New World Launch: A New Nightmare

After building enormous anticipation for the better part of a year, Amazon’s (first) MMO New World launched this week on Tuesday 28th September 2021.

I was particularly excited as Australia servers had been announced for the game: a majority of the MMO releases (90-95%) tend to overlook the AUS/NZ market, forcing us to play with high ping on American servers.

Launch Day: Australia

Unlike standard MMO releases, Amazon decided to give each region a different launch time. For Australians, this was 9pm AEST. With names being global and not unique to each server, many opted to reserve character names when the earliest region (Europe) went live at 4pm AEST. After that, it was just a 5 hour wait.

Or so we thought.

Fast forward to 9pm – my friends and I tossed up between the server choices, and (unwisely) decided to join the highest population server – Utopia (a fitting name).

At 9:04pm, the queue was Utopia was almost 10,000. 2 minutes later, it was almost at 13,000.

Image source: In-game Screenshot

After creating my character, I was greeted with the following:

Position in Queue: 21,100

This was at 9:30pm. Two hours later, my queue position dropped to 19,000. Things weren’t looking good – it was clear that we weren’t going to play that night.

The Next Day

The next morning I re-queued to 3,000, but 2 hours later the server went offline for unscheduled maintenance.

I shrugged it off – with the server reset, maybe I’d secure a better position in the queue after it rebooted. I was hopeful. Maintenance overran by 30 mins, and I re-queued at 12:40pm to 1,000th in queue.

Still better than 3,000.

At 1:40pm it was 951, and 2:20pm it was 880. Slow…but steady. I was patient. I decided to stop agonising over the queue and check back in a few hours.

Imagine my surprise when I checked in at 6pm to find that my position had somehow moved to from 880 to 5,500. At this point I gave up on Utopia.

Amazon’s Novel Server Implementation: A Brave New World

Image source: Wallpapersden

In traditional MMOs, multiple instances of the same map are hosted server-side to allow for a smoother gaming experience – reducing queue times and improving overall server stability.

Once a map’s player capacity is reached, a new instance is opened to allow more people in the same server to complete tasks and quests without crowds of people fighting over the same resources.

Amazon decided to do things differently: instead of implementing multiple instances, New World’s implementation leverages AWS’ (Amazon Web Services) cloud infrastructure to host a single instance of the map per server – populated with a maximum of 2,000 players.

To host Aeternum, the “world” of New World, we created new back-end technology that scales a single game simulation over multiple hubs in AWS cloud. The back end is the glue that holds the experience together.

Patrick Gilmore, Studio Director, Amazon Game Studios Orange County, “Can gamers build a society? We’ll find out in Amazon’s ‘New World’”, Digital Trends

Yes – that means that if you’re 20,000th in the player queue, you require everyone ahead of you in the queue to login, play and logout (that, or quit the queue/disconnect).

Amazon’s vision for this a large scale map is ambitious and unprecedented. However, it’s clear from launch day that the player experience left much to be desired: the astounding queues meant that a majority of the player base wasn’t able to play the game.

The Workaround

Total New World Servers by Region, 1st Oct 2021
Image source: New World Server Status – Live

The sheer scale of server overload – with some servers having 10 times the number of players waiting in queue as those actually playing the game – was not sustainable for the first week of launch.

Fortunately, Amazon was quick to address the overwhelming demand. In response to the server issues, Amazon added additional realms across the regions and will allow free server transfers for 2 weeks allowing players to actually play the game without spending hours queuing.

Given the reputation of Amazon as the largest provider of cloud hosting services in the world, many players expected New World to launch with less server issues.

With this launch, the server issues came from the design choice of the game itself (to limit each server to only 2,000 active players) rather than the cloud infrastructure.

The performance of the servers themselves so far has been excellent: I currently run the game at consistently <40ms latency and have not experienced a single disconnection from the server.

Published by Tech Neck Nick

I'm a cybersecurity major postgrad student from Sydney, Australia. Support my fight against Writer's Block.

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