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Experience Shadowrun with your friends and plenty of enemies in an action strategy game and determine the future of the 6th world!
6,003 backers pledged $558,863 to help bring this project to life.

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Legend Runs Galore!

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This week is filled with Legend Runs galore, kicking off with another appearance by Jordan Weisman and following up with exciting opportunities!

Here is our schedule and if you are a VIP backer, you can always apply for a place in one of the runner teams! The schedule is subject to change depending on the availability of the individuals, of course. Any streamers out there are invited to stream the runs (and let us know about it!)

May 14th
4 pm PDT/7 pm EDT/May 15th, 1 am CEST - Join Jordan Weisman, creator of Shadowrun and Shadowrun Returns
5 pm PDT/8 pm EDT/May 15th, 2 am CEST – Meet Shadowrun writers Kevin aka Red, Robyn aka Winterhawk and Dylan Stangel for a run and APPEAR AS A CHARACTER in one of their fiction pieces! (They select the character they think the most interesting!)

May 15th
10 am PDT/1 pm EDT/7 pm CEST – Join Raben AAS – renowned Shadowrun artist and editor of Novapulse - for a German speaking run (other lingos welcome :))
3 pm PDT/6 pm EDT/May 16th, 2 am CEST – Meet authors Amy Veeres (who knows about the future of nanites!), Malik Toms (Shadowrun Returns Anthology) and Olivier Gagnon (Montreal 2074, Data Trails and more!)

As always VIP backers can reserve a place by sending us a mail to support@cliffhanger-productions.com 

See you in the Shadows!
- Primetide

Frag the lag and Legend Run with Jordan Weisman

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Today is the day! We have finally fragged the lag issue it seems when we patch today (3 pm CEST). We don’t want to jinx it, there may still be gremlins lurking around, but we seem to be back to normal. So, today, with our hopefully last lag related server patch, you will find your well-deserved apology gifts on your inventory:

  • 3 Flamethrowers (so you can flame enemies and think of us)
  • 1 additional character slot
  • 2 new Bioware augmentations (Zero Essence, usable for awakened characters as well)

Many people have given us good advice on how to handle the issues and told us what they suspected the culprits were. As it turns out, we had three main issues and tragically two of them have very little to do with our team’s ability to code and code well. It is both more tragic and more comical tale (that is if it hadn’t affected our rating s and sales so massively. Maybe one day, looking back, we can laugh without bitterness about it).

The first issue was not enough optimization in certain areas – as described previously, the game had been working so brilliantly from a technical and performance standpoint, that we did not dedicate too much resources to it. We knew we needed to do more optimization, but it did not seem to be a big concern. If it hadn’t been for the other two things, we might have been right.

Issue two was one of our middleware licenses actually putting the break on our servers once a certain number of concurrent users were active (which we were not aware of). Above that number it would slow down throughput, so all our other services (which kept listening to certain commands or pushing things to the client) slowed down with it. As some of them were serialized, meaning they were acting like a chain, they were actually really waiting for something to happen from the previous link of the chain, multiplying the effect of the license slowing down the speed at which commands were coming and going and putting other services like load balancing and thread management into overdrive, crashing CPU. Our servers overheated with waiting and managing that slowness, absurdly enough. This was fixed easily enough once discovered but it took us a few days to identify this weird behavior and the culprit.

The third and most tragic (or comic, depending on how you look at it) point has to do with the letter D. As in “enableD=garbage collector”. While we optimized the garbage collector (which cleans up “leftovers” on the server, so they don’t clog memory) and following some of the suggestions we got from our code-slinging community members, it did not seem to do the trick. We dug deeper and deeper into garbage collector settings but to no avail – each time the game would just use up the memory available and despite further optimization efforts this did not change considerably. The reason was finally found to be a missing “D” in the config file, which read “enable=garbage collector” instead of enabled. Of course we had looked at every line of this configuration file what must have been a hundred times, but you know how the brain tends to just create the word it expects to see, especially when you did not have more than two hours of sleep for days fighting a lag that was killing your game? This was one of the cases (and enable and enabled are not that far apart). Once we found it, we hit ourselves over the head repeatedly with blunt objects.

All three issues combined killed us in a most unfortunate way. Now with those resolved we actually have 10.000 concurrent players in our mass test and the servers don’t even get warmed up about that. We are cautiously optimistic we are ready to declare the lag fragged for good! Now we can get back to actually improving gameplay and adding end-game missions and rewards!

Please spread the good news and let your friends and Steam or Metacritic ratings know, so we can try and get the game off the ground again.

