A game from which data can be extracted.

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Norm35
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A game from which data can be extracted.

Postby Norm35 » Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:50 pm

I am putting this into a new thread because the orientation thread is starting to wander a bit.

As time goes by, I am becoming more and more convinced that in dealing with the strategic needs of these games, I must find a way to extract data, to a file or print out for closer study. Copying data by hand is just too time consuming.

I have tried repeatedly to do this with SCS and despite a background in programming, have been unable to do it. There just isn't enough information about the program internals available.

It looks pretty certain that I am going to toss SCS over my shoulder for a number of reasons, that being not the least of them. In selecting my next one, I think the ability to extract data is going to be a requirement. I may be dreaming the impossible dream but that is my thinking at the moment.

Does anyone know of any games either already able to do this or whose software is accessible enough to be modified to do it?
Last edited by Norm35 on Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

abana
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Postby abana » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:51 pm

I don't have a backgronud in programming, but I think that a lot has been done with c3 and Pharoah, you can find out more at these two sites.

http://caesar3.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/caeforumscgi/Ultimate.cgi

http://c3modsquad.freeforums.org/

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:01 pm

"abana" wrote:I don't have a backgronud in programming, but I think that a lot has been done with c3 and Pharoah, you can find out more at these two sites.

http://caesar3.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/caeforumscgi/Ultimate.cgi

http://c3modsquad.freeforums.org/


Thanks. I'll check them out.

PantherX
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Postby PantherX » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:45 pm

I believe one of the most moddable is The Sims series. http://thesims.ea.com/
:cool:

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:26 am

"PantherX" wrote:I believe one of the most moddable is The Sims series. http://thesims.ea.com/


Beyond the clothes, furniture, landscaping, and adornment, what else is moddable?

PantherX
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Postby PantherX » Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:59 am

As far as I can gather fromt he forums way back when i was active there, everything was moddable except for the people. I do not follow the mods communities because usually the basic game will absorb enough time without me having to work at it.

:D
:cool:

Azeem
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Postby Azeem » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:51 am

Simply look for games that are declared to be "Open Source." Note however that it is very uncommon for more recent games to be "Open Source"; while some games have a very high degree of moddability (Civilization IV, for example), they still have some things that are hardcoded and the true source code is not even slated for possible future release for reasons of maintaining intellectual property rights.

There are some older games that are very open to much modding; the original SimCity's source code was released to the public and a decade ago "Call to Power 2" (a Civilization-like style of game) had its source code released tot he public.

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Postby PantherX » Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:25 am

Good idea, I didn't even think of open source stuff because most of it is not pretty. I bet there is a lot out there, last I looked there was a ton of strategy stuff :)
:cool:

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:13 am

It would be a lot of help if you could supply some specific game names. It would save me the time of tracking up a lot of blind alleys.

Open source is fine if it is a good game but I suspect that there are only a few that would be worth the time of familiarizing myself with the code. A few years ago, I had a Garage Games game engine license. That was a good trade off between power and price but there were very few worthwhile games developed wiith it. Their stuff is now more powerful and also more expensive. I don't know whether the games being developed today are any better than they were.

I would be happy with limited code access. I don't have to get deep into the system. If EA and TM would just give a little, that would do it. I want to be able to capture data values during run time and send them to the log file. To do that, I need the names of a few utility functions but even that isn't made available.

Right now, I have about a dozen tourist Sims that are out of control and I can't get to them so I can kill them off. Looks like I will have to abandon a fairly well developed city or live with those Sims goofing things up. I can't operate with a game that the publisher won't debug and won't let me do it either. If I rebuild the city, there is no reason it won't happen again.

I am looking for a game that would be fun to play but one that I can tinker with a little when it is not running right. Also, I want to be able to collect information for use in playing the game more effectively without having to spend hours writing data values down by hand.
Last edited by Norm35 on Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

tobing
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Postby tobing » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:28 am

Seems like you stumbled upon one of the minor bugs remaining in SCS. Well, all games do have bugs, and many minor bugs won't get fixed.

If you want to count pears, then follow abana's links, there's a lot known about the quirky details of Ceasar III and Pharaoh.

In Caesar IV you can fiddle with the scenario scripts, they are programmed in C#. You have access to some game data, not all, but you can do quite a few things with this.

