27 February 2008

/shakefist Time-Warner

I turned on my HD cable box/DVR to find that Time-Warner had automatically downloaded new software to it that, among other things, has a new UI.

I haven't messed around with any options yet, but my biggest complaint is...
... it erased all of my scheduled recordings for the DVR!

Well, all of the ones that won't be on in the two-week program guide. Unfortunately, this includes most of the shows that were prematurely canceled/postponed this season (i.e. The Office, Heroes). It also somehow transformed my recording of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which was taken off of Spike a while ago) into Star Trek: Voyager. Sub par.

I have to say, this is quite inconvenient and I'm a little disappointed. Even the new menu fading is really annoying.

On the plus side, they got rid of those nasty gray filler bands when watching standard programming on an HDTV. That's about the only thing that I've seen that I like. Next time, Time-Warner, at the very least warn me. Preferably, give me an option.

19 February 2008

All work and no play...

... Fortunately, that's not me. I've been playing plenty when the time allows it. Here's what I'm currently playing:

  • Rock Band
  • Yeah, I'm a sucker for rhythm games. I'm best at the guitar having completed the solo career on Expert mode. My (lack of) drum skills keep me constrained to the Medium difficulty currently, but I have finished the vocal career on the Hard difficulty. Unfortunately, the drums tend to keep the family awake at night when I normally play, so it may be a while before I can play them very well. Besides, mine are nowhere as cool as Greg's setup.

    When I get the chance (not very often) I play plastic guitar for two bands, Juicy Torrid Crane and Ugly Lampshade. Unfortunately I haven't gotten many achievements yet in Band World Tour mode.
  • Guitar Hero 3
  • I was playing this pretty heavily until I got Rock Band, but it pales in comparison. There are definitely some great song selections. I've beat the solo career on Hard, but am having trouble with one of the songs on Expert, Raining Blood (not my favorite song by any stretch).
  • EverQuest II
  • Besides working on it, I do enjoy playing EQ2. I two-box an Ogre Shadowknight and a Wood Elf Fury and am currently around level 72. I generally play with some other people from SOE but also love a good pick-up group. I've moved servers recently and currently play on Unrest.

So that's what I'm playing these days. Oh, and I'd love to finish Mass Effect and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. I generally don't get a whole lot of play time since I play late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. Family comes first!

10 February 2008

Hey look! People making fun of me!

Apparently my LEGO Millennium Falcon Video ended up posted at I-Am-Bored. The comments range from nice to brutal. It's fun to LOL at peoples' speculations. Check 'em out and see if you agree ;)

07 February 2008

Eee Queue Too

If you've come here looking for EverQuest II info, you might be interested to know that one of my programmers, Greg Spence, has a blog over here. Well worth checking out!

06 February 2008

Haxx0ring 4tw

When I heard that Hoglund and McGraw were writing a book about Exploiting Online Games, I just had to have a copy. It's the best book purchase I've made this year, and I think it's a great book for my crowd, the MMO game developers.

I've written on this topic before, and I feel very strongly that the game development industry doesn't give enough thought about black hats who will be on your system.

That being said, not all hackers are malicious. When I first started hacking Ultima Online in 2002, it was mostly out of curiosity. I drank up as much information about UO as I could find. My hacks were never malicious in nature; I never tried to crash the server or cheat other players or anything. I was just a programmer with a love of the game and a penchant for the low level workings of machines. And I was getting bored trying to tame a bajillion animals to get my skill up.

I discovered for myself most of the techniques that Hoglund and McGraw talk about in their book. My first tool was a keyboard/mouse macro program. By then I was curious about what kind of stuff was going over the network, so I set out trying to get at the data. As expected, it was encrypted. Instead of trying to crack the encryption, I wanted to find something easier: how do I make the client tell me the decrypted info? I eventually produced a DLL that I could inject into the client which would re-write some machine code and forward me the messages. Voila! The tools started getting really interesting now. In no time, I had a packet logger, apps that pointed me to hidden objects on the ground, and a simple macro program making the aforementioned taming much easier.

After reading through the book I dug out my old code and sat down with a blanket by the fire for a good read. The code wasn't pretty but the things it was doing were pretty amazing.

But now I work on the other side of the fence. I have to think about why people want to hack and how it affects everything. It all comes down to money. That and an impatient fast-paced culture. Simple economics teach us about supply and demand. If there were no demand for gold, then gold farmers would move on to doing something else. You can do all you want trying to detect, ban, or threaten farmers until you're blue in the face; that's where the money is, so that's what they'll be doing. Plus, there will always be more of them then there are of you. These are points that you learn in the industry, but Hoglund and McGraw spell out explicitly.

There's some stuff that you can do to mitigate the circumstances: don't rely on the client for anything and watch for irregularities on the server (economy logs, inhuman playing time, repetitive behaviors, etc). But I think there's another point that not many people discuss. I think you can make a difference in farming in your game design. If you design your game so that there is no player trading, you've effectively cut off the farming. But not being able to sell anything to other players has a problem: it isn't fun. The trick is striking a balance, but we haven't seen it yet.

If you are interested in how MMOs work and think about hacking software, this is the book for you. If you are a programmer in this industry, this book is definitely for you. Go buy it!