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Turning off the servers

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Is anyone here in the know about what it cost to run a game server? 

 

I got back into playing Driveclub again over the last few days, and it's an absolute cracker. It's everything a good racing game should be and has just the right amount of arcade action to keep an old man like me happy. However they turned off the servers back in March so the game has become a single player game.  It doesn't bother me that much apart from all the messages that display saying it can't communicate with the server. It's a distraction and if Sony were deciding to close the service down they could have at least patched the game so that it still worked as a single player without error messages. 

 

But having said that I'm starting to wonder if the games companies don't want you to spend time on their old games simply because they want you to spend money on their new games. I recently picked up Gran Turismo because it was cheap and whilst it's not a comparable style of racing it has to be said that for all of its officially licensed cars and realistic tracks the graphics are simply not as good as Driveclub. For me Driveclub is a superior game in all the areas that I'm looking for. 

 

On that sort of basis you have to wonder what the ongoing costs are to keep a server up and running for an older game. Surely it would cost pennies to keep a server running for a game that the hardcore fans still want to play. It's not like there would be huge demands on it  and it seems a slap in the face to make you pay £50 for a game, more for the season pass, more for the VR (yes I bought it all), for them to suddenly say "we think you should  be bored of this game by now so fuck you , we are turning it off."

 

So I might be getting into conspiracy theory territory, but could it be the case that in 2014 Evolution Studios created a racing game that was too good , so good it showed up all the competition including Sony's beloved Gran Turismo? Could turning off the server actually be a way to get people to move on, and reinvest in new racing games? 

 

Or are the costs of running a server on a game prohibitively high whether a large number of people want to play it or not?

 

I get that comparing DC with GT is like comparing apples with much more Arcadey apples, the point still stands, does it really make that much of a difference to keep a little server running in the corner just to keep me as a customer happy?

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I was under the impression that DC had quite a loyal following so I don't get why they turned off the servers.

 

Does it cost that much to run them?

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I guess there is an element of if it’s not getting used then they will want to turn it off, but a current platform game that has sold well (and had a PlayStation hits release, and a VR release) really shouldn’t have the servers turned off. They were selling it bundled with the console along with Horizon Zero Dawn, which wasn’t released until 2017 too.

 

DriveClub was a disaster from the start, delays, then a massive patch making it what it should have been, and then this was the final nail in the coffin.


I can’t see it costing them that much to run a server for it, but Sony obviously decided to turn it off anyway. The real question is, was it a mistake, or a sign of things to come...

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Sony have done it a few times, haven't they? Gravity Rush 2 is another pretty recent one that got shut down in 2018, a year after the game launched. Singstar was another. It's a bit shitty when you have to pay for online. 

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1 hour ago, Down by Law said:

Can't you play offline to stop the error messages? 

Sadly no, even when you play single player it comes up with a scrolling message in red text to tell you it cannot connect to servers.  I think there's possibly a massive issue here, because you could buy a game for £50 on a Monday then find they they turn the servers off on a Tuesday. The future of retrogaming could be bleak if you have a games collection that doesn't work without a server.  Error messages are annoying in Driveclub but that's the thin end of the wedge.  Imagine Sony turning off all their servers to make you buy a PS5? As stated earlier, if Driveclub had a loyal following there's no legit reason for them to turn the servers off. Unless of course, sales of their latest racer were poor because everyone is still playing the last game because it was so good. 

 

Imagine the music industry if your CDs wiped themselves after 5 years. No-one would accept it.

 

I know I'm old and a bit jaded, but there's a part of me that doesnt want to get into the next generation at any price because it's kind of turned into rental.  My Dreamcast in the garage still works perfectly, yet I can't play a great game on a current console. Fuck that. 

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2 hours ago, dumpster said:

does it really make that much of a difference to keep a little server running in the corner just to keep me as a customer happy?

It’s the maintenance costs rather than running the box, and they can be considerable. If you’ve got some AWS/ Azure backend or whatever the constant stream of updates WILL fuck your service sooner or later, and you’ve got to have someone owning that job (and fixing bugs and exploits in your own applications). You’re essentially leaving an unguarded access point into your network otherwise. I imagine most IT directors would tell you to fuck off if you wanted to leave an unmaintained server sitting on the network (or connected to it remotely).
 

