ESO’s Performance Improvements Plan

10/31/2019

We’re working hard to make sure The Elder Scrolls Online runs as best as it possibly can. Read our plan for the game’s upcoming performance improvements from ESO’s Creative Director Rich Lambert and check back monthly for status updates.

October 2019 Update

Here’s the October update for our ongoing performance optimization work. As many of you know, we’ve already launched Update 24, and subsequently had to make some adjustments to the new Looking for Group system.

Q4 2019: Update 24

  • Memory management overhaul and behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 1 
    • This is now live on the PC/Mac servers and coming to the PlayStation®4 and Xbox One on November 5 with Update 24.
    • We are monitoring for live feedback and bugs and will assess if more work is needed.
  • Complete rewrite of the Looking for Group system
    • This is now live on the PC/Mac servers and coming to the PlayStation®4 and Xbox One on November 5 with Update 24.
    • We’ve already had to make some adjustments to this on the live servers in the week after Update 24 went live to fix some performance-related problems. It is now functioning well and is holding up to the player load, but we have already found a few ways we can make the system better and will be doing additional work that should be completed before Update 25 launches.


Q1 2020: Update 25

  • Patching overhaul
    • Work is ongoing and on track with internal bug fixing and asset clean-up as the focus.
  • Faster loading fixtures and characters
    • Work is ongoing and on track – no new major updates at this time.
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 2
    • Work is ongoing and on track – no new major updates at this time.
  • Frame rate improvements part 1
    • Effects manager work is in progress and on track.
    • We have identified some multi-threading work that is needed, and that is now in progress. This work will allow more game systems (specifically the fixture update process and renderer for this round) to utilize multiple cores, improving overall performance on the game client.
  • Server optimization & stability
    • This work has moved out to Update 26 (see below)


Q2 2020: Update 26

  • Account Database “Cold Storage”
    • This work is not yet started. Transfer system work (noted above) needs to be completed before we start this. We still believe this work will be completed in time for Update 26.
  • Server optimization & stability
    • Pets – We are going to rewrite how pets are handled to be more performant (work better, more efficiently, and take up less overhead/resources on the server.)
    • Player character loading – We will make the player character loading process multi-threaded on the server to improve performance
  • Frame rate improvements phase 2
    • Work is ongoing and on track – no new major updates at this time.
  • Additional bug fixes and other updates
    • Work is ongoing and on track – no new major updates at this time.

September 2019 Update

Below is a summary for September to give you an update on how work is coming along for Updates 24 and 25, and a look ahead to Update 26. In short, all work is still on track to roll out with the corresponding game update. Please see below for specific details.

Q4 2019: Update 24

  • Memory management overhaul
    • The major work for this game code is complete, and it is now in public testing on the ESO PTS. We’re fixing bugs as they arise. This is on track for release with Update 24.
    • Through internal testing, the team uncovered a few additional smaller memory-related subsystems that we can also optimize/improve. Work for that has begun and will be completed for Update 25.
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 1
    • Work for this is complete and now testable on the ESO PTS. This includes the sprint and mount sprint performance updates and Champion passive performance updates mentioned in our August game performance plan update. This is on track for release with Update 24.
  • Complete rewrite of the Looking for Group system
    • This work is complete, and it is now in public testing on the PTS. We’re fixing bugs as they arise. This includes both the dungeons and Battlegrounds portions of the game code that we mentioned in our August game performance plan update. This is on track for release with Update 24.

 

Q1 2020: Update 25

  • Patching overhaul
    • The game code portion of this work is complete and is being prepped for internal testing. Note: This is going to require a significant amount of testing, but we are still on track for an Update 25 delivery.
  • Faster loading fixtures and characters
    • This is tied closely to the patching overhaul above. The game code portion of this work is complete, and assets are being processed and prepped for internal testing. This is on track for release with Update 25. Note: Like with the patching overhaul, these changes also require significant testing.
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 2
    • Work is ongoing and on track – no new major updates at this time.
  • Frame rate improvements part 1
    • The initial investigating portion of this has concluded, and we have identified the areas in which we need to focus our efforts. Our #1 priority for this work is the effects manager. This system drives everything related to abilities in the game including but not limited to particle effects, animations, and movement properties.
    • We are also evaluating other systems for CPU performance improvement opportunities including but not limited to fixtures and characters.
  • Server optimization & stability
    • Investigation is still ongoing and work is on track.

August 2019 Update

Below is a summary for August to give you an update on how work is coming along for the next couple updates. In short, all work is on track to roll out with the corresponding game update. See below for specific details.

Q4 2019: Update 24

  • Memory management overhaul
    • The game code for this is complete and we're now in the internal testing phase. This is on track to release with Update 24.
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 1
    • Performance updates on the most consumptive combat-related abilities have been completed and are now in internal testing.
    • Champion passive performance updates are also complete and in internal testing. Note: Champion System work for this update is solely focused on game performance. We are still in the design phase for what we want to do in the future with the overall system.
  • Complete rewrite of the Looking for Group system
    • The dungeons portion of the game code is complete and in internal testing. (We completed the first scale test during the Update 23 PTS, week 2.)
    • The Battlegrounds portion of the game code is being finalized and will be in internal testing soon. This is on track for an Update 24 delivery.

