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EVE-Online Patch Makes XP Unbootable 572

Posted by kdawson
from the boot-hill dept.
Nobo writes "CCP's latest major patch to the EVE-Online client, Trinity, comes with an optional DX9-enhanced graphics patch that dramatically improves the visual quality of the in-game graphics through remade models, textures, and HDR. It also has an unfortunate bug: the incredibly stupid choice of boot.ini as a game configuration file, coupled with an errant extra backslash in the installer configuration. The result is that anyone who installs the enhanced graphics patch overwrites the windows XP c:\boot.ini file with the EVE client configuration file, bricking the machine on the next boot. Discussion in a couple of forums threads is becoming understandably heated."
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EVE-Online Patch Makes XP Unbootable

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  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:37AM (#21596019) Journal
    Wow... if this story isn't a wild exaggeration, then this is about as unfortunate as a game-bug can possibly get. Of course, a reasonably savvy user could probably have an affected system working again fairly quickly without any data-loss, but my own experience suggests that such users will be in the minority.

    The only gaming-related parallel I can think of relates to the uninstall programme bug for the 2001 version of Pool of Radiance. In that instance, attempting to uninstall the game (something many users would do not long after installing it, given the tedious and half-baked nature of the game) had a good chance of wiping the user's hard disk. I actually deliberately triggered this bug for fun myself when I decided it was time to wipe my old machine after I bought a new system. If anybody can think of any other examples on this kind of scale, please do share them.

    I wonder if this is going to cause any unpleasant and potentially expensive legal repercussions for CCP, from users who have lost data while trying to fix the issue?
    • by iCEBaLM (34905) <icebalm.icebalm@com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:42AM (#21596073)
      At one point trying to uninstall Final Fantasy XI Online would remove hal32.dll.
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:53AM (#21596189)
        At one point trying to uninstall Final Fantasy XI Online would remove hal32.dll.

        That wouldn't be a smart thing to do, now would it, Dave?
      • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:43AM (#21596723) Journal
        Don't these dumbasses actually test this shit before they shovel it out to you? It seems that a patch that would brick XP would be a bug that the first goddamned time it was tried would be discovered. I'm going to have to google to see what company makes Final Fantasy so I can be sure never to buy a game from them!

        The love of money is the root of all bad software.

        -mcgrew
        • by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:28AM (#21597411)
          Uninstallers and patches are rarely tested fully. For patches, normally problems stem from the company having only ever tested the clean game at the latest build, or having only tested patching from a clean install of the original retail copy.

          Also, this EVE patch wouldn't "brick" an XP SP2 machine that had Windows installed to the primary partition of the primary drive (i.e. most pcs), because Windows XP SP2 will automatically try to boot that if it fails to find boot.ini. Assuming they did test the patch, this would explain why they didn't notice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)


      I wonder if this is going to cause any unpleasant and potentially expensive legal repercussions for CCP, from users who have lost data while trying to fix the issue?


      At the very least, it will give us a better indication of just how binding those EULAs are.

      With respect to the bug, I'm an ex-tech. I've spent so long away from tinkering with my OS that it would probably take me a good long time to realize just what was wrong. I could probably repair the machine once I did find out that it was a boot.ini iss
    • At least there you can claim the makers of said game were self conscious enough to claim nobody would ever want to get rid of the game.

      But a bug like this that triggers at install...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:52AM (#21596169)
      The deletion of the Boot.ini file will not cause any data loss. If you format your system to fix the issue then you will lose data. Anyone with the Windows XP CD can boot off of it and repair the OS. It is a simple procedure for the tech savvy folks and for those that are not tech savvy, most of them have friends that are.

      This issue is going to leave CCP with a lot of egg on their face but realistically extended downtime would have been worse since the player base would have been screaming a 100x louder. This issue will peak higher in the media since it is a highly unusual problem but will die quicker then if the servers were down for 2-5 days.

      The concern that I have is how did this get past the QA testers at CCP and into a production build?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Etrias (1121031)
      It's not an exaggeration. I was playing last night when the news was coming over the chat channels. Fortunately, it's a pretty quick fix if you can catch it before the reboot and have a Plain-Jane hard drive set up (single drive, no SCSI or RAID).

