A few PSO questions before getting online

Online games, how to get online, and anything involving Dreamcast online can be discussed here.
Elliander
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#11 » Fri Jan 21, 2022 3:58 pm

mistamontiel wrote:Why does no one plug the almighty DreamPi lol

As to ethernet BBA, does that stop teammates from seemingly teleport and attacking thin air? I don't know if that happens either connection but never irked me that much


I have a DreamPi and two Dreamcast modems sitting in a box, but the limit of one connection per IP address is too limiting for me. It's my goal to eventually have 4 Dreamcast consoles, each able to play PSO with their own serial numbers at the same time and in the same house at full speed.

Aleron Ives wrote:If you have friends who also want to play, it's much cheaper to get PSO PC for them than to buy Dreamcasts and BBAs for each person.



I know that a computer lab with the PC version would be cheaper to build, but I prefer the feel of the dreamcast. Although, if it were possible to play on a PC using a VMU save (even if it had to be copied to the computer first) I'd be more interested in setting that option up if only as a backup for what happens when the Dreamcast consoles finally die. I actually did play on PC once, years ago, but when that computer died so did the character whereas the 20ish year old characters on VMU storage still exists.

BlueCrab wrote:
mistamontiel wrote:As to ethernet BBA, does that stop teammates from seemingly teleport and attacking thin air? I don't know if that happens either connection but never irked me that much
No, that is simply an artifact of how PSO is a very client-side game. It might make it slightly less likely to happen though.

Basically, everyone simulates the enemies positions themselves, so if you are slightly off sync with one of the other players, you'll see things in a different place than that other player does.


Yes, being out of sync is another potential concern of mine. It's why I don't want to consider VPN as a bypass to the DreamPi limit problem. That, and if anyone else is using the same VPN for the same purpose there's a chance that the connection won't work at all>

___

Another question:

I just got my Dreamcast Keyboard in and went to create an account with Sylverrant, and I saw this message:

"You may not register multiple accounts for the same person. You may register multiple serial number and access key pairs to the same account (and across all versions of PSO), so there is no good reason to have multiple accounts.

If you do register multiple accounts, the server administration reserves the right to delete any and all of them and/or ban you from the server permanently. Please do not make us do that, as it means that we have less time to devote to making the server better for everyone."

Now, I only plan on having one account per person, and will only be creating one account today since I don't have enough consoles (yet) to have more than one person play together, but eventually I will be creating new accounts for each member of my house. From the perspective of Sylverrant admins it would probably look like one person with multiple accounts since each account would login from the same IP address. That would be reasonable to assume, but how would I avoid getting the entire household banned for playing together from the same IP address? One account should not be shared among multiple people even if it was possible to login on more than one console at the same time, so I'd like to figure out the best way for each of us to have our own accounts with our own login information and our own access keys registered.

I'd imagine that other private servers would have similar rules, so similar question for them.

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BlueCrab
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#12 » Fri Jan 21, 2022 8:38 pm

Elliander wrote:Now, I only plan on having one account per person, and will only be creating one account today since I don't have enough consoles (yet) to have more than one person play together, but eventually I will be creating new accounts for each member of my house. From the perspective of Sylverrant admins it would probably look like one person with multiple accounts since each account would login from the same IP address. That would be reasonable to assume, but how would I avoid getting the entire household banned for playing together from the same IP address? One account should not be shared among multiple people even if it was possible to login on more than one console at the same time, so I'd like to figure out the best way for each of us to have our own accounts with our own login information and our own access keys registered.
Well, first off, you probably don't have to register multiple accounts for your use case, but feel free to do so if you would like. You're not going to get banned for multiple accounts playing from the same IP.

Basically, that statement is just there in case people decide to try to register multiple accounts to evade bans.

Elliander
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Posts: 38

Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#13 » Sat Jan 22, 2022 12:47 am

BlueCrab wrote:
Basically, that statement is just there in case people decide to try to register multiple accounts to evade bans.


Oh, that makes sense. Thanks!

I was able to get online tonight (finally! It took longer since I documented my steps, but figured others would benefit from that) although I am a bit confused about where to go from here. Is there a simple getting started guide for those who managed to actually get connected?

I figured out quickly how the multiple ships, blocks, and lobbies work. However, everything seemed empty and I couldn't figure out how to tell where people were if anywhere. I figured out how to get down to the planet, but once there I couldn't figure out how to determine the difficulty rating of quests (are they appropriate for my level?) or how respawning of monsters and crates work. (in offline, they don't respawn until I save and quit and return or unless I complete a quest). And it looks like a party can have a maximum of 4 people in it? Is there a chance of running into other parties, or is the party playing in an instance?

