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On the Feasibility of Single-Server MMOs

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the where-are-my-ten-thousand-player-battles dept.

Games 316

GameSetWatch takes a look at the issues involved in creating an MMO that does not split its users among many different servers. They suggest that running a single "shard" is the next step in the evolution of MMOs, since it better allows player choices to have a meaningful impact on the game world; supporting different outcomes across multiple shards is a technical nightmare. They estimate, from the hip, that the cost to develop the technology required to support a massive amount of players (i.e. far more than EVE Online) on a single server to be roughly $100 million. Another recommendation is the strong reliance on procedural and user-generated content creation to fill a necessarily enormous game world.

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316 comments

First troll (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27962823)

Eat [goatse.fr] my goatse'd penis!

Lag. (5, Insightful)

Becausegodhasmademe (861067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962837)

TFA misses out one very important point.
Lag.
Lag is the primary concern amongst many EVE Online players. Certain areas of MMOs are more popular than others. Major Cities, battlegrounds, etc are places where large numbers of players congregate. Until we find a way to elminate the lag caused by sheer population density, single server MMOs are going to be strangled in what they can offer in terms of 'multiplayer'.

Re:Lag. (4, Interesting)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962905)

"Half Sharding" like Guildwars has solves that.

Is town too busy? Boom, new set of districts is spawned! They will be probably located on different server too, making players overcrowding non issue. Players can switch them at will (as bonus, they are grouped by geolocation and laguange, but can still switch to different ones.

The only way to handle rush of thousands of players to one area when special events happen. 5 thousands of players want to participate in xmass feestival? no problem, just spawn 50 districts in that town.

Re:Lag. (2, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963087)

Tabula rasa did something similar.
Each combat area would be split into 2 or 3 identical instances, and you could teleport between them. Due to it's dynamic arenas, if you wanted something in a town that had been taken over by the enemy, you could teleport to another instance and hope that it's player-controlled.

Re:Lag. (4, Interesting)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963203)

The mantra that I read somewhere and which I think describes the solution perfectly is "Fragment your world, not your playerbase". You can support any number of players in the same world without problems as long as player density doesn't rise too high. Just avoid centralising features from the game (the auction house in World of Warcraft was a prime example until they replicated it to all capital cities), or instance them off (invisibly, using something similar to WoW's zone phasing, but forcing parties to share the same zone to avoid "I'm standing right on top of you, where tf are you?" situations).

Sharding's just the easiest solution, and hence most common. It's really not necessary any more, and detracts a lot from the social side of sharded MMO games.

Re:Lag. (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963289)

DDO too (although it still has servers).

Re:Lag. (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962911)

the lag caused by sheer population density,

Not to mention CPU and video card load.

Re:Lag. (4, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963137)

Warcraft has this problem, especially in towns. It can take between 30 seconds to two minutes to fully load Dalaran the first time you log in as it has to not only download everyones armour, but then read/decompress that off your disk. My friend - who has 48Gb of RAM - created a RAM Disk and loaded WoW's game files onto it (WoW's game files come to around 13Gb). It loads fast, and I mean lightning fast, since the RAM has a faster throughput than the HDD.
Most of the 'lag' in Warcraft comes from the user end, as opposed to any server creaking.

This has led to some humorous bugs in the game. For example, "The Naked Bug" - which tends to happen either in Cities or when going into an instance (25 man instances mainly) Where characters armour fails to load and your buddies are all running around in the nip. Anyone already in the instance is naked to you, and anyone joining after is normally fully clothed. And the only way to fix it is for you to exit and re-enter the instance, or for each naked person to exit and re-enter (for example, by dying).

Re:Lag. (-1, Troll)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963159)

Most of the 'lag' in Warcraft comes from the user end, as opposed to any server creaking.

And this matters to the user how? All they see is the game sucks.

Re:Lag. (4, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963211)

What i'm saying is that a single server, or multiple servers, can't do anything for over-zealous reading from the users disk. That the Lag problem isn't solely related to the server.

Re:Lag. (1)

think_nix (1467471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963037)

If most gaming publishers/developers wouldnt only see $ signs, get some high end hosting with high end hardware, and write decent netcode they wouldnt have this problem. Look at the Hardware today and all the possibilites clustering , load balancing, etc etc ...

imo Possibilites are their to reduce lag, login issues, high server load, etc. They just have to want to do it.

imho pros and cons to both side of the argument. e.g. Eve. At any given time mostly 30k - 40k people are on 1 Eve Server. While this might enhance the player experience, pvp, and player interaction with other players. No one wants to play an mmo on an empty server. On another Note "most" mmo's after a few years don't have the subscription base that they had at release so they end up consolidating servers anyways which in the end pisses of the player base.

Re:Lag. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963285)

It's not the $ signs. I mean, after all, that is the reason why they do it.
It's about thinking in the long term, and thinking further than around the next logical corner.

They want the quick money, and ignore that it hurts them more in the long run, to do it that way.

And another problem is, that to plan for the far future, you have to have pretty good predictions.

Re:Lag. (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963577)

It's not totally true. The client has to do a lot of work, especially loading the graphical ressources (player skins, buildings, NPCs...), rendering spell effects...

I was playing WoW on a fairly old PC (single-core Athlon XP 2800) until 3.0. I couldn't really do 25-raids after WotLK. I thought it was my graphics card (6600GT), but simply upgrading my CPU to a fairly anemic dual core solved the problem my FPS went up from 1 to 10.

if you have hundreds of players in a single spot doing all sorts of things, I think the hardest task is not so much telling the client who is where and doing what, but rather actually rendering the scene quickly.

Re:Lag. (1)

eqisow (877574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963095)

This technology along with the implementation of infiniband [wikipedia.org] and some tricks like routing autopilot around busy systems has all but solved EVE's lag issues.

Oops (2, Interesting)

eqisow (877574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963109)

I meant this [eveonline.com] technology. Apparently I'm bad at using the preview function.

Re:Oops (1)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963275)

Bad egisow! Naughty! Next you'll be telling us that you didn't RTFA!

