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With the worst of the fallout from the recent site changes now behind us and things improving in the long run we’re back to working on improving the site functionality and expanding the network. While I’m trying to hold back on releasing new Nexus sites until our centralisation is done when I’ll never have to worry about launching a Nexus site in the same conventional way again, I’ve delayed the launch of these sites for quite some time so I can no longer wait.
Towards the beginning of July I was contacted by the folks over at Torn Banner Studios to see if I might be willing to provide a centralised location to host mods for Chivalry Medieval Warfare which is always an honour. I’ve obviously delayed the release of the site until I’m confident that things are stable again since our server moves and now that they are I’m happy to announce the release of Chivalry Medieval Warfare Nexus.
Torn Banner released their SDK for the game not too long ago which has opened up the potential for lots of new custom content and maps. Lots of stuff is already released and being worked on via their forums. The previous month I’d bought Chivalry and had a good playthrough of it so I was more than interested in helping out. For those who don’t know Chivalry Medieval Warfare is a popular first-person multiplayer game that pits two teams of knights, archers, men-at-arms and vanguards against each other in various map locations with various different objectives to complete. The teams are red and blue, hence the red and blue colour scheme to the site! If you like your combat up close and personal with swords and polearms then Chivalry will be for you.
There’s already several maps available to download for the game and I hope to see a lot more in the coming months.
Not wanting to stop there I’ve received an unprecedented number of requests to release a site to help support the Shadowrun Returns community. Shadowrun Returns was one of the first high-profile video game success stories to come from Kickstarter when it received over 400% of the funding that was initially requested and the game was launched towards the end of July to much fanfare.
While I’ve yet to play the game I’m very much aware that it’s a game that is going to rely on and thrive upon custom content and indeed most of the game has been built to revolve around the custom content that the user base is working on. It launched with a fully functioning editor that most people have commented is very easy to use along with Steam Workshop support. Initially I wasn’t too bothered in releasing a Nexus site for the game considering the direct integration with Steam Workshop right from the start but unfortunately the integration has had a number of teething issues that are yet to be resolved making things tough for some mod authors. So why not release a Nexus site to help spread the teething issue load? We can teeth together.
Shadowrun Returns Nexus is now up, launched and already being populated with work from the community.
We successfully completed the move of our databases over to a new centralised cluster yesterday with the final site, Fallout 3 Nexus, moved in the afternoon. Moving the databases off the same servers that actually serve the site’s pages has freed up resources on the servers that can go towards handling more concurrent connections and as such I’m hoping you’re finding the browsing experience on the sites this weekend, especially on Skyrim Nexus, are much more satisfactory.
There are currently a few known bugs on the sites that we’ll be working on sorting over the next week. You do not need to report these errors to us as we already know about them:
- Problems with people either being unable to login or being unable to stay logged in through page loads. Generally what happens is you enter your username and password, click the submit button, the main page loads but you’re still not logged in. No error messages are shown. We’re not sure why this isn’t working for some people while it’s working for the majority but we’ll look in to fixing that first.
- People have reported the file servers sometimes report themselves as being overloaded or “struggling” despite other people downloading the same file perfectly fine. Assumed that any NMM downloading errors are of a similar ilk for the same people (e.g. if manually downloading fails so does downloading through NMM).
- Issues with the Image Share not posting images and linking to the correct forum topics.
If you’re experiencing a problem that’s not on that list then by all means report it.
While I’m very pleased that the cluster has worked out well I’m still not happy. I want to be in a position where there’s not one single point of failure for the sites so if a server goes down the sites still run perfectly. I also want to be in a position where increasing capacity is as simple as buying new servers. The old system wasn’t that simple, and I want a system that is that simple. Right now we’re serving about 700 concurrent connections/second to the sites (not the file servers, they do loads more than that) and we’re hitting that limit regularly. I want to be able to serve twice that much. We’ve spent over £33,000 ($50,000) on the database cluster and I’ve now outlayed a further £18,000 ($28,000) on several static content servers that will serve all the images and static pages and a further £40,000 ($61,000) on moving all our page serving in to a specially developed cloud server system utilising 48 CPU cores and 192GB or RAM across 6 virtual servers, load balanced by two extra virtual servers to ensure redundancy. On top of that we’ve got to continue paying the billls on the old servers until everything is moved over, so we’re essentially paying double the amount it normally costs to keep things going from a hardware standpoint. Don’t get me started on bandwidth or the file servers where we’ve got another 3 file servers on order at the moment. When you wonder where the Premium Membership money goes; this is where it goes.