      A few of us in the in-game chat were trying to catch people who were logging on for the first time and walking them through fixing their systems. It baffled all of us why there would even be a boot.ini file that CCP would use to install the premium content (u
    • Bungie did this, too.

      When they released Myth2, the windows uninstaller had a bug where if you installed the game anywhere other than the default, uninstalling it would basically erase your harddrive.

      I remember picking it up the day it came out, about 20 minutes before it got recalled, and was unable to play any of my friends since they weren't able to get their own copies. Since Bungie released Mac/Windows hybrid disks, this had the unfortunate effect of the game being widely unavailable for a week or two,
    • Oblig. Penny-Arcade (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Drogo007 (923906)
      From way back in 1999 with good ol' Myth II;

      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/1999/01/06 [penny-arcade.com]

      I remember when we used to use this strip in our training materials for new Testers to impress upon them how badly they did NOT want to have a comic like this made about a bug THEY missed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Macthorpe (960048)
      Half-Life 1 had an issue similar to this.

      If you installed Half-Life to any folder other than the default ('C:\Sierra\HalfLife\' if I'm not mistaken), uninstalling would remove the Half-Life folder and the folder directly above it in the tree.

      So, if you installed it to C:\HL\, you kissed goodbye to a good chunk of your C drive when you uninstalled it.

      Fixed in the first patch, but still cause for enough annoyance.
  • Ppffftt! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:39AM (#21596041) Homepage Journal
    Isn't this something should have been found in, oh, I dunno....beta testing?

  • by Jennifer York (1021509) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:40AM (#21596049) Homepage
    Someone in their QA department needs to be fired. This type of mistake is simply unacceptable, and truly very difficult to believe.

    What sort of test plan fails to catch BRICKING THE PC?

    • by vranash (594439) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:41AM (#21596069)
      Obviously one with a really high uptime for Windows :)
    • by sayfawa (1099071) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:46AM (#21596111)
      Say John, there's a funny thing with our new patch; after the dialogue telling the user that the install was successful and that they should reboot the machine, the machine doesn't actually reboot, it just shuts off and then hangs. What should we do?

      Don't tell them to reboot the machine. Problem solved.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by faloi (738831)
      The test plan where you throw it on your Vista box and test it, and it works fine (Vista doesn't use boot.ini), then you test your other OS clients. After all, it's just the installer, what could go wrong...*cough*
    • by Jugalator (259273) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:03AM (#21596269) Journal
      Bricking. That word will have became annoying to me by the end of 2008.
      • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:12AM (#21596353)
        I think it became annoying to me at the end of November. What's bad is it's usually not the geeks who fall in love with buzzwords.
      • Its not even accurate for the task at hand. A brick does not a PC make... concrete block... maybe... brick... not so much.
    • This happens when you're cutting corners to speed your testing. Apparently this bug doesn't affect all versions of the client, just a specific one. Testing your patch with all possible types of installed clients takes a lot of time. Which means either QA management is lazy, an employee tasked with the test was lazy, or upper management rushed them to get it out the door. I'd put my money on the last option.
    • by illumin8 (148082) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:32AM (#21596601) Journal

      BRICKING THE PC?
      WTF is with you people? Ever since the Apple made iPhones "bricks", this erroneous use of the term has seeped into our technical vocabulary. People, it's not a brick if it's still usable. When a piece of electronics is really bricked, that means that the ROM is in such an unrecoverable state, that it can't even be flashed with a new working ROM, and needs to be either thrown away, or sent to a factory for repair.

      Now, the term bricking is being applied to any piece of electronics or computer equipment that won't boot an OS.

      It's not bricked if you can just reinstall or repair Windows and have it work again. It's bricked if you flash a bad ROM BIOS image and now you can't even turn the thing on.
      • I removed the hard drive from my computer and it BRICKED it!!! I'm gonna sue Dell for making such a shoddy machine!
      • by jmoriarty (179788) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:22AM (#21597319)

        WTF is with you people? Ever since the Apple made iPhones "bricks", this erroneous use of the term has seeped into our technical vocabulary.
        Sheesh... way to brick the discussion...

