Odyssey Progress (2)

David Braben

CEO & Founder
Greetings CMDRs,

Here’s a further update on where we are with Odyssey, and to keep you updated on our progress and our investigations, and talk a little about our next steps. This will be a long post, but please bear with me.

Firstly, once again I apologise for the experience many players have had running Odyssey, particularly the server issues and disconnects. Despite careful server spooling up anticipating significant demand, they were still overloaded. After a good deal of investigation, the main cause of this proved to be to do with Fleet Carriers and the systems they use. I’ll try and explain the gist of what the problem was, how we found it, and why it didn’t show during the public Alpha. The whole team are working incredibly hard to resolve the issues as quickly as possible and improve player’s experiences and this is part of that process.

As you probably know, we split Horizons and Odyssey into two sets of servers – with the plan to keep it that way until we ship Odyssey on console. Fleet Carriers exist in both ‘worlds’ and when a Fleet Carrier jumps, this (and all the players on board) are kept in sync between the two galaxies. Due to a bug with them, significant amounts of data were going back and forth between the two worlds unnecessarily, and this loop between the sets of servers simply mounted up and started bringing servers down or blocking them (resulting in many players getting disconnect errors). This is why we stopped Fleet Carriers jumping, and immediately we saw a significant improvement overall. There were other issues too with this subsystem, keeping the BGS and other things in sync between the ‘worlds’. Once we had a solid fix for the Fleet Carrier and sync issues we deployed it to the servers, and re-enabled Fleet Carriers jumping. This was compounded by the fact we had a record number of concurrent players, so the servers were already working hard. Initially we thought this was the effect we were seeing – that the high number of players was the main issue - but eventually some very smart people determined what was happening with Fleet Carriers.

Turning to the subject of performance, first of all I’d like to provide some background. When we first set the min specs for Elite Dangerous (back at the time of the Kickstarter in 2012) we made the assumption that for low-spec machines the game was playable as long as the frame rate was above 30 fps, with 60 fps for higher spec machines. Over the subsequent weeks and months after release in 2014 we optimised the game significantly. We had a similar thought process for Odyssey, especially considering that the lower spec machines will tend to be five years old or more, or be laptops, that 30 fps would be acceptable as a minimum spec performance. Separately, we have heard reports of very high spec machines failing to perform as expected. We believe this is a different issue, possibly CPU-related, and are looking into that too, as we speak.

We will get to the bottom of the performance issues, particularly with the support of the community who are already providing useful information.

Elite has always been about scale and ambition. With this latest, and biggest, expansion the team have taken on an amazing challenge. The whole galaxy in 1:1 scale, now down to the millimetre. Millions of players interacting with each other and many millions of AI game characters on billions of worlds, all orbiting around each other in an incredibly rich galaxy-wide ballet. I truly believe the team have created a milestone in modern video game history. This is not a static arena shooter where all the players join at the start, but where players are continually joining, leaving, travelling between servers alone and in groups, and so many other things. It is a real shame this incredible achievement is somewhat overshadowed by the issues we have been seeing. We remain committed to improving everyone’s experience. In the words of JFK: “We choose to go to the moon this decade and do the other things… not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

So what are we doing to fix the issues?

As mentioned above, the team have been working incredibly hard to support and fix critical issues. They have already made good progress with three hot fixes and many server tweaks too, but we can see there is still more to come. Disconnects are now greatly reduced, despite record concurrent player numbers.

As already explained, the performance issues may take a little longer to resolve, and we greatly appreciate your patience.

Our plan is to publish a road-map by 4th June as we continue to push forward addressing issues, including giving some details on specific improvements, building upon the fixes the team have already made.

