take down the named so you can't get people into the EPs).

These tools still worked as of spring 2006 when I quit playing, I don't know if they fixed them since. However, whether or not you want to classify EQ as modern seeing as it still sees development, despite being released a decade ago, is up to you.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309845)

No, EQ is not that modern, being over nine years old. The way its client got hacked was an object lesson for those who came later. It is worth noting that EQ was released on March 16, 1999. Before the year was out, ShowEQ was available to hack it. So much for security by not releasing the source code.

Re:Security trough obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24310271)

Even if the server does not trust the client to make important decisions, there are still exploits that can be done on the client-side.

Glide is a great example of this: it allows player to play WoW without having to grind. Open sourcing the client would make it much easier to write programs like Glide.

Re:Security trough obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24311457)

So how is it that you can teleport at will in WoW by faking position updates from your client?

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

Ghost429 (828987) | more than 5 years ago | (#24312055)

Alot of WoW's code trusts the client, including things like positioning and checking whether you're allowed to cast spell X or not when you mash the button each time.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

TimboJones (192691) | more than 5 years ago | (#24314353)

Most likely they check on both ends. The client check allows the UI to update properly but the server check actually determines whether you can perform the action.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 5 years ago | (#24312267)

MMO's *DO* trust their clients for some things. Such as movement, where latency can cause serious problems. The servers do put limitations on this however.

Suppose I have a hacked client and I simulate 2 seconds of packetloss, how far can I travel in one second? I can potentially report to server that during that 2 seconds I was traveling west the whole time or east the whole time. The server realizes 2 second of packetloss is reasonable and trusts the client. Everyone else sees me teleport to the position I reported.

Now suppose I simulate 30 seconds of packetloss (meanwhile my hacked client passively receives data, waiting to see if the Barbarians will invade from the east or west). When I see the alarms coming from the East Gate, I have my client report that it had been traveling east for the last 30 seconds. The server will recognize this as deception and rubberband me back.

So if I recognize that 5 seconds is the threshhold for trust. I could have my client constantly hiccuping packets for 4 seconds (only while I'm standing still) and as soon as I want to move, I can give myself a 4 second teleport in that direction.

And this gets us to how modern MMO's trust the client. They trust the client but they also recognize where the risks are. They make audits built into the system to try to identify suspicious behavior.

Re:Security trough obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24313327)

IAAMMOD (I am an MMO developer) and no, nobody trusts their client. Players are way too devious for that.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

Psychochild (64124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24315185)

I am also an MMO developer, but I disagree: people still do trust the client on occasion. It's usually for one of three reasons:

1) Newbie developer mistake, and they didn't think to ask an experienced developer.
2) Those times when trusting the client makes sense (benefits outweigh negatives).
3) A buggy check on the server-side.

I will agree that developers are better about it now than back in the bad old days. The game I own and administrate, Meridian 59 [meridian59.com] (a one-time "dead" game that lives again) had an amusing situation where the "Hold" spell was just a command sent to the victim's client to disallow input. Yeah, that taught the original development team a quick lesson. More recently, there was a dupe bug where people hacked the client to offer the same object twice in the secure trading window, creating lovely dupes. After figuring out the problem, I put a check in (but didn't actually prevent the cheat for a few days, heh heh) and then banned people who abused the bug. The funny part is this bug was probably in the game since launch, but it took about a decade for a player to figure it out.

My thoughts,

Re:Security trough obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24310247)

FF11 Online trusts the client only to an extent. Network data is encrypted so we cant see when things will spawn easily, however all of the code for fishing is loaded on the client side every time you fish. As a result myself and numerous others found ways to guarantee automated 100% fishing success. What we've found is the client is 'trusted' but GMs will check logs for things. There are GM tools that can alert them if someone is forcing their movement speed faster than normal, or position changing, so you can cheat, but you wont get away with it for very long. And on a side note, I've never released my source, and I never will.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311053)

I'm willing to bet most MMOs trust the client to some extent, in order to reduce their load. Open Sourcing them might not be such a good idea.