In solo there were quite a few more monsters than playing offline, so it was a very good thing I had a good AOE ready! Rabarta came in really handy! Could help for faster leveling even solo.

I am also confused as to why I wasn't asked for a login and password. Is it because I already registered for an account and registered my SNAK beforehand?

EDIT: I found the login commands, and I was able to login by typing in: /login username password

At first I could not use the command: /enablebk
to enable automatic backups, which made me wonder if there was a problem with my SNAK registration, but after a minute I tried again and it worked. This setup makes me wonder why someone is able to play online at all without logging in though.

I'm also wondering about the keyboard now. I have to type very slowly or letters randomly get missed and occasionally a button presses itself repeatedly. I normally only see keyboard lag like that if I am using a wireless keyboard very far from a computer. I wonder if it's a limitation with the keyboard itself, the data limits of the Dreamcase cable, or server lag, or all of the above.

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BlueCrab
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#14 » Sat Jan 22, 2022 11:39 am

Elliander wrote:I figured out quickly how the multiple ships, blocks, and lobbies work. However, everything seemed empty and I couldn't figure out how to tell where people were if anywhere. I figured out how to get down to the planet, but once there I couldn't figure out how to determine the difficulty rating of quests (are they appropriate for my level?) or how respawning of monsters and crates work. (in offline, they don't respawn until I save and quit and return or unless I complete a quest). And it looks like a party can have a maximum of 4 people in it? Is there a chance of running into other parties, or is the party playing in an instance?
You were probably online when nobody else was around (or only on Gamecube, perhaps). The website has a server status widget that tells you how many people are online and on what ships, but that only aggregates the total people online. Unfortunately, Gamecube and Dreamcast players cannot actually play in a team together, so the numbers might not be totally helpful.

I am also confused as to why I wasn't asked for a login and password. Is it because I already registered for an account and registered my SNAK beforehand?

EDIT: I found the login commands, and I was able to login by typing in: /login username password
The game itself doesn't require a login and password (only the serial and access key). That is for specific things on the server itself only, which is why you don't need to login just to play. Also playing on the server doesn't actually require registration, just certain features require it.

I'm also wondering about the keyboard now. I have to type very slowly or letters randomly get missed and occasionally a button presses itself repeatedly. I normally only see keyboard lag like that if I am using a wireless keyboard very far from a computer. I wonder if it's a limitation with the keyboard itself, the data limits of the Dreamcase cable, or server lag, or all of the above.
Server lag has nothing to do with typing, as that is all handled completely on your side -- the server doesn't have any clue what you typed until you hit enter and send it to the server. I suspect your keyboard might have something potentially wrong with it. Those symptoms sound a lot like what happens when a soda or something sugary/sticky something gets spilled in a keyboard, to be perfectly honest.

Elliander
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Posts: 38

Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#15 » Sat Jan 22, 2022 9:05 pm

BlueCrab wrote: The website has a server status widget that tells you how many people are online and on what ships, but that only aggregates the total people online.


I eventually figured that out. Once I found a server commands here https://sylverant.net/server-commands/ I found the server status on the left, showing that only two people were online and only in Altimira. I then went there and used /bstat to determine which block had players. I then cycled through the lobbies before I was able to find someone to play with. Ended up playing with someone close to my level in France and although we couldn't really communicate it was still fun. We went through the caves and beat the 2nd boss together (whom I only came close to beating solo) and it felt good to be able to hold my own and contibute. I wouldn't have felt like I earned the boss win if the person was significantly higher level than me.

It would be nice if the widget could report which block/lobby has the most players at least. Like, beneath hunted, something like:

Most Hunters Online: Altimira/Block 1/Lobby 2

or something like that. RIght now I see that there are only 16 people online. I had no idea how small the active community had become so it makes total sense why the community is so helpful in getting people started. Their own enjoyment will die if people stop playing. Although, that does make me even more concerned about what happens if/when servers someday die.

For my friends who are on PC and have zero interest in messing with the Dreamcast, I don't suppose there are simple guides for getting them online with me? And is there any way to convert between PC and VMU saves? For example, can server based backup/restore be used on a new dummy character if a friend starts playing on PC but later decides they want to play on Dreamcast?

