Elite: Not Really Dangerous



  • So, I don't know who of you guys is following this game but I'm now kind of fascinated by this trainwreck called Elite: Dangerous.

    The basic idea is nice but some of their design choices are not really such a great idea.

    Case in point: The netcode.

    Now, there recently was a big hubbub about Frontier retracting the possibility of true offline play, instead opting for a Diablo-3-always-online-even-when-singleplayer solution.
    Okay, the bit about the background simulation makes a bit of a sense (even when this is another WTF) but they want their players to have an impact on the galaxy and thus even the solo players get a dynamic setting.

    So, one might think: This is a multiplayer game now (an MMO even!), they must've thusly created a nice network architecture to cope with the amount of players, right?

    Oh, but they did! They created a hugely advanced server cluster able to deal with everything the players' bandwidth was able to throw at them... bah, who am I kidding?

    They opted for peer-to-peer. Now, this might make sense for a friendly LAN game where you know everyone involved and can punch them in the face if need be.
    For a worldwide internet game with quite a competetive setting (advertising states: "Be a bounty hunter! Be a pirate! Take part in battles involving capital ships against other players!"), that makes not so much sense.

    There is a server, yes, but mostly for matchmaking only - everything else is then communicated directly between clients.
    Coupled with the fact that everything is instanced (you cannot travel from system to system even if you wanted to, you have to use hyperjump. Also sublight travel inside a system doesn't work as well - you might arrive at a station around a planet but it won't be in your instance), this gives rise to a slew of problems.

    First there are failures for matchmaking - sometimes you simply don't see anyone. Or you don't see the people you want to see. Or you want to pull someone out of supercruise (the FTL version of interplanetary travel) and your opponent is nowhere to be seen after a successful interdiction (might suffer from #3 as well, see below)
    Secondly, communication between pilots is unreliable. Yes, that's right. A multiplayer game without a working chat function.
    Thirdly, you are in trouble from a bad player pirate? Simply press Alt-F4, kill the process, pull the plug, ... since it's p2p you'll simply vanish from your opponent's instance. Works against NPCs as well.
    Fourthly, due to their design choices, the maximum amount of players you'll see is 32.
    Fifhly, from what I know, one of the mantras of server programming is: "Don't trust anything the clients say." Yeah, doesn't work so great in a p2p setting where there's no server arbitrating disputes between clients / boundchecking.

    And thus we have the newest slew of cheats. People can set their bounties to any values they like, can repair their hull instantly, basically giving them a shield of almost invicibility. And with the p2p setting, they don't really have a way to prevent that.



  • Well, scratch one sometimes-perceived threat to EVE Online's existence off the list...

    Hype cycle 1. Elite: Dangerous: -1.



  • Yeah. I'm hoping that StarCitizen is a bit more sane in that regard.

    The netcode is just one of the many WTFs surrounding this game.

    And then there's the lack of content to boot. Basically, as soon as you have a fully-equipped Viper or Cobra MK III, you might as well stop playing because everything after that is more of the same.


  • SockDev

    huh.... so as a KS backer not worth playing at all (with the KS backer rewards i can get one of those pretty much instantly, even when i accidentally shoot the station and go splat. my key mappings were way wrong....)



  • @Rhywden said:

    Now, there recently was a big hubbub about Frontier retracting the possibility of true offline play, instead opting for a Diablo-3-always-online-even-when-singleplayer solution.Okay, the bit about the background simulation makes a bit of a sense (even when this is another WTF) but they want their players to have an impact on the galaxy and thus even the solo players get a dynamic setting.

    That's what EA said about SimCity. It turned out they were fucking liars.

    @Rhywden said:

    They opted for peer-to-peer.

    Hahahahahahahaha!

    @Rhywden said:

    Fifhly, from what I know, one of the mantras of server programming is: "Don't trust anything the clients say." Yeah, doesn't work so great in a p2p setting where there's no server arbitrating disputes between clients / boundchecking.

    To be fair, Microsoft has by-and-large solved this in the Xbox ecosystem. But I doubt Elite: Dangerous has engineers as sharp as Microsoft's. (Also, Microsoft has the nice ability to be able to detect, almost 100% reliably, when its system's hardware has been altered or isn't running to spec.)



