The other day we talked about some technical solutions to implement an Alternative Mod Database similar to the late rFactorCentral. While the technology is important and makes or breaks a projects, there are other aspects, which to have be kept in mind when considering such a project. I’d call it the philosophy or the spirit behind the project. Continue reading Philosophy of an Alternative Mod Database
As elaborated in the last post, CTDP had a few reasonable doubts when SimRaceWay opened and we took the cautious way. This post is not about SRW, but about ideas it inspired. Today I will focus on some technical starting points, tomorrow we take a look at some philosophies involved in such a Modding platform and the day after tomorrow I will present a starting concept I worked on last year, but didn’t continue.
rFactorCentral rightfully was a great site for browsing through the vast amounts of Mods this community has to offer. It was great to search for the series you like, to browse, to stay informed, to find surprises. As rFc is a living zombie today and SRW not being able to fill the void left behind. Me and many others wondered, what could possibly fill this position. The rFactor Community is in a stale situation right now, as everybody is waiting for news about the successor rFactor2, so the loss isn’t big right now. Rob provides great news with his VirtualR.net blog. Still the need and the benefits from an extensive Mod Database are still there and so I’d like to present some ideas I collected talking with people from various Modding teams, from the community and some outsiders.
Personally, we decided not pursue these ideas, as we are focused on Modding and the community needs more people than us to step up and realize good ideas. So even though we know we don’t want to be the one implementing them, I thing it’s worth spreading those ideas.
Obviously many of my considerations in this and the upcoming articles are centered very much on the perspective of Modders. Excuse this subjectivity, but as this is a blog about Modding this is all too natural.
The only alternative developed so far is rFactorPlanet. Frank is nice guy and did a good job recreating the basics you would expect from such a site. He doesn’t necessarily envisions the same things I’d expect from such software. This is fine, pluralism is great and there is room for others.
I spoke with several people about the technical site and the expectations in such a system. The latter are a different topic, but about the technical realization, we found several solutions, which could deliver good results in a reasonable amount of time. The first step would be deciding on the software and see what possibilities there are to implement a Modding Database.
In my discussions I found there are three approaches, which could be used. Each has different requirements, for example in required technical skills ranging from either program something on your own, or to see if you can use something of the shelf.
- The individual approach: Develop yourself a system of your choice. Using frameworks like Ruby-on-Rails or Symfony can make this an easy and quick process given the experience.
- The out-of-the-box approach: Use an existing repository system, that is developed outside and just needs to be maintained and updated once in a while. Such a system is for example Mozilla AMO most famously used in the Firefox Addon Repository
- The customization approach; Basically, you have a much bigger system, which you can configure as an Modding Database, but you have a lot more choices and freedom doing so, thereby also increasing the amount of work you have to put into it. Apache ACE, in rough is an enterprise software for building modular solutions.
Each approach has it’s own merits and advantages. This only takes a look at the technical realization, not about the way it is run. The philosophy of such a project – the range, the spirit and the ethics are a whole different story.
I will leave with just this rough overview for the technical directions you can take, I will elaborate on one solution in more depth later. Tomorrow we continue looking at the philosophies you can pursue on such a platform. This covers a look at the interest groups, interaction with the community and some commercial considerations.
So far CTDP never used this Development Blog to discuss the politics of the SimRacing community. One of the big examples in the past year was SimRaceWay. We would have liked to close the file by now, but unfortunately SRW keeps hitting us on the nose.
Let’s rewind to summer last year. SimRaceWay was announced as commercial replacement for the aging rFactorCentral. Being barely moderated and discontinued, it could have been a nice restart, however the commercial aspects of the site raised questions. Were Mods driven in commercial Races? What is the business model of SRW? And most simple question, do they make money on Modders free work? Direct contact failed and the responses in their forums were often only vague formulaic answers. CTDP among other Modders were cautious and decided to withdraw their Mods from the upcoming site. We wanted to wait till the thing is launched and the site is running before participating. After all SRW had many good ideas and quite some potential if done right.
After our withdrawal, more Modding groups joined and it escalated in a boycott of the new website. I can’t say how many Modders actually went through with it. SRW didn’t make it easy.
The new site was supposed to launch in early September, but apparently technical problems postponed it and the powers that be decided to only invite a fraction of the user base. Even if not intentionally, it was a great move, because no Modder could log in to see if his wish of removal of his Mods could be checked. Once CTDP had access it was clear, that our mods have not been taken down as requested (and are even available in the HTML-source to this day).
