Author Topic: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?  (Read 5251 times)

emperorsteele

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What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« on: January 23, 2014, 07:41:13 PM »
Preface: This is a completely hypothetical question, not a sly, cryptic, wink wink sort of question.

If someone were to actually obtain the City of Heroes IP from NCSoft, what else would they need (from NCSoft specifically) to get the game up and running? So far, I've come up with:

The IP, naturally, and all the trademarks that come with it. The source code, of course. They'd also need the server-side game code (All the missions and text are kept server-side, iirc).

I guess they'd also need to either buy out NCSoft's lease with Cryptic, or have to deal with cryptic themselves to lease the license.

Also, obtaining ownership of the CoH web address, site, forums, etc would be a priority.

Now there's lots of other things one would need to re-launch CoH (servers, duh*), but I'm trying to keep a narrower focus for my day-dreaming. Basically, If one were to be in talks with NCSoft, giving them an offer they couldn't refuse, what would one have to make sure they get?

*: As I understand it, the CoH servers were re-purposed for other games, so we'd have 0 hope of obtaining all our old character info. However, this brings up another possible issue: What if NCsoft didn't keep ANY backups and don't have the source code or server-side info anymore? What then? Is it possible one or more of the old devs backed everything up somewhere and is sitting on it?

saipaman

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2014, 01:29:51 AM »
One thing you'd need is a way to import Sentinel+ files back into CoX.

emperorsteele

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2014, 02:21:03 AM »
I don't know of anyway that NCSoft would be able to take care of that =P

But, to add to the list: Dev tools and documentation. Those would be important!

Leandro

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2014, 05:20:58 AM »
The IP and rights to run the existing game in perpetuity, transferring all licensed parts of the game to your ownership (this would include the Cryptic Engine but also any other libraries the game uses that NC had licensed, artwork, etcetera).

Source code and source data tree (with all the stuff that gets compiled into bins, but also the original PSD files used for textures and such; some things are essential than others). If they exist, copies of the last database backups to be made of the server. Developer documents on systems implementation would be a nice bonus but nowhere near essential.

I wouldn't worry much about server costs, if you have the kind of money that NCsoft wouldn't refuse your offer, servers are a pittance by comparison. Getting the game running, even without developer documentation, wouldn't be very difficult for the kind of crazy who injects new code into the game to allow players to walk on maps while offline.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2014, 05:26:34 AM by Leandro »

Eoraptor

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2014, 07:43:17 PM »
you need

-IP rights... that is all inclusive, both the engine and server technology, and the copyrighted property, such as character designs, legends, settings, place names, etc. In perpetuity so that NCsoft couldn't revoke them at a later date to start their own competing COx property.

-Infrastructure tools... the neccessary hardware and software required to do maintenance on the game. this includes dedicated testing machines, dedicated development machines, and licenses to powerful software for 3d modeling, audio recording, etc.

-Rackspace... That is a physical location for your servers. When COH started they had locations both in the US and Europe, with plans to launch a third korean server... but eventually the korean version of the game was axed, and the european servers were physically transfered to America. Such a location needs to be a data center which is both safe from weather and tectonic events, and has reliable uptime and a very high degree of bandwidth service. That is to say you're not going to go down to your local two guys in a garage and run an international videogame server/social network.

-Programming staff... let's face it, sooner or later you're either going to want to upgrade the game (for instance, windows 8/8.1/9 compatibility, linux steam box) or you're going to run into a glitch that ammateur skills can't fix, or a security hole which has thus far not been recognized. So you need a staff of people experienced in the maintenance and upkeep of a game running several virtual or physical servers, a website, an email, etc.

-Lights-on staff... the moderators and security team. these people aren't JUST for keeping the trolls at bay, they also play an important part in mitigating player issues between the community and the programming staff,  negitating disputes between players, and policing things like intellectual property violation (COH's strict "no homage" rules which kept DC/Marvel/Image from suing on the grounds that COX could be used for violating their IP.)

-Data keeping... You'll need a way to back up user accounts and more. Even if you rely on a system like Sentinel or Icon to allow users to back up costumes at home, you still need a way to archive months, if not years worth of server-side data. usser accounts, preferences, server-side maps and balancing adjustments... if a server ever physically goes down, or if an update turns out to be bad, you have to have copies of all data, stored separately from your servers and your produciton equipment, to restore from. This is usually two locaions, one directly on site for daily or weekly backups, and a long-term off-site backup in a physically separate location for security purposes.