  • Well, currently you can do:

    • Trade. Which is a bit of a snoozefest because supercruise (SC) is not really exciting. Instead SC just needs enough attention so that you can't watch TV or something but does not have anything else going but waiting for a distance meter to tick down. But it does make money, actually the only profession to do so. Thus, if you want an Anaconda, be prepared to play Eurotruck Simulator for hours on end.
    • Pirating. Yeah, well, the bounties you'll accrue on your head are one thing, but the stuff you loot does not offset the risk. Plus: Due to the wonky netcode, pirating human player pilots is a crapshoot (will he stay or will he Alt-F4?)
    • Exploring: If you've seen one gas giant you've seen them all. One of the most boring professions in the game. But wait! With the upcoming patch your name will be printed on the system in the galaxy map if you were the first on to discover it! Yeah. It's that lame.
    • Bounty hunting. Well, that was one of the fun ways to make money. You just had to jump somewhere and hope that your instance spawns pirates. That will be nerfed, however, no more unlimited waves of pirates! Plus, currently, if one of your shots misses (or, say, the cops choose to fly directly into your laser beam) you'll be instantly wanted. Nothing says "Good game design" better than NPCs suddenly deciding that your lowly Sidewinder (starter ship) with a 200 Credits bounty is much more dangerous than that Anaconda with a 200,000 Credits bounty.
    • Mining. Well, if trading is dull this is almost preferrable to boring a hole in your skull with a rusty spoon.
    • Missions. Those consist of:
    • Kill some pirates. Well, if you find them. Not everyone who shoots at you counts as a pirate and in 6 out of 7 times you'll run into: A funeral procession (seriously). a wedding procession, junk someone dumped in the middle of nowhere, a pirate who tries to convince you that you should shoot the cops instead (but don't shoot this pirate - you'll end with a bounty on your head!) and a technology trader.
    • Get some stuff from somewhere or Deliver some stuff to somewhere else or Find some stuff but we won't tell you from where

    And you may get a military rank (in both navies, by the way) and a pilot rating of Elite. But that doesn't really mean anything besides the bragging rights.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    To be fair, Microsoft has by-and-large solved this in the Xbox ecosystem. But I doubt Elite: Dangerous has engineers as sharp as Microsoft's. (Also, Microsoft has the nice ability to be able to detect, almost 100% reliably, when its system's hardware has been altered or isn't running to spec.)

    Plus, the price point of an Xbox makes it a bit more expensive to cheat if you get caught.



  • They only ban hardware if the hardware has been modified in some way. Usually you just have to pay for a new Live account. Either way, charging money for it helps keep people honest.



  • Ah, didn't know that. But if they're able to detect hardware alterations reliably, then software alterations should be detected reliably as well?

    Oh, and by the way: The cheats I spoke of? Can be created very simply by using the Cheat Engine. No reverse engineering required.



  • The thing is, P2P can be as secure as an authoritative server. But only if all peers start from the same data and run the full simulation. I get the feeling that's not the case here.


  • I survived the hour long Uno hand

    @henke37 said:

    all peers start from the same data

    And where do you store that data without a central authority? Anything stored locally can be tampered with between sessions, even if it started out fine.



  • The peers simply need to agree on the starting state for the session. Doesn't really matter how said state is selected as long as all peers use the same one. Games typically either use a map generator or preset maps for that.

    Yes, there is a risk of the initial state being selected to favor one peer over the other, but all peers have a chance to look at the state and reject known biased ones.

    Now, the problem comes when you want to do persistent data storage for data that users can't be trusted with. Then P2P is the wrong solution.



  • @Rhywden said:

    Ah, didn't know that. But if they're able to detect hardware alterations reliably, then software alterations should be detected reliably as well?
    Software alterations tend to result in the game not playing at all, as everything defined as executable code needs to pass a digital signature check before it can run, and with "write xor execute" enforced at a hardware level it's pretty difficult to get something unsigned to both load and run. There have been exploits before in code not traditionally considered executable, even though of course it is (fonts, HLSL shaders, etc), but those have pretty much all been cleaned up.

    Hardware alterations are possible, but practically only exist to deliver original, unmodified software (piracy) rather than modified software (hacking). Save file hacking used to be a thing but last I was aware (2009ish) there was no more PIRS-snatching, and the people who bruteforced Xbox achievements through GfWL stood out ridiculously badly.



  • @henke37 said:

    Now, the problem comes when you want to do persistent data storage for data that users can't be trusted with. Then P2P is the wrong solution.

    Another problem: What do you do when the clients don't agree? Most scenarios usually only involve two clients, after all.

