ESO’s Performance Improvements Plan – Too Little, Too Late

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.

 

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 lesson 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

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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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