Official Game for HBO Series Relies on Liquid Web to Host Epic Battles

Disruptor Beam is a social gaming company that was founded in 2010 with a mission to revolutionize online gaming platforms. The company has found great success by maximizing the increasing reach and capabilities found at the intersection of growing social media platforms, entertainment and a rapidly advancing Internet. The most recent example of this success has come in the form of Game of Thrones Ascent, a free role playing game launched by Disruptor Beam, based on the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones as well as the novels that inspired it. Not only has the game achieved Web-wide acclaim for its engaging quality and attention to detail, but it has also helped boost Liquid Web’s Storm Platform by offering a glimpse into the power and scalability required to develop and execute the game’s day-to-day functions.

The utility based capabilities of Liquid Web’s cloud-based Storm Platform not only saved Disruptor Beam in operation costs, but also in capital expenditures — an element that was critical to the game’s development while operating within a clearly outlined budget. Additionally, with a burgeoning and rapidly-increasing demand borne out of its widespread popularity among players, as well as strict quality requirements from HBO, Storm Servers’ robust environment and numerous redundancy points have proven instrumental to the development and continued growth of Game of Thrones Ascent.

Overview

  • Mission: Provide platform on which to develop and operate a game expected to experience immediate popularity and high user saturation upon its launch and beyond.
  • Issues at Hand: Requirement for fast, expandable storage for large amount of writes and space occupied as players join game and advance through levels.
  • Liquid Web Approach: An advanced, high performance, hybrid environment that combines Dedicated application servers equipped with SSD drives, Storm servers with on-demand scalability as well as dedicated load balancers to provide redundancy and fault tolerance.
  • Resolution: Disruptor Beam has been able to effectively maintain and build upon a four star gaming experience, servicing over one million users, optimized for multiple formats, and gaining over 300,000 new users per month.

Though relatively nascent, gaming company Disruptor Beam features a founder/CEO that is no stranger to large platform gaming needs. Jon Radoff, forming the company in 2010, is considered a pioneer in the online gaming arena for his role in creating the trailblazing, Legends of Future Past, one of the first independent, commercial gaming products on the Internet. Combined with his follow-up efforts and success with EPrise, GamerDNA as well as a number of other notable ventures, Radoff possesses a great understanding of what is needed from a webhost to deliver an outstanding product to his end users. When the possibility arose to launch one of his most high profile projects to date, the first-ever social game based on the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, Radoff knew he had to find a host that could dedicate around-the-clock attention and customized solutions to his project.

“What's worked for us well at Liquid Web is the combination of dedicated servers for mission-critical , custom systems along with cloud-based nodes that we can scale up and down as needed.”

– Jon Radoff, founder/CEO, Disruptor Beam

Requirements

“We knew we were going to need fast storage to accommodate for the large amount of writes that Game of Thrones Ascent requires as players advance through the levels,” says Radoff. “Additionally, that storage has to be easily expandable as our amount of MySQL data doubles when the Android and iPad App versions of the game launch.” He continues, “We are expecting to gain another 1-2 million installs quickly -- possibly as fast as the first 10 days -- and (we) want to be prepared for that when it happens.” Not only would this require careful consideration of potential dedicated resources, but also customization within the database to ensure optimization for the vast amount of concurrent connections being executed.

Technologies Used

  • SSD Storage
  • CDN Delivery
  • Hybrid Hosting
  • Load Balancing

In addition to the above requirements, the team at Liquid Web decided to test a number of different network configurations to ensure that the custom setup being built for Game of Thrones Ascent had the network capability for its write-intensive setup to achieve peak performance. Disruptor Beam also stressed a need for fault tolerance and redundancy to ensure the game was able to maintain availability throughout its launch (and beyond), as its release schedule coincided with that of the latest season of the HBO series, Game of Thrones. With the expected popularity from its affiliation with a series commanding a worldwide audience, potential growth also gave way to such considerations as EU users, utilization of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and potential global load balancing issues.

Finding a Custom Solution

Liquid Web was able to answer Disruptor Beam’s read/write speed concerns with dedicated FusionIO SSD drives, however there were a number of network considerations that needed to be taken into account to ensure that these drives achieved optimal performance. After experimenting with bonded network connections, Liquid Web eventually went another direction and settled on a 10Gb/s Arista switch between the database servers and dedicated application servers, which removed any limitation from these drives’ execution. This was coupled with hybrid connectivity between both Storm and Dedicated platforms to provide on-demand flexibility when accommodating higher than normal traffic levels while processing requests with dedicated resources.

This hybrid solution also allows Disruptor Beam the ability to test and develop in a separate environment from the Game of Thrones Ascent actual production functions. In addition to the added convenience, being able to attend to these tasks on a utility based platform keeps game’s operations more lean and cost-effective than would be possible in a traditional hosting environment.

The customization for Disruptor Beam’s impressive setup extends to its database as Liquid Web was able to provide a Percona Server-based solution that allowed for optimized MySQL replication. MySQL slaves read data sent from three servers, while all write data goes to a single server, which helps to eliminate cases in which data bottlenecks during high usage periods, as well as preventing overall latency.

Building for the Present ... and Future

“We currently have 1.8 million users and continue gaining about 200-300K new users per month,” estimates Radoff. “We frequently need to increase our storage usage proportionately.” Liquid Web has been able to account for this demand with Cloud scalability on its Storm Platform which makes it easy to adapt for growth, planned or otherwise, by increasing storage and additional resources on-demand. This increased demand also creates additional pressure to ensure availability. Liquid Web addresses this concern by providing multiple points of redundancy and controlling distribution through them with a dedicated Stingray Load Balancer.

With expected expansion into worldwide markets, Disruptor Beam needs to ensure that Game of Thrones Ascent has solutions for any issue that might arise delivering its data around the globe. Liquid Web’s CDN (Content Delivery Network), powered by Akamai, allows for the option to store data in 250,000 locations spread across more than 80 countries, worldwide. Access to the World’s largest spanning network of its kind takes much of the complication out of growth of this sort by ensuring data remains near any potential end user.

The Key to Success

"What’s worked well for us at Liquid Web is the combination of dedicated servers for mission-critical, custom systems along with cloud-based nodes that we can scale up/down as needed." In saying this, however, Radoff notes that the above would not be possible without the instant attention he has received from Liquid Web’s Heroic Support staff, located on-site, making changes, or any potential troubleshooting to Disruptor Beam’s services, fast and seamless. “This is something we could not take for granted,” says Radoff, pointing out that degradation of service and inconsistent access to support has led his various ventures away from other service providers in the past. “We need to make changes on the fly,” he says, stressing the importance of around the clock access to Game of Thrones Ascent’s setup. “Liquid Web’s ability to offer that played a big part in our decision”.