This is were the annoying part begins. Modders wanted to get a clear picture of what is to be expected of the new SRW. Their free work will be integrated on the website in a commercial context and driven in events, so I think this is a valid question. Instead of embracing the question in a respectable manner, SRW locked down and to this day prefers to act behind the Modders back. By having our Mods on their website, and by readding them every couple of weeks, after we request to take them down, SRW brought themself in a position where CTDP is fed up. As I said we were cautious when the site launched and we wanted to give it a chance to proof itself and its potential. We were not malevolent, and we did not have outrageous demands except for knowing how our work is being used. By ignoring our request to remove the mod from the platform, SRW keeps opening this issue over and over again. I could imagine we would have found an agreement by now, however by repeatedly hitting us over the head this way, SRW is obstructing any chance by their own hand.
Browsing SRW is not a bad experience. Despite some technical issues and the slow speed, they incorporated many good ideas. The site is not bad and I’m sure there is common ground. We always said we would revise our decision once the picture is clear, but the way SRW keeps disrespecting the decision we have taken so far, they don’t make it easy to reconsider. This is not a way to make us change our mind and certainly don’t make us friends. On the contrary it is disrespecting our work, downright annoying and legal steps are already being considered.
Is a little respect towards each other to much to ask?
Update 27 Feb 2010 – 12:36 GMT: SRW has reacted by taking down the linked Mods. The open question is for how long…
This is a personal project of mine and not directly related to CTDP. However, as the topic is related to Modding I think this is still a good place to announce it.
In 2008 I programmed a small Java library to read and save compressed DirectDrawSurfaces(DDS) files. DDS is the common texture format in rFactor and part of DirectX. I had the problem, that I moved to a Mac and there were no applications to work with DDS-images. So I developed three tools to work with textures even on platforms other than Windows, but they work on Windows as well.
Badds is a batch editing tool for mass scaling textures. In for our mods we paint textures in 2048×2048 and we end up having hundreds of textures. This tool allows to scale and resave many textures at once and not having to save them one by one. DDS can be saved in DXT1-5 compression.
Radds is a for preview and review of textures. It’s a simple file browser and texture viewer with zoom and allows to view single color channels.
Dropps is a small programm for easy image conversion to the DDS-format by simple drag and drop. This supports PNG, JPG and BMP. DDS can be saved in DXT1-5 compression.
All three tools are released under the OpenSource GPLv3 License. The Source Code Repository at Github is open for everyone and I encourage forking and modification. At Github is also an issue tracker and I’m happy about feedback.
Even though we keep this blog English, this posting is targeted especially for our German audience. To sum it up short: In Germany an political online-petition started, which proposes a new regulation for cease and desist orders. Over the past two years a business around written warnings demanding high fees from the victim for license and copyright violationshas developed . The request is to establish a new procedure in which lawyers have to contact the infringing party and ask to settle the issue in a given timeframe, without accumulating enormous layers fees. As this is a topic, which is very close to the Sim-Modding community, we want to bring it to attention.
Es gibt eine neue ePetition auf den Seiten des Bundestages die sich für Kostenfreiheit bei fristgerechter Beseitigung des Abmahngrundes einsetzt. Kurz gesagt geht es darum im Falle einer zB urheberrechtlich bedingten Abmahnung im Internet und der Aufforderung der Beseitiung des Vergehens, nicht trotzdem auf maßlos hohe Anwaltsgebühren sitzen zu bleiben.
Die Petition ist eine Antwort darauf, dass in den letzten Jahren sich regelrecht eine Industrie zum Abmahnen von Marken- und Urheberrechtsverstößen entwickelt hat, die besonders in der Bloggerszene zuschlägt und Autoren sofort mit enormen Abmahngebühren mundtot macht.
Bei den Bloggern vergeht kein Monat, wo nicht eine weitere große Abmahnung als Welle durch die Szene geht. Meist geht es um fast schon triviale Verstöße. Jack Wolfskin mahnt ab, weil jemand Tiertatzen als Motive anbietet, die Stadt Augsburg mahnt einen Blogger ab, der nachfragte ob er unter einer Domain schreiben darf, die sich vom Stadtnamen abgeleitet hat. Beides Fälle der letzten 4 Wochen. Oft ist der Verstoß trivial und kann schnell beseitigt werden, jedoch wird derjenige dennoch mit oft Gebühren im Wert von mehreren tausend Euro als Anwaltskosten belangt. In Beiden oben genannten Fällen wurden die Abmahnungen aufgrund des öffentlichen Drucks und der resultierenden schlechten PR wieder zurück gezogen. Das sind jedoch oftmals Ausnahmen und Kulanz der Unternehmen, die einen größeren Image-Schaden vermeiden wollen. Der Streisand-Effekt greift hier zwar sehr gut, jedoch ist er keine Garantie und ändert es nichts am Grundproblem, dass die Abmahngefahr aus zu ufern droht.
