Player account organisation

How much would you pay for such a service per year?

< 5€
5
56%
5€
1
11%
10€
3
33%
20€
0
No votes
>20€
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 9

Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 18 Aug 2010, 15:05

While reading about the plans to circumvent the GPL to have better cheat protection and a closed source game (utter nonsense but anyways) on the True Combat Elite forum, I though about expanding the old idea of having registered players to make cheaters ban-able.

The problem is that so far no (FOSS) game has really implemented this, but there are good examples from commercial games where game accounts are linked to CD-keys, making it dangerous to cheat. Of course this doesn't translate well into the FOSS game scene, since free accounts don't offer much of a deterrence, and people are unlikely to pay much (or at all) in this environment.

One of the possible solutions (but untried yet) would be to make the registration invite only, with a limited amount of "keys" to give out. This might work, but has a series of disadvantages and gives a high entry barrier for completely new players.

My new(?) idea would be to make a non-profit organization/website that offers an easy to integrate plug-in for games, and a low payment/subscription of lets say 10€/yr or so (e.g. enough to make people not want to register multiple accounts for cheating) to get a unique gamer id. This id would not only make it possible to ban players, but could also be used to have a personalized user name in all games participating etc... so a lot of additional benefits. On the website you could also host player forums and all sort of other social network stuff that's happening around the games (e.g. game play wikis, dev. wikies etc).

Further more the income could be used to rent game servers, which could also be subscription access only (but the service should be available to trusted non organization servers also), and one could have users vote on the website which games to make servers for, and maybe also to what projects donations could be made.

Once the organization is big enough it would also have a program similar to Google's summer of code, to become a patron of certain projects development.

Since it's a completely additional system, questions of reliability wouldn't arise since games would continue to work as before if the system goes down.

And if the plug-in is licensed liberally it could also be integrated with freeware titles or indi games, but to promote FOSS games some rules could be made that the income is only used for FOSS projects.
One could also make a deal with a indi game that purchasing their game will give you a free account in the system, to further increase the number of users.

What do you think? In fact I might start such a service with a friend who is currently looking to start a bigger website anyways. Have to talk to him first though ;)

last but not least if someone would also run the rent-able server infrastructure as the preferred partner of this organization, it might give you a good additional income with out compromising the non-profit ideals of the organization at all.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby TheAncientGoat » 18 Aug 2010, 20:08

Sounds interesting, should point it to the GameBoom, WorldKI, Gluon etc guys and see what they think of it, but I'm a tad sleepy so I can't muster a bigger response. Will do tommorow though
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 19 Aug 2010, 00:35

I think one should specifically not mix it with a content delivery platform, to keep it non-profit. People will only trust and really get behind the idea if it is not perceived as another micro payment, premium content etc system.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby andrewj » 19 Aug 2010, 06:23

It's a nice idea, however I doubt that such a service can really work in practice.

The most significant part of the equation, I think, are the admins of servers which host the game. When the admins are very active (and actually play on their server), the cheaters and griefers usually get kicked or IP banned and it's a good server to play on. So you don't need a registered player system there.

But many servers (for OpenArena at least) seem to be there mainly as a kind of advertisement or for good will, and are pretty much left alone, and in these cases a registered player system won't do any good since there is no active admin there to investigate complaints and ban people.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby TheAncientGoat » 19 Aug 2010, 07:01

Hmm? Just because a team of people are doing a content delivery system, doesn't mean they can't host a seperate non-profit project. Gameboom are planning on hosting multiple services, as well as Gluon, not sure about WorldKi though.

Even then, I doubt /anyone/ would see it as not being a micro payment / premium content system, because, all in all, that is what it is. You're paying a small amount of money for a (premium) service, which is cheater free online play, dedicated servers, "additional benefits", continued development effort into your favourite games... I don't see the problem with this being perceived as such either, no one has tried it before, so you cant really say "another" either.

