If it ain’t broke, maintain it!

Men at Work

Maintenance. We all know what it is, right? How many of us have not had to do some kind of minor repairs to something around our houses, our cars, our computers? It is something that a lot of people take for granted, but it shouldn’t be. Speaking from painful, and expensive, personal experience, the car works much better if you keep the oil topped off and changed every 3000 or so miles. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not going to be flying on SouthWest airlines ANYTIME in the near future, if they even stay in business. Something about having holes suddenly appear in the planes in flight really bothers me. But that got me thinking about maintenance in Star Wars.

One thing that I always thought was well done about the original trilogy was that things did not always work as they were supposed to. The Millennium Falcon in particular was one huge mess of problems. Han Solo and Chewbacca were always fixing things. In the Expanded Universe, the descriptions of the Falcon in particular were always somewhat on the hilarious side. It was a constant battle to see who would win, the ship’s multiple brains, the crew or the various and sundry people who wanted the crew dead. Without Han and Chewie’s skill at keeping the ship going, it would have fallen to pieces.

We see Rebel techs maintaining the fighters in the hangar bays before the battles of Yavin and Endor. Ground crews work to fuel, arm and basically get ships ready for battle. Fighter planes today are incredibly complex pieces of equipment. Pilots and ground crew alike have to know what they are doing with each and every part or bad things can happen. And if those bad things happen in flight…

This is the point. Maintenance is needed. Many people who should know better take things for granted. If the car is working, why bother to check the fluids, right? The brake fluid, oil level and radiator fluid level have to be good or a light would be coming on, right? Not necessarily. When the engine in the car I was driving seized up, the first notice I had was when it went ‘clunk’. Not a pleasant feeling, let me tell you, especially on the highway.

So… what does this have to do with Star Wars: The Old Republic? Well, every Wednesday, the website goes down for routine maintenance. This shows that Bioware is not as clueless about some things as a certain 18 year old was. They are also likely going to be taking hints from other publishers of MMOs who shall remain nameless. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ doesn’t work very well in high tech settings. Ignoring problems when computers are involved is a recipe for disaster. The words ‘cascade failure’ sends shivers up and down the spines of most IT professionals who know them. That is, a small problem happens, and is not corrected quickly. It causes other problems and then those problems cause more problems, and on, and on, and on. It is also called ‘The Snowball Effect’. Roll a snowball down a large hill and it grows as it rolls. Entire networks have been taken offline in the past because one lowly tech decided that some insignificant seeming problem was not worth his time. Bets on how long that tech kept his job?

Bioware is likely not going to be making these mistakes. They have seen, from other publisher’s mistakes, how small, seemingly insignificant issues can cause HUGE problems. Star Wars Galaxies comes to mind, but many MMORPGs have had the same thing happen. Who remembers having a patch come out, and all of the sudden, no one can play the game? A hotfix, or quick patch later and things are almost back to normal. We can hope that Bioware does not have to do rollbacks. There was nothing quite so annoying as logging in and finding that an entire week’s worth of playing was just gone. Well, except logging in and finding out that several YEARS worth of playing was gone with the NGE… but… no ranting today…

Without maintenance, any high tech equipment will fail, given time. Nothing made by man is perfect, especially when things are made by the lowest bidder.  A quote from the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon comes to mind. “Rockhound:  You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder.” Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? We need to maintain what we build, or it will fail, usually at the worst possible time. Bioware knows this. Whether they can keep up with the needs of what will probably be one of the most demanded titles of the twenty-first century is open to debate. We will have to see, but I for one have hope. And I will not get on another plane for quite a while…

Picture from http://burhanchambers.com/