Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Want to start a Data Haven?

By schwardo in Technology
Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 04:02:26 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Have you ever read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon?

Are you running a server farm out of your bedroom closet and wishing you could think of something to do with it?

Do you obsess over computer security, asymetric-key cryptography, digital cash, or the future of freedom in the information age?

In short, do you wish you could buy an island, recruit a few techies like yourself, start your own Data Haven, and single-handedly change the world?

Okay, so it's not very likely that you will ever be able to do that. It's not that you don't have the knowledge, or even the ambition. In fact, money is probably the only thing stopping you.

So... what if there was a game, written exclusively for geeks like you, that provided a realistic simulation of computers, networks, and all of the other factors involved in running a data haven (or an ISP, or virtually anything else).

This simulation would include physical factors, such as the layout of the island and blueprints of the buildings (including structural aspects, wiring, floorplans, the position of computer equipment, etc.). However, it would also include the structure of computer networks and what services (e.g. SMTP, HTTP, etc.) are running on each host. You would need to buy bandwidth from various sources (traditional underwater data pipes, satellite communication services, and microwave communication from surrounding islands), and generate your own power.

The game would give you full flexibility to do only the things that you are interested in (layout of buildings, architecture, wiring, networking, choosing software and services, security, etc.). You could focus on the physical defences of your island, build up an army, and protect hard currency and valuables for clients. You could also concentrate on the security of your computers and store confidential data for clients. Or, you could create and distribute your own digital currency and acquire gold to back it up, or provide colocation services for the latest controversial technology (remember when Napster considered this?)

The game would be in the style of SimCity, but there would be two separate maps in this game. One would be the physical layout of the island, where you can build structures, receive and place parts, connect equipment, etc. The other layout is a virtual one made up of hosts, ports, subnets, software, etc.

Each player would have their own island, but could be connected together over the Internet to allow simulated hacking into other havens and strategic alliances between players. In addition, you could write programs (in a simple macro language or something like Ruby or Python) to automate tasks in the computer world. You could also train "employees" to perform tasks in the physical world (via a trained neural-network-like behavior, or the same macro/scripting feature... not sure which).

The simulator would also have other uses beyond the data haven game. Fledgeling ISPs could use it to plan out their strategies before committing to a floorplan or hardware decisions. High-school or early college networking courses could use it to keep students interested. Obviously it's impossible for this to be 100% accurate (or probably even 50%), but it wouldn't take much to make a fun game and a useful tool.

Anyway, I think that's all of the ideas I've had so far. If this sparks any other ideas for you, leave a comment. If you're interested in using or working on a project like this, please vote to let me know.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What do you think of this idea?
o Where do I sign up? I need to be a part of this! 12%
o This is a great idea. I might even consider helping in some way. 23%
o I'd love to play a game based on this idea. 28%
o Nice idea but I don't care about it. 9%
o Well, it's an interesting idea but it sounds like a waste of time. 13%
o What a dumb idea. 12%

Votes: 142
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by schwardo

Display: Sort:
Want to start a Data Haven? | 39 comments (33 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Sure. (4.33 / 3) (#1)
by xriso on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 07:41:20 PM EST

But don't call it a game. People won't take it seriously as a simulation then.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
good point (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by schwardo on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 07:52:06 PM EST

I'd argue that this particular line has already been blurred by recent games. However, you raise a good point that I'm not sure where on that particular line this project lies. A decision would need to be made at some point whether entertainment value is more important than educational value and/or realism. However, I'm not making that decision just yet.

[ Parent ]
yes, but (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by tenpo on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 09:19:22 PM EST

You should be careful about making it too realistic. While i'm sure that many network engineers enjoy their work it's not so great that you want to go home and keep on going.

[ Parent ]
I'd play it (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by whojgalt on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 07:49:26 PM EST

just for educational purposes. Assuming it is fairly accurate, it would be a fun way to learn some of that stuff that I really should know, but have never found the time nor the overwhelming need for.

If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.

Sim Network!!!!!!!! 0 - I really don't care! (3.83 / 6) (#4)
by nobby on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 08:01:12 PM EST

Would it acuratly simulate printer problems for me to fix? wow!
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
GIVE ME NOW (4.00 / 5) (#5)
by inerte on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 08:05:16 PM EST

I am a big fan of simulation games. Sim City is a gift from Gods.

I would like to give you a few tips, suggestions, or plain 'What-I-want' ideas.

First of all, something like Black and White behavior alignment. Sure, run a data center is awesome. But I would like that my trade and my services be interpreted and fall into somekind of pre-defined categories, or plain AI knows who you are.

For example if I sell processing power to the Japanese mob, I would be a sinister evil type of player (AKA in this area as BOFH ;-). Other criminals would approach me. Good guys would have to chase me.

