First, I would like to thank everyone that participated in the concept discussion on the topic; your help has been appreciated. Second, I would like to state that I will be making this as concise as possible; however, it is a very in-depth request, and thus will inevitably contain various walls of text. If you are unwilling to read the first post, do us all a favor, and don’t post. Third, I would like to point out that I have a new take on this concept, and thus do not violate the FMR; likewise, I have direct approval from Wizard to make this thread, so keep that in mind if you want to accuse me of breaking the rules.
Now then. The request here is for a database/parser, for use by the players. There are three rough sides to the argument: the side that says we shouldn’t add one, the side that says we should limit it to prevent it from being overpowered, and the side that says we need to make it as useful as the current ones, or people will keep using the illegal databases/parsers. While the first opinion is one that will necessarily be put out by this very suggestion, I hope to tread the middle way between the latter two; we will see how successful I am in the following paragraphs.
The reason for adding an AE-run database is simple: the players want it, and people are already using illegal scripts to achieve the same effect. By adding one, we improve the game, make the players happy, and cut down on the people that need to cheat to remain competitive. There was some heated debate over whether to make this free, usable with the normal upgrade, or of making an “elite” upgrade. Well, again, I hope to take the middle way; this thread will coincide with another one that I am making, which will propose a new form of elite upgrade.
Without further ado, onto the idea. I will be approaching it topically, so scan the bolded/underlined headers to see which section your questions might be in.
What information is held?
The DB will contain information on individual astros, under the following format:
Base owner name
# of levels for the two highest defenses
# of command centers
# of fleets (per guild) (landed and incoming)
Total credit value of fleets (per guild) (landed and incoming)
Fleet owner’s name/fleet size (only for the five largest fleets) (landed only)
XX:XX:XX:XX – [SEXY] Ribbentrop (666/666) JG: 20 PS: 50 PR: 100 CC: 30
[SEXY] 69 fleets – 1,337,000,000 total fleet
[UGLY] 1 fleet – 40 total fleet
[SEXY] Ribbentrop 337,000,000
[SEXY] Ikari 100,000,000
[SEXY] The Dude 100,000,000
[SEXY] Ferdoc 100,000,000
[SEXY] tallwhiteninja 100,000,000
The reason for this sort of info is, in my opinion, simple; the database that I used to use, way back in the day, gave you coordinates, base owner names, JG/defense levels, and info on every fleet there. I’m treading a middle ground by having the DB show number of fleets/total credit value of fleets per guild, with the five largest fleets visible. This way, you don’t have access to every individual fleet on the blob, but you can still see where the blob is, and how big it is. Likewise, by having the five largest fleets seen on the DB, you can check for large fleets sitting off-base.
Note that any coordinates without a player name are uncolonized; this means that the DB can be used to find open astros to colonize, as it tracks astro type.
Who can see this info?
While it has been suggested that this be a guild-specific thing (and others suggested it be player-only), I’ve once again found the middle ground.
1: Anything that you personally scan will always be accessible to you (barring information decay, which we will discuss later). If you leave one guild and go to another, you can still see everything that you scanned.
2: Anything that you scan while in a guild will be accessible by that guild, even if you leave. For example, if you scan every astro in X10 while in Guild X, then leave for Guild Y, Guild X can still see everything that you scanned in X10.
3: Anything that you have personally scanned is accessible by everyone in your current guild. So, to use the previous example, once you leave Guild X and join Guild Y, Guild Y can see everything that you scouted in X10.
Now, while I admit that I don’t know the code to the game, I would imagine that this can be done by a few simple tricks: you would still have to maintain info per player, but by adding a server-side note that X info was scanned while in Y guild, you thus only have to add a quick check to see what guild the person viewing the DB is in. The same thing goes for the current guild; if the original scanner is in guild X, then anyone in guild X can see it.
There is still an issue of server resources, as the DB would likely have to hold info for each individual player. This would primarily be an issue on newer servers, as older ones likely don’t have more than 500 players that would actively scout and thus require heavy resources. Still, I don’t know of a way to add a DB without this problem, so as far as I’m concerned it’s one of those necessary evils that will make or break the idea.
What about spies?
I’m glad you asked! Along with the DB, I propose the following three amendments to privileges:
1: Bases (B for short) – allows players to see the bases of their guildmates. This does not affect people that have their own eyes in the region.
2: Database (D for short) – allows players to see the bases of their guildmates in the database. This does not affect people that have that info in their own collected information.
3: Fleets (F for short) - allows players to see the fleets of their guildmates in the database. This does not affect people that have that info in their own collected information.
The benefit of the first one is that a new player, or someone visiting from another guild, can’t blitz through and scout everything, and then take it back to their old guild. Likewise, someone can’t just join/visit a guild and pull their own DB entries for use against them. It’s a rather simple measure, but one that I feel is effective.
How is data added?
On every map page, there is a small bar that contains a blank list. On the system view, there is an icon next to each astro that will copy the coordinates to the list; the list cannot have coordinates added manually. If you have unlimited database functionality (see the upgrades thread for more details), you will have access to a button on the system view that automatically adds all coordinates in the system to the list.
