The Survivalist: Astroneer’s worst mistake was using Nitrado servers

    
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The Survivalist: Astroneer’s worst mistake was using Nitrado servers

Wonder rant powers, activate! It’s been a long while since I have been pushed to the point of activating rant mode. I can be chill and forgiving about quite a bit. But here I am — knit brows, frustrated growls, and all. What could possibly have frustrated me to this point, especially regarding Astroneer, a game I adore? It wasn’t about the gameplay or the devs; rather, it was a decision that affects the game. A decision that is the biggest blunder I have seen from System Era Softworks: the use of Nitrado as the official dedicated server host.

Compounding horrible customer service oscillating between flippant and nonexistent, this company was inept and did not even provide the service paid for. Even worse, this hosting provider was dishonest to boot. Please System Era, for all that is awesome about Astroneer, please end this disastrous union ASAP! The current collaboration tarnishes you and your game.

The beleaguered beginning

When first sharing my excitement over this survival game’s new dedicated servers, my enthusiasm was tempered a bit by the knowledge that in order to collect event rewards and achievements, I would be forced to use one single hosting company. I hadn’t heard of Nitrado before and had no dealings with it, but in spite of my reservations I decided to go ahead with it for our server. It turns out that was a big mistake from the get-go.

My journey started on May 29th, 2020, when I paid for and set up the new dedicated server with Nitrado. Unfortunately, as mentioned in that previous The Survivalist, my server still wasn’t even available to use. With other server host companies I have worked with, it was a given that once you paid for and set it up, you could jump in and use the service. Not so with Nitrado. First there was the disconnect between Nitrado’s dashboard saying the server was online and the actual Astroneer launcher saying it was not. Most of the time during those first two days we were unable to log in or play at all. I spent a great deal of time troubleshooting, restarting, reinstalling — anything I could on my end to get the server to operate. After finally getting on, I found the server then crashed and would not reappear.

Ticket to nowhere

When you pay for a product and service, it is not unreasonable to expect that service. Of course, sometimes things happen, so when — after two days of these problems — I went to submit a support ticket, I was still fairly optimistic that things could be resolved. That is where my journey with this company went downhill. I had to jump through hoops on a very unintuitive and disorganized dashboard (compared to all other formats I have seen and used) in order to place a support ticket. The push appears to be toward calls, but I finally found a way to email. (A live chat option was added recently, but not in time to help me.) Here’s a timeline of that ticket exchange:

  • May 30th at 10:55 p.m. — submit ticket about the constant offline status and big crash
  • June 1st, 4:44 p.m. — add that server is stopped again and even upon restart won’t show online
  • June 2nd, 12:00 p.m — finally get response, and my game server was moved and IP changed

Yes, it took them three days to respond to a new customer being unable to use the service. Forget the fact I was mildly annoyed at the length of time to get back to me and that I had to dig through the dashboard to find the new IP (perhaps I have been spoiled by those companies that include the changed information), I was still hopeful. Perhaps all’s well that ends well… if only it ended there. Luckily, Nitrado’s response included the sentiment:

“If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let us know, as we are here to help.”

If you say so! I add onto the ticket when nothing changed. Even using the new IP, the server remained offline. Response time improved, but not with any relevant or useful info:

  • June 2nd, 3:33 p.m. — added that server was still offline 25 minutes and counting after restarting
  • June 2nd, 7:12 p.m. — I’m told to be sure I am looking at it correctly (I am, and you can’t mistake the offline statement on the Astroneer launcher), but my ticket will be escalated

“However, we have received your request and have evaluated it as needing additional review or actions.  We will forward this ticket to the appropriate department, and they will answer your ticket in the order it was received.  At times, they may experience high ticket volumes, so your patience and understanding are highly appreciated.”