Re:Oops (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963435)

It's better now, and OK for a strategy-oriented game like Eve. But still too slow for a twitch-based game.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963597)

This is true

Actually, I see an even bigger problem (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963187)

Actually, I see another even bigger problem, at least for more traditional (WoW-type) MMOs. How big should your world be?

Too little player density => people start complaining that it's pretty much a single-player game like Oblivion, except you occasionally see another player. Many games ended merging up shards more for that sensation of empty space than because of costs. (It's equally easy to just merge the physical servers inside a shard, to support a lower population per shard, if you're only concerned about hardware costs.)

Too many players on too little surface => lag (think: landing in Ironforge, back when it had the only auction house for Alliance), routinely having 5 players camping the same mob, and generally it just starts feeling cramped. Again, you have players starting to complain.

Basically if you want to be single-shard, you have to essentially guess how much population you'll get. Maybe just within the right order of magnitude, but guess nevertheless. It's not that trivial. On one side of the guessed-wrong spectrum you have WoW which got launched with only a handful of servers and had massive queues, on the other end of the spectrum you have more than one game who thought they'll be teh WoW-killer and then had to merge 4 servers in 1.

Merging or splitting shards is an easier way to deal with that problem than having to physically add or remove new areas, to fit the population.

Additionally, world size influences other things, like travel times, exploration, etc. There is an ideal apparent size where people don't feel like they're being packed like sardines and running around a back yard, but don't go "fuck it, I'm not spending another hour just running back to the quest giver" all the time either. It's easier to fine tune that if it's its own problem, orthogonal to everything else, than when it also has to fit the population numbers.

Basically if EVE's game type was well suited for that kind of one-shard world, more power to them, but for other types of MMOs it might actually be a bad idea.

Re:Actually, I see an even bigger problem (2, Interesting)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963483)

The problem with a single shard and part of the reason I gave up on EVE was that everybody playing the game has the same environment. I was looking for more roleplay out of the game but although there are a few corps playing the game in that manner, none of the people you meet in space are.

I was stuck trying to maintain a consistent character story while everyone around me was talking about things in the news, who got fired at work (IRL) etc. I wouldn't attack another player unless it was inline with the character but that doesn't stop everyone else attacking me without any pretence. Towards the end I even started playing by my own death rules, if the character dies, thats it, he's dead, he and all his assets are destroyed and I start again but that just made me a target

I was praying that EVE would split into different shards for different game styles, even if that meant the RP shard was largely empty of players (which would have been a draw for some players anyway)

Re:Actually, I see an even bigger problem (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963513)

Guild Wars at least had instanced cities. You can have many copies of an area if that's what is desired, if moving between them is as easy as a dropdown I doubt most would consider it "shards". Basicly you meet in [City,24] instead of just City, it was a fairly decent way to manage denisty if you ask me.

That's still shards (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963525)

Well, that's still shards. City sized intead of planet sized, but shards anyway. I was more under the impression that what these guys want is one huge non-instanced world with everyone in it.

Meanwhile, in an MMO, a problem grows... (2, Insightful)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963595)

Moraelin: Actually, I see another even bigger problem, at least for more traditional (WoW-type) MMOs. How big should your world be?

The question of how big an MMO should be is a simple matter of planning desired player density, introducing sufficient hooks to ensure interest, and mitigating player turnover by making the action easy enough for low-level characters to get into. All of this is part of the design of any MMO worth its salt.

However, remember that "should" is the most dangerous word in the English language. Forget "should." Screw "should"'s eye sockets until its ears cry.

How big will the game be? Because all that planning won't amount to anything if nobody shows up and the place feels like a well-lit and mip-mapped ghost town. Or if it takes off faster than expected and suddenly you're running the most popular lag machine in town.

Re:Actually, I see an even bigger problem (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963667)

Even Eve is somewhat affected by this, in the form of overcrowded public research facilities. That is now, with (estimated) around 300k subscribers. In the beginning, the universe probably seemed pretty empty.
But Eve handles these issues relatively well, because players can build their own structures for manufacture and research. Also, the market system scales very well (each station is in effect an auction house).

Both of these could be transferred to fantasy games, with the town building James Portnow suggested. Just make sure it includes things like forges, libraries and market halls. There is only one thing he was glossing over and that needs addressing:
I think there needs to be some mechanism to encourage building actual towns instead of buildings that are wildly spread over the landscape. The latter is something SWG veterans complained about ;-)

In terms of world size, think big but group some attractive resources around the starter areas. This way, people will only move into the hinterlands when resources are growing scarce near town (due to overcrowding and overuse). Another concept James Portnow got right.

Re:Lag. (3, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963279)

Well, you can easily solve this, if you allow some more strong MIP mapping technologies for everything, including the transferred packets, models, etc.

For example you could just transmit the data of the most relevant people and objects, until the pipe is X percent full, then use some "group" model, with only simple coordinates and very simple models etc for every player outside of that relevance radius. And so on... in a curve that is somewhat between quadratic and cubic (depending on the dimensions of your relevance space).
Do not forget to include the main viewing targets of your player into the calculation, so they can still target something far away, and see it in a good quality.
You could even make it work like interleaved JPEGs, where you only load the roughest details at first, and then become more and more detailed, the more you want to view it (=the more you wait).

I think people would prefer that to having every single object that is visible at all to be transferred and rendered in some kind. Nobody cares about the quality of stuff he does not care about. ^^

Re:Lag. (1)

mirkob (660121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963321)

and making a server for every game area (with a way to move seamlessly from one area/server to another ) instead of many instance of the same server with every area on it?

Re:Lag. (5, Interesting)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963369)

EVE's problem isn't really Lag. That is what everyone calls it, but that isn't accurate. EVE's problem is their architecture wasn't build with the scale of play they encourage today in mind.