BlueCrab wrote:Unfortunately, Gamecube and Dreamcast players cannot actually play in a team together, so the numbers might not be totally helpful.


I had no idea! So can Gamecube players see Dreamcast and/or PC players in game? Can PC players play with Gamecube players or just Dreamcast players? It's probably a good thing though that you can't see that information at a glance, or to see who is playing solo online, because I've seen a rotating door problem in other games where people sign into a lobby, see no one there, then sign out. and repeat. A game that I made many multiplayer maps for I personally haven't played for many years entirely because of that problem.

BlueCrab wrote: The game itself doesn't require a login and password (only the serial and access key). That is for specific things on the server itself only, which is why you don't need to login just to play. Also playing on the server doesn't actually require registration, just certain features require it.


I see, but if there's no login credentials how does banning work? Is it done via the SNAK only when someone hasn't registered? and in that case I guess one of the advantages of registration is that if someone else did manage to get your SNAK and abuse it they could use the server command /gcprotect to require logging in to the account in which the SNAK is registered. (I'll still be careful not to disclose the SNAK to others of course, although this time I think I will print and laminate my SNAK and tape to the bottom and/or inside of the Dreamcast case itself.)

BlueCrab wrote: Server lag has nothing to do with typing, as that is all handled completely on your side -- the server doesn't have any clue what you typed until you hit enter and send it to the server. I suspect your keyboard might have something potentially wrong with it. Those symptoms sound a lot like what happens when a soda or something sugary/sticky something gets spilled in a keyboard, to be perfectly honest.


Yeah, I am starting to suspect the same. At first it resembled keyboard lag, but after playing around with it I noticed that the keys stick ever so slightly. When a key repeats itself endlessly I just have to press the same key again to get it to stop, but other times a key press isn't registered at all. It would normally be a sign of something sticky like soda having been spilled on the keyboard in the past, but given how it looks I am more inclined to believe that general humidity combined with the plastic to create a stickiness that needs to be cleaned. As such I created a new thread asking about a tear down in help here: viewtopic.php?f=42&t=15241

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BlueCrab
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#16 » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:37 pm

Elliander wrote:
BlueCrab wrote: The website has a server status widget that tells you how many people are online and on what ships, but that only aggregates the total people online.


I eventually figured that out. Once I found a server commands here https://sylverant.net/server-commands/ I found the server status on the left, showing that only two people were online and only in Altimira. I then went there and used /bstat to determine which block had players. I then cycled through the lobbies before I was able to find someone to play with. Ended up playing with someone close to my level in France and although we couldn't really communicate it was still fun. We went through the caves and beat the 2nd boss together (whom I only came close to beating solo) and it felt good to be able to hold my own and contibute. I wouldn't have felt like I earned the boss win if the person was significantly higher level than me.
Cool. Glad to hear that you got online and were able to play.

It would be nice if the widget could report which block/lobby has the most players at least. Like, beneath hunted, something like:

Most Hunters Online: Altimira/Block 1/Lobby 2

or something like that. RIght now I see that there are only 16 people online. I had no idea how small the active community had become so it makes total sense why the community is so helpful in getting people started. Their own enjoyment will die if people stop playing. Although, that does make me even more concerned about what happens if/when servers someday die.
Unfortunately, the lobby information isn't particularly helpful if people are in teams, which usually they probably are... Also, you can get the block breakdown in-game when you're on the block selection menu. Based on how the information is aggregated for the widget on the website it is somewhat difficult to do that level of granularity at the moment anyhow...

For my friends who are on PC and have zero interest in messing with the Dreamcast, I don't suppose there are simple guides for getting them online with me? And is there any way to convert between PC and VMU saves? For example, can server based backup/restore be used on a new dummy character if a friend starts playing on PC but later decides they want to play on Dreamcast?
PC and DC are 100% compatible with one another (note PSO for PC is not the same thing as PSO Blue Burst). Chances are that if you look on the web for a PSO for PC for Sylverant it'll be pretty easy to set up (i.e, the README that you'll find with it will explain the whole setup).

The way server backup/restore works cannot easily be used to move characters between platforms (they are tied to your guild card on the server and that is not shared between platforms). Also, since server backups do not save a lot of what people would actually want to transfer between versions (like your entire set of banked items and money), they're of limited use here anyway.

BlueCrab wrote:Unfortunately, Gamecube and Dreamcast players cannot actually play in a team together, so the numbers might not be totally helpful.


