23 May 2020 00:31

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Xbox Live Servers Are Currently Experiencing Issues [UPDATE]

Word emerged Wednesday of a new project, called Insignia, that aims to recreate the original Xbox Live service, potentially restoring online play to many dozens of classic Xbox games that fell offline when the original Xbox Live service (hereafter, "Xbox Live") closed on April 15, 2010. Usher is well known in the vintage Xbox community as the lead developer of Cxbx-Reloaded, arguably the most advanced PC-based emulator of the 2001 Xbox hardware. That closure stripped numerous multiplayer games of the ubiquitous matchmaking, leaderboards, community features, and online play that made the company's subscription-based service such a platform-defining feature upon its November 2002 debut. Insignia is a third-party reimplementation of the Xbox Live infrastructure that, if development goes to plan, will restore online services to growing numbers of vintage, Xbox Live-compatible Xbox games. Xbox Live, of course, offered the most sophisticated online experience available during the sixth generation of video games, establishing many features we take for granted on consoles today (friends lists, messaging, voice chat, etc.) and easily surpassing PlayStation 2's late, haphazard approach to online play and GameCube's lack of interest in online anything.

Live's status as a premium, subscription-only service sparked some dismay around its late 2002 launch, but enough players took the leap, and enough games adopted internet multiplayer, that Live quickly became one of the Xbox platform's signature strengths. (Before going further, it's important to note that Xbox Live and System Link are two separate game features. PC-based tunnelling software like XLink Kai has enabled Internet-based multiplayer for Xbox System Link games for many years now, but never for games that rely solely on the defunct Xbox Live service.) As a demonstration of Insignia's progress, Usher shared a video depicting the creation of a new Xbox Live account via the Xbox's system UI. "This is an independent project from Cxbx-Reloaded, mostly because we wanted to make sure it's clear that we work on real hardware and not only via emulation," Usher told Kotaku over email. Once that initial setup's completed, Usher envisions a more or less vanilla Xbox Live experience, complete with matchmaking, voice chat, messaging, and almost everything else you might remember.

(One exception would come in a lack of proprietary game DLC, which Insignia and its developers lack rights to distribute.) Anti-cheating measures are also in the works, as well as reporting and banning mechanisms for truly bad actors. Once installed, Insignia pulls off a DNS man-in-the-middle manoeuvre to redirect all of Xbox Live's original server calls to new addresses that point to Insignia's work-in-progress infrastructure. Xbox Live used the well-known Kerberos protocol for authentication, but like many components of the Xbox ecosystem, its take on Kerberos had various custom, undocumented additions that Usher had to suss out through painstaking testing and experimentation. All traffic behind the gateway [is] HTTP based, so implementing account creation only took two days after having a working Kerberos and Security Gateway implementation." The current plan is for Insignia to be a centralised service run by Usher and associates. Once it's up and running, the initial Insignia service will likely restore Xbox Live online services to a majority of Xbox Live-compatible games which do not rely on additional, third-party servers to function.

But others, like certain EA Sports games, or the four-player Diablo-like Phantasy Star Online, will require additional work from Usher and outside contributors to reverse-engineer and simulate their custom servers. How Microsoft will react to Insignia's reimplementation of Xbox Live isn't yet known, but Usher claims to be taking a completely clean-room approach to developing Insignia. This means he's reverse engineering how Xbox Live's servers and protocols function without using any proprietary information owned by Microsoft, as getting caught using proprietary material would be a surefire way to draw the ire of Microsoft's infamous lawyers. "We are hoping that our decision not to share copyrighted [DLC] on our network and to avoid using any Microsoft branding or trademarks will ensure that Microsoft is aware we don't intend to infringe on their rights," said Usher. "We also have made the decision not to support Xbox 360 consoles for as long as the official Microsoft server is active.

