[Beowulf] clusters in gaming

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed Jan 31 08:43:04 PST 2007

I've been looking at Second Life recently, which does most
things server-side (in fact, running a distributed world
with game physics) unlike games like WoW, where the intelligence
(and crunch) is mostly in the client. Linden Labs run a
large cluster to host the game world, which is segmented
by virtual machines. I don't know which network topology
they use, but a contiguous game world maps well to a 2d mesh
or a torus.

What I didn't like is that most of the game is purportedly
based on a byte-compiled language, with some long-term plans
to switch to .Net (Mono, actually), which should result in
much improved performance. Current performance is 
rather ridiculous, even high-priority simulations like
private islands only tolerate few 10 avatars before severe
performance degradation, and even crashes.

While I do see what a usual C/C++ MPI approach wouldn't
be probably enough for a highly dynamic and flexible virtual
environment, the result still strikes me as inelegant,
and killing architectural deficiences by throwing enough
hardware at it (not necessary always wrong, mark, just
not in this case).

Can things be compiled in realtime by passing code snippets
in conventional compiled languages, or is this always limited
to highly dynamic environments like Smalltalk (which OpenCroquet
is based on) or Lisp (with sbcl and cmucl there are now great
compilers for Lisp, though I don't know about MPI support)?

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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