In EVE a solar system is a discrete "zone", there are many thousands of solar systems. Each one is assigned a node on the server (blades actually) and that node may and probably does host more than one solar system. They have had limited success in beefing up big fights by moving solar systems with expected fights to a node by itself. Thereby offering as much power as their architecture will allow. However, they can only do this at "down time" which is one hour daily, so if a big fight breaks out in the middle of the day, there is no chance of it going well. Most of the REALLY big fights happen in systems that often have very low average traffic, so they are assigned to a shared node. Then for 8 hours, that system has 400 people in it, and the node is past it's limits very quickly. If they had coded the game so that a single solar system could use more than one node at a time, they could brute force the problem away entirely. But that isn't possible the way it's built.

Even so, the EVE cluster is/was on the top 500 list of super computers. You can't say it's not for lack of trying.

Why yes, I WAS an EVE player. From Beta till about a year ago. I finally gave up after countless fleet encounters were destroyed by CCP's clever, but impotent load balancing. The breaking point was when I realized that even when we had a dedicated node for every solar system in our territory, we still couldn't have a full out fleet battle without crashing the node. I'd have been happy to get half our fleet into combat, but we couldn't even do that. Granted, we had 800 ships or so and our opposition had at least 1000. I've yet to see any game that can put nearly 2000 players on a battlefield and still function.

CCP does get credit though for effort. 3 years ago you'd be LUCKY to pull off a 200 man fight. Now you can put 500 or so into a system and get your fight on without major game breaking things happening. It won't be silky smooth, but you can get it done. Ironically, 3 years ago a 200 ship fleet fight was a rare and wondrous spectacle. While a year ago, I could assemble a 200 pilot fleet in 20 minutes. So what was a major event is now a typical saturday night. The servers got better, a lot better, but they aren't keeping up with the players.

Re:Lag. (2, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963619)

You appear quite knowledgeable about EVE's setup, so I'd like to ask what would happen if instead of putting the nodes onto blades, they put the nodes onto virtual machines on the blades, and migrated those live (and hopefully automatically) based on use. I'm not the kind of guy who says "virtualize it!" to everything, but this seems like a good case for it.

So the big question is ... "Why haven't they done it?" There has to be a technical problem.

Re:Lag. (2, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963375)

Lag.

From a packet lag (rtt) point of view, does physical geography enter into it at all? I see 200ms ping times once my packets start getting around to the other side of the world...

Re:Lag. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963401)

I play EvE. and whats this lag you talk about?

do you mean that Scam Spam in Jita?

The should just do what most developers do (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962845)

Hand the problem over to the DBA...

 

I want to see all MMORPG on one server (5, Funny)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962847)

Think of how much fun it would be to crash one of those Eve Online ships into the shire!

Re:I want to see all MMORPG on one server (1)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963035)

My guards common mitigation is over 50%, so he'd be fine for the kinetic shock, but my fire mitigation is crap, so I'd probably take more from that... Have to get that good fire mit shield from the moors I guess.

Re:I want to see all MMORPG on one server (3, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963175)

NPC: Hello Bodo Gaggins, we need you to deliver some pies to various places in the shire

Deliver pies to:
Bree
Stormwind
and The Crashed Ammar Frigate that used to be Hobbiton

Re:I want to see all MMORPG on one server (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963191)

Why crash when you can just start a nice orbital bombardment?

Make the game simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27962863)

the runuo team does a great job handling over 1000 players simultaneous on a single server.

i remember when they first migrated to 64-bit, holy crap the server-saves were so much faster...

havn't played on their servers in awhile tho, i'd be surprised if they were still as well populated.

(if you don't know what i'm talking about: Ultima Online private servers, which ironically have always been called "shards")

Impact? (5, Insightful)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962867)

"since it better allows player choices to have a meaningful impact on the game world"

Am I the only one here who doesn't want the collective impulses of 1 million 15 year olds impacting my game experience? Instead of theorizing about how awesome it would be to have a server with 5 million people on it at the same time, why don't they try to design a game that would actually be fun to play with 5 million other people on your server. I can't think of any, but if they can, I'd at least be willing to listen to their ideas.

Since the authors of this worthless article don't have any new ideas other than "WoW with tons of people on the same server!!!", I don't know how this thing got out of the firehose.

Re:Impact? (1)

Desipis (775282) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962951)

I think that it would be better to break up the servers in some sort of meaningful way like say, play time limits. Have a server with unlimited time, one with a limit of 20 hours a week, 5 hours, etc. That way you can cater to a wide variety of players and they can all have a meaningful impact within the way they wish to play. If you rely on procedurally generated content then there shouldn't be a major issue with supporting different outcomes on different servers.

Re:Impact? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963021)

The problem with this (dividing according to play style)is that players don't always play the same style. ie when I'm at university I barely play at all, but when it's time for holidays I game for a few hours a day. And sometimes I just want to farm loot, or go pk'ing.

Also re:time limit servers; they make forming lasting player relationships difficult, you might meet someone who you enjoy playing with, but your play times rarely overlap. It would be a nightmare for guilds, which rely on a core of players who play more than others to maintain the guild over the long run.

Re:Impact? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963007)

I don't know how this thing got out of the firehose.

I blame soulskill.

Re:Impact? (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963065)

Yeah, I didn't get that point at all. The real world has billions of concurrent users and the general effect is the importance of any one unit is reduced. Also, they would have to likewise upscale infrastructure so think of in game cities paralleling the size and scale of real cities, where even locations become less significant. What they should instead do is try to have their cake and eat it too. Share servers for economy, etc, but reduce the number of players one can interact with those a statistically generated representative set. That way you could still have "cities" the size of small towns and less then a thousand people on the screen at a time, but still give the player access to everything an everyone.

Re:Impact? (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963111)

I was very surprised to discover the concept of shards when I first got interested into MMORPG. Such games are not MMO but simply multiplayer games... That makes the whole thing sound like a crooked deal : "yeah, there are 5 millions people connected but don't worry, you will be alone in the most popular dungeon. Oh, and don't worry you won't have any impact in the world since the place where you are is just instanced and will be respawned identically once you finish it."

EVE is a very good example of the interest of having a single universe where players actions do have an influence, but it is not for everyone, some people will get intimidated by it. However, I don't understand why they think that the EVE model won't scale. They already have 300 000 players and their system is quite simple : different stellar systems can run on different servers. You cannot interact with something that is not in the same solar system, for that you have to "jump". It is easy to add more systems by adding more servers. It does scale up.