Diese Petition ist auch für die deutsche Modder Szene äußerst interessant. Modding ist eine Grauzone. Die Gesetzeslage ist nicht eindeutigt, diejenigen die wir bisher gefragt haben, haben uns das bestätigt, dass es keine Sicherheit gibt, nicht doch irgendwann auf eine Mine zu treten. Modding basiert weitgehend auf lizensierten Inhalten. Seien es Logos, Markennamen, oder Designs. Modder arbeiten in ihrer Freizeit mit Lizenzen, für die Unternehmen mitunter Millionen ausgeben, um diese Verwerten zu dürfen. An eine kommerzielle Ausnutzung dieser Lizenz ist gar nicht zu denken. Daher hängt beim Modden immer ein Damoklesschwert über dem Modder, da er sich nicht sicher sein kann, doch irgendwann ein Schreiben zu bekommen.
Auch bei uns im CTDP ist dies ein Thema. Letztlich ist dies für uns alles ein Hobby und weder wollen wir jemandem auf die Füße treten, noch verfolgen wir kommerzielle Interessen mit unseren F1-Mods, trotzdem steht immer die Möglichkeit im Raum, das jemand unsere kostenlosen Mods als geschäftsschädigend vom Netz haben möchte.
Ich möchte noch ein kurzes Beispiel bringen, dass auch aus der Simracing-Szene kommt. Vor wenigen Wochen wurde Batracer nach einer Abmahnung von Ferrari offline genommen. Hintergrund war, dass Batracer Ferrari-Logos in seinem System platziert hat.
Wir möchten auch durch dieses Posting die Aufmerksamkeit kurz auf dieses Thema lenken und euch bitten diese Petition zu unterstützen. Die Anliegen, die die hier verfolgt werde sind nicht nur für jeden, der im Internet mit einem Blog aktiv ist, sondern auch besonders für Modder interessant. Wir betreiben Modding als Hobby und es wäre wünschenswert nicht die Angst einer Abmahnung im Hinterkopf zu haben. Die Forderung dieser Petition würde zumindest dafür sorgen, dass im Falle einer Abmahnung keine finanziellen Abgründe auf Modder zukommen würden.
Daher bitten wir euch, diese Petition zu zeichnen und das Thema weiter in die Community zu tragen.
On this Saturday a year ago, we released F1-2006 for rFactor.
Personally, I was sitting in my university to upload the mod to our mirrors and members for the release in the evening. I had a cold and was sitting in the unheated arboretum on the campus, wearing two pullovers and two jackets. The road outside was blocked for several kilometers because of a yearly Nazi-idiot-demonstration, which is held in this district of Berlin. I didn’t see how large it was, but I bet there were more police swarming the streets than demonstration members. The university was open and few individuals thought it was fun just to roam through the empty halls without doing anything. Gladly I found a spot, where I wasn’t bothered – with a cold, fever and a killing headache I did not ask for any confrontation. So I was sitting on my spot, preparing the release as much as I could, while outside hell was going on, you could hear the surrounding helicopters. Several hours passed, I watched at least two episodes of House MD, waiting for the upload to finish. 500Mbit are not enough! When I left, everybody was gone outside and everything looked like nothing happened.
I went back home, drowned myself in tea and the FSR Promotion Race began. I was phoning with all members in the team. Originally I was scheduled to do the interviews together with Andy, but my voice was loosing me and my headache only got worse. During the race I was just trying to hold out and wait to flip the release switch. I was just glad when we gave the green light and the mod was release. Everyone in the team was celebrating in our team chat, except me, who wanted to bang his head against the wall – you know bigger pain numbs the milder pain. Some pills later I fell asleep.
