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xJOKERx

MMORPG - How many servers should I buy ?

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From a business stand point if I was funding a MMORPG out of my own pocket and needed to purchase "x" number of servers to keep the game running smoothly for approx 500,000 people, how many servers should I purchase , what types , and how much ? I am trying to think ahead in the event of any "incidents" that my pop up . For the above question lets say you had 3 scenerios. 1) You have $10,000 dollars to purchase the servers, what would you buy and how many ? 2) You have $50,000 dollars to purchase the servers, what would you buy and how many ? 3)You have unlimited amount of money to purchase the servers, what would you buy and how many ? Please be realistic and detailed , I am trying to get a good ball park average on what I should get. Thanks Gang ! : )

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Here's a question that's equivalent to yours:

Which car should I buy to get to my target by 11 am, if I start at 9 am?

The problem: You didn't specify where you want to start, or where the target is. There's no way of knowing whether a car for $10,000 will do it at all or not -- in fact, there's no way of knowing whether ANY car will do it. (Say, starting in London and wanting to go to Milan in 2 hours)


First, you have to have a target for number of players per physical server machine. Once you have that, you have to have a target for load distribution -- how homogenous will your load be? Then, you have to have an inkling of how your world instance maps to server machines, to create a shard. Once you have that, you can plan what kind of hardware you need to buy -- and then the price point will make itself known to you by just looking at Dell.com, Rackable.com, Alliance.com or any other reputable hardware source.

However, at that point you'll probably be looking at leasing, rather than buying. That way, you pay the hardware bills as the subscription revenue comes in, which is vastly preferrable to a large up-front outlay. Just make sure you have good connections (and long history) with your financing company.

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Yeah, it REALLY depends on how much information each server will be processing. If the game is mostly client based, the actual load on the server will be minimal and you can get away with fewer servers (with a very good internet connection), while if the game is run mostly server side (normally done to help aleviate cheating!), then your requirements will be a lot higher. Also, the type of MMORPG is important... for example, a text based game with few options won't need as much power as a huge 3d environment with tons of options (aka, a huge database and tons of processing).

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Quote:
Original post by Saruman
See.. I'm learning better posting etiquette hplus :)


I'm blessed to be moderating Networking and Multiplayer rather than, say, "Help Wanted" or (shudder) "Lounge". As far as I'm concerned, y'all are just peachy. Love and hugs for everyone.

Oh, and my 3 weeks of vaccation start today, although I'll still keep an eye on the forum.

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Quote:
Original post by Saruman
I had a reply typed out.. but rethought posting it and deleted it.

See.. I'm learning better posting etiquette hplus :)


Heh, I find myself doing this more and more lately.

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The answer:

number of servers = estimated number of users / number of users each server can handle.

Basically you need the server software up and running first then do some load testing to see how many users that server can handle. Then it's just simple math to figure out how many servers you need. It's silly to think about buying servers before you have the software running.

If you're doing business projections you'll need to do some research on existing MMOs and see what their user/server ratio is. I don't know where you'd find such information outside of having access to an engineer that has worked on a previously released MMO. At any rate this will provide you with an estimation number for your business forecasts. Under no circumstances should you actually purchase servers before you have software up and running.

-me

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I subscribe what was said above, you need to know what you want before getting it.

You need to know how many players will be using the servers by the first month, and divide by the maximum amount of players your engine currently supports(either CPU or bandwidth wise), the result will be the amount of servers you need. When the next month comes buy more if needed.

Where ever you're planning to host your servers, make sure to take a look at HOSTIK first. I looked long and hard a while back for hosting and couldn't find better then this for limitid bandwidth plans. Compare it with the biggest dedicated server supplier in the world, EV1Servers, and you'll see what i mean.

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Quote:
Original post by Palidine
The answer:

number of servers = estimated number of users / number of users each server can handle.
That's assuming perfect server balancing. In practice that can be hard to do. It's very easy to end up with (say) 50% of your users on 25% of your machines and the other 75% under-utilized.

You might also want to keep some backup hardware around to hot-swap in case of hardware failure.

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Thanks guys for the fast replies ,

I appreciate the candid honesty, I guess it will be difficult to figure out exactly how many without testing the software first and doing stress tests.

On a second note ,XOR yeah thanks for the info on HOSTIK , the prices are very reasonable compared to the other link you gave me. My question is , do you think HOSTIK could run a entire MMORPG like ( Starwars Galaxies , or World of Warcraft ) on one of their dedicated servers and we as the company only have to pay a montly rate of $179.00 a month ?

specs for the server I am inquring about ?

• Intel P4, 3.2GHz, HT, 800MHz Bus, 1MB Cache
• 160GB RAID rated Server-Class Hard Drive
• 1,024MB Dual-Channel DDR400 SDRAM
• 3,000GB Monthly Transfer
• 100Mbps Non-Capped Network Connection
• 5 IP Addresses

Lets say you have 500,000 players..

or is it still to difficult to tell ?

[Edited by - xJOKERx on July 8, 2005 9:42:54 PM]

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Obviously you should get your developers to run in-house stress testing of the application.

This will mean setting up a large number of clients (or modified clients) to test it.

