On the operation of massively multiplayer online games.
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  • Monday Morning Followups

    Posted on April 6th, 2009 Bryant

    A couple of followups as I sip coffee and wait for various and sundry phone calls…

    The OnLive claims are continuing to spark debate. Mostly of the form “sha, right, that’s not practical.” Steve Perlman responded in a BBC interview.

    There’s some concrete info in there, mostly about the encoding and compression process. They’re depending on a specialized chip which’ll cost them under $20 per chip in bulk. That makes some kind of sense for the hardware console replacement, and I suppose that the Mac/PC versions will have plenty of processor available.

    Aiming for sub-80 millisecond round trip ping times between the clients and the data centers is feasible, given that they’re willing to have multiple data centers.

    Running 10 games per server is an interesting concept. Possibly whatever custom hardware they’re building around their specialized chip will load multiple chips on each server, such that the tricky work is offloaded from the main CPUs. If they’re planning on running large servers — something like the IBM x3850m2 — and using virtualization, then there’s enough CPU and RAM in a single server to handle that. You’re not going to get 10 games on a little dual CPU quad core 1U server, though. The lesson here: “The company has calculated that each server will be dealing with about 10 different gamers…” is a completely meaningless statement if the word server is undefined.

    Thus, my concerns about cost structure remain intact for now.

    Meanwhile, Dave Perry (ex-Acclaim) has his own streaming game service in the works, called Gaikai. I love his interview because he hits on one of my favorite business concepts, friction. He’s absolutely right in his discussion of the dangers of making it harder for people to play. His service also looks more flexible and requires less buy-in from studios. On the other hand, he’s saying nothing about the technical difficulties.

    One last streaming tidbit: World of Warcraft streamed to an iPhone, from a streaming-oriented company called Vollee. Just a demo, which means you can’t say anything about how it performs over a 3G network, but still neat. I like their capacity for custom UI filtering to adapt to the smaller screen size.

    In completely different news, two other people came up with my clever addon/plugin App Store idea, except they both thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Humph.

    The great thing about pictures of bad cabling messes is that there are always worse ones. So: worse ones! I know there are other roundups out there; post yours in comments if you like.