I had no idea! So can Gamecube players see Dreamcast and/or PC players in game? Can PC players play with Gamecube players or just Dreamcast players? It's probably a good thing though that you can't see that information at a glance, or to see who is playing solo online, because I've seen a rotating door problem in other games where people sign into a lobby, see no one there, then sign out. and repeat. A game that I made many multiplayer maps for I personally haven't played for many years entirely because of that problem.
DC, PC, Gamecube, and even Blue Burst players can see each other in the lobby. However, no combinations other than DC/PC can play together. DC and PC are 100% compatible with one another as I said before. All the other versions are incompatible with each other. Technically, there is a limited DC/PC <-> GC mode in the server's code, but it leads more to crashes than to useful gameplay.

Plus, the game balance is quite different in DC/PC versus Gamecube, so it's honestly not even that pleasant of an experience if there weren't the crashes I mentioned before.

BlueCrab wrote: The game itself doesn't require a login and password (only the serial and access key). That is for specific things on the server itself only, which is why you don't need to login just to play. Also playing on the server doesn't actually require registration, just certain features require it.


I see, but if there's no login credentials how does banning work? Is it done via the SNAK only when someone hasn't registered? and in that case I guess one of the advantages of registration is that if someone else did manage to get your SNAK and abuse it they could use the server command /gcprotect to require logging in to the account in which the SNAK is registered. (I'll still be careful not to disclose the SNAK to others of course, although this time I think I will print and laminate my SNAK and tape to the bottom and/or inside of the Dreamcast case itself.)
Well, thankfully server bans have been fairly rare (there've been a total of less than 20 permanent bans issued in 12.5 years of the server's existence so far). Bans are done by guild card number (and thus SNAK), by IP address, or by account. /gcprotect is indeed a potential advantage of registration, but most people haven't had to go that far or anything like that (basically, I implemented that command for one person back in the day).

Elliander
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Posts: 38

Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#17 » Mon Jan 31, 2022 4:01 am

BlueCrab wrote: PC and DC are 100% compatible with one another (note PSO for PC is not the same thing as PSO Blue Burst). Chances are that if you look on the web for a PSO for PC for Sylverant it'll be pretty easy to set up (i.e, the README that you'll find with it will explain the whole setup).


I see. Looking it up, Blue Burst has two additional episodes, while PC is apparently the same version as what's on the Dreamcast? And PC allows playing offline, but Blue Burst is online only? In which case I guess the reason why PC and DC can play together is because they are on the same version of the game.

Where can I actually buy the PC version? I looked and I can't find any stores selling it. I found a few download pages, but I would assume you'd need a valid SNAK for the PC version as well, right?

I'd be much more interested in Blue Burst if it had offline play. One of the things I still love about PSO is the fact that I keep my characters with me. With other online games when the official servers shut down and the private servers go up you have to start over, but with PSO you get to keep your character with you for all time. Given that, I don't really understand why Blue Burst doesn't allow offline play especially since it is apparently possible to create a private server to play it offline. I'd still prefer Dreamcast regardless though.

BlueCrab wrote: The way server backup/restore works cannot easily be used to move characters between platforms (they are tied to your guild card on the server and that is not shared between platforms). Also, since server backups do not save a lot of what people would actually want to transfer between versions (like your entire set of banked items and money), they're of limited use here anyway.


I see what you mean, since inventory space is so limited, but it would still be a nice feature even if it was limited. I imagine that if a single user registered two different consoles under the same account it should at least be possible to create a shared backup slot which could be restored to a different character on the same account. Then again, having gotten my MAG to level 200 I expect that it would be fairly easy to level a new character if I gave a 2nd character my inventory.

I wonder if it would be possible to use the SNAK to decrypt the VMU save on a PC as part of some offline save converter. Something like that, in particular, would likely be of significant use to people who used a shared SNAK and wants to go legit with a purchased copy and/or someone who might want to take their character onto another console. Although that hinges on their being a way to decrypt the save at all, and since it sounds like only PC and DC would qualify I guess that explains why no one bothered with it.

BlueCrab wrote:DC, PC, Gamecube, and even Blue Burst players can see each other in the lobby. However, no combinations other than DC/PC can play together. DC and PC are 100% compatible with one another as I said before. All the other versions are incompatible with each other. Technically, there is a limited DC/PC <-> GC mode in the server's code, but it leads more to crashes than to useful gameplay.

