Why Patch Now? Security, Encryption, Windows 98/SE/ME and Agent System Changes

I had been reading the forums for patch feedback and such and after responding to a couple of threads, I think it's a good idea I gather everything into a blog, not only for posterity but simply because a lot of people don't read the forums at all, let alone a thread with a dev answer deep inside it.

Why patch Dragon now when the cluster is having so many problems?

We're patching Dragon exactly because of the many problems plaguing Tranquility. Dragon is the biggest code-only fix, improvement and optimization patch we have done to Tranquility in years.

As a result of the extensive work done in the code, (total code is now about a million lines), we know there are going to be deployment problems. Veterans of EVE know this as "Patch Day Syndrome".

Many have asked (or will ask), why doesn't CCP test their patches? This is the eternal problem of testing high loads. We can't duplicate the code's native environment (Tranquility), because we have no way to replicate the load of 28k players. We do a lot of testing before we deploy patches and the Dragon code branch, our internal nickname for the code branch, has gone through these phases of testing:

  • 2 Months of Alpha testing in China
  • 1 Month of closed Beta testing in China
  • 1 Month of open Beta testing in China. Max concurrent users was about 38.000 players.
  • Deployed for Release in China

Since then, we have further fixed and improved the Dragon code base, which then adds 2 months of internal and public testing on Singularity.

Those additions are small in comparison with what was done before the China release, then again we must remember that in China it was released on a clean database. Here, we have to migrate a lot of data and upgrade a lot of database tables. This has also been tested on Singularity, but even multiple tests there have not prevented issues from popping up in the last minutes.

So for short, Dragon is supposed to help Tranquility out the current state, but it will be bumpy getting there.

Why cease support for the older Operating Systems?Security? Encryption?

Let's start with the operating systems. A player on the forum stated that less than 3% of visitors to his websites had the operating systems that we are stopping support for. For us, it's less than 1% of visitors to eve/myeve that run 98/SE/ME. In fact, we have more people running Linux and Mac visiting us than those three operating systems combined.

This still doesn't make this an easy thing to do for us, as 1.000 players are a lot of customers to lose. However, this has to be done.

I stated in the news that not only will these three operating systems no longer get support from Microsoft - neither will we if we have problems with EVE on these platforms. This means that we will have no way of ensuring EVE working on these platforms in the future.

However, this is just half the story. The security and encryption added to this client is very necessary, not just for our safety but yours too. Most client modifications will no longer work, we have enhanced over-the-wire security and beefed up authentication to name a few.

This wasn't a decision made lightly or made by me in a drunken stupor (which I'm highly likely to do) but with us crying in a corner in the fetal position.

You see, our strategy is to support more OS platforms, not fewer. That's why we want to work with Transgaming, that's why we're looking at EVE Mobile clients for PDAs and more.

To those users with these OSes, I hope you can understand our reasons, although I'm pretty sure it doesn't alleviate the pain of having to upgrade or worse, quit if you decide not to.

Agent system changes

On the agent system changes, this is more to clear up some misunderstandings and provide answers to what's going to happen next.

Please note: No changes are being made to the Research or Loyalty Points you have accumulated, the agents themselves, Standings, current Research, etc. Only the missions themselves are undergoing change.

First of all, we have a very old agent mission system which is costly in resources, is limiting in what we can do and requires the mission creator to have a rudimentary understanding of python to create a mission, and the associated chances of bugs cropping up on all levels of the authoring of missions. This is bad, mkay? :)

We have had for some time a new mission system, which doesn't require python understanding enables us to do more than the old system in a shorter period of time.

The "new" system was actually introduced in EXODUS and you mainly noticed it in Deadspace missions. This is because the new system enables us to do missions with more interesting encounters, such as in Deadspace or any of the other new environments we have planned.

What is happening in this patch is we are removing the old system, which means the old encounters will disappear, as fun as some of them were. Many of their replacements missions were deployed in the patch a month ago to allow you to get used to them and lessen the shock, but this is not all.

Most courier missions have also been removed. We were going to replace a lot of them with the usual "go there and get stuff" but we felt we weren't doing anyone any favors. They will be replaced, but not in this patch.

What does the future behold?

Since the introduction of the new mission system and our encounter system which all Deadspace Complexes and mission encounters are written in, we have improved these systems.

Encounters now have far more scriptable events, they have more varieties for NPC spawning and we're adding more mission completion criteria. Combine all these and you have more varied, more challenging and hopefully more fun missions. The problem is, these won't deployed until Kali deploys.

We're very sorry the transition can't be smoother than this, but we want to assure you that we are really improving the agent system and we have a lot of people working on creating encounters and missions.

Oh, and to reply to the eternal question I'm quite sure will be asked:

Why do you have people creating new stuff instead of fixing stuff?

The people creating missions and encounters are content developers. They can't write code, they can't fix bugs in code, in fact, one could say that they were able to create bugs and if anything, they have less chance to create them now in the new agent mission system. :)