That’s a massive distraction and few studios can afford to assign a developer to the job (not to mention, no one would want it- being in charge of deprecated old game servers 5 people a week log into is where you send someone you don’t trust to do a real job).
 

If you’re on your own hardware you also need to decide if it’s worth the headache and costs of diverting resources away from your next or current big thing for the same of five people a week who generate zero revenue.

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I really do appreciate the general point here about short server lifespan, and I truly loved DriveClub, but the notion that they've killed a beloved fan favourite to keep GT Sport afloat is completely unfounded - to be generous with my assessment. DriveClub was effectively dead a long time before they turned off the servers and to be even more frank, it barely ever got started as an online proposition. I think your preference is blinding you to reality. 

 

GT Sport is a better game, has better graphics, better physics and mechanics, vastly better online implementation and has sold four times as many copies. There's no conspiracy, but it is an interesting thread. I totally respect that. 

 

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2 hours ago, dumpster said:

Sadly no, even when you play single player it comes up with a scrolling message in red text to tell you it cannot connect to servers.  I think there's possibly a massive issue here, because you could buy a game for £50 on a Monday then find they they turn the servers off on a Tuesday. The future of retrogaming could be bleak if you have a games collection that doesn't work without a server.  Error messages are annoying in Driveclub but that's the thin end of the wedge.  Imagine Sony turning off all their servers to make you buy a PS5? As stated earlier, if Driveclub had a loyal following there's no legit reason for them to turn the servers off. Unless of course, sales of their latest racer were poor because everyone is still playing the last game because it was so good. 

 

Imagine the music industry if your CDs wiped themselves after 5 years. No-one would accept it.

 

I know I'm old and a bit jaded, but there's a part of me that doesnt want to get into the next generation at any price because it's kind of turned into rental.  My Dreamcast in the garage still works perfectly, yet I can't play a great game on a current console. Fuck that. 


This isn’t new though? This whole generation’s games are fucked for working in future, as are many games from last gen. the days when you could buy a console and games and put them in a box knowing that if you unpack them in ten years they’ll still work disappeared when we started getting giant patches and upgrades that will assumedly no longer be available at some point. Many games now ship with only a fraction of the actual game on the disc. It’s why I don’t bother with physical anymore, the attraction of having a games collection is massively diminished if the collection you have is entirely reliant on downloading it all from servers. You may as well just keep a console full of digital licenses. 

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After getting a PS2 / PS3 wheel off here, I recently went back to Gran Turismo 5 and 6. Both of which have had the online element disabled.

 

GT5 isn't too bad, but it's petty obvious once you get to the higher tiers that there is something missing. To be able to complete the game you have to reach a certain level of XP. Now there's no online, this means the most efficient way to get from level 39 to 40, which unlocks the final race, you have to to run a four hour race (with no save points in said race)  literally ten times - it's a million XP to get from 39>40 and the 4 hour race give just over 100,000 points. There's also the issue that there's a car that you can't buy in the offline dealership, that was available in the online dealership. Now, the only way to get it is to hit level 40 and then get lucky - you have a one in three chance of getting said car.

 

GT6 is properly awful. It's really obvious once you start working through it that there's a big chunk missing. There's always been the accusation of grind levelled against the GT games, but it's very, very bad in this. I started a new save and was struggling to get anywhere. I went back to my old save and realised that I hadn't progressed very far in the offline game but had a couple of hundred cars and millions of credits, all of which I had gained through the online modes that weren't available anymore. The only way you can get through the game now is to play the same races over and over and over and over again. What makes it worse is, unlike GT5, it doesn't tell you the servers are off, you just get a nonsensical error message. Crap.

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13 minutes ago, ScouserInExile said:

After getting a PS2 / PS3 wheel off here, I recently went back to Gran Turismo 5 and 6. Both of which have had the online element disabled.

 

GT5 isn't too bad, but it's petty obvious once you get to the higher tiers that there is something missing. To be able to complete the game you have to reach a certain level of XP. Now there's no online, this means the most efficient way to get from level 39 to 40, which unlocks the final ran, you have to to run a four hour race (with no save points in said race)  literally ten times - it's a million XP to get from 39>40 and the 4 hour race give just over 100,000 points. There's also the issue that there's a car that you can't buy in the offline dealership, that was available in the online dealership. Now, the only way to get it is to hit level 40 and then get lucky - you have a one in three chance of getting said car.