Re:Impact? (1)

NightRain (144349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963299)

The problem EVE suffers from though is the player market tends to attract people to the biggest hub in the game. And it doesn't matter how much the player base is spread out overall if a fixed percentage of them goes to that market hub at any given time, as there will be an ever growing number of people using the server that system is running on. If the subscriber base grows too fast the ability of technology to keep up with player numbers will suffer in those centralised locations.

Second life suffers from a variation of this same problem

Re:Impact? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963469)

Yes and several solutions have been proposed to solve this. None of them require 100 million dollars : having a smaller system in Jita, forbidding scanning or fight when the number of players is too high, trying to favor the emergence of new market hubs, have another system for trade, use different servers for the different stations of the system (makes sense if scanning is disabled).

Seeing how long-distance traveling is a pain in EVE, I think that a bigger universe would just create more commercial hubs. A second one has already begun to appear in EVE.

Re:Impact? (3, Informative)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963455)

Technically they have 300k user accounts, and probably about half that many players. Multi-accounting is encouraged on Eve.

Re:Impact? (2, Interesting)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963547)

Also clearing 50k peak concurrent users, which I feel's actually quite an achievement. And yes, multi-accounting .... well, makes a lot of things a lot more feasible. That's one part I don't really like actually, but I'm fairly sure I've seen statistics that indicate it's not _that_ widespread.

Re:Impact? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963559)

Aye, it's like how SecondLife has millions of users... who logged in once, said "what's the big deal?" and never came back.

Re:Impact? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963139)

Am I the only one here who doesn't want the collective impulses of 1 million 15 year olds impacting my game experience?

For one, you'd be mistaken about the "it's only 15-years old playing" cliche. Granted, a lot of oldsters act like they're immature teens, but still. If you're interested, head to Charles Stross' presentation at Login 2009 [antipope.org] where he speculates about MMOs in 2030.

Anyway, you won't be rolled over by a 1-million strong wave of players trying to kill-steal your camp. There's a difference between total numbers and player density in the game world. You need to increase the numbers, but keep the density low. And that requires a lot of social systems in place. Regardless of whether you're thown in Smallville (WoW-ish model, complete with its contingent of sociopathic über-powered peeps ready to faceroll you for the fun of it. Like Smallville. Minus Clark) or Metropolis (the uber-EvE model), you probably know only the few people in your guild, your guild alliance, some iconic local figures, and that's it. What makes interesting a large server are:

1) The large choice: no matter what you're interested in, there's people interested in the same (which, on smallville-type servers, is an iffy proposition)
2) The economy. It's impossible to build a workable complex economic system when there's less than 10k people interacting with the economy. The economy remains ludicrously simple (and easily manipulated). Compare to a 250k-players economy of EvE, and it's not even comparable. Go to million-players economies, and you end up with mechanisms that work.

But the two points above should tell you what kind of game it's interesting to design. It's not a game about being the Hero and going to Slay the Dragon. It's a game about social interactions, player-based activities, with a major economical facet. That's what you need. Not, like the article implied (it's a general public article, after all) WoW with a single shard, but something different. EvE shows it's possible (why do you think the vignettes for the article show that game?).

Re:Impact? (3, Informative)

Bored Grammar Nazi (1482359) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963297)

Not, like the article implied (it's a general public article, after all) WoW with a single shard, but something different. EvE shows it's possible[...]

It's possible on EvE because the place is basically empty. A space station here, an asteroid belt or two there, a couple planets... In the end, it's just a bunch of generic models thrown around in what otherwise is a lot of empty space.

Now imagine doing the same on a WoW-style game. You would have to do a huge work of world design. Surely there are algorithms that can generate assloads of terrain, cities, etc, but your designers still have to tweak things in the gameworld to make it interesting.

Not to mention the amount of disk space that would be required for the data files making up this non-empty gameworld.

Re:Impact? (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963405)

I still don't understand why people think more people always = good. I played EQ and WoW, I liked the lower server population on EQ a lot more, I knew a larger percentage of the people online at any given time, and it was more fun chatting with them than WoW players.

And I don't get people's obsession with game economies. I want to play a GAME, not buy 3000 stacks of netherweave, then turn them into band aids. I don't care how complex the economy is, I care how fun the game is.

Re:Impact? (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963391)

You are right. That game actually exists, its name is a single letter. And it is an abomination-generator.

15 year olds? (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963461)

Actually, while I'll agree with your main idea that it's undesirable, I just have to wonder about the 15 year olds quip.

From my limited experience -- and fully aware that the plural of anecdotes isn't data, but I have to start somewhere -- the vast majority of children I ended up grouped with were actually nice people and played the game well. Conversely, most of the more annoying trolls I've known, were middle-aged men. I guess mid-life crisis goes "I can still gank newbies" instead of "I can still get a car with a wing, and teenage hookers" in some people.

The thing that got me to start thinking about it all -- and bear in mind, I'm not saying it's the worst, just that it was a shock at the time -- was discovering that a (now ex) boss, a respected middle-aged, mid-level manager, was talking l33t in an MMO. I get a tell that, really, makes me wish I had a Rosetta stone to decrypt that garbled nonsense, and wonder who the fuck is that retarded kid? Lo and behold, it's the boss. I _know_ he can type very fast, so he doesn't even have the excuse of not having the time to type the "y" and "o" in "you."

Another midle-aged guy I know gets his jollies ganking newbies. That's his idea of showing how great he is, apparently.

One was literally the most retarded player I've ever grouped with. He managed to reach level 70 (at that time, the max) while still believing stuff like that if he takes a step back when an enemy slashes at him, the enemy will miss. 'Cause that sword doesn't reach to his new position, see. Geesh. Or he still thought that it's a good idea as a hunter to run backwards when he gets aggro, 'cause, see, he manages to squeeze in another ranged shot now and then that way. And generally, I mean, not just as in "hadn't figured out the game yet", but as in, "had the most ridiculous ideas and insisted that that's how the game works." He actually was proud of his "footwork", lemme tell you.