The list stays populated, even if you click outside of the map screen; however, individual entries will be removed automatically sixty minutes after they’re added. There are two options on the list itself: once the list contains fifty or more coordinates, you can flush the list to have it update the DB with all of the info for those coordinates, or, if you have less than fifty, you can likewise flush the list and update the DB…but you cannot flush the list again for another 60 minutes. The key here is that you have to populate the list with a decent number of coordinates before updating the DB, to cut down on server hits. You can still add a smaller number, such as if you’re adding a single system, but doing so means that you cannot update the DB again for a set period of time, thus preventing too many server hits.
Note that you do not need to have eyes on the astro when you flush the list; you only need eyes when you are adding coordinates to the list. The DB updates with whatever info is there when you flush the list, so if you hang onto the coordinates for 45 minutes and something changes (ie, fleets leave or arrive) the DB will record the info from when you flushed it, not what from what you saw when you added the coordinates.
The benefit of this is also that you do not have to click into each astro; if you’re updating everything, and you pay a few dollars more for the button to add every astro, you can do an entire region in a minute or two. While some people feel this is too fast, it’s something that rivals autoscouters, and still requires people to manually go through each system in a region. I do not believe that we can cut down on cheating if we make the ability to gather data weaker than this.
Additionally, you can only update the same location once every three hours. This is to prevent people from updating the same blob every five minutes; you need multiple people doing so, which allows the same result, but cuts down on the server hits.
How long does an entry stay?
If the person adding the entry has limited functionality (again, see the upgrades thread), then the entry is deleted after seven days; if they have unlimited functionality, it is deleted after sixty days. Now, please understand how this works; as entries are timestamped, if there are multiple entries for the same location, you see the one with the most recent timestamp. Now, if your entry is deleted, but there is another, older entry (from someone with unlimited functionality) for that location, then the view switches to the older entry.
Likewise, if you go to a new guild that has an entry for a given location from yesterday, and yours is six days old, your entry will not show; when yours is deleted, nothing will change. So, just keep that in mind – it’s not a case where the data isn’t added if someone else already added it, so that you have nothing if the first guy’s entry is deleted.
How do you access the database?
Between the links for Guild and Notes would be a link to the DB. Clicking it sends you to a search page; in order to access data, you have to run a search, using the following criteria:
(Note: you cannot run a general search for every entry in a galaxy. You must select at least one other criteria. All other criteria is optional, but you can search for multiple criteria at a time)
- Player (includes bases and fleets)
- Guild (includes bases and fleets) (includes option for unguilded, United Colonies, and Drekons)
- Astro type (shows only empty astros)
- Minimum econ
- Minimum jumpgate
- Fleet size (single player)
- Fleet size (total)
- Exclude allied bases/fleets
Note that you can also input specific, full coordinates to see if they are in the DB.
What about lag?
There was a concern voiced in the concept discussion that having data stored by player would cause too much lag. Well, remember this: one character of text = one byte of data. If every single player scouted every single astro into a database, the actual size of that data would be insignificant. The only causes of lag are inputting the data, and searching for it.
Searching, by the way, has a few easy tricks that greatly reduce the amount of lag, such as a passive stamp. When calling up all of the entries for coordinates X, you can first search by guild; by having the database store the data in the chronological order in which it was added, you run through the most recent entries for that location until you find the specified guild; the most recent entry for that guild is necessarily the one with the most recent timestamp. A quick check of the timestamp to ensure that it is not past the cutoff date for the person that added it ensures that you don’t display data from limited users past the seven day mark.
Really, I can’t offer anything more than educated guesswork; however, given the ridiculously small size of the actual data and the limitations on displaying data, I cannot believe that running databases through guilds would save a significant amount of server resources. When you consider that there are 10,796 players on Ixion, and 195,341 astros, the total data for Ixion if every single person scouted every single astro is roughly 210.9gb of data. It sounds like a lot, I know. However, consider that it would mean every single player has upgraded; if they all bought a one-month upgrade, that would be 43,076 Euros a month. If everyone bought a six-month upgrade, it’s 161,832 – just for Ixion. If they all buy a full year, it’s 215,812 Euros. That’s quite a bit of money in AE’s pocket. And remember, the Ixion scenario is an absolute worst-case scenario; there is no way that even half of the players will be scanning every single astro.
I’m sure that there’s something I’ve missed in all of this; I’ve tried to be thorough, but my spare time of late has been practically non-existent. Anyways, I’ve done my best to handle the concerns voiced by people in the concept discussion, while still providing a database idea that is viable, useful, and can cut down on the cheating. I’m open to suggestions if people have things that they would like to see changed.
So, rather than spend the next week wondering what it is that I’ve missed – as I’m sure there’s something (I haven’t used a database in two years, so I’m a bit rusty when it comes to them) – I’ll just post this now, and see what comes of it.
Comments, questions, and concerns are welcome.