Plus, the game balance is quite different in DC/PC versus Gamecube, so it's honestly not even that pleasant of an experience if there weren't the crashes I mentioned before.


I see what you mean. And, if game balance is totally different, there would be a risk of introducing items from GC that are easier to obtain and giving them to DC accounts. Although, I wonder if it would ever be possible to modify the Dreamcast and PC version to bring all the versions in line with one another.

BlueCrab wrote:Well, thankfully server bans have been fairly rare (there've been a total of less than 20 permanent bans issued in 12.5 years of the server's existence so far). Bans are done by guild card number (and thus SNAK), by IP address, or by account. /gcprotect is indeed a potential advantage of registration, but most people haven't had to go that far or anything like that (basically, I implemented that command for one person back in the day).


The community does seem very friendly overall. I'm not seeing the kind of toxicity I typically see in online communities. Maybe it's because of how niche this has become? Playing this game essentially requires 20+ year old hardware or an impossible to find PC copy. It would be much easier for someone to troll a newer platform game.

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BlueCrab
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#18 » Tue Feb 01, 2022 11:00 am

Elliander wrote:Where can I actually buy the PC version? I looked and I can't find any stores selling it. I found a few download pages, but I would assume you'd need a valid SNAK for the PC version as well, right?
Good luck finding it for sale. It's definitely not an easy thing to find, considering it was never released outside of Asia.

That said, for various reasons, the Sylverant site actually does have a way to generate SN/AK pairs for the PC version, so...

I see what you mean, since inventory space is so limited, but it would still be a nice feature even if it was limited. I imagine that if a single user registered two different consoles under the same account it should at least be possible to create a shared backup slot which could be restored to a different character on the same account. Then again, having gotten my MAG to level 200 I expect that it would be fairly easy to level a new character if I gave a 2nd character my inventory.

I wonder if it would be possible to use the SNAK to decrypt the VMU save on a PC as part of some offline save converter. Something like that, in particular, would likely be of significant use to people who used a shared SNAK and wants to go legit with a purchased copy and/or someone who might want to take their character onto another console. Although that hinges on their being a way to decrypt the save at all, and since it sounds like only PC and DC would qualify I guess that explains why no one bothered with it.
It'd almost assuredly be possible to write such a program if one tried hard enough. That said, I don't know that anyone's looked too terribly much into how the save files are encrypted in the first place to attempt it.

I see what you mean. And, if game balance is totally different, there would be a risk of introducing items from GC that are easier to obtain and giving them to DC accounts. Although, I wonder if it would ever be possible to modify the Dreamcast and PC version to bring all the versions in line with one another.
Sure, it'd be possible to rebalance things -- but probably an awful lot of work. Where you might run into more problems is in dealing with newly added items in the later versions.

The community does seem very friendly overall. I'm not seeing the kind of toxicity I typically see in online communities. Maybe it's because of how niche this has become? Playing this game essentially requires 20+ year old hardware or an impossible to find PC copy. It would be much easier for someone to troll a newer platform game.
Even 10 years ago, things were pretty dern peaceful on Sylverant. I'm sure the small community does have a lot to do with that, of course.

Elliander
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#19 » Thu Feb 03, 2022 12:12 pm

BlueCrab wrote:That said, for various reasons, the Sylverant site actually does have a way to generate SN/AK pairs for the PC version, so...


hmm. Buying is obviously my preference, but if it's not available for sale I wouldn't really consider it piracy. So what would be the process for setting that up? And how would offline backup of characters work?

Random thought: Would a Dreamcast SN/AK work on the PC version?

BlueCrab wrote:It'd almost assuredly be possible to write such a program if one tried hard enough. That said, I don't know that anyone's looked too terribly much into how the save files are encrypted in the first place to attempt it.


I'd actually be interested in taking a crash at that sometime, although the limit of my console development experience is XNA (Xbox 360). That was using C# and/or Visual Basic .NET, but usually I work on C++ if possible. I'll write in Java if I absolutely have to. Right now my time is limited because I'm technically a student, and right now I am working on a tool for custom Minecraft maps. My only experience when it comes to conversions is in regards to a MIPS compiler I once had to write, but I imagine that with the right resources figuring out how to crack a VMU file would be good to at least try. If such a tool could be created not only would it be possible to transfer a character from a public serial to a private serial, but it would also be possible to transfer between versions. For example, taking a Dreamcast save to PC and vice versa.

