Games and virtual worlds

Analysis of how database and related technologies are used in games and virtual worlds. Related subjects include:

February 16, 2010

Quick thoughts on the StreamBase Component Exchange

Streambase is announcing something called the StreamBase Component Exchange, for developers to exchange components to be used with the StreamBase engine, presumably on an open source basis. I simultaneously think:

For reasons why, let me quote an email I just sent to an inquiring reporter:

December 27, 2009

Introduction to Gooddata

Around the end of the Cold War, Esther Dyson took it upon herself to go repeatedly to Eastern Europe and do a lot of rah-rah and catalysis, hoping to spark software and other computer entrepreneurs. I don’t know how many people’s lives she significantly affected – I’d guess it’s actually quite a few – but in any case the number is not zero. Roman Stanek, who has built and sold a couple of software business, cites her as a key influence setting him on his path.

Roman’s latest venture is business intelligence firm Gooddata. Gooddata was founded in 2007 and has been soliciting and getting attention for a while, so I was surprised to learn that Gooddata officially launched just a few weeks ago. Anyhow, some less technical highlights of the Gooddata story include: Read more

June 14, 2009

MMO games are still screwed up in their database technology

Two years ago I wrote about the database technology of Guild Wars. Not coincidentally, Guild Wars was the MMO RPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) I then played. I had the chance to interview Guild Wars’ lead developers. While much else they had to say was impressive, Guild Wars’ database architecture was — er, it was rather mind-boggling.

Since then, Linda and I have taken to playing Lord of the Rings Online, commonly known as LOTRO, developed by Turbine, Inc.. I haven’t had the chance to interview any Turbine folks, despite repeated requests. But from afar, it would seem that Turbine’s technology choices leave quite a bit to be desired, in enterprise-like IT areas such as authentication, database management, and storage.

LOTRO and other Turbine games commonly are down, for scheduled maintenance or in some cases otherwise. There is scheduled multi-hour downtime to start many weeks. There are fairly frequent server restarts in addition to that. Lag and congestion are frequent. And so on and so forth. By way of contrast, Guild Wars very rarely goes down, and other technical difficulties are less common as well. Reliability is a key design goal for Guild Wars’ developers, and in my opinion they’ve achieved it.

Some of the reasons for Turbine’s difficulties seem related to the stresses of MMOs — e.g., they’re probably due to the problems caused by having many fictional characters moving through the same fictional space at once, with graphical detail much richer than Guild Wars’. But a couple of head-scratchers make me really wonder about how Turbine manages data. Read more

March 25, 2009

Aleri update

My skeptical remarks on the Aleri/Coral8 merger generated some pushback. Today I actually got around to talking with John Morell, who was marketing chief at Coral8 and has remained with the combined company. First, some quick metrics:

John is sticking by the company line that there will be an integrated Aleri/Coral8 engine in around 12 months, with all the performance optimization of Aleri and flexibility of Coral8, that compiles and runs code from any of the development tools either Aleri or Coral8 now has. While this is a lot faster than, say, the Informix/Illustra or Oracle/IRI Express integrations, John insists that integrating CEP engines is a lot easier. We’ll see.

I focused most of the conversation on Aleri’s forthcoming efforts outside the financial services market. John sees these as being focused around Coral8’s old “Continuous (Business) Intelligence” message, enhanced by Aleri’s Live OLAP. Aleri Live OLAP is an in-memory OLAP engine, real-time/event-driven, fed by CEP. Queries can be submitted via ODBO/MDX today. XMLA is coming. John reports that quite a few Coral8 customers are interested in Live OLAP, and positions the capability as one Coral8 would have had to develop had the company remained independent. Read more

April 29, 2008

Truviso and EnterpriseDB blend event processing with ordinary database management

Truviso and EnterpriseDB announced today that there’s a Truviso “blade” for Postgres Plus. By email, EnterpriseDB Bob Zurek endorsed my tentative summary of what this means technically, namely:

  • There’s data being managed transactionally by EnterpriseDB.

  • Truviso’s DML has all along included ways to talk to a persistent Postgres data store.

  • If, in addition, one wants to do stream processing things on the same data, that’s now possible, using Truviso’s usual DML.

Read more

November 27, 2007

One of the funniest fake press releases ever

About an extended outage in Lord of the Rings Online.

Edited July 2, 2008: New URL that works at least for now.

June 12, 2007

Thoughts on database management in role-playing games

I’ve just started a research project on the IT-like technology of games and virtual worlds, especially MMORPGs. My three recent posts on Guild Wars attracted considerable attention in GW’s community, and elicited some interesting commentary, especially for the revelation of Guild Wars’ very simple database architecture. Specifically, pretty much all character information is banged into a BLOB or two, and stored as a string of tokens, with little of the record-level detail one might expect. By way of contrast, Everquest is run on Oracle (and being transitioned to EnterpriseDB), at least one console-based game maker uses StreamBase, and so on.

Much of the attention has focused on the implications for the in-game economy – how can players buy and sell to their hearts’ content if there’s no transactional back-end. Frankly, I think that’s the least of the issues. For one thing, without a nice forms-based UI you probably won’t create enough transactions to matter, and integrating that into the game client isn’t trivial. For another, virtual items can be literally created and destroyed by the computer, with no negative effect on game play, a factor which drastically reduces the integrity burdens the game otherwise would face.

Rather, where I think the Guild Wars developers at ArenaNet may be greatly missing out is in the areas of business intelligence, data mining, and associated game control. Here are some examples of analyses they surely would find it helpful to do. Read more

June 9, 2007

The database technology of Guild Wars

I have the enviable task of researching online game and virtual world technology. My first interview, quite naturally, was with the lead developers of a game I actually play – Guild Wars. The overview is in another post; that may provide context for this one, which focuses on the database technology. (I also did a short post just on the implications for Guild Wars players.) It also has a brief description of what Guild Wars is – namely, a MMORPG (Massively MultiPlayer Role-Playing Game) with the unusual feature that most of the game world is instanced rather than utterly shared.

First, some scope. ArenaNet (Guild Wars’ developer, now a subsidiary of NCsoft) runs Microsoft SQL Server, mainly Enterprise Edition, having just switched to 2005 4 months ago. They run 1500-2500 transactions/second all day, spiking up to 5000 in their busiest periods. They have no full-time DBA, and when the developers started this project they didn’t know SQL. They’ve only had one major SQL Server failure in the 2+ years the game has been running, and that was (like most of their bugs) a network driver problem more than an issue with the core system.

As for what’s going on — there are a few different kinds of database things that happen in an instanced MMORPG. Read more

January 27, 2007

EnterpriseDB’s Oracle clone — fact or fiction?

PostgreSQL-based EnterpriseDB is attracting a bit of attention. Philip Howard, as he does of most products, takes a favorable view. Seth Grimes regards the company as dirty, rotten liars. The company suggests that Everquest gameplay* runs on an RDBMS. I find this inherently implausible, and hence am starting out with a skeptical view of the company’s marketing messages.

*As in character movement. The idea that character inventory is stored in an RDBMS I find vastly more credible. Ditto other less volatile aspects of character state.

Read more

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