 

GT6 is properly awful. It's really obvious once you start working through it that there's a big chunk missing. There's always been the accusation of grind levelled against the GT games, but it's very, very bad in this. I started a new save and was struggling to get anywhere. I went back to my old save and realised that I hadn't progressed very far in the offline game but had a couple of hundred cars and millions of credits, all of which I had gained through the online modes that weren't available anymore. The only way you can get through the game now is to play the same races over and over and over and over again. What makes it worse is, unlike GT5, it doesn't tell you the servers are off, you just get a nonsensical error message. Crap.

 

In Gran Turismo 5, the GT Formula 1 car occasionally comes up as a second hand car.

 

Very rarely.

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Sony are awful for this. I'm guessing the reason I can still play the original Gears of War, Forza 2 and other launch era 360 games online is because Microsoft own everything involved with keeping those games running. I know Sony aren't particularly well known for being consumer friendly, what with their stance on refunds but this issue has always bugged me. They shut down Gravity Rush 2 servers after a measly year of operations while their competitor is all like hey, play all your old games online still and have some 4k HDR while you're at it. There's also almost no chance of Sony changing their stance. even if they were to get a kicking during the next gen because they were on the back foot in the PS3 era and closed servers just as quickly.


#Justice4Kat
 

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:( Think this is the problem with closed eco-systems. You don't have any control over anything and unfortunately you will just have to accept that.

 

However I am sure at some point (if not already) the PS4 will be hacked. A replacement OS available that will allow people to setup their own servers and continue on. Although it will probably get shuttered by Sony pretty quickly unfortunately.

 

The other option is just to use a PC for gaming on. OK you might not get the exact game you want if it's a platform exclusive like DriveClub however at least people can sort things like this themselves? 

 

Anyhow feel your pain with DC however guess the whole premise was one of an online game and it failed to get the masses in. Had it been as successful as say Fortnite then you wouldn't be writing this thread! For me the whole problem with DC it should have been a freemium game from the get go. As part of PS+ as originally planned. They f**ked up. 

 

We can only hope that a remaster appears on PS5 with all the packs and the VR update gathered together, graphically polished with a 60fps option. Now that would be something. How about it Sony? Hell that might even sell me a PS5....

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Re Driveclub, they could have at least patched out the requirement to create a club to connect to the servers before turning them off. I deleted my save game so I could go through it all again (completed the main tour in a few hours)! However there are 5 or 6 cars that can no longer be used as they require certain club levels to unlock and you can't create a club without the servers. Other than that the message at the start of the events is a little annoying but it's only at the start, fantastic game, I can only assume that it never really achieved what they perhaps sold to Sony as this massive online experience. RIP Driveclub.

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12 hours ago, Spacehost said:

It’s the maintenance costs rather than running the box, and they can be considerable. If you’ve got some AWS/ Azure backend or whatever the constant stream of updates WILL fuck your service sooner or later, and you’ve got to have someone owning that job (and fixing bugs and exploits in your own applications). You’re essentially leaving an unguarded access point into your network otherwise. I imagine most IT directors would tell you to fuck off if you wanted to leave an unmaintained server sitting on the network (or connected to it remotely).
 

That’s a massive distraction and few studios can afford to assign a developer to the job (not to mention, no one would want it- being in charge of deprecated old game servers 5 people a week log into is where you send someone you don’t trust to do a real job).
 

If you’re on your own hardware you also need to decide if it’s worth the headache and costs of diverting resources away from your next or current big thing for the same of five people a week who generate zero revenue.


Also running stuff can be expensive depending on what you’re doing, what instances & resources you need.  Eg a small mobile game I worked on that had a heavy sever load was costing up tens of thousands a month in server running costs.  It’s nothing Sony couldn’t absorb I’m sure, but there’s going to come a tipping point where they don’t feel it’s worth the cost any more.

 

For dev we did have a fully local version for testing, which meant if it came to it we could update & pull the plug on the servers.

