We’ve been quiet for a while. A little too quiet. We haven’t gone anywhere, and we aren’t ignoring Wordament. Wordament is an amazing game and we love it, we love the competition, and we love the opportunity we have make this game even bigger and better than it is today.
We’ve been working ridiculously hard to get ready for the future. While we love the Windows Phone platform (and continue to work on updates on that platform), the biggest platforms in the world have yet to be addressed. To even consider that possibility, though, means being ready for big scale. Our previous cloud platform, Google AppEngine, was starting to really give us concerns. So, we moved to Windows Azure.
Before we go any further, I feel compelled to remind readers that John and I are (and have been) long-time Microsoft employees. I say this, because I want you to put your own filters on our statements and know that we are being completely honest in the choices and reasons why we migrated to Azure. Our company, You vs. the Internet made the decision to jump to Azure back in the summer after a large AppEngine outage where we felt powerless when something went wrong. We were also unhappy about the fact that the “nearly free hosting” on Google AppEngine was about to be replaced by a production service that was the most expensive cloud platform, but offered no scalability targets and no support. That brought the choices down to two: Azure and AWS. AWS is a very interesting platform. It is extremely affordable. And, most of the internet that’s “powered by the cloud” runs on that. Our decision was ultimately swayed to Azure for the following reasons:
- We aren’t Linux experts (and Linux hosted AWS is the affordable option)
- Microsoft provided us with a BizSpark account with 3 years of free, trial-sized Azure.
- Windows Azure has published scalability targets that basically promise that, if you design your architecture within their guidelines, you won’t fail.
When you look at all of these factors, Azure was a great decision. So, what does this provide you, our players? A lot. It turns out that Windows Azure has a lot of great features and capabilities that were previously impossible for us on AppEngine. Because as designers you are required to think about computers and software with Azure, you can make decisions based on the fact that you are renting computers. (To be fair, AWS offers this same advantage over AppEngine), but this is really one of the key differences between the two cloud platform choices (and yes, for the more tech-savvy out there, we know about dedicated AppEngine Backends that you can rent—we’ve been renting those for months).
With the announcement today that we are hosted on Windows Azure, we are also ready to talk about the following features that many of you have been asking for:
- Better, real-time ranked leaderboards that take ties into account. Our previous in-game leaderboards used Ordinal ranking and we arbitrarily chose who ranked above who in the case of ties.
- Real-time player stats. We’ve been offering personal player stats for a long time, but some of the most interesting (average score), depended on an offline data warehouse to download all of the game results each day and “crunch the numbers.” This suffered every time we had a power failure, a network glitch, or a ton of results. With the new system, your results are always up to date.
- Real-time persistent leaderboards for Top Players. The Top Players by Average Score leaderboard was previously updated only once per day. It, like all of the other leaderboards, is now real-time.
- “Best word” in the leaderboard. If you look at any of the “Best of” persistent leaderboards, you will now see player’s “Best words” for that game, hour, day, or week. We think this is a really fun way to see the kind and quality of words that people are playing. It also provides even more transparency to those players using tools to help themselves find the best words in the puzzle to cheat to 1st place.
- Support for players across a range of devices and screen sizes all playing in the same puzzle language, at the same time.
This update came with one down-side: We are requiring you to update to the most recent version of Wordament in the Marketplace. Don’t worry—it’s still free—and over 80% of your already have it. It was released about 3 months ago. We’ve tried really hard to stay backwards compatible with each update. But, with the migration from AppEngine to Azure, we just didn’t want to try and mimic old behaviors from AppEngine. We just wanted our latest version, which is our most tested version, connecting to our services. Sorry for the inconvenience for those of you that need to take the update.
We plan to spend more time in the coming week talking about each of these features in more depth. We sure hope you like the updates. This is only part of a much larger plan that we are working on, but is all we are prepared to discuss today. 2012 is going to be a big year for Wordament, and we are so thankful to have you playing this game with us!
– Black Snapper