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Random thoughts on MMORPGs

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After playing Everquest for years, one of the things I first loved about Worlds of Warcraft was – there was no loading screens between zones.

What Everquest developers would do was ‘preload’ all the textures and meshes for a given area into memory, but since memory has traditionally been limited, this reduced the overall amount of information that could be loaded without causing significant problems and degradation of speed for the user.

Not only that, but they also had problems with crowding – where if they had too many users in a given area, there’d be latency which would cause problems for the user – particularly if you were in combat situations.

“Lag bubbles”, or simple network slowdown and inability to respond to the demands placed on the network would frequently get you killed.

So what Verant (the makers of Everquest did) – was artificially cap the number of textures and meshes which could be loaded on the client. This made the game run ‘optimally’ for all clients accessing the game.

And the problem with lag was solved by making ‘dungeons’ where most of the combat is done ‘instanced’ – devoted servers where efficiency of network communication particularly with combat could strictly be regulated and if a particular dungeon was experiencing too much latency, they took this not just as an opportunity to throw more hardware, but also to ‘dig into’ why are so many people ‘stuck’ at this particular level of dungeon?

Everquest is arguably one of the first game companies to do the MMORPG right, because balance was a great deal of time and effort they placed into the game, allowing the player avenues of progress and reducing the overall ‘farming’ which occurred where players would spend a great deal of time in a particular area because of it’s predictable nature of providing valuable assets for resell in the game.

Now one problem remained: preloaded assets.

That’s when Worlds of Warcraft swooped in with a magnificent concept called ‘cells’ based on the burgeoning cell phone industry’s way of spreading the use of cell phones.

Worlds of Warcraft only presented zoning in between continents where graphical assets were starkly different than the continent you’d left behind.

All the rest of the assets were indexed and there was something the developers referred to as a ‘lazy loader’ – which as a player traveled through the continent – the terrain would gradually shift, and based on the direction of travel, the gamer didn’t so much as experience ANY lag whatsoever as the player ran between different areas with remarkably different visuals associated with it.

One moment, you could be in a hilly desert and a mere 60 seconds later you’re entering a lush jungle with hugely different landscape, housing, and friends and foes you encountered.

Without a single ‘zone’ to walk through.

Like driving a car from a Southern California beach to the Redwood Forests, bathing suits and naked people (almost) are replaced with hiking gear and sand and beach is replaced by trees and granite cliffs almost as tall as the eye could see.

Now how did they pull this feat off?

Simple.

They studied cell phone companies. If you’re on a call and you are driving on the freeway, that call rarely if ever gets dropped. It wasn’t this way when cell phones first came out, calls would get dropped all over the place, but as the system saw more cell towers get constructed, cell towers which covered’ dead areas’ where signals were weak or would break off, this now allows the mobile user to seamlessly travel without a break their call.

So what Blizzard (the geniuses who created Worlds Of Warcraft) did was they architected their game and it’s communication based on this system.

This made the game FAR more scalable, and it’s shown, there are still 18million plus users on this game.

What did they do?

When you walk your avatar from on side of a continent to another, your positional information is triangulated – for redundancy – between three separate servers keeping in contact with your client. As other players enter your range, you are provided visual cues they are nearby.

As you leave the range of a ‘cell tower’ (which is actually a devoted server handling game communication) – you are ‘handed off’ to one that’s in the best range and general direction of what you’re following. At any given time, you’re in communication with three towers (servers), which allows for both redundancy and accuracy of cross reporting to make sure people aren’t hacking the game to give themselves superspeed or other abilities not envisioned by the development staff.

The beauty of this design is simple: If you have a crowded area, you simply throw another server which cross reports to the other servers which lets the user quite literally engage and interact with 100’s of other users at the same time.

No longer are you ‘instanced in’ to an area like Everquest was where there’s a limitation of 50 people per zone.

And no longer are you constrained like a predecessor named Star Trek Online was which has a great deal of lag despite the limiting of number of users to 50 people in some areas and creating separate ‘instance servers’ to mitigate this problem.

Worlds Of Warcraft presented a unique solution studying the simple commercial application of a technology.

? or was it the other way around? who knows 😉

In any case.

The question becomes: Is it possible to eliminate the need to preload textures and meshes altogether, and to avoid instancing to allow for a greater degree of interactivity?

The answer is – an absolute yes, with the answer coming from distributors of pornography and piraters of movies.

