Failing In So Many Ways

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Liang Nuren – Failing In So Many Ways

MMO PCUs

Rift

According to the Rift Forums Community Ambassador (01-26-2012 01:48 PM):

Anyone know the state of rift?

The question is very hard to answer meaningfully. Right now, we have 16 servers in NA, population caps are about 2k concurrent players (could be a little more, but I don’t think so). A couple-few are filling up at peak hours, peak hours are usually 5-10% of player base (outside of launch, where it’s quite a bit higher)… so I’d guess rough order of 300k-350k players active in NA plus players elsewhere who are on NA servers.

Participation levels are way down since launch, but that’s a mix of population shifts and changes in hours people play.

We can’t get good info on rising or falling populations right now because of recent effective-mergers of shards; the 16 NA shards we see now are still getting people coming in from 11 shards recently repurposed for “trial” purposes.

In practice, I certainly do see a lot of people in the game who want to know what a soul is, or whether they have to reroll if they don’t like their build, or what it means then there’s a horn sound and a statement like “The heat of the forest begins to increase.” So basically newbies who haven’t played before.

I have read that there are at least 32,000 concurrent users.

16 servers with caps of 2k would be 32,000 if they were all full — but they aren’t, I’ve not seen more than 2-3 with queues in the last month or so. So a lot are a bit under.

It is worth remembering at this point that he’s a Community Ambassador, not a dev.  He’s got the inside track on information but its by no means authoritative.  But lets run with it.

According to Massively, Rift launched by adding 31 new servers for a total of 58 US and 41 EU servers.  Thus, the most peak concurrent users Rift has ever been capable of supporting was ~198k (assuming the same PCU max per server since launch).  According to Riftstatus there are currently 23 total active servers (16 US,  7 EU) for a maximum of 46k players online at any given time.  If the servers were always full during their respective timezones, we could expect 32k concurrent players in the US prime time and 14k in the EU prime time.

However, also according to Riftstatus, most servers cycle between low and medium population throughout the day.  Thus, it is not reasonable to assume that Rift has hit 46k PCU recently (even if we neglect timezone differences between US and EU TZ).  I don’t feel comfortable making arguments relating to the exact ranges that “high”, “medium”, and “low” represent but I’d be surprised if we’re looking at more than 20-25k players during any given US TZ prime time.

SWTOR

On the other hand, SWTOR is just a few months old and has many servers (124 US, 91 EU for a total of 215).  According to Eurogamer, SWTOR’s current vital stats include 1.7M subs and 350k peak concurrent users over 215 servers.  It doesn’t really tell us anything about the per server numbers though, so its hard to compare to Rift, except as perhaps “overall game health”.  But, it does give us some overall numbers to poke at, and those numbers are quite substantial indeed!

According to this thread from the SWTOR forums, someone doing a “personal audit” of the game population using map instance populations found 1400 people on his server.  Dividing the PCU evenly over all the servers worldwide would yield 1628 people per server.  Cramming all the players onto the US TZ servers would result in ~2800 people per server – but of course this simply provides an upper boundary because we know it isn’t happening.  Eve Online’s daily PCU is right as the EU TZ logs off and the US TZ logs on, so dividing across SWTOR’s East/EU servers yields 2023 per server – which is very similar to Rift’s 2k PCU/server.

According to Simutronics (the maker of HeroEngine – the engine used by Bioware to create SWTOR), a single HeroEngine server shard can theoretically support up to 100k concurrent users.  The HeroEngine Wiki provides an example of up to ~300 people per area map, and this is consistent with the observed player thread (and what I personally saw when I had time for SWTOR).  The engine developers go to some lengths to explain that proper game design has a strong effect on your hardware requirements and total scalability.  At some point, the suggested solution is to make the map smaller or instance it.  SWTOR went for instancing, so we can reasonably expect 150-200 people to be about as many people as could be involved in a major PVP engagement.  According to Taugrim the largest engagement he’s been in was 60-70 people with what he termed as “high lag”.

Eve Online

Eve Online has well published concurrent users by way of eve-offline.  I’ve gone over the rolling average for concurrent users in several other posts, but I’ll belabor the point once more since most of my previous posts focused on the rolling average for concurrent users.  Obviously the health metrics of the game itself is improving after the disaster that was Incarna.  But that doesn’t have much to do with today’s topic of conversation: PCU.  The peak concurrent users for Eve Online by Eve-Offline during February was 51748, and its all-time PCU was 60453 during Alliance Tournament 8.

Here’s Eve Online’s PCU for the last several months:

  • “2011-06-05 17:34:00” 49232
  • “2011-07-31 19:32:00” 48813
  • “2011-08-07 18:47:00” 49281
  • “2011-09-05 19:10:00” 48074
  • “2011-10-16 20:11:00” 45487
  • “2011-11-06 20:15:00” 44527
  • “2011-12-11 20:13:00” 48759
  • “2012-01-29 18:59:00” 50356

According to CCP Veritas (dev blog) there were > 1350 players in a single PVP engagement and Time Dilation kept the module response time for under one second.  Of course, just because module response time was low doesn’t mean that things were proceeding quickly, and Time Dilation scaled apparent time down to somewhere between 10-30% for a couple hours while the battle raged.  Jita (the primary market hub) regularly houses more than 1700 active players and I’ve put in a request for CCP Diagoras to see if he can give us Jita PCU numbers for the last several months.

As to the architecture of the game, I think its reasonably well known that each system (area) runs on a single thread on a server.  On the flip side, the server operates in a 1 Hz cycle which would be absolutely unacceptable in games like Rift and SWTOR.  Furthermore, players are assumed to continue moving in Eve Online as opposed to other MMOs where players have to hold a key to continue moving.

These kinds of design differences really emphasize what the HeroEngine wiki was trying to tell us: game design matters for scalability.

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Filed under: Eve, Game Design, Gaming, Rift, SWTOR, , , , , , , ,

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