PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

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FateJH
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PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby FateJH » Thu Feb 11, 2016 11:57 pm

Special thanks to Naeadil for acquiring and providing an extremely early version of PlanetSide, one in which the Offline Tutorial Missions are still available. We have both probably played around with the tutorials so now is a suitable time to write about what was learned by having run through them.

Package Overview:
Naeadil supplied a compressed RAR file with three folders, originally the contents of three CDs. The file size is 1.45 Gb uncompressed. Each folder contains a combined four cabinet (CAB) files that contain the bulk of the game's data and the other various files necessary for installing the game. The cabinet files are not a standard format that Windows Explorer can open (normally, it can) and without further testing I can not talk about the game's uncomposed data. The first CD contains the entry point for the PlanetSide installer - setup.exe - which can be executed. The installer will eventually ask for the location of the second CD. Though Naeadil suggests that neglecting the second CD won't obstruct the offline tutorial mode or disrupt the installation process, I supplied a proper link to the location of that second folder when prompted and did not test the consequences otherwise.

The third CD was not used in the installation process and currently contains unknown data. It will not be part of this analysis.

To start the tutorial mode, as previously discussed in another thread, a Command Prompt window was opened and the planetside.exe program was run. Appending " -offline" after the invocation started the tutorial mode.

Tutorial Overview:
The first thing the user is asked to do after starting the tutorial mode is to select a faction. This is merely meant as a cosmetic choice, though the ramifications of the changing game means that certain things will not work properly anymore. Afterwards the user is asked to choose one of eight missions that would follow an unlock progression. They are: Basic Movement and Weapon Handling, Certifications and Equipment, Vehicle Handling, Map Usage, Drop Pods, Capturing Facilities, Silos and the ANT, Dying and Respawning. The following general notes cover all of the tutorials:
  • Neither the player character nor the vehicle they are utilizing can be destroyed, except in the last tutorial mission. (Even then, it is scripted.)
  • Most exits and actions that are not sanctioned by the tutorial are disabled.
    • You will frequently be held in place by a mysterious force. Sometimes it will stop you from walking; sometimes it will stop you from looking around; usually, you can jump, even if it will never help you.
    • Do not board the invisible HART shuttle in the Sanctuary unless you are told to by the tutorial. The shuttle will not work automatically and there is no way to disembark. (You can not bail from the HART.)
    • Some objects will display the wrong message if you hover your cursor over them and may still not do anything even with an agreeable message. This is because the environment is being controlled.
    • By default, most bases will be neutral and unpowered. Even if the base is powered or shifts alignment, that is merely cosmetic for the purposes of the tutorial mission.
  • The instructions of all of the tutorials are narrated by a female voice whose only contribution to the game was the said tutorial script.
  • What the narrated instructions say will sometimes differ from what the text instructions say. This will rarely spurn confusion but the text instructions are always correct.
  • If the step requests that the user go to waypoints or follow waypoints that would be laborious or silly, setting a personal waypoint nearby on the tactical map and going to that waypoint will cause the step to progress.
  • When walking through some doors, the player character may be violently thrown to the side by a small unseen force. This does not cause any issues by itself but remains noteworthy.
  • The UI is not perfect.
    • The cursor is almost completely off center regardless of whether the user is in windowed mode or fullscreen mode. Despite that, the "center of the screen" is still the active cursor area.
    • Care must be taken around the status pane. If clicked in the wrong way, it will mess up the icons or vanish and that requires restarting the tutorial. On missions where you are asked to enter a Vehicle, the addition of the Vehicular controls to the pane will also mess up the rest of the pane, but it will fix itself upon exiting the Vehicle.
    • Occasionally the game options may not work correctly when set.
    • Occasionally keybinds may not work correctly when set.
    • Few normal messages will appear in the chat window.
    • No experience is ever earned during the tutorial.
  • Towers will not appear on the tactical map above a certain zoom factor.
  • The provided game is a very early build, after release but before the Bending. There are no Geowarps, the continents are still all on one planet, and Oshur Prime still exists.
  • The user has a unique quirky turning animation. In third-person view (chase camera) you can turn within a certain degree of "forward" and the player character's model's upper body will only turn. At the extremities, the camera will turn to catch up; but, before that, moving in anyway way will cause the camera to snap to the "new forward" as indicated by the turned upper body of the character model. This can cause a bit of warping.
  • Some details that have been lost to older versiosn of the game exist in the Offline Tutorial Missions.
  • Steps are very slow to mark off as completed and progress to the next.