    By the way: The fanbois are currently creaming their pants over a new feature which puts lights on habitated planets (basically a fancy texture). They're saying and I'm quoting verbatim: "Just think of it: If we're getting something impressive like this after only 7 weeks, just imagine what future content will look like!"



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @Rhywden said:
    They opted for peer-to-peer.

    Hahahahahahahaha!

    That's a great strategy if you care about minimizing each player's own perceived latency at the expense of giving laggers a silly advantage and letting anyone with a debugger wreak havoc.

    A game I used to play that used to be fun had this very problem. Conveniently, around the same time that hackers were simultaneously one-hitting everyone else in the room, the developers decided to release a bunch of game-breaking equipment and turn up the Pay2Win™ dial from Almost Tolerable to Must Spend in Excess of $100 Per Month to Keep Up.



  • When the peers disagree then it's a desync. The options are to either reset to a known good state or to give up and remove peers until the remaining peers agree again.



  • @henke37 said:

    When the peers disagree then it's a desync. The options are to either reset to a known good state or to give up and remove peers until the remaining peers agree again.

    @Rhywden said:

    Most scenarios usually only involve two clients, after all.

    Which one would you remove?



  • Well, typically peers like themself, so someone that disagrees with them is one option. But majority voting is another option.

    But when there are just two, there isn't much of an option, the entire session has to be ended.



  • Desyncing is not really a good option in a persistent multiplayer game.



  • P2P isn't a good idea to begin with there. Aside from the just established issues, it scales poorly.



  • @henke37 said:

    Well, typically peers like themself, so someone that disagrees with them is one option. But majority voting is another option.

    But when there are just two, there isn't much of an option, the entire session has to be ended.

    Involve a random player as a (somewhat) trusted third party to run the validation in the background? That would require the server at least to keep track of logged-in players, but I think it's supposed to do that anyway.

    No clue how that would work in practice, but guess it can be done.



  • The netcode is even worse than the OP says, it actually relies on uPnP! If, like any sane person, you don't have uPnP enabled on your router, things get even more wonky - none of the in-game comms (text or voice) work, and you get fun stuff like, 3 people in the same instance, A can see B & C, B & C can each see A, but B & C can't see each other.



  • @Maciejasjmj said:

    Involve a random player as a (somewhat) trusted third party to run the validation in the background? That would require the server at least to keep track of logged-in players, but I think it's supposed to do that anyway.

    No clue how that would work in practice, but guess it can be done.

    That could be an idea but would require reliable matchmaking, something they haven't yet been able to do.



  • BTW let me just say the Kickstarter model of thousands of people paying for a thing before it even slightly exists, or has been reviewed by anybody, is obviously a fast highway directly to QUALITY PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT.



  • As a counter-point to all the multiplayer problems, I've been playing solo mode and it's everything I wanted from Elite.



  • Well, gameplay-wise the thing's stuck at a 1984 level of gameplay, though.



  • The old DOOM games were P2P and made sure each client started from the same point with the same RNG seed, then each one simulated the world after that and things usually happened to match between all clients. I spent a fair amount of time playing with Dehacked back in the day and it was pretty interesting to modify one client, leave another stock, then join them together in a netgame. Depending on what you altered, they would significantly disagree on where monsters were or whether they were still alive. Eventually all clients would crash out.


  • area_deu

    Good thing there are Client/Server implementations available now, too!
    www.zandronum.com


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Yeah. I'll kickstart board games and such because generally speaking the game already exists and just needs manufacturing. Other content with high costs and proven producers? Sometimes.

    Software? I know how that gets made, how much it really costs and how long it takes. No fucking way.



  • Okay, so the dumbfire missiles were a bit overpowered - did equally good damage to shields and armor and were untargetable by point defense.

    So, they nerfed the damage against shields and made point defense finally target them.

    Only problem:

    Point defense now targets any and all dumbfire missiles. Including your own.



  • @Rhywden said:

    Point defense now targets any and all dumbfire missiles. Including your own.

    ...that's a new low in point defenselessness. Or is it pointless defensiveness?

    Filed under: and people say drones in EVE are uncooperative...


  • BINNED

    @tarunik said:

    Filed under: and people say dronesFoF missiles in EVE are uncooperative...

    FTFY


    Filed under: Yes, shoot that Warrior with heavy missiles, that will help!