 

The thing we’re running into on my current game, which also isn’t cheap in terms of server costs, is EVERYONE is online at the moment and demand for server resources has really risen with the pandemic.  We’ve had to move to different (less important) data centres to be able to reserve the machines we need - shortly after launch we weren’t getting any more resources in the Europe or US because the data centres just wouldn’t/couldn’t fulfil our requests.

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13 hours ago, Spacehost said:

It’s the maintenance costs rather than running the box, and they can be considerable. If you’ve got some AWS/ Azure backend or whatever the constant stream of updates WILL fuck your service sooner or later, and you’ve got to have someone owning that job (and fixing bugs and exploits in your own applications). You’re essentially leaving an unguarded access point into your network otherwise. I imagine most IT directors would tell you to fuck off if you wanted to leave an unmaintained server sitting on the network (or connected to it remotely).
 

That’s a massive distraction and few studios can afford to assign a developer to the job (not to mention, no one would want it- being in charge of deprecated old game servers 5 people a week log into is where you send someone you don’t trust to do a real job).
 

If you’re on your own hardware you also need to decide if it’s worth the headache and costs of diverting resources away from your next or current big thing for the same of five people a week who generate zero revenue.

 

Surely the answer to this is to have some universal API and server structure for all your first party PS4 games, and then just have someone maintaining that, rather than a separate server per game?

 

Is that possible?

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The shuttering of Miiverse makes me sad every time I use my Wii U (which I still do fairly regularly). It was mostly inconsequential fluff to be fair but Mario 3D World isn’t the same without the little messages between levels and other stuff like Affordable Space Adventures has been completely torpedoed. I’ve ended up really resenting Nintendo this generation for basically shutting down as much of the Wii U’s infrastructure as they could then expecting people to buy the exact same games at full price all over again on the Switch. 

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3 minutes ago, Garwoofoo said:

I’ve ended up really resenting Nintendo this generation for basically shutting down as much of the Wii U’s infrastructure as they could then expecting people to buy the exact same games at full price all over again on the Switch. 

I know but guess they are still around though? Think what they did with the switch was a stroke of genius. Not of course for people that had bought into the WiiU though. I had a Wii U too and loved it to bits. Great console. Sold it well before the Switch came out though as I kind of saw what was happening. Got a reasonable price for it too as all the games were physical. 

 

Hoping going forward Nintendo are moving onto a eco system type approach with regards online etc. But who knows with Nintendo. Think the switch and it's online bits will be around for a long while though.

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26 minutes ago, Isaac said:

 

Surely the answer to this is to have some universal API and server structure for all your first party PS4 games, and then just have someone maintaining that, rather than a separate server per game?

 

Is that possible?

No. Not even remotely. Server code and data structure differs massively even between one game and its sequel, you'd never get it to work even at the most trivial of scales.

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14 hours ago, dumpster said:

 

 

Imagine the music industry if your CDs wiped themselves after 5 years. No-one would accept it.

 

 

Who buys a CD, Grandad?!?!?!? ;-)

 

But seriously the music industry is based on a subscription model now, you don't own anything and it's the way the games industry has been going for a while. Basically Rockstar have slowly turned into a games as a service company with the re-release of GTA 5 again on the PS5 and the big revenue coming from the GTA Online part, but nobody seems to have cottoned on to it.

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My question is who is responsible for maintaining servers for backwards compatible games, publishers or platform holders? I ask because I cannot imagine a publisher reopening servers on an old, long dead game (that probably had a low online user base in the first place) yet it happened with the Ghostbusters game when it was made BC on Xbox One a couple of years ago.

 

The game is built around a competent single player experience and yet they still decided to reopen the multiplayer side. I suppose with less people playing on it there is less of a need to worry about capacity etc and therefore have limited manpower keeping an eye out for any problems?

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30 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

 

Who buys a CD, Grandad?!?!?!? ;-)

 

But seriously the music industry is based on a subscription model now, you don't own anything and it's the way the games industry has been going for a while. Basically Rockstar have slowly turned into a games as a service company with the re-release of GTA 5 again on the PS5 and the big revenue coming from the GTA Online part, but nobody seems to have cottoned on to it.

 

But isn't that comparison flawed? A streamable music track is a streamable music track? A game that is no longer being supported for Online Gaming is, well, not a whole game anymore?!

