Master servers considered harmful

Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 13 Jan 2017, 15:32

I'm working on a project and decided to write a paper describing the problem and solution. Without further ado:

Master servers considered harmful
Last edited by Lyberta on 23 Jan 2017, 08:33, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby onpon4 » 13 Jan 2017, 18:37

This is not a "case study". It is an opinion piece.

I disagree with it. There is nothing wrong with having rules for people who make use of your server, and there's nothing wrong with making a program connect to that server by default. If you don't like the rules of the Red Eclipse master server, don't use that server. You don't have to.

As for your proposed "solution", it's not possible. The whole point of a centralized master server that tells you about servers you can connect to is so that everyone can find those servers. Every peer-to-peer system has something centralized at the start, even if it's just a Web page telling you where the peers you can connect to are. They key is to only use the centralized part to find the nodes you connect to, rather than involving it in the actual activity. For example, you use Minetest's master server to find servers to connect to, but then it is uninvolved in the actual gameplay on the server you choose.

I don't know if Red Eclipse's master server is operated properly, but even if it isn't, that's not an ethical issue. If it's not operated properly, you can start your own Red Eclipse master server that is operated properly, and invite Red Eclipse players to use that one.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 13 Jan 2017, 22:15

onpon4 {l Wrote}:As for your proposed "solution", it's not possible. The whole point of a centralized master server that tells you about servers you can connect to is so that everyone can find those servers. Every peer-to-peer system has something centralized at the start, even if it's just a Web page telling you where the peers you can connect to are. They key is to only use the centralized part to find the nodes you connect to, rather than involving it in the actual activity. For example, you use Minetest's master server to find servers to connect to, but then it is uninvolved in the actual gameplay on the server you choose.


In my system every server can be used as a master server and the server list is transmitted between them. You only need to know the address of a single server to join the network and discover all servers.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby onpon4 » 13 Jan 2017, 23:04

That's called federation. It's what networks like Diaspora and GNU Social use. But federation wouldn't work well with game servers. Game servers are constantly being shut down, having their IP addresses changed, etc. So which one would you go to? The one you used to find servers yesterday might be offline or just gone forever today. It's unreliable. So in practice, you would need to keep a redundant list of every server you saw last time, and it still won't be enough if you're offline for a month or two and the list of servers doesn't have a single address in common with last time. And then we're back to square one: you need to find out where you can find a server, so you go to a master server list somewhere. Nothing of value was accomplished.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 13 Jan 2017, 23:15

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Game servers are constantly being shut down, having their IP addresses changed, etc.


We'll see. For most multiplayer games I had no problem connecting to their master server for years. It would take only a few of them to run federation to make the network reliable.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby leilei » 15 Jan 2017, 10:24

FaTony {l Wrote}:Since the game used Steam spyware


FaTony {l Wrote}:Only by having any step to be approved by Steam it was possible to make this Orwellian scenario possible



Nice FUD. Might as well go rage against every MMO then. 0/10
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Julius » 15 Jan 2017, 13:53

Yeah, the steam part is totally irrelevant to the topic of master servers as it is ultimately a general problem of an closed system.

For the Red Eclipse part... I have been following the discussion for a few years now, and while Onpon4 is technically correct that no one is forcing you to use the official master-server, I still agree that their strictness with modifications is problematic.

Of course a open source project can be run with a "here is the code but any modification has to be in a fork" kind of way, but I think we all agree that this would be against the idea. On the other hand developers also are right to ensure that people connection to seemingly official servers get a play experience close to the game they want to play (and any substantial modification could be considered cheating).

I kind of like how the Xonotic master-server is handling things by sorting servers with the official feature-set in a different tab than those with substantial modifications. I guess that would be a way everyone could live with?

P.s.: more federation is indeed a good thing for master-servers. In the end you can still run one official server as the master-server and have the federated system just as a backup or long term safety. Even better would be IMHO a XMPP based system that adds a federated community aspect on top of it, so that you can also directly connect to servers your friends play on without the use of a master-server. I believe the FTEQW quake engine has this and also another intestesting "world federation" kind of feature where you can follow a chain/network of servers (a kind of decentralized miniature MMO, but the feature is more or less undocumented)
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 15 Jan 2017, 15:50

leilei {l Wrote}:Nice FUD. Might as well go rage against every MMO then. 0/10


Steam is much much worse than I've said in the article, I do have plans to list everything that is wrong with Steam. It's going to be a long post. Of course, MMOs are one of the worst types of games, I'd never play any MMO. I too want to write about that, give me some time.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 15 Jan 2017, 19:06

FaTony {l Wrote}:Steam is much much worse than I've said in the article, I do have plans to list everything that is wrong with Steam. It's going to be a long post.