  • That particular bug was reported very early in beta. Even acknowledged as such by a dev.



  • And their bugtracking system must be kind of useless - a producer just jumped into the forum thread talking about this issue and asked for ticket numbers...

    ... aaaaand now they broke their launcher in an attempt to hotfix a CTD. Well, that's certainly one way to go about it.


  • BINNED

    @Rhywden said:

    ... aaaaand now they broke their launcher in an attempt to hotfix a CTD. Well, that's certainly one way to go about it.

    Well, no turrets will be shooting any missiles now, will they?



  • @Onyx said:

    Well, no turrets will be shooting any missiles now, will they?

    Most hilarious is the bug where the damage from ramming is inversely proportional to the collision's speed.

    Ramming a station at top speed will only damage your shields a bit, but scraping the entrance at 10 m/s will create a rapidly expanding plasma cloud.



  • @Rhywden said:

    And their bugtracking system must be kind of useless - a producer just jumped into the forum thread talking about this issue and asked for ticket numbers.

    At least equally probable: The producer is kind of useless.



  • @Rhywden said:

    Ramming a station at top speed will only damage your shields a bit, but scraping the entrance at 10 m/s will create a rapidly expanding plasma cloud.

    So they have shield technology from Dune?



  • @boomzilla said:

    So they have shield technology from Dune?

    Seems that way. Also, who releases a major patch at 5pm?



  • What time zone?

    It's Tuesday at 11;50 AM here, I can't think of a better time to do a patch.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    What time zone?

    It's Tuesday at 11;50 AM here, I can't think of a better time to do a patch.

    Well, it's GMT and the company is located in England.



  • OK well just FYI? Still not telepathic.



  • @boomzilla said:

    So they have shield technology from Dune?

    Wherever it came from, it sure is garbage compared to what we have over here...

    Filed under: ramming doesn't need to do damage in order to be a useful combat tactic


  • BINNED

    @tarunik said:

    ramming doesn't need to do damage in order to be a useful combat tactic

    No Machariel video links?

    Fuck, now I want to play EVE again...



  • @Onyx said:

    No Machariel video links?

    At work, so no video links -- besides, the last good bumping run I sort-of-saw didn't get caught on video. (It was a Vindi doing the bumping in that case, too.)



  • Seems as if it's going down the drain a bit so they turned the screws on the forums.

    So, in this one forum thread over there I had a bit of a disagreement with another user. Quite civil actually but since he asked me to leave "his" thread, I asked him in return if he had become a mod. Which resulted in him posting ASCII art of showing me the finger.

    Which resulted in a mod not only deleting his answer but also my postings before and after his, and another unrelated posting of mine. No infraction points, private messages by a mod or anything, just gone. Was a bit miffed, but well, what can you do?

    Then there popped up another thread where another user of the forum warned us that they were applying new forum rules quite zealously. Quotes from Brave New World and Paranoia were posted - after all, the Computer is your Friend, Citizen!

    I therein stated that I was a bit unhappy about a mod's decision to delete my posts along with the offender's posts.

    In exactly these terms, no swearing.

    Next thing I know: 7 day ban from the forums, my own, leading and following posts deleted from the forum. With an accompanying e-mail stating as much.

    Bonus: All the links in said e-mail are inaccessible due to the ban.

    Morons. 🙂



  • "Don't discuss moderator action in public" seems common though.



  • @PleegWat said:

    "Don't discuss moderator action in public" seems common though.

    Well, that's the thing, though: How exactly is one supposed to talk about the rules when one isn't allowed to talk about the actions resulting from said rules? I could understand if someone swears a lot and such but a "I'm unhappy about this action"?

    Especially when the thread itself began with a "I've seen someone banned for posting this: 'Fuck the devs!'"
    Yes, that's an actual quote.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Rhywden said:

    How exactly is one supposed to talk about the rules when one isn't allowed to talk about the actions resulting from said rules?

    That looks to me like a sure sign that you're not supposed to talk about the rules. Also a sure sign to go somewhere else where the moderators aren't on power trips.



  • @antiquarian said:

    That looks to me like a sure sign that you're not supposed to talk about the rules. Also a sure sign to go somewhere else where the moderators aren't on power trips.

    Well, I already pretty much gave up on that game so I'll leave them to their circle-wank. But the irony was pretty strong - first quotes from Brave New World and Paranoia (by actual mods even!) and then, bam! Banned for casting doubt ;P


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