After a wipe or two I actually wished we had a 15 year old in his place. At least those tend to be good at figuring out a game.

One was not just a complete CS-head, but actually proud of his spewing the most offensive sexist remarks at anyone who had a female name in the game. There was stuff he was telling me (and you know you can't stop them from talking about CS even if you tried) that made _me_ cringe, and I'm a guy. And he's standing them beaming proud of how witty he was.

Etc.

So, 15 year olds? I can deal with 15 year olds. It's the older retards that I fear a lot more.

Re:Impact? (3, Informative)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963537)

Actually I think that's one thing that EVE does quite well - because of the 'nature of the game' the annoying wombats don't tend to get all that far - skill training being real time for example, is one of the best things ever - because it means you _have_ to be patient, you cannot grind level 60 in 2 weeks.
It also means that there isn't really 'levelling up' - anything you choose to do, doesn't mean you fall behind said 15 year olds. And also, in EVE, the other players are targets, resources and obstacles, which means having more annoying idiots, just gives you that much more of a warming glow when you exploit them mercilessly.

Throw in the fact (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963665)

that that super large servers would have the exact opposite reaction of what they seek. You would reduce the player to part of the herd, people having an effect on the world would be those you read about and never met, very much like the real world.

With smaller population sets among servers it allows more players to actually have "firsts". It allows for tighter communities to be formed. Then there is this small problem of WOW's player base, as in size. They have a couple hundred servers for a reason. I can't imagine trying to play on a server with the combined population of even four current servers, there just isn't space. If you instance zones then your right back where you started. I always found instanced zones to be less immersive than having multiple servers.

A game like wow, with achievements and goals, needs to have smaller population sets just so more people can have the chance of being first at something, let alone establish a rep for themselves based on character (and don't think people don't develop reputations on individual servers)

Nah, I wouldn't want to play in a world of millions of people... I do that in real life and I certainly won't pay to do it in a fantasy. At least give my character the chance to be the hero instead of the fodder

Re:Impact? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963713)

...why don't they try to design a game that would actually be fun to play with 5 million other people on your server.

I don't know about 5 million, but 500 to 5000 would be great for a Battlefield type game.

Shards, mirrored worlds and servers (1)

jsse (254124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962903)

Currently, this is impossible because of the nature of âoeshardsâ, âoemirrored worldsâ, or, as they are best known, âoeserversâ (though this last term is somewhat inaccurate).

It's true that the term "Servers" is most inaccurate, because a single virtual world could be composed of by multiple servers.

"Mirrored worlds" is also not quite right. In MMO we always refer a world as a virtual environment where activities within are synchronized and persistent. Mirrored worlds recurrsively take reference to the same term but describing different things.

I buy on using "Shards".

Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (1)

Turnpike Lad (1006707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962909)

how long until we see a MMO that is run _entirely_ server-side - that is, a game that does all graphics and game logic calculations server-side, OnLive style, and simply streams HD-video to each client. If this considerable hurdle could be jumped, we might be able to see a lot more in the way of a dynamic MMO world, with actual physics, terrain deformation, collision detection, and a bunch of other features that are tough to do with the current client-server system.

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27962995)

Because surely there's more video processing power server side than client side. Brilliant!

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (4, Insightful)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963025)

how long until we see a MMO that is run _entirely_ server-side - that is, a game that does all graphics and game logic calculations server-side, OnLive style, and simply streams HD-video to each client. If this considerable hurdle could be jumped, we might be able to see a lot more in the way of a dynamic MMO world, with actual physics, terrain deformation, collision detection, and a bunch of other features that are tough to do with the current client-server system.

Just.... no. There are many reasons graphics are done client side. Let me know when you figure them all out. Sure, something like this is theoretically possible, but only if you want to pay upwards of $200 per month to play that game. Since it's a lot cheaper for me to buy a really nice graphics card, why not render client side?

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (1)

Turnpike Lad (1006707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963151)

Just.... no. There are many reasons graphics are done client side. Let me know when you figure them all out. Sure, something like this is theoretically possible, but only if you want to pay upwards of $200 per month to play that game. Since it's a lot cheaper for me to buy a really nice graphics card, why not render client side?

I'm not saying this is possible right now. But don't you think that it might be feasible if in a few years bandwidth has drastically increased and processing power has become much cheaper? I can see lots of reasons to keep graphics client-side, but also lots of reasons to move it server-side.

-The game is playable on any computer with a video card strong enough to play HD video.

-Developers only have to worry about one particular piece of hardware: whatever beast of a machine is going to be running the game. Graphics can be on 'ultra high quality' all the time because it will always be running on top-of-the-line equipment. Perhaps the architecture can even be a bit more economical than one CPU + GPU per game stream.

-Exact synchronization is possible: the state of the gameworld that you see is exactly the same as what everyone else sees. Lag is still a problem, but it no longer results in diverging game states - it's just a ping problem.

This particularly allows MMOs to become a whole lot more detailed in their simulation.

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963351)

There have been several discussions on slashdot about just such a thing. I found one [slashdot.org] as recent as March 24th. Breaking down all the arguments, you run into one fundamental unsolvable problem: latency. [slashdot.org] No matter how fast hardware becomes, you're still limited on the speed of light for how quickly you can transmit input from the user to the server and back again. For anything that requires reaction time, this will likely be unacceptable.

I do agree with you that it's an interesting concept. Just not feasible in practice.

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963031)

I'd give it like 40-50 years, and we probably won't even use anything that resembles a current day computer to interact with it.

Do you realize how many things would have to be overcome for that to happen?

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (1)

Turnpike Lad (1006707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963069)

Yeah, there are tons of hurdles in the way. But I don't think it's as far off as it seems. OnLive claim to be able to do exactly this with many AAA titles right now. I'm not claiming that it's something we can do right now or even within the next few years -- but I think it's definitely not four or five decades away.

