Obfuscating Code

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Touchfuzzy

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A couple of weeks back, I temporarily personally banned discussion on the topic of obfuscation of code, specifically in regards to the VisuStella Plugins.

The reason for this ban was that every discussion thread on the topic was turning into flame wars. We even tried to funnel it all into one thread to control it, but that failed, too.

We are going to reopen the discussion on the subject, but also, there are a few rules that need to be observed, and this applies to all sides:
  • No insults
  • No assigning motives to people on the other side.
  • No spreading conspiracy theories.
  • No 1 sentence posts to make a pithy "take that".
Hopefully, this will help us have the discussion like adults.

On the subject of conspiracy theories, let me personally address some of the ones I've heard:
  • "VisuStella is paid by Degica." Nope.
  • "VisuStella is endorsed by Degica." Again, nope. I personally like VisuStella, but as I said on my official stream: Every decision I make about my game is personal choice, and not based on requirements from Degica. If it was, I'd probably be using MZ tileset and not MV/MV Trinity. Degica as a whole probably doesn't even know VisuStella exists.
  • "VisuStella obfuscated code was required/suggested by Degica." Why would we? I mean, unobfuscated code would be better for us personally.
  • "VisuStella could be stealing data! We can't tell what is in the code!" I mean, you don't have the code to the RM Editor either... and I'm sure 99% of the things you run on your computer you don't have access to the source code. Not only that, but you can easily check if a program is connecting with the internet even without the source code.
  • "VisuStella got a huge head start." They did not receive access to MZ code until the JP Sample games came out. At that point, everyone had access, and many other plugin devs had also started making plugins.
 
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Muk adel heid

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I was thinking of: "VisuStella could be stealing data! We can't tell what is in the code¡"
But instead of "stealing data" I would put "stealing code/js from others" We will never know.

I THINK we should support the lesser-known programmers on the scene.
There are quite a few and very good ones.
 

Touchfuzzy

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I was thinking of: "VisuStella could be stealing data! We can't tell what is in the code¡"
But instead of "stealing data" I would put "stealing code/js from others" We will never know.

I THINK we should support the lesser-known programmers on the scene.
There are quite a few and very good ones.
VisuStella is run by people who have incredibly long histories in the community, they did not come from nowhere, and have a long history of being very vigilant against code and resource theft, even outside of their own code/resources. Spreading the conspiracy that they could be stealing people's code without even a whiff of proof is libel.

And I was specifically addressing a conspiracy theory that was pushed to me yesterday that VisuStella could be stealing people's personal data. Which was also, equally absurd.

As for supporting lesser known plugin creators: It is up to each individual RM Dev to support who they feel deserves it and who makes tools that are useful for their games. VisuStella is getting support because they are creating a lot of things that people are using. And being a trusted name (and also being connected to a trusted name like Yanfly) of course helps, but the truth is, Yanfly was also just another lesser known plugin creator at one point, and the way he got to being a trusted name is by creating things people want.

Also, it isn't a zero sum game. This idea that supporting VisuStella is equivalent to NOT supporting lesser known plugin creators is an attitude I'm also a bit tired of.
 

Trihan

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I was thinking of: "VisuStella could be stealing data! We can't tell what is in the code¡"
But instead of "stealing data" I would put "stealing code/js from others" We will never know.

I THINK we should support the lesser-known programmers on the scene.
There are quite a few and very good ones.
Why would any of us have even had a reason for this? For the most part, we were porting Yanfly's code, so that was the only reference we needed. And for anything that wasn't already there from a previous plugin, we're all accomplished developers in our own right.
 

Dalph

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Seriously people, just drop it with the conspiracy theories, the drama trains, the entitlement to have free stuff, the bad trolling, the toxicity, the dirt thrown at Yanfly and Visustella, the unnecessary hate for MZ, and the overall stupidity in general.

What is going on here?
This place is not Reddit.
 

LTN Games

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"VisuStella is endorsed by Degica." Again, nope. I personally like VisuStella, but as I said on my official stream: Every decision I make about my game is personal choice, and not based on
For a team not endorsed by Degica they sure get a lot of announcement threads by this forum. So, maybe not officially endorsed but let's be real, they have serious connections and relationships with Degica. Archeia being a mod here, a community manager for Degica, and a part of the Visutstella team is a giant conflict alone, lets not forget that almost every thread opened about VisuStella and obfuscated code had been closed by Archeia. I'm not saying they aren't using a balanced head when making decisions but there is absolutely no way to be 100% sure there is no bias when those decisions are made, and that is just a fact, I'm not assigning motives as you put it, I'm simply sharing what I have observed so far. Heck, you could go ahead and ban Archeia from locking heated VisuStella threads but even still we can't trust they aren't talking to their best of friends in the community who are also mods and asking them to reply and lock topics.