      • by garbletext (669861) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:23AM (#21597347)
        I have mod points to give you but you're already at +5. Thank you for giving voice to my frustration over this usage. Imprecise language helps no one. A device is called a brick because it is no more useful than one. If you can fix it, it's just 'broken.'
    • by ajs (35943)
      Sadly, it's not typical to reboot after testing. After all, no one expects the game to have modified the system such that it won't boot.

      Be fair to QA people though. How often do developers reboot after unit testing their work? It's a hard problem that's fundamentally a Windows bug. On any other system with a package manager, the new patch would have had a file conflict with the OS and that would have been caught on day one.

  • by d3m0nCr4t (869332) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:40AM (#21596053)
    I suppose both the producers of Eve Online and MS are to blame here. Eve Online for naming a configuration file the same as a Windows system file. And of course MS, for letting any application overwrite such an important system file.
    • by W2k (540424) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .suilesnevs.mlehliw.> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:46AM (#21596101) Homepage Journal
      Likely the users were running the game as administrators, and an administrator would have the necessary rights to overwrite any file on the disk. I don't see how this could be blamed on Microsoft. On Vista you'd get a UAC prompt for trying to write to C:\, but Vista doesn't use a BOOT.INI anyway, so no risk of breaking the system.
      • by Goobermunch (771199) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:52AM (#21596179)
        Sad that so many games require Administrator access to run.

        --AC
        • by 00lmz (733976) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:59AM (#21596227)

          It certainly is sad that some apps and games need admin privs to run, but this is an installation bug. Of course people are going to install programs as administrator...

          • by Rich0 (548339)
            A very valid point - this same sort of issue could happen just as easily on linux unless you're using a package manager that protects against file collisions (not many do to my knowledge - gentoo does if you enable optional features). With collision protection you'd get an error pointing out that the fancy-game and system-bootstrap packages are both trying to own init or rc or whatever.
      • by secPM_MS (1081961) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @11:05AM (#21597071)
        There is nothing that Microsoft could have done to prevent this. Installation of applications to the machine requires administrator privledges, as does installation of drivers. On Vista, there will be a UAC prompt when you start installation and uninstallation, but the process will then run with the full administrator token. Admin's can do what they want on the box. On a *nix system such an installation / uninstallation error would typically nail the system as well unless it was run in a rather full jail, and I am uncertain that jailing the game would have adequately dealt with a process that might install new video drivers. Certainly, most users would have been slammed in either environment.

        Microsoft is criticized for its slow release of patches and software. One of the major issues slowing down release is the exhaustive testing passes that software must go through, and they still occasionally miss something. The diversity of configurations in the field is astonishing. This is an issue Apple does not face, as they support an OS for ~ 2 .releases, say 3 years -- and they make all the HW, which limits the diversity. Microsoft supports their stuff for 7 to 10 years (the 9X and ME series were a bit less than this).

    • by abigsmurf (919188)
      You can't really blame MS for this one. It's pretty hard to install games without needing at least some access to critical files. Whenever you're installing something, there will always be an element of trust
  • Bricking? (Score:5, Informative)

    by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:40AM (#21596057) Homepage Journal
    Why does the summary say "bricking the machine"? Does the machine become a doorstop that cannot be fixed? Can you not (and this might even be more complicated than necessary, but as a rather inexperienced Windows user, this came to mind first) use a Linux Live CD to boot and edit the necessary files? I DNRTFA, but if it is just an errant backslash, it should be a piece of cake to fix.

    Hardly "bricking" IMHO.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IceCreamGuy (904648)
      You are absolutely correct, you can use a Linux live CD, a BartPE disc, the Windows install disc, whatever you have that can access an NTFS partition. It's a pretty easy procedure, the equivalent of rewriting a grub config file, just need to know the %windir% folder and installed partition. Brick is definitely not an accurate description.
    • The problem is that the \ is not put into the ini file, it is in the install script, resulting in a wrong path, therefore the game ini file is copied to root directory, overwriting the windows file.
    • by truesaer (135079)
      95% of people do not have a windows live CD handy and the knowledge of how to restore an overwritten boot.ini file. If the vast proportion of the population have to take their computer apart and bring it to a repair shop for a week, thats pretty bad.
      • by B3ryllium (571199)
        ... not for the repair shops.
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        95% of people do not have a windows live CD handy and the knowledge of how to restore an overwritten boot.ini file.