There’s something called P2P – peer to peer networking, which works with a series of devoted servers which retains the integrity and state of the network in the community connecting to it.

The system I am designing will first be used as a world scale MMORPG, something I am creating which will be an alternate reality version of Earth set about 40 years in the future, not long after the spectre of war persisted until a detente was agreed on and a community was built which respected the culture of all participating countries.

And the world that I am developing is preparing for meeting aliens who have been in orbit since the beginning of written history, influencing our culture in ways they were eventually detected on, which set off an arms race to stop those who would establish first contact which eventually necessitated the first contact by these beings which forced them to do something that violated their own directives:

To be directly involved with the evolution of that world’s culture to avoid worldwide conflict.

So when this MMORPG is turned on, it will commence quite literally 8 years before the first physical meet and greet, and every date – real time – will be synchronized to my Earth date but precisely x amount of years/months/days in the future until the ‘big event’ – the arrival of the Vulcans in  realistically rendered Bozeman, Montana, on April 5, 2063,

Yes, I plan on developing a Star Trek MMORPG.

Which at this rate might actually take that long to create judging by everythng I want in it and how chaotic my mind is in trying to get anything done.

Unfortunately I have no focus. I have a shitton of ideas on how to put this together creatively.

But analytically.

I’m not the programmer I used to be.

Where’s Bill Gates when I need him the most?

Heck. Bill.

I’d rather die trying.

I wish I could ask you for your guidance and expertise.

But I sincerely don’t know how to.

Right now, I don’t even know if anyone is capable of hearing me.

I know what I am envisioning would never make money.

For me it’s a fun project to see if I could create a world…. Modeled of course based on this amazing one we’re currently in.

Just 40 years in the future.

Too many ideas. And no resources or focus to execute any of them.

blah, right?

Yes. I imagine this world becoming real if I could figure out how to put it all together.

That’s where my imaginary friends can come in.

😉

Mr Gates, Mr Zuckerberg, and Mr Buffet.

I’d like to formally ask for your help and guidance in building this alternate reality which has just as good of quality texture and graphics and storyline and content as the one I am in. If not. Better. There’s some things learned from observing ‘this world’ I am in that I would make even more interesting in ‘the next’ world I would create. Not the least of which is predictably scripted behaviors and actions by (especially) companies and professionals that made it easy to ‘pierce the veil of the illusion’  to understand how this often scripted world works.

You said 99% of your fortunes will go to non profit activity.

I can assure you all that the attention to detail and resources I will need to achieve this business effort will not make a profit.

If you hear about my offer.

I have no freakin clue anymore how you’re going to get a hold of me to tell me you’re interested.

But if you are.

My goal is to make a universe. Not just a world. Starting with an Earth that’s 40 years more advanced than this one, and an earth that has had direct contact with an alien civilization which has shared technology to build up the infrastructure and education necessary to allow the game players to ‘hit the ground running’ in a timeline which has an open history coming from an alternate reality with no perceivable end in the new reality it’s in.

Crazy, I know.

I do not expect to hear from you.

Mr Obama, You’re invited to participate too.

I know. I’m just a homeless man without a penny to his name, not worth your time or effort to talk to. You’re important, and too important for the likes of me, I am either crazy, desperate, or a little bit of both and you have every right judging me and dreaming about something that will never in a million years happen, because important people like you don’t talk to peons like me?

That’s not self pity.

That’s just me making assumptions about how you’re perceiving me if you do happen to hear from me.

In any case.

I’ll be soloing as usual.

As I have with pretty much all the MMORPGs I played.

I suppose that’s why I love jostling and bustling worlds. Even if they are acting as if on script.

At least I feel like I am not alone and there’s enough of a question out there whether the people around me are scripted and unthinking, or they are thinking and the way they act is simply a product of the way they think based on having grown up in the same world I have grown up in.

At times I feel stupid for how I was. But that stupidity wasn’t stupidity.

and it didn’t mean I was a robot or lacking self control.

I was simply naive. Making decisions based on the limited information I was aware of about the world around me.

I’m actually thankful for that naivety.

it makes me realize. Maybe that’s a gift an fresh immortal can give to another jaded immortal.

The gift of rediscovering what it’s like to look at the world with childlike eyes again.

That is yet another ambition I have with this project.

Crazy i know.

In my world. Try as I might. I do need money to make this all happen.

I can’t lie to myself about this any longer.

But I’ll still do it anyways.

Because there’s something in me that has told me I have already done it.

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