Also, I enjoyed your idea of two separated maps. The physical and the virtual. Bricks and Matrix. Something along the line of Cyperpunk virtual world, where hackers thrown ICE to burn brains. I am not so sure about the 'you-code-your-app' aspect though. Seems like a harder learning curve to walk by.

Probaly what will happen is that those who know how to code will be much more powerful. That's unfair for other players, the majority would not appreciate getting beat by 12 years old scripting kiddies. The real hackers would probaly share their work. Or not, what would create an army of super players.

Perhaps if they could be allowed to sell/trade these programs.

Also, if you plan to make somekind of MMORPG part, please let people have infinite 'temporary' accounts. It's well known that a lot of system breaks don't happen with brute force. Sometimes you know a personal fact about a person and try to make a lucky guess on their password.

So, somekind of chat area, lounge for players, to get to know others, would be cool. But the problem is that in a system where you know who someone is, you would advise everybody else to not get in touch with the login 'username123'.

The temp accounts would resolve this. 'username123' now can enter with other name and ask the questions he need to break in.

Also, players groups. If you are going to somewhat emulate current software/hardware options, or just tell 'Install Windows on a Pentium 4', I know some people would like to be part of the 'Linux on AMD' crowd. Like a gang, a cybergang. A group.

Whetever the final outcome is, CALL ME FOR BETA TEST. Thank you.


Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

Games with similar themes (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by tenpo on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 09:16:39 PM EST

There are a couple of games that i know of that run along similar lines to this. One is Decker. You play a hacker who specialises in hacking into corporate computer systems. Obviously it's not a sim-type game since its focal point is a single character/hero. Another is the role-playing game Shadowrun. It's kind of a hybrid William Gibsonesque world with magic and mythic creatures thrown in. Stealing data via the matrix plays a large part in it so it might be worth checking out for more ideas on rules and systems for resolving conflicts in the game.

Put me down on the beta testing list too! Anything for a good bit of beta testing! Maybe you should start a list in your diary where people can volunteer help.

[ Parent ]
Also worth noting (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by inerte on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 09:32:37 PM EST

Cyberpunk 2020 and the Gurps extension called... Cyberpunk.

2020 is the best of them all. I have played Shadowrun but with 2020 you get the feeling you are in a underground dangerous situation where your life depends on a micro string attached to somekind of eletronic implant.

It's kind more fast paced, imho.

Also, Shadowrun exists for video games, Megadrive (or Genesis) and SNES (or Super Famicon). Both are great.

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
[ Parent ]

Shadowrun players (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Ranieri on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 04:42:14 AM EST

joke among themselves that CP2020 players are all psychotic and will kill or maim all the NPCs they run across.

In my (brief) experience as a CP2020 player i think i can say they are right. The setting encourages rampant paranoia, kill or be killed. Bartenders and patrons are no exception.

If you enjoy a dark style of play, often beyond the edge of legality and morality, then by all means try out 2020. If however you feel more comfortable around elves, shamans and nature spirits, then i suggest you stay with Shadowrun :)
"Look, Hoagie, it's a hamster! Just what I need for dissection lab tomorrow!"
[ Parent ]

I can't wait for the TV series (3.20 / 5) (#6)
by sisyphus on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 08:16:58 PM EST

Where a bunch of geeks crowding a computer screen laugh out load over ascii prOn, DDos attacks and a trolling session at /.Yeah gotta vote this up.

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

SimNetwork (4.25 / 4) (#9)
by n8f8 on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 08:47:29 PM EST

Its already been proven as an fun, effective way to learn history and building communities. Why not something more practical -networks? Sure would be a lot more interresting than reading brain-numbing manuals. More importantly, you can add all those quirkies that frustrate admins and normally are only learned through trial and error. You could even include security attacks and user hose-ups kind of like acts of god programmed into other Sim games.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
Mix in The Sims (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by scruffyMark on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 11:36:32 PM EST

You know, their latest game, with the little idiots running around that you have to keep happy.

It would be really fun if you had a bunch of little sim-geeks that you had to stop from going homicidally mad with cabin fever and sexual deprivation.

Good concept (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by tenpo on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 12:32:56 AM EST

I like the idea of the 'sim' type people (hey, so do a lot of people, judging from the series' success) but what roles do you think they'd play in the scope of this game? Would they be
  • employees of the data haven?
  • users of the data haven?
  • crackers and villains?
  • abstract entities representing aspects of the data haven (eg. secure systems, security measures, scripts, etc. anthropomorphised and represented in a human-type fashion)?

Just some ideas.

[ Parent ]
I was being prosaic (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by scruffyMark on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 11:42:06 PM EST

I had just thought in terms of the poor employees stuck on a little windblown rock in the N. Atlantic somewhere, probably barely a woman in the place, nothing to do for entertainment. Possibly they can't even visit a civilized country on their time off for fear of arrest.