"​Part of the reason we announced so early is we have recently seen rumours of a new data leak of original Xbox source code," Usher said. Indeed, barely two hours after Usher wrote those words, The Verge filed a story reporting that leaked Xbox and Windows NT 3.5 source code is circulating online. "We wanted to make it clear that this project doesn't make use of leaked material, and one method to do so was to prove we've had some functional parts since before it was circulating," said Usher. Which way the legal winds will blow remains to be seen, but here's hoping Usher's able to shepherd Insignia to release and it succeeds in restoring online services to a generation of classic multiplayer Xbox games. While it would be great fun to play these games online again, projects like Insignia also function as an important form of preservation, making this work as crucial to game historians as to early-aughts college kids looking to relive past Halo 2 glories.

Microsoft's Xbox Live service experienced issues today, marking the fourth time in recent weeks. Xbox One users were reporting problems earlier today with signing into Xbox Live, accessing friends, and joining parties. The issues started at around 3:15PM ET, and also affected some multiplayer games. The outage was not isolated to Xbox Live; Microsoft says it was an issue persisting throughout its platforms, including Microsoft 365. "We are aware that some users may be experiencing issues when attempting to sign in on Xbox One & Windows 10," Microsoft explained in a status update put out on Twitter "Our teams are aware & working on a fix. Microsoft said it's was investigating issues affecting "multiple Microsoft 365 services," too, suggesting the outage was broader in scope and went further than just Xbox Live. Microsoft has experienced multiple outages with Xbox Live recently, and this is the fourth outage in recent weeks. Xbox Live was down for two hours last month, affecting party chat and online multiplayer. Around 4:50PM ET, Microsoft put out an update on its Xbox Support Twitter account saying it had resolved sign-in issues for Xbox Live and Window 10. "We've resolved an issue that a subset of customers may have experienced trying to sign-in to some services," the company later said in statement given to The Verge. According to the Xbox Live status page, however, the platform is still apparently seeing issues around account creation, management, and recovery, as well as persistent problems joining players in multiplayer games. Update May 22nd, 6:27PM ET: Added a statement from Microsoft saying the company had resolved the sign-in issues and most services should now be operating normally. UPDATE ONE: Xbox Live servers remain down tonight, although many can now login and play online multiplayer games. Xbox One Party Chat and Friends List issues remain though, leaving many unable to team-up in titles like Call of Duty Warzone and Apex Legends. A new message from the tech giant explains: "We believe we have identified the problem causing some members to have issues viewing Achievements, Friends List or the activity of friends. Thanks for your patience as the team works to resolve the issue." ORIGINAL: Xbox Live servers are down today, with Microsoft confirming issues with sign-in and using Party Chat features. The latest update from the Microsoft support team adds: "We're aware that some users are seeing errors when starting or joining parties & our teams are investigating. "Our engineers and developers are actively continuing to work to resolve the problems that are causing some members issues viewing Achievements, Friends List or the activity of friends. UPDATE: Microsoft has announced that Xbox Live is back and working like normal, for now at least. Original: Microsoft has confirmed that Xbox Live servers are currently experiencing issues and outages. Like yesterday's problems, Xbox Live Core Services and the Social and Gaming features are the target of the problems. So, if you're having trouble signing into Xbox Live, joining other Xbox Live members in online games, creating an account, managing a pre-existing account, or recovering a pre-existing account, this is why. At the moment of publishing, it's unclear when a solution will be rolled out, but Microsoft has noted that it has been working on the issues since they were first reported. According to the Xbox Live Status page, issues with joining other players began around 12:00 ET while issues with the Core Services began around the same time. Beyond these parts of Xbox Live, everything else is working as intended, or at least that's what the aforementioned Xbox Live Status page says. However, if you can't sign in to Xbox Live, none of these facets of the service really matter. Xbox Live has been having problems the past couple of months as more people than ever turn to gaming to escape the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We are aware that some users may be experiencing issues when attempting to sign in on Xbox One & Windows 10. Xbox Live is currently experiencing issues that are affecting signing in and playing multiplayer titles across Windows 10 and Xbox One. It doesn't appear there is a fix yet, but Microsoft is working on getting things running smoothly again. The Xbox Status support page currently lists issues for Xbox Live Core Services as well as Social and Gaming. Players may experience issues attempting to join friends already in online games, as well as signing in or creating new accounts. Microsoft has experienced a few other issues with Xbox Live over the last few days, including error messages when starting parties and issues with online matchmaking. Its Twitter support page regularly posts updates on any outages or other issues.