Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 31, 2013

What could CCP do with the launcher failure?

In EVE Online there was a patch to the launcher that caused large amount of players to be unable to log in. The CSM jumped on doing its job, protecting CCP from players, claiming that everything is absolutely correct and there is nothing wrong in what CCP did, mistakes happen with everyone.

Let me clarify, mistakes do happen and there is nothing in the World that could prevent a stupid bug from making a system being totally nonfunctional until fixed. I don't blame CCP for not being perfect.

I do blame them though for not being error-resistant and I do blame CSM for not suggesting them to be. Having a car accident is a disastrous bad luck. Not being able to give first aid, not having first aid kid and not knowing the phone number of the ambulance and firefighters on the other hand is being a horrible idiot.

On the evening of the launcher fail, I just clicked the EVE icon, a short bar ran trough my screen and then nothing. Restarted the machine, clicked the icon, nothing. No pop-up, no error message, I could only see in the task manager that the eve launcher is indeed running (not even "not responding"), but it used no CPU, read and wrote no disk, it was just there. Having some basic knowledge about IT I knew that it is waiting for some other process or resource, probably on the net. I started digging the forums and after various pages of "launcher doesn't start CCP is ruining my life" and countless copies of the same error messages I found some suggestions from players.

The first one was to run repair.exe which failed with an error message I couldn't understand. Went back to the forums, searching for the error message, I found nothing but players whining and copying the error message again and again.

After some more forum digging, I found the Chribba link for the updater, some info how to apply it and I could do it. What does it mean: the error wasn't fatal like a server power outage, could be circumvented, but the way of doing it was provided by players and not developers. This is unacceptable and equal to the car accident victims helped only by bystanders and no response from 911.

So these are the things I expect from CCP:
  1. A verbose field of "what I do now" of the launcher. If anything fails, the launcher should be clearly be able to tell where did it fail.
  2. A wiki page explaining what each step means and what are likely causes and what countermeasures the player can do if any.
  3. A dedicated forum topic on the top level of the forum called "most recent error" where only developers can start topics. This forum should be the source of information for players.
  4. As soon as either a dev finds an error that affects players or the GMs are getting mass player reports of an error, an employee is assigned to forum duty. His job is not to code a solution but to communicate, help players with the problem and devs by getting informed. He keeps the topic aggressively moderated from whining, demanding and same-error-reporting, leaving only posts which offer either a new error message or some workaround. He keeps the opening post updated constantly for fast info.
Such actions would make players much less stranded and helpless with a bug.

I used to watch for horrible loss reports and make a moron of the day post but I got bored of it. After all, you can see the same things if you filter for 5B losses. Still, today a moron is provided, sent in mail by the killer. The point isn't that Sherman Potter lost an 1.4B pod in a 45M horrifit retriever. The point is that the killer managed to convince him to pay 50M for his frozen corpse, since you can regain implants from your frozen corpse. Or maybe not.


Foo said...

A Rambling response (I seem to be good at rambling)

Failures in the launcher can be the hardest to diagnose.

The very tool you use to diagnose errors, is in itself breaking. Yes, it should, if possible state 'go to www.... for more information'.

The reality is that experienced users of any complex system can often resolve issues before the staff can. There are many more experienced users than paid staff.

I agree that there should be a 'critical errors' section in the forums, which can be edited by CCP, CSM, forum moderators etc.

When there is a major error, a dedicated forum moderator should be a no brainer. However there is one item more important than keeping the populace entertained with updated information, and that is getting the problems solved. The forum moderator's primary objective should be to pass relevant information to the 'problem solving team'.

Players are helpless regardless. A simple message 'There is a known problem with ... We are currently working on a solution. Next update at ....' can alleviate the effects of that helplessness. Endorsements on work-arounds can be of help.

As someone who's role it is to act as the equivalent of moderator in my first life role; the problem solving team is already busy fixing the problem, and does not want distractions from the forum moderator.

In real life; the emergency responders will be there in 15 minutes; the bystanders are there now. Some of them have learned first aid.

Tego said...

The problem with this rant is that implementing those things takes time. I agree with the critical errors page, but that is one more headcount to keep on staff. It has to be someone who is knowledgeable about the game, its inner workings, computers in general...etc... essentially a developer who if they are doing "forum duty" cant be helping solve the issue. I think better would be the equivalent of a shoutbox that only CCP can update. that is a better way of getting the word out than a forum. If there is a section in the forums where people are discussing the error that link should be included in the shout, but not be part of the info itself.

As for people coming up with workarounds first and posting them... be happy they did. Fixing, or at least applying the proper bandaid to this kind of situation is trial and error usually because the cause is going to be buried deep, and require plenty of time sorting it out.

Does it make sense that a game, which tends to attract computer oriented people, would have a community that would be going through every bit of trial and error they could, as fast as they could, and therefore being quicker than CCP because they have more heads to try with? yep.

As a side note I don't usually shut down my computer and was in the habit of leaving the launcher up and running. I didn't see the issue till the very end, and at that point a system restart cleared it, because I was still using the old launcher.


Foo said...

@Tego; A dedicated forum moderator for when there are critical issues does not need to be a full time CCP paid role.

Their value is that they can relieve pressure on developers to get a fix *now*; as opposed to a fix later.

Consolidating the community effort, keeping devs and the community informed (and in that order) is valuable.

And as much as this site is about effort and reward, it is in the communities interest to have major issues fixed; and as such some members of the community will step up. The 'forum consolidator' does not need to be an additional paid staff role, and can form part of the duties of the existing forum moderators.