Server health check series - 2: spikes in traffic are causing problems

Server health check series - 2: spikes in traffic are causing problems

BanditPlay and a surprise hit game

BanditPlay is a game developer specialising in First Person Shooters (FPS) that are streamed over the internet. In business for over 15 years, its games have a small but loyal user base spread across the globe.

This is a story of how problems connecting to servers played a critical role in BanditPlay’s fortunes…

The Pistol Pandemonium incident

In 2016, BanditPlay developed and released an FPS called Pistol Pandemonium. The game was set in the Wild West and players were offered a range of retro pistols to choose from, each with a unique special feature. Within a week of its release, the game was BanditPlay’s most played, with new subscribers doubling in number every three days.

A month after Pistol Pandemonium’s release, BanditPlay began receiving complaints from users that queue times to log on were too long. Dismissing the complaints as resulting from a player spike that would eventually self-remedy, BanditPlay took no action.

Due to the sudden popularity of the game thanks to well-known Twitch streamers picking it up, more players surged towards it and the wait times became worse.

Wanting to capitalise on this success, BanditPlay reached out to its hosting company and requested additional servers in order to increase available capacity and reduce wait times for players.

BanditPlay’s hosting company only accepted such requests via email and it took three days for the request to be returned.

The reply read: “We have received your request and are looking into it.”

Two days later, the follow up correspondence read: “Your order has been placed, we expect delivery of these servers in 2 weeks.”

By the time the additional servers were delivered, the game’s momentum was lost. It never recovered.

Time to switch

BanditPlay was bruised by the Pistol Pandemonium incident and feared it had missed its one chance to develop a game the business could really capitalise on. Nevertheless, the team retained a degree of optimism and switched to a new hosting provider that could better accommodate a sudden surge in subscribers, should a future title enjoy comparable success.

The new provider promised quick provisioning of new servers, massive scalability, and expert guidance within an hour of it being requested.

Some members of the BanditPlay board questioned whether the switch was worth the added expense given the chances of replicating the early success of Pistol Pandemonium were remote...

Sweet Shop Slaughter

As a break from its usual, more serious FPS experiences, in late 2020, BanditPlay released Sweet Shop Slaughter in the hope it would bring some levity to a serious year.

Players would fight against each other in a landscape made of various types of confectionery with guns that fired anything from gummy bears to candy canes. To the company’s astonishment, the game became a viral sensation. Accessible, enjoyable, and appropriate for all age groups, Sweet Shop Slaughter began to out-perform the early success of Pistol Pandemonium.

Keen to avoid a ‘problem connecting to server’ issue that would result in yet another missed opportunity, BanditPlay accessed its data centre’s Terraform platform at 17:00 and requested another rack of servers; by 17:40 the rack was online. And, using only the top carriers powered by smart traffic routing, BanditPlay’s users continued to enjoy ultra-fast loading times and an entirely uninterrupted gaming experience.

With not one complaint of gameplay latency, Sweet Shop Slaughter went on to become the most popular streamed FPS of the year. Such was its success, BanditPlay was able to attract record investment and today works on major titles from its new, stylish HQ.

A real business with a familiar problem...

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In this blog series, we explore five common server infrastructure symptoms that affect organisations throughout the world every day. We follow the stories of fictitious companies – all dealing with real-life challenges – and examine the consequences of their decision making. customers come to us in similar situations all the time, and you can read their stories too, as we feature case studies from recent projects where we’ve been able to help. Do these symptoms sound familiar? If you are facing similar challenges, you can speak to our team at any time.


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