• Eichi

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    Exile servers are online 24/7, but players are not. Balancing base raiding in persistent online games is extremely challenging, if not completely impossible. All video games in this genre struggle with that - especially when the victims are not online. There is no common solution for that issue in this genre, so we are were thinking about something completely new. And the result is a smartphone app.

    Simply disallowing base raiding while the victims are offline is frustrating for attackers. Imagine you want to raid a base, prepare everything, make a plan and then a message pops up: "Sorry, owner is not online. Come back later". Then, with some steam coming out of your ears you drive to the next attractive base, where you know the owners are online. Unfortunately the owners notice you and log out, leaving you with another neat "Please come back later" message.

    Making it harder to raid a base while the owner is offline would be inconsistent and can be abused to check if the owners are online. Also, it would not increase the chance of a successful defense at all.

    Disallowing base raids at certain times - for example in the night - does not work for international servers. While you play, others might be at work or asleep.

    This app does not directly change how base raiding works, but it can influence the game play in a positive way. On one hand, raiding a base has a much higher risk of facing resistance now. Even if the victims are offline, they will know what you are doing and give their best to prevent that. Do not think a base is empty - this can change every moment now. Just blowing your way through some walls is boring. There is nothing better than a good firefight. On the other hand, logging in just to see your base being raided or completely wiped off the server is probably the most frustrating thing when building a virtual home.

    The app works basically as a door bell, that you automatically ring when you raid a base. On top of that, we have added a couple of features to remind you to pay your territory protection money. It will also inform you when your territory flag is being stolen or restored. Also, your server admins might send you a message like "Hey, we are hosting a racing event from Kavala to Sofia this Friday. Want to join us?". And the best: You will receive notifications within seconds, so you have time to react. It takes approximately ten minutes for the attackers to get into your base when you have received the base raid alert. Enough time to connect, unlock and reload.

    This project and topic is extremely thrilling for us as it exceeds the boundaries of modding a game. You will probably have a bunch of questions. We have compiled a list of questions that we can already foresee to be asked. In case you have another question, please post them in the comments. We will give our best to answer them.

    Wish us luck!

     

    What does this app do?

    This app is a notification service. You will receive messages from the Arma 3 Exile servers you play on to keep you informed about in-game events - for example while someone is raiding your territory. Notifications are delivered in real-time, so you can react immediately. 

    mobile-xm8-notifications.jpg

    Do I receive message while I am offline?

    Yes, you will receive messages regardless of if you are currently playing Exile or not.

    Do my friends get messages, too?

    Yes, if they also use the app. Territory related notifications are sent to all players that have build rights on a territory. If someone raids your base, you and all of your friends will know!

    How long does it take to receive a message?

    Given a perfect phone connection, it takes two seconds on average! This means that your pocket will vibrate just moments after something happened in Arma.

    What types of messages will I get?

    Currently, the app supports the following notifications:

    1. Base Raid Alerts
      You will get real-time notifications while someone is trying to get into your base - before they have breached through the first wall! It takes a while to breach through a wall in Exile, so you have approximately ten minutes to react before the attacker is in your base. All of your mates that have build rights on the same territory will receive the same message, so your whole clan is alerted.
    2. Flag Steal Alerts
      This message informs you that attackers have stolen your flag some seconds ago. The thief then has to carry your flag to the nearest traders - use this chance to prevent that and get your flag back! And if happened to be too far away, you now know that you have three days to get a new flag.
    3. Flag Restored Notifications
      You and your mates will receive this message once your territory flag has been restored. No need to panic anymore with your territory flag!
    4. Territory Protection Money Reminders
      This notification will remind you when the protection money of your territory is due in the next 24 hours. 
    5. Server Admin Notifications
      Server administrators can send broadcast messages to all players that linked their phone with their server. This is especially useful to announce server events to all players.

    Will there be more message types in the future?

    There will be a sub-forum where you can present your ideas soon. We will do everything we can to make Arma, Exile or the app an enjoyable experience.

    How does the app recognize "me"?

    You can link the app with your Steam account.

    mobile-xm8-steam-login.jpg

    Will I also get messages at night?

    Yes, but the app will respect your sound volume and vibration settings. Also, the LED light of your phone will blink in the Exile pink every now and then - in case you missed the vibration and ringtone.

    mobile-xm8-settings.jpg

    If you receive a message while you are asleep or busy, you at least know what happened. There is nothing worse than logging in after a couple of days, just to see your territory being raided or gone.

    Can every Exile server send me messages?