OK, now we are getting somewhere? Maybe? The ticket continues:

  • June 3rd, 4:04 p.m. — thanked them for escalating; affirmed I followed the guide but reiterated the offline problem
  • June 3rd, 9:25 p.m. — still no one can get on server, fifth day now
  • June 3rd, 9:37 p.m. — sent correction that one person had gotten on but was stuck in ground with everything floating in air, now can’t access again
  • June 3rd, 10:02 p.m. — new FTP credentials do not work!
  • June 4th, 3:59 p.m. — after resetting account password could finally access FTP
  • June 5th, 12:33 p.m. — can finally access game by relaunching as new character
  • June 17th, 9:25 p.m. — finally got a response!

“Hello, I apologize for the extreme delay in response. We have added 7 days to the server for you by way of apology. It appears your responses did not reach us in the time you sent them. We are glad to hear that the server is online and running. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Yes my friends, that was a 14-day response time, and it was blamed on the responses not reaching them in a timely manner. Responses that, I might add, were entered on the ticket itself on the dashboard of the Nitrado site. How do they not get responses on their own site’s ticket? The one week of compensation was all right, but I was extremely soured on the customer support.

Wipe out!

If my experience started off bad, it only got worse. Come July 1st, it became necessary to submit a second ticket. When I logged in to play, I discovered that our dedicated server had been completely and utterly wiped. Everything we’d worked on over the past two months was gone. At this point, the ineptitude of this service provider was aggravating me, but that then paled when I went to restore the a backup. Guess what? There were no accessible backups on the dashboard since June 20th. June 20th! How can a server host not be making backups when I hadn’t changed any settings and they were being made fine until that point?

Understandably I was not happy. I submitted a new ticket asking what on earth happened and asking for my server to be fixed and restored. I stated that this inability to provide the service was unacceptable, and I reiterated that I was not receiving answers to support for two weeks and needed an answer promptly. What would Nitrado do to make things right?

I did get an answer, but it was not a good one.

  • July 1st, 10:14 p.m. — submit ticket about problem of wipe and missing backups
  • July 5th, 12:45 p.m. — response was essentially too bad, so sad, it’s your problem

The dishonest straw that broke the server’s back

To say I was not happy with the response Nitrado provided — days later, of course — is an understatement. I was livid.

“Hello, Thank you for your support request. Sadly, your backups were corrupted so your server deleted them and there is no way for us to get them back. We apologize profoundly for the inconvenience and remind you that you can make local backups thru the FTP function of your server so if this ever happens again, you will still have your local file to go back to. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you and have a great day.”

I was livid because not only did this company try to pin the problem on me by saying I should have gone in and collected backups from the FTP constantly (I mean, isn’t this exactly what I am paying the company to do for me?!), but it also outright lied to me. Nitrado told me the server was corrupted and deleted the files. I know this was for a fact untrue because while waiting on a response, we dug through the FTP and found the backups. We got them back. We could also restore from those backups using some creativeness. (We also discovered that the server had wiped and reset at least two more times before I got the answer.)

The question became, did we want to work with this company anymore? A company that wouldn’t accept even an iota of responsibility for the damaged server, that didn’t provide the service I paid it for? I had reservations about the stability of a server and decided that it wouldn’t be worth it before the response. After the response, I was actively opposed to this company. Was the lie an act of omission because of gross incompetence and they never checked, or was it an act of commission where they didn’t even care? I don’t think I will ever know. What I do know is that there is no way I will ever do business with them again. And I would encourage others not to either.

Not an isolated incident

After I had already decided that this company’s business practices were unacceptable and severed my relationship with them, I discovered through its Discord server that lo and behold, I was not the only one with these exact issues. I was one among others who had issues with a server not being usable upon purchase. I was only one among others who had issues with the server being offline. And I was only one of others who had random wipes occur. Even one participant on a dev livestream noted that he had the same problems on one of his servers, though not the other!

I can understand there being technical issues. What I cannot abide by is a company repeatedly not addressing its issues, of not responding to customer issues, not taking responsibility, and flat-out lying.

