When the Venice City Council asked us to close out a wonderful first day of free broadband access in the city of canals, two thoughts came into our minds:
1. Choosing Venice to begin our WHAIWHAI epic last year was the right decision.
2. To this technological feat, to this old city that so courageously kept itself up to speed with the new era, we wanted to dedicate an entirely digital version of our game experience that would live up to all expectations.
We had already started working on an iPhone version of the Ruyi treasure hunt and, within a couple of weeks, we were able to draft a web version that would ensure access to all the content and guarantee easy interaction using any instrument that supports wi-fi. Then we picked out the stages, selecting those among our total of sixty that are currently hot spots in town. We came up with new clues, so that the new version wouldn’t be the same as the paper version. Then we tested everything out and verified that navigation was fast and efficient. We imagined there were going to be a lot of you playing, so we tested our system to make sure it could handle a very high number of access requests and activity. You began registering and, hour by hour on the city map we have on our game console, the itineraries of each team began to appear – the eight stages you were supposed to be able to complete. Even the last registrations, which were made only a few minutes before the starting time, went through without any problems: the connection was working fine. All that was left to do was to press START.
We did. And at that moment, something stopped working.
The WHAIWHAI server suddenly slowed down to snail pace and from that point on, the teams couldn’t connect or reconnect to the game site. As we tried and tried to bring the server back up, the notes of the San Marco orchestra seemed to foreshadow a Titanic-like descent into the abyss.
We tried to figure out what had happened. Our efforts unsuccessful, we decided to start a game on paper, using original gamebooks taken from the bookstore nearby, with those stubborn enough to have stuck around watching us. And so those brave remaining players, grouped into large teams, played in the traditional style for about an hour.
They had fun, so we hope we at least partially made up for the loss. Hours later, we discovered that we had failed to make one last check. The whole thing was caused by one unforgivable, careless mistake: during a series of updates we carried out, a control option we used for the test phases was not de-activated, and that slowed down the entire system, preventing it from performing at an optimum level. So it was no use attempting a quick fix and, as you noticed, the “sick beast” of a system was left defenseless and exhausted.
We sincerely apologize for this mishap to all the players, to the Venice City Council, particularly Cristiana Csermely of the Sustainable Tourism board and Deputy Mayor Michele Vianello. Wi-fi is now a reality in Venice and we hope to get the chance to redeem ourselves soon with a truly digital event.
See you again soon.