Trusting the client is what got Ultima Online into buttloads of trouble in the early days. You don't need open source to hack the client. You just need a smart guy who knows how to read memory dumps and TCP/IP stacks.

Re:Security trough obscurity (1)

P51mus (1266460) | more than 5 years ago | (#24312553)

I know the WoW servers trust the client for positional data (and I figured this out back in beta....). This allows for things like speed hacks and teleport hacks. Also causes that really annoying blinking that lagging people do when they move fast. I *think* they did something to help them against such cheaters, but the client is still trusted for positional data.

As a contrast, CoH's servers don't trust the client for position (I'm not completely sure about this, but I think CoH's servers sanity check EVERYTHING), which means you can rubberband when lagging.

CoH also has this bug where you and the server can desync. On your screen you see your character moving around, but on the server you're doing absolutely nothing. If on your screen you move a certain distance away from your real position, you see scenery but no characters (server only transmits data for enemies/other players to you a certain distance away from your position). Also using powers away fails if you're too far away from what you're targeting, even though it looks close enough on your screen.

They've tried to fix it a lot, but it keeps popping up. A /sync command was added in as a workaround solution (resyncs you with the server).

NbG people, we all know the rules . . . (1)

christ, jesus H (1317921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308781)

The only thing they have to lose is in rereleasing the "new" and "improved" version in the future (many people will stow file cabinets worth of stuff in thier basement for 20 years hoping it will be "worth something one day", instead of letting people enjoy it for free). I dunno if they really lose this but certainly most people are terribly nervous about thier IPs being used outside of thier control.

I can see thier argument to some degree, but once the game is "officially dead" they need to put "need before greed" and let the community have it. Like the great Jerry Garcia said about people taping dead shows; "Once Ive played a note, Im done with it. Let the fans have it."

The article shows the difference. (3, Interesting)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308855)

Because the reasons to play a FPS (most updated graphics, best new gameplay features) aren't the same reasons to play a MMO (building a character, seeing time invested result in virtual properties). The 5-year old MMO can compete very well with recently released MMO's (Warcraft vs AoC).

This is why MMO's aren't OS'd, and probably won't be.

Economical problems (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308927)

How do you support a website with bandwidth usage comparable to youtube?

My solution is to let various MMO game apps running on a cluster of servers, and add a subscription and/or advertising to that cluster.

This would be an extension of having shared forums in a single machine. The owner of the machines doesn't have to deal with game user accounts - that part is controlled by the game masters.

MMO = Massively Multiplayer (5, Interesting)

rotide (1015173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308937)

MMO means it is a Massively Multiplayer Online game. Open sourcing would be decentralizing the servers. But that also means that each time you run a new instance, you split the player base. World of Warcraft already does this with Realms, but this is a hardware limitation issue. You can't squeeze 10 million players on one box, the CPU would simply die. But if 100 people want to "keep a game alive" by running their own servers, you now effictively split the populace 100 ways. Stops being Massively Multiplayer really quickly.

Games such as Quake, Counter-Strike, etc, work just fine because they are meant to be split into 8 or 16 or 32 player chunks. MMO's are meant to be played by literally thousands of players. How do you group for an instance if only 100 people even have accounts? You certainly can't raid. How do you do large scale PvP battles? You can't. How do you have an economy when only 1 person is selling something and the other 5 people don't want it?

My second point is this..

BANDWIDTH!

WoW takes about 2-4KBps per person of bandwidth. Multiply that by lets say a minimum of 100 people we're talking 200-400KBps dedicated and this doesn't allow for growth. Pretty sure my upstream on my home connection is capped at 64KBps. I don't want to think about paying for a business class line to let people play a dying game for free.

There is a reason MMO's will stay corporate, it takes a lot of money to keep them running. Yes, you can have offshoots, just like people run private WoW servers, but those aren't MMO, they are toys, novelties, something the masses will never join.

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (1)

christ, jesus H (1317921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309041)

"Yes, you can have offshoots, just like people run private WoW servers, but those aren't MMO, they are toys, novelties, something the masses will never join."