So, as a player, your challenge would be to make sure these people eat well, continue bathing, and don't get into fights, defect, or spend their work days despondently looking at porn.

I like the idea of adding the customers, and government or criminal hackers.

The anthropomorphized software is a very interesting idea; it would take a good and geeky playwright to pull it off, but it could be cool if you could do it. "So, what sort of sweater would Apache-modPerl wear? Does OpenSSH leave the toilet seat up or down?"

[ Parent ]

and... (none / 0) (#38)
by tenpo on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 09:52:27 PM EST

would window's really just be a big fat dumb guy who watches football all day on tv and periodically scratches himself and farts?

(sorry... obvious joke/jab)

[ Parent ]
Simulation vs. Game (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by notafurry on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 12:37:27 AM EST

And now for the Topical side...

You can either make this an accurate simulation and hope to maintain some fun aspects, or you can make this a fun game and forget any chance of making it realistic. Making it both... well, I just can't see it. I've designed several data centers (though never a data haven per se) and I just don't see how to make it exciting. Power requirements, cabling paths, bandwidth limits, government regulations, and so on. About the only way to make it exciting would be to add in added risks - sudden DoS attacks, hurricanes, lawsuits by chattering lawyers that pull up in ships and want to take hardware for compensation. Pirates, for a good in-joke. All of which would kill any possibility of making it an accurate simulation.

Microsoft Flight Simulator (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by r1chard on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 01:51:26 AM EST

MS Flight Simulator seels well; it's success seems to be because of it's realism.

[ Parent ]
But how realistic is it? (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by notafurry on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 05:06:02 PM EST

My family has several current and former Air Force pilots in and associated with it, and the former pilots are mostly airline pilots now in retirement. Several of them play with MS Flight Simulator, but not one of them claim that it's at all realistic. It seems realistic to an outsider, but not to a real pilot. Also, please note that it took several years of development to reach even that level of realism.

[ Parent ]
FS2002 (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by Robert S Gormley on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 05:44:53 PM EST

A few things... fly FlightSim with a joystick or a yoke. It's nigh on impossible with anything else, or at least with a mouse it will seem so un-intuitive that you won't think you're flying at all. Flight Sim 2002 makes IMHO leaps and bounds from even FS2000 (I went from FS2000 to 2002 Pro), things like interactive Air Traffic Control (you still don't get absolute freedom, but it's pretty impressive), proper taxiing (rather than just starting on the runway, engines on). The autopilot is a lot more realistic - previous versions had this 'amazing' autopilot which did everything all from one lil panel, whereas in 2002 it's a/c dependant, and separated - things like authothrottle work regardless of autopilot, as they would in a real aircraft. Weather conditions are much better, particularly winds aloft (it was very frustrating in previous versions to find you climbed above a few thousand feet and miraculously had no wind, unless you set it manually). It's not going to ever replace the $5 million boxes that sit in any airline training facility, but it's pretty impressive.

[ Parent ]
Closer (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by notafurry on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 06:43:25 PM EST

But no cigar. I purchased FS2002 for an uncle (one of the aforementioned pilots) this Christmas. He liked it, and said it was better than the older versions, but it still wasn't very realistic. (He has a yoke that he uses; he loves finding playing games.) His chief complaint was that the planes do not respond correctly; IIRC his statement was that a 737 should not be able to out-turn a Learjet, but it's possible with their flight model. It also ignores all but grossest aspects of turbulance and wind shear.

All of this only goes to prove my point, anyway. It's taken one of the largest software companies in the world better than 10 years to develop a simulation package that pilots still find problems with.

[ Parent ]

Granted... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by Robert S Gormley on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 10:56:23 PM EST

I would suggest he goes and looks for things like "Project OpenSky" (unsure of URL), who specialise in building more accurate models and flight models for the aircraft, correcting bugs in the AIR files and so forth.

Your point is perfectly valid re building a sim, though some of the aspects your uncle refers to in turbulence would be a little 'pointless' to simulate... buffeting is not going to affect much, 99.98% don't have a force feedback chair to use, and the video rendering of such a thing is 'prohibitive' (at least in terms of what else the simulator could be doing)... actually I've always wondered why games/video/cpu sites don't test things on Flight Sim... it seems to me one program that will utilise whatever you throw at it in terms of memory, processor and so on.

[ Parent ]

making it interesting (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by DenOfEarth on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 02:35:20 PM EST

I think the best way to make something like this fun, would be to put some decent graphics up in front. This is probably the part of the game that would make it tough to code...

[ Parent ]
dood! (3.25 / 4) (#17)
by zephc on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 12:48:35 AM EST

cyberjack me into the information superspeedway!