I’m happy with how things have gone so far and I’m looking forward to a point where we can stop dealing with making the sites run properly and get on with making the sites better and expanding the network. Frankly, if I were to have another year like this current one I’d seriously consider throwing in the towel. So fingers very much crossed.
There is going to be some down-time on all Nexus sites and the forums this week as we work to move our databases over to our new cluster setup. Each site needs to be taken offline while a “dump” of the database can be created, transferred to the cluster and then imported in to the cluster database setup. The sites obviously have to go offline during this process so no new content is lost between the time when we make the dump and the time until the import process is fully completed.
The total down time will depend entirely on the site being transferred at the time. The forums, Skyrim, both Fallout sites and Oblivion are going to take longer than the other sites as they have a lot more content to transfer over. The forums and Skyrim should take 4 hours each while the other sites might take less time. Either way you’ll know when the transfer is happening as the site will be taken offline, with a message to that effect, during the process.
It’s my utmost hope (and no doubt yours too) that, through this transfer to our cluster, the reliability issues with the servers is going to be a thing of the past. For good. If all goes to plan this weekend should be the last weekend of stability issues for the Nexus and we can move on to doing what we actually want to do; making the service better for everyone and expanding our reach to all games so anyone can use the Nexus for modding if they so wish. We’ll also be far more DDoS proof due to the distributed nature of our own server setup that will mean we can shift load between many different servers ensuring any attack will have to split the botnet being used considerably in order to cause any down time.
I’ll hold off on thanking you for your patience during this trying time until we can confirm that this is going to be the solution to all our problems but our initial testing has been very positive, so now it’s time to take the plunge and hope for the best.
Down time starts tomorrow (Monday) morning, starting with the forums.
We've been no strangers to bog-standard DoS attacks and thousands-strong botnet DDoS attacks over the past 12 years. Any given week we'll be DoS'd, just most of the time you won't notice it because systems are in place to prevent such attacks. Every once in a while, though, someone with a rather large botnet or someone using more sophisticated techniques comes along that either requires us to adapt or just to weather it out. All I know is, it's been 12 years, we've survived countless DDoS attacks, and the sites aren't going anywhere.
Going hand-in-hand with that is the fact school holidays have begun which means kids have more time to waste. I used to enjoy playing football, cricket, skating and trampolining in my summer holidays but I guess some kids like to run bot nets instead. The why isn't really important (and I have no idea as to the why). All I know is that it's happening right now on the servers and we're doing what we can to alleviate the problem as best we can.
There's not much you can do on your end to fix this exact problem. There is, however, something you can do to help the general DDoS plague and that's to not be one of the millions of dolts out there browsing the internet without an anti-virus and firewall running as a bare minimum. Botnets form because "hackers" have gained access to insecure systems. The more insecure systems they control, the more powerful their botnet becomes. Typically gamers are more clued in than most in this regard, but still, I know some of you will be reading this without any anti-virus installed on your PC and to you I'll simply say this; you are a part of the problem. You're not the problem, but you're a part of it in the same way you're a part of the problem during an epidemic if you sneeze without covering your mouth with your hand or don't wash your hands after going to the toilet. You're in that group of people. You aren't the virus but you help to spread it through your lack of action. So get on to fixing it if you haven't already, or at least please don't complain to me about the sites being down if you're in that group.
A blunt news post, I know, but in all truth I treat DDoS attacks with utter emotional disregard. Not that we're not trying our hardest to solve the issue, but frankly, there's no point getting upset about it. Some idiot is DDoS'ing us and cowering behind the internet's anonymity, we've had no contact from said individual(s), it'll end when it ends or when we find a way to block it and there's no point getting upset about it.
