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jpetrie

Guild Wars Networking and Database Info

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I picked up the link to this blog post from the Guild Wars Incgamers site. The post links to two more detailed articles (here and here) that discuss some of the technical issues behind Guild Wars. The articles aren't amazingly in-depth and are rather brief, but they still have enough numbers and interesting tidbits of information to be of note, especially to all those frothing-at-the-mouth MMO kiddies who don't quite understand the scale of some the stuff they plan on doing (and GW isn't even considered a "real" MMO by many because of its highly instanced world that allows them to take some shortcuts). Some particularly interesting factoids are the fact that each of their gameplay servers (apparently usually 2.8GHz dual-processor Xeons with 2.5GB of RAM) support an average of about 3000 players, that each player record is about 10-30k and is stored as a binary blob in the database (as opposed to, I guess, a table with individual columns for things like name, class, attributes, et cetera), and that when they started the project nobody knew SQL.

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3000 users per machine (they use TCP) is quite a nice achievement, given that GW uses truly real-time gameplay model, where interrupting skills requires <250ms player's response time.

The game also incorporates full collision detection, and maximum number of players in a combat zone is 32 (I think, could be 24).

That would mean that a single machine is hosting 50-100 individual (Quake/Unreal/CS style) maps, some of which need to keep track of 500+ NPC mobs (although most of those are active only when in area of interest).

The BLOB aproach also explains a lot about some of their PR stances. Recently a problem occured with guild ranks (or something guild related), which erroneously banned some guilds, or removed the members. It took a day or two to fix, with explanation that they needed to write a tool to do it.

Overall, GW design is impressive in functionality. During 2 years they experienced one major server crash (economy servers bugged out, required 4 hour roll-back, servers were off-line for 8-10 hours).

The rest of the time, including all the patching, the servers are available literally 24/7. No patch tuesdays or anything similar, not even during big roll-outs such as new chapters.

If anything, Anet is a stellar example of how to run an online service. What matters most is uninterrupted gameplay. And as always, how you do it - nobody cares about. And this applies to both, patching and client, as well as in-game features and actual gameplay - both of these have been the most flawless of any MMO to date (surpassing WoW by far).

Also given their numbers they finally hint at concurrent population, something that was never disclosed. To date, GW has sold over 3 million copies. And even if the numbers implied by the article (50-100k concurrent) aren't accurate, they do represent a much higher concurrency than I'd assume.

Another statistic - during first public beta even (World Preview Event) they hosted over 500,000 players over the period of one weekend: 50-some hours with no interruptions or any down-time whatsoever.

That alone is impressive for a newly founded company more than 6 months before official launch.

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32 sounds right. HoH, 4 teams of 8 players.

I've been really impressed with GW. Technically, and the community aspect. It is an impressive acheivement (at least on the network/database part). They do have their occasional server crash, and the lag can spike bad, but overall it's a tight system.

... Except that it always seem to lack Alliance Battle servers for some reason. And their big rollback lost me 5 obsidian shards, at the time of their price peak! Arggggh! My luckiest FOW run ever! [grin]

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From the article, I have the impression that GW does full collision detection at server side, right?

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