Real World Architecture: Game Servers

Gamasutra has published an interesting article about the servers behind the MMO “Warhammer Online”. Most architectural writing focuses on the drab business world, but the game industry faces the same challenges: hardware, networking, clustering, hardware replacement and deploying new software. Games are still real businesses of course; they have to make money.

The Warhammer “servers” are clusters of blade servers. There are data centers in Australia, North America, Taiwan, Russia, and Europe.

Different games take different approaches to performance and scalability.

Many games split up their worlds geographically, so single physical servers represent one area and players move between servers. This can cause performance bottlenecks when players gather in one area. Other games distribute users into identical “shard” servers.

Warhammer allows players to be grouped into scenarios and these groups can be dynamically shifted to different hardware.

EVE Online has one cluster modeling a single universe. The universe is split up geographically based on solar system.

Second Life also has a single universe, which is divided geographically across servers. Each server handles the data and processing for 16 acres of virtual space. Second life’s central database gets minimal traffic.

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