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AutoDMC
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Old May 13th, 2015, 09:40 PM
This is yet another Export/Printing thread! Kind of!

I ran a couple of grep experiments on the "backup" files in the Documents folder for my two "realms." I'm able to locate content from both of my realms within. It appears that each data point is tied to a unique ID number, in the format of:

[0-9A-F]{8}-[0-9A-F]{4}-[0-9A-F]{4}-[0-9A-F]{4}-[0-9A-F]{12}

I haven't yet determined the database format, or the delimiters used in the file. Unfortunately, the grep tool I have for Windows chokes on the database file every time I tap a key, making the process a bit long winded. There's some interesting strings in there, and I've tracked down fragments of text from my realms floating around, but I haven't yet been able to figure out how everything lines up.

Do you use some kind of recognized database format (LayerDB, Built in SQLite), or can you provide some sort of database format specification?

According to your blog, you've put export on the bottom of the feature list. Despite it being a hot topic on the forums, your survey got it ranked low. I can see why you'd do that, I really can.

So if you're not going to release an export tool, could we at least get some pointers on how to deconstruct the database file? I'm sure I'm not the only one of the forum able to throw grep and sed at a file; we just need some help disentangling the format.

I'm not just asking for the format to be an ass, I have reasons I'm going to rant about below. If you're the TL;DR type, you can stop here I guess.

I know you guys are all fired up on web tools and realm hosting and all that Web 2.0 jazz. And I may be interested in using RealmWorks as a tabletop manager for my game. I like the ability to manage the player's screen with popup windows and maps; I actually use a digital table (HDTV), and not having to constantly peer over the GM screen and try to flip and reverse mouse movements in my head is nice.

But here's the simple fact of the deal: I don't want to spend time putting data into something I can't get it out of. No matter how many whiz-bang gadgets you put into RealmWorks, if I can't make a proper export that I can manipulate outside of your tool, I simply can't be assed to use it.

I know you guys have made a "pledge;" you'll release an export tool as the very last action should the ship sink. I know you want this to be something that gives us trust but frankly? It doesn't do it for me.

Maybe I'm just jaded, but after being a PC gamer for a decade I don't trust software companies. (Full Disclosure: I work for a software company.) You can make all the promises you want, but unless you write the code, it's just words.

The difference between promising to release the web view or the content market, which I fully trust in, and promising to release an export tool, which I completely don't trust as far as I can throw a frost giant with a STR mod of -2, comes down to this:

The Web View, and the Content Market will make recurring money.

An Export is seen as something that won't make you any recurring money.

This is why I don't trust you: an Export to text files would be a rather simple feature to produce (relative to the rest of the software, of course. It could be a difficult task depending on your data structures), but because (at best) it would help make initial sales and, at worst, it'd just keep a few disgruntled users around who have already given you their cash...

...it tells me a lot that it's a feature promised to happen just before the ship sinks, and not a minute sooner.

I find myself having to leave your tool turned off, and go back to managing text files and loose images on a hard drive, because at least those I can manage using any tool I want. I have lots of experience juggling text files. Your tool is something I have to learn to embrace fully.

Additionally, I'm trying to package my gaming materials for use by other game masters. I want to put together some documents for them, and I'd love to use RealmWorks as a mind mapping tool. You guys want me to do this with your yet-to-be-released vaporware market; I get that. But you're not going to get me to invest in your market if I have to depend on your market. Again, I don't trust a database I can't get my data out of. An XML file I can write an XSLT to transform into paper documents. A SQLite database I can write queries to output reports I can compile into offline documents. Your file..? I can grep out random segments of text. Which I have to sort by hand. "strings" only goes so far in making sense of a binary blob.

I was naive. I pre-purchased based on the features, with the hope that I'd be able to use your $50 tool to map out my campaigns, throw some maps up on a secondary monitor, and then export my data for use later. My bad, I guess. Right now I've got two realms with like 15 data fragments put in. I've mapped like three characters and one mission. I can't be bothered to go any farther than that, because once I'm done working in RealmWorks, I have to duplicate the work elsewhere anyway. I might as well just do the work outside the tool you made.

I WANT to use your tool. I find the player's screen system to be great. But until I'm convinced my time invested in your tool won't become a black hole in the future because I decide to use a different table display or switch to paper handouts, I'm not going to invest my time in your tool.

And instead of telling people how much I love your software, I'll be saying things like "HeroLab is an awesome tool, you should buy it. But steer clear of RealmWorks, because you can't print or export your data from it."

TL;DR: If you're not going to bother to release an XML or text output engine until "it’s the last feature that ever gets into Realm Works (and even if Rob has to add the feature himself)," the least you can do is let us know some information about the file format so we can do the data recovery ourselves. The Internet is full of great programmers who know perl and sed and grep; if you really feel it's such a niche feature that only a few data nerds would be interested... at least give the data nerds the information they need to get the data out?

