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Article: Book: Massively Multiplayer Game Development

By Admin on 2005-03-31 00:00:00
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Massively Multiplayer Game Development (MMGD) is a remarkable resource for anyone considering making their own Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). Like many of the titles from Charles River Media, MMGD is a collection of articles from a number of industry veterans, each article covering in detail one particular aspect or feature of MMOG design or development. Each article covers its topic with specific examples, source code, algorithms, discussion as well as references for additional study.

This book isn't just for programmers, a significant number of the articles cover game design issues such as social interaction, reassuring parents that their children are safe playing the game online, making games fun even when the player only has a few minutes, and more. MMGD includes sections on Massively Multi-Player (MMP) Design Techniques, MMP Architecture, Server-Side Development, Client-Side Development, Database Techniques and Game Systems with four to eight articles in each section.

Normally I read books from Charles River piecemeal, an article here, one there. This is the first of their titles that I read from front to back. I will admit that I skipped a few articles along the way, however all of the articles were on-point, and they were able to avoid the highly theoretical, the dated, or the too-basic information often found in game development books.

My favourite article in the book is the one on Procedural Worlds which discusses having the computer generate your worlds algorithmically rather than having to model them inch by inch in a 3D editor. This idea just makes sense for MMOG worlds aiming at millions of players - they need more room to stand in, not to mention build houses, bases and empires. The author looks at the benefits and drawbacks of procedural generation, algorithms, how to allow for exceptions when the game designer wants a specific item in a specific place, generating terrain, and even the issues of scale - ever try to represent locations on a million square miles of terrain with an INT?

Arguably the best thing about this book for the novice MMOG developer is the articles on the unique problems of MMOG design and operation that you might not think of on your own. You will definitely think differently about game design after you've read this book. You will also have a whole new appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite MMOG games. If you've developed standalone single player games, or even multiplayer games designed to be played by friends, you'll likely be surprised by the unique challenges offered by the MMOG environment. For example, what will you do about players who enjoy torturing and harassing other players, or who just swear at others constantly in the game's chat room? What about players who try to hack the game client code to get an advantage? Or what if players manipulate your game's reputation system so other players are chased out of every town they visit? The MMOG definitely has its own set of complications, and this book will give you the heads up on a lot of them long before your servers go live.

MMOG development is a massive topic. I would have liked to have seen more information on the business side of MMOG's such as deployment and support, as well as more on back-end development, which is where MMOG games differ most from single or small multiplayer games. Hopefully they'll cover than in MMGD2. If you are considering getting into the MMOG arena, this book is certainly a good place to start.

The included CD-ROM contains source code and a number of example implementations of systems discussed in the book.

Charles River Media also publishes many other books on game development including the Game Programming Gems series.

Product Summary
Title: Massively Multiplayer Game Development
Editor: Thor Alexander
Publisher: Charles River Media, Inc.
ISBN: 1-58450-243-6
484 Pages

Released in February 2005, Massively Multiplayer Game Development 2 is a sequel to this book available from Charles River Media. An MMORTS.COM review of this new title is upcoming.

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