So I am begging System Era to please reevaluate having an exclusive deal with Nitrado. That company is tarnishing your reputation with its horrible service. You deserve better. And even if you can’t sever ties with them, I hope that exclusive relationship is jettisoned out of the nearest airlock, allowing us to receive all achievements and awards on any host. The devs mentioned in a livestream they were looking into this option, but I haven’t heard/confirmed that it’s been implemented other than by a random player via Discord. Also, a reddit post from the devs says that expanding achievements would go live with June’s automation update, but I have conflicting reports from players whether it did or not, and there was no official news put out. Currently, the official site still says, “The only way to play on a server and gain achievement progress and unlock cosmetics is to play on a server rented through Nitrado.” So I do not know. 

I still love Astroneer. But I need to play on stable servers provided by a company with integrity. Nitrado is not it.

/endrant

In the survival genre, there are at least 1001 ways to die, and MJ Guthrie is bound to experience them all — in the interests of sharing them with you! The Survivalist chronicles life and death struggles against all forms of apocalypse, outbreak, mutation, weather, and prehistoric wildlife. And let’s not forget the two-legged enemies! Tune in here and on OPTV to see who feeds better: MJ or the Death Counter.
Update August 1
To continue the report on this situation, here is an update. Late Friday evening after this published, I received an email from Nitrado:

“Hello MJ Guthrie, My name is Volker and I am President&CEO of Nitrado USA, Inc. First of all, I want to apologize for your experience. The entire situation is utterly unacceptable and we take this very seriously. We are looking in detail as to what went wrong and will find out what we can learn and fix so that this cannot happen again. Just to be clear, I am not making any excuses and I am not trying to justify or downplay this by any means. Would it be possible to speak to you directly via phone or video chat? I would really appreciate your input so we can learn and make changes on our end. Thanks, Volker”

The apology is appreciated, and we know that Nitrado is aware of the problems.

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April-Rain

wow shocked at this, I use to use Nitrado 3/4 years ago with various servers from battlefield to farming simulator and found them to be pretty good, I guess they are now ones to avoid.

I will add this happens a lot when smaller hosting companies take on what turns out to be an overnight hit, it reminds me of the exclusive hosting issues ping perfect had with conan exhiles where they end up overwhelmed but not many really big companies left that can handle massive games after multiplay’s demise (they use to handle the exclusive ranked EA battlefield servers in the EU).

And they is just not the money it like 10 years ago that’s why multiplay sold up, so less money means smaller companies and less investment.

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teppic

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about them, in particular to how they have no real support. I think the devs went with them as they’d worked with getting things live for xbox before and it seemed the simplest way. I hope they offer alternatives soon though.

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Tanek

“It appears your responses did not reach us in the time you sent them.”

What. Did they think there were no messages from customers for a week because things were going so smoothly? :P
And if the +7 days was an apology for the extreme delay, what about days for the time the server was not usable?

I thought Nitrado has been around for a while and would be better organized than this. Especially if they are going to be the trusted official server for crossplay.

Plus, looking at the tools they provide, I’m not sure I have seen any other server host provide so little access to the server you rent. My only guess is it has something to do with the setup for communication back to SES and between platforms? Even so, if they want so much locked down, they can’t also then expect to put the burden on the user when their system fails at backups and restores.

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EmberStar

Wait, so I can’t unlock costumes and stuff in singleplayer anymore? I hope I’m seriously misunderstanding that. If it’s achievements like “wave at another player” then whatever, I’ll do without. But the price of multiplayer might be getting locked out of… unlockable cosmetics? Really?

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Tanek

Singleplayer you should still be fine. It was just when running a dedicated server on your own or through services other than Nitrado that it was restricted.

As MJ notes, that was going to be changed, but the website still says only Nitrado, so…?

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Schmidt.Capela

Which makes the whole situation ridicule. Why the heck would them block players who create their own servers from earning rewards when single-player — where players can cheat their way to the rewards with impunity — is allowed?

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Tanek

At one point I think the developers mentioned that it wasn’t so much the achievements and unlocks as it was opening access to the backend game servers. If it really was a security concern, though, and it is true that people can now get unlocks on their own servers, I have to wonder what they did to fix that.

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Paul

Simply dreadful – companies like that don’t deserve to be in business