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Greyback

Server Stability - Your Thoughts & Why It Should Change

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I think it goes without an explanation that the server isn't exactly very... stable... as of late. Frequent lag, sporadically guaranteed crashes... I don't know about anyone else, but this is not the server I remember from 2017. I also recently just discovered today that the server can't even handle changing maps on a frequent basis anymore, hence why we are stuck on the ISD, the rotation maps, and only go to the snow planet when we do actually have 'off-ship' events.

Far be it from me to tell Management or the Development Team how to handle their own server, but I personally think that something needs to change. Trim some of the content, cut some addons, or lower the amount of perma-props on each map ... something to make things a little more functional. And don't even get me started on what happens when we get 100+ players on at the same time...

Truthfully speaking, Garry's Mod has always had a history of being systematically unstable at the best of times. In fact, I'm sure I can say the same for most of the Source Engine games that can have Custom Content add-ons. The games were just not designed specifically to take on such a large amount of mods and customization, and on such a large scale... So with that said, yes I can understand that there is only so much that one can do to increase such a server's performance, but surely there can be something done to at least improve playability.
 

But how would these changes affect the Server?

- More Events
Lately I seem to have been noticing a lack of Events on the server; most of them are spaced out between quite a few considerable hours, even during peak time. Without diving into too much speculation I can only assume that this is partly because that running an Event uses up a lot of bandwith, data, or what-have-you that the server requires. I mean, a full-blown combat scenario between troopers and rebels currently seems to pass by in only one frame at a time, if you're unlucky. If the server was more optimized then more frequent Events could be run, which would give more people something to do on an increasingly regular basis. This leads me into my next positive change...

- More Maps
There used to be a time that we, being the Galactic Empire, were able to go on 'school trips' to other planets for Events. There were even such rare cases of us temporarily rotating to two different maps specifically for one Event, instead of just the one rotation. Lately, as I mentioned above, this seems to no longer be possible due to the fact that the "server can't handle it anymore". And this is right - it can't. This is proven day in and day out - some days more so than others. With better stability and performance we would not only have more Events, but more maps to play on for those Events. This would spice up your average Rebel attack by a definite 200%, and make things more generally interesting instead of just running around like headless chooks and [SITREP]ing that there are Rebels in the engine room. Again.
Not only that, but it would add a hell of a lot more roleplay options for all regiments. I don't believe I need to give any examples - I'm sure some of you CO's, 2IC's, or even anyone could think of something of interest to do on a place such as Tatooine or Kashyyk.

- More Players
We already have a large content pack (nearly 200 add-ons now) which makes it a hassle for everybody to have to download, update, and keep up to scratch with all the little bugs, nooks and crannies, and new first-time joining players are no exception to this. Everybody's computer build is different, along with their Internet and whatever else, so if by any luck they actually manage to download all of the content and make it into the server during peak hour, they're guaranteed to be met with a huge amount of lag and-or potential server crashes anyway. I don't know about anyone else, but if I was a new player to a SWRP server and this happened to me, I would be getting pretty frustrated. Most people don't want to have to deal with that, and they have a large amount of choice in doing so. Thus, they often join and stay for a few hours, if at all, and then they leave and are never to be seen again.
Better stability and optimization would not only help encourage new joining people to play on the server, but also help prevent minges. In addition, it would encourage some already existing members to play a little more regularly as well. With this in motion, the increase in player count would also add a few more RP options and increase some regimental activity even further.


The above three are only just the start of what Serverside Optimization/Improvement could allow. I know that things are always changing and that Management/Devs are working to keep up with those changes, but sometimes it's better just to stick with what worked well in the first place. I know that when I first started playing on this server back in late 2017, there was almost never anything that seemed boring or repetitive to me. Events were constantly changing and interesting, the related map changes were well orientated, and effective roleplay was at its highest peak due to the large amount of options we were given.

This isn't an attack post on anyone or even the server in any way. These are just my observations on a few things and a couple of ways I believe some improvements could be made to not only better the server, but also the community and the playerbase as a whole. Surely I'm not the only one here and can speak for a lot of other people, so what are your thoughts on this? Is the server fine the way it is, or does it need a few changes to better improve its performance?

