Client, server, other?

19th May 2008 – 7.41 am

One of the problems with running software under emulation is that when you encounter an error you can never be quite sure whether it is the software itself or the emulation layer that is the cause. In my case, the software is City of Heroes and the emulation layer, although I suppose it's more of a translation layer, is Crossover Games. I think Crossover Games is great, even in its early stages where it officially supports only a few games. City of Heroes is not one of these supported games, yet with a tweak here and there it runs smoothly and properly.

I have had problems with the stability of City of Heroes and judging from the continued popularity of the game and lack of similar reports from my PC-owning friends this is because of its unsupported nature on my platform. Even though I have managed to get City of Heroes running for extended periods by reducing various graphics options I am still getting the occasional random crash. These crashes are as frustrating as a normal crash, as they interrupt game play and can occur mid-battle, but they are simple to recover from by reloading the game and this extra time is short enough relative to time spent in the game that I have forgotten about it a couple of minutes later.

I experienced another one of these crashes over the weekend, but with a difference. When I got back to the server selection screen the game would hang whenever I tried to connect to the server my characters are on. I would forcably quit the game and try again, and the game would load and let me log in but then hang as soon as I clicked on the server name. This seemed to be a rather awkward error to try to recover from, for I couldn't even get to the settings menu if I couldn't get in to the game, and surely it wouldn't be an issue with that anyway. I had to wonder what was causing the problem, suspecting it was Crossover Games having some indirect effect.

As much as I am loathe to do so, I decided to log off from my user account and log back in to my machine again, wondering if some resources or processes were being unduly held by the application and causing the problem. I couldn't see anything untoward in the process manager but I don't expect to recognise every process running anyway. Logging out didn't help, though. I tried to find some way to check the Crossover 'bottle', the environment in to which Crossover installs all the relevant files on an application-to-application basis, in case some files had become corrupted but there was nothing obviously wrong.

I took a more drastic measure and decided to reinstall the game in to a new bottle, which should restore the game files back to their original state if nothing else. Whilst this could be potentially awkward for a game with preference files stored everywhere it's not as bad for an MMORPG that stores most important information on the game servers. One thing it meant was that I would have to leave the game to download the half-a-GB of patches for a while, which I did. Once installed, I made a tweak or two that would help City of Heroes to run properly under Crossover Games and then got the game running, only to run in to the same problem as before. I couldn't select a server without the game hanging.

Actually, I couldn't select the server I play on. I tried the German-language server and could connect and start to create a character. This was new information, and I opened my browser to find out the status of the game servers. It could be that the server was down, which would be a good reason why I couldn't connect. I haven't played much in the way of server-client games but I am used to getting an error message when unable to connect, although I may have simply not waited long enough to get the error and instead assumed it to be a crash that I have become more accustomed to.

I quickly found a server status page, but for the US City of Heroes servers. I flicked over to the EU/UK site and was presented with nothing that looked like it would offer the status of the servers. I poked around many pages but couldn't find anything useful and ended up deciding to try another time. Instead I loaded World of Warcraft and was happy to find my US friends had also recently logged on, so we had a merry jaunt around the Western Plaguelands stabbing ghouls and zombies and being silly on our ponies. After we had defeated enough undead, and a couple of group members had gained a level, we headed out to the real world again. I took the opportunity to check quickly whether the City of Heroes problem had resolved itself.

By now I was able to log in to the server and get myself back in to Paragon City, suggesting there was a problem with connecting to the server and not with my installation. I was happy to see Sue Purr back in action and left her to keep a vigilant yet passive eye over criminal activity as I had other things to do, the first of which was to delete the new installation and bottle I had created earlier. Running a game as it was not designed to be run has its complications, but with complications comes experience.

  1. One Response to “Client, server, other?”

  2. This happened again recently, and I forced the game to 'verify all files' on the updater's flash screen. I was then able to get access the server again.

    Whether it was coincidence that let me on again straight after verifying the files or not I don't know.

    By pjharvey on Jun 5, 2008

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