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“Our 6 – 12 year old user base loves the social aspects of our online games. With Zing, more players can interact without the risk of dropped players.” – Kris Johnson, Chief Operating Officer, Smart Bomb Interactive
The company was facing explosive growth and having difficulty scaling to serve more concurrent players without long system pauses
Azul Zing allows each socket server node to serve 2.5X more players without disconnects
Smart Bomb Interactive is a leading developer of online worlds and free-to-play games for players of all ages. Founded by game industry veterans in 2003, Smart Bomb has assembled a team that includes internationally acclaimed artists, engineers, designers, educators, online safety experts, and media professionals from many different disciplines. Together they create cutting-edge interactive entertainment for families, including the hit MMO game for kids National Geographic Animal Jam, and new mobile sensation Tunnel Town.
Rapid Growth Challenges Systems
Smart Bomb’s hosted products have experienced rapid growth in registered users and average play session length, stressing their conventional Java infrastructure. Animal Jam, for example, passed the 10 million registered users mark earlier this year. Its rich educational multimedia content, social features, and engaging gameplay have encouraged their audience to spend over 65 minutes immersed in the virtual world in an average play session.
Animal Jam users can enter social “rooms” where they can see each other’s animal avatars, chat, change outfits, and collect facts for rewards. As more users enter a virtual room, more information on those users has to be held in memory to support real-time interaction. The Java-based socket server nodes began experiencing long pauses when concurrent user counts approached 8,000 and available memory was filled. The underlying Java infrastructure would respond by triggering “old generation” garbage collection that sometimes paused the application for more than 30 seconds. During these long stalls, some users would exit or be dropped from the server node.
Even after extensive tuning, the company was unable to scale this setup to handle more than 10,000 concurrent users without these performance degradations. With a rapidly growing user base of kids expecting a smooth and uninterrupted play experience, this limit was unacceptable.
The Search for a Solution
Smart Bomb wanted to be able to support many multiples of 10,000 users simultaneously, and needed to keep any application stalls below a few seconds so they wouldn’t cause users to be disconnected. The company researched how to eliminate or reduce garbage collection pauses and tried a variety of settings and algorithms. Nothing they tried solved the problem. Finally, they saw Azul Zing®mentioned in an article on Java garbage collection and decided to try it.
Azul Zing Eliminates Stalls
Using Azul Zing, Smart Bomb was able to support 2.5X more users per node and eliminate the potential for long stalls that disconnect players. Accommodating the rapid growth of their hosted games, Zing provides substantial headroom to support more concurrent users. Plus, Zing allows them to more fully utilize the resources available on their existing hardware.
Smart Bomb Interactive uses Azul Zing as a key component of their systems to provide global interactive gaming experiences. By removing the possibility of application stalls that disconnect users, Zing greatly increases the scalability of hosted games and creates a strong foundation for continued business growth.