InstantPlay Clones Come to the GMC’s Forefront

The growing popularity of InstantPlay clones, and the heated discussions surrounding them, has finally forced the GMC staff to take action. In the past few weeks a slew of InstantPlay-type plugins of wildly differing qualities have been promoted at the Game Maker Community. After several days of public fighting among rival developers and critics, longtime GMC mod KC LC hid all of the plugin topics and created a single topic with a notice explaining why they were removed and that the staff was discussing the issue internally. She said the reasons were “a general concern about security issues, errors, and the growing flame war among supporters.”

The worst offender in security issues, Revel Quick Play, had several proposed and working exploits demonstrated. The creator, Revel, seemed to largely ignore concerns and kept posting buggy new versions. Several members besides the Author (including Smarty and NakedPaulToast) called him out in this issue. Revel did not address the issues. This, along with other problems, prompted another member, Caniac, to declare that he would create his own rival plugin following the same flawed protocol handler model (despite much better existing alternatives). His solution never materialized, despite large amounts of promotion pre hoc.

After KC LC hid the topics and announced that a policy was being decided upon, an extremely vocal debate ensued in the topic between various plugin developers, critics, and members of the community at large. While there was near-universal agreement that a competitor to YYG’s InstantPlay was needed, many members expressed strong concerns about security. The general consensus among consumers was that they did not want a ‘collect-them-all’ approach with dozens of plugins. They wanted a simple plugin that would work outside of YoyoGame’s own website. As the topic degenerated into a large-scale flamewar, KC LC hid that topic as well and created another notification post today, this time in a pre-closed topic.

The staff have not yet published their official decision.

KC LC on Topic Closing

KC LC, a global moderator of the Game Maker Community forums has expressed her opinion on users who request that their topics be closed.

As she rightfully points out, closing a legitimate topic serves little to no purpose. There is every chance another user will come a long in the future and have a similar question or problem. It makes much more sense for such a user to refer to the original topic and post a follow-up question if necessary than to post an entirely new topic and have two separate discussions on the same subject.

What has become even more of a problem in recent months is the number of users who completely erase their topic post and replace it with something to the effect of ‘solved, please close’ when they feel the discussion has come to an end or a solution has been brought to the table. This is worst thing a topic poster can do because it makes it nearly impossible for anyone else to refer back to the topic to solve a similar problem or for users to contribute more ideas or better solutions to the problem at hand.

So why do people erase their topics and replace it with ‘please close’? Some may feel it is simply a need to have closure, a need to feel that your topic has reached its goal and accomplished something. Personally, I think it may also have to do with being self-conscious. This is only speculative, but perhaps some users feel embarrassed about asking questions with simple or obvious answers, or somehow feel responsible for the discussion in the topic if it suddenly goes awry.

In any case this is a request to all GMC users out there: please stop requesting that your topics be closed, and do not post in another topic to say it should be closed (especially if it is an old topic). The moderators can decide on their own if a topic has run its course or if there is room for more discussion. You should only need to report topics which clearly do not follow the forum rules.

Thoughts?

23k Games, 200+ Staff’s Choice

The YYG team announced earlier today that they recently had their 23,000th game posted on the website:

As of today there are 23,000 completed games on the YoYo Games website (not counting the beta games and work in progress).  On average it takes about 3 weeks for 1,000 new games to appear, meaning that we get on average about 50 new completed games per day.

The quality of those games notwithstanding, I want to turn attention to the amount of staff’s choice games listed on the YYG website.

I had lamented earlier about the flood of “staff’s choice” games populating YYG:

The staff’s pick on YYG is a joke – almost 200 games, and the YYG site has been around for a little over a year? That’s what, one staff’s pick every two days?

Compared to the now-defunct staff’s choice section at the GMC, there were about 20 times as many games on YYG, all selected within a quarter of the time.  Obviously, the games at the GMC were selected with a great amount of care, and each was accompanied by a few paragraphs of review.  The staff’s choice on YYG, on the other hand, does not have a staff review for each game (or at least one that is readily viewable).

Currently, there are 224 staff’s choice games listed on the YYG website, an increase of only about 30 more games since I posted my complaint earlier, nearly 5 months ago.  This is an average of one staff’s choice every 5 days, a number that is a bit more reasonable.  Might that thread have influenced YYG’s staff selections?

Probably not, but perhaps in the future a system that shows a little more care and discernment in game selection would be put in place.

GMC Malware Attack

It’s not often that there is headline news for GM, but this story is unlikely to go down unnoticed.

According to several users on the GMC (which we will not link to for reasons explained below), a malicious piece of code has been embedded in the forum software code. The code, which allegedly creates an iframe that secretly loads a malicious website and downloads a virus is said to be found in every forum topic.

Until there are further developments on this story, we recommend that you DO NOT visit the GMC.

According to one user, Google Chrome warns users prior to visiting any GMC page to say that the site contains malicious code with a recommendation of not continuing. Internet Explorer on the other hand seems to be most affected by the attack (not surprisingly).

According to Phil Gamble on the Game Maker Blog, it may be possible that the forum code was altered by the use of a technique called ‘MySQL injection’ whereby a hacker finds a vulnerability in the website which allows him or her to modify or add new code directly into the forum’s database without needing Administration access to the whole forum itself.