But anyhow, the system has a few problems that would be hard to overcome:

A) Requires the agreement and communal effort of multiple game projects/devs. As seen with Glou (the multi game lobby system, which would be very useful for a project like this when you think about it), this never works out. People disagree about design, and no one wants to bear the brunt on implementation. Devs also almost universally look down upon concepts like this

B) Requires a standardised login system. Like above, people disagree, no one wants to spend loads of manhours re-implementing a login system for something they already have.

C) Money + lots of people = Drama

D) Needs loads of moderators / admins for the system to work. Even if you say the people "buying in" have the powers to ban etc. you need to moderate /them/ in turn to ensure that they aren't abusing that power

Now, this could of course be solved if you have a dedicated team working on implementing the system for all the projects / hosting their own servers of popular foss games if the project leads don't agree, but that would be a tonne of work (although, maybe less work than the cat-herding of getting devs to work together)
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 19 Aug 2010, 12:36

Good suggestions and critical remarks.

@andrewj: True, but if there is a easy to use kick-vote system (which is usually not used I know) it could work. Besides such an organisation could also give admin rights to trusted users who often play on specific servers; similar to how there are volunteer moderators in the wikipedia.

@TAG:
In a certain sense it is a premium content system of course, but a non-profit one which I think really makes a difference in the perception of the users.

to a) True, but on the other hand this is of course also the best way of getting many users to use it. And I think there is a demand for such a system with many free games. To keep disagreement low, it should really be a minimal intrusive system, basically not messing with the game much at all.
A multi lobby system would be nice but should if at all be implemented as a completely seperate project, like XQF or so.

to b) It needs of course a system that is quick to implement. But actually you could make it completely separate from the games too. In fact that would be probably the most feasible way in the beginning: No modification needed at all in the game, just a server patch for those server admin who want to use the system, and the users simply log in on the website.
In the long run integration into the game would be of course better to make the system well known.

to c) That's why I am stressing the fact that it needs to be non-profit and that all money is distributed very transparently.

to d) yes, that needs careful balancing, but I think it's not impossible.

Last but not least I think such a system could also start as a free invitation only beta (but openly tell that it will be a for pay service later), thus you have a lot of users already using the system once the for pay non-beta starts.
Of course this system is probably a lot of work to get started, and the makers probably have to invest some money for dedicated servers out of their own pockets in the beginning... but that are not huge amounts and I think it is doable.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 19 Aug 2010, 14:21

Ok my friend doesn't have the time to do something like that alone, and I lack the technical expertise :(

But he suggested to base it on the Jabber protocol, so that you could maybe also integrate a service similar to xfire. And making secure logins and accounts etc would be pretty much be done already. One could also have a look at "wippen" a FOSS hamachi like jabber client to see what kind of benefits could such a system integration have.

So who is interested in doing something like this? I would for sure help out as much as I can (also a bit financially).

Edit: to explain the jabber idea a bit more: Maybe in the beginning one could simple set up a jabber server and only give out accounts upon subscription. you can then simply log in with any jabber compatible client and thus verify your session. All that would be needed then would be a very small modification to the server (not the client) of a game to check with the jabber server if the session id, IP or some send encrypted key matches with the player trying to connect. I guess such a system would be really easy to implement.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 21 Aug 2010, 18:36

Just had another interesting idea:

If not made with money one could maybe use a system like bitcoin ( http://www.bitcoin.org/ ) to make accounts valuable, since a considerable amount of (cpu) time has to be spend on creating the account.

P.S.: One of the main devs of Xonotic seems to be working on a player account certification system:
http://forums.xonotic.org/showthread.php?tid=853

Maybe he will open it to other game too.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 06 Aug 2011, 10:13

I think this is a interesting idea, but like all things has its issues. The FOSS-games linked to this "gamer id site" would have to be good enough to justify paying for--and if they are FOSS and you can play them for free, why pay in the first place? (so you can be banned easily? :P). Someone would just setup a free server without the hassle, fee, or extra banning capabilities.

And the gamer-site would have to be good enough to justify the extra dev-time of integrating their API into the FOSS-game. Personally, I think if a FOSS-game had a enough beef to do this, it would have enough to do it on its own--and hence make more money.

