Alpha Centauri 2

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri & Alien Crossfire => The Theory of Everything => Topic started by: dhirallin on May 29, 2013, 10:20:31 AM

Title: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: dhirallin on May 29, 2013, 10:20:31 AM
Hey all. I have written a new, free app for Windows called PlayMailer which lets you play Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire automatically via email (amongst other games.) It completely automates the process of loading games, saving games, sending emails and setting up new games. It also provides status updates so you know whose turn it is and has in-game chat functionality so you can send messages to other players while playing.

Here is the PlayMailer website with some about info, screenshots and a download link.
{link deleted}

Although Alpha Centauri already has networking support, there are some advantages to playing by email. Primarily, that you can play a slow game over several days or weeks, without requiring the game to be constantly on your screen. I.e. you can quit the game after each turn.

PlayMailer is very easy to use. You use its graphical interface to create a player list for your game. It will then request player creation settings from all players. After this PlayMailer will notify you when it's your turn. From there you can press the 'Load Now' button and PlayMailer will automatically launch Alpha Centauri and load your turn for you (by moving the mouse around and clicking on stuff in the game automatically.) When you're finished your turn you can press a Send Game hotkey and PlayMailer will automatically save the game and send the save file to the next player.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Buster's Uncle on May 30, 2013, 03:10:30 AM
Welcome to AC2, dhirallin. 

Your download insists that I give you as much access to my email account as I have, and that's never going to happen.  It's an unreasonable level of trust to ask from anyone, and you may not have my pin number or the keys to my car, either.  AC2 is not going to allow any links what sounds like an interesting application until that changes, but we'd be glad to listen if you have more to say.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Yitzi on May 30, 2013, 03:24:13 AM
Would it be workable with a separate email used only for gaming and not for serious stuff?
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Buster's Uncle on May 30, 2013, 03:35:19 AM
Honestly?  I'm concerned that it may not be a real thing and curious as to whether we're even dealing with a human being.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: dhirallin on May 30, 2013, 03:41:54 AM
Of course, you could create a new GMail or other email account solely for this program.

Other than that, I can only point out that there are far more profitable means for scamming people than laboriously making a bunch of fake screenshots for an incredibly niche program, likely to be used by only a few dozen people, and then tracking down obscure forums for said niche groups and posting info on them.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Buster's Uncle on May 30, 2013, 03:48:03 AM
Why SMAC(X) at all, then?  Is there no other way to make this work than giving you my password?

Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Yitzi on May 30, 2013, 04:10:11 AM
Why SMAC(X) at all, then?  Is there no other way to make this work than giving you my password?

The problem is essentially that PBEM does use email, so without access to that email, the program can't really do anything.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Buster's Uncle on May 30, 2013, 04:16:22 AM
You can see the spot this puts us in, can't you?  I don't enjoy being The Man on anyone, but we have a responsibility...
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: dhirallin on May 30, 2013, 08:40:48 AM
I guess I see your concerns :) Although having the program ask you to enter your email password is probably the least of your worries. Once you've run the program it could hypothetically retrieve any and all information anyway. A person can write a credit card key-logger into a program in about 20 lines of code. So yeah there is a certain amount of trust in running any program from the internet. Having said that, I'm obviously disappointed by the decision to remove the link, but there is nothing I can do to change the program to provide a greater degree of trust. I'd like to emphasise that the program is completely peer-to-peer. It does not connect with any central servers other than the mail server you specify in the settings. Have fun all!
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Buster's Uncle on May 30, 2013, 07:22:50 PM
I wish I saw a way out of this dilemma...

Members: would you rather I allowed the link and let people take their chances?  Perhaps append a Caveat Emptor?
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: dhirallin on May 31, 2013, 07:56:21 AM
I'll look into getting the program digitally signed, that way I'll be officially accountable.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: testdummy653 on May 31, 2013, 12:10:07 PM
I wish I saw a way out of this dilemma...

Members: would you rather I allowed the link and let people take their chances?  Perhaps append a Caveat Emptor?

I think a little warning with the link would be nice. Besides maybe one of our modders  can verify that the code does what dhirallin claims.

BTW, Welcome to the forum dhirallin!
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Yitzi on May 31, 2013, 12:47:08 PM

I think a little warning with the link would be nice. Besides maybe one of our modders  can verify that the code does what dhirallin claims.


For anything but the simplest of code, that's hard if you don't already have a good sense of what it does.

I couldn't even figure out the cost to corner the global energy market by looking at the code; that just told me that the mind-control price was involved, and I had to do the rest just by experimenting and seeing what others had done.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: testdummy653 on May 31, 2013, 02:35:30 PM

I think a little warning with the link would be nice. Besides maybe one of our modders  can verify that the code does what dhirallin claims.


For anything but the simplest of code, that's hard if you don't already have a good sense of what it does.

I couldn't even figure out the cost to corner the global energy market by looking at the code; that just told me that the mind-control price was involved, and I had to do the rest just by experimenting and seeing what others had done.

Couldn't you packet trace to determine were data was going with the application?
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Green1 on May 31, 2013, 02:46:10 PM
The guys at HeavenGames that do MP PBEM Age of Wonders SM have a similar program done by their modders. It is an email wrapper.

To my knowledge, that app does not require a password for email, only I think a password for your particular faction.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: Yitzi on May 31, 2013, 02:53:42 PM

Couldn't you packet trace to determine were data was going with the application?

I don't know enough to even know if that could be done, much less how to do it.  Scient might; I get the idea that he knows this stuff a lot better than I do.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: scient on May 31, 2013, 06:58:33 PM
Yah, I'm going to install this in my vm that I use to do analysis on malware and poke around.  Will see if I can find any more details.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: JarlWolf on June 27, 2013, 04:55:02 PM
I'd look into this, as this sounds very useful, if it wasn't for the issues with the personal information. I'll wait for Scient's verdict at least.
Title: Re: Automated play-by-email for Alpha Centauri and Alien Crossfire
Post by: testdummy653 on August 06, 2013, 03:00:20 AM
Any news Scient?