Basic Movement and Weapon Handling:
Location: Cyssor
The only thing of worth noting in this tutorial is that the Suppressor and the Beamer the user are given have exceptional damage values. Less than a single magazine of normal 9mm Ammo destroys an enemy Harasser and a single magazine of Energy Cell allows a Beamer to destroy a Flash in secondary fire mode. Two shots of either the Beamer or the Suppressor kill. Additionally, unlike other instances throughout these tuorials where the user's cursor is not positioned correctly, the recticle for the weapons are typically (always?) centered properly here.

Certifications and Equipment:
Location: Santcuary
This mission can not be completed due to complications with Santuary. For starters, one can not use a TR or a VS character during this mission. The Sanctuary spawn-in point is set to a position that was valid where the campus of buildings were centralized to the continent and, thus, the spawn in out in the middle of nowhere, center of the Sanctuary for the modern "three sets of buildings" Sanctuary. For TR and VS characters, however, this spawn point is also below the ground and thus your character drops to the bottom of the map. Only the NC spawn point is above the ground. Even walking to one of the valid Sanctuary villages as an NC grunt, however, does not allow this tutorial to reach completion because they are all neutral. Without being able to access the Certification Terminals and the Equipment Terminals, there is no way to progress.

One thing of interest is that, for the parts of it that can be played, this tutorial is the only one that is not narrated.

Vehicle Handling:
Location: Forseral
This mission utilizes old vehicle spawn pad rules where the new vehicle was placed onto the pad and the user had to intentionally run over to it, get in, and drive off the pad, before the next person could use it. Multiple vehicle can be spawned by the user without normal despawning rules. Compications that could arise from this were not tested. The ANT is also available, and can be spawned, even though it is not used or recognized by this tutorial.

Map Usage:
Location: Hossin, Oshur Prime
It is not possible to reach the Oshur Prime Wapr Gate or go to Oshur Prime from Hossin ebfore the tutorial lets you and, after you have gotten there, the tutorial will soon end anyway. No exploration of Oshur Prime is possible. An exploration of Hossin should be possible by delaying an earlier step.

Drop Pods:
Location: Sanctaury, Hossin
Once again, this mission requires using an NC character to navigate in Sanctuary. Although the HART shuttle is nearly perpetually invisible, it is docked properly and can be boarded. This is the only time when one should board the HART shuttle if they find themselves in Sanctuary during the tutorial missions. The shuttle may become visible during the launching animation, though that is not gauranteed. The launching animation is also mistimed to the sound effects and the scene transition takes a long time to progress towards the global map for drop selection. Unfortunately, this mission can not be completed because dropping on Hossin will glitch the tutorial. When the user selects a location and presses the drop button, Hossin fails to load properly and displays a warp environment where the field of view is encompassed by a spiralling green distorion in a navy "sky," a fragment of distant ocean appears in front of the user, their field of vision is limited horizontally, and there are two moons slightly above and behind the user barely visible. In third person view (chase camera), the user is not visible and only dark blue ground is seen. Movement is impossible and the tutorial does not proceed to subsequent steps.

It is possible to temporarily drop onto Hossin if one selects a spawn point and drop in while the narrator is still talking about the global map, but that glitches out the dropping animation and only delays the stalling of the tutorial. The user will appear about 20m above the ground where they selected and fall to the ground normally. The drop pod will never be rendered, though the start of its sound effects may be ehard occasionally. When the tutorial has caught up with the user, however, the background will still glitch out in the exact same manner and the tutorial will stall. There is no way to progress.

