Curation Tutorial

From Flashpoint Database
Revision as of 03:28, 19 September 2019 by BlueMaxima (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

The following page is a tutorial on how Flashpoint works, and how to curate games.

How Flashpoint Works

Before you curate, it's worth understanding how Flashpoint works, as understanding what exactly Flashpoint does to play games will help you grasp curating later on.

See, Flashpoint is more than just a file and a program to play it. Flashpoint's underlying tech is actually a combination of three programs working in parallel - a web server, a redirector and a launcher. A web server is what the internet works on; computers around the world run web servers to host you when you visit a website. The entire internet runs on these web servers. When you open a page to, for example, YouTube, your computer is talking to a web server. Flashpoint runs a web server on your local computer. The second component is the redirector, which allows us to change where the web traffic from a particular application goes. And, unless you've never used Flashpoint, you've already used our Flashpoint Launcher.

These three techs work together in order to, in as basic terms as possible, pretend to be the internet. See, we need to do a lot of things to preserve Flash (and other kinds of) games:

  • Pass sitelocks. Some games will only run properly if they can detect they're on the proper internet.
  • Load resources. Some games will try to load resources directly from the internet, and fail if they can't.
  • Emulate servers. Some games will try to talk to servers (an example is Happy Wheels loading custom levels). This is impossible to do without a proper server.

You can hack SWFs on a case by case basis if you want, but Flashpoint is a preservation project - we're trying to keep the games in as an intact state as possible, for historical and practical reasons. For this, we use this technique of pretending to be the internet. A combination of our 'fake' internet and a program designed to redirect our software to talk to this fake internet is our approach; we can keep copies of websites on the local hard drive, and point programs at this 'fake internet' to trick it into believing it's talking to the real internet. Using our fake internet to run web games from is the best approach, thanks to being able to naturally avoid all three of the problems above. With that said, I'm going to outline below, step by step, how it works.

  • Flashpoint starts, alongside our three apps:
    • The launcher, for the player to interact with.
    • The server, which is hosting our fake internet.
    • The redirector, which can point programs at our fake internet.
    • (It is also worth noting that our software changes proxy settings so that we can check all the computer's traffic; we can't redirect if we can't check all traffic for the apps we want to redirect.)
  • The player picks a game to launch.
    • The launcher starts up the program to play the Flash game (in this case, we'll say it's the Adobe Flash Player Projector - a single window to run an SWF file, hereafter referred to as the projector) and it passes along a web address; this is where we're hosting the game on our fake internet.
    • The projector tries to talk to the real internet, but the redirector catches it in the act, and says "hey, use our fake internet instead, it's better and has hot chicks".
    • The projector agrees, and uses the fake internet. It says hello to our fake internet and asks for the web address.
    • The fake internet looks inside its local files for the web address in question. This is in Flashpoint's "Server/htdocs" directory, with subfolders for web addresses and files further along in more folders.
      • If we're talking about Flashpoint Ultimate, the file will already be there, and it'll pass the file along to the projector.
      • If we're talking about Flashpoint Infinity, our fake internet will check if the file is there, and pass it along if it already is, or download it if it isn't, then pass it along.
    • The projector loads the file, and you can play it. Hooray!
      • In the case of a game that has a sitelock, as long as it is on the right address, the fake internet looks no different to it than the real internet. Therefore, if you put it in the exact right spot that it thinks it needs to be, it'll bypass the sitelock without a fuss. It's the same deal with extra resources; as long as the files are on the fake internet where the game expects them to be on the internet, it'll just work.

To summarize, we're hosting a fake internet inside our Flashpoint file directory on our own computer, and using a combination of all the software at hand, the software used to play games by talking to the internet is redirected to our fake internet hosted from our hard drive, and loads games from there.

Setting Up Our Software

To actually rip games from the internet, we are gonna need some software. This guide will be purely curating Flash games; if you want to curate something a little more complicated, it'll need more than this guide. This is just meant to show you how Flashpoint works at a base level; you can build on this knowledge later if you need to on other tutorials.

With that said, you will need some extra software:

  • Flashpoint Core. This is a version of Flashpoint that only has a handful of games; it's mainly meant for adding, testing and just generally playing around with the platform. You can usually find a link to it at the bottom of the Downloads page. You can use another Flashpoint distribution, like Infinity, but it can be annoyingly easy to break Flashpoint in the middle of this; at least Core can be used as a disposable platform that you can just re-extract if something goes wrong.
  • If you're doing simple, one file SWF games, you can make do with a modern version of a browser like Google Chrome. Google Chrome has a built in network monitor that we can use to find and grab individual SWFs, and sometimes multi-asset titles with low amounts of resources.

There are more tools that you can use, but since we're not dealing with multi-asset games yet, we're just gonna work with these two for now. Download Flashpoint Core, extract it to your hard drive, run it via the usual shortcut, and make sure that the included Flash game plays properly before you continue.

Grabbing Our First Game From The Internet

We're going to start really simple; we're going to curate a game that's a single SWF file, has no sitelock, and is just easy to get along with.

Here's the link. Yep, it's Interactive Buddy. We already have it (and you should always check the Game Master List before you curate something) but it works good as a tutorial. If you're using Google Chrome, you might need to enable Flash to get it to play (just clicking on the middle of the screen and clicking 'Enable Flash' in the top left should be enough. It's worth noting that you can't do this tutorial if you have the Newgrounds Player enabled.)

Now, if you're using Google Chrome, press F12, and don't panic at the overwhelming panel that just showed up on the right side of the screen. We only need to focus on a couple of things going on with this. At the very top of this panel, you should see a tab called "Network"; click it. This panel lets us see what is loading on the page in real time as it loads. It should be on 'All' by default, which *might* work, but thankfully, Chrome makes this easy for us by letting us filter files that are 'abnormal' by clicking the "Other" tab on the fourth row down. Once you have the Network tab open and Other highlighted, click the Refresh button on your browser.

You'll probably see a fair few weird entries there, but if you hover your mouse over each entry on the list, you'll get a full URL of each file as a small tooltip. There's one in particular you're looking for: here's a clue, the URL will have "swf" somewhere close to the end. You can also look at the "Size" column if this is your first time loading the file; it'll probably be a lot bigger than most other things on the page. Once you have this file, right click on it, and click "Open in New Tab". You should be prompted to save the SWF somewhere; do so, somewhere that you remember where it is.

Moving Our Game Into Flashpoint