Thank you all for your patience and support in this really rough patch of our life as a developer.

Legend Run with Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman

To start the new era of an actually lag free Shadowrun Chronicles we are happy to have none other than Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman with us today on Friday 8th of May for the Legend Run and available in global chat at 3 pm PST, 6pm EST or Midnight CEST. VIP backers please send a mail to office(at)cliffhanger-productions(dot)com with your character and account name if you want to be invited to a run with Jordan. Streaming is encouraged!

Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more

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 Hoi chummers,

Many of you have been first hand witness to the frantic post-launch struggle of Shadowrun Chronicles as we patched time and time again only to still end up with a lag when playing. Now to the players this looks like we are constantly running against the same wall until our heads bleed and have only managed to make small dents in said wall. From the inside however, it is a completely different story and we wanted to give you an inside perspective on what is going on.

In the last 6 days we have applied an increasingly large number of fixes and changes, from optimizing garbage collection, sequential threading to deep-copy of data to wrenching open our middleware, which actually contributed to our issue in slightly invisible ways (think of middleware as an engine under a hood, so you don’t always see what is going on exactly but you can hear the engine stuttering). Each of the changes and fixes was profiled and supposed to bring a good amount of improvements – and it did – we are winning the battle against lags millisecond by millisecond, but it is a war of attrition. This is exacerbated by the amount of time we spend in lag and new players getting bad impressions while our Steam review ratings plummet.

Now we have a simple but cruel choice: Do it properly and test a solution for days while our game rots away in lag-land or pushing a fix online with a minimal period of testing, which however results in a bit of profiling and a sanity check if the game explodes immediately or shortly after starting the servers - tempered by a judgement call by our coders of “how dangerous it is versus how likely to fix our problem”.

So we send out an annoyingly high amount of patches and updates with annoyingly small effect and are basically really field testing things on the live servers, which we all know we should not do, but then we are between a rock and a hard place. This is why online games always launch as beta…

All this time, our brave coders fight invisible foes such as a maximum user cap in a license that then puts the brakes on certain parts of the performance and carry the burden of working above and beyond the call of duty while being rained with derision by angry customers. The rest of the team watched in agony and frustration as we could not do anything to help and all other things took a back seat to solving the problem while our sales and our users patience dwindles away. Imagine the morale in the team! And still we worked at night, with the community team taking the brunt of the damage while taking turns to be there 24/7.

I want to personally thank them and the remaining team for enduring and persevering. You guys and gals are the finest team I have had the privilege to work with. Even though we fragged this up you have been exemplary in every aspect.

So what now? Well, yesterday’s update resolved a lot of issues (reducing frequency and of lags), but foresee-ably opened others exploding our servers after around 3 hours of operations. Today we rolled out two server updates – the second one of them dealing with the infamous garbage collector and settings. As this pushed CPU load to a baseline of around 30% and lag spikes appearing again, we reverted the changes…only to see lag creep in 2 hours into operations. So now we relaunch servers every two hours…because this is the only option we have.

Tonight we have finally accepted that “hoping this will be the fix that really does it” is simply wishful thinking. We have run out of silver bullets and we will focus on making the frequent server restarts automated and manageable, creating schedules and having automated in game announcements preferably everyone can see, so everyone can live more comfortably in the emergency state. This should create some air for us to breathe and look at our data and find new options to improve performance.

As a personal note, many of you – even those who have been critical of the game – have been incredibly supportive and understanding in the past days. Helping us, explaining things to others and cheering us on, honoring the work and dedication we have put in. This literally is what has got us through this week (other than coffee and sheer stubbornness) and we are deeply grateful for that. So let’s see what the next days may bring and keep our fingers crossed.

Oh and Legend Run Event No.3 with none other but Jordan Wiseman himself happens on Friday 3 pm PST or Midnight CEST! Lag or no lag!

See you in the shadows Primetide

The best laid plans...

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This has been the roughest week of our collective studio live – and we had a number of rough patches as some of you know. We are a small team and creating an online game – regardless of whether it is a massive open world MMO or a more modest game like ours- is a big undertaking. When we launched, we were reasonably certain, that everything worked out. So what has gone so horribly wrong and have we all been blind or stupid? If you want to understand what happened, below is the rundown on things. If you are not interested in explanations or excuses, just scroll to the announcement at the end for how we try to at least make amends for this clusterdrek.