But if games are having issues with cheating its because they are open source (don't freak out yet, hear me out). In proprietary games anti-cheat technology is implemented everywhere in the game--most dev teams have a single developer working 40 hours weeks dedicated solely to preventing cheating. Its because this anti-cheat code is hidden anywhere and everywhere that it works--there is no way to guarantee a hack created won't trigger the anti-cheat technology, because there is no way a hack could possibly account for all the entire anti-cheat code in the closed-source executable. BUT, in theory if the source is open it exposes such anti-cheat technology and makes the software more vulnerable.

Also, by having it closed-source it weeds out the "casual hackers"--you would have to know a ton about symbol-less debugging, assembly, registers, and countless-other hard-core things in order to create a hack (this compounds with the hidden anti-cheat technology). But with the source open any Tom/Jon/Jerry/Moe can pop open a source editor and create a hack in 10 minutes (literally, I once modified the Tremulous source to generate a new user ID and random name every time I logged into a server, so I could never be kick-voted and/or banned. And it took me about 10 minutes to do. If the source was closed I wouldn't have even tried because its a huge hassle).

EDIT: Oh, and I just thought of this. If the game is FOSS, there is nothing in the EULA to stop users from hacking, so technically they are doing nothing wrong. In order to truly put and end to hacking (as Blizzard did recently with Sc2), you would need a custom, non-FOSS license (one that restricted modifying the game, as hacking is technically "modifying the game").
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 06 Aug 2011, 18:20

I am not getting into a big argument with you (see the other senseless argument thread), but the entire point of this system would be that you could ban a player permanently from the trusted servers thus having a real penalty for hacking. By doing so it makes it irrelevant if an open-source game is easy to hack or not.
Sure there could be still some really stealthy hacks which are not noticeable by other players (or replays), but honestly... as long as you don't play competitive it doesn't really matter (there are always better players and if you don't notice the difference between a better player and a cheater it doesn't matter for your fun).

P.S.: As this could also include stats and achievements etc... this could be really interesting for many games to include... in fact both War$ow and Xonotic are independantly working on integrating such a system into their games... a common system would be probably much better... but well :-/
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 06 Aug 2011, 23:01

Yes, the idea has potential.

For the sake of bettering the said idea: Would people pay a monthly fee for something that is already free just to get banned easier? And without a custom non-FOSS license you technically wouldn't have grounds to ban them for hacking anyway--you would need some form of license that restricted modifying the game.

And don't worry about the other thread--your posts are far better than that other user, so I have no issues. I have no doubt we can both keep this a good civil conversation :).

Now, other thread aside, how do you plan to address these issues?
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 07 Aug 2011, 01:05

MyEmail {l Wrote}:For the sake of bettering the said idea: Would people pay a monthly fee for something that is already free just to get banned easier? And without a custom non-FOSS license you technically wouldn't have grounds to ban them for hacking anyway--you would need some form of license that restricted modifying the game.


To answer the first question, precisely because it offers an option to ban other players when they cheat. But of course this isn't a business model as you can't really take a lot of money even if you have other nice features on the trusted servers (like stats, matchmaking etc).
Concerning the other question... I see no problem there at all... even if the license permits and even encourages modifications I am free to ban from my server who ever I like. Besides... optimally no-one (or only a very small number of people) ever gets banned, as one time ban means loss of player account (well maybe there could be a three strikes rule or so).
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 07 Aug 2011, 04:00

Julius {l Wrote}:To answer the first question, precisely because it offers an option to ban other players when they cheat.

So you are saying that the monthly fee isn't for the online service per-say, but more of the assurance that hackers are eliminated? That could work :).

Julius {l Wrote}:Concerning the other question... I see no problem there at all... even if the license permits and even encourages modifications I am free to ban from my server who ever I like.

If people are a paying a monthly fee to use a service you would need grounds to ban them--aka a EULA/contract they violated by hacking (although you could keep this separate from the game's license you would still need something, or else there is grounds for a lawsuit--and in some cases criminal charges--when you ban someone).

