Letter from the Producer, XXXIX (11/30/2012)
Greetings to all of you out there eagerly awaiting FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn! This is Yoshi-P here, back with my thirty-ninth letter.
First up, I’d like to apologize again for all the server issues that occurred during the final event on the last day of service for Version 1.0. We’ll conduct extensive stress testing in order to prevent such problems from plaguing A Realm Reborn, with the ultimate goal of delivering to our fans the high level of service they expect.
And so the curtains have descended on an age. Dalamud has fallen, and from it the elder primal Bahamut burst forth to wreak havoc upon Eorzea. What has become of the valiant adventurers—the light of hope upon which old Louisoix wagered all? And what of Bahamut and Louisoix himself? We’ll have the answers to these questions for you in A Realm Reborn, so please bear with us until the official release. We’ll make sure the game is chock-full of FINAL FANTASY goodness.
Now then, we’ve received a veritable deluge of questions regarding the Alpha Test, so let’s talk about that. Here’s an outline of the test schedule here on out.
Purpose of the Alpha Test
As I mentioned in my previous missives, alpha tests for MMORPGs are meant to simulate the actual stress conditions that the servers will undergo when official service begins. But how exactly are these stress conditions achieved? Allow me to explain.
Of Server Structures and Stress Tests
The servers for A Realm Reborn have been designed to handle up to 5,000 simultaneous connections per world. Of course, there can be more characters created for each world than that—the figure is simply the maximum number of players that can be logged in at any given time.
Now, A Realm Reborn will consist of approximately 40 areas, and the assumption is that players will be distributed across them.
To do some simple math, 5,000 characters spread across 40 areas means the number of players that can be in a single area will be a fraction of 5,000. Taking into account such things as the spread of character levels and differences in playing styles, it’s highly improbable that all players will flock to a single area at once.
That said, we’re not taking any chances. Each area in A Realm Reborn has been designed to handle up to 1,000 characters, and it’s for the purpose of testing this limit that we’re conducting the Alpha Test.
Of course, it’s not enough that we have people logged in. We need them to do the things they would normally do—fight enemies, gather materials, undertake quests, and so forth. This way we can measure how many players are engaging in each of these activities at the same time.
But wait, there’s more! With the aid of our alpha testers, we’re also testing whether:
300–400 players can change areas at the same time.
The patch server can handle high concentrations of traffic.
The client crashes when run on specific hardware.
Enemies spawn and despawn correctly under heavy lag.
The Restriction on Tester Numbers
As you already know, our primary objective for the Alpha Test is to conduct stress tests on the servers. For this reason, as yet there aren’t a lot of things for players to do in the game. Alpha versions of a game typically feature unrefined graphics, with many UI elements still provisional. There aren’t any scenarios or quests to undertake, and the focus is on engaging in battles in large groups.
In the case of A Realm Reborn, the following restrictions are in place during the Alpha Test:
Playable races are male Hyur Midlanders and female Miqo’te Seekers of the Sun only.
New characters must be created; no Version 1.0 characters can be carried over.
The level cap is set to 20.
Gridania is the only starting city-state available.
Disciple of War/Magic classes are limited to lancer, archer, and conjurer.
Disciple of Hand/Land classes are limited to carpenter, leatherworker, and botanist.
The opening sequence is provisional.
Cutscenes are in development and have been masked.
The Tam-Tara Deepcroft (for level 15–20) is the only instanced raid available.
The leveling path, comprising sidequests, ends at level 10. Sidequests for higher levels are in development.
Guildleves go up to level 15 (tradecraft leves up to level 20).
As far as alphas go, I think there’s quite a lot of things you can do. Eight areas are accessible in all, though most of the playable content is concentrated within four areas.
We’ve done our darnedest to provide a well-defined leveling path for the lower levels. This means that thousands of people will log in at the same time and in the same city, before proceeding to go about leveling in the same manner. This results in constantly high levels of server stress in the main areas. Also, since there isn’t anything to do in other places, people tend to hang around in the starting areas even if they’ve reached the level 20 cap.
Our primary objective is stress testing, and in order to have our testers apply that stress, it’s necessary to limit the number of areas.
As I mentioned earlier, the maximum number of characters per area is 1,000. If we simply went and added more testers, the increase in characters would generate unprecedented levels of lag that severely diminish playability.
We realize that participating in the Alpha Test is a special experience for our players, and we want them to play their fill without experiencing undue annoyances. We want to avoid the above scenario, and the only way to do so is to increase the number of worlds.
Generally speaking, alpha versions feature very limited content, and all character data is deleted at the end. Due to these reasons, the number of active participants decreases over time, and developers respond by gradually inviting new testers to join the fray over the course of testing.
The same is true for A Realm Reborn. We anticipated that the login rate would drop to about 20%, though the actual figure turned about to be between 40–50%. And so we’re gradually inviting new testers, carefully calculating the number of additional characters that our servers can cope with.
Alpha Test Progress
The Alpha Test is currently in its third phase, with one more to follow.
Phase 1 was a basic stress test that took place on a single world. The test proceeded very smoothly thanks to the cooperation of the alpha testers. During this phase, we were able to detect and address issues that arose when 850 characters had convened in a single area, and when 270 battles were taking place simultaneously.
In the tests that followed, we were able to identify the processes that contribute the most to heavy lag, and worked to address each one.
Phase 2 introduced a second world and more testers, and we conducted tests for multiple worlds running simultaneously. Fortunately, we experienced no major issues, and continued our work to optimize processes as we made our final preparations for the global phases of the Alpha Test.
The Alpha Test went global in phase 3, with the servers being online 24 hours a day for the purpose of age testing. Ahead of this phase, alpha tester acceptance mails were sent to regions outside of Japan.
A world merge test is scheduled for the soon-to-commence Phase 4, after which the Alpha Test will come to a close around mid-December. But if the demand is there, we’ll consider leaving the alpha worlds online until the end of the year. (Though we can’t really call it an alpha test anymore.)
Alpha Tester Numbers and Future Recruitment Plans
We can’t reveal the exact number of testers we have on board. But in terms of ratio, a quarter of the applicants from Japan have been accepted, while one in six applicants from North America have been selected (after one round of acceptance mails). We had far fewer applications from Europe, and so a higher ratio of those—one third—was accepted.
What about future additions, you ask? Well, stability tests for Phase 3 will continue until December 2. We will resume adding testers from the day after, December 3. Now, this wasn’t actually part of our original plan, but in order to handle the additional server load, we’re going to open a third alpha world that same day.
We’re looking to add thousands of new testers each week, but the final limit will be dependent upon server stress. We ask for your understanding in advance.
A Request to Alpha Testers
With official service for Version 1.0 having come to a close, we want as many people as possible to have the chance to participate in the Alpha Test. As such, I would like to make a request to all testers, both present and future.
As I mentioned earlier, the Alpha Test is limited in scope. If players were to flock to a certain world, it would generate unprecedented levels of server stress, which would in turn make it difficult for us to increase the number of testers.
At present, the Alpha Test is being conducted on two worlds: Chocobo and Moogle. If you’re not already testing on Moogle, we ask that you please create a new character and play there instead. As for those who join the fray after December 3, we would be grateful if you could elect to play on the new world that is due to go online. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
And that’s it from me for this letter. See you next time, on the forums, or in the Alpha Test!
It seems this is basically the same thing he posted in the dev tracker forums a couple days ago in the lodestone. http://forum.square-enix.com/ffxiv/threads/58629