I'm aware that Dreamcast development tutorials exist, but would that be the place to start for figuring out the VMU's encryption? Or is there somewhere else I should look? Or would it be better to take a look at how the PC version encrypts the save assuming it does so at all?

EDIT: I found some Hitachi SH-4 manuals here: https://1drv.ms/u/s!ArrGQHt5Dxc663ljLgS ... B?e=lXDAw0
Looks like they use C and C++, which is great, although at a glance it doesn't seem very relevant to the VMU. I also found some tools related to the VMU here: https://www.deco.franken.de/myfiles/myfiles.html and it looks like that uses ASM (assembly) which I have experience in, but is architecture specific so is a pain to work in. But, at issue here is how the data is stored, not how the game file is written, which could be different. Even if I could figure that out I'd have to know how the game uses the SN and AK together to decrypt the save file, and for all I know it could also use data from the Dreamcast disc as well although that seems unlikely. Considering how fast loading and saving is though, if I had to guess, it's probably a simple cipher like letter substitution in which case you'd need to be able to read the VMU data and then figure out what kind of offset the SN/AK creates.

I was curious, so I took a look at my last save backup in a HEX editor. Each save, the character and the guild card, has both a VMI and VMS file. The VMI file is 1 kb each, while the VMS is 8 kb for the character and 15 kb for the guild card. Interestingly, the VMI contains mostly plain text readable by Notepad++ and, in fact, the hex values are nearly identical. The difference seems to be because the file name is different. Comparing two different characters there are only an additional 3 hex values that are different, but they are likewise the same between the character and guild card. I confirmed that by changing the file names and comparing. When comparing the files for two different characters with the same file name there are a total of 18 differences between the character's VMU file, where each character has a different name and a different SN/AK. Comparing the .VMI file, on the other hand, is probably where the real encryption is. Nothing is readable in plain text, although both files match after offset 00001970/OC where everything is set to zero. There's also a break on offset 00000270 for both files where everything is zero, and everything before that break appears to be exactly the same. This at least tells me that the encrption doesn't cover the entire save file, but it's still a fair amount of data that's completely different.

Comparing my last backup from level 26 to my backup from level 17 it looks like there are just as many differences, or so it appears at a glance, but then I noticed that there's a pattern of what stays the same. For example, the entry from 00001880/00 and 00001970/00 - literally, the first hex entry per line - is exactly the same. There has to be a reason why some things are the same and other things aren't.

For a proper check, I should create a two new characters using the same SN/AK on the same disc version to identify differences and see what happens if I edit each hex value to match the other to see what change that results in. Making two with the same as the first two might also be helpful. Once I map our what each of those hex values do I could then figure out what happens with specific differences in inventory and/or level. I would then need to create a new character on a new SN/AK repeating the steps as before. If I am lucky maybe only a few small things change between attempts and then maybe I can find a pattern. The math of that pattern might then be identified.

P.S. - I have no intention of exploiting what I figure out to cheat. I just want to understand how to convert characters so that it might someday be possible to recover my original characters from two decades ago.

BlueCrab wrote: Sure, it'd be possible to rebalance things -- but probably an awful lot of work. Where you might run into more problems is in dealing with newly added items in the later versions.


That's a fair point. If someone did put in the effort to put the later content on a modified Dreamcast disc (assuming the way zones and mobs are stored are the same, thus giving a reference point for file conversion as needed) you'd still have to contend with new items with potentially different gameplay mechanics. In that case you'd still have a balance issue of later consoles potentially having items that cannot be shared with older consoles meaning that to play together you'd need a way to either prevent them from being dropped/used in such sessions, or a way to prevent older consoles from picking up what would be a bugged item.

Personally, if I was going to put in the effort for such a thing, I'd be more interested in putting the effort into a tool to take a character between versions. In that case all you'd have to do is delete any items that are unavailable on the other platform. Or maybe have those items stored in a temp file to be put back into the save when converted back.

BlueCrab wrote: Even 10 years ago, things were pretty dern peaceful on Sylverant. I'm sure the small community does have a lot to do with that, of course.


Huh, I wonder why that is. Then again, now that I think about it, even other old MMOs from the Era such as Everquest and Final Fantasy 11 felt less toxic than the atmosphere in modern MMOs so maybe it has to do with the casual player mindset. Not that being a casual in and of itself makes one toxic, but there could still be a correlation somewhere in that.