Last edited by AutoDMC; May 14th, 2015 at 06:55 AM.
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AutoDMC
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Old May 13th, 2015, 09:49 PM
For clarity:

I want to use your tool. I wouldn't be posting here if I didn't. I've blasted money on crap software I've never used again in the past, and will in the future.

There are some cool features, right now that I want to use. I've already used it at my table a couple of times to throw up a map and a few dossier documents, and it's pretty slick. And once I can allow my players access to my database without having to ask them to invest even more money into the game for the "player's edition," it'll be even more awesome. (I already require them to buy the handbooks and materials.)

But every time I open up the software, I fill out about a third of an article before I realize that every drop of effort I put into putting data into RealmWorks is a duplicated drop of data I need to put into putting the data elsewhere. One of my players likes handouts that they can scribble on, for example. My backup computer can't run RealmWorks, but I can get Dropbox to work on it, so I can access text files but not RealmWorks databases.

The confinement of my data into the proprietary database keeps me from using the tool I want to use. And until I can get my data out, I can't be bothered to put it in. I won't be paying for cloud service. I won't be buying content on your market. I won't be pitching player's editions or logging into your website. Until my data is actually my data, to use any tool I wish with it, I simply can't waste my time duplicating effort.

And instead of enjoying using your flexible awesome tool, instead I open it, sigh, close it, and then go write my notes in Notepad.

I love (I mean, seriously, love) HeroLab. I hand out printouts of character sheets for the 20+ games I run at conventions, and always pitch the product to my players. I've had a couple buy it and use it for themselves because of that. I can't in good faith pitch RealmWorks the same way, or use it at the table, until I can get my data out. At least I can get a PDF from HeroLab.
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Farling
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Old May 13th, 2015, 11:38 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by AutoDMC View Post
TL;DR: If you're not going to bother to release an XML or text output engine until "itís the last feature that ever gets into Realm Works (and even if Rob has to add the feature himself)," the least you can do is let us know some information about the file format so we can do the data recovery ourselves. The Internet is full of great programmers who know perl and sed and grep; if you really feel it's such a niche feature that only a few data nerds would be interested... at least give the data nerds the information they need to get the data out?
The danger with LWD providing any information about the database format is that people will shout and scream when the format is changed to implement new features.
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Viking2054
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Old May 14th, 2015, 03:05 AM
you also have to worry about people trying to pry out copyrighted material purchased through the marketplace. If that material was passed around and patched into other peoples RW or other databases that could be a problem for LWD.
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Acenoid
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Old May 14th, 2015, 03:26 AM
I'm for full access to entered data that does not belong to 3rd party. Similar to any office application. But until there is some newer survey or discussion brought up by LWD I don't think there is much ground for newly discussions topic did come up in the past several times already...

Join the (unofficial) Realm-Works IRC Chat: #realm-works on the Rizon Network (https://wiki.rizon.net/index.php?title=Servers)
-> Browser Client: https://kiwiirc.com/client/irc.rizon.net
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Parody
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Old May 14th, 2015, 05:08 AM
The (local) database engine is Firebird; you can tell that by looking at the DLLs in the Realm Works install folder.

The ID numbers are GUIDs, so you're missing the 12 hex characters on the end. Even if they're always the same in that file, they're part of the identifier.


Last edited by Parody; May 14th, 2015 at 06:12 AM.
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AutoDMC
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Old May 14th, 2015, 11:37 AM
Good catch, Parody. I prematurely ended my copy-paste. I also missed the Firebird DLLs, I was looking at the files themselves. My mistake!

I can recognize the worry over third party content, but as of yet there has never been a successful DRM system. If they want to put the third party content in it's own database, or slipstream it encrypted into the main database, that's fine. As long as they don't encrypt MY data, I wouldn't care if purchased third party data came out as gobbledy gook. Just as long as nobody is under the delusion that DRM will do anything but make the product more frustrating for legitimate users.

Additionally, I understand them passing up on an IMPORT function if they're worried about third party copyright issues, just not an EXPORT function. A huge XML file full of D&D5th edition content isn't any more useful than the Player's Handbook if I can't import it. I don't want to export my data as a backup, I want to export my data because it's mine, and i want to process it in other tools as well. They can give us EXPORT without IMPORT.

Finally, we don't need another survey. Question #33 on the Kickstarter FAQ states:

Quote:
Realm Works will not have export capability in its initial release. As with most products, our focus in the initial launch is to have Realm Works do its own tasks exceptionally well, and to efficiently get material into the product. We wholly expect there will be demand for export to other products and formats, and we'll shift our focus to include those capabilities once we get the core product off the ground.
The core functionality of the product DOES work, as does cloud syncing with a player's edition. The core product is "off the ground." Now's the time to provide a feature they've been pushing off.

If I'd have known this feature was going to languish until the day Rob writes the code himself because they're closing down shop, I wouldn't have even been a backer, and I wouldn't have the angst now of wanting to use a tool, but not being able to because a core feature (for me) which was promised is still missing, a year and a half plus later.

