It seems like the forum servers are almost constantly overloaded, and while the ingame servers are fine they have issues if a significant number of people are in one universe at once. This wouldn't be that strange for a modern game on a cheaper server, but... Starport is fourteen years old and from what I can tell, it should not be a particularly server-intensive game either(see below).
If every single universe is run on a single, cheap server, as well as the forums and main website, then I suppose the lag might make sense. But it still strikes me as odd that the board is sometimes inaccessible due to server load, when there is absolutely no noticable lag ingame. You would think that the forums are such a small load that it wouldn't even be useful to block access to the forums. Disabling the search function makes more sense, as that can be significantly more resource-intensive but... how often are people searching? it's probably less than once per hour. And having the search function disabled for 95% of the day is less than ideal for a lot of reasons.
Looking at the game itself, I can't see anything that would be processor or memory intensive unless it has poor optimization. The main things that stick out as things that could but shouldn't cause lag are:
- Stationary entities, eg turrets in space and on planets, and aliens. Serverside load for these with no player in the system/on a planet should be almost zero, load with a player should be small, and total load should be small. Could be a source of lag if all turrets are constantly searching for players and npcs, instead of using a active/inactive area system to determine if a player or npc could possibly activate a turret.
- NPCs. Load should be... moderate-small. Their AI isn't terribly complex, but they do have collision detection and every single server has a fair amount of them, so if every npc is constantly active instead of simulating actions when a player is not nearby, this could be a fairly large source of lag.
- Offline players. Load should be small, however since all offline players remain in the game world and still experience physics, this could be a rather large source of lag if there isn't any sort of system to detect a steady physical state and stop processing their ship's physics. if that's the case, and there are hundreds of characters on every server...
- Colonies. These shouldn't be a issue but could potentially be depending on how they're handled. The colony simulation only iterates every 5 minutes or so, the calculations are simple, and the total information per colony is something like... 15 ints, 16 shorts, and two bools? There can be a thousand+ active colonies per server but if there's a average of 1 iteration per colony per 5 minutes you're still probably never going to see more than a dozen per second per server at worst. Still could be a issue depending on how its handled though.
- Starports & other slow, long-term time-based systems. Things like starports regenerating/consuming resources, planets generating resources and aliens on their surface, and anything else I missed shouldn't, but could be a issue if handled improperly. If they use a timer system where every single one of these has a independent timer keeping track of how long its been since the last time they did whatever they need to, and every planet/starport does this, this could be a serious problem. The smart solution is to have planets/starports themselves be inert (only a stored XML or whatever other format Starport uses), and then once every few seconds, a random planet/starport is picked, the time since last update is measured and it's iterated as needed.