Edited by Greyback
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1 hour ago, Greyback said:

but surely there can be something done to at least improve playability.

Not really.  If we could have done it, we would have.  We would love a four nines (99.99%) uptime and a solid connection with 60 FPS clients, but that's a bit of an ask for an engine older than a large chunk of the playerbase that is roughly 5 times larger than what said engine was built for.

 

To call the IG server optimized would be an insult, every function is regularly checked for response time and improved or cut.

P.S

I believe that to even suggest that people like @Kumo @Moose @Ragetank haven't spent hundreds of hours making the server workable at the relatively high level that it does is, frankly, insulting to all their work.

Edited by Goliath
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Gotta remember that gmod was designed to support upto 32 players in very basic maps so have some mini-games or some build offs, not to run 128 players with feature rich maps and vehicles and so on.
I'd say right now the main issue with the server is TFA, there are alternatives to TFA in the works but we have no ETA on them, Right now the TFA we use is very stripped so it can function and also impact performance as little as possible but it still chunks because TFA is very poorly optimized on its own and theres nothing more that can really be done.

I believe everyone in the Dev team is doing there best to help make the server run as efficiently as possible but we have to remember the Engine gmod runs on is 15 years old and has countless issues.

There's more to be said but not by me.

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The lag problem should be fixed now I was messing around with networking cvars to see if the server could be more optimised, I've reverted them back to normal now.  As for the less content and permaprops, im sure 90% of the dev team agree with this, the amount of the content of the server is ridiculous and unneeded. Although, it isn't our decision or position to change these, we simply implement and add the content, the server managers and community manager are the people who you would want to speak to in terms of that.

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2 hours ago, Goliath said:

I believe that to even suggest that people like @Kumo @Moose @Ragetank haven't spent hundreds of hours making the server workable at the relatively high level that it does is, frankly, insulting to all their work.

To no end would I have insulted any of the major Devs for the countless hours they've spent on the server. Who am I to know what goes into managing something so highly-demanding? I've had my fair share of moderation and management over the years myself, but nothing of course to what these guys have done. As I said in my post I did not intend to insult or attack anyone for "lack of work" done to make the server run better - I was merely eager to prompt a discussion as to whether or not it could, if at all, be improved.

Kumo, Moose and Ragetank have indeed done all that they can and they deserve the best respect for that. I'm not trying to shade that at all. I apologize if it seemed that way as it was not my intent.

1 hour ago, |Stryker| said:

Gotta remember that gmod was designed to support upto 32 players in very basic maps so have some mini-games or some build offs, not to run 128 players with feature rich maps and vehicles and so on.
...
I believe everyone in the Dev team is doing there best to help make the server run as efficiently as possible but we have to remember the Engine gmod runs on is 15 years old and has countless issues.

Exactly as I mentioned, the game is quite old now and even though there's a bunch of regular support and feature updates, it doesn't really do the game any justice. I perfectly well understand that in a situation like this there isn't much else that can be done other than shaving off some of the add-ons. As I stated I just wished to prompt some discussion behind this topic, due to the value it holds for the server.

The fact that Garry's Mod can even at all support what it can is a technological feat by a long mile, and that's what has enabled the game to stand the test of time so well. The Source Engine is probably one of the best Engines to-date (hell, even Apex Legends uses it), even though it might not be the most optimized. Half of the 'issues' on the server are of no one's blame but Garry's Mod itself, and again it takes people like Kumo, Moose and so on to make it actually function.

I only have the best interests at heart when it comes to this server or any others that I play on that mean something to me, so to bring light to a problem that not only I but countless other people also have is something I felt had merit for a discussion.

Edited by Greyback
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It's really really easy to demand performance from thin air and it's expected since your a user. It's the year 2020 everything should be running smooth but unfortunately like you and the Dev team stated we are working with an engine from 2004 and we are squeezing about as much as we can. Garry's Mod was never developed for our use case so we have had to do some serious optimization on our end to even support 128 players connecting little lone fighting. 