"VisuStella got a huge head start."
They made videos using the MZ editor a week before MZ was released, no one else had an editor to use. Now it was absolutely possible to write plugins for MZ using MV editor and MZ codebase but Degica never made an announcement telling all plugin devs that they're allowed to unpack the samples and open it in MV's editor and for it not be against terms of service. I personally never noticed anything but I'm also not here every single day to read every announcement.

Now with that said, you say they never had an early copy but they clearly had the MZ editor for videos that were made weeks before the release of MZ. How can we be 100% they never used their early copies to make plugins?. Again we have to go on the word of a company that is already looking a little shady in my eyes.

As for my opinion on obfuscated code, If you made unity plugins with obfuscated code, you'd probably never make money, but that is because that is how that market turned out. For RM, I say go for it, the next few months will determine the plugin market and whether or not obfuscated code will make it through to the end. But, if the discussions I hear in the RM scene between plugin developers right now is any indication, then the plugin market is going to be absolutely astonishing this time around and obfuscated code will most likely be exclusive to VisuStella.
 

Raizen

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RPG Maker plugin devs are required to use the core code to make plugins by editting them.
Plugins are parts of RPG Maker codes mixed with yours.
You obfuscate "your" code, since it will also take part of the RPG Maker code you used.
We can't anymore help others that have compatibility issues, because that part of the code is gone.

Do not compare obfuscating codes with APIs and libraries like it is said here
"VisuStella could be stealing data! We can't tell what is in the code!" I mean, you don't have the code to the RM Editor either... and I'm sure 99% of the things you run on your computer you don't have access to the source code.
2 completely different things.

Anyway, its very simple, want to know the issue? Well it started already:



See, the one using the plugin just goes: its like "oh compatibility?"... Okay now I have to take a choice or try to go into bureacracy of trying to find someone from Visu team to fix it, or I just give up on one of the plugins. That specific member didn't even try the old... Well is there a way to fix it? He just gave up on one of them.


Anyway, you do as you wish, I do it for the community, my code will never be obfuscated ever. If anyone is willing to steal it from me because of that, do it, I will make the next one 10x better.
 

Touchfuzzy

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@Dalph let's knock off the calling people entitled, that was another thing I wanted to tone down on. The less we throw insults, the less likely we are to have this continue to escalate.

Also, I'm somehow unsurprised that making a thread saying "Hey let's not have conspiracy threads" has a new conspiracy thrown into the second post.

@LTN Games Archeia doesn't work as a community manager for RPG Maker, I do. Her job is in a different part of production. Also, those threads were all closed for the same reasons that I talked about in the opening post: They turned into flame wars or they were sharing ways to deobfuscate the code (which is also against the rules), and we were trying to funnel all the discussion into one thread. And that was MY decision, not hers.

And yes, they had access to the editor the same week the JP sample games came out, but so did a LOT of JP plugin devs, and they had access WAY earlier. Ever wonder how 60+ plugins by a variety of JP devs outside of KDKW came with the engine?

VS was sent review copies at the same time reviewers were sent review copies. If other plugin creators requested review copies, then they weren't sent through the official channels, because I never saw them.

Also, and this is just frustrating to me: Are we just no longer ever allowed to have friends in the community? Am I personally never allowed to have friends here?

Because that is literally the only chance you have of me never ever moderating something that a friend was involved in.

I've been part of the community for like, 10+ years, have been using RPG Maker for 20+. Of course I have friends in the community. I have a LOT of them. But these accusations that there is foul play because of it just is tiring.
 

Raizen

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VS was sent review copies at the same time reviewers were sent review copies. If other plugin creators requested review copies, then they weren't sent through the official channels, because I never saw them.
Oh... not you touched a point....
I requested, I was answered that no one was getting it beforehand except the JPN testing team. I said I was a plugin dev, it was even to Archeia, she told me to see that FAQ she created 10 min later.
 

OcRam

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It will be a lot harder to make compatibility patches for obfuscated -plugins - That is a fact no matter what.

I totally understand why Visu-team wants to protect their code base and know-how. I have seen some cases where even my code had been stolen - can't even imagine how much code stealing Yanfly has seen...

But at the same time I think they are abusing (unintentionally hopefully) their monopoly position in RPG Maker community... I mean almost every one used Yanfly -plugins. Small plugin makers are automatically out if their plugins are not compatible with Visu -plugins.

If thief wants the code - this kind of obfuscation/minification is just one layer that can be fairly easily penetrated. I've already de-obfuscated successfully some of Visu plugins for testing purposes.

Obfuscating won't stop thief, but it will stop small plugin makers to make their plugins compatible with Visu -plugins. And I think this obfuscation/minification has more cons than pros in general, but that is just my opinion...
 

