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How well do we really understand connectivity issues? Learnings from the Le Mans virtual controversy

Edgegap CEO Mathieu Duperre writes about the connectivity issues that have plagued Le Mans virtual

Multiple online games have been on the receiving end of attacks and server connection problems in the past few months. The latest to be affected is Le Mans Virtual 2023, a sim racing esports event based on the annual 24-hour race. The race which was significantly disrupted after it was hit by a series of disconnections, DDoS attacks and server issues, forcing some racers to retire their cars. 

Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen’s comments, and anger for his team after the connectivity issues is understandable. Verstappen described the event as a “Clown Show” and encouraged his players to quit, citing incompetence on the part of the developers. But is this really the case?    

Prevention is better than cure

The truth is that it can be immensely challenging for event organizers to circumvent situations like this when Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS attacks) are so hard to predict. That said, there are several preventive measures and contingency plans that game studios can put in place to help avoid some of these issues and unwanted attacks. These include server DDoS protection through filtering and blocking, preventing attacks in the short term and removing IP addresses most susceptible to attacks.  

Other measures include an access control list to manage who has access, player firewalls which serve the same purpose of helping with access control, a VPN to give your network added security and protection from attacks, and mirror standby instances, which is a solution for increasing the availability.  

These are just a few options at developers’ disposal. Of course, these won’t eliminate issues, but they will certainly mitigate the risk of further attacks.  

A reputational risk 

One thing that might have been most damaging to the team behind the event, and contributed to the outage, is the fact that rFactor 2 has a version of the servers allowing them to host multiplayer matches themselves.  

While this is a great community feature, it arms would-be bad actors with an easy way to understand the logic behind the player-server connection. This means they can find possible attack vectors resulting in DDoS attacks and other server crashes which will, of course, ruin the player experience.  

This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Edgegap’s Online Connectivity Report, released in July 2022, found that the majority of players will blame the game developer and publisher for any connectivity problems. At Edgegap we believe that online event organizers should put the ability to detect and manage these issues at the top of their priority list, or they risk taking a big hit to their reputation.  

Communication is key 

The response to Le Mans’ issues and the report’s findings further underline the communication challenges around the causes of connectivity and latency issues. To avoid further reputational damage, developers might also want to better educate their player base on the benefits of changing their set-up, and the myriad factors that can lead to poor performance to prevent the blame from being heavily laid at their door.   

There are, of course, challenges presented by significant launches, but if developers equip themselves to tackle these in a swift manner, then it will help to appease their player base. Simple steps like increasing server capacity and bandwidth can help absorb attacks like those seen in Le Mans Virtual and Overwatch 2.  

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