I personally think the server is in the best place it's ever been in terms of performance and content. We have sub 5 minute restart times which is much better than 12+ minutes with the possibility of crashing again. The trade off here is the small jolts you get when the in game precache starts. But this is a small inconvenience when everyone is able to connect while the server is still loading. 

We very often check how much functions cost in terms of performance and the ones we can improve we do. (There are ones like TFA or 3d voice calculations which are expensive but we can optimise them any more.) In terms of general performance I still believe we are the best we've ever been. Often fire fights aren't slideshows (no where near as much as they were a year ago). 

I think the development team of all people already understand the points you've brought up in your post more than anyone. Performance and stability improves every single aspect on the server but I'm going to be completely honest I think most players understand and acknowledge the lag and occasion crashes etc.

I'm not really sure the actual intent of your post because it just seems like a rant on performance demanding something to be done without actually fully understanding what goes on in the background. I hope this comment enlightens you with knowledge. 

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11 hours ago, Goliath said:

I believe that to even suggest that people like @Kumo @Moose @Ragetank haven't spent hundreds of hours making the server workable at the relatively high level that it does is, frankly, insulting to all their work.

I don't think anyone suggested anything of the sort, so I don't know why you're trying to start something out of nothing.

2 hours ago, Ragetank said:

It's really really easy to demand performance from thin air and it's expected since your a user.

I like you Tank, but I've never heard such a condescending statement before on the server.

The guy clearly states he's not intending to attack or insult anyone in his post (I understand it comes off as slightly ignorant with its wording). I get that you two probably take it a bit more personal due to being developers yourselves, but you're both still staff and should respond as such. While 99% of your comment comes off as civil Tank, the first line makes you sound like an unbelievable ass. Goliath sounds like he's trying to instigate a fight. Leave the unnecessary stuff out of it. 

 

This response isn't about the server stability as I think it's fine where it is, moreso about the responses to the post. 

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3 hours ago, Ragetank said:

It's really really easy to demand performance from thin air and it's expected since your a user.

This wasn't relating to staff what so ever, this is just stating that your average end user expects the product (the server) to be the best performing it possibly can be which is understandable. The user doesn't understand how all the back end works nor should the user. All the user wants is a smooth experience which we try our very best to deliver. When I say really easy to demand performance I also mean its very easy to say the below statements without actually understanding how to address said issues:

13 hours ago, Greyback said:

Trim some of the content, cut some addons, or lower the amount of perma-props on each map ... something to make things a little more functional. And don't even get me started on what happens when we get 100+ players on at the same time...

 

13 hours ago, Greyback said:

but surely there can be something done to at least improve playability.

Just some examples, its very easy to say there surely is something that can be done. In retrospect the development team has done some amazing work just so that we can get to where we are at today. Also being a developer for such a long time i can say for a fact that these issues are nowhere near as bad as they were in the past and I'll say it again and again, I think the server is in the best place its been in its entire life. I personally disagree that the current status of the server is unhealthy and full of lag and crashes, it would be nice if it could be that much better but I most definitely think its currently very playable and lag is very much tolerable.

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I take it I'm not the first person to have bought publicity to this topic.

@Ragetank I agree that my post comes off more as a rant and that yes, a lot of people will up and demand performance with little expectation of the effort that would have to be involved. Like I already said, I'm no expert, so my suggestions you quoted are probably not even the half of what you, personally, would ever opt to do - assuming you went ahead with any changes, that is.

For what it's worth, I also agree that the server is in the best place it could be in relation to these issues. I've seen newer servers 10x worse than this. I only wanted to bring light to what my observations revealed to me, so in the best-case scenario for lack of my proposed long-term solution there was at least some public idea about the issues at hand.
That being said, I've never once shaded the server or the Management/Dev Team for the work they do. It is unparallel to the average job of a Moderator and again, I do hold high respect to them. If I was actually unsatisfied with the server then I wouldn't have been making this post, but lag and issues aside it's the people and the type of environment that I surround myself with that make me come back more than anything else.

