It’s all in the game, part 3: Fast scalability and MMO gaming

Welcome to the third article in our short series of blog posts on hosting for the online gaming industry. Soon a team of LeaseWeb Online gaming experts will leave for GameConnection Europe, but until then, we’ll cover various principles of hosting for online games. We’ve already talked about reliability and connectivity. Now it’s time to turn the spotlight on (cue the sound of drums): Scalability.

World of Warcraft is one of the most famous MMO games on the market today, and with more than 10 million paying subscriptions it has more players than some countries have inhabitants. Immensely popular from the start, the game exceeded all expectations and has (rightfully) won much critical and commercial acclaim. But the downside to all that sudden success was that Blizzard, the game’s developer, had to up-scale their operations as soon as possible. Of course, given the size of the game a solution couldn’t be found in a day. As a result, many players experienced unstable connections, lag and in-game waiting lines to finish quests. There were even rumors going around that Blizzard had put a temporary stop on sales of the game while they solved the problems. Those days are long gone now, but it just goes to show that even the best gaming studios in the business can find it difficult to accurately predict how a MMO game player base will progress.So what if this happens to you? What can you do?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘fool proof’ way of going about it. But with proper preparation, you can scale your infrastructure to rise to any occasion:

  • Check the available space in datacenters: When looking for a hosting provider, ask them how much room for growth their datacenter locations have. If they are nearly full, you might run into problems when you need to grow fast. Be sure to also ask about the datacenters’ plans for future expansion, so you know they can match your long term growth as well.
  • Choose a hosting provider with a full server stock: Even if there is enough room, you still need to fill all that space up with hardware. Ordering additional servers can take days, even weeks. But if there are a large amount of servers on stock you are guaranteed of fast provisioning.
  • Ensure sufficient available & redundant power: Once the hardware is hooked up, it’s time to hit the power switch. The datacenter should have an ample power capacity to meet present and future peak demands, while also providing a redundant power supply in case of an emergency or during times of system maintenance.

The MMO market is a tough nut to crack, but knowing is half the battle, as they say. With the right choice of hosting provider you are far from helpless when it comes to scalability.

That’s it for this week. Should you have any questions, you can always contact us through gaming@leaseweb.com, or drop by booth #220 during GameConnection Europe from 6th to 8th December. Will you be attending GameConnection Europe too? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below or tweeting us (@LeaseWeb).

Next week, in our fourth and final ‘It’s all in the game’ post, we’ll talk about the various cost models of hosting providers. So be sure to keep an eye on the blog!

 

The complete ‘It’s all in the game’ blog series:

  1. Reliable Hosting
  2. Worldwide Connectivity
  3. Fast Scalability
  4. Efficient Pricing

One Response to “It’s all in the game, part 3: Fast scalability and MMO gaming”

  • Really good article. I have been part of many MMO releases and no matter what developer or publisher, there are always (understandable) problems. A nice read though, thanks for sharing!

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