        Ugh. You can use a plain vanilla XP install CD or one of those "recovery" CDs, too. If you don't have any of those, then go to the nearest store and buy a legal copy of Windows XP.

    • by sm62704 (957197)
      It's a pun; break=brick.
  • by NATIK (836405) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:40AM (#21596061)
    Everything the newsstory says is correct, but the issue have been fixed and anyone updating now wont get hit by it.

    It is still a momumental fuckup though and the one responsible needs to be kicked in the balls for that kind of stupidity.
  • OUCH! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Brazilian Geek (25299) *
    One man's misery is another's chance to quote Nelson from The Simpsons so I'll just get this out of the way...

    Ha! Ha!

    I don't know EVE's demographics but repairing this by hand is beyond most users abilities.
  • It's not bricked! (Score:5, Informative)

    by wiredog (43288) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:45AM (#21596097) Journal
    Dammit! When did "bricking" expand it's meaning from "unbootable under any conditions due to firmware (such as the BIOS) being improperly overwritten" to "Oops, have to pull out the rescue CD"?
    • Dammit! When did "bricking" expand its meaning from "unbootable under any conditions due to CPU burning up" to "Oops, have to pull out the EEPROM programmer and flash my BIOS"?
    • When people started owning computers that can't tell the difference.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      I didn't even have to do that. I noticed an error message with BOOT.INI, and the machine booted just fine. Talk about alarmist.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      The word is so in right now that people use it as much as they can, like replaying a newly found long lost porn video on a large hard drive. It's annoying but we'll just have to deal with it because people are like that.

      I've already started to dislike it though, because unlike before when people wrote what the problem was, they may now just throw that word around and you don't even know what the problem is. Patch causing hardware to break? A software issue? Who cares, it's "bricked". *sigh*
    • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:09AM (#21596329) Journal
      I think we need to start subclassing the term. It's bricked, but it's recoverable. So it's just a mild inconvenience. A nerf brick? Loose grout?
  • Yet another reason to keep games off the mission-critical system. I wonder who's getting fired... and I don't mean just the guys working on Eve. >=D

    On another note, I played Eve for a while until I temporarily left the subscription. Now I'm not sure I'll pick the game back up.
  • Apologies (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:53AM (#21596187)
    In Parlimentary Republican Iceland, game breaks Windows!
  • by E. Edward Grey (815075) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:57AM (#21596205)
    Things like this can easily happen when your patch doesn't have any CHANGE CONTROL. Imagine this - the patch is ready to go, everyone agrees on it, and then a small group of developers (or maybe even a single developer) decides to make a modification...and implements it badly. It doesn't even go through QA because QA isn't invoked ("oh, that would just delay the release, I'm sure I have it right anyway"). And now you have this.

    I know it drives us crazy, I know not every organization implements change control that's sane and logical. But there's a reason it exists!
  • Mildly amusing, but one of my developers went home early as she was up all last night fixing her machine after it was affected by this little problem. Never struck me as the sort of person who plays those things. There again, what is the sort of person who plays those things anyway?
    • by threaded (89367)
      Darn it, also just discovered that one of the Sys Admins has disappeared off home, using this self same excuse!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Pardon me for asking, but in what universe is "the game update made my computer unbootable" an excuse for being absent from work? And does this universe happen to have any open positions?
    • by Webs 101 (798265)
      What sort of person plays those things anyway? You answered your own question:

      Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      what is the sort of person who plays those things anyway?
      Vikings.
  • by AndyFewt (694753) *
    I have XP, I installed the patch and I DID NOT get this problem. People claiming it "bricks" their machine are just trying to spread the FUD as its VERY easy to fix with your xp cd (and with zero data loss) - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/330184 [microsoft.com] will show how.

