After a marathon coding session with lots of server moving we were able to release a Day 2 update which, from what we can tell from both the logs and from talking to people in chat has made a drastic improvement in the multiplayer experience. In a nutshell, today’s update let us connect to a different multiplayer NAT facilitator than the original. This one isn’t touched by users who get the game at retail (or those who have a warez version of the retail).
Now, I do want to address something about the update that I’ve seen users talk about. We aren’t blaming piracy for the fact that the day 0 multiplayer experience absolutely sucked. The issue boiled down to us having put together a multiplayer infrastructure that was designed to handle around 50,000 or so connected users. If the game took off, we would simply add more servers as the load increased.
But what happened was that we ended up with 140,000 connected users, of which about 12% were actually legitimate customers. Now, the roughly 120,000 users that weren’t running legitimate copies of the game weren’t online playing multiplayer or anything. The issue with those users was as benign as a handful of HTTP calls that did things like check for updates and general server keep alive. Pretty trivial on its own until you have 120,000 of them. Then you have what amounts to a DDOS attack on yourself.
So the day 2 update we released basically made sure legitimate customers were no longer being affected by those users. As a side note, no we can’t just eliminate the infrastructure being used up by warez users because they’re running the unprotected retail version and we can’t make a distinction between retail and pirated since there’s no copy protection. It’s not a huge deal in the long run (except to our metacritic score), it was just an unexpected challenge that made day 1 a very bad multiplayer experience.
So we still have lots of areas to improve the multiplayer experience such as dealing with European DSL stuff (one example) and we need to make the pantheon and skirmish stuff more robust and provide more feedback. The team is probably exhausted so the next update may not happen until next week since the day 2 update seems to have made a pretty big difference for the majority that I think we can probably take the weekend off.
But next week I expect we’ll have an update that addresses a lot of the above plus starts to look at balance and regular in-game bug reports and such that we’ve been collecting.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m going home to sleep. No really, I mean it this time!