-optionals... If you are feeling brave, you can do all this yourself... but you may still want to take out a type of insurance, be it legal insurance against lawsuits (such as a lawyer on retainer) or physical insurance on the hundreds of thoudsands of dollars of hardware and software listed above. Additionally any bank notes, holding corporations to keep the IP protected, any benefits you provide your employees (Affordable Care Act, perks, etc) Plus of course the various legal perils from operating any kind of buisness, such as someone, government, law enforcement, court injunction, etc, swooping in to cease your hardware, or less savoury types of payouts you'd think better left to fiction.

As you can see, it's an extensive and daunting list to try to tackle, not to mention expensive.
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Azrael

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2014, 09:04:17 PM »
Good outline from Eoraptor and Leandro.

It's starting to look expensive for any company to take it on...especially an old game with a 'small' (by MMO standards...) user base?

All the more reason, perhaps to create an 'offline' mode from any such emulation project to share the burden?

I'd be happy with just an offline mode and let my own computer act as 'server...'  And for community play, one 'mega server' funded from donations.

Looks like the community (well, the ones with programming powers...) will have to take charge of any such Coh resurgence.  The chiefs at NC Soft made their position clear by their actions.

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Eoraptor

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2014, 11:29:00 PM »
an expense I forgot to mention is the bandwidth lane. remember that the US courts just declared that it is now perfectly legal for an ISP to stratify bandwidth and charge preferentially, as well as make deals with existing content providers for preferential access, meaning ou may be faced with the existimg MMO's making deals to keep competition out, or at least to a slower lane of internet traffic.


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« Last Edit: January 25, 2014, 12:42:41 AM by Blondeshell »
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LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2014, 05:30:31 AM »
That's pretty much what you'd need.  As for the backups, they would have them for legal reasons (like defending themselves in court) but only so long as needed to meet statute of limitations as well as whatever gov't mandate.

You'd have a very hard time getting copies of the backups as they'd likely have ncsoft's accounting records too and certainly paragon's.
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The Fifth Horseman

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2014, 12:20:31 PM »
That's pretty much what you'd need.  As for the backups, they would have them for legal reasons (like defending themselves in court) but only so long as needed to meet statute of limitations as well as whatever gov't mandate.

You'd have a very hard time getting copies of the backups as they'd likely have ncsoft's accounting records too and certainly paragon's.
Records can be sanitized or removed. It would probably boil down to having to pay NCSoft more.
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LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2014, 12:29:35 AM »
Records can be sanitized or removed. It would probably boil down to having to pay NCSoft more.

Very true.  You'd get backup (likely tapes) with nothing but the data from the game servers.  likely sql dumps in whatever sql server they used.  The gaming server themselves probably have no player data on them.

Any such IP transfer deal would likely include that data too
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CoyoteSeven

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2014, 02:52:35 AM »
I'm guessing when CoH started, the servers ran under Windows Server 2003. No idea if they ever upgraded from that. The server code itself would probably have to be updated to run under Windows Server 2012.

I'm willing to bet they also used Microsoft SQL Server as well. That bit of software is way expensive all by itself.

EDIT: You know, I'm reminded I had a dream almost a year ago that I was on this site and I saw an announcement that Titan Networks was able to get all the rights and such to CoH, and TonyV was making posts and uploading photos of the tapes and disks and stuff, showing them to all of us as he unpacked them.

I mean like, yeah. That would have been nice? haha

LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2014, 03:35:11 AM »
I knew they were using AD for our accounts but a little surprised they'd have w2k3 servers hosting the server part.  Would have figured Linux backend and Oracle for the db-server or perhaps mysql with a support contract from mysql ab (then sun, then oracle).

The game client was compiled on VC 5. 
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Ironwolf

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2014, 02:21:55 PM »
I hate to be that guy - however here it is - it would likely be a violation of the Privacy Act for NCSoft to sell you the account details of various players.

I would think that after the game was sold you would have to rebuild all characters and accounts from new.

Eoraptor

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2014, 05:03:16 PM »
I hate to be that guy - however here it is - it would likely be a violation of the Privacy Act for NCSoft to sell you the account details of various players.

