Andy's Workshop

Game chat and stories along with some articles probably for the more geeky among us,
all written by me, Andy.

Click here for my Frontierville Addiction Therapy Guide

Thursday 10 March 2011

Servers, Rollouts and Keeping Up With The Joneses...

I'm not really what you'd call religious, but I do quite like many of the Ten Commandments that God gave Charlton Heston all those centuries ago. Not killing, stealing or lying, respecting parents, not cheating on your significant other... these are all things that I think should translate easily into life for even the most fevered athiest.

One I admit I do have trouble with is the final one, not so much coveting my neighbours wife (he can have her...) but his ass donkey. Envy seems exceptionally difficult to control because it's almost visceral, it's a subconscious feeling of want rather than an active decision.

Envy is also extremely prevalent on our wall and in Frontierville... How many times have you heard the phrase "My neighbour has *insert mission here* and I don't..."

We see those posts popping up for new request items, we read about the missions on the excellent "Frontierville Express" (The folks who do that site must be geniuses...) and we WANT IT!

Well, we have a lot of questions on the page about how stuff rolls out and why it's so slow getting to people, so I thought I'd explain the general method and the reasons why here, with the help of another AAD, Andy's Awful Diagram.

Firstly a little basic info. The rollouts don't follow a set pattern, so just because you or a friend have it first THIS time, doesn't mean you'll have it first NEXT time, they share it around.

Also geography, time of joining, level etc, none of that has much bearing on your server. You likely as not won't have the same server as someone else in your house, or in your street. You'll likely not have the same server as someone who joined around about the same time as you.

When you join you're randomly assigned a server using a formula I don't know, be it the least pressured server at that time, your zodiac sign or your inside leg measurement, not totally sure. But there's no real way to be able to say "Friend A has that server, so should I."

Now, onto the rolling out procedure and the AAD.

Imagine the servers for Zynga as water storage tanks....

As you can see from that, there's a reason the rollouts are slow and come to one server at a time.

For a start if they tried to put the new stuff on every server at the same time the crash would be immense, the grinding would be terrible in the same way as trying to use a computer to copy something onto 20 different hard drives is slow and laborious, there's only so much a computer can do at any one time, the more servers they tried to fill, the slower things would be and the worse problems they'd cause.

Most people might notice slowdown for the few seconds/minutes it takes to load the info into a server. If they tried to add them ALL at the same time, we'd have hours of pure server gridlock.

The other reason is the one I put up there in the AAD.

Although everything is tested in house on production servers in a beta environment NOTHING is perfect and things can still slip through, stuff that only happens when the server load is heavier or when more people are all using a feature at the same time.

No testing is ever 100% certain in the same way as no condom is 100% certain to stop pregnancy. When the Zynga devs send the updates and new stuff out they know there's the chance of an unwanted glitch baby, and although they've taken every precaution, it'll happen.

So by rolling it slowly they also catch problems and glitches from the 1-5% who've had the update already and can patch it or put a hold on the mission before it reaches everyone else.

We've seen some missions come out before that have been put on hold for glitches and personally I'd rather see a solid game feature come out slowly with minimal glitches than everyone having it quickly... but it's broken.

So, next time a mission comes out, feel free to be envious of those folks who have it and impatient to get your hands on it... but remember there are reasons the rollouts are slow and steady, and they're for our our own good.

Your invisible gift is a special one today, 50, yes FIFTY invisible feeders crafted specially in my invisible blacksmiths. Feeding all your much loved invisible animals will never be easier...


  1. Thank you for your explanation, you make it sound so straightforward even to me who is a computer dunce!

  2. Nicely done. Kudos on the AAD ; )