[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Jan 14 18:12:52 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Dave Rickey" <daver at mythicentertainment.com>

>>> Failure to scale is a design flaw, not a choice.

>> Nobody's talking about failure to scale; it's really about the
>> PRICE of scaling.

> And you made a conscious choice on how expensive it was going to
> be.  When Oracle quoted *us* a price, we laughed and moved on.

Dave, this isn't about database licenses. Everyone seems to think
about a character as being just a record in a database somewhere,
which is sort of missing the point.

In most client-server implementations, the cost of an offline client
is near zero -- it takes storage space, and it takes a few CPU
cycles to look up that client's information when someone wants to
look at it. That's not a whole hell of a lot, so you can have as
many offline clients as you want. If one person has a thousand
database records, nobody really cares. That one person has all the
qualities you described previously: he has lots of records, but only
one is active at a time, and the existence of his other records
doesn't impact the way other people use the system.

The only problem is that when you take this to a "virtual world"
setting, these things are no longer true. Even when a client is
offline, his character consumes some amount of game resources -- he
owns items that are in limited supply, which another player can't
have; he owns structures in persistent locations, where another
player can't build a structure; the list goes on. This isn't a
natural consequence of client-server databases, it's a natural
consequence of virtual worlds.

So if you're talking about whether Joe Schmuck can have multiple
accounts on your checkers server, yeah, it's only limited by the
amount of database space you've got available. But an MMOG isn't a
checkers server, and pretending it's going to work like one isn't
all that smart.

The practice of "overselling", incidentally, trades the integrity of
the game for a bigger bottom line. Overselling on an MMOG is when
you let someone create a character without really having enough room
for that character on the server -- there aren't enough building
locations for that character to own as many buildings as he's
allowed, or there aren't enough raw materials for that character to
be a full-time crafter, or there aren't enough mobiles for that
character to earn the combat experience he needs to reach the level
of combat experience he wants.

This is exactly what happens when you treat a character as a record
in a database; you don't have the resources to support a character,
and you really ought to say "no" to the player, but you go ahead and
say "yes" -- then cross your fingers and hope he doesn't mean
it. That's just plain stupid. The only industries where this works
are industries where you can respond rapidly to an actual need for
the resources needed, and an MMOG simply can't. A new server takes
too long to justify, acquire, configure, and put online, before you
even *start* worrying about how to get players off the servers that
are having problems.

Incidentally, there are so many games out there that suck, a game's
existence or even commercial success is not sufficient evidence that
it doesn't suck. IMO, all the existing MMOGs suck, and SWG is the
first one that looks like it *might* actually *not* suck. The jury's
still out, but I think it looks promising.

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