I would think that after the game was sold you would have to rebuild all characters and accounts from new.
Actually no it is not. Account Data is generally held to be the property of the customer AND the company both. This is no different than when any other service provider merges, or sells its operation outright. when Alltel sold a lot of its cellular assets to verizon in a region, it did no have to get its customer's permission to transfer their accounts information to verizon. all it had to do was send out a letter saying "we've sold your account to a new service provider as we will no longer be doing business in your area. if you don't agree with this or don't wish to continue your business with veriozon, here is how you cancel your account"

the account privacy laws in various states and nations only apply to sale of the data separate from the service. (and even then are fairly nebulous and poorly enforced) such as selling your account data to a telemarketer or a data broker. they don;'t apply to selling of the entirety of the service.
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dwturducken

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2014, 05:05:22 PM »
It seems like, if there were some privacy prohibition, all of the Champions accounts would have been wiped when PWE bought out Atari, but I may have an inadequate understanding of the events involved.
I wouldn't use the word "replace," but there's no word for "take over for you and make everything better almost immediately," so we just say "replace."

emperorsteele

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2014, 05:50:27 PM »
The only issue with "account transfers" is that if a particular customer previously or currently plays any other NCSoft title, there'd be some hurdles to overcome there. Like, I can't imagine too many Guild Wars or League of Legends players would be very happy if one day they couldn't log in because "You once played CoH so we sold your account to the new owner of that IP". They could simply transfer the data without losing it, of course, but I feel like there may be a legal issue there.

Aggelakis

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2014, 06:16:10 PM »
Any company worth anything would compartmentalize their account data. They wouldn't get your peanut butter in my chocolate.
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JetFlash

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2014, 07:17:18 PM »
I would think that after the game was sold you would have to rebuild all characters and accounts from new.


I think I speak for many of us here when I say I would be perfectly OK with that if it meant having our game back, away from NCSoft's miserly clutches...

JetFlash

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2014, 07:23:00 PM »
*: As I understand it, the CoH servers were re-purposed for other games, so we'd have 0 hope of obtaining all our old character info. However, this brings up another possible issue: What if NCsoft didn't keep ANY backups and don't have the source code or server-side info anymore? What then? Is it possible one or more of the old devs backed everything up somewhere and is sitting on it?


The game servers were very likely VMs (Virtual Machines) run on virtual hosts.  Those were probably backed up to archives, and then removed from the host servers.  They could be spun up on alternate hardware without too much fuss.  Certainly less than setting up from scratch, anyways...

Taceus Jiwede

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2014, 09:45:44 PM »
Any company worth anything would compartmentalize their account data. They wouldn't get your peanut butter in my chocolate.

Reese's account data, sound delicious.

LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2014, 02:41:08 AM »
it is very unlikely they they had 1 account for all games.  more than likely, each domain was a child of nc's parent gaming account domain if they were linked at all.  Highly doubtful they were linked.  As for any privacy issues, it's a non-issue.  You chose to give ncsoft your information when you signed up for the game.  by extension, you agreed to having that information sold to anyone who bought the game.  Same thing happens when a bank sells your loan to another bank.

did I forget to mention mice love peanut butter?

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Codewalker

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2014, 02:45:59 AM »
Account Data != Character Data

Now, proving which characters actually belonged to you might be troublesome if someone bought one but not the other.

Not to mention all the microtransaction stuff from the later days. Whoever bought it would need to have a solid plan for that can of worms.

LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2014, 03:24:14 AM »
It's doable with a single account.  Your account's id (likely a uuid) would be a foreign key in the character table which is probably how they tell which characters belonged to each account if a single account for all games.  It's possible for a single account across multiple databases but that's error prone.  The game server would have to login two databases at the same time to get the info it needed.  As for the database, each game would have a unique database.  Probably a single server or a pair in a cluster.  each game would have its own database hosted on the database server and unique accounts for each game.  Just one "master" account to administer the game accounts

VMs, possible but I don't think so.  Compared to today, VM tech wasn't that strong 10 years ago and blade servers with a Terabyte of ram where unheard of outside of mainframes.  A VMware or Xen or KVM cluster today would rock running gaming vms but that's today.  I would guess those servers where single core xeon (probably 2 to 4 cpus) running 500-700MHz or so with maybe 16GB of ram if that much.  dual cpu with 16 cores each with hyperthreading to make it look like 32 CPUs and 768GB of ram on a single server just didn't exist back then.  Today, that's $20k.  10 years ago, that was a server room worth of servers.
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Codewalker

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2014, 03:35:55 AM »
Given what I know (well, theorized with a high degree of confidence) about how the game works, running mapservers in VMs wouldn't make much sense. They can already be reasonably balanced between physical hosts without the added overhead. OTOH, dedicated mapserver hosts wouldn't contain any useful data that gets permanently stored on them anyway; they just run the game logic based on client input.

