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Old 06-26-2003, 09:12 PM   #1
trog
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4
Default Dedicated Server Problems

Yep, another post on this topic. I can appreciate that there are some already, but I'm going to try and summarise my findings.

First of all, Elite Force 2 (EF2) is a Quake 3 engine game in the same way that Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is. The core engine is the same, but there are several modifications that have been made to it. As a result, a lot of standard Quake 3 stuff doesn't work. Normal Quake 3 querying doesn't work - at least, it results in the 'untokenised messages' that someone else has reported. If it is more like MOHAA, it probably uses the GameSpy protocol for querying, so this will need to be cated for in third party utilities (if this is the case).

Also - are there different versions of this game in different countries? A few users seem to be getting different levels of functionality with certain commands - such as the thread 'sever cfg' in which some users state that the function ui_startmap works for them - it definitely doesn't work for me. The only reason I can think that it would work for some users and not others is that versions for the different locations have different functionality, but surely that isn't it (for the record, I'm in Australia, so I guess I'm using the Asia/Pacific version).

Now, further - I can't even seem to get a dedicated server to run at all. The server starts, typing 'status' on the console reveals that the server is running, but it doesn't show up in the master list, and I can't connect to it manually.

Running with +set dedicated 2 from the command line yields the following errors:

Sending heartbeat to ef2master.activision.com
Untokenized Message: getchallenge 1056671542828
Untokenized Message: getstatus 1056671542828

Does this mean the messages were sent? Or does the 'untokened message' mean the software simply couldn't handle the strings and didn't actually do anything? It seems the second one is more likely, because nothing actually works.

Now, its obvious that I'm not the only person having this problem. First of all, other people on this list are expressing their frustration at this issue. Secondly, loading the game and looking for servers clearly shows that there are only a few available.

The reason for this is obvious - the dedicated support for this game is extremely poor. In fact, I'm surprised that Activision, a company that usually puts out products that pay extreme attention to the mulitplayer aspect, has put out a product that seems so incomplete.

In this day and age, a stand-alone dedicated server package should have been made available, preferably before the game hit shelves. This would have meant that before the actual release, server administrators could have downloaded it, gotten it running, and integrated it into their game server infrastructure. This would have meant that gamers could have bought the game, gone home, and jumped online instantly - instead of having to wait for server administrators to battle through trying to figure out why it isn't working.

Not only that, but I was stunned to see the game didn't ship with a default server.cfg and instructions in the README on how to start a server. This is standard, boilerplate stuff. Your average server administrator doesn't want to spend a zillion hours learning how software works - he wants to be able to go ef2.exe +set dedicated 2 +exec server.cfg, like he can with almost every other Quake 3 engine based game in existence.

These problems are frustrating, more so when you consider how long they've plagued online games and how long developers and publishers have had to get it right. It is baffling when you consider that it means people that buy their software are unable to enjoy it - the lack of decent servers is a big deal.

I think it is arguable by now that the success of a game's multiplayer is, in many cases, directly proportional to its availability of servers. 6 out of the top 8 multiplayer games all have stand-alone dedicated servers that are freely available for download, and for the top 2 - Half-Life and Battlefield 1942 - significant effort has gone into ensuring the dedicated server software is easily available and very functional (source: http://www.gamespy.com/stats/).

It is worth pointing out that I'm not writing this as an Elite Force 2 gamer - I do not play games online any more and have little to no desire to play Elite Force 2 online. I work for one of the largest game service providers in Australia, and it is part of my job to ensure we're running servers for the latest and greatest games. However, in this case, I am simply unable to get a server working at all - which means that many gamers in Australia won't be able to play this online.

As a short term fix, if Activision/Ritual are keen to actually get people playing this game online, I can't strongly recommend the following enough:

- provide a standard dedicated server configuration that simply starts an Internet server and loads a basic map function. I know that there are a few floating around on the forums, but there should be an 'official' one. This should also include the necessary command line which details how to start the server.
- Monitor these forums very closely to ensure that you're picking up on problems with the dedicated server product. It seems this is already being done to some extent, which is great to see.
- If there are problems with the dedicated server, get a patch out as soon as possible. Please don't put it on that site you put the last one on - I nearly fell off my chair when I saw what rigmarole I had to go through in order to download it. Also, please ensure that the patches are listed on the official site for EF2 - that was the first place I went. I couldn't find this forum for ages, because I was googling for 'Elite Force 2', not 'Elite Force II' which is what is required.
- The more information you can make available about the game and its differences to standard Quake 3 technology, the better we'll be able to support it with tools and the like. Does it have a new query protocol? If so, what is it? These sort of questions are answerable in 2 minutes by a programmer.

Anyway, I hope this post will be read and considered. Again, please note - I'm trying to get a server up for people so they can play this game, not for any other reason. The game has been out for a few days in Australia, and there are people that want to play it online - but they can't. This must be disappointing for them.

I will probably be spending only a few more minutes trying to get this game working - I have spent enough time on it already (including this long-winded post [img]/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] There are many other games that we provide services for that also require our attention, so we have to prioritise our time fairly heavily.

Thanks for reading.
trog is offline   Reply With Quote