I think that the cost of the server hosting is going to be a tiny proportion of your budget. Paying the staff to maintain the application, administer the servers etc, is going to be much bigger (not to mention your office costs etc).

So don't worry about it, it will get dwarfed by the cost of everything else.

Mark

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Quote:
Original post by xJOKERx
specs for the server I am inquring about ?

• Intel P4, 3.2GHz, HT, 800MHz Bus, 1MB Cache
• 160GB RAID rated Server-Class Hard Drive
• 1,024MB Dual-Channel DDR400 SDRAM
• 3,000GB Monthly Transfer
• 100Mbps Non-Capped Network Connection
• 5 IP Addresses

If you have a perfectly crafted server architecture and did not have to worry about collision (ie a 2D game) than you would be able to fit around 1000 on that machine because of the slow CPU architecture and low amount of RAM (possibly less due to RAM). So I would say you could do it with maybe 500-700 of those machines.

Quote:

Lets say you have 500,000 players..

Also just FYI you would need to have more subscribers than Lineage + Lineage 2 + World of Warcraft + Final Fantasy XI + Everquest 2 combined before you start to worry about 500,000 concurrent players. For an indie such as yourself you should actually be looking more towards the 500-1000 concurrent users number, and even that is high.

Quote:

or is it still to difficult to tell ?

If you are asking these questions you aren't even close to having the game finished and most likely aren't even started. The server hardware and bandwidth is not even a concern at this point as you have absoultely nothing. Go and build the game and once you have a working version than you can worry about hardware.

No offence but if you think 500,000 concurrent players can fit on a single machine maybe you should try making a different type of game first?

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I've never even heard of 500,000 users concurrently playing. Even if it was just a chat server!! I thought WoW had at max about 2,000 concurrent users on each server/world.

Darrell Bircsak

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When I login to EVE online, Tranquility generally has somewhere from 5-10 thousand people online. That's the most I've seen in any online game, but I somehow doubt they have only a single server machine behind it...

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"100Mbps Non-Capped Network Connection"

Well assuming 3KB per player of bandwidth thats 24,000 bps.

100Mbps connection is 100,000,000 bps.

So that would support about 4,000 people.

500,000 players / 4000 per server = 125 servers.


Of course thats just going off the bandwidth, which is only just one of many factors that determine the outcome.


-=[ Megahertz ]=-

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Also my friend hosts here and they're fast (hence the name maybe?):
http://www.fastservers.net/

I've personally never used them but their prices are awesome. Bandwidth is SO cheap now-a-days it's laughable how much we used to pay.

Also, you'll likely need a server on both coasts unless this is going to be West/East coast only game. I don't care what you're doing, fast twitch or not, 300ms IS noticable.

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Other self-managed dedicated hosting companies that come up in discussions on the web are:

ServerBeach
ServerMatrix
1 and 1

Can't recommend or warn against any of these companies myself, as we just buy rack space, power, cooling and connectivity at a large backbone data center and screw in our own machines. That will certainly will be cheaper than buying dedicated hosting services from someone else, once you're at real scale.

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1&1 seems to have a pretty good reputation... well, their web hosting does.

Have you actually finished the game yet? Until you finish the game I'd recommend looking into Virtual Dedicated servers or shared servers. You'd probably be able to have around 50 (guessing) players online at once which is a pretty ideal closed alpha/beta number...

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I doubt any game has 500000 players online at all times, seriously. In the old days, Half-Life 1 has about 14000 servers online at its peak. The average player count, counting all the empty servers, was, if we are optimistic, about 6 (*lots* of servers were empty). Thats 84000 players, and its a generous estimate, for a game that was one of the, if not the most popular online game of all times, so far. Hence, I honestly doubt you will need to host 500000 players online all the time, or at least, not at the beggining.

I wouldn't worry about this unless your code is complete anyways. Its kind of hard to estimate your bandwidth and CPU power needs if your game is unfinished. As it was suggested before, the appropriate thing to do is stress-testing when there is a complete (or almost complete) game.

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Half-life 1 was not the most popular online game of all times, by a long shot. It might have been the most popular online FPS, but that's a pretty narrow niche.

You should know that in the "east", online gaming is rather bigger than here. However, those games are usually based on social conflict and role playing, rather than first-person shooting. A game like Lineage, running somewhere like Korea, makes EverQuest look small (and EQ at its peak might have had something like 500,000 subscribers and 150,000 simultaneous online, by guesstimates). For more information, look at mmogchart. (Btw: that chart looks really good for World of Warcraft!)

That being said, scaling a sharded system isn't that hard; once you know what a shard looks like (machines and switching infrastructure), you can do pretty well by just cookie-cutter-ing that instance into whatever data center is closest to the area that needs the most new power.

Meanwhile, scaling a single-instance "world" is much harder -- not only for technical reasons, but for gameplay reasons. Players within a single instance tend to congregate in a few popular spots; when you build a single instance, you only have that instance, and building enough popular spots to prevent the most popular from becoming way too overcrowded is an important game design nut to crack.

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WOW has recently reached over 2 million subscribers.
If a fifth of them decide to play simultaneously during some weekend special event or something, that's 400k right there.

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