As we (continue to) ramp up towards our centralisation of the site databases we’ve started work this week on “splitting up” sites that currently host more than one game. Each game for Dragon Age, Neverwinter, The Witcher and Mount & Blade will be split into separate Nexus sites and while they’ll keep the same colour scheme I’ll change the background image to make it more obvious which site you’re currently browsing.
Typically the Nexus sites aren’t as easy to navigate if more than one game is hosted on the same site; it makes it harder to find mods for the specific games while muddying the waters by making multiple games all vie for the same top files, files of the month votes and so on, so it makes sense to separate the sites. Our plans to centralise the sites will eliminate this problem, but this task not only makes the current sites more usable but also eliminates a task we’d have had to have performed later anyway.
Hopefully that’ll be done relatively soon, but there’ll obviously be some (hopefully only momentary) downtime during the actual splits of the sites as the databases are reworked.
On the NMM front we’ve recently plugged several more bugs in the software and have also implemented support for Dragon Age. We’ve updated Dragon Age Nexus to support the “Download with manager” functionality but this functionality will only work with Dragon Age 1 (and not Dragon Age 2) for the moment. We hope to have DA2 support implemented quite quickly after we’ve split the sites and have some feedback on DA1 support.
We’ll release the Dragon Age support officially in version 0.45.0 of NMM when the site split is completed but we’d love it if you could download this version early and let us know if it works well for you. We’ve tested it with zipped up loose files, straight .dazip files and .dazip files within .7z or .rar archives (so archives within archives) and initial testing suggests it’s working well, but we’d love it if you could help us out, download this latest version manually and let us know yourself. This release simply adds Dragon Age support so it’s not really “cutting/bleeding edge”, and if all goes well this exact file is the one we’ll push to the update server for everyone to get in a week or so.
Lastly a few people requested the ability to be able to go past the top 25 and top 100 file lists to see the top 26-50, 51-75, 76-100 lists and so on. We’ve added this functionality to the hot files now and you can use the “forward” and “back” links to go backwards and forwards through both the lists. So if your file is 101 in the list, and ergo just missed out, it no longer misses out.
While we have our cluster setup looked in to we’ve been busy looking in to some other areas of the site we’d like to improve before we “centralise” the Nexus in to supporting mods for all games.
We’ve come up with a new file adding wizard that’s usable on all sites. Indeed, when we finally get around to centralising our database you’ll be able to add a mod for any game ever made to the site through this one file wizard, but for now it’s setup to work with the sites and games we already support. The idea is that the new file wizard will take you, step-by-step, through the process of making a complete file page for your files. While in the past you would simply add a few details and then be expected to add things in later, now you’re taken through every step of the process, with 9 steps in total.
You can skip steps that you don’t want or don’t need to do (like required files), or skip the wizard entirely if you so wish, but I’m hoping that this new process will at least introduce new mod authors to all the file page features we currently support so they can provide as much relevant information to their users right from the start while also providing veteran mod authors of the site with a quicker way of get their pages set up on the site without having to keep going backwards and forwards.
We’ve also added a new set of options to the wizard that allow you to better categorise your files. It actually makes use of our tags system, but in a much more obvious manner, in an attempt to better support our content blocking system, which I’ll now discuss.
Recently we had a couple of nude mods show up in our hot files on Skyrim Nexus. It’s not a particularly rare occurrence by any stretch of the imagination, but what was a bit more rare was the content of one of the mods. A penis. EEK, A PENIS! Lets get this out the way. Please repeat after me: penis penis penis, vagina vagina vagina. Got that out your system? Good. While we get the occasional rant about big boob mods or general female nudity on the sites, nothing sparks an absolute outpouring of pent up closet-case emotion like the showcasing of a penis mod on the site. Indeed, no less than 6 people sent me a message to inform me of their outrage of bearing witness to a penis mod on the sites. When pressed for clarification on why vagina mods were ok but penis mods weren’t the conversation went ominously silent. While I’m no expert in the field let me provide some advice: if seeing a penis mod throws you into a fit of quizzical fury you might need to explore your own sexuality a bit further. Don’t repress it, explore it. You’ll save yourself lots of therapy payments in the future.