Consider if 5 people purchased a $100 subscription each, and each get banned for "hacking", but there was no contract signed prohibiting hacking. Each of them would have grounds to sue (+criminal charges for theft/fraud) for their $100 dollars because there was no contract prohibiting hacking. Its a potential class-action lawsuit where a pool of unhappy customers unite their resources to sue you. In a goodly sized game hacking could easily reach hundreds of players, and a several-hundred player CA lawsuit would be real bad.

If you really wanted to be safe you would also need some form of modified FOSS license on the actual software that prohibits hacking. This could be relatively vague--for a quick example:
{l Code}: {l Select All Code}
Hacking. Including but not limited too modifying [GAME NAME] in order to gain unfair advantages over other players, sabotage of [GAME NAME] servers and other users' game clients, [other examples go here] and other forms of "hacking" as is interpreted by [COMPANY NAME] is strictly prohibited.  Users caught hacking will receive a 1 month ban with no refund and an additional charge of $25 dollars for each incident at a max of 3.  On the 3rd incident user will be permanently banned and receive a fee of $100 dollars with no refund.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 07 Aug 2011, 13:37

I agree with you in a commercial context... there you have to be careful with these legal issues.

What I am proposing on the other hand is a non-profit organization that give out these player accounts for various reasons (being a sever moderator for example)... and one of the ways to get an account is to donate to the organization (as a thank you for the donation you get an account for a year). Then there is no question of legal demands etc.

Obviously this will not work in court if it is just a story you made up to get out of legal demands, while in reality you are running a regular commercial subscription based service... but as I said before, that is not the purpose.

Regardless of that, there is two other ways why I think this is a non issue:
1. the fee would be small enough that no one would go to court over it (10$/yr or so)
2. You can have a disclaimer when joining a trusted server, explaining the system and only allowing a player to join if he confirms to not have hacked the client etc. (e.g. after loading you have a "I agree to the conditions outlined above" button instead of a "press any key to continue" button).

However, I guess we have really totally different ideas here (with only a small overlap)... it seems to me that you are rather looking for a way to "sell" your subscription based service, which is also fine with me, but really a different idea than a non-profit meta organization to promote and support FOSS games in general.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 07 Aug 2011, 18:26

Julius {l Wrote}:However, I guess we have really totally different ideas here (with only a small overlap)... it seems to me that you are rather looking for a way to "sell" your subscription based service, which is also fine with me, but really a different idea than a non-profit meta organization to promote and support FOSS games in general.

No, actually. Its just you need the donation large enough that people won't dare hack. $10 dollars/year is small, and with a large number of players it would be hard to regulate hackers (aka I wouldn't get re-banned to often), so forking out $50+ dollars/year to create new accounts wouldn't even sway some people not to hack.

In fact, I think it would work out better if there was no "donation" at all--that the accounts where totally free (actually, 99¢ to signup so you have a method of payment on record). But, upon signing up for an account the user agrees that each time they are caught hacking they receive a fee of $25 or even $50 dollars--which would be more than enough to stop hacking, and puts less stress on the non-hacking users (only 99¢ one-time fee to get the account).
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby oln » 07 Aug 2011, 19:11

MyEmail {l Wrote}:In fact, I think it would work out better if there was no "donation" at all--that the accounts where totally free (actually, 99¢ to signup so you have a method of payment on record). But, upon signing up for an account the user agrees that each time they are caught hacking they receive a fee of $25 or even $50 dollars--which would be more than enough to stop hacking, and puts less stress on the non-hacking users (only 99¢ one-time fee to get the account).

I would imagine that enforcing someone to pay a fee(fine?) would be a lot harder than cancelling a subscription.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 07 Aug 2011, 19:54

Besides that... actually proving that someone hacked can be a bit more difficult than it sounds at first... especially in court to which a lot of people would take you if you fined them with 50$ or more.

