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Full Transparency (dev log)

Something simultaneously amazing and soul-crushing happened to us this ladder. We experienced a massive population boom that is unprecedented for our community and has made Path of Diablo one of the biggest diablo II servers.
I want to begin by telling everyone how much I appreciate it that you've all decided to spend your free time playing on this server. It means a lot to me that something I've worked really hard on for over two years now, is worthy of your time and in some cases your money.
But with such a big explosion in population came huge problems. And today I want to discuss the issues and be fully transparent about what has happened and what we are doing to improve the server for the better.
Ladder reset day I finally got all the mandatory stuff ready in time for launch. About 5 servers were not setup yet but the other 9 servers would be capable of taking in players when we opened the gates. At exactly midnight my time I opened up the gates but something strange happened. Very few people were capable of getting in. I was looking at the realm and the game servers and everything there looked fine. Yet on discord and twitch streams it was clearly not working.
I actually sat there for at least half an hour looking around trying to identify a problem with no immediate idea of what could be the cause. It was a terrifying feeling and I actually had to mute the streams and turn off discord because the noise there was making me panic even more. Eventually I had found the issue. CPU was maxed out. 100% usage. I looked at the processes hogging the cpu and found a strange process I'd never seen before "cpuminer.exe". Typed it in google and realized it was software designed for bitcoin mining. Earlier that day I had installed new software to help with backing up characters off of the realm server in case something bad were to happen to the character backups on the realm itself. That software must have included this cpuminer.
I ended the process, deleted the file and immediately people got in and everything progressed smoothly.
In preparation for this ladder I taught myself a bit of programming so I could create my own software designed specifically to automate parts of PoD that I use to do manually:
Every time we added new game servers these tasks became more time consuming for me so it was important I could automate them. Unfortunately some issues occurred here too.
For starters; the PoD patch file has grown a lot, going from 16mb to about 85mb. Github has a limit of 20mb for files which means we had to quickly find a solution otherwise we would have no way to distribute the patch to players. We found a way to do it but it caused all sorts of issues. First off, my software which automates the patching was no longer compatible since the url for the patch had changed. Next we found an issue with github's online editor which adds a new line to a file, resulting in the PoD Launcher comparing your one line patch CRC to the server's two line CRC.
But that's not all the problems this caused. When I uploaded a new patch to the new url which supports bigger files, I forgot that my software was still programmed to download from the old url. So the game servers detected a new update was available and begun downloading the old patch which did not have the charm system. This made everyone's inventory shrink to the vanilla game size, destroying all items in the new inventory in the process. Of course this happened while I was sleeping so I had to wake up at 4 am to manually patch the servers back to the latest version and tell everyone that I could not get their charms back. Eventually this was fixed but I had to update my software and then deliver it manually on each game server. And leading up to this update I had been manually patching bug fixes onto every game server manually. It was brutal.
Another issue is that the player count was so high that it required many more game servers. I did improve the speed at which I can deploy PoD's server software so that I can quickly add new game servers, but the recent Windows vulnerabilities you may have heard of in the news have caused big problems. When we get a new server, it needs to be updated to the latest windows patches or it will be hacked within a few hours. And these updates take a really long time which slowed the speed at which I could add new servers. Another issue is that the software I made to automate the server restarts is only capable of handling 14 game servers at once and it uses an inefficient group of script files (about 20 files per server) which means I need to edit each one twenty times when I add a new game server.
And if you thought my custom-made automation software wasn't bad enough already, I had everything programmed to work by time. So if a game server is offline, it waits 10 seconds and then launches it again. If a patch needs to be downloaded then it will initiate the download and move on within 20 seconds. The flaw seems so obvious now. When the patch went from 16mb to 80mb the time it took to download it could sometimes be greater than 20 seconds.
And this was only the beginning. We have some really cool analytics that we can study and we can also look back at the analytics from previous seasons. After 48 hours of the server launch it seemed pretty obvious to us that we would hit around 2000 concurrent users on the second weekend of the ladder. Last ladder the record was somewhere around 800 and this ladder we had already reached 1000 concurrent users on Friday and Saturday. While it is true that ZiggyD's video sped up our predictions by introducing PoD to his massive audience, the amount of people who hit the server on the tail end of the weekend, was still nowhere near what we were expecting to hit the following weekend. This made players wrongly hate on Ziggy when the servers could not take the load. All his video did was bring to light some new server issues 5 days earlier than what would have happened. And indeed I can confirm this now because even after all the servers issues, we hit 1800 users on that second weekend. Not only does this prove that the hate on Ziggy was unwarranted but also Ziggy even asked me if it was alright to make a video and I said yes. I never want to see this community be this disrespectful again towards anyone.
Turns out the Battle.net emulator software we use to run this realm is not capable of handling that amount of concurrent users. The realm crashed under the pressure and players got immediately disconnected from their games. The game servers save everything players do in a temporary place and when they save and exit the game it sends all that information to the realm server to store permanently. If the connection to the realm is severed, the game server is unable to save the information and it is therefore lost. This means when the realm crashed players would rollback to their last save and exit. Immediately we began trying to understand why this was happening. There is very little documentation on the emulator and the error logs did not give us anything useful. We were blindly toying with settings and doing trial and error.
In an attempt to prevent the realm from constantly crashing, I had to limit the amount of players who could play and make the game servers restart every two hours so that at most you would rollback two hours of content. Although we did many things to immediately help the situation, nothing was ever a permanent fix. We ended up with a small team of really good programmers in a discord channel where they tried to workout what the issue could be. We upgraded the hardware on the realm and we changed many of the emulator's settings but nothing worked. Eventually we realised that the software could be compiled in a different way that is a lot less resource intensive but more limiting to me as an administrator. We tried it and immediately the realm ran smoothly. This allowed us to uncap the server so anyone could play.
However, this did not fix the crash. All it did was made the realm run smoother and handle more players. It turns out a different error was causing some of the crashes. At this time we still don't know for sure what is causing it but we are getting closer every day. Right now the realm seems to crash every 20 or so hours so I am manually restarting the realm each day to reset that time. It is not an amazing solution but it has allowed players to play the game and we ended up reaching a new record of 1932 concurrent players. I think we would have easily surpassed 2200 concurrent users if the crashes and rollbacks hadn't turned off a lot of newcomers. I hope they will be willing to try again next ladder.
During all of this time, I was also working. All of the donations go towards server hosting cost and so I make no money from this project. This means I have to do my job in real life. The server issues were destroying my sleep and hurting my performance at my work. I love this community and server but it has completely crushed my soul and demoralized me this ladder. I would not be able to sleep during the night (as that is USA and EU prime time) which mean't i had to take naps in between work and after it. It has impacted my happiness and health more than I thought it would. Fortunately our recent improvements have helped the realm be much more stable and therefore has improved my quality of life.
The problem is that while all of this was happening, some in-game issues had been brought to my attention. I had no time to fix in-game bugs and realm issues kept taking priority over bugs in the game for obvious reasons. This means issues like Fire Claw and Battle Orders which both will require a lot of time, could not be fixed. Furthermore I realized that there is a bug which is preventing a diablo clone related item from dropping. With that said, I don't think anyone would have figured out the recipe for it anyway so I will be fixing the item and then revealing the recipe to everyone.
I am off work today so I will be writing this dev log and then working on game fixes. I just want to warn everyone that the fixes will not come as one patch but rather a series of patches. As soon as I fix one big issue I will patch it in immediately rather than delay it to finish the rest. So do not be surprised if one of the bugs is still in the game after you see your PoD Launcher download an update.
A big issue we have now is that we are completely under staffed. The moderation team is five on discord, two on reddit and two for the in-game chats. This is not enough people and has resulted in a lot of spam and hateful messages. I will be improving our tools to deal with moderation and increasing the amount of moderators we have.
I'd also like to quicky speak about the website issues. The website was becoming incredibly slow due to the increased playerbase and so we had to move servers. It was our first time ever moving web servers and so the move did not go smoothly. But right now we believe that everything is completely back to normal. Thank you for your patience.
On the donation page I have removed the donation tracker because not only is this month over-funded but also I want to discourage people from donating for awhile. We got so much donations this ladder that we really don't need any more for awhile. Remember all the money goes towards server hosting cost and right now those costs are covered for several months. Thank you to every one for their enormous generosity and kind words. It helped me power through this difficult time.
I hope that every one can forgive me for the issues and give us a second chance as we work out all the issues in a permanent way. And I also want to thank the pod team for their amazing help and thank all the players who have stuck with us and stayed positive. And I'd like to apologize for the hundreds of PMs i got that I did read but did not have time to respond to. As things improve, I will get more of my life back and therefore more time to answer PMs consistently again.
submitted by greendude120 to pathofdiablo [link] [comments]