We know the risk associated with online games, especially if it is structurally and technically an MMO (in the sense of most of the AI, Logic, Persistence and all the other stuff that makes the game operate being done via server). This is why we have been extra careful before we released Shadowrun Chronicles – the game had been running for months before launch without any issues (as our Early Access and Kickstarter players can attest to), we did a series of Mass Tests (simulating thousands of concurrent user sessions) and a day prior to launch we invited our Early Access community to come in droves by allowing them a day head-start for their characters (whom the previously had to endure to see wiped time and time again as we balanced and reworked the game). We upgraded our hardware to be extra safe, even though our servers rarely went above 5% load. Come launch day and things work without a glitch…until they suddenly don’t.

Shortly after our studio fell victim to a district wide blackout at the most inopportune of times, our external server inexplicably slows down. The source for this was quickly identified (once we were back on line) – a specific task called “garbage collector”, which cleans up leftover allocated things in the memory and with the amount of players suddenly has too much to do, which results in things queuing up and eating away the hardware resources for every other process (like walking from a to b). So we reduced the amount of garbage produced, patched, and off we go…

Only to see lag creeping into the game again. Looking at the server actions and our logs, it turns out our servers clog up with threads they cannot compute fast enough, leaving ever more threads hanging, which results in the game becoming ever more unresponsive. So, what do players do, if the game does not react when they click on something? Right, they click on it again and again and again…creating more commandos for the server, who is struggling as it is. Vicious circle anyone?

Now these issues are something that accumulates over time…which is almost impossible to test without actual people doing a thousand actual things which differ from our mass tests. It also exposes problems by adding a magnitude. Things that worked badly but did not register when we had a little over hundred players concurrently suddenly explode with 500 players.

Take our hub: To be able to see other players running around, the server needs to collect the “commands” from every player and update every other client about the movements of each character in the hub. Previously that was never an issue. But with dozens of hubs open the small things stack up. And if they do, the server gets clogged up…and if that happens long enough it simply cannot work through commands fast enough…resulting in lag. One of the patches has reduced the size of each command (so the amount of data the server has to compute) to 20% of what it was and optimized the associated logic at the server, so it is 40 times as fast as it has been before. So why didn’t we do this before? Simple: It wasn’t a problem, so we weren’t fixing it – every change of a running system has the risk of creating new bugs and if it ain’t broken…

The example above is but one part of the complex and interwoven web of logic and relations and we wish we could enter that code Shadowrun style and hack our way through things with ease, but unfortunately that is not the case. Instead our 6 coders and IT as well as QA have worked day and night for three days to correct problem after problem, but as with any intricate webs, when you start pulling one strings, the whole thing changes and transforms. So every patch improved parts of the problem…only to see another issue creep up. And we may not have seen the end of this, as we continue to fix things. And it does not help if people don’t sleep for over 40 hours…

TL;DR: This is fragged and we are desperately trying to fix it, but we are stretched to the limits.

As a way of saying sorry, we want to give everyone who endured this week of constant patching and those who just gave up a little gift and ask them to give the game one more shot. Mid next week, every user will receive three things:

  • A free additional character slot (so if all that patching messed up your builds, you can start a clean one)
  • Two pieces of cultured bioware – these cost zero Essence so you can use them with any character even mages or make sure you cybered up street sams get that extra boost they have been looking for
  • A flamethrower, so whenever you get really angry at us for that drek, you can just incinerate a few enemies and think of us.

We are still working on creating a PvP and Endgame mode – most of this is design and thus not overly affected by the massive amount of work our coders had to do, but then our coders will need some sleep after this marathon. Again, we are sorry for this and after putting years of work into this, it is unbelievably disappointing for us to see this happen and leave a bad impression.

So this was launch day ... interesting

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Some of you may wonder how we spent our Launch Day: Celebrating finally having released, sleeping for a full day or perhaps frantically fixing last minute bugs? The answer is: All of this and more – minus the sleeping part. So here is my personal Launch Day diary:

0:00 Still up playing the game and surfing the forums. Today is Liz’ (one of our Community Manager’s) birthday…and she is sending out Backer queries until way past midnight.
1:00 Game is looking good, time for a run with some players and discussing the finer points of balancing and dual wielding
2:00 Too psyched to sleep and Liz still on it as well. As are the PMs and customer support. Boy am I going to be tired for launch day
3:00 More forum discussion and Steam posts. Humble comes through with the store listing, so all is set for tomorrow
4:00 Time..to..sleep…
8:00 Quick breakfast, checking the forums and prepping for today. Launch Day, wohooo!
9:00 Server stable, last patch has been applied nerfing the Pistol and making cyberware more accessible. Testing commences. Office is buzzing already.
10:00 We get a greenlight from QA, last minute store changes as we realize the Ruble price was set wrongly and we did not layout the German text properly
11:00 Uploading the launch trailer, checking reviews from websites and on Steam. Steadily rising scores…looking good. Let’s press that launch button on Steam.
12:00 PANIC – Steam did not update us to launch and prices are all wrong, not displaying the launch discount. Also, the Early Access only Founder’s edition still visible in store and the Deluxe RPG edition shows up as DLC instead of a proper version. Frantic fixing attempts show: Our settings are correct, yet Steam does not display things the way it says it does. How do we get it out and adjusted?
13:00 Mails out to Steam Team, wo are usually great at responding and fixing…but they are 9 hours behind, so probably fast asleep.
14:00 Rock Paper Shotgun ads already running but point to the game without launch discount…we manage to at least get the Founder’s Edition out and sort the DLC a little
15:00 People start asking questions, the team is waiting for the confirmation of launch and need to send out Press
16:00 Flo and Liz have sent out thousands of codes and backer surveys for our 30 odd backer tiers. Steam has come through and adjusted the prices and state…but we don’t get a launch promotion due to the database error that caused this. Invisible launch? Ok, Steam gave us some other visibility and changed the Ruble price…phew.
16:30 The team, looking like a pair of tired veterans toasts to one another…laughter and relief. Trailer goes live and news is sent out by our partners from Nordic. 

17:00 BLACKOUT! The entire district has no power. We are cut off…What are the odds of this happening on Launch Day? I need to add the descriptions of the Deluxe and RPG Deluxe editions to the Store page which somehow got swallowed in the whole process, so nobody knows what the deluxe edition contains. Also have to change the Steam store text to make people aware the game requires online connection constantly…OUR online connection in that particular case, so I can change text in the first place. The team goes home as they have nothing to do. IT stays for when the power comes back as does Jonathan who is running social media and was trying to make a gameplay video.
18:00 Trying to run the forums and adjust steam from my mobile connection…not the fastest way. Oh, Humble has the wrong Euro to USD conversion in their store…need to get prices adjusted.
19:00 The Boston Lockdown Campaign book pdf is approved by Steam…if I could just access the store page to get it out…
19:30 Power is back on, fixing stuff on Steam, Humble is fixing prices…Backers coming back to us about the survey, mails start flooding in again as the servers start working again. Of course the sudden power rush blows half of our office fuses in our hopelessly overextended power wiring.
20:00 When as the last time I ate? Things seem on course- head out for a bite and realize temperature has dropped massively and it’s raining cats and dogs. Wasn’t it a sunny day when I left this morning. Maybe should have taken a sweater and actual shoes as opposed to sandals?
20:40 Game server is down just as I get my order. This cannot be true.
21:20 Servers are back…40 posts on steam about the issue…
22:00 Going through the backer responses, watching Steam and Shadowrun.com. Need chocolate.
23:00 I feel slightly worn out. More backer mails and things to organize…at least the Forums seem to be ok.
24:00 So THIS is how Launch Day feels…IN HELL. But we persevered. All in the name of the game!

RUN WITH A STREET LEGEND IN SHADOWRUN CHRONICLES - May 2nd

Have you ever dreamt of running the shadows with a true street legend? Now is you chance: Join Jason Hardy, Catalyst’s Line Editor for Shadowrun and the mastermind behind all current Shadowrun plots, “Bull” Ratkovich, famous for inheriting Jackpoint and fearless leader of the SR demo team and Aaron Pavao, who has contributed to over a dozen Shadowrun books. This is you unique opportunity to meet these Shadowrn legends in the virtual flesh, ask them questions and – if you are lucky – go on a run with them. Please send us a mail with your character name in game if you are interested in participating in a run – expect the Legends to be low to mid level in power, so this is a good time to use one of your alternate slots. 

Join our first post-launch Legend Run event on Saturday May 2nd 9 pm PST (West Coast US)m, 12 Midnight EST (East Coast US) or Sunday May 3rd 6 AM CEST (Central Europe).

See you in the Shadows,

-primetide

P.S: Our support team tells me to inform you that they are doing overtime answering  your inquiries to get everyone sorted, but as there's a lot of messages, it might take a bit of time to get your answer. If you are still looking for your Steam key, please check your inbox (or spam folder) for the Early Access key that was sent out in late March 2014 - that key turned into the full version on Tuesday. If you can't find it, please contact us.