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April 16, 2001

OSI: Comments from Runesabre

The following message from RuneSabre was posted to the Team Comments page of the Ultima Online Web site:

Comments from Runesabre: Big change lies beneath

You probably won’t hear many folk speaking about one of the most significant changes to UO over ale at the Salty Dog Tavern. This recent change is about as flashy and exciting as a young citizen’s wardrobe as she first steps into the realm of Britannia, but it affects everyone, without exception, in a dramatically positive fashion. In my 3 years working on UO, nearly everything has changed significantly in one fashion or another, except for one system: the backup system.

Ever log in to play UO and wonder why your mined ingots from the previous early morning mining session are no longer in your bank and you are standing back to the Sweet Dreams Inn just like the night before? It’s called a ‘timewarp’ and it has been an ugly plague that has been ever prevalent since the beginning of UO. Nastier than any undead invasion, timewarps have been a constant source of anguish and frustration. All of that is about to change, and in fact has already changed if you inhabit the AOL Legends or Atlantic shards.

What causes a timewarp? A timewarp is caused by the period of time it takes to create a backup, a snapshot of the world of Britannia. Imagine taking your camera to a park and taking a picture. You now have a snapshot of the park, but it’s still in your camera. The time it takes for you to process the film and finally produce a picture would be similar to the backup processing time it takes to process all the data that comprises a UO shard. Once you have that picture of the park processed, imagine going back to the park and comparing the changes between your snapshot and the current state of the park. If, for some reason, the park was destroyed later and you had to rebuild it from the picture, you’d lose all of the changes that happened since the picture was taken. Luckily in real life the timewarp phenomenon isn’t common, but UO can and does timewarp on a regular basis.

The most frequent source of timewarps occurs during regularly scheduled maintenance periods in the morning. The length of a timewarp is determined by how long it takes to actually process the snapshot of Britannia into a complete backup. When a UO shard restarts, it has to restart at the last fully formed backup. Up until now, timewarps have typically been as high as 2 hours or more!

We’ve been working hard to attack this timewarp beast and have designed and implemented a new system that drops that backup processing time from 2 hours to 10 minutes! As an added bonus to this new change, our new design allows us to chop the server restart times by half so shards will now be taking as little as 6-12 minutes to restart instead of the usual 20-40 minutes. This time will vary depending on the size of each shard’s backup.

Currently, only AOL Legends and Atlantic are running this new optimized backup system. Changes to the backup system, the foundation of all of UO, are taken very seriously and rolled out to production shards with extreme caution. We are carefully monitoring both AOL Legends and Atlantic on a daily basis. Once we are satisfied with the operation of this new backup system, all shards will be activated, experiencing reduced timewarps and restart times.

Every day UO continues to improve; but as with many of UO’s changes, a lot of the bigger changes are not readily apparent to everyone. But just think of the stories you can tell new citizens that venture to Britannia in the upcoming years! After all, I know years ago I had to walk uphill both ways to Minoc to smelt one small pile of ore, losing stamina every other step against the sleet and snow, only to not succeed, timewarp, and do it all again; and that was when plate gorgets required 2000 ingots!

UO Live Team

Posted by Nobody at April 16, 2001 10:48 PM

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