Such stuff as dreams are made on
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It Act 2, scene 7
It's high time we from the GM Wonderland write a few lines on how things stand in the Customer Support department following the highly anticipated and successful Empyrean Age 1.1 patch. The title of this blog is borrowed from Shakespeare's The Tempest. This is a fitting title as our dreams of the future will be built on our successes. We at Customer Support, being at the front lines so to speak, are in a unique position to judge or evaluate whether a patch was successfully deployed and if there is any fallout or unexpected problems involved, as the potential torrent of problems are directed at us to pass on. The potential blowback or unintended consequences has always been a concern in past patch deployments. However, Quality Assurance, the Operations team and in fact everyone at CCP have done an amazing job at testing and making sure the patch deployment was as smooth as possible.
I'd like to begin by telling you how things are from the perspective of Customer Support. We have certainly felt that the patch was successful as our petition trends show. There are fewer petitions filed than we'd expected and fewer issues reported after the patch release. Petition count has often risen to almost unmanageable number following patch deployments or expansions, resulting in embarrassingly long response time to petitions. Those days are over. The smooth Empyrean Age deployment exceeded our expectations as our petition queue did not get bloated out of all recognition and we have managed to hold the fort.
I'd like to put this into perspective by comparing three graphs. The graphs will show the number of petitions created each day over a period of five weeks, and the total number of petitions in all queues each day.
Trinity, deployed December 4th 2007.
Notice how the petition queue goes from ca. 1000 to 7500. Shockingly this was not uncommon after deployments of expansions.
Empyrean Age 1.0, deployed June 9th 2008.
Notice the HUGE difference in created petitions and how quickly normal queue status is reached. This has to be the most successful deployment of an expansion in history. In fact, we were so concerned with how smooth it was we were beginning to think that perhaps our reports were faulty or that petition system had crashed. We have to give Quality Assurance a standing ovation for making sure that the over one hundred new missions were ready for deployment and that various features and fixes were vigorously tested.
Empyrean Age 1.1, deployed September 2nd 2008
Once again, absolute Bliss. No significant increase in created petitions and petition queues quite manageable. You can see a spike in created petitions two weeks after the patch following a series of hotfixes and when Stackless IO was performing too well, causing memory shortage. Over that weekend GMs off shift were rushed to the office to help out as well as the Operations team and in fact everyone who could contribute to a solution. This goes to show the level of absolute dedication that everyone here at CCP have to EVE.
As you can see from the graphs, things are looking up for us. However there are always opportunities to improve. We have identified various opportunities for further improvements following the Empyrean Age 1.1 effort, to address these issues in a more decisive manner.
Enter, stage left; Rapid Response!
In the past six months we made some structural changes to our Customer Support department aimed at reducing our response time and offering better support. We are happy to announce that our average petition age is currently two days with most normal requests handled in hours. We hope our efforts shine through in the level of support we are able to offer.
This has also allowed us to assign Game Masters to initiatives aimed at identifying and addressing issues as soon as they materialize. When Customer Support identifies a pattern in issues reported by players, the information is passed on to our Development team. The process is aimed at a rapid response to problems, containing any potential damage and preventing possible exploits. Most importantly, we aim for a swift solution to issues that arise. We have hot-fixed as many issues as we could server side in the past two weeks. Empyrean Age 1.1.1 will not only solve issues which can only be fixed client side, but it will also introduce solutions which could possibly change EVE forever.
Examples of critical issues which needed to be addressed;
- Players were often forced to pass through Jita to reach their destination with no alternative route.
- Players were stuck, logging into critically loaded systems.
- The autopilot option of manually avoiding systems of your choice (usually critically loaded ones).
Remember your lines and don't bump into the furniture!
There are many things to look forward to, such as an industry and mining boost, fleet formations, personal ambulating avatars and other exciting things. Most of all, we are looking towards a bright bug-free and lag-free future, with the advent of a Stackless IO, 64 bit processes and increased memory.
It is a privilege to work with such a dedicated team and it is an honor to work for such a mature playerbase. Just remember that Customer Support will always be there for you. In good times, in bad times, we'll be on your side forevermore.
"Now go we in content
To liberty, and not to banishment."
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It Act 1, scene 3
Senior Game Master
EVE Online Customer Support