workload simulation (was: Re: [MUD-Dev] MMORPG/MMOG Server design)

Mike Shaver shaver at
Sat Feb 22 17:23:46 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

All this (fascinating) talk about server design leads me to ask a
question I never get tired of:

  Are large-scale server designers doing anything to simulate
  workload, in order to test their algorithmic changes and hardware
  capabilities?  I know that the Shadowbane server crew have been
  hard at work on improvements to their server architecture, with
  very impressive reduction in lag (esp. timer-based), so maybe they
  have some tips to share.  How to make sure that a given change to
  the server won't reintroduce those problems, or similar ones?  Do
  you just try to get a few thousand testers logged in at once and
  see how she holds up, or is there some logging+replay system used
  to verify new builds?

I suppose, actually, that this question extends to other parts of
game design.  Are people running "simulations of their simulations",
to validate play-balance changes?  Again to pick on the Shadowbane
guys, a recent build saw one power (a health-draining/transfer
spell) spiral way out of balance when the set of attributes that
affected was changed.  Do designers generally have systems set up to
compute such effects before play-test begins ("given these character
stats taken from our player base, what damage/mana
cost/hit-rate/etc. will we have for Power X after these changes?")?
Any best-practices to share?


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