I am a Master’s student at the MIH Electronic Media Lab at the University of Stellenbosch. My research is in the field of peer-to-peer (P2P) massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), specifically in the field of interest management.
In recent years, MMOGs have been experiencing a huge growth in players logging on every day. The population of virtual worlds number in the millions. From an administrative standpoint, keeping all these concurrent users in the games and managing the billions of requests requires a lot of back-end work, maintenance and infrastructure. Servers need to be constantly monitored and upgraded, dedicated staff have to be on standby and the servers are a single point of failure for the game. These factors, coupled with the enormous initial and on-going costs of running these servers, have prompted the industry to look past the predominant client/server based hosting model. It has paved the way for research into P2P MMOG architectures.
Interest management is a mechanism used to lower the amount of network traffic incurred by each player in the virtual world. The basic premise is this: since a player is bound by a relatively constant movement speed and a limited range of sight, he or she does not need to know what happens at every point in the game world at one given point. The player has an area of interest around them. In this space, any object, action or other player can be considered as something of interest. More information about these potentially interesting objects is then sent to the player. Any information outside this area of interest is given a much lower priority, if not completely disregarded. This greatly reduces the amount of data that has to be sent over the network.
Given the lower initial costs that a developer will incur with the implementation of a P2P MMOG architecture, it allows more independent studios to get a foot in the door of a part of the industry usually reserved for only the richest studios. I believe that if we manage to create a sleek, working P2P model that developers can implement easily, without taxing the end-users’ systems, we can finally move away from all of the World of Warcraft clones currently cluttering the shelves and see some more unique ideas.