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December 01, 2004

Massive Shooters & Adhoc Clans

CNET reports that a record of sorts has been set for hosting simultaneous online gamers.

Hardware maker Unisys announced Wednesday that its ES7000 server helped set a record for the most online game players ever hosted on a single server. The feat occurred last June at DreamHack 2004, a major computer conference in Sweden.

Game enthusiasts at the conference set up a session of the popular shooting game "CounterStrike" with 1,160 simultaneous players hosted on a single Unisys server, equipped with 32 Intel Xeon 2.2GHz processors and 32GB of memory. The Guinness World of Records recognized the session as a world record earlier this week.

So let me see if I understand this correctly. There were over 1100 gamers playing at once?

If this is correct, then it opens up the possibility of huge games. Now I don't play MMORPGs like Everquest, but I have been There and on Second Life. So it's possible that this kind of stuff could actually happen. But in shooters, there is so much more going on in realtime than just chat and dance moves.

Halo2's 'proximity' feature is particularly notable in this regard. They have already breached the barrier of having what goes on around a player in more focus than what's going on in the background. I can see the game glitch occasionally enough to see objects I move towards get less jaggy. So I know that they have mastered the first person experience with regard to prioritizing events close up and deprioritizing remote ones. So this suggests to me that a 'Halo 3' could do some rather intersting things. Let's speculate.

If the user experience of the game is prioritized by proximity it means that the immediate environment 'renders itself' around the player - it's work that is piped to the client by the server given a 'gps location'. This means that there's a kind of limit to what you need to know as if you were in a Newtonian field of an Einsteinian universe. In otherwords, your playing field can be massive beyond comprehension but all you know, or need to know, you can handle with your own little compute box. A massive server however can keep track of global Einsteinian events. So where are we headed? We're headed towards shooters that have battles which last longer than individual gamer and clan sessions.

Right now the greatest thing about Halo2 is its ability to deliver the cool guts of shooting action to an individual gamer by matching them up relatively quickly with people who want to do the same thing. This is very important and I'll talk about it more later. But the fact that the Bungie folks understand this key feature menas that they will be open to the idea of adhoc clans.

So in a massive shooter served by a massive box, you can be delivered to a battlefield, get orders, and try to take positions in a battle that was going on before your arrived. Here is the nature of an adhoc clan. Halo3 could have waves of Earth fighters engage city after city in the Covenant planets. Battles that last for days can be engaged...

Posted by mbowen at December 1, 2004 03:41 PM

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