This is the first time I’ve worked on a game where I’ve been able to see what goes into supporting it with live operations. By that I mean, the server infrastructure, the people, and the processes required to launch a large-scale multiplayer game. It used to be that you would make a game, release it, and sorta forget about it. Obviously with the advent of the Internet and multiplayer features, games are much more complex now and require a massive amount of network support.
The most critical periods of such multiplayer games are when the game is first released, either during a beta trial or during the actual launch. To ensure things go smoothly at those times, the concept of a “war room” is used. It’s basically a room, big or small, with computers and screens that stream in all the data from the game itself and also the servers that support the game. Every single bit of data that comes in is analyzed to ensure players are receiving an optimal playing experience. The people in the war room can see at an instant how people are playing the game and where in the world they are playing. The number of crashes or disconnects can also be tracked. Let’s say you have 100,000 people playing your game in Europe but then in five minutes, that number drops to 80,000. That’s indicative of a serious problem. The people staffing the war room are there to detect, analyze, and fix any problems that may occur with the ongoing operations of running a massive multiplayer game.
During the initial days after the start of a beta or retail launch, war rooms are usually staffed around the clock. Gamers can play anywhere in the world, so for popular games, there isn’t a single second where no one isn’t playing. That means if a problem arises at midnight, it’s unacceptable to wait until morning to address that problem. If players can’t get into their game for hours at a time, there will be considerable backlash. As such, problems must be tackled as they happen, even if it’s in the middle of the night.
It’s been fascinating learning about what goes into supporting the launch of a big multiplayer game. For the public, most of it is just magic to them. They start the game, it connects them to other players, and they play the game. For all that to happen though, it requires the hard work of many people behind the scenes.