The next day I stayed in bed, recovering from the exhausting day before and from my cold. I’d call this commitment, don’t you think? 🙂
Raül ‘Raülongo’ Gullón, one of our 2D painters filmed his neighbors kid, as it was playing it’s favorite racing mod. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Car designations, chassis-types are a nice way to identify the specific car of a season and it’s a nice way to have synonyms when writing about it. However, they are a pitfall, if you aren’t too deep into the background of the series you are writing about. Since I don’t have all types in my head, I try to avoid them. Even though, I don’t endorse it (hey do what you want 😉 ), articles from the devblog are quoted and sometimes wrong information are added. Please do your research or ask us before you guess what designation the car in question has.
Why do I bring it up, there were some confusions between the Lotus 107C and 109 and the Minardi M193B and M194. Both were driven in 1994, usually after the big reglement changes after spain, many teams brought B-Versions to the next races. Lotus, Sauber and Minardi did so. Ferrari also brought a major overhaul of their car in Canada. Often this was accompanied by livery changes.
Quick rule of thumb: Right now we only work on the cars with the Specifcations of the first 5 races. If we post pictures, it’s always the early spec of the car. So if you look for the official designation. Consider this please.
Personally I see it this way, on release day everybody wants to have it and have it asap. Everybody means between 350-500 people at any given moment for 2-3 days, who expect to download with at least 300kpbs. On a mod our size, the download takes quite a few moments, so you can calculate what kind of load is put on the download servers. (1.2 TB since monday night!)
We underestimated this in the past and therefore decided a torrent-only release. The release was boring, because it just worked perfectly! No outages, no exploding servers, very few people who are desperately looking for download mirrors to catch the mod. In my opinion the torrent-only release is a big success and we will proceed this way on future mod-releases. We already thought about it for the initial release of CTDP06, but with 11 mirrors we were sure, this couldn’t bring us down. You know the story, we were proven wrong and I couldn’t imagine any release without torrents. This one is a quiet release. We released the files out of the blue and so the tracker took off gently in the night from monday to tuesday. Imagine an announced release, the numbers of concurrent users would be off the scale.
At this point I’d like to thank all of you who were or still are seeding. Everyone keeping his programm open and helping to distribute is part of this release and helped to make it as flawless as it was. Thank you!
However few people have been about quite verbal about their dislike of the fact, that we didn’t add any webservers.
At first let me tell you, that HTTP-mirros will be in place once the storm is over. We are monitoring the statistics and when the speed of the torrent is dropping, we will add the mirros to the download list. In this case you just have to wait. Yep I said it “wait”. I think it is quite arrogant to expect to ask for webservers at this point. For once, they would just break-down under the load anyway and cause trouble for their hosts (I know the last release had at least 2 consequences) and actually costs alot of money!
Secondly, the nice thing about a torrent-release is a fairness-aspect. When you download, you help to spread the file by uploading at the same time. The moment you download via torrent, you become part of the network and you help to improve it. Especially once you start seeding, you are not just downloading for your own personal interest, but you help others to get the mod as quick as you want it to have. I read several reasons why people didn’t want to try torrents. From “I’m too old” to “they spread viruses” I heard the most stupid excuses. Sorry, torrents are a great technology, and we provided a small headstart if you have never used it before. Expecting webserver-mirrors is arrogant, because you only want the download for yourself, you put stress on the server and fight for every bit of bandwidth. The smart one is, who has the patience to wait a few days. I don’t expect everyone to download via torrent, but I think it pathetic to cry about not getting the mod immediately, when they don’t want to fullfill their end of the burgain. How selfish is that?
This is why I ignore requests for other download mirrors. They will be set up later. Until then, happy bittorrenting. 🙂
I should be working, but I’m procrastinating the half day already, so I continue.
Today we got the 55th league asking for the token. I had no idea, the league scene would be so big and diverse. Gotta say, if we had known, we may have thought of another solution for the token distribution. I didn’t hear alot of questions or complains about its use, but the work involved for us, always copy-pasting the mail and responding is underestimated. 😀 Still we are very happy about the interest, I hope everyone has a great time driving the mod. 🙂
I asked Gonzo for some more statistics. Even if I tried, I couldn’t really figure out how many times the mod has been downloaded. All I know, I seeded 31 copies, in other terams 29 GiB. So while thereal numbers can only be guess work, Gonzo has the numbers from his server, which hosted the mod and had a traffic of 3242.23 GB for all december. This equals in 2400 complete downloads on this server alone and not counting torrent seeding.
So much for dry numbers. How about you, how many laps have you coverd in the mod? How long do you drive usually? Any guesses? 🙂