Is it possible? (4.40 / 5) (#21)
by medham on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 01:11:20 PM EST

One of the things I've noticed when looking at open-source game projects is the tendency to attempt far more than is possible. The result is often failure to do anything at all.

To me, it sounds like your proposal is far too complicated to ever get off the ground. I think you wrote something about including arcade elements. Just code and design that part and release it. Then, you'll have something accomplished.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

No code just yet, but I'm getting there... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by schwardo on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 03:23:08 PM EST

See my latest diary for more details.

disasters (4.00 / 3) (#24)
by KaizerWill on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 04:13:24 PM EST

it could be like simcity, where you can turn deisasters on. I would love to see a disasters list which included 'Lanparty" heh. a must for any network-sim.

Not too realistic, please (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by hardburn on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 11:32:12 PM EST

If I wanted to play this game and do it realistically, I can try to get a job in a networking field and get $50k or more a year to "play" it.

As others pointed out, I don't think you can make this too realistic while still being fun.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

Yes and no... (4.75 / 8) (#28)
by 0xA on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 03:20:26 AM EST

It would be a neat idea. I'd be more into something presented as a game rather than a simulation.

I can't picture fighting with backups and printer problems all day then comming home to troubleshoot my simulated tape loader. I'd go nuts.

Now if you made this a game in the spirit of the BOFH.... Think Black and White or Dungeon Keeper. If I could smack the receptionist that keeps putting her password where it says "domain" and put the Telco repair guy on a toture rack....

God I'd pay big money for that.

excellente (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by tenpo on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 05:59:47 AM EST

Found that comment funny just for the sheer desperation: I can feel your pain coming out of the web page. I too experience an inane receptionist daily. Today she asked a client if they could provide US with THEIR ftp password. The client was panicked and almost stampeded before a soothing techie explained that we could handle that for them (seeing as we're a web hosting company).

[ Parent ]
A better idea, imho... (4.40 / 10) (#31)
by dennis on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 12:28:12 PM EST

Instead of playing a game that lets you pretend to set up a data haven, why not set up a real one by installing Freenet?

A variant of uplink? (none / 0) (#36)
by tocqueville on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:13:25 PM EST

It sounds similar to a game called Uplink. Instead of being the hacker, you're being one of the hosts. Interesting idea. I'd be willing to bet it would have made a great BBS door game.

Keep it simple (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by bodrius on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 03:54:02 PM EST

The only way to make this enjoyable, and feasible to develop, is to simplify the "game" a lot to keep it fun and high-level.

Make the low-level stuff an outstanding event by itself: for example, you might need to handle things at a very low level to defend against hackers (particularly other players) or to manage an emergency (a tsunami blew most of your connections, you need to get your disconnected servers online FAST, losing money by the second).

All the other stuff should be automated by default, and any manual override should keep it sufficiently abstract. Player decision should be on which services to provide, to whom, with which equipment, which pipelines, etc. Not "this server only has SSHD on port 3456, now I have to block all ports except this one, let's load vim...".

Otherwise, this would turn into a micro-management nightmare. Sporadic micro-management is fun, macro-management (properly done) is also fun, constant micro-management is not.

Complex systems already have enough emergent behavior. That's what makes them interesting, that's what's hard to learn as you normally can only learn that from experience, not books/manuals. Do not obscure them by being too true to the means, because the means are not as much fun, nor would the simulation be that educational.

Take a look at good strategy/simulation games. Do you worry about statal taxes or battle formations in Civ? What about traffic control? Crime? These are important factors, but they would only detract from the macro-strategic scale of Civ.

Or if your model is SimCity, try to follow the first SimCity as your basic model first. The massive level of detail for the sequels was aggregated carefully over time; it was supposed to improve an already great game, not to detract from it, and you're given a lot of flexibility on how much do you want to handle... but that costs a lot of time, both in development and play-testing. Trying all that at once might not be very practical.

As a personnal commentary: the idea of alignment someone gave would be a great addition, and it doesn't seem too complicated to do (give each client an alignment, sum and average). Having different kinds of hackers depending on your alignment and size, for example, would be great fun: FBI/DEA for "evil havens", script-kiddies for big market share, criminal hackers for "good havens".

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
Cool! (none / 0) (#39)
by n0mj121 on Sun Mar 24, 2002 at 03:58:05 PM EST

I love the idea. It could appeal to many people at once - the Uplink style hacking game, the actual simulation of what it's like to run a big network, the SimCity style management and building, the possible MMORPG online aspects, the simple but groundbreaking for a game programming language, the Command and Conquer style island defending, and the very interesting subject matter. It could be great fun for anyone, if scaleable - for example a player could concentrate playing the military side of the game and leave computer 'assistants' to help with the other things. I would love to see this made into a game, and what a huge game it could be.

Want to start a Data Haven? | 39 comments (33 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!