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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
The Business Case for a Streaming MMO Client
By Robert Basler on 2012-07-12 19:33:03
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

I was looking into consumer internet offerings this week and I was shocked to find there are still internet services with as little as 15GB/month and with punitive $1.50/GB overage fees. 15GB/month is about enough for email and web browsing, not much more. For someone with this type of account to give some of the popular MMO's a try, check out the cost:

Star Wars: The Old Republic25GB$37.50
World of Warcraft22GB$33.00
Age of Conan19GB$28.50
Lord of the Rings Online14GB$21.00

There's your business case for building a streaming MMO client right there. If you can get players started with a couple hundred megabyte client they'll save money, be able to get playing way sooner, and you'll save the cost of having them download Gigs of files they may never need.

Guild Wars (which is a streaming client) has a feature I like for those with fat pipes: it has the option to have the client download all the files in one go so you only have to wait on updates. I did that because I found waiting for each zone to download sort of frustrating.

I coded up the first 25% of a streaming system a few months back. I need to get back to that. At a minimum I want to stream my terrain data. It is huge, comes in many tiny files, and I know a few seconds in advance what files I will need. I plan to support multiple simultaneous web server connections to spread the load and make sure one slow server won't cause the client to hitch. I'm leaning towards one big blob for the manifest and providing binary diffs to update it. After much research, bsdiff seems to me to be the best option for that (good performance, attribution license and it comes with comprehensible source code.)

If you're thinking about a streaming client for your game, here's an article on how the streaming client was built for Everquest II. There's lots of good ideas in there to get you started.

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