Touchfuzzy

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Oh... not you touched a point....
I requested, I was answered that no one was getting it beforehand except the JPN testing team. I said I was a plugin dev, it was even to Archeia, she told me to see that FAQ she created 10 min later.
This does suck. There is a reason that I said that any review requests from plugin creators didn't go through official channels, because I know that there were a couple that got sent to Archeia directly that I didn't know about, and there were some issues behind the scenes that led to other miscommunications involving them. Archeia should have told anyone requesting review keys to email us directly to be added to the review request list, but she didn't know that that was being compiled, and that is a fault on our part in not communicating it clearly internally.

In general review keys are handled through email, not through requesting it to me or Archeia directly on forums/twitter/discord/etc. Even if someone asks me there I tell them to email us. It's so we have a clear record of requests.

The entire launch was incredibly busy and a few things didn't go as well as we would have wanted. But it wasn't malice and it wasn't a conspiracy, it was an unfortunate error.
 

LTN Games

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@Touchfuzzy so here I am back to square one which is trusting your word and VisuStella's word. How do I know Archeia is not more involved in Degica? How can we know that the decisions being made are not biased?

Are we just no longer ever allowed to have friends in the community? Am I personally never allowed to have friends here?
Of course you can make friends but the moment you and your friends decide to start making money from a product that you have direct relations and inside knowledge of is considered a conflict of interest and should have been remedied. Archeia works for Degica, and VisuStella, that is a conflict that should be remedied if you want people like me to trust the business. If not, I don't care, I'm not telling anyone they should do anything, I'm once again simply stating my observations. If my observations are bothering you, then maybe you should take a deeper look into that.

And yes, they had access to the editor the same week the JP sample games came out, but so did a LOT of JP plugin devs, and they had access WAY earlier. Ever wonder how 60+ plugins by a variety of JP devs outside of KDKW came with the engine?
Now suddenly they had the editor the same week the sample games were released? I thought they never had an advantage at all? So small pluign devs had the sample games that had to be unpacked and imported into MV's editor(with no indication it was allowed) but VisuStella has the MZ editor to make their plugins, deploy, make videos with, etc. That is considered an advantage imo. Again, I personally don't care, I'm just letting you know how it looks and how it is being perceived by many people in the community.


Archeia should have told anyone requesting review keys to email us directly to be added to the review request list, but she didn't know that that was being compiled, and that is a fault on our part in not communicating it clearly internally.
This brings me back to that whole trust thing, how do we know 100% Archeia never knew to do this and simply did not so that VisuStella had an advantage over all other plugin devs? We don't, and we never will until something is done about the blatant conflict of interest in Degica but I don't even think that has a remedy. The best VisuStella can do is keep pumping out plugins and hope people like me forget how shady everything looks as an observer.
 

Arcmagik

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@LTN Games

Did you literally cherry-pick your quotes to make a self-righteous response that had no basis in reality? I am genuine wondering here because your quotes and responses ignore information the was presented.

  • It doesn't matter whether or not the VisuStella team is connected to Degico or not. There are thousands of companies throughout the world that are connected to each other though official and unofficial ways. I work for a company in the US with a parent company in Japan that sends a Japanese executive to be our VP every four years and we have to send our sales and financial data to them for approval every year, but legally we are not a subsidiary. We are our own company with no legal ties to them.
  • Additionally, this forums makes announcements for a ton of other products, just because the VisuStella team is putting out more sample games and plugins than anyone else has them in these announcements more often than not.
  • The RPG Maker Community is by far the most entitled community I have ever observed... but that doesn't make it a fact. Nothing you observed makes for facts.
  • Touchfuzzy already said that VisuStella didn't have access to the MZ code until the Japanese Sample game was released. Which was before MZ was released. Which would explain why they were making videos on it before it was release. Additionally, just because you or someone else didn't read or understand the terms of what you could or couldn't do is not the VisuStella's teams responsibility.
  • And I can't stress this enough... It doesn't matter whether they had early access to the code or not. Companies give early access to people that can help improve or push a product all the time. If it happened to happen in the case of VisuStella than it is because an agreement was reached between the two companies. If an agreement was not reached and VisuStella somehow still managed to get early access than there would be legal ramifications that Degica would have to deal with. Not some random person on the internet.
@Muk adel heid
  • You do realize that there are several lesser known names on the VisuStella team, right?
 

Jaiden

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For a community that constantly cries foul at the Yanfly Engine's supposed "reign" over all other plugins, the concerns surrounding obfuscation of the Visustella Engine plugins are a prime opportunity for these plugin developers to rise up and produce results. Create your own library of plugins that is completely unobfuscated. All of those who are against obfuscation will use it.