And I don't think there are a lot of people willing to spend 50$/yr just to play with some hacks and also go though the payment and re-registration hassle. Besides that, after doing that three times the organization can just ban the Paypal account or credit-card the hacker does the payment from.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Knitter » 07 Aug 2011, 21:12

I don't know if it would work or not, but considering that it doesn't really work in proprietary games I have some doubts about it working in an Open Source game.

I actively play World of Warcraft, I pay for it and it costs me more than 50$/year, 12.99€/month to be exact. Even with all the measures Blizzard puts in place there is cheaters and spammers all over the servers. I also played Counter-Strike, a game where many cheaters lurked in the official servers, nothing seemed to stopped them and it came to a point where any player above average would be considered a cheater, some were even banned without appeal.

Nevertheless, the idea of a trusted network of servers could be an advantaged to the system... still I have little faith in it working :)
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby FreakNigh » 07 Aug 2011, 22:27

MyEmail {l Wrote}:No, actually. Its just you need the donation large enough that people won't dare hack. $10 dollars/year is small, and with a large number of players it would be hard to regulate hackers (aka I wouldn't get re-banned to often), so forking out $50+ dollars/year to create new accounts wouldn't even sway some people not to hack.


I'm speaking strictly from real life experience so hold your tongue and don't even respond directly to me if that is what you have to do, and Julius forgive me I promise not to respond no matter what he says.

I have run the same open source mmo through two different long periods of time and the first time it was free and fighting the cheaters was pure hell. The second time I had only a $5 one time charge for a premium account and cheating virtually went away and the few rare times it happened once I got wind of it everyone was turning themselves in. Also the player quality went up so drastically that the players who played on my pay server had zero care to play on any of the free ones.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 08 Aug 2011, 01:44

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:I'm speaking strictly from real life experience so hold your tongue and don't even respond directly to me if that is what you have to do, and Julius forgive me I promise not to respond no matter what he says.

I'm sorry, you can reply to me but I not too you? And do you not have any manners at all? Whomever moderates this form: Surely users should not be able to troll like this? I would appreciate it if this user's posts where... regulated so he/she is forced to stay civil, polite, and on topic.



oln {l Wrote}:I would imagine that enforcing someone to pay a fee(fine?) would be a lot harder than cancelling a subscription.

Julius {l Wrote}:Besides that... actually proving that someone hacked can be a bit more difficult than it sounds at first... especially in court to which a lot of people would take you if you fined them with 50$ or more.

It would only take 1, maybe 2 people to get banned/fined and it would never happen again (+some publicity to show what happens to hackers). If you don't have a strict rule that no one dares cross, then you will be constantly dealing with hackers and constantly banning accounts. But if you just bring the hammer down on the first few (to the courts or not) then no one will dare cross the line again. And so long as you have a good EULA, proving they "hacked" in court would be easy (add something like: "hacking... as is defined by [COMPANY NAME]".

Julius {l Wrote}:And I don't think there are a lot of people willing to spend 50$/yr just to play with some hacks and also go though the payment and re-registration hassle.

Upwards of 5,000 players payed a lot more than $50/yr for Starcraft Brood War hacks. Again, if you don't have a strict rule your going to be banning a lot of accounts all the time. If you do, it may be harder at first but after the first few no one would dare hack again.

Blizzard did this against a handful of Starcraft 2 hackers, and took it even further with lawsuits against each of the hackers. Needless to say, nobody hacks anymore :).
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby charlie » 08 Aug 2011, 11:04

MyEmail {l Wrote}:Blizzard did this against a handful of Starcraft 2 hackers, and took it even further with lawsuits against each of the hackers. Needless to say, nobody hacks anymore :).

You take a complex problem and put a simple slant on it.

Blizzard did this because it is big enough (has enough capital) to be able to hire the lawyers necessary to implement the lawsuits and because Starcraft 2 earns enough to cover the ongoing costs of monitoring player activity at a fine level.

It is probably not wise to use one of the most popular games in the world and one of the biggest/best game production companies as a case study for how to tackle problems for FOSS gaming.

