online games

1.29 Open Beta is out

Oh, it’s been a fun day. It turns out, for instance that 0 + 1 is not 0 (++counter; assert( counter == 0 ); no worky)

Anyway, with a little tweaking and figuring out of who had what checked in or not checked in and we finally got it stable. Gophur is uploading a client patch with the first wave of fixes as I type but Open Beta is available for download right now.

Open Beta Announcement (Battleground Europe subscription required, sorry)

Virtual Shards

This is actually something that’s been ticking away at the back of my head now for years. Having server clusters and instances just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me: it produces games that are only “massively” from a back-end perspective. If you’re going to do instances, just throw the server cluster concept away entirely. You can scope player names with a Second Life like approach, but then everything else you just instance.

But to avoid that resulting in a mess, a chaotic world of one-time encounters with no chance of community, I’m suggesting a relational index to allow community – or isolation – of the instances that different player characters might see… Virtual shards.

What is an MMO, and why should I care?

 (Edit: I’d fire my proof reader but I need the work)

Strictly speaking, an MMO is a “Massively Multiplayer Online thinymajig“.

There aren’t any games out today, though, that from a player’s perspective are really “massively”. WWII Online people will want to say “the map!” and Eve players will want to say “one server!”. But those are sleights of hand – in neither case is the game running on one single server computer – they use clusters of servers to create a single world and Eve’s hefty player count means one hell of a lot of computers.

A lot of effort gets invested into making today’s MMO compartmentalized; keeping people apart. Sort of the opposite of “massively multiplayer”, more “slightly multiplayer”. The “massively” scale only applies to the back-end systems. Players just don’t want to be in a room with 7 million other WoW players trying to get at the auctioneer.

In the effort to sell their progressive-advancement, MMOs seem to have become locked into a strict one-way flow of storyline that goes against the trends in other sectors of the gaming market. I find the linearity of most games today tedious to frustrating to nauseous.

These issues have arisen from generation X+1 MMOs mostly just solving problems that existed in generation X games. The result: an escallation of the wrong solutions. Today’s MMO design is based on a sweep of flawed premises about what’s necessary to solve yesterday’s problems. Look at the amount of effort that goes into making these “massively multiplayer” games play like a single player product or a shoebox game or the variety of systems that have gone into place to “deal with” camping or mob stealing rather than finding a way to avoid creating the problem that causes those problems.

So for a moment lets throw away all the trappings of a modern MMO: