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On the Feasibility of Single-Server MMOs 316

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-are-my-ten-thousand-player-battles dept.
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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On the Feasibility of Single-Server MMOs

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  • Lag. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Becausegodhasmademe (861067) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:48AM (#27962837)
    TFA misses out one very important point.
    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. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zwei2stein (782480) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:57AM (#27962905) Homepage

      "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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Canazza (1428553)

        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. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fractoid (1076465) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:47AM (#27963203) Homepage
        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. (Score:4, Informative)

          by N1ck0 (803359) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:10AM (#27965891)

          Fracturing a game based on location is not that difficult design wise. The main problem is cost effectiveness I hate pulling out business models and cost benefit analysis, but unfortunately centralized systems usually take either large centralized shared storage, RDBMS, schedulers, resource allocation management, etc; or the proper development of a distributed data server farm. This ends up costing a lot of money and a decent amount of development & operations the MMO world your profits are not that high to begin with.

          Even on some of the grids that I've built that have gone google-style (map-reduce, column based DB, true distributed file system, on cheap hardware) the costs quickly hit a few million per location. On our larger GPFS, oracle, vmware, on HP based clusters the software site licenses alone will eat most game companies.

          Your best bet these days would be to try to develop something that uses Amazon's elastic compute cloud, apache's messaging system, run something like greenplum to distribute the DB load, and don't skimp on ones usually don't understand that in a distributed environment that every little chunk of code from the network/disk/etc up has to scale and be massively efficient cause you can't afford to 'just throw faster hardware at it'

      • DDO too (although it still has servers).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fross (83754)

        Age of Conan implemented this too, and it causes no end of trouble. Players can't see one another, organising a group of 6 people in 4 shards is a nightmare. It's hard enough to get everyone in the same place let alone on the same shard.

        Of course this was exacerbated by the entire *world* being sharded like this, not just cities, and the interface for moving between them was poor. But the concept is essentially flawed.

        The concept of dynamically sharding off part of the geography (rather than the players)

    • by Jurily (900488)

      the lag caused by sheer population density,

      Not to mention CPU and video card load.

      • Re:Lag. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Canazza (1428553) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:37AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mashiki (184564)

          For WoW typing /RL in the chatbox will fix it as well. That forces the game to reload all user objects within the game according to the server data. No exiting, death or other things required.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:44AM (#27963187) Journal

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Captain Hook (923766)

        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 c

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday May 15, 2009 @07:07AM (#27963961)

          "RP servers? Oh, you mean the ones where I have to choose a "in game style" name, but get rewarded with not having to compete for the surface mobs because everyone else is sitting in the inn, but at my beck and call when I need them for an instance, all I gotta do is ask akin to 'mighty warriors needed to unearth the rock of awesome...'? Yeah, they're cool!"

          This is unfortunately what RP-Servers are, essentielly, like. You don't really get any good RP there either. Simple reason: No reward for good RP.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        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.

        • 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.

      • 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

      • 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 sugg

        • Hilariously, due to a new update in SWG, Player Cities are looking to be the only places that might have some empty space.

      • by Xelios (822510) on Friday May 15, 2009 @07:19AM (#27964039)
        EVE solved this problem by creating a big world to start with then artificially cordoning off certain regions. You literally couldn't go there, even though the regions existed in the database and showed up on the galaxy map. As the population density grew they gradually started to open up more regions to the players.
        • That's one part of Eve history I was not familiar with (only in game for 2 1/2 years). Unless you count a handful of systems for faction warfare, the only expansion since was wormhole space.
          One wonders if Jove space gets opened someday :-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        Eve is the only graphical MMO that supports as many people as it does under a single server/shard. Wow has more people in total/subscriber base but has nowhere near the number of concurrent players as Eve. Wow starts to lag (500ms to timeout on pings) around 6k people online on their best servers. When even a 300 people gather in a zone other than a battleground, it's a lagfest. Eve itself can only handle about 1000-1500 in a single zone before things get beyond laggy, although most people will never see

    • Re:Lag. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 (562437) <.gro.todhsals. .ta. .deteled.> on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:03AM (#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. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KahabutDieDrake (1515139) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:26AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Daengbo (523424)

        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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hubbell (850646)
        There have been numerous 800+ man sieges in Darkfall [] since release. In the beginning they were horrid server crashing messes, but after a patch or two, it's only clientside problems now in the form of FPS drops depending on your computer setup.
        Example [] of a fairly decent siege, even though it's still prior to people finally unlocking the higher end siege weapons which are just now starting to appear on the battlefield.

        I can't wait to pilot a Man Of War!
      • Re:Lag. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by argStyopa (232550) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:43AM (#27965411) Journal

        "I've yet to see any game that can put nearly 2000 players on a battlefield and still function."

        Then you have to look for games designed from the GROUND up to support such play. Typical 'sword and sorcery MMOs' that are built for perhaps up to a 'raid' of 50 players are simply not going to scale (without ridiculous hardware requirements) to 1000 players impact-free.

        OTOH - there ARE games that were built to simulate the actions of hundreds of players in a single area, so scaling to thousands is logically a lower burden. (formerly catches a lot of crap for a graphics standard that doesn't approach the bells & whistles you see on today's (shoebox-arena) shooter, but I've played in many battles that (in a multi-square km area) with at least a thousand players including multi-crewed vehicles, hundreds of infantry, and a swirling aircraft battle overhead fighting for hours for a strongly-defended city. It doesn't happen often (playerbase is now only about 12k) but I just use it as an example of a system that WAS designed to handle such a load.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jamesh (87723)


      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...

    • I really wish people would stop falling for marketing hype. EVE runs on shards like every other MMORPG; the difference is that you can move from shard to shard. That's what happens every time you jump gates - you're just getting moved to the server running the system/shard you're jumping to.

