Disruptor Beam’s Game of Thrones Ascent Takes Online Social Game User Experience to a New Level With Blazing Fast Delivery of Images and Detailed Game Play The Challenge When he licensed the online game rights to the television series Game of Thrones from Home Box Office (HBO) in late 2012, Jon Radoff decided to raise the bar for online social games above the standard fare usually found on Facebook and other gaming portals. “We wanted to build something with really rich and detailed graphics, art, gameplay and story lines. We knew we would be talking to a sophisticated audience because that is the demographic of the television show,” says Radoff. Delivering that level of imagery and complexity online as quickly as possible to users during the very first seconds after they signed up for the game would determine success or failure of the venture, because Radoff knew that players will convert to paying customers when he can provide speed and quality the first time they play the game. “We understood from the start that we need to convince players to return to the game,” says Radoff. A Facebook page that Disruptor Beam put up before the launch attracted tens of thousands of followers, highlighting pent-up demand.
CUSTOMER PROFILE Company: Disruptor Beam Location: Boston, Massachusetts Description: Disruptor Beam is an online game company that developed the social online HTML5 game Game of Thrones Ascent, based on the popular HBO television series. Game of Thrones Ascent links fresh game content to evolving episodes and published books, inviting players to participate in the unfolding world of Game of Thrones. The immensely popular game attracted over a million registrants in the three months after launch in February 2013, and now is approaching 2 million users – one of the fastest multi-million-user launches for an online social game. Disruptor Beam is known for innovative game design and for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the casual game HTML5 format.
The company was planning to leverage viral growth via word-of-mouth rather than any paid search or online promotions to attract additional customers, so delivering an outstanding online experience to the initial crowd of gamers was critical. The pressure was building for Radoff and his team to nail a successful launch with lightening fast performance and minimal latency between user sign-up and first play, as well as super-smooth image loads – even for the very large images in Game of Thrones Ascent, which are five to six times larger than the standard images required for the auto-generated sprites commonly used to create the lower-grade graphics found in most casual Facebook games. The economics of online games, however, are tight, with a clear tipping point between profitability and loss. So Radoff needed premium performance for a fair price. “For launch, we had to get everything right to nail the experience, hit our retention goals, keep to our budgets, and ramp towards profitability,” explains Radoff. Disruptor Beam needed a solution that: • Provided flawless web game loading performance on launch day for any volume of traffic • Drove industry-best rates of return visits and user engagement • Reduced users’ time-to-interaction with HTML5 games while still delivering ultra-high resolution graphics • Maintained cost structures on par with legacy CDN caching systems
Copyright © 2013 Instart Logic, Inc. All rights reserved.
We knew our customers would not only come in large numbers but also be very demanding in expecting a high quality experience and speed. We wanted to bring the high quality of art to the social games market. The game has thousands of custom images, some of them at full screen resolution. It feels more like a console game, in image quality, game play, and quest elements and in the console-like application response time. Our users tell us it’s the best Facebook game they have ever played. Instart Logic plays a key role in making this experience possible.”
Jon Radoff CEO and Founder, Disruptor Beam
The Disruptor Beam team built out a highly scalable infrastructure with dozens of cloud-based backend web servers as well as databases, caches, and load balancers for their Ruby-on-Rails codebase. Radoff’s team also applied best-practice page speed optimization techniques. After examining a number of CDN solutions to cache pieces of the game closer to end users, Radoff got a recommendation from a friend to try a new type of web delivery system from Instart Logic. The promise of a different technology – the Web Application Streaming NetworkTM – appealed to Radoff, who wanted to make sure Disruptor Beam had a leg up on other popular Facebook games for the Game of Thrones Ascent launch. The concept of streaming in large digital images and other custom artwork, of which there are thousands in Game of Thrones Ascent, was particularly appealing to Radoff. “Streaming in enough of an image to allow users to interact quickly with our app even as more detailed imagery streamed down in the background made perfect sense for what we are doing. And we wanted to give this the look and feel of a full-blown console game. That meant we needed to have instant response-toclick and faster scrolling – much better than the average Facebook game,” says Radoff.
The Result Disruptor Beam deployed and tested Instart Logic’s Web Application Streaming Network and found it delivered on those promises. “It was very easy and fast to get up and running. We only changed our DNS settings. And we quickly noticed a performance lift that we estimated at 30% as compared to the CDN products we had tried. Instart Logic definitely made our game snappier,” says Radoff. “On launch day, Instart Logic’s Web Application Streaming Network handled our initial spike of users easily. We pushed multiple gigabits of traffic through Instart Logic without a hitch.” The game maintains performance even as tens of thousands of concurrent users play at any given time. “If we can stream down the first pieces of an app to allow users to get into gameplay faster, while the rest streams down in the background, that’s very attractive to us,” says Radoff. “That would have an even bigger impact on web performance. There is nothing more irritating to users than lag and Instart Logic attacks lag better than anything out there.”
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Copyright © 2013 Instart Logic, Inc. All rights reserved.