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963091)

Right, so a MMO with >1 million players (200,000 online at the same time) would require 200,000 graphics cards at the server end, which would be rendering the game and converting that into a video stream, hopefully at least a 20mbps HD stream to be playable and worth using. So we're talking about a 4 TERABIT network connection from this super computer. We're talking about venting 16MW of heat just from the GPUs, or probably 80MW in total from the servers.

Me? I suggest that the player buys their own graphics card, and that the servers just stay in the world of mathematics - the servers know where the users are (or can interpolate mostly accurately), the algorithms for physics and deformation are known - just send a message to the clients saying "Bunker Bomb exploded at x,y,z with force n".

It doesn't solve the problem of the user with GMA950 graphics and a 1.6GHz Atom, but that would probably have problems decoding ta 20mbps video stream anyway.

Re:Ah, but what I'M interested in is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963539)

Jesus Christ. Next you'll be saying people should only need a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse to hook up to their internet to access some supercomputer shared with millions of other people.

The One Big World (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962925)

It's a neat problem. Some years back I was almost sucked into There, Inc. to work on that specific problem.

There are two issues; implementation scaling and game mechanics.

Second Life is one big world, but there are severe limits on how many people can be in the same area at a time. They really haven't solved their scaling problem. This is a tough design problem. But it's not unsolveable. I was at one time looking at an architecture where the world is divided into hexagons, with a moderate overlap between adjacent hexagons. Within the overlap area, servers negotiate with the server for the neighboring hexes (never more than two; that's the advantage of going hexagonal) over who's in charge of characters and items in the overlap area. Overloaded hexagons are subdivided, so more servers can be brought to bear on heavily loaded hexagons. Flying over the world creates problems, but by careful use of level of detail problem, and interposing fog and clouds in difficult situations, that could be handled. I think this is solveable today. There's going to be a lot of gigabit Ethernet cable in the server farm.

The gameplay problem is that everyone may want to go to the hot spots. Some games have more problems with this than others. Star Wars, big problem. GTA, not so much.

Re:The One Big World (2, Insightful)

snookums (48954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963003)

Sounds like a cellular telephone network. It would be interesting to know how they solve these problems.

I suspect things like changing the hex size based on actual or estimated population density would be one way. This would have the consequence of reducing the view and interaction distances in densely populated areas, but that might not be so bad.

Of course, big real-world events do cause the cell network to overload. The real solution in an MMO would be to structure your amenities and events so that they don't encourage people to congregate so densely.

Re:The One Big World (1)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963221)

Mobile networks suffer from the same sort of problem. If you have ever been at a large sporting event or in an airport, the cells can easily become saturated. They can obviously increase the density of the cells, if the know there is going to be high enough density.

You would think the size and density of cells could be dynamically adjustable in an online world. Something where the resources automatically allocate themselves based on demand. Our biggest problem is being hindered by the sense of "space" and allocating fixed resources to a region. You would think we would be freed of those logical contraints, but I guess it is just a human thing.

Re:The One Big World (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963145)

Yeah, games like GTA actually do this splitting the world up into areas, although for different reasons (memory restrictions so streaming area details from storage). The technology is there, and GTA solved the flying issue.

How do you subdivide a hexagon into smaller hexagons?

Of course you can design the game world so that likely popular areas are already small hexagons/squares/triangles. Your game cities could have an over-abundance of city walls and terraced housing which serve to split the city up. Popular activities like festivals shouldn't be centralised, but spread out over a city which itself comprises of multiple zones and multiple servers.

In addition in real life I can't hear what people are saying 10 foot away when I'm in a busy area. There's no need to send their text or voice streams to me. Just have a generic hubbub noise.

Hard design descision, but feasible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27962967)

The problem with single realm servers is that you can't have to many players in the same place or using the same resources. The bandwidth required for the clients to display the information increases exponentially.
But you can have a single realm with views, where users are automatically distributed on different views. The players of the same guild/party will be on the same view, and players that interact (trade, tell etc) can see each other even if they are on a different view.

Earth, fire, wind, water, heart! (1, Funny)

CMBJ (1278418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27962975)

By your servers combined, I am CAPTAIN PLANET!

But....what about AH? (1)

Sheen (1180801) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963027)

But will the action house lag?

Re:But....what about AH? (1)

MoonlightSeraphim (1253752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963433)

how about we just get rid of them? make some sort of window where people can sell and buy and auction things based on categories eliminating the need for centralized location for people to stand there 'physically'?

split the world? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963061)

Why not split the world among multiple servers?

That keeps the world consistent.

Just make sure you have a good network so that players can migrate from server to server as they move about the world, and have a kick-ass Out Of Character infrastructure, also well networked, so that players can chat amongst themselves.

IRC might be a good model for how to structure your login servers, perhaps using a BGQ-esque way of letting everyone else know which servers have which players.

Heck, use a hash table to decide which player logs into which server.

Re:split the world? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963267)

It looks like you started off my suggesting that the world be split geographically, then you end up with something about splitting people between log-in servers. I can't work out what you are trying to say. I agree that parts of the game should be kick-ass, though, nice idea.

Re:split the world? (1)

NightRain (144349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963305)

He was trying to say that new single shard games should do it similar to how EVE currently does it :)

Re:split the world? (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963457)

make sure you have a good network so that players can migrate from server to server as they move about the world

I'm frankly shocked that no one has referenced the various MUDs or MOOs that implemented this kind of thing... has it been that long? Have we all forgotten?

Yes, by all means, split things up geographically. There's little reason for one server to handle the whole world/universe if you can handle handoffs between them well.

Re:split the world? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963613)

EVE more or less does this - you have a load of different star systems, which functionally speaking are different servers (they're not in practice - quiet systems get consolidated onto the same physical hardware). Underpinning it you have a 'region' system, which covers things like the market and contracts system and provides another tier if you like, of isolation. (And also, the market can run as a process on a separate server to the one you're using to interact with the star system)
And you 'migrate' server, by 'jumping through a stargate'.
It's really extremely scalable, PROVIDED you don't get chunks of population density. The problem is, that people do naturally congregate - you have market hubs where people go to trade, and have everyone on the same 'server'. And then you have fleet battles, where you have a large number of people able to 'see' and interact with each other - and in turn means you need to start a lot of intercommunication - if a thousand people can see me turn and fire, then all of them need to be informed of the maneuver. That's the bit that doesn't scale well, simply because of the nature of the problem - every person adding into a fight is another person who needs to be informed of events, and another person who generates said events.