KC, a moderator of the GMC, was quick to say users shouldn’t be too worried despite all the virus warning pop-ups users have reported. “yourtraff.biz [the malicious website] has been listed as a malware site before. It’s probably being generated by one of the advertisers on YYG. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” Nevertheless, we recommend taking all pre-cautions necessary to ensure your computer’s safety.

Update: Thanks to NakedPaulToast, it appears the security flaw in the forum software that may have allowed this attack to occur has been identified, click here for more details. According to the website, a patch has been available

Update: One user warns that the virus is also affecting Firefox users, and that he/she received a warning from their anti-virus software to say a virus named “HTML:IFrame-BL [Trj]” had been detected.

Update: Screenshots from users:
Using Google Chrome from Jangos_Legacy
Using Internet Explorer & AVG from Jangos_Legacyo
Using Firefox & Google Toolbar from Revel

Update: For those who want to keep up to date with what’s happening, click here for the GMC virus topic in low-fi mode, this will allow you to view the topic without putting your computer at risk (at least for now).

Update: Internet Explorer users are reporting that the GMC is now asking to install an ActiveX control called “Microsoft works imaging server” from an unverified publisher. There is also a report that the website is automatically running Microsoft Outlook

Update: The Game Maker blog has been updated to confirm that the security vulnerability on the GMC still exists and the iframe is now loading different malicious websites to those from before. Until now, there hasn’t been any signs of major virus damage as the result of visiting the website, however if the URL continues to change, it’s probably only a matter of time before it forces dangerous executables to run on the end-users computer.

Update: Mark overmars is now reading the Virus and Malware releated topics on the GMC forum. As an administrator he has more control over the forum than other users and can choose to close the forum until it is safe for users to come back. It is unknown however if he has the server-side access required to patch the forum software to fix the security vulnerability.

Update: The GMC is reportedly now asking users to run and download various Java applets and Active-X controls which are damaging to your computer. Most of them say they are from “Microsoft” but the source is in fact from an unverified/unsigned publisher trying to mask itself under the company’s name.

Update: It appears things are just getting worse. As the end of the day closes (in North America), any attempt to access the GMC in Firefox is denied with a “Reported Attack Site!” message. Previously, this only happened to users who also had Google’s Firefox toolbar extension installed.

Update: The GMC has now been given the all clear by forum administrator chronic. It’s expected to take a couple of days before the google/firefox warnings clear – From my iPhone.

G-Wiki – GMC Stats

The YoYo Games glog has been updated again, this time with a post from Mark Overmars. The post informs users of a change in the wiki engine used on the YoYo Games site, and encourages everyone to help contribute and make the wiki a great resource for Game Maker users.

There was also mention of a ‘bug’ that was fixed that prevented multiple games being uploaded in a single day. Before now this would result in games getting stuck in a virus scanning queue that never got completed.

It’s been a while since we’ve updated you guys with the latest GMC stats.

There are now almost 1.8 Million individual posts on the board.
The board has nearly 70,000 members now to make those 1.8 Million posts.
The user with the most posts is ragarnak, who’s made 13, 425 different posts.
50 percent of those 13,425 posts are in the Novice Q&A forum
poetkathi, a global moderator, has been the least active recently with the last activity being on February 9.
Both
Rithiur and Shaltif moderate 12 forums, more than any other local moderator.

And quite amazingly, there are over 65 new users who register each day on the GMC on average!

YYG Help Desk

On the 20th of June this year, I sent a support ticket into the YoYo Games help desk. I labelled it URGENT priority. The ‘support’ ticket was actually concerning the Firefox Instant Play plug-in and its incompatibility with version 3 of the browser. Included in the support tick I attached a modified version of the plug-in that was compatible with the browser.

Until today I have not heard a word from the support staff, and figured my support to them was falling on deaf ears. But surprisingly I got an e-mail today from the support desk, almost two months later to say this:

Hi Benjamin

Apologies for not contacting you sooner – there i now an official fix as you are already probably aware of.

Regards,
YoYo Admin

So while I am disappointed with the service I received and the ridiculous response time (especially for something marked URGENT); I will give them credit for eventually reading and responding to my support ticket. At least this is a step in the right direction, until now I had no hope for ever getting a response from the desk, no matter how large or important the problem was.

In other news, the GMC staff have announced that the Tutorials & Examples forum will be closed down for an undetermined period of time for reorganization purposes. It is expected to be back up ‘soon’, users are being told to hold their submissions until the forum re-opens.

GMC Extension 2.7 Release

Version 2.7 of the popular GMC Extension has been released today. Many of you associate the browser add-on with Karma, a system that allows users to add or remove ‘karma’ points for posts on the GMC forum.

Some of the new features we have included are:
– PM Archiving
– Forum Skins/Themes
– Firefox 3.0.1+ compatibility

Although archiving and skins were available previously, since the GMC had it’s major overhaul a lot of work had to be put in to restore these features. We are also planning on releasing some new features in the coming weeks.

The browser extension can be downloaded here!
It can also be updated using Firefox’s built-in ‘Find Updates’ feature.

If you have any problems, please refer to the support forum.

Special thanks to GMC Extension’s project manager and programmer, ari_aaron and the rest of the beta testing team.