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The "Central Server" multiplayer design

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I don''t really plan to be a programmer, but sometimes I start thinking about a broad theoretical question, so here goes: I was thinking about how multiplayer games with the usual client-server design(FPS games for example) rely on having a master or central server to provide server listings and authenticate cd keys. But if the servers are down or their connection gets cut due to some unforseen circumstance, nobody can play unless they do it the slow, manual way - getting the IP from another source and entering it by hand. So my question is, how to improve on this? I had one idea where serverlists might be produced indirectly - the game could piggyback on the output of a general web search engine, and each game server would then also be a web server...however, that assumes that the web searching program can find each game as it''s started, and I don''t know if that''s at all possible. And it doesn''t help with cd-keys. Another thought is to use a P2P-type system that works independently of any one server. But again the cd-key problem comes up. I don''t even know why anyone would bother to write a better system, since it wouldn''t result in any additional quality or profit, but it was just a thought.

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I suggest you read http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000511/bernier_01.htm

There is a section on server availability issues entitled "Dealing with Failure".

-cb

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