Having a birthday on the internet is a really weird thing. By the time I woke up yesterday morning in our hotel room I already had a flood of messages from folks. I cannot put into words the warm fuzzies I got seeing that. I attempted to keep up with thanking everyone individually but as we started roaming around Kansas City yesterday I completely lost track of where I was in the mix. By the end of the day it was just a daunting task to try and sort out who I had thanked and who I had not. By the time we made it home I was completely drained and crashed pretty hard. So if I did not manage to thank you individually I apologize and please know that every single person meant the world to me. As far as our trip… it was really enjoyable. Once again we did our thing which is to hit every single Half Priced Books store in the metro, along with a few other stops like Micro Center and IKEA… all things we don’t have in Tulsa. This is the second year in a row we have done this, and it was largely born out of the fact that getting my wife home after the AP reading turned into a very unpredictable experience. Functionally when the shindig lets out they are trying to fly a surge of 4000 or so people out of a tiny little airport. It is roughly a four hour drive from Tulsa to Kansas City with a bunch of variables that could speed it up or slow it down. The first year she was doing the AP grading there, she ended up getting flown to Dallas and then having a long layover there so that it took roughly 8 hours for her to get home. Admittedly… me driving up to get her and driving back home is still 8 hours…. but at least by spending the night it is chopped up in a few segments and lets us go do some stuff in this case Saturday night and Sunday morning. I always hate it when my birthday lands on Father’s Day because it also means everything is madness. Micro Center is normally a fun experience, but in this case there were workers stationed every few feet and just walking around the store I wound up getting asked 8 times if they could help me. I am not exactly sure why I find this so offensive… but I wish there was a system where you could get a sticker from the first person you meet that says “leave me the fuck alone”.
The other big happening of the weekend was the Stormblood launch, and in some ways it went really smoothly… and in other ways it went tragically wrong. Please note that I love Square Enix and the Final Fantasy XIV team… but you are going to get some salt from me on this post. On Friday the head start began, which is an event only available to folks who had pre-ordered the game prior to a certain point. This is really key because it is a fixed group of people, pulled from a known quantity of folks who plunked down money and purchased your game ahead of time. In order to get into Headstart it means that you needed to register a code that was sent to you by Square Enix via email with the Mogstation. Over the years there have been a number of events where the team has says that they just did not expect the numbers… namely at the relaunch of A Realm Reborn and I at least partially gave them the benefit of the doubt in this statement. However with the launch of a brand new expansion for a game with a known set of players… and a known set of preorders… that should have given them a head start on trying to figure out how much server throughput they needed for the launch. They failed this miserably and for all of Friday and all of Saturday… everyone was stuck on the same quest that required the creation of a solo instance. That means every player in a given Data Center is fighting for what is apparently a very limited number of slots available for running this quest. The result was a mixture of reactions from the players… and the creation of lines as folks attempted to go about this quest in an orderly fashion. Final Fantasy XIV is literally the only place you would ever see this solution… and it didn’t take long even here before it broke down. Granted the line concept was some superstitious nonsense given that you were not just competing against your fellow servermates… but also everyone else in the Aether data center in my case. So while Cactuar isn’t a massive server… it is large enough, but becomes completely drowned out by the size of the player base of Balmung and Gilgamesh which share the same server cluster.
Yesterday during the day however at some point they put in a fix and remedied the situation, so last night in my sleepy state I attempted to move forward only to be claimed by sleep and a server disconnect in the middle of a lengthy cut scene. This morning I popped in with every intent of taking a few screenshots and wound up playing for about an hour popping around and doing quests. I am hoping we are through the worst of the launch, but I expect another influx of players on Tuesday when the game releases in stores. Hopefully they have learned their lessons and have spare resources ready to stand up if they run into more problems. In the era of virtualized servers, leased datacenter space, and all manner of licensing options… it feels like there is little excuse not to have some resources waiting in the wings to stand up at the first sign of trouble. I have a feeling there were a lot of design decisions on the infrastructure side that maybe don’t scale terribly well in modern computing terms. The game is doing some odd things, like it came out during one of the E3 discussions that every time you move in the server… your entire player object is passed around including your inventory and armory chest as part of one huge object. This came up when they talked about not wanting to expand out inventory space too much because it might crash the server in passing around too big of an object. This just seems like a weird way of going about things, and one susceptible to memory hacks or at least rollbacks from crashes. At this point I just need to play catch up because I have Free Company members that are already 66 or higher.