With that said, I can completely understand why you might not be interested in seeing a penis, or a vagina, or boobs, or scantily clad men or women, or translations, or lore-breaking files, or save-games or any number of various types of content (indeed, the issue isn’t in not wanting to see the content but the way in which people get so comically worked up over the issue). While we can’t provide a 100% success rate method of removing this content from your viewing we can try our hardest to tailor the mods you see to your specific preferences.
We’ve had content blocking available for a long time. It works by blocking files that have been tagged with specific tags. If you block the “Sexy/skimpy” tag you won’t see any mods that are using that tag. There are a few pages that are the exception to that rule, the hot files originally didn’t block this content but it now does (we fixed it recently) and the new today/new recently pages don’t. However, the category results/search result pages will block this content. We even go one step further and tell you that you’re currently blocking content and you’re only seeing X number of files as Y number of files have been blocked from your viewing, with an easy link to see the results with your previously blocked content showing as well. The systems are in place, you just need to use them.
There are two inherent problems; (1) not enough mod authors tag their files and (2) people complain about files not being tagged but then don’t tag files themselves. Your profiles have a statistic on them called “Files tagged”. It tells people how many files you’ve successfully tagged. If you complain about files not being tagged properly and your “Files tagged” statistic is 0, you’re a part of the problem and not a part of the solution. Your complaining about the lack of tagging doesn’t fix the issue, your actual tagging of files does. So next time you see a nude mod that hasn’t been tagged properly, “doing the right thing” isn’t complaining about it, doing the right thing is actually tagging the file yourself so that others don’t have the same problem you did.
With that said we’re trying to do our part to make these features more prominent. In the new file adding wizard we’ve hand-picked some tagging selections that are known to be the most regularly blocked tags on the sites. You’re asked “Tick any of the boxes that apply to your file. My file...” and on Skyrim Nexus, for example, options include “contains nudity”, “contains sexy/skimpy outfits”, “is a translation”, “is for male characters”, “is for female characters” and so on. (Note: as of writing I haven’t actually gone around and added these, but they’ll be up within an hour of me posting this article). Ticking these boxes will automatically tag your file with the relevant tag.
On the user end, we’ve added these same tags to the file search page under “Attributes”. Each tag is given a tick box. If the tag is ticked then you’ll see files using that tag. If you untick the box you will no longer see files using that tag. It works exactly the same as our content blocking system but it’s just much more obvious, and provides a link to the full range of tags you can block on the sites.
The aim is to make content blocking both more relevant, by asking direct questions about the type of content your mod contains, and also more prominent, by making it a part of our extensive filtering system that should help you to drill-down in to the file database and discard the types of mods you would never be interested in anyway. While this system was always present on the site it was never this prominent.
You’ll also notice the new file wizard has some new options for categories. This is more of a precursor for our centralisation work as I think most of the sites are pretty set in their categories now, but I’ll quickly run through it. You now have three category options. You must pick from a pre-set list (as before) but you can also suggest your own category that you think would best suit your file, or you can select from a pre-set list of what others have suggested. What’s the point of this? With current sites there’s not too much of a point to it as there’s already plenty of usable and relevant categories, however if we start supporting new games we want to be as automated and flexible as possible. The idea is if you’ve got a texture replacer mod for a new game, you add the game yourself and the site will automatically setup the game site along with a “Miscellaneous” category (all games have that category in them, current and future). You select the “Miscellaneous” category for your file but you suggest a “Texture replacer” category. While the file will begin in the Miscellaneous category if an admin agrees with the suggested category any files uploaded to the “Miscellaneous” category but using that suggested category will then be moved over to this new suggested category. The suggested category becomes a new category in and of itself. It sounds complicated but it’s really not.
Alrighty, I’ve gone on long enough. I hope these new features can be put to good use and if you think something isn’t working properly then let me know.
After 2 days and no sleep (Axel has been up since the early hours of Thursday morning), we’re back to fully operational. With a heavy heart I also have to report that we couldn’t get our clustering setup to work properly. While the past 2 days of limited service haven’t been for nothing as we’ve learnt that we can’t do it without professional help it does mean that we’re still running on the old setup which is disheartening to say the least.
