12/06/2014

2.8 - Broken Servers

Even with 2.8 being a much lighter patch than originally intended, I was looking forward to trying out and writing about its new features. What I didn't expect, especially with the patch delivering much less content than planned, was for the game to break down and become more or less unplayable for a lot of people (including me) immediately after patch deployment.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm usually pretty easygoing about this kind of stuff. I know that unexpected things happen... just acknowledge that there's a problem and get to fixing it. I love the song "Happy Patch Day" by Greyfoo - the random issues he sings about are certainly a good illustration of the kind of problems that can occur after a bad patch, even if it's been a while since I actually experienced one that bad myself. The point is, I do remember what it's like, and even if the refrain of the song rings very true for me right now ("when nothing's working, all I wanna do is play"), I can generally look at these things with a sense of humour.

On Tuesday I didn't even bother to log in, after guildies immediately warned me about just how broken the game was: subscribers being flagged as free-to-play, people continually getting kicked back out to the character selection screen, group invites having a five minute delay, warzones starting with a total of three people (one on one team, two on the other)... the list was endless. I figured that, based on previous experience, this sounded like a case of "server dying" more than a buggy patch and decided to just stay away from the game completely that evening, as these kinds of things usually result in a bit of a rollback once they restart the server.

The problem is: Bioware didn't restart the server. They barely even acknowledged that there's a problem at all! There's been a note that they are investigating an issue with area transitions and might get around to fixing it in a few days. Um, you realise that there are a lot more problems than "area transitions" and that your game is pretty much unplayable right now, yes? At least for people on The Red Eclipse...

I logged in early on Wednesday and immediately noticed that there was a considerable delay on me updating the guild message of the day and it actually appearing in chat. A couple of guildies were online however and claimed to be able to do group content normally. I queued for a GSF match and that seemed to go okay. When I tried to access the guild bank, I was unable to - as in, I clicked on it and no window popped up; nothing happened at all. I gave it some time in case there was simply a delay on that too, but it just didn't work at all. I went to Nar Shaddaa to have a brief look at the casino thing, and got stuck on the "ship flying towards the planet" screen for a good minute or so before it switched to the normal loading screen. When I hit my quick travel to ship to leave after having inspected the casino, nothing happened. Everything around me froze and I soon ran into invisible walls if I tried to move, so I hit my quick travel again as it hadn't gone on cooldown. I tried to fleet pass. Nope. After a few minutes of being stuck in limbo I suddenly got teleported back to my ship after all. I logged out again, deciding that the game still wasn't playable enough.

In the evening, some of my guildies tried to raid, but from the sounds of it the server was back to being as bad as on Tuesday evening and they didn't get much done.

This morning (two days after the patch) I logged in to check on a few things and they seemed... better. I was able to access the guild bank and everything seemed to be as responsive as it should be. However, people in general chat were saying that the game was only playable in the mornings and that it would likely all go to hell again in the evening. Again, this sounds like more of a server issue to me than a universal patch problem, especially as people on other servers are reportedly able to play as normal.

More than anything, I wish that Bioware would communicate about this issue. I know others might disagree, but usually they really aren't that bad at this. I've seen my server go wonky a few times since I started playing, and their usual reaction is to acknowledge that there's an issue, whether it's on the official forums or on Twitter, then take the server down for a bit and fix it. This time, they haven't acknowledged anything but the "area transitions" and done nothing.

More than anything, I just hate not knowing what's going on. If I log on now and the game seems to be working, how can I trust it not to suddenly go all buggy on me again at a crucial moment? I don't believe in bugs miraculously fixing themselves, and Bioware themselves apparently haven't done anything (yet). I just want to check out the new patch content in peace. This sucks.

3 comments:

  1. I haven't been on in the past few days since I figured there would be issues --patches have that rep among MMOs-- but this is worse than normal.

    No matter what else, they need to communicate.

    Lately, Blizz has been having the same issue. About two weeks ago --during the first day of IoC weekend, no less-- lag spiked on a lot of servers upwards of 1-2 seconds. This happened during evening raiding/BGs on a Friday, and I kept being kicked out entirely or not being able to comment in Gen Chat. Doing an instance or BG was completely out of the question.

    Rumors ran rife about whether Blizz was experiencing a DDoS attack or not, but Blizz never bothered to put a "Hey we're experiencing problems" header during login. Hell, the only thing that they mentioned in the forums was in response to a rising chorus of complaints, and it was a "we're working on it" or "we think we might have it, just wait".

    Lack of communication kills people's respect.

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    1. They posted an update along with a hotfix today... apparently they have to revert the operations group finder to 8-man only, as the new 16-man was bringing the servers to their knees. o_O Major coding fail?

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    2. Were I a betting man, I'd bet there's a memory leak in the 16-man coding. Or if not a leak per se, an overwrite in a section of memory reserved for something else.

      Both of those can be hard as hell to track down, because you have to hit that section of the code often enough to find it.

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