Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Ten days into a devastating network outage to the LittleBigPlanet servers, many have wondered: when will the LittleBigPlanet servers be back up and running? A timeline has finally been announced on when the server maintenance will be completed. The branded @LittleBigPlanet Twitter account posted the following update on March 16th:
This service update alone doesn't tell us much about why players have been getting error 403, so I decided to consult SackCrown, a Discord moderator for Trixel Creative.
"The LittleBigPlanet team has to fix thousands of levels that have been published really quickly, since that's what overloaded and brought down the servers," SackCrown explains. "They have a lot of work ahead of them since fixing a server is a very hard task but fixing one and removing millions of potentially glitched levels is an even harder one."
SackCrown also discussed morale and legal issues that Sumo Digital might face. "They may potentially face legal problems, as the ones responsible for the server takedown violated the law." If Sumo Digital has enough evidence on their end, it's possible that they may choose to press charges. However, there is no guarantee that they have the evidence needed to pursue those charges.
"Time is more of an issue right now since the community is getting a bit riled up. That can demotivate the team," SackCrown goes on. The team working on fixing the LittleBigPlanet servers is likely just as stressed and anxious as we are as they work diligently to fix the problem.
There's a lot to unpack here, so I decided to ask community archivist and longtime LBP fan Shanzenos about his take on the service update. Shanzenos is the owner and curator of LittleBigArchive, a website dedicated to preserving as much about LittleBigPlanet as possible. With his knowledge on networks, programming, and servers, I knew that he would have some good insights about what's going on behind the scenes.
SackCrown's suggestion that the servers were being overwhelmed by thousands of levels is much akin to a DDoS attack, only possible with special administrator access to the LBP servers. "To prevent further unauthorized access to the server, they would need to change the server access key, also called an HMAC," Shanzenos explains.
To get some more context, I asked Shanzenos about how the LBP servers work. "LittleBigPlanet's servers are mostly HTTP servers with Peer to Peer (P2P) for multiplayer." HTTP is a web-based method of handling communications between server and user. This is what allows you to find levels from your Pod Computer and publish levels of your own.
Before the servers were fully shut down, I noticed that many players were able to play multiplayer but could not access their levels. The explanation that Shanzenos gives perfectly describes why we saw this phenomenon. The attack affected the HTTP servers and not the peer-to-peer online play.
"Occasionally it tries to check with the web server to login and has to check for levels and whatnot. This is what is being intentionally overloaded," Shanzenos goes on. The overloading of the server is characteristic of a DDoS attack, but Shanzenos pointed out that it was slightly more complicated. "It isn't really a DDoS attack in the usual sense —it's worse. It's a script that publishes thousands of levels per second which overloads and crashes the server. This is why they had to bring down the servers completely to prevent the DDoS levels from being published."
Fortunately, Sumo Digital was able to recognize the problem, possibly due to the #SaveLBP movement on Twitter. Although they plan to have the servers restored by the end of the month, it's possible that there may be some delays. Restoring the server can be difficult and they may encounter new challenges along the way that could delay their progress. It's important that we remain supportive of the team, even if the servers take longer than expected to repair.
If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment and share it with your friends on social media and Discord! I would also like to thank Shanzenos and SackCrown for providing their insight on this topic!