    No, you have to grant servers permission first. Open your in-game XM8 and navigate to the "Mobile XM8" app. It will show you a four-digit server code. Use that to add a server in your phone. If you want to stop receiving messages from a server, simply swipe it away.

    mobile-xm8-server-code.jpg

    You may have noticed a blurred app in the "Sloth Machine" video. Yepp, it was this.

    Will this app be required to play Exile?

    No.

    I had my phone switched off for some time, what now?

    If your phone was out of battery, in flight mode, out of signal or simply switched off: You will receive messages for up to seven days after the in-game event occurred. After that, messages will expire and not be delivered anymore.

    On which mobile devices does this app run?

    Our prototype runs on Android 5.0 "Lollypop" and above. Apple products are not yet supported. We are aware that iOS devices are common, but before we will put effort into developing an app for a completely different device group, we have to ensure that it is actually worth it. Imagine we spent a month or two developing that, then pay a yearly amount to become a certified iOS developer - which Apple requires to even allow you in the app store - and then nobody uses it. On top of that, iOS apps can only be developed and published on Apple devices. None of us owns a MacBook or iPhone and you probably know the price of these. Depending on what the community wants, needs and how well the Android version goes, we will definitely consider doing an iOS version.

    What will this app cost?

    We plan to offer this service for just €2.49/month. EDIT: We decided to make the app free and try to cover the cost with donations.

    Unfortunately, this is everything but free for us. We have to develop, host and maintain an IT infrastructure that can connect a thousand game servers and ten thousands of mobile devices in real time. App stores charge us annually and apply download fees. On top of that, we have to deal with value added taxes and income taxes. Believe us when we say that this is a penny business. We will have to have hundreds or maybe thousands of subscribers to break even.

    When will the app be published?

    We will run a long-term test to ensure a high quality. Since this is a hobby project, we cannot give you any reliable dates. It could also happen that this project never comes to life. We have a working prototype already, but if it would be a financial or legal disaster for us, we will consider abandoning the idea completely.

     

    For server owners:

    How does my Arma server send messages to mobile phones?

    We have developed three systems here. A mobile app that can receive messages and displays that to the player. Second, a cloud-hosted message delivery hub that does the routing and security magic. Third, an extension for your Arma server that sends the message data to our central servers.

    Does my Arma server automatically send data to the Exile servers?

    No, this system is disabled by default.

    Am I forced to support this feature on my server?

    No, it is up to you if you want to.

    How can I enable the app on my server?

    We will offer a website where you can register your server. After proving your ownership, you will receive a configuration file that activates your Arma server extension and a four-digit server code.

    mobile-xm8-server-registration.jpg

    How do I send broadcast notifications to my players?

    You will be able to do that on the same website you registered your server.

    mobile-xm8-broadcast-message.jpg

    How many notifications can I send?

    We limit the number of notifications you can send to four in a month, so roughly one message per week.

    What does this cost?

    This service is free for server owners.

    Can I customize this system?

    No, not at all. Exile is extremely customizable, but this system is an exception. Your players expect the app to work the same on all servers in the world. This also means that base raiding is mostly balanced by us to ensure a unified experience. If you have ideas on how to extend the app or the system behind it, feel free to talk to us directly.

    Does this support Linux?

    Yes. We offer both a Windows and a Linux server extension.

     


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    User Feedback




    I think its wonderful that you guys are thinking outside the box and adding features like this. I think its a shame that some folks forget or have no idea or don't care to find out the work that goes into this kind of stuff. I also think it's a shame reading through the comments that some folks will resort to intellectual dishonesty to make a point, regardless of how easily that point is countered or outright proven incorrect. Anyways, bang on job devs. Looking forward to getting this update and over the Apex hump.

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    On 6/13/2016 at 2:31 AM, Eichi said:

    Becoming an Apple "certified" developer: $100/year
    Listing an app in the app store: $100/year
    A real MacBook is required to develop this: $1500
    A real iPhone is required to publish it: $700
    Selling an app on the app store: 30% fee

    I am not going to throw $2.400 at Apple and invest two months of my life just to be allowed to offer an iOS app :( 

    Boom. rekt.

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    On 18/06/2016 at 3:27 PM, Andrew_S90 said:

    @Eichi @Vishpala  @Grim Would it be possible to make/have a lightweight program for windows that would run like the app on your phone? You could send notifications to it and maybe it would keep a history of past notifications and messages and basically work like the app but be on your computer? It could be under the same price structure or less? (No playstore fees etc) Just tossing an idea out there, it wouldnt be as instant as your phone but if people had multiple computers with the program it could be used well or just a service like hey your base was raided! Etc

     

    Like on the windows 10 store?