    As for why this didnt get caught by QA, they don't reboot their machines. I rarely do either. Plus I expect they have permissions in place to prevent the overwrite. Plus this is the only patch in the thousands of patches they make for the test serve
    • by beheaderaswp (549877) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:27AM (#21596523)
      You and I are probably both competent technical people. For my part, I'm an IT director and have done this type of work for 22 years.

      Let us assume the two of us, you and I, know more about the Windows registry, bash shell, or using gcc that 98% of the geeks out there. Just for argument's sake.

      However, there's a 95% chance that any EVE online player will have the following qualities:

      1. Own only one computer.

      2. Not be technical.

      3. Not read the forums where the information is posted.

      4. Be unable to digest and properly utilize the fix information.

      So let us re-asses:

      It took us, you and I, about 15 seconds to re-write that boot.ini file and *poof* no problem.

      That's 5% of the EVE userbase. Add another 20% of the userbase that figures out how to solve the problem. 25% of the people have the fix.

      The rest of those poor schlubs are driving to Best Buy to have some incompetent charge them $100 (or whatever)- and that is NOT FUD!!

      That my friend is a screwup of massive scope, with huge consequences, because for people who are not geeks- that computer is a "brick".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tim C (15259)

      Plus I expect they have permissions in place to prevent the overwrite.

      If they're not installing stuff as administrator, they should be. If they've modified their machine significantly from what the average gamer would have, they shouldn't have (by which I mean going in and denying even administrator access to system files, for example).

      Besides which, another poster claims that the EVE boot.ini file contains specific information about which version of the game you have, and that it's only installed by the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jason Levine (196982)
      Except that:

      1 - Many systems don't come with XP CDs anymore. They come with "restoration partitions" that revert the entire system to a default factory state and might incur data loss.

      2 - I'd bet that most users wouldn't know how to use their XP CD or restoration partition if they needed to.

      So, yes, messing up the OS this bad would be "bricking" the computer for these users. Sure the fix is simple to you and me, but it's horrendously technical to them. This doesn't even get into the fact that these peopl
  • Eve's boot.ini (Score:5, Interesting)

    by splutty (43475) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:07AM (#21596315)
    The boot.ini for Eve itself contains information about whether you have the "Classic" version or not. The patch that was released for the Classic version did not contain this problem.

    The patch released for the "Premium" version does contain this installer error. The change made to the boot.ini is the line that contains this definition, and is changed from Classic to Premium.

    It's a very logical problem, easy to fix if you know it, but also incredibly stupid...
  • Alarmist (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sobrique (543255) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @10:13AM (#21596357) Homepage
    If you don't install your games to C: you're fine.
    If you've got a 'basic' OS install, e.g. C:\WINDOWS and one partition, you're fine - the boostrap loader guesses, flashes up an error, and boots anyway.
    It's a bit of a fubar, but hardly the next apocalypse.
    • Also boot.ini by default has System, Read-Only and Hidden attributes. You need to remove both System & Hidden before you can overwrite it (I'll leave it for someone else to check if the installer does this!)
  • by bumby (589283)
    1. Make buggy patch
    2. Convince people that their computers are bricked because of damaged boot.ini
    3. Buy "bricked" computers from ebay for the price of a brick
    4. Input rescue disc into said "bricks"
    5. Sell unbricked computers
    6. Profit!
  • And it hosed my machine.

    but at least i can take solace from the fact that somewhere in Iceland is a developer who's currently getting the snot kicked out of him. :)
  • by Thaelon (250687) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @12:08PM (#21598021)

    The result is that anyone who installs the enhanced graphics patch overwrites the windows XP c:\boot.ini file with the EVE client configuration file, bricking the machine on the next boot. Discussion in a couple of forums threads is becoming understandably heated.
    This is inaccurate/sensational. I use Windows XP. I play EVE. Last night I installed the "Premium" graphics update and was not affected. The reason seems to be because I have EVE installed on a different drive from my OS drive.

    Also, it's not bricking. A repair via install disc will fix it. Booting a linux Live CD (Ubuntu etc) will allow you to re-create your boot.ini.

    Bricking == hardware permanently reduced to non-functional status. I.E. only, ever, useful in the future as a brick/paperweight.

    Other uses of the term "bricked" or "bricking" are wrong and not supported.

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