Big games businesses have resources that small indie/individual developers do not, which is what makes the problem unique. How do you monetize a game that only a few thousand or 10s of 1000s may play? How do you grow it and how do you tackle the growing pains (e.g. hackers/cheaters) that come with that growth when you don't have the resources to take the approach that the Blizzards of this world can take?
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby MyEmail » 08 Aug 2011, 21:41

charlie {l Wrote}:It is probably not wise to use one of the most popular games in the world and one of the biggest/best game production companies as a case study for how to tackle problems for FOSS gaming.

While you are correct, you missed the point :P. Its not that you should hire thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers, its that you need to be extremely strict when enforcing the rules. Once enforced a couple of times it is likely that you will never have to enforce it again--which is the best way to deal with it (aka not dealing with it :)).

Blizzard had hacker problems so they strictly enforced their rules with lawsuits against the hacking individuals. Likewise, you can be strict and give a user a $50 dollar fee for hacking which would have the same effect--a handful of people would try it, but after that it would never happen again.

Sure there might be some nasty emails, but you just need to be firm in your position and thoroughly outline every clause they violated in the EULA (along with the clause they agreed to for the $50 fine...). After outlining these clauses, you accuse them of purposely violating the EULA and threaten to sue them for the incalculable harm they have caused to your game. They will... how do I put this... apologize sincerely :).

Each time it happens you publicize everything that happened, including the emails (but excluding identifying information, eg email, name, etc) to show what happens to hackers. After the 1st few no one will ever dare hack again. AND--best part of all--you will likely never have to deal with hacking again!
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby charlie » 09 Aug 2011, 00:25

You missed the point. Enforcing rules is not as simple as simply thinking them up. You need resources to implement the rules (i.e. detection mechanisms, violation protocols) and enforce them (prevent repeated sign ups etc). Blizzard or big companies can do this more easily because they can make it personal; they find out who you are and come down hard on you. How can a FOSS team with stretched resources just delivering content do something similar?

You are over simplifying. I agree, try to prevent hacking, but I think secure design is a bigger factor than ruthlessly eliminating players in breach of the rules.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby FreakNigh » 09 Aug 2011, 16:19

Please excuse me if these questions are stupid.

Shouldn't the money made go directly to the games since the players are creating an account to play them?

Also if the game is open source, then someone can code out the login system right?

This mainly only applies for online games right?

Why would people laboring for free subject their player base to a decent charge going to someone else?

You should expand this so that you also manage the server listing for online games. This way banned users don't have access to the server listing. After login to the system the system gives the user a unique id to give to the game server it connects to. Then when the game server gets an uid from the user, it can ask the system who this id belongs to then the system can give the game server that user's details or say no such user.
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Re: Player account organisation

Postby Julius » 10 Aug 2011, 01:56

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:Shouldn't the money made go directly to the games since the players are creating an account to play them?

Some of it could go directly to the games of course, but mostly this would be a service for the server admins and players and rather independent from the actual games.

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:Also if the game is open source, then someone can code out the login system right?


Nope since it would be a server based system... you can of course set up a non-protected or hacked server, but those would be easily identified as "not trusted".

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:This mainly only applies for online games right?


Yes, what else? Ever seen evil cheaters offline?

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:Why would people laboring for free subject their player base to a decent charge going to someone else?


It's going to a overarching organization that improves the game and does something good for the development of yours and other games. Sounds good to me. Besides that... I bet a large amount (at least 75%, but probably 99.9%) of donations such a organization would get, wouldn't be donated at all otherwise. So it's a win-win.

FreakNigh {l Wrote}:You should expand this so that you also manage the server listing for online games. This way banned users don't have access to the server listing. After login to the system the system gives the user a unique id to give to the game server it connects to. Then when the game server gets an uid from the user, it can ask the system who this id belongs to then the system can give the game server that user's details or say no such user.


I don't see the point of it...in fact it would be counter productive as people without an account (or those that choose not to have one) should still be able to find and play on the non-trusted servers.
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Julius
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