For some open source game to have a look at, google for the following:
Battle of Wesnoth (TBS, deep gameplay, graphics are OK)
Glest (RTS, nice graphics)
Widelands (essentially a remake of Settlers II, but with some enhancements)
Lincity-NG (like Simcity)
Simutrans (like Transport Tycoon)

If you need more, let me know.


What I would like to understand is this: Why do you want to capture and analyse data? What data? And what are you after? There must be more than finding bugs...

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:51 am

Thanks for the names. I will check them out.

To name one application for data collection, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to increase the number of tourists that visit my cities. One of the ways is to study how the the tourist count and tourist categories vary over time as I try different inducements. Changes take place over a period of days and sometimes weeks. Right now, I am collecting the data by hand. That is time when I could be playing the game. The data could be captured internally and sent to the log file as the game is played. There is no doubt in my mind that the means of doing this are already built into the game. They had to be there during the debugging stage of development.

Some of the bugs I find in the game are not so minor and spoil the game for me. From what I read on the forum there are others who are less than pleased with SCS because of them. If it weren't for the bugs, it would be a pretty decent game. EA just wasn't willing to make the investment necessary to clean it up. That doesn't sound like minor bugs.

As to what I am after, isn't the ability to collect statistics about the game and resolving things like out of control Sims enough to be after?
Last edited by Norm35 on Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

tobing
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Postby tobing » Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:07 am

"Norm35" wrote:Thanks for the names. I will check them out.

Forgot to include FreeCiv.

"Norm35" wrote:To name one application for data collection, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to increase the number of tourists that visit my cities. One of the ways is to study how the the tourist count and tourist categories vary over time as I try different inducements. Changes take place over a period of days and sometimes weeks. Right now, I am collecting the data by hand. That is time when I could be playing the game. The data could be captured internally and sent to the log file as the game is played. There is no doubt in my mind that the means of doing this are already built into the game. They had to be there during the debugging stage of development.

During development? I'm absolutely not sure here... why should that be? I mean, it all depends on how important these particular Sims are for the game, compared to so many other things which are also in the game. It's a matter of priorities, especially during development. There have been much more important things to get fixed, until Destinations finally became stable enough.

No, I don't think that these details are important enough to be logged, and debugged until it's all perfect. Not from the point of view of EA, who has the rights on this game. TM was just the developers here, after all it was EA:s decision to release the game at the point in time when they did it.

"Norm35" wrote:Some of the bugs I find in the game are not so minor and spoil the game for me. From what I read on the forum there are others who are less than pleased with SCS because of them. If it weren't for the bugs, it would be a pretty decent game. EA just wasn't willing to make the investment necessary to clean it up. That doesn't sound like minor bugs.


As said, it's up to EA. I think that they are not willing to continue the SimCity series for now, leaving it to Cities XL and Tropico, most probably carefully watching how the Cities XL with their online part of gameplay will do. For EA, it's much more important to grow Spore and The Sims...

Pure city building is somewhat of a niche thing these days, there are not enough possible players to justify another AAA production. I must say I'm very very curious about the success of Cities XL and Tropico 3, both games look quite nice, but will they have enough players?

"Norm35" wrote:As to what I am after, isn't the ability to collect statistics about the game and resolving things like out of control Sims enough to be after?

Don't know... I have never cared about those Sims. For me it's fine when the city works as a whole, which I think it does, even with a few Sims that are out of control.

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:07 am

I'm surprised to hear some of the views you expressed but you're more experienced at game development than I am so I will withhold further comment for now. I want to discuss this with a few others who know more than I do about it. I may have to revise my thinking on priorities during game development and game playing as well.

In the meantime, I will look at the items you named.

By the way, let me clear up a misunderstanding.
I stated in my earlier posting, "There is no doubt in my mind that the means of doing this are already built into the game. They had to be there during the debugging stage of development."

You seem to take this to mean that there was a complete system for collecting statistics. I was referring to the means of capturing data during run time and feeding it to the log file. This calls for only a few simple functions that programmers would use according to what information they were trying to recover.
Last edited by Norm35 on Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

tobing
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Postby tobing » Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:56 am

Interesting discussion... you're welcome.

"Norm35" wrote:By the way, let me clear up a misunderstanding.
I stated in my earlier posting, "There is no doubt in my mind that the means of doing this are already built into the game. They had to be there during the debugging stage of development."

You seem to take this to mean that there was a complete system for collecting statistics. I was referring to the means of capturing data during run time and feeding it to the log file. This calls for only a few simple functions that programmers would use according to what information they were trying to recover.