My main concerns by highlighting these issues were what it would mean for a new user upon joining into a slideshow or a rubberbanding session. Yes, I understand that the latter two don't always happen to occur for a matter of convenience, so the chances of it affecting anybody's new playing experience is limited. However, anything that can happen will happen.

To any Devs reading this, I again reinstate that it is not my intention to shade you for the work you have done for this server.

You have done everything and more that is in your power to do, that has made this community the place that it is. Without you, we would be looking at another barely functioning shitshow like some other redacted servers have been in the past. Your role as Developers is to create the best playing experience possible. Our role, my role, as a user is to engage in said experience and provide feedback wherever necessary.
As this statement seems to be overlooked by quite a few people,
This is not a criticism post.

I am expressing my rights as a user to provide feedback and potential solutions on the server's stability - that of which is in a much better place than it perhaps was some years ago, and-or even compared to other servers. My 'solutions' might be far from practical as I of course have no developing experience, as Ragetank has suggested, and he is right. But that doesn't mean that they can't be explored and discussed as was my original intent. The community needs to know about these things, perhaps not in the 'jargon' style that @Eren stated :P but in a clear manner that clarifies and translates a lot of the confusion that can cause posts such as these to arise - only, they probably won't be as white-collared as mine. ;)

In short, yes I suppose you could say that my original post was more of a rant than anything else, and if I showed any offense or ignorance in that then I apologize. Hopefully this clears a few things up from my end.

Edited by Greyback
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3 hours ago, Ragetank said:

I personally think the server is in the best place it's ever been in terms of performance and content.

I was there when tank downloaded the log file that was literal gigabytes (fucking massive) and started sifting through it to start the process of optimization, I think you are all extremely lucky to have such dedicated developers who are constantly working behind the scenes to improve your quality of life. I understand where this is coming from, because its hard to gain an appreciation without seeing the work behind the scenes, but i agree with tank in saying the server is actually in a extremely good place compared to where it has been. You just got to consider all the factors they work against to gain such appreciation

 

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There's a lot that's already been said, whether its negative or positive, however, I'll leave my opinion on the situation as a Model Developer, not a developer for the actual server side of the stuff.

There is a lot that can still be done to get a little bit of an optimization boost, however, all of these things either don't do enough for the optimization of the Server to warrant them or they make such large changes that the Server will suffer negatively, such as a lower player cap with our giant playerbase, etc. etc.

I like the idea that we could optimize the server, but its just very hard on an engine as old as it is.

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21 hours ago, Greyback said:

- More Events
Lately I seem to have been noticing a lack of Events on the server; most of them are spaced out between quite a few considerable hours, even during peak time. Without diving into too much speculation I can only assume that this is partly because that running an Event uses up a lot of bandwith, data, or what-have-you that the server requires. I mean, a full-blown combat scenario between troopers and rebels currently seems to pass by in only one frame at a time, if you're unlucky. If the server was more optimized then more frequent Events could be run, which would give more people something to do on an increasingly regular basis. This leads me into my next positive change...

Coming from an Event Master perspective, and coming from someone who used to lag the server a lot with their events, the server's performance at the moment does not really affect our ability to do events much. We are still able to do standard aggressive events and all that fun stuff (Albeit, nothing too heavy such as 5 ships firing at each other with 10 billion special effects around the ship). Most events don't even create much noticeable lag on the server, the reason to why there has been a lack of events is an entirely different thing.

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From what I have seen this server is the most stable swrp server out. I'm not saying that its optimised because most likely its not 100% but it is hard to do that. If you want a "more stable" server some configuration settings could possibly be added if they have not been done already. A dedicated machine with more CPU and better network speeds will help greatly. More optimised addons and less addons in general would help but still not fix everything. And lastly map creators can make render distance lowers so it only loads what is needed but not something the server can fix. Unless the owners are willing to pay people hundreds of dollars to fix everything then not much can be done. Its a good server for what it is and you can't complain about server lag when you don't know all the components of making a server stable.

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