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Shroud of the Avatar: Selective Multiplayer, Part 4

The Technology



This is the fourth in a series of articles about the Selective Multiplayer system in Shroud of the Avatar.


Schultz So how would you summarize the multiplayer system overall?

Garriott A more succinct synopsis is: client and server are both on your machine, which allows you to play offline for at least short periods of time, it allows groups of people in an instance to share the load of operating in an instance, it keeps it off the server, which lowers are costs, which is one of the reasons we think we don’t have to charge a subscription fee, because it will play largely on its own. It is only the large database of the persistent world that we keep, and it’s one database versus gazillions of instances.

Schultz Amazon Web Services?

Garriott Right now, that’s exactly what it is. So, we’re pretty comfortable, while there are still some issues to work through, fundamentally, it should do pretty well.

Schultz So, as far as Unity goes, what’s the user experience difference going from the desktop to, say, an iPad 4?

Garriott Other than UI changes, which will be inevitable, I’m hoping that it’s going to be identical, or pretty darn close. What I’m not interested in, is if we say, you can go on certain kinds of maps, but not others; you can play the economic game, but not the combat game; and then I won’t do it. I’m not interested in a hamstrung version of the game. We’ll either get a pretty full game in there, or we probably won’t do it. But I think we can.

Schultz To do that, do you have low-poly assets for the mobile platforms?

Garriott If that is required, that is clearly what we will do, but I don’t know that we’ll need to.

The footprint of the game, while no means will be small, one of the things we’re doing is designing the map fundamental structure for efficiency.  We’re not creating one giant contiguous reality. We frankly can’t afford to, we can’t afford the time, and I don’t think it helps. I think you end up making a giant maze of nothingness that takes you forever to build, if you do that without enough really interesting content in there. And so, by focusing on points of interest for content, and then generic is hopefully too generic a word to use for it, but forests and savannah, and swamp that are similar to other forests, and savannah, and swamp, while there might be other scenarios that pop up in them, a fundamentally similar base map that should take our time to develop down, and takes our memory footprint down. So, we’ll see if we need some poly savings, either use one LOD down as the basis, but I’m not sure we’ll need to. Unity’s pretty darn good about that on its own. But it wouldn’t freak me out if we did drop it.

Schultz So the game is entirely zone-based?

Garriott Yes. Well, when I say zone, there’s two zoom levels of the zones; there’s indoor maps and scenario maps. What we’re not doing is, when you go inside, you get a building interior map. I love as close to monoscale as we can get, but we need to go to at least two. And while there are lots of team members that have tried to talk me into making the interior of a house separate from walking around the perimeter of a house, because it would save the development team more pain, it was just too much of a reality-breaker for me. It makes it too obvious it is a game, versus a real place.

Schultz Did you play Everquest back in the day?

Garriott Sure, of course.

Schultz In the House of Unrest, a zone which was essentially a haunted house containing everything from movie monsters to outcasts from the D&D Monster Manual, had horrible pathing issues, which would result in gigantic trains of mobs charging out of the house and wiping out everyone in the zone.

Garriott But, you know, there will always be anomalies, and as much fun as they are to tease and toss around as failings, they are also the things we remember. [laughs] 

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