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38 minutes ago, Jg15 said:

My question is who is responsible for maintaining servers for backwards compatible games, publishers or platform holders? I ask because I cannot imagine a publisher reopening servers on an old, long dead game (that probably had a low online user base in the first place) yet it happened with the Ghostbusters game when it was made BC on Xbox One a couple of years ago.

 

The game is built around a competent single player experience and yet they still decided to reopen the multiplayer side. I suppose with less people playing on it there is less of a need to worry about capacity etc and therefore have limited manpower keeping an eye out for any problems?

There will have been some cost-benefit analysis done on bringing those servers up. It's very unlikely they just unpacked some old version of the server from source control and it just worked, either.

 

Does Ghostbusters definitely have a server-based multiplayer architecture? It's not wholly peer-to-peer host/ client?

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This is partly why gave up on home console gaming and went PC.  I love the fact I can find an independently run server somewhere for old and even obscure games.  Not a perfect solution but it's at least an option.

 

im sure early Xbox live games allowed someone to setup a spare Xbox as a server via Xbox live.  I'm sure the Xbox version Unreal Tournament and Return to castle Wolfenstein had options for this but i maybe misremembering.  Would something like this would be a good option for consoles players?*   Platform holders seem to be against this kind of openness and prefer to control the content you play :( 

 

* Not sure of the security implications of this and as you're still going through the platform holder's network, costs may still be their burden.

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What xbox games have had their servers shut down besides fifa, nfl etc? It seems this affects sony platforms more than microsofts?

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22 minutes ago, simms said:

I can find an independently run server somewhere for old and even obscure games

Older games are going to be many orders of magnitude easier to reverse-engineer a server for, at least. Even classic WoW alt servers must have been a pig to build.

 

If you could mod Destiny 2 for instance to point at a different server, I still think building it would be a mammoth undertaking- and it's not like Bungie are going to let you peak at their source code for it. I'm not even sure they legally could, as there's a lot of non-FOSS components getting into game backend services that you probably can't licence out to your users.

 

Such is the trade-off with playing service-heavy games. Some day all we'll have of Destiny will be the memories. Part of me thinks that's a shame but I also accept that you couldn't do Destiny without it.

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4 hours ago, Minion said:

Re Driveclub, they could have at least patched out the requirement to create a club to connect to the servers before turning them off. I deleted my save game so I could go through it all again (completed the main tour in a few hours)! However there are 5 or 6 cars that can no longer be used as they require certain club levels to unlock and you can't create a club without the servers. Other than that the message at the start of the events is a little annoying but it's only at the start, fantastic game, I can only assume that it never really achieved what they perhaps sold to Sony as this massive online experience. RIP Driveclub.

I think this was the thing that irritated me most about the PS3 Gran Turismo games. The online element, beyond PvP, was a series of changing events that you could compete in that had tighter restrictions but had higher rewards than the offline content. I know it'd essentially be money down the drain for Sony, but I can help thinking they could have patched the game so the "online" area just had either all the events available, or a rotating set of events that would have done a good job of replacing what was there. 

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28 minutes ago, Ketchup said:

What xbox games have had their servers shut down besides fifa, nfl etc? It seems this affects sony platforms more than microsofts?

I think the very early 360 Forza games are now switched off. I believe Forza 4 is still running though and that's nearly 10 years.

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30 minutes ago, Ketchup said:

What xbox games have had their servers shut down besides fifa, nfl etc? It seems this affects sony platforms more than microsofts?

Thought Xbox was peer to peer online gaming (360 anyway). So essentially one machine asks as a server to the rest of the online players?

 

Although guessing there are servers for online global scores and times though.

 

Think MS probably leverage their Azure network and many of the servers will be scaled on demand and shuttered when not needed. Not sure.

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17 hours ago, dumpster said:

 

 

I know I'm old and a bit jaded, but there's a part of me that doesnt want to get into the next generation at any price because it's kind of turned into rental.  My Dreamcast in the garage still works perfectly, yet I can't play a great game on a current console. Fuck that. 

This is a major factor in me deciding to be PC only from now on. One piece of kit that i can upgrade incrementally that will play the library of games i have amassed over the gaming generations. It's a pity as the consoles have nailed the social aspect (party chat etc), but dick moves like this from Sony don't help matters.  

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