Ever wondered why SOE patches their games at 7:00am Pacific time? Planetside 2 producer David Carey took to the Planetside 2 reddit to answer this question. Keep in mind that his comments relate to Planetside 2, which patches its US and EU servers simultaneously. As we all know, EverQuest II either patches its EU servers simultaneously with US servers or on an ~18 hour delay, depending on whether the update includes new zones, crucial exploit fixes, or sometimes just the direction of the wind, etc.
I’ve seen this asked several times, and I’m not sure if we’ve ever given an official response. I know some the European players feel our downtimes are unfair (6 am local for us) and wonder why we do it. Trust us, the last thing we want is the game down during anyone’s prime playing times. But we have a few reasons for this time slot, and we actually spent a lot of time thinking about it. I doubt it’ll take the sting out of having the servers down, but maybe knowing why will help a little.
The first reason is that we are a worldwide game, and our population numbers have several spikes, so we’re always going to be near someone’s prime hours.
“Why don’t you just bring European servers down at a different time than the others?” Not technically possible with how our system is set up. We can’t have multiple client or server versions out in the wild at the same time. I mean, nothing is impossible to our Coders, because they are awesome. Think about it – a dude fires a bullet at me from his desk IN BERLIN and my char dies at my desk IN SAN DIEGO in real time…that’s just amazing when you consider it, right? But this change would mean tearing down PS2 and starting the network code all over in some key areas. I can get our Tech Dir if you need more details there.
Another reason is that we update once a week or more on average (even though we’ve stopped the official weekly publishes, we’re doing our third one of this week due to hotfixes etc). We need people to run the patches, so we really can’t just say “Hey you guys are working overnight tonight and maybe two other nights this week, we’ll let you know.” I mean, they have families and that’s just not fair. So that rules out some time slots like 2am local other than for emergencies.
The main reason we picked this time slot is we’ve learned over the years, not just on PS2 but previous games as well, that bringing servers down always has inherent risk. Long time PS2 players may notice that we’ve gotten better about the longer downtimes over the months. I know we just had one the other day for the merge, but I think overall the downtimes have gotten much better. BUT, when something does go wrong, we need all hands on deck. Art, Code, Design, build process itself…almost anything can be the bug that stops us unlocking. So we need everyone in house. If we start at 6am, folks are showing up just as problems start appearing. If we start any earlier, the turnaround time on calling people, waking them up, etc just means wasted time. Trust me, I’ve made those phone calls often, and waking people up to come into work is never cool.
In fact, you may not know this but probably should have guessed, game teams are late risers. We’re playing games until 3am sometimes just like you guys (just one more turn, my archers are about to take Constantinople and it has the Hanging Gardens!). So if we didn’t have European players we would probably pick 9 am local as our update time. But that would be way worse for Europe, so we factored that in.
Lastly, I see some people saying “SOE hates/doesn’t care/ignores Europe.” Nothing could be further form the truth. This is the most multicultural company I’ve ever worked at, and lots of our employees are from Europe (including myself, Forza Italia!). We love and appreciate our European heritage, and would never intentionally do something to alienate our customers over there. You guys are factored into every decision we make, no matter where you play from. (Random aside – thank god for Google translate, Germans are kickass bug at finding bugs)
Anyway, like I said, when servers are down and you want to play, it sucks. But hopefully this post will let you guys know why we do what we do and when.
PS If you guys have any more unanswered questions we’ve never answered, hit me up.
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