Who is Really to Blame for Lag in MapleStory? An Interview with Joseph DeFazio

Server room

We’ve all encountered disconnections, random errors, and horrible lagging throughout our MapleStory experiences. But, what really causes these issues? A faulty internet connection? Hackers? Holes in the code? Server problems? DDoS attacks? We chatted with Joseph DeFazio, former owner of MapleFBI – and now works assists various server hosting companies – to learn a bit more about how servers work and what really causes problems for MapleStory players.

Maple Monthly: You’ve have extensive programming and administrative experience in addition to running a web hosting company for many years. What are the parameters to ensure a server runs smoothly and efficiently?

Joseph DeFazio: The data center choice is very important. In regards to MapleStory, I’m not sure how large they really are, but companies that only have a hand full of servers (~100, for example), aren’t even going to consider creating their own data center; it’s too expensive. They would be renting space in another data center.

This means they’re relying on the network of this data center, the policies of this data center, the staff, etc, and this can sometimes be an issue depending on the data center. For example, if MapleStory were to be the victim of a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, and their data center’s policy is to null route any server that is attacked for 24 hours, that would mean that no matter how large or how long the attack was, there would be a minimum of 24 hours of downtime just because of the data center’s policy.

MM: You ran the MapleStory fan site MapleFBI for several years. What inspired you to start the website and what ultimately precipitated its closure?

JDF: MapleFBI started as a “clan” before guilds were introduced into MapleStory. It eventually evolved into a relatively large forum, and branched out into random things from there. We had a SHOUTcast stream at one point, a live video stream, a *cough* private server *cough*.

Honestly, I wish I kept it online just to see where it would go. MapleStory was heading in a different direction, and I eventually lost interest. I’m sure a lot of the original players feel the same way though.

MM: It was announced last week that Nexon’s servers were dealing with several DDoS attacks. What, if anything, can be done to safeguard or reduce the impact of DDoS attacks?

JDF: DDoS attacks are a pain and no server is completely DDoS-proof. Even large sites like PayPal have been taken down by DDoS attacks. However, there are some solutions to preventing the majority of attacks. For game servers, a local hardware-based solution is generally best, for minimal latency.

It’s also important to hide the IP address wherever possible. This won’t prevent someone from accessing it if they really wanted to, but it would prevent the kids that don’t really know what they’re doing from getting the real IP using a simple ping, and attacking it using something they found on a hack forum.

MM: MapleStory’s code has been called ‘antiquated’ by many programmers in the MapleStory community. They allege that much of the code is messy, broken, and irrelevant which plays a part in the ease in which hackers can exploit the game. Is there any truth to that and can you recommend a course of action to make the game more secure?

JDF: Keeping code up-to-date is important, especially if they’re relying on any third-party code. However, DDoS attacks and code exploits are not necessarily related. DDoS attacks typically just flood the network with more traffic than it can handle.

If we’re referring to players cheating, exploits will always be found. If I were Nexon, I would offer a reward to those that can find exploits and provide patches. For example, “If you find an exploit/security flaw, we’ll reward you with $500 and your information can optionally be added to our ‘Hacker Hall of Fame’ page”. This way, exploits are patched and those finding the exploits get something for their resume, and $500 to play with. Rather than being rewarded by the cheating community for sharing their cheats with the public, they would be rewarded professionally. Microsoft does something very similar to this.

MM: It’s somewhat shocking that a game like MapleStory encounters so many issues like extreme lag, disconnections, and other errors when technology is only continuing to improve and servers become faster and more efficient. Do you think there is any excuse for the technical errors that are becoming all the more prevalent and frequent with Nexon games, or is this to be expected of online MMORPG’s where thousands of players play concurrently?

JDF: I wouldn’t say lag is to be expected, but it’s hard to know the cause of the issues as an outsider. Only Nexon would really know what’s going on. Maybe their code is inefficient and causing server overloads, or they’re allowing too many players on each server. It’s hard to say.

For more tech insight and news, follow Joseph on Twitter.

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