- Category: SWTOR News
- Created: Saturday, December 13th, 2014
- Last Updated: Saturday, January 10th, 2015
- Published: Friday, January 9th, 2015
- Written by Eric Musco
As I mentioned in my post last week, we have been working hard on assessing and figuring out how to address the "lag" issues which have been prominent since Game Update 3.0 went live. After speaking with our engineers, we thought the following would help explain what's happening and what we are doing to address the issues:
What The Problems Are
Here are some of the issues that players have been experiencing since the launch of Game Update 3.0:
- Server performance: Ability delay, Latency issues
- Client performance: A drop in framerate
- The game having a general "laggy" feeling, which is really a mix of the above
Causes and Their Status
As you might expect, when you start to talk about performance, almost every game system has an effect. Once the performance issues with Game Update 3.0 were identified, we needed to isolate what was causing them, and narrowed it down to two main sources:
- Server code – There is a whole lot going on behind the scenes to keep the game running. The main symptom of server related issues is something we call "hitching". Server hitching is the main culprit behind what a lot of you will commonly refer to as lag in SWTOR. The servers are busy processing responses from all the players at once, and sometimes a particular activity on the server can take longer than usual. This is basically the equivalent of a low "framerate" on the server rather than on your client. Server hitching occurs when you issue a command on your client (such as activating an ability, moving your character, opening a vendor) and there is a delay in the server actually performing that command. The server will "hitch" in its response since it is taking a long time to deal with your action or the actions of other players. For the most part, this behavior is responsible for nearly all of the problem areas mentioned above.
- Note: Many of you noticed that shortly after Game Update 3.0 we made a quick change to limit the amount of players in each planetary instance. This was an interim solution to this problem as lowering the number players in a specific area reduces the impact of server hitching to the player. We'll continue to monitor and adjust this number as needed.
- Status: We’ve implemented changes in Patch 3.0.2 to address some of these issues. We will continue to monitor and make additional adjustments, as needed.
- The User Interface – Next up is our game's UI. Following Game Update 3.0, we noticed a large spike in time spent rendering our UI. This caused a lot of the framerate issues many of you reported. Keep in mind that the UI will always have some performance impact versus having it turned off—it’s busy doing something, after all. The question is how much time is acceptable to spend rendering the UI, and what can we do to improve it.
- Status: Several changes have been made for 3.0.2 to address the UI's performance issues.
I learned a few other things while talking with the development team. First is our data tracking around performance. We are constantly monitoring the performance of the game to determine when things have gotten worse and to find ways to address it. That data, as well as your feedback, reports to Customer Service, and information from the Forums helped isolate the major focus areas. After reviewing all our performance data, we were able to pinpoint some pretty critical areas. The engineers informed me that any code change will have a profound impact regardless of the change, so they consider them very high risk. That means extensive testing! A bad change could take down the entire service, or at least cause some surprising bugs.
Second is how performance is adjusted - think of it as a sliding scale. Our engineers will constantly make optimizations where we can to help move that slider in the direction of best performance. When we implement new features, or new systems, typically they require additional game resources and impact our overall performance and the slider moves away from “best”. For example, last year we made substantial changes to the way our chat systems worked and it had a dramatic and positive impact on performance. In fact, performance for the chat system has never been better. Each time we patch the game, it typically includes slider performance adjustments of some type, even if they have a very small impact. We know Game Update 3.0 moved the slider in the wrong direction, but we fully intend to get to back to pre-3.0 performance and improve it even more.
I know performance is far from perfect and that changes aren't coming quite as fast as we wish they were. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused many of you. Please know that we are working on them and will get performance back to a better place!