There we go.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Duion » 24 Jan 2017, 02:15

Do you know what a master server is?
A master server just distributes a list of available game servers. It is not harmful at all.
In Uebergame the master server has no restricting features, the master server itself is open source as well and anyone can use it and host their own. There is also methods to play without master server, it can all be adjusted even from ingame.
What you mean is an authentification system combined with restrictive features on top of the master server and/or integrated into the game, but a master server by itself is totally harmless except maybe that it sends pings and can see IP adresses, but that is as harmful as any other program that connects to the internet.
So your article about master servers is not about master servers.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 25 Jan 2017, 06:54

This article shows how people can exploit master servers to harm the community. Auth systems on top are the symptoms of the root cause - the existence of master server.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Duion » 25 Jan 2017, 23:45

People can also exploit free software, so your point does not prove anything.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 26 Jan 2017, 09:21

Duion {l Wrote}:People can also exploit free software, so your point does not prove anything.


Except if there is no master server, you just remove malicious features from the code and use it. It is much harder with master server. Red Eclipse is exactly the free software game with malicious features. You can remove global auth from the code but that will ban you from official master server and you will lose 99.99% of the player base.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Duion » 26 Jan 2017, 14:02

Then maybe your "free" software game is not that free to begin with.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Arthur » 26 Jan 2017, 18:13

FaTony {l Wrote}:Red Eclipse is exactly the free software game with malicious features. You can remove global auth from the code but that will ban you from official master server and you will lose 99.99% of the player base.

I've never played Red Eclipse, but why do you demand access to their servers if you remove probably one of the most important anti-cheat measures, i.e. authenticated players? You can't ban players for cheating ever if they don't have some sort of authenticated account.
Just make your own "Free" server and try to get players; you finding it difficult to do so is not their problem and you whining about it makes you sound like an entitled brat.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 27 Jan 2017, 12:47

Arthur {l Wrote}:I've never played Red Eclipse, but why do you demand access to their servers if you remove probably one of the most important anti-cheat measures, i.e. authenticated players? You can't ban players for cheating ever if they don't have some sort of authenticated account.
Just make your own "Free" server and try to get players; you finding it difficult to do so is not their problem and you whining about it makes you sound like an entitled brat.


I don't want random people messing with my server. Red Eclipse doesn't require authentication so cheaters can use dynamic IPs or VPNs or anything else to change their IP and cheat however they want. Come on, you haven't even played the game an are already judging it?

Yes, i'm running my own server that doesn't connect to malicious master server.

Duion {l Wrote}:Then maybe your "free" software game is not that free to begin with.


It is a free software with malicious features.

If a free program has a malicious feature, other developers in the community will take it out, and you can use the corrected version.

I would love someone to fork Red Eclipse and remove those malicious features. I just don't have time to do it myself.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Arthur » 28 Jan 2017, 01:57

FaTony {l Wrote}:I don't want random people messing with my server. Red Eclipse doesn't require authentication so cheaters can use dynamic IPs or VPNs or anything else to change their IP and cheat however they want. Come on, you haven't even played the game an are already judging it?

What do you mean with random people messing with your server? Isn't the master server just pointing to the actual game servers or are you saying they inject code between the client and your server?

But yeah you're right, I shouldn't speak of things I don't know. However you should take this to the RE community and try to gather players around your server or a fork of the game or whatever it takes to make you happy. Without pestering them. Complaining here and to the FSF, it seems like you want to gather some kind of mob to shout at Red Eclipse developers. If the community thinks their system is okay, well you are on your own and maybe it's not as big of a deal as you're trying to make it to be.

Anyway I'll try to stay out of future threads like this where I don't have any stake. Complaining about you complaining and giving your attention was a mistake.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 28 Jan 2017, 14:35

Arthur {l Wrote}:What do you mean with random people messing with your server? Isn't the master server just pointing to the actual game servers or are you saying they inject code between the client and your server?


Global auth gives moderator and higher privileges to some players on all servers regardless of the server owner's consent. So your choice to give up control of your server and have some traffic to it or have control and be forever alone. I complained many times about that and as a result main developer just banned me from RE forum.

I would love to fork RE but I don't have time to work on it.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Arthur » 29 Jan 2017, 00:16

Well that is a bit shitty, I have to agree. However this seems to be how they have set up things more than master servers being harmful in themselves. But I guess you see even the possibility to do so an inherent bad thing, whereas I think each master server should be judged on what they do rather on what they could in theory do. Is that a correct interpretation of your argument? If so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but in this specific example they seem quite heavy handed indeed.
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Re: Master servers considered harmful

Postby Lyberta » 29 Jan 2017, 08:24

Of course it is possible to run master server ethically, but the power corrupts. I prefer that this possibility to be fixed at the architecture level.
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