In a new Intel-sponsored feature, part of the site's Visual Computing section
, the technical experts behind Mythic and EA's Warhammer Online
discuss the mechanics of keeping the MMO running
across multiple servers and data centers.
As the article notes by way of introduction to the high-pressure world of keeping an MMO running smoothly:
"Late at night in unattended server rooms around the world, noiseless except for the soft whir of cooling fans, the peculiar entities that inhabit Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) are in ceaseless motion...
Persistence is a key element of the imaginative Warhammer Online world. Its creators at Mythic Entertainment see that persistence as a differentiator amidst a slate of competitors in the increasingly popular genre of MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games)."
Later in the discussion, Mythic's Online Technical Director Andrew Mann is tapped to discuss one of the bigger issues - when clusters of gamers meet in similar places in the in-game world:
"As might be expected in a game scenario in which the levels of participation vary dramatically at different times of the day, in different regions, and with different types of activity, performance scaling is an essential component of successful server operation.
'One of our ongoing challenges,' Mann commented, 'is where to distribute people in the world. Our processes-that we distribute across the physical hardware-correspond to locations in the virtual world. One of the focuses of our game, the big focus, is to get a lot of people in one place and have them all fighting with each other. And that, unfortunately, works against us in the process distribution model.'
'When you put a lot of people in one place, you're putting their entire server load onto one piece of hardware. We do have some technology to mitigate that. Our scenario system (which spawns up smaller arenas for smaller teams dynamically) allows us to split people off to different pieces of hardware if we need to, dynamically, in smaller chunks.'"
The in-depth sponsored feature is now available to read on Gamasutra
, with plenty of detail on the challenges the Mythic team faced and their solutions.