MMOs And The Future Of Technology

Virtual Reality

The future of gaming is looking like a dick in front of your computer

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately that have been discussing the disappointing turn of events surrounding RIFT’s first world event. Apparently it was queues galore, resulting in a fair number of players missing out on the narrow window of the opportunity to complete the event, a real shame all in all (although no doubt some folk are overreacting in the manner only the Internet can allow). But here we are again, even with the most slick and advanced MMO, facing queues, that old MMO nemesis. Will we ever be able to move past it all?

Of course queues are a result of basic hardware and software restrictions and they’re no easy feat to overcome. We need to queue because, simply put, if too many people all got on to one server at the same time the entire thing would explode and sys admins would be found lying in heaps, crying in server rooms around the globe. This has been an unfortunate basic fact since the dawn of mass market MMOs over a decade ago. We are utterly and absolutely beholden to technology it seems.

So what does the future of technology hold for our MMOs? Will it change the way we interact with them entirely and turn our user experience into some kind of super-duper virtual reality game? Or will it simply allow us to iron out all of these bugs and issues that seem to keep cropping up, 12 years since the launch of the first 3D MMO?

Frankly, I don’t think it will be either.

The problem is that as hardware and software technology increases in power and robustness it also equally scales in complexity and demand. RIFT is a great example of this and how, even with all of our modern technology that would’ve seemed so advanced to the Everquest development team in the mid/late 90s, we still suffer from restrictions due to larger size of the player base and the more demanding nature of the game. Graphics, physics, AI etc are all far more advanced now than ever and require more processing power than ever before plus the game itself is expected to do so many more wonderful things. Used to be day when players were just pleased to be able to log in and play for 20 minutes without getting kicked off due to lag but now they expect all sort of fancy shenanigans like dynamic world events and huge scale mass PvP.

Ultimately I don’t see the future of technology really improving our MMO lives at all. However though, if there is a single factor that will make the next decade of MMO gaming smoother and more user friendly than ever before, it will be all of the people are who are developing, designing, programming and administrator our games. They are gaining experience (pardon the pun), exposure and familiarity with massive online gaming that just wasn’t available 10 years ago and it will be these factors that improve the operation of MMOs in the years to come. They are our future, not technology.

-Gordon

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20 Comments

  1. Ogrebear says:

    I disagree. I would love to go in to detail but i can’t (work related). I don’t work at a game company but we handle some of these problems.

  2. Pathak says:

    With that image, the future of gaming looks like the genesis of Cybermen.

  3. Epiny says:

    I agree with you Gordon. Go back 10 years ago to when high speed internet became popular and the types of computers we use. Everything more or less still loads just as fast.

    The better our technology the more stuff we find to use up those resources. Just compare how much it took to run Win98 compared to Win7. It’s technology inflation.

  4. It’s usually at this point I like to point out that the original commerical Meridian 59 servers were Pentium Pro 200 MHz (that’s M as in mega) with a screaming 128 MB of RAM. We could hold about 200 people on the server before we saw slowdown. These were fairly competent server machines in that era.

    The problem is that there are a lot of potential bottlenecks for an MMO server; solve one and you’re likely to run into another. Peak bandwidth has limite even on the server side, speed of database access, drive access times if you aren’t storing everything in memory, etc. As much as Ogrebear might think the problems can be solved, I’ll bet another one will raise it’s ugly head if his company could solve that first problem.

    • Gordon says:

      To seems to me that as one thing increases in power, something else just scales in demand or size. For instance we may have faster net connections now but just have bigger games to download and more information to pass as play. I mean, it’s kinda mind boggling to think that something like latency is still an issue for online gaming in this day and age but unfortunately it is.

  5. vortal says:

    To rely solely on technology is to not put your faith in the development staff. Ogrebears, technology won’t be able to solve everything my friend, but it will be able to solve most. If you think about it the Queue was here in the beginning of time (or EQ as I like to call it). It’s a signature annoyance that everyone experiences, I just think that current MMO players are spoilt, but what do I know, a couple of years ago I was rolling 10 sided die. I think so far MMO’s and their players have been quite well off. There really isn’t that much of a problem for me, besides the amount of content and Questing/Dungeons I need to survive on. I am okay just with the basics of an MMO to live on, I don’t need no fancy pants dynamic world events and huge scale mass PvP.

  6. Ceara says:

    I can’t remember where I got this “truism” but…

    … all technology allows us to do is become equally frustrated by trying to achieve more complex things.

  7. vortal says:

    Well if anyone remembers The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj. Then you will truly know what kind of stuff happened, so much so the technology was truly overwhelmed. Even through all that the event was Magical and one of the few things any MMO will ever experience.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t playing during that time. My friend was recollecting all the memories of a bygone era.

    A quote from WoW Insider:
    “Despite all of the problems, all of the frustrations, all of the failures … you’ll still find countless vanilla WoW players who consider the opening of Ahn’Qiraj to be one of the funnest days they’ve ever had in the game. It was a completely unique experience. Even if you didn’t get to participate in the battle and only experienced the crippling bugs and glitches the server instability caused, you probably had a bit of a laugh and saw things you otherwise wouldn’t have. It was an experience you might never have again.”

  8. Utakata says:

    If the future of MMO technology looks like picture captured for this entry, I’m not sure I would want to be having a nerd rage in that. :(

  9. Longasc says:

    What is definitely a thing of the past and should stop is separating people into servers and going so far to make transfer to another server difficult plus cost real money.

    Many games have dynamic layers nowadays, or whatever we want to call dynamically instanced one-world systems. Cryptic’s Champions and Star Trek Online, Aion at least partially, Guild Wars rather heavily and CCP’s EVE (if you see the star systems as connected instances) show that it is possible. And at least for Guild Wars it’s true that I never ever had a login queue. And on every event there are more people in major cities alone than there are people on a dozen Rift servers together.

    I think that’s going to get better.
    What is not going to get better is that games that feature graphics and sounds at the bleeding edge of technology run at low FPS, load slowly and all that. Basically the same situation as with games 10 years ago, with better graphics of course, but despite several times faster hardware loading times and FPS often stay funnily in the same range.

    • Gordon says:

      I think as long as companies are making money by charging people to move servers then it’s never going to go away. It’s kinda strange to think that even now, in this day and age, there’s only one MMO that runs on a single server.

  10. JeffM says:

    I think where we really are going to see a vast improvement is AI, for the past couple years I have been consulting with two different developers one of them has a main focus is on how Computer assets (both animate and inanimate) interacts with the player, and where we are currently (at least in the controlled testing’s stages ) and where we are going is absolutely amazing; in the next ten years it will be hard to tell if you are speaking to a NPC or another player, NPC’s will be so much more than just vending machines developers will be able to weave complex and truly dynamic (not just the Buzzword Dynamic) stores that will give a much greater replay value to our games… to me at least that is where the true immersion is,

    we will more than likely plateau on the quality of visuals, but smarter more efficient code, that’s the real future.

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