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Reader Comments (24)

Posted: Sep 28th 2008 5:51PM (Unverified) said

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... The infiniband project poses a huge task for EVE's programmers, who are in the unenviable position of having to rewrite large portions of the core server code....

s/unenviable/enviable/
Sounds like a fun project to me; quiet the opposite of unenviable :)

Posted: Sep 28th 2008 6:12PM Brendan Drain said

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If I'm being absolutely honest with myself, I'd like to be on a project like that too. I'll be doing a big project this year for the final year of a Masters degree in Computer Science and would love to get something like that.

The EVE server guys are constantly pushing into unexplored territory, no other MMO uses their single distributed server model.

Posted: Sep 28th 2008 9:06PM (Unverified) said

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Heh...only now is CCP needing to employ networking technologies that we in the supercomputer cluster business have known about for years. :-)

Posted: Sep 29th 2008 12:11PM Brendan Drain said

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It's more that those technologies are economically viable for them to use now. One of the devs mentioned in an interview in late 2007 that they were going to focus on using technologies that were now becoming financially feasible such as infiniband. It's probably taken until now to get the project underway and make any real progress.
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Posted: Sep 28th 2008 9:17PM (Unverified) said

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The geek in me who dabbled and dibbled with Computer Science for 2 semesters rejoices at such article!

I just wish CCP would release a couple of Dev Bogs on the subject like they did more regularly a few years back.

Great article!

Posted: Sep 29th 2008 7:48AM (Unverified) said

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Well, there was a Devblog released on Saturday, which described how Jita came to run out of memory. Classic case of the removal of one bottle-neck resulting in the discovery of another. :)

I popped into Jita Sunday afternoon; 710 in local, no major lag, station performance fine. Much improved!
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Posted: Sep 29th 2008 11:32AM (Unverified) said

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Mike, you're one brave (or crazy) capsuleer to venture out into Jita on a Sunday!! =)
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Posted: Sep 29th 2008 1:41AM (Unverified) said

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Awesome article! I hope more MMO's go single server in the future.

Guild Wars developed a good compromise that made it easy to always play with your friends while minimizing overcrowding with dynamic instances of all multi-player zones.

The Eve system is even more amazing, and they are definitely on the bleeding edge of massive tech!

Posted: Sep 29th 2008 8:13AM Sephirah said

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Nice article!
Hope for more MMO related technology articles!

Posted: Oct 2nd 2008 9:26PM (Unverified) said

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Could their engine and server tech be bought by another company to make something akin to planetside? I mean, a mmofps like wwII online that doesn't look like it was designed in the late eighties would be pretty amazing.

Posted: Oct 2nd 2008 10:02PM Brendan Drain said

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The general model is very difficult to apply to a first-person perspective. It's all about how EVE handles space. Space is divided into cubes around 1000km across called grids. This is so you only need to recieve information on what's happening on your grid rather than what's happening everywhere in the entire solar system. Although this does nothing for each server's processing load, it dramatically reduces its output network load and thus reduces lag.

Translating this system to other MMOs, the closest system would be the standard zone model that Everquest 2 uses (among others). Each zone is a separate, distinct area like a grid. The problem is that if the number of people in one zone increases beyond the maximum that one server can handle (either in CPU load or network output), problems like lag start to occur. Zones would need to be chopped up so that they are so small that there are less people in each zone to handle.

The issue with chopping zones up is that moving from one zone to another takes time and the smaller the zones are, the more annoying and impractical travelling becomes. EVE solves this problem by implementing almost seamless grid transition and their server model allows players to move from one solar system to another relatively quickly (under 15-30 seconds under ideal conditions). With infiniband, we could see this delay disappear or be reduced to a few seconds flat.

I can see how the server architecture could be applied to a first person game but the design challenges make it incredibly difficult to get right. It's not just a matter of a company buying the designs or engine from CCP, it would need to be completely gutted and redesigned for a first person perspective game. The games industry's major investors seem unwilling to risk their money on big changes like that, unfortunately, but it would make one hell of a game if someone managed it.
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Posted: Oct 13th 2008 6:35PM (Unverified) said

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I appreciate your detailed response. While i agree that it would be a hard sell you can't deny that there are a glut of investors willing to risk pretty serious capital on the MMO model. Funcom managed to secure an additional 30 million in private equity last year so I don think its too absurd. Really the biggest barrior from a financial perspective would be ensuring you market your potential game as something which would will, given time, WILL work. Risk, in this space, is inherent. I would think a project like the mmo Otherland would seem overy abitious to most investors but they apparently got somone to foot the bill.
I suppose, though, the question remains if it wouldn't just be smarter to build an engine from scratch since you would (and i'm going off what you wrote) have to maniuplate so much of EVEs engine that it would have the same number of bugs accociated as a new engine.
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Posted: Sep 29th 2008 4:45PM (Unverified) said

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I'll just take this moment to add myself to the nice article list.