Q1 2020: Update 25

  • Patching overhaul
    • Work continues on identifying duplicate/unused data. This is on track to release with Update 25.
  • Faster loading fixtures and characters
    • The game code for this is complete and we're now in the internal testing phase. Note: These changes do require significant testing, but we are still on track for an Update 25 delivery.
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 2
    • No new updates on this one at this time. Work is still ongoing and on track.
  • Frame rate improvements part 1
    • Work is scheduled to begin after the Update 24 memory management overhaul polish/bug fixing is complete.
  • Server optimization & stability
    • Investigation is still in progress, with the current focus on combat-related game code


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With the launch of Elsweyr, we wanted to give you an update on our ongoing performance optimization initiatives, our future plans, and when–generally–you can expect to see the improvements. This will be a living document, and it will be updated as new information becomes available.

We know that ESO performance has degraded for some players, especially on the base PS4™ and XB1. We’re not happy with this, and we know how important it is for us to alleviate the situation and give regular updates on what we are doing. A game that’s still going strong after five years brings a number of challenges to keep it running as smoothly as possible. Technology and player behavior changes over time, and of course the amount of available content continually expands. All of these can impact performance, and they have in ESO.

This article is the first step in a new process of making sure that everyone knows what we’re working on. The goal is to outline the things we have planned, explain why a particular item is important to overall stability or performance, and provide a target for when we think the work is going to be complete and on the live servers. Please keep in mind that some of these fixes reach very deep into the architecture of the game and require a lot of care, time, and testing. Because of this, the target dates on some of the initiatives may shift as work progresses.

Q4 2019: Update 24

  • Memory management overhaul
    • Fundamental changes to how we handle memory use in ESO to reduce memory fragmentation
    • User Experience: Greatly improved stability (i.e., less crashing / dashboarding), especially on base consoles, as well as potential minor performance improvement
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 1
    • This is the first of an ongoing initiative to rewrite some of the more consumptive combat abilities to lessen server load
    • User Experience: This is the first of many behind-the-scenes combat optimizations and may not have a huge impact, but over time this will lessen the server load and allow smoother and more responsive combat with larger groups
  •  Complete re-write of the Looking for Group system
    • Ground-up rewrite of how the system handles queues of people in both dungeons and battlegrounds—focused on reliability and speed, especially under load
    • User Experience: The LFG systems work as expected, even under heavy load

Q1 2020: Update 25

  •  Patching overhaul
    • Big changes to the way ESO is downloaded, patched, and stored on local hard drives. We need to refresh ESO’s patching and file manifest data to remove duplicate files and older data that is no longer needed. This will result in a major reduction of space taken up by the client on the player’s local hard drive. Console players will see a significantly larger impact compared to PC, because of the way those patching systems work
    • User Experience: Major improvement in load times, streaming of assets, and reliability of asset loads, especially on consoles
    • NOTE: Every ESO player, on every platform, will have to re-download the game client when this change happens, probably with the launch of Update 25
    • NOTE: After this change happens, patch size going forward should also be reduced
  • Faster-loading art fixtures and characters
    • As part of the client changes above, we will be moving to faster/newer/better compression libraries for art fixtures and character loading—these are two of the most “expensive” loading tasks
    • User Experience: Better load times, fewer “shadow” player silhouettes
  • Behind-the-scenes combat ability improvements phase 2
    • The next round of behind-the-scenes ability streamlining and optimizations
    • User Experience: A smoother, more responsive experience in combat situations
  • Frame rate improvements phase 1
    • We have time built in the schedule here for general frame rate improvements; more details on this in future updates
    • User Experience: Smoother, faster frame rates
  • Server optimization & stability
    • Server optimizations are being investigated and assessed, with the focus on CPU and Bandwidth usage on the server—especially on the combat handler and messaging
    • User Experience: A more responsive experience, especially in intense or high bandwidth situations (i.e., places where large groups of players are found)

Q2 2020: Update 26

  • Account Database “Cold Storage”
    • There are millions of accounts in our database. The goal of this task is to split the character database into “active” and “inactive” shards to remove the need to pool all the character records for all logins
    • User Experience: Faster account login and character loads
    • NOTE: Players logging in for the first time after being inactive for a few years will notice an initial longer load while their account is transferred from inactive to active
  • Frame rate improvements phase 2
    • The team has time built into Update 26 to identify more areas for frame rate improvements. Please note that this takes place after the frame rate improvements in Update 25, so this will piggy-back on those
    • User Experience: Better, smoother frame rate
  • Additional bug fixes and other updates
    • The NPC and monster “pathing” system will be overhauled to result in fewer movement bugs
    • NOTE: We are always working on identifying outstanding bugs and fixing them. If any rise to the level of needing to be included in this regularly updated post, we will do so here

As you can see, we have a huge amount of work ahead of us. There’s a ton of stuff to do and as time progresses, you should expect that some of these items may change—especially the investigative tasks since we aren’t 100% sure what will be uncovered. Regardless, we will keep you updated. Watch this article and our official ESO social channels for updates at least once a month.

Thanks, everyone, for being patient with us while we work through these issues. See you all in Tamriel!

—Rich

***

That’s it! Don’t forget to keep an eye on this article for monthly updates on the status of the above improvements—we can’t wait to bring all these updates to you.

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