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    As long as servers can configure to be able to disable the app notifications completely, I'm okay with it. I'll just find a server that doesn't have an the app.

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    i wonder if it would be possible to Access your CCTV camera's using the mobile app ?

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    I don't know if it has been announced yet, but I have been looking for the web link for server owners to register their servers to enable this feature. I have been unable to find it. I would like to enable this feature on my server as many players getting ready to play on my Tanoa server really like this feature and I would like to provide it to them.

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    I've been thinking about this approach Eichi and Crew took and with my 10+ years experience in web development and 4 years experience in the startup circles, I came to the following conclusions:

    • Ruling out email notifications was smart. Even with Job queues and horizontally scaled frontend nodes or a service like mandril, email is by definition not real time.
    • Should have written it as a web app first, utilising websockets and vuejs.
      • outcome: works on all platforms.
    • Start with notifications only when the app is open. Gauge market traction from there.
    • Write a small nodejs websocket server app that server owners can configure and deploy
    • For 2nd stage notifications, use Slacks incoming webhook feature. Server owners create their own Slack presence, players can then get private notifications. Slack is very extensible.

     

    On 6/13/2016 at 2:31 AM, Eichi said:

    Becoming an Apple "certified" developer: $100/year
    Listing an app in the app store: $100/year
    A real MacBook is required to develop this: $1500
    A real iPhone is required to publish it: $700
    Selling an app on the app store: 30% fee

    I am not going to throw $2.400 at Apple and invest two months of my life just to be allowed to offer an iOS app :( 

    • Case in point for a web app.

     

    On 6/13/2016 at 2:35 AM, zombietop said:

    100% understandable and justifiable.  But you can't deny the fact that not supporting iOS, you will in fact be skewing the data, as far as the adoption rate goes. 

    True, but this was the reality for Android for a long time. Websites made for iOS are not going to create an enjoyable experience for non ios users. 

    • second case in point for a web app

     

    On 6/14/2016 at 2:43 PM, sirbeni said:

    Why no implementaion with chatbots in whatsapp - telegram

    or any other notification app like Pushover

    Security?

     

    • Probably because Eichi and team decided to do more before qualifying demand for specific details.

     

    On 6/14/2016 at 9:22 PM, Eichi said:

    We have evaluated the email possibility before. 

    1. We expect up to half a million of messages per month. That is not unrealistic. We have 400k players and growing. So it could easily be more. Try to explain global email ban list providers that you have send 100k times the same email. Brilliant.
    2. Also, they will ban your email relay every now and then. This means, that we will have to call them up to unban us. This adds management overhead for us and delay for you. You will not get any emails when our mail server is banned. And unbanning this often takes days.
    3. People can misspell their email addresses. I receive  lot of "Mail delivery failed" emails a day for this forum.
    4. Sending emails costs more than a dedicated server cluster, without all the benefits a dedicated box has!
    5. Most of these emails will end up in a spam or junk folder.
    6. Emails have no security layer in between that we can control. Imagine one server goes rogue and spams the shit out of you. Or better, someone injects malware into the email and fucks you up.
    7. Emails take time to be delivered! Our notifications are time critical. Notifications like "Hey, your base was raided yesterday" is useless.
    8. Storing hundreds of thousands of emails in a database will most likely get it hacked and published on the interwebz. Maintaining a proper security level on top of that is challenging even for this forum. And, you guessed it, that is more $$$ on top.

    We have also evaluated the Steam API idea already.

    1. Steam has issues delivering a message when you are logged in on your phone and Desktop at the same time.
    2. Only 2 out of 5 messages were delivered. If your base is raided and you do not get a notification or if your territory expired, because you rely on the reminder and did not get it, you will blame us for a failure in Steam. That is not an option.
    3. And these two messages that arrived where delayed by minutes. Again, alerts are useless if they are delayed.

    You obviously think we are extremely dumb and have no idea what we are doing. Thank you for your trust in us.

    • When the Exile sourcecode isn't open, the development process not transparently available, the conversations around rejecting pull requests.... etc; the rest of us are left with fear and doubt to fill in the gaps.