Capturing Facilities:
Location: Hossin
It is possible to disconnect the REK and the utility it is hacking during this tutorial by clicking-off. Doing this causes the progress window to continue running even as the player is himself running away down the hallway.

Silos and the ANT:
Location: Forseral
Unlike the previous mission, REK hacking works more or less correctly in this one, though iot admittedly still does not work exactly like in live. The ANT in the tutorial is an older model that requires the user to get out of it and operate it from behind to deploy it. Once again, as with the Vehicle Handling tutorial, the Harasser is also available at the terminal, but it is not recognized by the tutorial if it gets pulled.
It is probably not possible to run down the base timer to fail the tutorial "unexpectedly" or go to a diferent Warp Gate for NTU refueling due to the controlled nature of the events.

Dying and Respawning:
Location: Forseral
The MAX that "kills" you at Ogma has no weapon arm (and no MAXes seen in the tutorial missions ever do) and your death is formally triggered by walking into the waypoint by the door. One can exit the farthest door of the spawn room, walk all the way around, and get behind the MAX if so desired. It doesn't accomplish anything.
The AMS featured in this tutorial mission is the older "spawn tube" model, with a deploy control panel at the front of the vehicle rather than bound to a keybind, and the equipment terminal at the rear of the unit. It is floating about a foot above the ground until it is undeployed.
Although it does not look like it, you do "bind" to Ogma in a sense during the tutorial step where the action is asked. It may be a bug in the tutorial or old behavior but the inventory window will open during binding even though there is no reason for it to do that. The spawn point for Ogma on the tactial map, however, is the one that hovers over Eaton. This is important for completion of the tutorial.

The Launchpad:
When installing this version of PlanetSide, a Launchpad is placed in a directory that is in the directory above the installation folder. Of course, this application will not connect to the login server out of the box and should have no expectations of connecting to any server. It does, however, try to update files after it tells the user it has failed to connect. Ultimately, a "pure virtual function call" error causes the application to completely terminate.

Notes:
The tutorial missions are short and can be completed in a single sitting, at least the ones that can be completed at all can be completed in a single sitting. More exploration may be warranted, including a decompilation dive in OllyDebugger.

An inquiry into the unused third disk will happen, of course.

Pictures that were found to be interesting will be added later. There are also so interesting menu differences that will be shown once I determine how to capture that (since screenshots normally turn that off).

The whole discussion about these Offline Tutorials started because of the elusive and unvisited map16 that was found in the game's files. After all is said and done, the user still does not get sent to map16 during these offline tutorials, which means the mystery remains.

Questions?
VS: FateJH, BR 21 CR 0 TR: FJH, BR 18 CR 1 NC: FateJHNC, BR 14 CR 0
Ryathorz
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby Ryathorz » Fri Feb 12, 2016 5:23 am

FateJH wrote:The cabinet files are not a standard format that Windows Explorer can open (normally, it can) and without further testing I can not talk about the game's uncomposed data.
Possibly using the installshield cab format?
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FateJH
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby FateJH » Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:58 am

Ryathorz wrote:Possibly using the installshield cab format?

Universal Extractor does confirm that they are InstallShield format but there's only one hdr (header) file for four cab files.

...

Okay, I made magical progress while typing this up by changing the name of the header file name to match whichever cabinet file I was opening, and it decompressed properly for all files. I didn't expect that to work under the assumption that an offset would be needed for different cabinets, but there you go.

As it also worked on the mysterious third CD which contains the fourth cabinet file, I now have the contents of that using the same technique. After checking the contents of the third CD, it appears as if it was extracted during the normal installation process even though it was not requested by the installer (cheeky system). It only contains some compressed dds files for texture and other miscellaneous files, including the primitive voice chat application (wiredred/pscs.exe) and is not nearly as interesting as I had hoped it would be. I was expecting files related to Core Combat, or maybe the hallowed server application that was rumored to be included in early releases.

