Eve Kills boot.ini, Or: Why I Won’t Be Playing Eve

by redshift

I’m a programmer by trade. I read a lot of tech-related and programming sites, both for the good tips and the horror stories. We’ve all heard about the IT guy who forgot to backup the production server (oops!) or the janitor who unplugged the AC in the server room (ouch!). All kinds of fun in the world of corporate IT.

We’ve even heard about some commercial software with heinous errors. Games with no sound. Security software that steals your resources. Sony installing rootkits. Microsoft software.

Eve Online, however, has just gone one step beyond. If you installed their new expansion, Trinity, on opening day, it deleted your boot.ini file. You can no longer boot Windows.

Even a rootkit leaves your computer working for a little while.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Eve Online is a space combat MMORPG. There are somewhere around 300,000 subscribers, and 30,000 people online on an average night. Tens of thousands of potential victims.

Of course, there was no warning that this would happen. They did not send out any kind of alert until a day later – today at 5:45pm EST. If you happened to reboot or shut down your system in that time, and you’re not running Linux (my saving grace), you’d be greeted with a unusable computer.

This is simply inexcusable. CCP, the developer of Eve, and whose slogan is “We Care More, We Work Harder,” is a professional software development firm. They should have tested what they’re putting on your computer. My God, you’d think making a computer inoperable would make one of their QA people say “Hmmm… that can’t be right.” There is no conceivable reason for the game installer to even touch the boot.ini file, forget about deleting it.

99% of their player base has no idea what a boot.ini file is, and they shouldn’t have to. It was a sacred contract that games would stay out of system space. The worst case was that a game had to install something extra as a form of DRM or copy protection.

Because of this, the user would probably not suspect that the game expansion they just installed was responsible for the problem. They would probably not call CCP. They might call Microsoft, or their computer manufacturer, who would have them wipe their hard drive and reinstall Windows. The user would never know how to recover a boot.ini file. The sad part is that the manufacturer probably wouldn’t know either.

But the fun doesn’t stop there.

CCP released a message regarding the issue. This message is incomplete and incorrect. (If they remove or change the message, I’ll copy it here.) It says that the issue only occurs if several conditions are true:

  • You upgraded on opening day, 12/6 (many people)
  • You’re not using Windows Vista (most people)
  • Windows is not on the primary partition, or is on a secondary drive (false)

I have Windows on the primary partition of my primary drive. It still deleted my boot.ini file. So the criteria are incorrect.

They’re also incomplete. CCP gives two options for restoring your boot.ini file. First, you can use System Restore (and possibly lose other changes) IF you haven’t rebooted or shut down. Second, you can boot with a Windows CD, use the Repair Console, run “bootcfg /rebuild”, and then answer a bunch of questions that they don’t tell you how to answer.

In short, there is no good recovery option. If you’re an average user and you’ve shut down, you would probably not be able to restore the file from the Repair Console. I’m guessing that their temporary support lines are rather busy at the moment.

There are only three ways around the issue.

  1. You upgraded on 12/6 or later.
  2. You’re running Windows Vista.
  3. You have another bootloader on your primary drive, such as Grub for Linux. This bypasses the boot.ini file.

I lucked out with option 3. I also happened to have not rebooted, but I don’t like System Restore unless it’s absolutely necessary.

In short, CCP needs to issue a serious apology. They need to publish more information about how to recover from the error. They need to beef up their testing department, and possibly fire whoever was responsible for the expansion release. And everyone else needs to learn from the mistake.