     

    On 6/14/2016 at 10:54 PM, Eichi said:

    Yes, we have had a look at that, too. It works more or less well, with small, but "okay" delays. There are only two things that we did not like there:

    1. Having a database of mobile phone numbers is a high risk and questionable regarding data security. Imagine someone compromises our hosting provider. I think a database full of phone numbers could sell quite well. 
    2. Just like Steam, E-Mail, Whatsapp or any other existing notification service: We cannot customize it and add more features. Let us dream a little bit here. We could have a button in the app to pay your in-game territory protection money. We could have admin messages that a player can issue in-game, that is then forwarded to the phone of the admin and the admin can respond from the phone directly. Or something completely incredible: See through the CCTV in your phone. We have based on our own app, so we can add things we you want. We are very limited by Arma. There is no need to limit ourselves by using third party tools again :) 

    No, I cannot. My expectations are around 300 people using this. But it is very hard to say.

    • It was a wise idea to avoid integrating twilio... It gets very expensive.

     

    A suggestion I'd make with regards to the app integration is this, take a page out of Elom Musks book:

    > You may have the ability to engineer a solution to a problem, but doing so will spread you thin.

    So, going forward:

    • modify the code paths in the game server that makes calls to your centralised notification service
    • provide configuration points that allow us to target where these webhooks go (ie my own nodejs web app)

    Do that first, publish the specs on the communication api, then let the community come up with some tools to provide our own solutions. 

     

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    That is a very qualified response, thank you for that. However, I do feel that some of the solutions you suggest sound like a rag rug solution to me - many different parts were thrown wild together. That would render administration very complex and would probably increase the need for more hardware. Imagine connecting 1,000 servers with a potential 100,000 phones. That might require a small cloud in the middle that nobody is ever going to pay for :)

    You wish the system was open. It is not for good reasons. The core problem is not the mobile phones, but the servers. You cannot trust them. You cannot trust the data they send to you. You cannot trust the volume of data you receive. You cannot trust them at all.

    Also, if this system would only be half-done and the community would need to develop their own solutions, it would end up as follows: On one server you need a desktop program. On another server, you get notifications in your browser. The next server does not support that at all. This is a mixed experience for the player, which is semi-optimal. Also, we cannot expect the community to be software engineers. I sometimes facepalm if a server owner does not know what a config is or how to interpret MySQL error messages.

    On top of that, the market will look like this: Closed functionality and special things only for server subscribers. $15/month and more just for that. Servers already do that and it is hilarious. The next community will have their own, closed app, that you can buy for a small $30 one time fee. coupled with 100k pop tabs you get as a bonus. Horrible.

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    On ‎6‎/‎24‎/‎2016 at 2:05 AM, BetterDeadThanZed said:
    On ‎7‎/‎9‎/‎2016 at 10:06 AM, Eichi said:

    That is a very qualified response, thank you for that. However, I do feel that some of the solutions you suggest sound like a rag rug solution to me - many different parts were thrown wild together. That would render administration very complex and would probably increase the need for more hardware. Imagine connecting 1,000 servers with a potential 100,000 phones. That might require a small cloud in the middle that nobody is ever going to pay for :)

    You wish the system was open. It is not for good reasons. The core problem is not the mobile phones, but the servers. You cannot trust them. You cannot trust the data they send to you. You cannot trust the volume of data you receive. You cannot trust them at all.

    Also, if this system would only be half-done and the community would need to develop their own solutions, it would end up as follows: On one server you need a desktop program. On another server, you get notifications in your browser. The next server does not support that at all. This is a mixed experience for the player, which is semi-optimal. Also, we cannot expect the community to be software engineers. I sometimes facepalm if a server owner does not know what a config is or how to interpret MySQL error messages.

    On top of that, the market will look like this: Closed functionality and special things only for server subscribers. $15/month and more just for that. Servers already do that and it is hilarious. The next community will have their own, closed app, that you can buy for a small $30 one time fee. coupled with 100k pop tabs you get as a bonus. Horrible.

    Just going to bump this up @Xtortion in case you want to share your solution. There's always a chance I'd try setting up another Takistan, especially since I have a dedicated server. I might at least like to try it out just on my test server.

    just a quick one, has this been released to server owners or is there anywhere to apply for this feature?

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    I have been thinking about the marketing strategy...

    And i think you might do better charging server owners rather than users.

    if it is free for servers EVERY server will have it, so only SOME users will bother getting it especially with a monthly fee.

     

    However IF the app was a 1 off cost or free many players will get it to use on any server they may want to play on. but they would  then want to play on servers supporting the system.

    This then means server owners have to make a choice between paying the monthly fee to run the system making their server more attractive, or not paying and risk losing users.

     

    This is a good method to create demand for your product. Also server owners have already demonstrated they are willing to put money into running the game. Many users are cheapskates.

    On the plus side for server owners it could be a good way to encourage donations without selling anything. If you have 2 donation Tiers, Have Tier 1 at say £30 if this is met then the server stays up for the month. if the Donation reaches £50 that month then there is enough surplus to buy 1 month of XM8 App access for the whole server.

