Archive for July 26, 2007

A seamless world or one world? Or a Google MMOG?

July 26, 2007 1 comment

Zones in MMOGs can be annoying – at least when passing from one zone to the other and the games shows some zone loading screen. Games like World of Warcraft has removed annoyance factor from the user experience and the world appears seamless, regardless of the actual structure beneath – the technological borders are more hidden and there are no zone loading screens.

The many worlds/realms/shards that exists for many of the popular MMOG titles can also be an annoyance factor. If you and your friends have not created your characters in the same world, you cannot play together. If people can all synchronize within their groups where to play, then it all works out. But often people may not be that synchronized – one may start to play at different times and perhaps not knowing about each others characters initially.

Some games provide a character transfer service for a fee, which at least partially can accomodate such issues. But if there are multiple friends spread out on a number of servers, chances are slim that all these people may synchronize their location, especially if they belong to different guilds and groups in each world. And with some people you might just want to play a bit every now and then, but might not be that frequent to movivate a transfer from one world to another.

Games like EVE Online and Guild Wars essentially provide one world experiences and basically everyone playing the game could hook up with each other. These games have lots of zones or instances of zones though, again technical borders showing themselves.

If you had a choice of a seamless world experience, but many isolated copies of that world, or a single world experience with many zones, what would you choose? All other things being equals.

Personally I think I would definitely go for the one world experience, unless the zoning was really annoying. The ability to hook up with anyone anywhere is worth more than a slightly better world immersion.

In practice all other things are not equal, so how important would these factors be – seamless world multiples copies, or one world with zones?Many MMOGs today does not provide either option – they have experienced zone borders and they have multiple isolated copies of their worlds.

One might also ask – why would I have to choose between them, why can’t I have the best of both worlds? So far, as with much else, the current technology sets limits and compromises will have to be made. But technology advances also and what was not possible a couple of years back or was not commercially viable then might be more viable today or in a near future.

When it comes to technological advances in massive scale distributed computing, a number of the MMOG companies like SOE, NCSoft and Blizzard have likely accumulated a fair share of experience in this area, running their games. Their server farms have likely 1000s of computers running their games, with at least a decent amount of uptime and tuned to keep operational costs low.

They are however dwarfed by giants like Google. The Google platform were at some point estimated by external sources to consist of over 450000 servers. Looking at the type of people working at Google, research papers they have published etc one might conclude they have a fair amount of smart people in the area of distributed computing. While initially being just a search engine, they are expanding in other areas and providing other services that takes advantage of their immense distributed platform.

I would not be surprised if Google at some point turns their eye towards online gaming and the MMOGsphere. If anyone has the means to set up a platform for hosting games on a really massive scale it is them. They probably do not have all the know-how of all the old players in the field, but what they don’t have they can probably buy.