Thank you and my apologies again for the bumpy start to Odyssey.
Thanks David. Any word on issues raised on the planetary tech thread? As an explorer my principle concern is that if the terrain is hand-crafted and not procedurally generated any interesting finds I make will be replicated billions of times throughout the galaxy. I know it's a concern shared by many explorers with this iteration of the planetary tech. I understand that the way it works was changed to give a more stable platform to build upon moving forward, but I'm still keen to know that our planetary finds, oddities and characteristics are unique thrown up by PG magic.
Thanks for the update! On behalf of all Fleet Carrier owners on xbox and Playstation (and those on PC who have no interest in space legs), i'd like to ask that their gameplay proceeds as uninterrupted as possible over the next few months.
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Thanks again for keeping the community updated. I appreciate being kept informed of the causes of delays & issues and I hope we see more useful insight like this on a regular basis regardless of who actually is posting the message.

A lot of people want you to succeed, we are rooting for you & the whole company.
Thanks for the explanations.

Elite game since the first version (since 1984) and until today I am here for the simple reason that I know that I have never been disappointed with the series and I have always been well attended with regard to challenges and fun, with a spatial theme and now after 35 years of walking, something I never imagined. You are all congratulations.
Let them continue with this commitment and show why you (Braben) never abandoned the Elite series.
It is simply incredible this whole universe.
Separately, we have heard reports of very high spec machines failing to perform as expected. We believe this is a different issue, possibly CPU-related, and are looking into that too, as we speak.
This is at least the third time you've made a comment like this that implies that performance issues on high-spec machines are some kind of mystery. It isn't a mystery. The community already dug into the rendering and found that the game is not doing basic optimization work that nearly all games do as a rule. If you had to push this work to post-launch, just say that you had to choose between delaying again or releasing an unoptimized product. This kind of language is going to make people think that they need to upgrade their PCs in order to get better performance, but even with some of the best hardware on the market, they will get maybe 10-15 frames per second better performance in the really bad areas like conflict zones. Are you really going to encourage people to try to buy a new GPU during the worst semiconductor shortage in history just to avoid admitting that the optimizations aren't finished? You should be more transparent about the reasons for the performance of the current release so that people won't go upgrading things unnecessarily.
It is not fair to name the carriers as a reason for poor stability. They were pretty much rushed and pushed aside just for the sake of moving more resources towards the development of odyssey. Heck, even the odyssey trailer was "leaked" as the carriers were releasing, as if the team wanted to get rid of them and just work on odyssey. It is like adding knowingly a faulty, unrefined ring to the chain and carrying on, but, now, when the chain snaps and things fall apart, that ring is taking the blame.
I read the entire thing and thought, "Hmm, this is actually a very well written post." It also feels sincere. Sure, there is some "spin" in there, but I agree with Braben regarding the scope of what Frontier is trying to accomplish.

And I honestly wasn't expecting a series of posts from Mr. Braben, rather just the one, so I'm glad all hands are on deck at Frontier.
Thanks for the Update David, it really is appricated.

Just a question, is it still the intention to have our Odyssey quality & performance comparable to the quality & performance we had in Horizons? Or are the specifications that was posted a day before release are now what we should expect going forward? I have the same/similar home computer to what you stated in your first update post, and surfaces and settlements are really tough to play on right now. Should I still be looking for 60fps @ Ultra in Odyssey as we did in Horizon's? Or should we be expecting a lower frame rate at similar settings.

Again, thanks for the communication. I love (LOOOVE) the update, and truly am amazed at you & your teams work. Once the jank, jagg, performance/optimisation is in a better state in a few weeks, I really believe people will start to love what ya'all did.

Kind regards,
Thanks for the detailed update - I think it goes a long way towards reducing the 'salt' and anger; explicitly saying the issues are being addressed helps (I think we all know the people there are working like crazy to get things stabilized and improved, but actually saying so is reassuring to a lot of people). The information on some of the technicalities beyond the problems is always welcome, especially given the player base you have :) Please keep us informed, look forward to seeing the roadmap.
(I started on Elite on BBC Micro in 1984, now I play Elite in VR mostly, so after 30 odd years willing to be patient a little longer for the latest fixes). Right on, Commander. o7
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