1 million players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963141)

CCP are already aiming for an upper limit in the ballpark of 1 million players with their WoD MMORPG on a single shard server.

Re:1 million players (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963335)

Yep, and I'm sure almost everyone will be saying how you can't make a good single shard fantasy MMORPG right up to the point they do it.

Re:1 million players (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963649)

It's true. But on the flip side, CCP are also one of the few companies that have:
An established setting, with a fanbase
Experience of running an MMO
Deep pockets to finance the development cycle
An existing MMO to act as 'live proving' for ... well, at least _some_ of the concepts in there

It has, as they say, potential to be really good - EVE will be rolling out a 'walking in stations' expansion in the near-ish future, that'll serve somewhat as a joint development task for a WOD-MMO rollout - you can re-use a lot of the tech if you do it right.
They've also, I think, got the right attitude for developing a game that isn't just Generic Fantasy MMO Clone #33431121 - EVE is quite unlike anything else, and if they have any brains they won't even _try_ to get the 'WOW Beater' like all the other MMOs out there try to be - because even if you do get something that is IN EVERY WAY better, you'll still have to convince people to leave their existing communities, guilds, and character development. If they go the route of building something that'll apply to a different demographic and world of darkness -> modern day fantasyish with guns - could quite easily provide both a different setting, and a different mode of gameplay.

realiance on user generated content (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963171)

strong reliance on procedural and user-generated content

This is not YouTube. By allowing people to generate content to your game will certainly ruin it. Nothing worse the if the new user is greeted by a poorly designed level graphics created by "fans". Many games were ruined by doing just that.

Re:realiance on user generated content (2, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963333)

Most people's first visit to Youtube is greeted by trash too.

Horse_Rubbish (-1, Flamebait)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963177)

It is ABSOLUTE Horse rubbish. complete and utter balderdash. There are Sooo many examples of how this is completely false. $100,000,000? Get a superdome. Duh! It has a OC-48 plug on the back, and enough backend communication hardware ( at System bus speeds ) to get a lot of syncing of the shards.

Perfect example is Dungeon Siege. Seamless, can possibly have a lot of users, and developed for a lot less than $100,000,000.

This guy is just complaining about EVE. Get a LIFE!

But finally, what is your world going to look like, either they are going to trash the place like PYST, or they are going to be so far apart, it will be like walking in the desert.

"The team is hard at work building our first release..." Ahh this guy is just looking for venture capitol. Buy NCSoft and start with the code base for Tabula Rasa. Geez...seems like this guy has a petulance for NIH!( Not invented Here ) and MMR ( Make Me Rich! )

Completely the wrong approach (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963193)

If there are millions of people playing on the same server, this would have the OPPOSITE effect. Your actions would be so diluted as to be meaningless. Bosses might take hundreds or thousands of players working together to kill - which means that if you decide to call it a night or watch sports and log out early, your team would barely notice your absence.

Nearly all MMORPGs are the same game. The point of the game is to make you, a single human being among millions in a society you can't change, FEEL POWERFUL. When humans were cave men, living in small groups of under 100 people, a single person WAS powerful. Your actions actually would affect whether the tribe got enough to eat, or who got to reproduce.

Now, unless you're that rare 1 in 300 million who is the President, you have very little power.

So, I thought of the opposite game : the MMORPG world would be broken up into shards with less than 50 people on each. There would be thousands of NPC characters. Each shard would start a new "round" every month or two, and when you are playing, your single character's actions would have PROFOUND effects on the landscape. You could lead a huge army of thousands of characters. Every corpse would stay on the battlefield. If you burn a tree or strucuture or a whole forest down, it stays burnt down. And so on.

You'd start each round as a "level 1" and over the course of a month could rapidly level up to godlike powers - but you've got to compete against the other 30 players who started at the same time at the beginning of the month at the same level as you. You'd be organized into factions, and of course the goal would be conquest of the entire world of the shard. If you solved a quest and got the phat loot, no one else could solve that quest - the uber weapon would be yours and the boss would be dead.

In such a world, permanent death could be semi-practical. The way it would work, only an extremely high level character would be able to permanently kill another character, and it would take a few weeks to get to that high of a level.

Re:Completely the wrong approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963453)

Congratulations, you have just re-invented the multiplayer online RPG (without the massively). You basically described something like Baldur's Gate 2, except with players divided into a few competing teams.

Personally I'd just play Baldur's Gate 2. Competitive games are better when level grinding isn't involved.

On the other hand, level grinding is only fun if your powers don't come with a 1-month expiration date.

Re:Completely the wrong approach (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963467)

That is a much better idea than the drivel in the article. They seem to want to design a WoW/Diablo combo super server. You want to play a month long game of Warcraft 3 with 30 people. As I hate Diablo and love Warcraft, your idea is clearly the better of the two. The only problem is how to pause the game.

Re:Completely the wrong approach (1)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963669)

I like your idea. Kind of like a long form Warcraft III, but with more hero levels and more dynamic terrain.

The main problem I see with this is that, with such a small player base locked into the game, what if those players don't show up to play for a few nights? Who would you play with? What if some lose interest and quit after a few days? By the end of the month, there'd be hardly anyone left.

It would be great if there were several hardcore players who played every night with each other at the same times, but outside of room mates playing a LAN game, I can't see this happening.

Re:Completely the wrong approach (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963707)

No - what you are talking about is a completely different problem, and certainly not one that is unsolvable.

Yes, current MMORPG's might have problems scaling up so far - but then, they wern't designed for that, so it's completely unfair to compare them.

What an RPG is all about is having greater options and power for the players in the stories they can write. You're complaining that just because there are so many people playing a game, that the numbers of different stories they can write would be too limited.

