Closing in on a public alpha
We’ve been silent on the website lately, but far from being idle! Read on to find out what we’ve been up to in the past weeks and months.
We’ve had some great short burst periods of private testing with the members of our Facebook group in the past months. It has been fun but it was mostly finding and fixing bugs. Check out the Facebook group link to the left and join us if you’re interested to take part in it. This is not an entirely playable version of the game – most of the fun is turned off so we can concentrate on only a few features at a time. If you’d rather see what the game is like as a whole, then you will need to wait just a few more weeks until we’ll be turning on all the features for the testers. This is when I’ll be sending out email notifications to everyone who has ever registered for a notification about beta testing.
In the past weeks we’ve been spending more time working on the server architecture behind our game. We need to be able to handle sudden spikes in the number of visitors and players, (and we also had our fair share of hardware failures ever since we used our own server park) so we decided to take it all to the “cloud”. Let me copy/paste some of my experiences about this from the Xenocell tester group on Facebook:
The servers are now based in the US, east coast as opposed to previously being in Central Europe (Budapest, Hungary). European players won’t notice the difference, but it will probably get rid of some potential lag for US west coast players.
As I was getting immersed in all the features Amazon’s web services have to offer, I really felt like Alice in Wonderland. This resulted in me redesigning the entire server architecture to be optimize to our exact needs based on Amazon’s existing services.
One fruit of this is that patch and install downloads will be faster but most importantly decoupled from the web server or the login server. They will be distributed to mirrors around the globe which you are routed to automatically. This is going to be a very useful feature as even 5-10 people simultaneously downloading a patch could cause a spike and a noticeable glitch when browsing pages on the website. This option on the other hand will let us distribute to even thousands of users without the service being affected.
Since I was pretty much forced to do the migration now, I will need to spend time working on the game server instance load-balancing side of our architecture right now and work less on the game itself in the coming days.
So after spending a day getting more familiar with all Amazon services, their usage and the available tools associated, I’ve spent the previous night to come up with an expandable first step server architecture while I was uploading many gigs of data into the cloud.
Getting the master and login servers online and making them magically summon unlimited game servers if the need arrives requires a little more hamsters in running wheels, so it’s still underway. After looking at what Amazon can do for us, I wonder why the big players in the MMO market still create their own server farms that becomes choked on launch day and deserted the next month.
Xenocell knows better!
I’m still working hard on bringing the most out of the fact that the game is now being hosted in the cloud. The latest install version (still v 0.8.335, the version before the migration took place) can now be downloaded from: http://download.xenocell.com/Xenocell_Setup.exe
But the real reason why I wanted to post this update is that we now have a bit torrent tracker of the latest executable available to you: http://xenocell.com/torrent/Xenocell_Setup.exe
If you are familiar with torrent downloads then you might find this to be a faster alternative. Game updates will however always be downloaded directly from our download servers – that won’t change.
I’ve created a new twitter account that will let you see every change we make to the game – live: http://twitter.com/#!/xenocellgamedev
Another twitter feed will be broadcasting generic Xenocell related news a bit later on: http://twitter.com/#!/xenocellgame
If you decide to follow any of these then thank you very much! That is the greatest inspiration, really!
Thank you for reading. If you decide to download the client, please be sure to join our group on Facebook, so you know about upcoming test periods and any other info you might need to be able to test and – eventually – play.