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Stars file decryption / decoding... where do we go from here? Sun, 27 April 2008 10:35 Go to previous message

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Past Weekly Puzzle Master

Messages: 114
Registered: September 2004
After a resounding 0 replies in 8 weeks in a closed Forum, I'm reposting this in a public forum in order to reach a wider audience and hopefully get some responses...:


Hi everyone,

well, after a long hiatus (for many reasons), I'm coming back to doing some programming stuff in my free time, and thus digging through my old projects.

As many here will probably be aware, I had worked out (by whatever means) how to decrypt all "real" Stars! files, and had after that gotten a long way through decoding the actual content of the various files. The vast majority of interesting stuff is known - there's still some amount of stuff (particularly in the M files) the meaning of which is unclear, in particular since the information extracted seems to me to be complete _without_ these data.

But that's not really the point of this post

While I think I'll probably take the code up and tinker with it a bit more, I suspect I won't really do all that much more on it on my own... if this stuff is to have a future, I think it needs to be released to some other people.

But... that's problematic. Obviously, if I release the code publically, everyone can use it and sticky-beak around in the stars! game files.

HST files -> these obviously have complete information on the game state. However, being able to read these strikes me as a lesser problem; on SAH only Ron has them, and even the host doens't usually have acces. Off of SAH, a playing host could examine the file... but the playing host has many other ways of cheating, so this harldy seems much of an issue either.

M files -> As long as only the designated player has access to the M file, there is not much problem here either. Stars! is quite good about only putting the information into the M file which the player is supposed to have. The only exception which comes to mind off hand is the MT - IIRC the MTs cargo is stored in the M file, even when the player has no way of knowing it.

H files -> harmless; these are compiled on the client, and only contain information which the player has anyway.

XY files -> also harmless. There are various decoders for this around already.

X files -> VERY BAD. Being able to _read_ the stars files also means being able to write them. And it's possible to write commands into the X file which can't be given using the normal client, and are definitely cheating (moving fleets vast distances in a single turn is one I remember how to do; I'm also fairly certain that it would be possible to produce almost arbitrary amounts of stuff in a single turn, etc etc).

Theoretically it would be possible to write filters for the M files which remove the sensitive information or (more simply) overwrite it with a default (eg: edit the M file so that each MT appears to be carrying the Super Cargo Pod, regardless of whether that's true or not). This would even be relatively easy.

Much harder, but still theoretically possible, would be to add a filter for incoming X files which checks them for plausability. However, it seems to me that this the effort to do this is close to that of writing a complete new stars! hosting program... Possibly the work in freestar! could be useful here?

So there you have it... comments? Thoughts? Suggestions on how to proceed?


Michael "Wumpus" Zinn
» Apply magic glue here «

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