Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (Full Version)

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zgrssd -> Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/7/2020 4:49:55 PM)

Turning a fully turnbased, PBEM game into server based multiplayer is a massive change. Propably way to big for a 1-man development team.
That being said, there are two improovements that could be make the PBEM basis work closer to a Server Based multiplyer - without changing the games flow at all.

Minor Improovement: Automated Mail sending

Right now players in a PBEM game have to:
1. Find the savegame place on the Computer
2. Put the savegame from teh Email there
3. Load the savegame
4. Play the turn
5. Write a email to send the turn to the next person.
A bit of automation could go a long way to improoving this experience

1-3 can be mostly automated. All you need is:
- A single instance approach similar to Office. The same commandline with arguments is used for every file to open. However, if there already is a instance of Office already running, the new instance will just tell it "user wants us to open file xyz.doc" before quitting.
Normally a big issue is finding the existing instance. But as you would need a communication channel for the filepath anyway, it could also solve this. And you got all the .NET flavors for IPC availible. And Pipes do not seem to trip firewalls on the local machine.
- modify ShadowEmpires.exe to open savegames via commandline and if given a path via IPC
- register ShadowEmpire.exe to open .se1 files like word would. I mean, that is kinda of the reason we had file extensions in the first place.

5 is about as easy to automate. Unfortunately the mailto: protocoll does not support creating maisl with attachments. So You would not get around turning hte game itself into a SMTP client and have the user give their server settings to the programm

The Planetfall way

Saying that Trump Studio has some experience in PBEM via their Age of Wonders IP would be a understatement. They have 2 decades of it.

With AoW: Planetfall they introduced a new Adaptive Multiplayer concept. Now most of the features (like the ability to switch to and from simultaneous turn mode, if all palyers are online) is not that usefull here.
The basic concept however is: Instead of sending the savegame around via Email (wich they could have kept, if the wanted to), they just keep it on a server. The server notifies the player if he can make a turn (Steam Notifications or Emails).

For Shadow Empires it could look like this:
- The server will notify the player (Email, Steam Notification) or his game instance (asuming a existing login) there is a new turn to take
- The game will deal with the plumbing regarding retrieving the savegame from the server.
- the game will load the savegame (maybe after putting it on the disk), like it would any singleplaye savegame
- when the player is finished with his turn, it would upload the new savegame onto the server
For bonus points, the server could do the AI turn calculations (so we got one computer doing that, instead of every single client). And it could also provide previous turns for mere viewing purposes.




InfoBit -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/7/2020 5:17:27 PM)

Thanks a lot for making this suggestion. This is a brilliant idea. I hope de devs will find your suggestions useful.

For me, playing AoW:Planetfall multiplayer feels like a great experience. I have multiple games going simultaneously with different groups of friends, and it's always smooth to get into the game and play my turn. It would be great to have the same experience in this great game too.




zgrssd -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/7/2020 6:06:14 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: JuanCabrera
I hope de devs will find your suggestions useful.


It is the developer. Singular, not plural [:)]
Forumname: Vic




InfoBit -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/7/2020 6:41:31 PM)

quote:


It is the developer. Singular, not plural [:)]
Forumname: Vic


Wow! It's amazing that this is developed by a single person. I'm immensely impressed [X(][&o]




Daza99 -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/7/2020 10:47:31 PM)

+1 on this idea, it would make the process more painless and appealing for those who are interested in pvp or pve, the game may 'look' dated by graphics but having something like this added would bring it on par with other modern games as example already mentioned in this thread of AoW:Planetfall.




zgrssd -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/8/2020 9:41:21 AM)

I can give some history on PBEM, for those interested:
- the oldest root, are Play by Mail (as in physically sending letters) for Chess or Go. It could have been around since Horse Couriers or even Diplomats were a thing.
- PBEM was a logical consequence from that. It just changed the mail format, allowing for more raw binary data. Also Mail Servers were propably the most reliable way of sharing files in ye-olde days. The "internet" was basically a bunch of mail servers that ocassionally called their users on their modems.
- after the internet was we know it (a giant network of always-on servers) and then Web 2.0 (much content is user created) became a thing, PBEM was used as "the cheapest way to do multiplayer for the game developer".

Just using a basic File Server to automate the sharing of the savegames is in restrostpect a very obvious ugprade. That somehow everyone missed for decades. I have no concrete idea why, but I have some guesses:
- we were thinking to much about LAN Style gaming when thinking about "Servers"?
- we were too rooted in the pre-Internet roots (the mail part)?
- we were thinking too much that every server is too expensive to run, no mater how low profile. Totally missing that dedicated servers are now a thing.

I guess we would have to invent new terminology for this:
PBFS (Play-by-file-sharing) or PBFT (Play-by-file-transmission) could be the umbrella term.
PBEM (Play-by-eMail) the old implementation
PBSS (Play-by-Share-Server) could be a name for the new thing. Personally I want to name it Play-by-File-Server, but that requires the umbrella term to not have that abreviation




Malevolence -> RE: Sever based PBEM/Mail Automation Options (7/8/2020 3:57:52 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: zgrssd

Just using a basic File Server to automate the sharing of the savegames is in restrostpect a very obvious ugprade. That somehow everyone missed for decades. I have no concrete idea why, but I have some guesses:
- we were thinking to much about LAN Style gaming when thinking about "Servers"?
- we were too rooted in the pre-Internet roots (the mail part)?
- we were thinking too much that every server is too expensive to run, no mater how low profile. Totally missing that dedicated servers are now a thing.


It was the lack of ubiquitous networking infrastructure that only occurred in the last 15 years.

*starts old man rocking chair music* *sips lemonade*

It maybe difficult to remember how difficult it was to setup a server, file sharing, etc. for the average player not so very long ago. For publishers, that meant a game required an operations team after release.

Or worse... going to the "lab" to play... and then metered BBS and games like MUDs. The true dark ages.

Only my oldest children (adults) know what "9-11" means. If you asked my two youngest, they would say the number to call in an emergency.







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