“Refuge in audacity” indeed…

June 14, 2010 · Posted in Copycats, Uncategorized 

It has come to our attention recently that Herman Hum and his usual assortment of consorts have once more began beating to pulp the dead horse of ID changes in the DB2000 database and how these were supposedly part of a “grand conspiracy” within the ex-Harpoon HQ. Typically their allegations are accompanied by links to discussion forums such as these:

http://www.gamesquad.com/forums/index.php?threads/unannounced-database-changes.23874

http://www.forums.gamesquad.com/showthread.php?23949-Official-request-to-Don

So, a quick recap for the sake of latecomers…

Between 1999/2000 and 2006/7, the DB2000 and the other databases & scenarios hosted at the Harpoon HQ were the premier third-party content for the Harpoon 3 simulation, and formed a key pillar of the franchise’s resurrection from obscurity. No need to repeat the accolades bestowed upon their creators or praise their level of quality any further; referrers such as Sir John “Sandy” Woodward, “Sharkey” Ward or the Australian DoD should suffice.

One of the reasons for the tremendous success of these DBs and their associated scenarios was the constant stream of updates applied to them. As soon as a new piece of information about some technical detail or OOB change was made public, all relevant DBs and scenarios would be promptly updated and re-released through the HHQ site.

Inevitably, this often meant breaking changes. Deleting a radar here, adding a torpedo tube there, swapping MiG-29As for MiG-29Cs, things that can easily lead to DB & scenario mismatches if the DB/scenario author is not careful enough. Yet the HHQ content producers managed to maintain four databases and hundreds of scenarios without any problem, for years.

Because maintaining a scenario through successive DB updates is a tricky and often tedious business, external authors utilizing the HHQ databases in their scenarios were regularly invited to have their creations hosted & maintained by HHQ personnel. This ensured that their scenarios were never left behind and outdated as the HHQ’s accurate, detailed datasets moved forward. Even authors that preferred to host & maintain their scenarios on their own maintained a close cooperational relationship with the HHQ in order to ensure their works remained up-to-date.

When Herman Hum entered the H3 scene in 2003/4, he was using the DB2000 for his scenarios. He was banned from the HHQ forums for very much the same reasons he has been banned from the HarpGamer & MatrixGames forums (UPDATE: Twice) and he chose to maintain his scenarios on his own, trying to catch-up with the DB2000 updates at every turn. At some point he started falling behind, and this was manifested as reported crashes in some of his developmental scenarios.

For which of course(!) he immediately and loudly blamed the DB2000 and the Harpoon HQ.

facepalm

Neutral third-party observers who did not share Herman’s anti-HHQ zeal were quick to state the patently obvious:

If not for our scenario authors, Harpoon would have died a slow painful death. He has sacrificed a good portion of his waking hours taking the DB2000 from a simple collection of fixes to the ultimate database for Harpoon3. He is not a publisher. He is a private individual who took it upon himself to give more than pretty much anyone else in this community. That is just a character testimonial.
As far as my opinion on DB2000, it is the scenario author and the people who contributed to it. He gives proper credit to the people who contributed. He pretty clearly states that if you use DB2000 without putting the scenarios on HarpoonHQ, you will have problems. Why someone would not want to do that is not something I cannot understand, but its is pretty clear. This is not a software developer making changes. This is someone’s hobby and he can do with it what he likes.

And:

If you have a problem with the database developer, take it up with him personally. As far as I know, the folks working on that database have put in literally thousands of hours to make it a comprehensive and accurate database. A database, by the way, I have never had any problems with. As a completely neutral observer and someone that was ignorant to the fact there was even any internal dissension in the Harpoon community, this whole thread is a not too clever attempt to discredit the database and it’s developers.

(These posts BTW are in the very threads that Herman & co consider as their main argument! Nice job digging your own grave folks….)

Now, the intentions of Herman and his chorus were clear enough. But what about the technical merits of their allegations? It is true that successive versions of the HHQ databases feature various changes in the dataset, including component IDs. However these never posed a problem either for the HHQ crew or for the third-party creators using the DB2000. So what went wrong with Herman’s scenarios?

To answer this, we must go back to 2003/4.

