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A Report on the Project Darkstar Anthropological Expedition Into the World of Massively Scaled Online Games
While the culture of enterprise computing, transaction processing, and Web services has developed, an entirely different culture centering on computing has been evolving in a different ecosystem. Although those in our culture tend to play with the artifacts produced by their culture and those in their culture tend to use the programming languages produced in our culture, in fact the two groups lost contact somewhere in the Colossal Cave and have had little real interaction since.
These cultures are about to be brought together again. The architectural move to multicore, multithreaded chips will require changes in the way games are programmed, while the requirements of scaling in games such as World of Warcraft require the use of distributed systems. As virtual worlds emerge, the distinction between business or scientific systems and games will start to disappear.
During the past two years, I have led a project at Sun Microsystems Laboratories to build a highly scalable, highly concurrent infrastructure for massive-scale online games and virtual worlds. This work has brought us into contact with the culture of games and the inhabitants of that culture. In this talk I will describe some of the ways in which the game world differs from the computing world most of us are used to, and I'll discuss the challenges facing that world that might profitably be approached in a cross-cultural fashion.
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