    You are not SELLING anything just making sure donations are enough to cover costs.

     

    All in all i think you do better charging Servers rather than Players.

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    Thank you for your thoughts. I get where you are coming from. The problem with charging the server owners for that would be, that they will just forward the expenses to the users. So why not charging the users directly?

    We will discuss it internally again.

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    Charging the users is fine. It's another monthly reoccurring bill that is a bummer. Plenty of monthly bills already. One yearly fee is the way to go. 

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    Could I suggest that you place all android devices that are (not) compatible?

    Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini - Not Compatible (06/09/16 (UK DATE)) 

    Edited by JackCapwell

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    On 8/17/2016 at 11:33 AM, Spesago said:

    All in all i think you do better charging Servers rather than Players.

    oh yeh, nice 1. Just push even more overhead onto the server owners who, in most cases, already run at a net loss month on month...

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    Created an account just to reply to this.

    First, I've had Arma 3 for quite a while now, but recently my friends and me started playing WAY more because of how fun Exile is!

    We were playing on a server that was very crowded, laggy, and had a few things we didn't really like. I decided to rent a sever so we could customize it exactly how we want and so far it's been awesome. As the main admin, I got the XM8 app setup and ready to go for players. I love the concept and it really deserves to catch on and be a great benefit of the Exile mod.

    Here's a few thoughts I had while reading through all the comments here.

    The iOS/Andoid "war" is getting really old. This is coming from someone that used to be a severe Apple hater. I love iPhones and Android. There's things both do very well as well as having their own weaknesses. Bottom line is if you want to see the full potential of the adoption of this app, iOS support is very important.

    The cost of developing for iOS is prohibitively expensive for your team right now and I'm afraid relying on donations may not allow you to buy all the stuff needed, so the goal right now would be to find a way to allow the XM8 app to bring in some funds.

    The subscription model didn't work from what I've seen so that's off the table, for now.

    I think the best way, by far, to get the app generating some funds is with ads. There's plenty of screen real estate available for ads without hurting the experience. However, as mentioned, the app, (as it stands), is not an app that users actually have eyes on, almost ever. My suggestion is to integrate a feature into the app that would give users a reason to use it more often. Best part? You already have this mechanic.

    Enter the Sloth Machine! 

    Now, I understand this would probably require a substantial amount of work, but what I'm thinking is adding the Sloth Machine game into the app to allow users to play from their phone. Allow server owners to determine odds, cost, and winnings as they have on the game server. When a user plays the Sloth Machine on their phone all the winnings,(or losses) are then updated on the server. Maybe just sends an update once a day to keep traffic down.

    Now, I'm not sure if the app is designed to allow two way communication with the server, or if something like this is even realistically possible. But adding a game to the app would be a great way to get more ads seen way more.

    Another possibility, and... not one I would usually EVER suggest would be adding the option for microtransactions. Maybe one free spin a day, but can buy more spins really cheap. maybe 3 for $1, 5 for $2, 10 for $3. Something to generate more funds. As much as I hate microtransactions, I would be totally happy paying a few bucks knowing that the money is going back to a team that works VERY hard on a fantastic, free mod.

    Of course, the Sloth Machine is just what I thought of since it's already a mechanic built into the mod, but any other little minigame would work too!

     

    Sorry for the wall-o-text. Just wanted to contribute in any way I can. The Exile team definitely deserves to see this succeed and possibly even allow you guys to pay some bills and buy some beer.  ;o)    

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    2 hours ago, BRUXXUS said:

    The subscription model didn't work from what I've seen so that's off the table, for now.

    Well, it worked quite well. We have had 225 subs on the first day. But I have suffered a stroke or something and decided to not deal with that money crap or anything else that requires my full responsibility and concentration. Also, it would have generated us only a total profit of a few tenners a month, so screw that. I would like to avoid any funds and that complete invoicing crap if possible. I also would rather see it free, even if it is not free for us.

    I like the idea of the sloth machine on the phone, but I highly doubt that people will play it, even if it gets them in-game items. We currently have a poll in this forum to see what is next. As an iOS version would cost us more than $2,000 before we can even start developing it - it is not an option. I have been playing around with a desktop client. That does not notify you on-the-go of course, but it could be something.

    Thank you for your feedback! I highly appreciate it!

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    Can someone tell me where i can find it to activate my server? 

     

    Kann mir jemand sagen wo ich das aktivieren kann? Finde keinen link oder ne möglichkeit dafür.

     

    Danke 

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