      Get too many players on one shard (system) though, and BAM! lag.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by FlyveHest (105693)

        I think by shard, what is meant is world instance, not physical server, and Eve is only one shard.

        Being in another starsystem (and thus, located on another physical server), you can still interact with players in other starsystems, even across the galaxy.

        And, the system can move starsystems around between physical servers, so if there is an influx of players in an otherwise empty system, it will be moved to a larger server, to better handle the load.

        Ofcourse, every server has its limits, just like with any

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sobrique (543255)
        Marketing hype? That EVE is a single universe, with a peak concurrent user count of >50k? How's that 'hype' - it's true. Yes, they do multiprocess by switching you onto different servers when you jump system (sometimes). They also multi-process by having a proxy tier, a solar system tier, and a database tier. But that's not 'sharding' either.
        When most MMOs have too many users, they end up firing up a new copy of the code on a standalone server, and let there be another 'copy' of the universe, for someo
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

        Eve is so big though that never happens. I played it for a month or so.. not much, I'll admit. In that time I went all over the place doing every quest I could get my hands on and never once met another person... It's space - if you had 10,000 people playing at once they could all be so far apart from each other they'd never meet.

    • EvE is unique in some ways, it would be WAY worse in most MMOs.

      If it doesn't happen to be a trade hub or a border between warring alliances, there's nothing "special" about various areas in space. There is no "farming place". There is no single place where a certain mob spawns or where certain loot drops. This 0.6 system is just as good as that 0.6 system half a galaxy away. Maybe with minimal differences in enemies (which are vulnerable/resistant to slightly different damage types but otherwise identical,

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Firkragg14 (992271)
      AS a long time eve online player i can say that yes lag can be pretty terrible sometimes. But after alot of time and effort things have improved massivly. recently ive been involved of battles of about 1200 people were there was some lag but the game was still playable (generally what happens is there is some lag on modules but you can see move around and warp in and out ok which is the important bit that keeps you alive) Now days pretty much any server on the cluster can handle a 600 man fleet fight and
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xelios (822510)
      I'll bet there are certainly server side things that, in hindsight, the devs would have done differently. Things that just aren't possible anymore without a complete rewrite of the server code.

      A lot of the lag problems stem from the fact that a solar system can't be reassigned to a different node on the fly. If it could then you could have a second smaller, high power cluster on standby to take over a solar system if it becomes too congested. Once you have that functionality you could use some heuristic
    • The problem with Eve Online, at least it was one a few years back, was that they chose to organize servers by star system. In other words, loads were distributed by named location. (Which was why certain populous systems like Jita often lagged.) Also, this distribution was static and didn't adapt to changing situations. (Like roving fleets of 200 ships.)

      Processor load should be distributed by population and user activity. The unit of processing should not be named locations. Aggregations of players should b

  • Hand the problem over to the DBA...


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Inominate (412637)

      CCP did this with eve for a long time. It resulted in the creation of the massive supercomputer that is the eve cluster, and the resulting realization that they had solved the wrong problem. Individual node load turned out to not be a direct factor of total players online.

  • by linzeal (197905) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:49AM (#27962847) Homepage Journal
    Think of how much fun it would be to crash one of those Eve Online ships into the shire!
  • Impact? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American Terrorist (1494195) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:51AM (#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.
    • 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 g
      • First, there are a few people who have way too much influence in the real world.
        Second, they are neither the ones with the best skill, nor the ones who invest the most time into the "game".
        And finally, quitting isn't really a viable option.

    • Re:Impact? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:32AM (#27963111) Journal
      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.
      • by NightRain (144349)

        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 f

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          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.
      • Re:Impact? (Score:4, Informative)

        by montyzooooma (853414) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:41AM (#27963455)
        Technically they have 300k user accounts, and probably about half that many players. Multi-accounting is encouraged on Eve.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Sobrique (543255)
          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.
        • What's the difference for a game whether two people fly two ships or whether one person does it?

    • Re:Impact? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:37AM (#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 [] 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: (Score:3, Informative)

        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 algori

    • by nog_lorp (896553)

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

    • 15 year olds? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:42AM (#27963461) Journal

      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.


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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sobrique (543255)
      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
    • 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

    • ...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.

    • by azaris (699901)

      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.

      The same reason they can't design a game that's fun to play with 5 people on the same server without one of them being a spambot, one of them using a trainer to cheat, one of them only speaking in Chinese, one of them being +20 lvl higher but constantly killing you just for fun, and one of them bombarding you with racist abuse.

    • by bazorg (911295)
      "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."

      99 bottles of beer on the wall....

  • 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".

    • by Canazza (1428553)

      Shard is more than just that too, as a single 'Server' may use multiple shards (For cities, instances etc)

      I prefer 'Realms' but really it's just down to local terminology.

  • 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 be

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snookums (48954)

      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 d

      • by Kr3m3Puff (413047) *

        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" a

  • 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 whi

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      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.

      • by NightRain (144349)
        He was trying to say that new single shard games should do it similar to how EVE currently does it :)
    • by Shag (3737)

      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.

  • 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 POW

    • by Supurcell (834022)
      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
      • I thought of a solution to the "game pausing" problem.

        When you organize into a team for the "month long game of Warcraft 3", you choose playing hours. So, you might "sign up" for a game where everyone will play from 6pm to 10pm each day, central standard time. Or any arbitrary set of times, obviously this would mean that most of the time, you'd be playing with other people from your time zone.

        This would make the game more intense : every second actually playing the game would be precious, because if you j

  • 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 devia

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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, i
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Prof.Phreak (584152)

      I think point is that out of millions of folks "connected" to the game at any given time, each one should be able to "find" the other in the game world.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss