Massivizing Social Games: Distributed Computing Challenges and High Quality Time

Invited Lecture, CS Dept., Technion, Israel

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Hundreds of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) entertain over 250,000,000 online gamers in a maturing global market of over 30 billion Euros. In the Netherlands and world-wide, gaming revenues exceed those of the film industry since 2007. To maintain competitiveness in games played over the Internet, Dutch studios (employing 1,500 developers) rely on innovation and advanced analysis of gamer profiles.

The exponential growth of the gaming community since 1998 means that resource and cost scalability is the biggest challenge of MMOGs. Faced with the Quality-of-Service constraints imposed by gamers, the current industry approach is to operate large-scale infrastructures. Resource-wise, this approach is un-scalable for player surges, and cost-wise it blocks market access to amateur and small game developers as it requires millions of Euros of initial (risky) investment. Thus, companies such as Khaeon (NL) are unable to capitalize on their innovative game designs and sell at-loss their services to larger (foreign) companies, forfeiting major operational benefits.

To overcome the scalability barriers and massivize online games, we could create a new fabric for small gaming studios that leverages cloud computing resources. Using this fabric, game operators can lease resources from commercial clouds and add them to their infrastructure on-demand--exclusively when, where, and for how long needed; cloud operators can consolidate MMOG and other workloads to gain economies-of-scale and focus expertise.

In this talk I discuss three general research challenges in massivizing online games through the use of cloud computing: scaling the gaming platform, generating player-customized content automatically, and performing gaming analytics. Our view is that scaling games technically is generally insufficient, as game designs commonly prevent larger in-game worlds from operating satisfactorily. We also show that the use of clouds raises numerous distributed systems challenges; for example, variability in MMOG workload and cloud resource performance can incur, when unaccounted for, orders-of-magnitude higher operational costs.

This work is based on recently published material [1-5], a digest of many publications from the past seven years, and several upcoming publications.
[1] Ruud van de Bovenkamp, Siqi Shen, Alexandru Iosup, Fernando A. Kuipers: Understanding and recommending play relationships in online social gaming. COMSNETS 2013: 1-10
[2] Yong Guo, Alexandru Iosup: The Game Trace Archive. NetGames 2012: 1-6
[3] Alexandru Iosup: POGGI: generating puzzle instances for online games on grid infrastructures. Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience 23(2): 158-171 (2011)
[4] Vlad Nae, Alexandru Iosup, Radu Prodan: Dynamic Resource Provisioning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games. IEEE Trans. Parallel Distrib. Syst. 22(3): 380-395 (2011)
[5] Alexandru Iosup, Adrian Lascateu, Nicolae Tapus: CAMEO: Enabling social networks for Massively Multiplayer Online Games through Continuous Analytics and cloud computing. NETGAMES 2010: 1-6