Not necessarily - it all depends on how the game is designed. In fact there is absolutely NO reason why an MMORPG can't have enough depth and options to allow each and every individual character to create their own, UNIQUE, story.

This, IMO, is exactly what MMORPG's should be aiming for, but so far the only one which has even come close to getting it right, is of course Eve Online.

But it's NOT the fact that it has one server that allows it to do this. In fact, the number of servers/shards/instances etc. has absolutely no real effect upon this.

What DOES have an effect, and is the reason Eve Online supports this, is that the game-world is PERSISTENT.

THAT, IMO, is something that is FAR more important for MMORPG's than the amount of shards, size and population a game and it's world might have.

Typical "business model": (1, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963235)

They estimate, from the hip, that the cost to develop the technology required to support a massive amount of players (i.e. far more than EVE Online) on a single server to be roughly $100 million.

Wow. So no matter what even the rough amount of players is, it always going to cost $100 million?
Let's see. With EvE Online's record of 53,850 concurrent players in the same realm, the number of active Internet users (1.23 million), and the amount of humans on the planet (6708 million), this would give a price range between ~$1857 to ~$0,0813 and ~$0.0149 per person. Veeery useful. :P

Protip: If your business model includes words like "massive" and "far", instead of actual numbers (even with a standard deviation), then failure is pretty much guaranteed.

let me know when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963259)

Let me know when this guy actually is credited on a shipped game. Until then, he's just making up babble about problems he hasn't had to actually yet solve.

Waay too in love with user generated content. There is only 1 golden rule in online play... If players are given the power to be jerks to each other, they will be jerks. (I can't wait for the "build a city" game to come out so I can construct my pnis heaven park.)

reading the rest of his drivel is just making me mad. bedtime!

Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963339)

How exactly is this news? Many text-only MUSHes and MUDs have been running on one server since, well..., EVER. Perhaps that the companies who want to use only one server could have a look at how the admin of some of the larger MUDs have solved issues with lag...

IBM makes a game server that's pretty big. (1)

CaspianHiro (606012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963359)

This is from two years ago, there has since been a new family of mainframes, and new cell processors, but you get the idea.

Hoplon entertainment. http://www.itjungle.com/big/big050207-story01.html [itjungle.com]

define "single server" (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963389)

How exactly do you define a "single server"? Computers are moving towards multiple cores, multiple memory subsystems, and high speed serial interconnects. Those are essentially already "multiple servers", they just happen to be tightly coupled. But you still can't write simple, sequential code on them if you want your code to run reasonably fast.

Re:define "single server" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963451)

My feelings exactly. They obviously don't mean a single processor. It'd take more than $100m to develop *that* :) So they must mean a "single server" in the sense of at least 100s of processors all meshed up with some kind of network. So really it's just "a cluster with a fast mesh" vs "a cluster with a slow(er) mesh". i.e. not a single server at all.

The fact that their fundamental concept is broken doesn't fill me with awe for their idea.

Anyway, you spend $100m on a "single server" that copes with X million people, and then person X million plus 1 joins. What then?

Shards exist for gameplay reasons and for technical reasons and for reasons of business scalability.

Next Evolution blah blah blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963497)

All these articles about the next step in MMOs blah blah blah has already been done by Second Life.
If people stopped treating Second Life as a joke and actually realise there is something behind it then people wouldn't be posting redundant stuff like this and people wouldn't so far behind.
For more information look for the MMOX project.

Re:Next Evolution blah blah blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27963605)

People treat it as a joke because they created an account and saw it was a joke.

New??? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963521)

I know many MMO's that are single server. The biggest usually have shards, but so extremely many MMO's do not, and for so long already. So I don't even understand why they call it a "technology" in this article summary.

Re:New??? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963683)

What's the userbase of those single server MMOs though? The reason it's 'new tech' is that a fully scalable 'single shard' MMO is ... rather a computational holy grail.
You're trying to do fully scalable multiprocessing - which is done in HPC circles, and has become fairly easy.
The killer for an MMO though, is the real-time constraint - when I'm doing HPC style calculations, I run a batch job program that does something, and reports back in a few minutes/hours/days.
You can't do that in an MMO - you need very small (milisecond) turnarounds on most of your operations, simply because every time my character moves, everyone needs to see that happen fast enough that they don't notice the delay. That's really an extremely difficult (and interesting) problem to be solving in computational terms - synchronisation between separate processes/processors is 'expensive' in terms of time and effort, and so as you add numbers of things that need to synchronise and pass messages (which you need to, to be able to scale your system) you end up with geometric increases in the amount of work you're doing.
That's why they call it 'new tech' - HPC is done, design your algorithm right given your problem, and leave it numbercrunching for a few days, and fiddle about a bit to save some time.
REAL TIME HPC is ... not. No one has really 'done it' yet, because you're essentially solving an NP complete problem.

A single server? (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27963703)

Why on earth would you need a single server? A proper scalable solution would use load balancing such that a user might login through front-end server but that server might be one of many. Each would host (say) ~500 users depending on load and forward that traffic to specific backends depending on which zone each user is in. At the back end, one or more zones would be hosted by dedicated machines depending on their popularity and other factors. There would also be separate machines for character creation, instanced zones, game level events, chat / messaging / VOIP, databases, account information and so on. They could be tied together with something like JMS, EJB, Corba, Web services or whatever is appropriate for what they're doing.

To the user it would look like a single server but in reality it would be many. I expect EVE works very much in this way although much of the infrastructure challenge would be coping with extreme events such as fleet invasions. But at least each system is effectively a separate zone which would simplify things a lot. It's not like one server has to cope with 100,000 user connections at once.

The upshot is an MMO could start small and scale depending on demand. There is an initial outlay - a very large outlay for some games - and of course a lot of planning in getting the infrastructure right but the hardware could grow naturally with the customer base. I also assume that the subscription costs would be sufficient to fund the expansion, so its never like you'd ever be down 100 million. The biggest danger is in screwing up the architecture so its buggy, or grossly overestimating the appeal of your game such that you never recover the initial expense of developing and deploying the thing.

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