Interesting to hear how they do it, though I don't think it's effects are just limited to PvP MMOs, any developer should probably at least take notice of the things CCP's run into during their rise to fame.

Posted: Sep 30th 2008 5:11AM (Unverified) said

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Heaven forfend EVE should create a PVE server shard... only to have the players wake up to the fact that there is essentially zero playable content in the game.

EVE replaces meaningful content with mindless conflict. Strangely enough, there are many who are comfortable with this - they're welcome to it.

Posted: Sep 30th 2008 11:18AM Brendan Drain said

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The thing is, it's not mindless conflict. Fighting a game of capture the flag for points or equipment as is done in many other MMOs would be mindless and arbitrary. EVE's PvP is a means to an end and results as a natural consequence of competition for resources. There are no pre-established rules or victory conditions, just armies marching under their respective banners for their own reasons.

EVE is a PvP-based MMO, I've always thought of the PvE portions as just being there to allow players to make isk with which to buy ships to PvP in. There are a lot of players who do nothing but missions and mining and such but they usually get bored and quit. Anyone playing EVE with no intention of joining in on the large-scale PvP is wasting their money. PvP is what the entire game is based around and is the most fun I've had in an MMO to date.
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Posted: Oct 2nd 2008 12:06AM (Unverified) said

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Loved the article. The single game world really appeals on so many different levels. How many times have I wished I was on server XYZ so I could play with my friends who I discovered were also playing?

@ Harmon and Brendan: CCP sounds crazy cool and they have lots of job openings on their website right now too with the possibility to relocate to Iceland or China! Almost makes me wish I hated my current job and didn't own a home so I could become a conceptual artist...

http://www.ccp.is/jobs.aspx

Posted: Oct 2nd 2008 11:43AM Dashx747 said

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As an EVE player, I realy liked this article. Yes, it is about the tech side of the game, but it talks about how it affects gameplay. It is true, EVE need it's one-world structure to maintain it's harsh gameplay and economic structure, which are the reasons people play it.

I'm (mostly) a miner there, but a non-pvp server would be the end of the game to me. Unlike most games, the AI enemies are not a problem, the danger comes from every single player (in fact there is no 100% safe place in the game). And there is no level grinding, no NPC buying your stuff, so any form of money making is also dependent on others (market, labs, pirating).

But is this model sustainable? It is costly and hard to keep lag free. Never heard of another MMO using the same system (and I played over 50). Anyone know any one that could use this system?

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 1:21AM (Unverified) said

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The word "slideshow" is far to polite a term for the 45 minute blackscreen fleet grid-load odyssey, only to have the node crash 5 minutes later. After another 20 minute login, you arrive already dead.

Eve players would welcome "slideshow" quality in fleet battles. Heck, I'd pay $5 more a month in order to obtain " slideshow" quality in a fleet battle.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 9:51AM (Unverified) said

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"these major changes in server architecture could eventually spell the end of laggy fleet battles and node crashes. "

Sadly that is not the case. Although the changes will help run heavily loaded systems like Jita and the main mission hubs far more smoothly, it will do nothing for fleet combat.

CCP are not proposing to multithread individual grids (read comment 16 above) which means that since all fleet combat takes place in a single grid, we will still be in the situation that both fleets and their interaction is being handled by a single thread on a single processor core.

Although this is not the exact same situation at present where the entire solar system is handled by that single thread, it isn't far off since nearly everyone in the system will be in that single grid when the combat starts. Also, anyone warping to the combat will still have the horrific grid loading time that plagues now.

When challenged on this point, CCP said that the timing issues would be too great to resolve. Which is a shame, since the endgame in EVE is broken and, by CCP's admission, too difficult to fix.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 2:05PM Brendan Drain said

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You'll have to dig your way through the forum threads on the issue to find this info but essentially CCP's long term goal does appear to be segmenting the combat occuring on one grid and delivering it to multiple CPUs. A developer mentioned separating the combat and the reporting of that combat to clients, for example. Currently these are done in the same thread but they could potentially be split off into two.

Unfortunately it is the case that there's only so much they can split up a fleet battle. All of the actual combat calculations (except random number generation) must be performed in the same thread to avoid the sync issues you mentioned. I still think a lot of people are underestimating the potential of the project to increase the size fleet battles can be before they lag. Although they're initially only going to be using the infiniband for dynamic run-time load balancing of entire star systems, the potential is there for everything threadable to be split up, spreading load out significantly.

My favourite possibility (that I seriously hope works) is for essentially seamless system-to-system transitions to work. If they can make jumping into another system pretty much instant, that means treating a single grid as its own system becomes possible while keeping the warp-in seamless. The results would be far far more pronounced in jita where pilots are spread around gates and stations than in 0.0 fleet battles where everyone's on the same grid but if they get that to work eventually I'll be so impressed.
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