Observers can secretly wisper to players

Since: 01.03.2014 to: Present. For: Unofficial Patch 1.4-1.5 users.
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Observers can secretly wisper to players

Post by Coo1 » 01 Jun 2018, 23:17

I never play games with observers, well almost never. In one of my "experimental" games I was an OBSERVER and I tested private chat messages to selected players. What do you think the result was? The result is that any observer can relay information to any selected player in a way, that none other players and/or observers may see it. That drove the last stainless steel nail in coffin of my games with observers. I remember in the old days, observers were mute. Nowadays you never know who to trust. So, my vote is to silence all observers. Again, it is me not you, I am paranoid...

P.S. On the other hand, being paranoid, anyone with game chat can do the same without any messages in the game itself. All you have to do is to ask a good friend "to help..." But I missed my quetiapine again...

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Re: Observers can secretly wisper to players

Post by Leader » 01 Jun 2018, 23:53

Thanks for your post.
This is a very controversial feature. I'll explain the reasons why it's available and how it's secured to prevent abuses.

This feature was added with the following updates:
* Added Lobby integration with the UP1.5 Launcher Keep Alive functions. The Keep Alive function now checks if Player is Observer and allows Observers to see messages and flares sent by players who are playing. It also allows Observers to send flares by clicking on the "Territories" icon under mini-map, or by pressing the ALT+SHIFT+T hotkey. This feature might be disabled or improved in the future.
- Added a secure Launcher integration with custom game memory modifications by the Keep Alive requests (more features like "Observers can send flares" can be added without Launcher updates in the future).
- Improved Minor Update 156020 feature ("Keep Alive function allows Observers to see messages and flares sent by players who are playing") to always work correctly. A Player status is now identified by the Profile ID instead of nickname's position on the list.
Why I think this is a "safe" feature:
Those changes use the UP1.5 Launcher "Keep Alive" feature to control game behavior. This means that features like this can be added/enabled/disabled at any time, without any updates and even without game restart.
The Launcher KeepAlive function connects to the KeepAlive scripts every X seconds. It sends information about the current game status, etc.
After that the KeepAlive script at uses a lot of algorithms to determine which players are currently in game, and which are observers.

As first - this option was used to allow observers to read messages/see flares sent between players. With update 156021 an additional feature was added, allowing observers to chat between players.

At any time, when we detect irregularities, abuse of this function (aka. cheating) - we can disable it for specified players. Thanks to this, other players would still be able to use this feature, while those who abused would be "banned" from using it.
That's why, if any case of cheating is detected, please simply create a report at the forum, attach the playback file and the player who abused it will be temporary or permanently banned from using this function.
If we detect a lot of abuses in a short period of time - this feature will be simply disabled for everyone.

Update 156021 was released in January 2018. For 6 months we didn't receive any reports nor detected abuses in this function. That's why, for now I believe that the problem doesn't exist.

Arguments why Observers should be allowed to send messages to players:
- In most of Multiplayer games (not all) - players have nothing against communication between players and observers. It helps to improve skills of new players by giving them tips about how to play, what to build, etc. Thanks to this new players aren't left "alone" and there actually is a chance that they'll stay in our Multiplayer community for longer.
- I personally hated the feeling that when I'm the observer, I can't write to players during game. Sometimes I wanted to tell a player to "move the fuc***g idle army on West" or "delete idle citizens!", because it was painful to watch mistakes comitted even by good players. Thanks to this - observers can finally leak their frustrations.
- It is a very good feature for teaching players. The cooperative mode wasn't always that good (players in cooperation used to sometimes "take control" over civilization). That's why, teaching just by text is good, and also no players who agreed to teach others ever complained.

That's why, for now I think this feature should be available for all players, and if somebody does not wish them to use it then should not allow observers in game. Please remember that if this feature didn't exist, players who know each other could still chat using other messengers (WhatsApp, Skype, Steam, etc.). At the moment we can at least have a control and can see if observers are cheating. Before we couldn't verify it.

So if abuse of this function is ever detected - please report it here (at the forum) and we will take adequate actions.

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