Massivizing Online Gaming: Distributed Computing Challenges and High Quality Time

Invited Talk, group talks at EEMCS, the Netherlands

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Hundreds of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) entertain over 250,000,000 online gamers in a maturing global market that generates over 30 billion Euros yearly. Massivizing, which means to scale efficiently, is the biggest challenge of MMOGs. Faced with the Quality-of-Service constraints imposed by gamers, the current industry approach is to build and operate large-scale, expensive infrastructures; the production of Destiny, released in 2014, cost over 500 billion. Resource-wise, this approach is un-scalable for unexpected player surges, and cost-wise it is risky and often even unsustainable. To participate in this market, Dutch gaming studios, which employ less than 2,500 developers combined but exceed in revenues any other branch of the Dutch entertainment industry, have to compensate their lack of funding power through technical innovation.

To overcome the scalability barriers and massivize online games, we could create for small gaming studios a new fabric based on cloud computing resources and services. Using this fabric, game operators can lease resources from commercial clouds and add them to their infrastructure on-demand--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 main research challenges in massivizing online games through the use of cloud computing: scaling the gaming platform, generating player-customized content automatically, and performing big gaming-data analytics. Our results indicate that cloud-based approaches could lead to an order of magnitude more efficient use of resources, without significant performance degradation. When attracting many players, cloud offloading techniques and advanced scalability techniques such as ours could become crucial. By using clouds, game operators could generate player-customized content, at scale. Last, our view is that simply scaling games from a technical perspective is generally insufficient, as game designs commonly prevent larger in-game worlds from operating satisfactorily; by using social-gaming analytics, game operators could enrich gameplay experiences for numerous players.

This body of work is based on recently published material [1-5], a digest of many publications from the past seven years, and several other upcoming publications [1-2].

[1] S. Shen, A. Iosup, D. H. J. Epema, and S.-Y. Hu (Academia Sinica, TW). Area of Simulation: Mechanism and Architecture for Multi-Avatar Virtual Environments, ACM Trans. Multimedia Comput. Comm. App. 2015. (in print)
[2] L. Jia, S. Shen, R van de Bovenkamp, A. Iosup, F.A. Kuipers, D.H.J. Epema. Socializing by Gaming: Revealing Social Relationships in Multiplayer Online Games, ACM Trans. Knowl. Disc. Data. 2015. (in print)
[3] A.-C. Olteanu, N. Tapus, A. Iosup: Extending the Capabilities of Mobile Devices for Online Social Applications through Cloud Offloading. CCGRID 2013: 160-163
[4] Alexandru Iosup: POGGI: generating puzzle instances for online games on grid infrastructures. Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience 23(2): 158-171 (2011) (Best Paper Award Euro-Par 2009)
[5] Vlad Nae, Alexandru Iosup, Radu Prodan: Dynamic Resource Provisioning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games. IEEE Trans. Parallel Distrib. Syst. 22(3): 380-395 (2011) (100+ citations, including conference article)