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EternityZA

Automaticaly sending crash reports.

6 posts in this topic

Hi.

Ive recently created a website on wich I put the games i make. Nothing very impressive yet but its growing. My biggest dilemma is compatibility on different systems. My games simply dont run on alot of pc's for a multitude of reasons thats very diffucult to track down.

To make my life alot easier i wrote a server application that can receive crash reports from my games and ive modified my engine's error handling to automaticaly make a connection to my server and send it the crash report when it crashes. This report contains no information about the user or the system. It simply sends the stack trace, error encountered and the name of the game.

Question 1: Is it safe for me to do this without giving the user a warning?
Question 2: If i later decide to include system specs in my crash report. Is it still safe to do wihout warning the user?

Thnx in Advance!
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Define "safe". Are you worried it won't work? Are you worried about the user?

Why not do what most companies do, pop up some dialog saying "Hey, this program has crashed. Do you want to submit a crash report?". If they choose to proceed then you don't have to worry. I don't think you should do this behind the users back. I personally dislike it when programs try to connect to the Internet when I didn't request them to do so.
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with safe i meant for me legaly.

Since my games are run straight from the web browser (meaning the user is already on the internet) I thought it might be OK to just send a crash report regardless. It cant hurt the user in any way (afaik)

My site doesnt have alot of traffic yet. In other words not allot of people are going to be running my games. If i add a popup like that i might end up getting zero error reports. If i dont add the popup Im guessing it might look a bit sketchy to a more computer literate user that notices the outgoing connection.

Do you stil think i should rather use a popup?
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IANAL, I don't know what is legal here. In the absence of legal advice, I look at what the big players are doing, and they always seem to request permission. Permission is sometimes sought as part of the EULA (yes, I read them!) or an option in the installation procedure - often termed something more neutral such as feedback.

You have to be careful with crash dumps though. For example, depending on your game the user's password might be in cleartext in the dump. If you upload this without encryption, you are broadcasting the user's password to anyone sharing their network. I don't know what technology you are using for your game and for the crash dump, but if it is running in the browser you should ensure you're not including any data from the browser itself, which could contain any number of sensitive information.

Submitting the system specification should be innocuous, but I think you should ask the user in this case as things like hardware configuration can be used to fingerprint machines with a surprising degree of certainty.

[quote]
If i add a popup like that i might end up getting zero error reports
[/quote]
You might. However, these are people who aren't particularly interesting in getting the game fixed. You should focus your development effort on fixing the game for users who do want it fixed.

The style and wording of the crash log will go a long way toward encouraging use of it. Like the modern "HTTP 4XX" page is often a cute "Whoops, something went wrong", doing something similar yourself might avoid scaring users away from what looks like a technical issue. The main thing is not to panic non-technical users, they'll likely hit the "cancel" button if they don't understand what is going on.

You could go a little underhand and have a buttons like "upload/submit and restart game" paired with "quit game", which gives the user some incentive to click the option you want.

A combination of such approaches might coax users into submitting the feedback you want. At the end of the day it is the users computer, you shouldn't feel entitled to those crash reports.
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I wouldn't be impressed if I knew your apps were uploading information that I didn't give consent for. I think rip-off raises some good points. You might also want to explicitly tell the user that no personal/identifiable information is recovered. You could also give them the option of previewing the crash log if they are concerned before it's submitted.
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Thnx for the replies.

The games dont run in the browser. I use java webstart so they are just launched from the browser. They are free standing java applications that use opengl for rendering and open in a new window or fullscreen. The crash report is created by my personaly developed game engine and not by 3'rd party technology so personal information wont accedently slip through.

regardless youve made some good points. I will implement it as a popup window that pops up if the game crashes. Currently the games just close without any explanation if they crash so a window with a "send error report" button would probely be an improvement on that anyway.

I would have liked to add it in a EULA or something but the games dont get installed on the users system, and i dont want to put a EULA in the users face each time they want to play a game of my site.
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you could have the EULA display to people who don't have a specific cookie set,so it is a display-once thing, showing on first visit to the website or first attempt to download any game?
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