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BlueCrab
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Re: A few PSO questions before getting online

Post#20 » Fri Feb 04, 2022 9:44 am

Elliander wrote:hmm. Buying is obviously my preference, but if it's not available for sale I wouldn't really consider it piracy. So what would be the process for setting that up? And how would offline backup of characters work?
There's an option on the manage guild cards page on the Sylverant website under the PSO for PC guild cards section to do so. That's pretty much it.

Offline backup is simple on the PC version, find the files on your hard drive and make a copy. They'll be somewhere in your C:\Users\[your PC username]\AppData directory (unless you run the game with administrator privileges or on an older version of Windows, then they'll be in C:\Program Files (x86)\SEGA\PhantasyStarOnline\Backup).

Random thought: Would a Dreamcast SN/AK work on the PC version?
Probably, but there's absolutely no point to doing so and it will not get the same guild card number as the Dreamcast copy on the server.

I'd actually be interested in taking a crash at that sometime, although the limit of my console development experience is XNA (Xbox 360). That was using C# and/or Visual Basic .NET, but usually I work on C++ if possible. I'll write in Java if I absolutely have to. Right now my time is limited because I'm technically a student, and right now I am working on a tool for custom Minecraft maps. My only experience when it comes to conversions is in regards to a MIPS compiler I once had to write, but I imagine that with the right resources figuring out how to crack a VMU file would be good to at least try. If such a tool could be created not only would it be possible to transfer a character from a public serial to a private serial, but it would also be possible to transfer between versions. For example, taking a Dreamcast save to PC and vice versa.

I'm aware that Dreamcast development tutorials exist, but would that be the place to start for figuring out the VMU's encryption? Or is there somewhere else I should look? Or would it be better to take a look at how the PC version encrypts the save assuming it does so at all?
Well, there's no encryption on the VMU itself -- you can literally copy the file off relatively easily with some homebrew programs. The problem is that the game encrypts the data that's stored in the VMU file. You'd have to figure out where in the code of the game the encryption/decryption is performed and figure out how it works. There's nothing here that actually requires you to write any code on the console itself, so you don't have to deal with setting up a Dreamcast dev environment or anything like that. However, it may quite possibly involve staring at disassembly of the game for hours on end, which is... never fun.

I was curious, so I took a look at my last save backup in a HEX editor. Each save, the character and the guild card, has both a VMI and VMS file. The VMI file is 1 kb each, while the VMS is 8 kb for the character and 15 kb for the guild card. Interestingly, the VMI contains mostly plain text readable by Notepad++ and, in fact, the hex values are nearly identical. The difference seems to be because the file name is different. Comparing two different characters there are only an additional 3 hex values that are different, but they are likewise the same between the character and guild card. I confirmed that by changing the file names and comparing. When comparing the files for two different characters with the same file name there are a total of 18 differences between the character's VMU file, where each character has a different name and a different SN/AK. Comparing the .VMI file, on the other hand, is probably where the real encryption is. Nothing is readable in plain text, although both files match after offset 00001970/OC where everything is set to zero. There's also a break on offset 00000270 for both files where everything is zero, and everything before that break appears to be exactly the same. This at least tells me that the encrption doesn't cover the entire save file, but it's still a fair amount of data that's completely different.

Comparing my last backup from level 26 to my backup from level 17 it looks like there are just as many differences, or so it appears at a glance, but then I noticed that there's a pattern of what stays the same. For example, the entry from 00001880/00 and 00001970/00 - literally, the first hex entry per line - is exactly the same. There has to be a reason why some things are the same and other things aren't.
The VMI file is useless for the most part, just ignore it (it's just metadata).

It wouldn't surprise me that most of the data is the same, as Sega pretty much just used simple stream encryption without any salting all over the place in the game. If that is the case here (which I always suspected was the case), the only things that would be different between two copies of the save file from the same character would indeed be the bytes that are different in the plaintext before encryption (give or take a few around them for the block size of the encryption cipher).

Huh, I wonder why that is. Then again, now that I think about it, even other old MMOs from the Era such as Everquest and Final Fantasy 11 felt less toxic than the atmosphere in modern MMOs so maybe it has to do with the casual player mindset. Not that being a casual in and of itself makes one toxic, but there could still be a correlation somewhere in that.
I think it just has a lot to do with the fact that most of us playing the games now are older and wiser... and not a bunch of teenagers anymore. ;) I assure you, PSO was pretty dern toxic, full of cheaters, pkers, etc. back in the day on Sega's servers (especially the US ones).

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