I agree this will never work for the "masses", thats one of its greatest strengths in my opinion.

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309109)

Then, again, it stops being a Massively Multiplayer Online game. One rich with many quests, group dynamics, PvP, raids, and an economy. Those are all things that pretty much define a good MMO.

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (1)

christ, jesus H (1317921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309365)

True the experience would end up much different (certain dynamics would be less viable), but I can see how much fun could still be had with a group of friends and an entire MMO to explore.

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24310425)

those aren't MMO, they are toys, novelties, something the masses will never join.

There are dozens of open source, privately run Ultima Online servers out there that have thousands of accounts and 300+ players active at any given time. Exactly how many players do you have to have active at once before it's "massive"?

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (1)

evilWurst (96042) | more than 5 years ago | (#24313877)

And yet, I could entirely see people running private WoW servers for a playerbase of just 10... that's perfectly fine if you're not huge into PvP and have some kind of script to populate/simulate the auction house. That's enough for those ten players to each have two accounts (one alliance, one horde) with a few characters on each... basically exactly one guild on each side and that little group of friends explores the world together.

For many people, it's the huge persistent world full of things to do that serves as the foundation of the game, and your friends that play it cooperatively are what keeps drawing you back in. We could call it a... hmmm... Modestly Multiplayer Online Game, and keep the MMO acronym just as it is.

For a max of 10 concurrent users, it wouldn't require all that beefy a server or all that much bandwidth, and since cable/fiber connections are relatively common these days... hmm. Actually it might be possible to make a game explicitly designed for small persistent servers. I can see the market for a dual-mode game like that... the client comes with a server, you can pay monthly to play on the huge company servers, run your own miniserver for free. Maybe it'd even have a middle option of paying a small monthly licensing fee to run a mid-range userbase server (100ish concurrent users)? Anyway, the idea of a game that scales from single-player all the way up to many-thousand-player is kinda neat. It'd still make the company money at all levels, since the singletons still buy the box like a normal game and the hardcore still pay the monthly official server access fee...

Re:MMO = Massively Multiplayer (1)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | more than 5 years ago | (#24314995)

Unless of course clever OSS hackers decide that a distributed server could work, then all the central server does is compute checksums of the various nodes. Would it be easy? No! Could it work? I don't see why not. Some kind of spanning tree algorithm to tie together those "closest" in the game world, and crippled IRC to handle the chat.

There is a fine balance with user created content (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24308965)

I've seen many games thrive on user created content, and it is going to be seen more and more often. Games like Counter-strike started out as a modification of another game (halflife). Now Counter-strike itself has mods. (Mods of a mod if you will) In terms of MMO's, In World Of Warcraft, I don't know any guild that doesn't require several certain add-ons for raiding. The add-ons are of course not made by Blizzard but by the community. Instead of making the game incredibly complex by offering every utility built-in that a player might want (not to mention the work involved)- They've opened up to allow players to create the add-ons so the players can pick and choose how to play. They've even gone so far as to allow complete customization of the GUI.

Bots (1)

b4thyme (1120461) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309223)

Wouldn't this make it incredibly easy for bot writers as they would know all of the anti-cheating countermeasures built into the game?

Not to say that this is a bad idea, I feel that a lot of times MMO companies fail because they do not listen to their users, this would simply be taking it to the next level if implemented well.

Same problem with opening ANY large project (5, Informative)

Drogo007 (923906) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309227)

They don't open source old games probably for the exact same reason any large legacy project isn't automatically open sourced - licensing issues. There are probably large swathes of code they don't have the right to release in such a manner. Game companies very rarely write all their own code from the ground up. Instead they take some basic building blocks (graphics engine, sound engine, network engine) and build around that.

In some cases, they simply take an existing game engine, license it and add their own content. Interestingly enough, one of the few game companies that has a reputation for opening the source on their old games is also one of the few game companies with a reputation for completely rewriting the engine from scratch every time (a.k.a. ID Software)

Even if you somehow wave your magic wand and make all the licensing issues in the engine code disappear, you're still left with the same issue for art assets: There are often a large number of licensed art assets (textures, music, etc etc) in a game as well.