There's supporting evidence (IP logs) that mapserver hosts were not limited to serving zones or missions for a particular shard. So the same server hosting Freedom's Brickstown could also be running a villain mission or iTrial for Virtue without a problem. That kind of pooling allows for fairly decent load balancing to happen automatically. It would work best for a large-ish installation with lots of players spread across lots of shards.

Mapservers also make up the bulk of the hardware needed, since they do ALL of the heavy lifting.

Now, virtualizing the "shard" servers that people log into and coordinate mapservers, or global stuff like chat and auctions does make more sense. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that those were VMs.

Actual database servers... maybe, maybe not. If it's SQL, many server admins I know have a phobia of visualizing that due to perceived I/O issues that don't really exist.

Ironwolf

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2014, 06:13:21 PM »
I wasn't very complete in my answer on account data.

There is a vast difference from taking over an existing game and just porting it over to new management versus a closed game that has been off the books for over a year now. I would not be sure they could link the account and character information now. You are saying they still hold all the credit information for 100,000 people on a closed game? Many of those cards will have changed now - my own has for a certainty.

Now your login account may still exist and that could possibly still link to the characters. In all honesty it depends on how they saved everything - I mean in reality how much data for the game would there be, 100 gb? You could have all that on one drive or tape. So the entire game could be on a shelf in South Korea, wrapped in anti-static material and gathering dust.

LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2014, 04:11:13 PM »
The credit card data would be hiding in their accounting system on whatever backup media they used at the time.  Out of date?  I would think so.  They would at best have the old dates which is part of what the credit card processor needs.  If the game were active now, that information would likely be delivered to the buyer of the game.  Since it is no longer in service, very unlikely ncsoft would provide it.  It would be a very bad business practice.

As for the actual data you'd need to reconstruct the game, it's not much more than the code repository they used for revision control.  Probably Git or SVN.  Without our accounts, the toon data is worthless.  Any stories written in AE is about all the player created parts of the game they could salvage.  My guess would be all of game's repository would fit on 2 or 3 DVDs and most of that likely is the artwork and sound effects/music in the game client.
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LadyVamp

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Re: What, HYPOTHETICALLY, would be needed?
« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2014, 04:33:31 PM »
Based on what I remember from the maintenance outages, I would say they had each server carrying 2 or 3 complete worlds.  They always seemed to be down in pairs or triples.

Now, I like the idea of the servers as VMs since in theory you could (provided you had the capacity in hardware) spin up VMs for high load situations.  You could even set it up so that a fixed number of public mapservers existed that run only the public maps.  When someone started a private map, players on the team transfer to the VM handling just that map or perhaps a variable number of maps with a fixed max for the private mapservers.  If you hit the max, spin up another VM in the waiting for work pool and grab one that's in hot standby for work from that pool.  These private mapservers would handle private maps for all public map mapservers.  Basically, have 2 private mapservers in that waiting pool.  When someone starts a private map and there is a need to grab a server from that pool (all currently working private mapservers can't take another private map), grab it to start their mission and start another VM for that pool.  The pool would always have say 2 private mapservers with no work waiting.  If capacity would push that pool to greater than 2, spin down VMs or pause them so that only 2 are on hot standby if desired.

Where I work, we actually do that in a semi automated way with our testing environments.  A set of programmers can order environments for testing code.  They order it, it's cloned from libraries, configured as needed, and in their hands in 30 minutes or less.  We could have it done in 2 minutes where it not for all the configuration work.  But, there's no work done by us.  Our automation handles all of it from submitting the order, through life cycle, and the expire/release resources cycle.  We're even considering setting up automated code testing where the programmer submits his/her code to a testing server with a battery of desired tests.  The testing server will order an environment, run the tests, kill the environment, and report test results in a completely automated way.  No humans beyond the programmer submitting his/her work for test.
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