Ah, I see. Well, it should be easy enough to access data and print it into some sort of log. A tad more difficult might be to decide WHEN to record and WHICH of presumably hundreds of possibly interesting numbers you want to see. But well, it could be done.

To be honest, I have implemented some means to do these things in my own game, for debugging purposes. That is, some data can be printed to a log file, for some analysis if a particular subsystem of the game works as I have intended. For someone who doesn't know what all those number mean all that data is mostly worthless, and simply printing everything will not only produce tons of data, but also slow down the game a lot. It's some sort of art in itself to produce meaningful log information without cluttering your hard disk...

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:39 pm

"tobing" wrote:Interesting discussion... you're welcome.


Ah, I see. Well, it should be easy enough to access data and print it into some sort of log. A tad more difficult might be to decide WHEN to record and WHICH of presumably hundreds of possibly interesting numbers you want to see. But well, it could be done.

To be honest, I have implemented some means to do these things in my own game, for debugging purposes. That is, some data can be printed to a log file, for some analysis if a particular subsystem of the game works as I have intended. For someone who doesn't know what all those number mean all that data is mostly worthless, and simply printing everything will not only produce tons of data, but also slow down the game a lot. It's some sort of art in itself to produce meaningful log information without cluttering your hard disk...


I would be quite interested to know how you were able to communicate with the log file or do any kind of i/o. There are a couple of high level I/o calls in the script files, but they don't work for me.

I have no intention of continually loading up the log file with data, only specific things and only long enough to answer my questions or to aid in debugging. Once the data has served its purpose, it would be purged from the disk.

I got my hopes up when I ran across a file called scripts.csproj. It looked like a system build file. I had visions of being able to switch the game back and forth between release and debug modes, to turn on all kinds of useful functions, when I needed them. I was disappointed to find that it had no effect. It may have been something left over from the development period, that had not been removed.
Last edited by Norm35 on Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

tobing
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Postby tobing » Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:56 pm

Normally, as with almost all commercial software, you don't get the possibility to switch release and debug modes. Most software devs want to protect their sources, for various reasons, and with a debug build, you can get much closer to original sources and inner working than those devs intend.

The csproj file is a C# project file for Microsoft Visual Studio, so I really would assume that it's some left over from development, indeed.

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:31 am

"tobing" wrote:Normally, as with almost all commercial software, you don't get the possibility to switch release and debug modes. Most software devs want to protect their sources, for various reasons, and with a debug build, you can get much closer to original sources and inner working than those devs intend.

The csproj file is a C# project file for Microsoft Visual Studio, so I really would assume that it's some left over from development, indeed.



It may be that you can't get there from here. I may be unable to collect enough information on what is going on in the games and be totally dependent on what the game maker chooses to tell me. In that case, I may decide I want to vote with my feet and walk away from the whole thing.

That would be too bad but in selecting a hobby, what I want matters.
Last edited by Norm35 on Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

tobing
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Postby tobing » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:15 pm

"Norm35" wrote:It may be that you can't get there from here. I may be unable to collect enough information on what is going on in the games and be totally dependent on what the game maker chooses to tell me. In that case, I may decide I want to vote with my feet and walk away from the whole thing.

That would be too bad but in selecting a hobby, what I want matters.

You're completely right of course... it doesn't change how things are, though. You can only do what the makers of the game allow you to do, and you can only gather the information they show you on any interface they have. (Sometimes there are external tools that expose certain memory spots to give you access to things that weren't supposed to be accessible, most of these are so-called trainers). Essentially, you have to live with it...

You only get all the freedom when you have the source code, either from an open source game, or from the one you're doing yourself.

Norm35
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Postby Norm35 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:21 pm

"tobing" wrote:You're completely right of course... it doesn't change how things are, though. You can only do what the makers of the game allow you to do, and you can only gather the information they show you on any interface they have. (Sometimes there are external tools that expose certain memory spots to give you access to things that weren't supposed to be accessible, most of these are so-called trainers). Essentially, you have to live with it...

You only get all the freedom when you have the source code, either from an open source game, or from the one you're doing yourself.


No argument there.

I have been examining the open source possibilities. The games are much less polished and less sophisticated. The differences may be too great for it to be an acceptable alternative.

My time investment in gaming is not too great at this point and for the most part, I have enjoyed it.

I particularly enjoyed the forum interaction. I have met some fine people who have been very generous with their time and knowledge.
Last edited by Norm35 on Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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