Sure, I'd still be using text files and Adobe Illustrator maps but, please understand, that's the workflow I have to use now, still, despite owning RealmWorks because I can't export my data for processing.
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AutoDMC
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Old May 14th, 2015, 08:33 PM
I've attempted to open the backup databases and the MASTER.REALM file in FlameRobin, which is supposed to be able to read Firebird embedded databases, however, I've been unable to get the client to read any of those files.

In theory, embedded database files should be able to be opened directly; the password SYSDBA supposedly gives "root" access to an embedded database, but I get errors saying the resource is invalid.

Anyone else given any effort toward opening these database files? Any pointers in getting access? I've got some experience in report writing if I can get access to the database.
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rob
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Old May 14th, 2015, 08:44 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by AutoDMC View Post
The core functionality of the product DOES work, as does cloud syncing with a player's edition. The core product is "off the ground." Now's the time to provide a feature they've been pushing off.
That argument can be made for dozens of features that users have asked for and that are on the todo list, not to mention outstanding capabilities that have been considered part of the core product vision from the beginning. A few that spring immediately to mind include the content market, web access, calendars, journals, individual player reveal, the list goes on and on...

We did the survey at the start of the year to find out which of these many capabilities are COLLECTIVELY considered most important by our users. We're prioritizing (and in some cases, re-prioritizing) our efforts based on the survey results. Our rationale for this approach has already been discussed at length elsewhere here on the forums, so I'm not going to rehash it all again in this thread. I encourage you to take a look at the other threads for more information.

If you HAVE to extract your content from Realm Works in order to use it NOW, then you are in the tiny minority of users. Unfortunately, that means the feature you consider mission critical isn't going to be added in the near term. Given your personal requirements, which aren't shared by the majority of our users, it's possible that Realm Works isn't a viable option for your needs at the present time. That's unfortunate, but it doesn't change our plans.

You've twisted our words for the sole purpose of hyperbole and saber-rattling. Sorry, I'm not going to engage beyond clarifying misinformation. If you don't trust us simply because we're a software company, that's entirely your choice - although it's one that seems NOT to be shared by the vast majority of our users.

Since you quoted a strategically snipped version of the statement we made, Iíll clarify it here for others. The pledge began with ďEven if itís the last feature that ever gets into Realm Works (and even if Rob has to add the feature himself)ÖĒ [emphasis mine]. That does NOT mean the plan is to never add the feature until the ďship is sinkingĒ, as youíve portrayed. It simply means that we pledge to ensure users can get their data out if that event should one day occur. Youíve chosen to read into it vastly more than what was said, and youíve then distorted the entire matter here in this thread.

In a subsequent post, you asserted that we could readily provide export without supporting import. Well, the problem IS the export. If you can get published data out, you can then do ANYTHING with that data. You donít have to put it back into Realm Works via an import. You could pretty it up and post it on a website, or give it to others. Thatís what the publishers are worried about. They donít care whether you can put the data back into Realm Works Ė they care whether you can get it out in the first place. So that complicates any efforts towards providing export, as does the fact that the data is split across dozens of tables, and anyone who wants to get their data out will want it nicely organized. When we provide export capabilities, weíll do it well, and in a way that is truly useful to users who want the feature Ė not in a quick-and-dirty manner that would suffice for your needs but few other users.

As @Parody pointed out, we use Firebird as the database engine. However, that's not going to be sufficient for extracting data from the database manually. Key realm content within the database is encrypted, which was a decision driven by feedback during the early stages of development. There are common usage scenarios where GMs and players share the same computers in a household, so it was requested that we safeguard against tech-savvy players sneaking a peek at a GM's material by going straight to the database. Since we have to encrypt purchased content anyways, we simply encrypt key content regardless of its source.

Based on the sensationalized narrative you've already presented and your proclaimed distrust of honest folks just because they develop software, I won't be surprised if you take this information and characterize it in an alarmist manner. However, please understand that, by doing so, you are willfully working to undermine a product that you claim you want to use. Thatís exactly what actively telling others to avoid the product amounts to, especially when itís simply because you donít trust software companies in general and the product lacks a feature you consider necessary to satisfy your self-professed jaded perception. If you think telling others to stay away will in some way pressure us to give you the feature you want now, I can assure you that's not going to work. All it will do is lessen the chance that the product evolves to a point where it's successful enough that we DO have the resources to add the feature you want. I donít have any problems with you saying Realm Works lacks a feature YOU value, but let others make their own choice whether the product meets their requirements Ė which, if our survey results are any indication, will usually be very different from yours on the matter of export capability. Striving to scare users off because Realm Works lacks a feature few of them actually care about is essentially fear-mongering, and I respectfully ask that you not do that.

How you choose to proceed is entirely your option. What I ask is that you be mindful of what you're doing as you do it and consider whether your path will actually give you what you ultimately want.

Thanks to everyone for reading through to the end.
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Chemlak
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Old May 14th, 2015, 10:56 PM
Thank you, Rob.

Chief Calendar Champion Chemlak

Join the unofficial Realm Works IRC channel! Join #realm-works
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