And yet, instead, I see folks on here arguing against obfuscation instead. It makes me wonder if the motive really was to produce good plugins for game developers to use after all?

It's exhausting to see this argument go round and round. As a game developer, it is entirely in your power to choose what plugins you use or develop your own plugins. As a plugin developer, it is entirely in your power to produce your own collection of plugins. No one is stopping you.

I've never quite seen anything like this, the past two weeks. Time and time again the VisuStella team has tried to keep to themselves and just produce good work. Instead I've personally seen them waste hours and hours of time that they could have used to develop plugins, fix bugs, and provide support to try and defuse these petty arguments on the forums, Reddit, Discord and Twitter against a decision that was 100% in their own right to make. It's disappointing, really.

And not to mention, the blatant disrespect for those plugin developers who have worked equally as hard as the VisuStella team getting shoved onto the sidelines while you folks continue to act like this is the only option. Even Yanfly himself has spoken highly of developers like Himeworks, Victor Sant, Fomar, Moghunter, etc. I cannot imagine how it feels, being one of those developers, to answer the question you people have posed, only to be dismissed as if they don't even exist.

Maybe if you all took half the energy you had complaining and debating the VisuStella team and put it into supporting other plugin developers, we'd have a more positive creative environment for everyone to grow.
 

Touchfuzzy

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@LTN Games Here is the thing though, you want to go on and on about how shady it is, but do you not think it is a bit shady how many of the people who are complaining about VS are also plugin creators, including yourself? And how many of them complained about Yanfly even before the release of the VS plugins and obfuscated code? You know, people who would benefit from VS becoming less popular?

We can all spin conspiracy theories. It doesn't make them true.
 

bgillisp

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Maybe if you all took half the energy you had complaining and debating the VisuStella team and put it into supporting other plugin developers, we'd have a more positive creative environment for everyone to grow.
Agreed. If some had spent even half of this time making your game instead of debating this round and round all day you'd probably have some really good games made already. MZ has been out for 2 weeks now, you could have used that time to be 2 weeks into an online programming course so you'd know how to make your own plug-ins instead too.

Also all of this constant attacking I've seen over the past two weeks has made me decide that if I ever make an MZ plug-in, it is staying private. If everyone keeps this up, I wonder how many others will just say NOPE and not release their stuff at all to the community. Most of us got better things to do with our time than deal with this attitude that we are seeing recently.
 

Touchfuzzy

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Also all of this constant attacking I've seen over the past two weeks has made me decide that if I ever make an MZ plug-in, it is staying private. If everyone keeps this up, I wonder how many others will just say NOPE and not release their stuff at all to the community. Most of us got better things to do with our time than deal with this attitude that we are seeing recently.
This is honestly the thing I fear the most. That the resource creators, both plugin and graphic/music/etc, will eventually dry up because people continue to be driven off.

It's happened with quite a few creators in the past, and the attitudes by the forum towards resource creators seems to have gotten more and more toxic since I joined the community forever ago.
 

The Stranger

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Well, the community has grown a fair bit since then. We have a lot of people who are totally new to this sort of environment. There are places out there that really don't care about courtesy; they also exist in real life. Had to deal with people treating me like dirt when I worked at Blockbuster. lol.

I think the recent changes (blogs from members, game videos, a new ReStaff, etc), the greater focus on community, is a positive thing for nurturing that community spirit. Without it, this becomes nothing more than a business support forum, and such places are rarely friendly.
 

Astrea

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I don't have a lot of connection to the community here, but I'm actually starting a project now, and here was my thought process:

YEP was /the/ plugin library for MV, bar none. It was incredibly versatile and had a ton of community based expansions to it. If you needed to do something in MV, you went to YEP. It was free it was accessable, and it was great.

MZ does not have YEP, but VisuStella is closely related to it, so it is to be assumed that any feelings that remain about YEP are going to bleed into that a bit. However, the overall "attitude" of the VS library is a lot different from YEP, IMO. The team seems more like they want to develop a sort of "walled garden" system rather than something open. This isn't a bad thing, it just is how it is.

As a developer, though, this is kind of useless for me. If I commit to using VisuStella, I'm not going to be able to make low-level modifications or use it's functions in order to suit my game, and VS doesn't have all the functionality I need it to have. This isn't a bad part on the VS team, but it is a consideration that I have to make.

TL;DR: IMO: Closed-Sourced plugins can introduce a lot of limitations that the end user isn't able to diagnose and repair on their own. It bogs down the development process and makes it a less optimal choice over open-source plugins/making your own thing.
Ultimately, the VS team hasn't done anything wrong, but I don't see their plugin base as a good of a tool that its predecessor was.
 
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