Online virtual gaming worlds are getting bigger, with World of Warcraft recently surpassing 3.5 million subscribers. The largest MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) can have half a million subscribers online simultaneously, and that requires some hardcore infrastructure.
In this month's Spectrum Online magazine from the IEEE, David Kushner takes us behind the scenes to see what a virtual world looks like within the data center. Kushner, who profiled the rise and fall of game pioneers Id Software in "Masters of Doom," explores the infrastructure supporting the Sony Online MMORPG Everquest, often jokingly referred to as "Evercrack" for its addictive qualities.
The game's enormous digital layout and huge user base requires serious scalability, as Kushner explains:
More than 1500 servers around the world run EverQuest; collectively the machines have the bit-crunching capabilities of one of the world's top 100 supercomputers. In just one of the data centers, more than 30 kilometers of wire and cable connect all the boxes. More than 9 million gigabytes of EverQuest data have been downloaded from Sony's servers in the past six years.
It's a complex undertaking, and server maintenance and mergers can leave groups of users offline for extended periods of time. With the online gaming niche growing rapidly, we're bound to see more demand for indusrtial-strength gaming data center deployments. Kushner's thorough article provides an informative glimpse into the future.