Last week ArenaNet threw a quick little stress test for the Guild Wars 2 servers. It may, in fact, be the very last one. This is a pretty big milestone for the development team, as the game is set to launch in under a month. Yes, finally in less than a month Guild Wars 2 will hit the shelves, and players can begin to login in. The question is, "Is ArenaNet ready?"
A stress test is pretty simple. Players try to log into the game, and stress the servers to help a developer figure out how to make everyone's connection better. ArenaNet has used a few before, and we have seen some improvements to the game with each passing event. Even if you don't notice a performance improvement, you should have noticed an improvement in connectivity. I remember the first BWE, and it was a lot of fun, but the game would disconnect every once in a while. It was the first public beta, so this actually wasn't too surprising. Then a stress test came and it removed a lot of "stress" from the next BWE. The process continued for a few months and each beta ran smoother than the last.
Last week's stress test really wasn't that much different. The main difference was I had a longer time getting into the game due to connectivity issues. I could login, and get to the character select screen. Once I hit play, the game just couldn't make the connection. After waiting a few minutes I tried again, and again. Yes I spammed trying to login, you never know when you'll get in. I know you all do it too! That soon cleared up after an hour, and it was almost smooth sailing from there. The neat thing was knowing that the game was being worked on as I was playing it, which may explain why I did get disconnected mid-game 2 or 3 times. Other players seemed to have the same experience, so it seems that the game is where it needs to be.
During this stress test I did notice the game running a bit smoother when multiple players appeared on my screen. Now it wasn’t bad before, but with multiple AOE effects going off at once, it would bring down your frame rate a bit. Each BWE actually showed improvement in this area as well, but it was never a huge improvement.
Now I know that the build for the beta was CPU bound, so our video cards really didn’t do much. During the BWE I would hit the auto detect button and get medium settings. I would go and adjust everything to the highest settings, and my frame rate didn’t drop any more, it just stayed the same. The beta isn’t a real way to judge how well the game will ultimately run come launch, but I do feel confident that the game will not only stay connected, but run great based on the improvements I’ve seen.
ArenaNet has made a lot of improvements with their servers over the past couple of months. Are they really ready though? That’s hard to say. While we have seen a lot of improvements with the servers, Arenanet still has to guess how many players will be logging in during launch. It seems like a big guessing game, but ArenaNet has put a lot of time and effort trying to get things ready. Some of us may have tried playing a game earlier this year that didn’t work correctly on launch day. I won’t mention names. With the amount of rage that was unleashed upon the Internet, ArenaNet needs to make sure their game is ready and set to go with no hiccups to avoid that very situation.
The real purpose of a stress test in any game is really to have stress now, so that there's no stress later. After all the previous stress tests, and seeing the improvement during each and every BWE, I feel confident that ArenaNet will have Guild Wars 2 ready for millions of players to enjoy. Now we have the next test, the test of patience. Just a few more weeks David, just a few more weeks.