WildStar Wednesday: Beta Stress Test
By Loic "Atreid" Claveau - May 08, 2013
Editor's Note: Originally this article stated that we were hosting a stress test this weekend. This is not the case, and we apologize for the inconvenience. We will keep you updated on the exact timing of our stress test in the coming days, and apologize for any confusion.
So this is a surprise; generally Community doesn’t let me talk to the players, yet today they came knocking on my door asking me to write up an article for WildStar Wednesday. At which point they quickly told me that they wanted me to talk about an upcoming Stress Test, and I realized why they picked me for this.
My name is Craig Turner and I’m the Live Producer here on WildStar. A Live Producer's job isn’t often talked about publicly, but understanding what I do will help you understand why it is meaningful that I’m the one telling you about the upcoming Stress Test. So if you will allow me to be vain for a few moments and talk about what I do around these parts, I’ll get to the good bits after.
In trying to think of a way to concisely explain all of the various things I do (since some of it's really boring), I came up with the analogy of a Live Producer being a Flagman at a Race. In other words, I’m the guy precipitously leaning out over the race track waving various colored flags over cars speeding by at 200 mph. Actually, that analogy might work better than I originally planned.
Before the Green flag can come out there are lots of moving pieces that have to be in place. There has to be a place to race (server hardware), the track has to be cleared of debris (bug fixing), drivers and cars have to be on the track ready to go (new game features), everyone needs to know the rules so they aren’t playing bumper cars out there (patch notes are complete), and only when everything is in place and ready does the Green Flag come out (I open the servers to the players).
When there's a car accident on the track (server problem), I get to decide whether it should be a Yellow Flag or a Red Flag and how we are going to go about getting back to racing. This is where the analogy starts to breaks down, so I’ll move on from it. The point of this being, I’m the single point of contact for everything that involves our servers. Not because I know how to fix everything, but because I know all of the moving pieces, how they break, how much they can take, and who is best suited on our various teams to fix them.
One of the main responsibilities I have – I am getting to the point, hang with me a little bit longer – is making sure that you guys have the best experience possible playing the game when we open the doors. This means many things; from making sure that I don’t allow risky changes to be promoted, to making sure our QA team has caught as many bugs as possible, to waking up engineers in the middle of the night to get debug information as to why our worlds are lagging, to making sure we have the right amount of hardware to support the number of players we have in our game.
You see where I am going with this now, don’t you? We have an awesome QA team here working on WildStar, but if there is one thing they lack, it is the ability to clone themselves. One of the things that I need to know, as we eagerly barrel towards launch, is how many players one of our Realms can comfortably support at the same time. We have some educated guesses from the professionals on our team, but automated "bot" testing only gets us so far, and at some point I need to open the flood gates and purposefully break my servers to see how much punishment they can effectively take.
That’s where you come in. It’s time to turn our poor little Beta Server into a clown car. We have been taking Beta Registrations for some time now, and we are going to be inviting a lot of people to come play WildStar for one weekend only in our first Stress Test.
Now before you get too excited about this, there was a reason Community wanted me to tell our fans about this test. As much as I want everyone to have a great time playing WildStar, this stress test is the one exception to the rule. This Stress Test is likely going to be rough. Going back to the clown car example; if a car usually seats 4 adults comfortably, I’m going to see if that thing can still drive with people hanging out of the windows and their faces pushed up against the glass.
Here’s the truth of why our first Stress Test may be rough: we don’t have a login queue yet. There are going to be more people that want to play our beta this weekend than our servers will be able to handle, and I’m going to be in my Live Operations Command Post (I really should request this, it sounds way cooler than ‘my office’) watching every statistic and data point, answering all of the phones, and figuring out HOW to make it playable for all of you. Through all that there is just going to come to a point that the server is going to buckle under the weight of everyone.
That’s what we want. I need to know what number we break at – so I can do everything in my power to avoid it in the future, including more/better hardware, adding login queues and population caps, etc.
There is a silver lining here though. If Community is going to make me give you the bad news, I’m going to spoil their good news. Everyone that gets an invite into the Stress Test and makes a good faith attempt to log into the game during the test will be guaranteed an invite into a future (much more stable) Closed Beta test as a thank you. I need your help in breaking the server, and we want to invite you back to play when I’m not trying to do mean things to the hardware. So help us break everything as many times as possible this weekend, and we'll make it up to you with a real beta invite in the future.
We're still determining which upcoming weekend will be best for the Stress Test, but we will make sure those who get invites get them a few days in advance. Why waste time patching when you could be helping us break things?
So if you want to be a part of this challenge, if you want to laugh at all the crazy things that are going to happen because our servers aren’t designed to handle all the people we are going to throw at it, if you want to be a part of a real MMO Stress Test, if you want to get a sneak peek at what we are building for you here with WildStar in spite of all of that, then I challenge you: come and break my servers.
Keep an eye on the website and our social media for more details about when this first Stress Test is happening, and I hope that even if you don’t get an invite into our Stress Test that you’ll sign up for Beta and join us later. Hopefully once I can resume my normal duties of waving that green flag. Also, Community team, I'm going to need you to get me a green flag.