Welcome!

Linux Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Sematext Blog, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Anarchy Online: Linux-Powered Science Fiction

An interview with Funcom's Christian Berentsen

It turns out that, indeed, many MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) are running Linux on their back ends. Christian Berentsen, the operations director of Funcom (www.funcom.com) kindly agreed to a virtual talk with Dee-Ann LeBlanc, LinuxWorld Magazine's gaming industry editor, about how Anarchy Online (www.anarchyonline.com) uses Linux to bring the world of Rubi-Ka to life for their user base.

LWM: Please tell us briefly about Anarchy Online. I know it's a science fiction MMORPG since I used to play it, but tell us a bit about the game world and the game.
Christian Berentsen:
Anarchy Online takes place on the planet Rubi-Ka, almost 30,000 years from now. Rubi Ka is important to the corporation Omni-Tek due to the presence of a rich notum ore. Notum is a mineral that enables "hard" nano-technology (a step forward from the soft, biologically based nano-technology). The planet has been terraformed to some degree, and several cities and natural expanses have been developed by Omni-Tek. Omni-Tek treats its employees in a manner that leaves a lot to be desired.

After a few generations, the revolt emerges. The player takes part in this world by choosing a breed, gender, looks, and a profession, then evolves the character from there. The player can choose sides in the conflict or stay neutral. The game world is large and beautiful 3D scenery, where the players can explore, team up, party, do missions, fight, form large organizations, and do many other things left up to their imaginations. Central to the game is the character development that's based on gaining experience from fighting, doing missions, assembling items, and other things. The characters can gain levels up to 220, and in that process they have a lot of fun. Every character will have a different experience and become a unique citizen of Rubi-Ka.

LWM: Where is Linux involved in AO's back end?
Berentsen:
All our servers run Linux. Our game servers, database servers, login servers...the chat server is running FreeBSD.

LWM: Why was Linux selected to handle the back-end tasks that it handles?
Berentsen:
We started by having a few different Unixes in our development phase, and gained some experience with the different products (Irix, AIX, Digital Unix, some Solaris). In this heterogeneous development environment it was more of an evolutionary process that made Linux survive. The other OSes had some strengths and weaknesses (for example tools, good or bad debuggers). In the end we realized that the platform we had most control on was Linux, and we believed it to be suitable for deployment on our live sites.

LWM: Why were the other back-end platforms selected to handle what they handle?
Berentsen:
We have one FreeBSD machine running the chat server. Back then it was the only OS that could realistically handle the number of connections we required.

LWM: What type of setup is this back end? Clustered? COWed?
Berentsen:
We have several "dimensions" that are disconnected from each other. Each has its own database server and set of game servers that run parts of the world (playfields) on them. We have automatic load balancing of playfields onto servers, and some static load balancing.

LWM: I know that this was a long time ago for you, but what were some of the challenges involved in building your MMORPG? Were any of them Linux specific?
Berentsen:
The main technical challenge was to be able to support a large number of players and objects in a large world. Profiling was a challenge on all the operating systems, and we developed our own profile viewer (for gprof) and later also a LiveProfiler (not using gprof) for server performance profiling on the fly.

LWM: What technical lessons have you learned along the way?
Berentsen:
There are many things we have learned from making AO, on many levels. Choosing open source middleware has proven very valuable, and has supported our portable development strategy well. Think about scalability early on, even in the game design.... Make tools for operating the game early as well. We think we have done many things right, and been able to select out the bad directions early.

LWM: What business lessons have you learned along the way?
Berentsen:
Do not launch prematurely. Have a longer beta and fix all showstopper bugs before launch. We have released many content and bugfix patches since release, and the game is very stable now; the first week was kind of rocky in that area.

LWM: Is there a Linux client? I know there wasn't when I changed from a Windows to a Linux desktop, that's one of the reasons I ended up having to leave the game, but things do change.
Berentsen:
There is no Linux client; we started porting the client renderer to OpenGL at one point, as the start of the porting process, but it was abandoned.

LWM: Do you plan to provide one?
Berentsen:
There are no current plans to provide a Linux client.

LWM: What would have to change in order for you to consider such a move?
Berentsen:
We might consider this if Linux becomes a desktop OS of choice for gamers. We know there are games being ported to Linux, and that a lot of the Linux community plays games, but currently we do not think the market for AO is big enough in this segment.

LWM: Do you plan to stick with Linux in your infrastructure at this same level when you begin your next game project?
Berentsen:
We will probably stick to Linux on the server side. Our server code is platform independent, and we embrace open source. We will probably use Linux at the same level as now, with a hybrid development of server on Linux and client on Windows. Probably a lot of the tools we will be using in the future will be platform independent, so if people in house have Linux desktops, we will support that for our developers and content providers.

More Stories By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Dee-Ann LeBlanc has been involved with Linux since 1994. She is the author of 12 books, 130 articles, and has more of both coming. She is a trainer, a course developer - including the official Red Hat online courseware at DigitalThink - a founding member of the AnswerSquad, and a consultant.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.