Well, what a dramatic week it’s been. The teams at Stardock and GPG have been burning the midnight oil this week.
As those of you who have the game can already see, the server issues are gone. We’ve recreated a duplicate of the server infrastructure we had but dedicated to users who have the most recent version of the game and a valid CD key (serial #).
Based on the logs, we are seeing lots of games being played on-line now. Yay. Average game has approximately 4.7 humans in it which is a good sign.
I’ve seen a lot of news articles this week and a lot of confusion about what occurred this week. The issue isn’t terribly complicated.
Ars Technica had a good article that describes what happened. But still, a lot of people seem to think warez users are able to play multiplayer games. No, they can’t. Even the retail box has a serial # in it that users have to use and be validated to play online. What brought down servers was a lot more benign than that. It was the HTTPS requests to inform users if there was a new version along with checking the community features for info (friends lists, chat channels, etc.) and things like that. Things like that are pretty piddly. It’s only when you get a ton of users doing that at the same time that it becomes a problem as we saw.
But here’s the thing: While piracy is annoying, you can’t blame piracy for this problem. Let’s face it, there’s plenty of data out there about how many pirated games are being played. We should have looked at that. We assumed since Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations, both of which sold extremely well and got great reviews, that the # of pirated copies of Demigod in use would probably be in the same ballpark, maybe twice as much. But had we looked at what other publishers have said, we would have known that it’s not unusual for there to be hundreds of thousands of warez copies in use. And if we had, we could have simply had the retail version not have any HTTP calls in it and instead just had an update button on the main menu to check for updates and voila, problem solved.
The second misconception is the argument that because Demigod’s retail version is heavily pirated that it costs massive sales. But that, again, puts the blame on the wrong parties. If you want to talk about the horrible multiplayer experience on launch day, well, that’s our fault because of what I said above. If you want to say that the horrible day 1 multiplayer experience resulted in negative game reviews which will seriously damage the game’s sales then I say again, that’s our fault too because of what I said above OR we could have just sent out the review copies on release day (Tuesday) and reviewers wouldn’t have had it until Thursday by which point the problem had largely been resolved and the review scores would have been fine. But in either case, it’s still our fault.
So now what?
Now that the servers are working fine we’re moving away from the “#$R@#@# Demigod sux!” posts and into the regular new game release issues.
So what issues are we seeing and working on? Here are a few at the top of our lists:
1. Players getting disconnected during games. Demigod’s lag tolerance is fairly low resulting in disconnects if a player lags out a bit. This is fairly easy to fix. You get a player in Australia playing a user in Europe and there will be times when there’s a hicup in their connection and POW, disconnect and it’s extremely frustrating. I played all day today and it happened to me. This is a very high priority.
2. NAT negotiation. For users outside the United States in particular using DSL, this is a problem. This is a case where player A can’t see player B and thus they can’t play together. This is something we will be aggressively looking at next week. If we hadn’t had the server overload, we likely would have this addressed already.
3. Pantheon games. Right now, the system is excessively biased for new players – it wants to include AI players as cannon fodder. While this is fine and dandy for new players, once you know what you’re doing, having AI players in the game is incredibly annoying. So next week we’re going to change it so that if you have played a few games, it will wean the player off of AI players until you only play humans online. Same for Skirmish.
4. Favor Points and such. There’s some annoying stuff happening with favor points which is related to the ranking system in Demigod as well. First off, we plan to reset the rankings at some point when we enter Epoch 1 (we are in Epoch 0 presently game-wise, I’ll explain Epochs later but in short, every so often we’re going to reset the rankings, save the results as an epoch and go from there). In Epoch 1, custom games won’t count anymore as there’s too many ways to game it.
5. Misc. Bugs. There was a crush bug in the game that we’ve fixed internally but it got to be too late in the evening to package it up and get it released tonight. We have internally fixed the annoying issue of “A ppplayer has left the game” at the start of skirmish and pantheon games. Basically, when you get a new game going, there’s some data that has to be exchanged between players at the start. But the threshold of time you’re given to do this before it decides you’re too slow is set too low so we’re changing this to be more tolerant. In our tests with players we found on the chat channel who were having problems, it took care of it.
So that’s what we have in store for next week. After that, we can look at the typical balance requests, cheese stuff, and whatever else crops up.
Now, while the reviews are likely to have a pretty serious impact on sales, it does not affect our plans to continue to release updates and enhancements to the game nor does it affect our plans to release additional free Demigods.
For most of you, have fun this weekend! For those of you who are having a problem with something, hang in there. We’ve got your back!
Draginol is my home account in case people are confused.
Brad "Frogboy" Wardell