SpatialOS interview suggests tech can handle 20K MMO players in a ‘relatively low-fidelity but seamless world’

All MMOs are secretly a slideshow made in Poser.

    
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Even SpatialOS seems grim about the outlook for western MMOs. MMO players will recall that Improbable’s SpatialOS is a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming,” especially for online games and MMORPGs, and that the company’s CEO has specifically said he’s hoping to bring MMOs out of their “nuclear winter” with the tech.

Wagner James Au at New World Notes spoke with Improbable’s VP Product Paul Thomas at this year’s GDC, however, and it sounds as if that winter isn’t quite over yet. Not only does Thomas argue that western gamers aren’t showing much market interest in single-shard MMOs (“in the Eastern regions, massive interest there, but in the Western regions, yeah, it tends to be more session-based type games”), but there appears to be only one announced MMO that’s making full use of SpatialOS single-shard capabilities: Seed.

That’s not to say SpatialOS isn’t bolstering games; the interview mentions several others, including 1000-man battle royale Mavericks. But the company did tell New World Notes that one unnamed game was able to use the tech to support “20,000 players in a relatively low-fidelity but seamless world.”

“To provide some context, while a ‘Realm’ in a traditional MMO might have thousands of players (who would be the players allocated to that shard), the seamless area you could see and interact with on a single server architecture would likely be limited to a few hundred connected users maximum. The comparable unit for New World Notes’ purposes would be a ‘sim’ – the area in Second Life which you can interact with directly.”

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rafael12104

Heh. Hang on, Hoss! Back it up! Your enthusiasm is great but you glossed over a few major details.

First, the West’s insistence of one shard to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. Nope. Most gamers and MMO enthusiasts wouldn’t know a shard from shinola. All they want is a seamless and expansive world. They are not devs and are not the ones demanding one shard or more tech. And, yes. You can have open worlds with more than one shard.

Next, why isn’t Spatial taking off and converting devs (because that is who you need to convert) to this new religion? Because the hardware requirements are extensive and expensive. A distributed networked OS is only as good as the number of servers allocated to micromanage many disparate tasks. You can overlook that if you want, but it certainly is not overlooked by those paying for implementation and continuing maintenance.

Why would “smaller” games want to use Spatial, again?

An unnamed 20k in low fidelity… Wait! I know the name of that game! It’s a text adventure called Fantasy Island.

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Jon Wax

As an older gamer, stuff like this seems a distraction. How tired is the trope of whacking trees and rocks to gather wood and stone? Why are we doing this? Is it needed in the big picture? Is there a big picture? Or is it just a throttle to keep us from what we really want, which is to be in action or to be doing/seeing/part of something compelling, the thing that makes us log in to the game.

What’s the point of a 20k server if the core game lacks substance, purpose, reason. If there is no way to measure a win, if it’s a simple string of small dopamine hits that dwindle and can only be had by starting over again on a new game that has similar mechanics but promises one groundbreaking aspect that eventually becomes tedious, if there is so much free time in game that social animosity has time to grow because the game design wasn’t fleshed out, no amount of server population will matter.

How many lay offs and closures occurred last year? The capability of machines is increasing. The average gamers ideas of industry come from Hollywood, not Silicon Valley. The reality of trying to dev games for an insatiable fan base at today’s expected visual quality at a rate that makes commercial sense means that something gets left out: the game. They have the budget, the art people, sound, Mocap, writers, etc. but their core motivation is profit, not art, no matter what the guy in the sport coat and jeans says at e3. Games are art, this is supposed to be an immersive experience that creates an emotional connection.

We don’t get an emotional connection because of fragmented skill levels amongst community, increased demand for faster iterations of product, and a focus on graphics over gameplay and profit over art. The wow killer was the fragmenting of a then smaller market into the mainstream thing we have today.

I’ve seen this scene before with the record labels from the 80s thru about 2k. They chased the radio playlist for what to sign next, basically copying each other til it became homogenized. The Internet subjectively revitalized that but with online gaming, there is no paradigm shifting change til quantum desktops. This is it. Unless the devs start to think outside the box, God bless Media Molecule for things like Dreams, I’m betting this industry is looking at a contraction. Server numbers won’t matter if everyone’s just throttled or roped off from the big dramatic events that are supposed to take up majority time in game, not this busy work, simply because devs are more focused on making God rays or using ambient occlusion then they are on designing a game that is compelling and has an emotional connection from its very source. If gameplay was better thought out, low fidelity visuals would be less of an issue.

Gameplay>Graphics

kjempff
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kjempff

How about 20k complex ai entities? that would be much more interesting.

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Jon Wax

But are they ai?

Or just card board cut outs with scripts that respond the way they were programmed to?

Ai has intention.

This ain’t ai.

kjempff
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kjempff

Well scrpted behavior is commonly referred to as ai, in a development environment. Ai does not need to be neural network based (aka able to learn), it can also just be intelligent behaviour..and that meaning any logic where the outcome is determined by outside factors (not static behaviour).

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Robert Mann

It isn’t so much that people dislike single shard here in the west, I’d bet. It’s more that the money is busy chasing the quick action gameplay types, because that is where they see the money as being.

As usual, any underserved market eventually will work toward correction in some manner… usually by somebody coming along and making a fortune while laughing at the people who had every opportunity to do so before said person.

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Sally Bowls

I hope this works out. I also hope they were not counting on the end of Winter for western MMOs as that, alas, does not seem to be on the horizon. this is year 7 and they got a half-billion two years ago. I was hoping/expecting a bit more by now. But what do I know about gaming, other than it always takes longer than expected?

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

So basically people can play EVE Online battles consisting of thousands of players without the time dilation slowing everything down to 1/100th of a second?

Also, Mavericks isn’t a 1000 man battle royale. The devs lied out of their asses and scammed alot of backers, it’s your standard 100 man battle royale, except after X amount of minutes have passed, an X amount of players are dropped in, wash rinse repeat until all 1000 are dropped in. The early access videos are INCREDIBLY disappointing as well.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Will make zero difference to lack of local servers in my country. If a server is local then 30ms latency, if it is a US server then 300+ms latency.

Oh and good luck with your pricing model

joxul
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joxul

Yup anyone outside the US/EU is basically screwed, but hey thats the MMO life for us.

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Ironwu

The statements made by this company are meaningless since they do not define any of the key terms used. It is the verbal equivalent of ‘Bullshots’.

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Fisty

Then why do I always have to fight against falling off the deck of my ship due to lag and shit when I play World’s Adrift?

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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Bullwraith

Us MMO gamers do love our low fidelity games. Yeah. Good luck with that.

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rafael12104

Ah. This must be the future of MMOs that he was talking about.