Things should be back up and operational again (as though nothing has changed), and while I’m sorry for the downtime and inconvenience caused I’m sure you can understand our wish to try and attempt doing this on our own rather than forking out the thousands of pounds that will now be necessary to get this looked into by a professional database consultant on our behalf.
We tried and we failed so now we have to move on and hope that we can rely on some certified engineers to do the work for us.
Thanks, as always, for your patience during this time.
It seems like an age ago that I was here writing about our plans for stability through server clustering. It was a long time ago, a much longer time than I was anticipating or hoping, but we’re as ready as we’ll ever be to roll it out.
As a part of the original announcement I did say that we’d probably have some substantial downtime as we moved the site databases over to our new architecture. That downtime (perhaps one of a few planned downtimes) will be tomorrow. All day tomorrow in fact.
All is not lost, however. It’s not going to be a total downtime of all the sites, but rather this downtime will simply be for the forums. You might now be saying “ooooh that’s fine, I don’t use the forums”. You probably do use the forums, you just don’t know it, as the forums are used for file commenting, new user registrations and uploading new mods to the site. So during this downtime not only will you not be able to use the forums themselves, but you won’t be able to post new comments/topics, add new mods to any Nexus site or create a new account. You will still be able to browse the Nexus sites for mods and download as normal.
We’re expecting this downtime to start around about 10am GMT tomorrow and last all day, and then we’ll likely be spending most of Friday fixing problems that might arise and tweaking everything for performance. So it could be a rocky few days coming up, but the long term benefits should outweigh the short-term inconveniences.
Once the forums are working on the cluster we’ll be moving the larger Nexus sites over. Our smaller sites are already using the cluster (anything with less files than Dragon Age/Fallout 3). These sites might require some downtime but we’ll inform you before any work is scheduled to start.
We came across a bug today that meant when users downloaded files through NMM the download was not being counted as a “Unique download” but it did add to the “Total downloads” counter. For those who don’t know, unique downloads are counted once per user, per file, per page. So if you download the same file 10 times it adds 10 to the total downloads counter but only 1 to the unique downloads counter. It’s a more accurate way of seeing the true number of unique individuals who have downloaded your files.
We’ve been able to run a script to recount all the unique download counters and I think some of you will be pleasantly surprised how high your unique download counters have jumped (I’ve seen some that have doubled, or even tripled, in count).
This bug only affected files with NMM enabled and those who downloaded the files through NMM.
CDProjektRed committed to releasing a powerful toolkit for The Witcher 2 some time ago and it’s been in a closed beta for many months now, but today the lid is off and [url=the kit is out there for everyone to use.
It’s really exciting for a great game like The Witcher 2 and it’s modding community to be strongly supported by the developers, and it’s a great breath of fresh air for a triple A game developer to care so much about it, and it bodes really well for The Witcher 3. That’s why I care about supporting CDProjekt as much as possible in whatever way I can and getting the word out there to any of you who might be interested; The Witcher 2 modding just got a whole lot better.
There are already a lot of mods available on our Witcher Nexus site for you to download and use. This release of the Redkit will open the modding doors to much wider modding possibilities including epic quest lines, new locations and everything in between so keep your eyes peeled as many mod authors in the closed beta have been working on some great projects for many months now. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them in due course.
In the coming months as we work towards our goal of supporting mods for all games we will be splitting any sites that have more than 1 game supported (for example Witcher Nexus, which supports TW1 and TW2) into separate sites for each game. This should help increase ease of use for people looking for specific mods for specific games.
We’ve also been working behind the scenes to make NMM compatible with the new Witcher 2 mods that will have been created by the Redkit. While we’re confident we’ve got it right we’re going to wait a day or two until we can test a few of the new creations uploaded to the site before we give it the all clear and release that functionality to you. If you’re a mod author wondering how you should package up your files to work in NMM I’m told all you need to do is place your files in the root of the archive you create, e.g. don’t create a folder for your mod, like placing all your files in a folder called “My first mod”. Just put it all in the root directory.
To download the Redkit and find all the information you need on how to get started with it head on over to the Redkit site CDProjekt have setup.
In the meantime you can take a look at the trailer CDProjekt released for the Redkit, with perhaps the most high-octane music I’ve ever heard used to show case mod tools!
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