Haven't purchased in a few months since BitInstant dropped bank transfers. Decided to use Moneygram today and ran into nothing but issues. Experienced SR user here who needs a little help for once :).

First of all I know how annoying these kinds of questions are, but alas I find myself turning to my community for some support. I have been out of the country for about 3 months and just got back this December. I decide to make an SR purchase today and turns out BitInstant no longer accepts bank deposits. So, the only option I really had was to do a moneygram. I went through the normal steps (Wallet #, REAL name, tormail address, etc. etc.) and selected a moneygram location as well as giving them my tormail address one more time along with my phone number (for ZipZap). I don't have a car right now and my nearest moneygram location was like 2 miles so I hoofed it over there only to find out that my name was not on the account or that it had not even been set up or something of that nature (I honestly couldn't completely understand the call center rep on the red phone at CVS). I'm just trying to understand what I did wrong. I've been using bank deposits for like a year and they are flawless and go without a hitch every time. Also, has anyone else been having tormail issues? I did not receive a single confirmation email or anything throughout this whole period. I also just tried to sign up for coinbase and did not receive the confirmation email. Does tormail stop sending/receiving to your account after periods of inactivity?
Thanks guys.
:EDIT: - Just received an email from coinbase finally so I know my email is working. Does anyone have experience with this service and know if it is reliable? I saw it suggested by another SR reddit user. Thanks
:EDIT2: - I appreciate all the help yall. When I first started using SR, I went with a bitcoin vendor for my first or second time, and honestly, the fees are disgusting. There is a walmart about the same distance in the opposite direction that I am going to try. Hopefully they'll make it work. I sure am getting a workout today haha. Tip for anyone who is looking to buy a car, save up a couple extra paychecks and don't buy a beater cherokee for 1500 on craigslist hoping it will run forever. Because it will break down shortly thereafter. If you have my luck, that is.
:FINAL EDIT:: - Just wanted to say since there is a wells fargo directly across the street from me, I went with bitcopia because all they were accepting at the moment is wells fargo deposits anyway. The fee was not bad, probably equivalent to or less than bitinstant, and I had my BTC in about 2 hours directly to my silkroad wallet (which I never normally do, but I was feeling cheeky and pressed for time today). Went flawless, and the lack of information I had to give gave me the confidence to deposit directly to my SR wallet. I plan on using them again for sure.
Thanks everybody.
submitted by ChampionOfFriendship to SilkRoad [link] [comments]

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