Assuming most archive files just unpack to their respective installation files - that appears to be the case - the only obvious benefit of extracting the cabinets at the moment appear to be acquiring the splash image files that are seen during the installation process, content that is no longer seen due to the existence of the Launchpad's automatic file deployment.
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Naeadil
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby Naeadil » Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:26 am

FateJH wrote:I was expecting files related to Core Combat, or maybe the hallowed server application that was rumored to be included in early releases.

We will be in possession of the Core Combat discs soon. Additionally, I may have found someone to share the old beta discs with me as well.

I'm trying to remember, who was it that claimed there was some kind of server data on the beta discs?
- Nick
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FateJH
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby FateJH » Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:01 pm

Naeadil wrote:We will be in possession of the Core Combat discs soon. Additionally, I may have found someone to share the old beta discs with me as well.

The update notes in the files list the date 04-25-03. Will it really possible to find something even earlier?
More than that, will we need a specific version to install early Core Combat content?
I'm trying to remember, who was it that claimed there was some kind of server data on the beta discs?

I entered into a game session and someone in chat was talking about it there. It's only hearsay as far as I know; but, it's also very desirable hearsay.

After playing around with screenshots a bit, I decided it would be better to post videos of the tutorial missions in their "native environment," and some extra exploration where interesting. It's hard to appreciate how things look "just slightly off" with just static images. I've never done online video stuff with Youtube before so this will at least be a good learning experience once I get the basics down.
VS: FateJH, BR 21 CR 0 TR: FJH, BR 18 CR 1 NC: FateJHNC, BR 14 CR 0
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KingFeraligatr
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby KingFeraligatr » Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:00 pm

Really looking forward to possibly seeing the caves and possibly Oshur Prime. I've been yearning to go to those places for a long time. I hope you succeed with this Core Combat disc.
The King of Feraligatrs and the Typo Master.
BR 30, CR 3 NC, Gemini
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Captain1nsaneo-J
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby Captain1nsaneo-J » Sun Feb 14, 2016 5:06 am

YOU COULD JUST ASK.

Alright hold on, I'll get my beta CDs uploaded for you. I've got my CC CDs too. No, you can't have them, they're signed by T-Ray.

Also in offline mode the harasser has no gun and you can drive through warp gates to other conts but you can't get into enemy sanctuaries.

edit:
Oh and for that extra map? That's probably the orbital platform. You can find its music files under VS_orbital_platform (or NC_... or TR_...). It was meant to be the place the HART takes you that you drop pod down from. I've never head of anyone actually visiting it.

edit deux:
Compressing then uploading to Mega overnight, tell Nick to yell at me over steam if you need the CD keys too. Or just yell at me on here.

edit triangle:
Just checked and I have the client for CC's beta still installed and the PS Test server client still installed. Let me know if you want copies.

edit chatlogs:
I have over a meg of chatlogs?! When did that happen!
Naeadil
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby Naeadil » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:32 am

I think everything can be useful. Any old installs, including the test server client, the beta CDs, and CC CDs.

Will let you know about the CD Keys if needed.
- Nick
Captain1nsaneo-J
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby Captain1nsaneo-J » Sun Feb 14, 2016 5:17 pm

Planetside Open Beta CDs 1-3:
https://mega.nz/#!ic0S1YLR!tJtM4kRUfhLS ... VY04_rd33c

Planetside CC CD:
https://mega.nz/#!uJdSlLrB!hIHoYq2mJuaB ... -cScPU6PIM

Also it's more like 10 megs of chatlogs. I guess I turned on /log back in 2005 and didn't turn it off.
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XxXDEATHKILLXxX
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Re: PlanetSide Offline Tutorial Overview

Postby XxXDEATHKILLXxX » Sun Feb 14, 2016 6:08 pm

Woah, you beat me to CC. I was going to upload it tomorrow as I went out to the store yesterday and bought it.
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