As previously mentioned, keeping hundreds of high-quality scenarios up-to-date as their underlying database constantly evolved was no picnic. To help with the maintenance, a scenario author developed a highly-customized version of the H3 ScenEdit application called the Scenario Batch Rebuilder (SBR). The SBR used custom script files to easily and accurately rebuild scenarios after each DB update, making the process significantly more efficient. With the help of the SBR, the ID-swaps and all other types of DB changes simply did not affect scenarios negatively. The proof of this was manifest in the complete absence of problems in HHQ-hosted scenarios.

This point bears repeating: ID changes were happening in the DB2000 all the time, with no resultant problems at all. Not a single DB2000-based scenario hosted by the HHQ was adversely affected. This fact has never been disputed even by Herman and his supporters.

Herman realized that, when it came to keeping up with the relentless pace of evolution of the DB2000, the SBR made things easier for the HHQ and their friends, and harder for him. Getting his hands on this tool would not be easy, since the SBR had been developed under an exclusive agreement with AGSI; HHQ members were the only ones who could legally use it.

Herman eventually managed to sweettalk/con one of the HHQ crew into giving him an early “beta” version of the SBR. He immediately set out to use it on his scenarios under development. However, it soon became obvious to him that, rather than a push-button magic tool, the SBR was a complex semi-automatic instrument that required intricate knowledge of its internal operation to work properly; this wasn’t a script-kiddie toy. Herman’s scens began to crash spectacularly.

Out of ideas, Herman contacted the HHQ blaming changes in the DB2000 for the problems in his scenarios (not mentioning that he had used the beta-SBR on them). The HHQ crew offered to examine them to find the cause of the problem and determine if there was indeed a problem in the database (after all, no-one is infallible). The few samples sent by Herman all shared one characteristic: They had been tampered with the beta SBR.

(Unknown to Herman, usage of the SBR leaves a permanent “electronic fingerprint” on the scenario file; a specific combination of data that is practically impossible to create under any other circumstance. This was verified independently at the time by AGSI staff. There is simply no doubt Herman did this.)

The HHQ crew confronted Herman privately with this evidence and asked him to stop using the SBR – both because it was illegal and also because it was the cause for his scenario troubles. They also asked for more samples. Herman, not expecting to be caught red-handed using the stolen SBR, refused to provide any more samples and terminated private communications. Shortly afterwards, threads started by Herman and his friends began to pop up all over the wargaming forums, blaming the DB2000 changes for the massive problems in his scenarios.

So let’s do a quick sum-up of the facts:

  • Herman stole a product that he was not permitted to acquire or use.
  • When he failed to use it properly, he blamed of mischief the people that warned him not to use it.
  • When his SBR theft was uncovered, he repeated (ad nauseam…) his “Evil HHQ sabotaged the DB2000!” accusations in public.

All together now…

double facepalm

Of course, in retrospect, Herman & crew’s insistence on these “interesting” allegations makes perfect sense. Consider that shortly after these charges surfaced in public the so-called PlayersDB, a blatant copy of the DB2000, was released by Herman and his friends. By Herman’s point of view, what better way to justify such an obvious IP theft than to claim you are the unfairly persecuted underdog: “We created the PDB because the HHQ people were sabotaging us through changes in the DB2000!” (…the very same changes that nobody else was affected from). We are not making this up, folks.

So, little David fighting against Goliath and all odds? Or a scarcely believable combination of gall, stupidity and indecency? Let anyone with a sane mind be the judge.

 

UPDATE 1/26/2012: Herman has discovered YouTube (good for him), and has been posting “proof” videos demonstrating how one can crash a scenario by moving from one DB2000 copy to another. This reminds us of some folks driving a Volvo right through a brick wall and then photographing themselves beside the wreckage as “proof” that Volvos are unsafe cars. Amusing? For a while. Credible? Not really.

We are sorry to burst Herman’s bubble but Harpoon users play actual scenarios, not contrived YouTube videos. And for anyone keeping score, the number of scenarios hosted by the HHQ/WS and misbehaving as a result of DB changes is…. wait for it… ZERO.

Well, at least Herman now knows how to use YouTube. That’s got to count for something.

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