Re:Same problem with opening ANY large project (1)

christ, jesus H (1317921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309407)

Its a good point and likely very accurate. If you cant, you cant. But if you can, then you should.

Re:Same problem with opening ANY large project (2, Interesting)

jfim (1167051) | more than 5 years ago | (#24309855)

Indeed, a lot of games use third party libraries/middleware, such as Bink, Miles Sound System, Renderware [wikipedia.org] , Gamebryo [wikipedia.org] etc.

It wouldn't be very useful to have the game without those libraries. The middleware systems are usually quite extensive and producing an open source version of those would be quite hard, especially since a lot of games depend on very specific versions and configurations of the actual middleware --- or even modifications to the actual library code! Since the middleware handles pretty much all the graphics/sound/etc. and leaves only the game logic to the game developer, it is quite unlikely that the game would ever get to a playable state without a significant effort from the OSS community.

Re:Same problem with opening ANY large project (1)

xhrit (915936) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311185)

and that is why i am still waiting to play ut3 on linux.

Re:Same problem with opening ANY large project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24312705)

If this is the case and I agree it is, then copyright law is wrong. The intent was to encourage people to publish stuff by giving them a limited monopoly, after which the public could use the stuff however they wanted. It worked great with books and even music, but I don't see how it could ever work with software. Not to mention the fact that object code isn't like a book at all.

There are already some out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24309379)

Planeshift, a project I worked on for a short while, is an independent open-source MMO. I was only involved for a year, but it's been around since the 90's I think, and is still going pretty strong today. Pretty amazing. Open-sourceness doesn't seem to be a negative thing for them, as many developers come and go to support it. Just thought I'd mention it, even though TFA seems to be talking more about commercial ventures.

Auto Assault! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24309595)

Auto Assault was great. Sure, it failed, big time, because it wasn't really the kind of game you want to pay $15 a month for, but it was still a fun casual game. If it was buy-once-play-forever, I think it would have done much better. When they killed it off, people begged for some kind of lifeline. I just wish they would let people run independent servers, or Sony or NCSoft would pick it up and add it to a "play all our games for $x/mo" type of service.

Tradewars 2000 (...Wow, I'm old) (1)

TheGrapeApe (833505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311435)

Just mentioning this shows how "Get-Off-My-Lawn"-old I am...but anyone remember Tradewars 2000 - the old BBS/Doors game. I think they did open the source for that game...granted, it was text-based, but it was still a really great (and in my opinion, the "first great") MMO.

They still have some sites that host the game, I think.

Re:Tradewars 2000 (...Wow, I'm old) (2, Interesting)

Reapman (740286) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311677)

I actually BOUGHT Tradewars to run on a BBS I never started.. but a friend has a BBS he's running through Telnet, gave him the license.

However I'm pretty sure it has not been open sourced, although if it has I'd love to see the link. Last I remember there was a telnet version or something, and it cost $.

Ah the joys of colonizing planets, buying big ships, and having it all gone in a turn when you accidently go to an unknown sector with some dudes planetary defense cannon, or if you had the add on, the borg :P

I miss the BBS days :'(

Worldforge (4, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#24311761)

There is an Open Source MMO project, launched over ten years ago (I remember it was announced on Slashdot) called WorldForge. It, so far, has failed to really go anywhere. Don't get me wrong, it has stayed alive, and they do have some tech they've built. But nothing that's really much of a game. They've had various things that I would describe as 'prototypes' or 'tech demos' - I check in on them every year or two to see what they have.

      WorldForge has it's developers, but for whatever reason, it never seemed to reach that critical mass where there were a lot of developers, artists, writers, etc who really jumped in and started building a true MMO with it, that I can tell. It's interesting, but for whatever reason, it seems like an MMO is just something that, at least so far, doesn't seem to work well as an Open Source project.

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