Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) have become part of the mainstream net culture during the last couple of years. Everybody is talking about Second Life or World of Warcraft these days. One aspect that gets rarely addressed is how the future if MMOGs will look like. Now if you ask a handfull of Taiwanese computer scientists that call themselves the VAST Development Team, the answer is clear: distibuted.

The team has developed an Open Source P2P framework for MMOGs called VAST, which stands for Voronoi-based Adaptive Scalable Transfer. From their website:

"To reach a truly massive audience and evolve NVE (networked virtual environment) into a global phenomenon, its scale must go up while the cost must go down. Therefore, two important issues are scalability and affordability. Basically, how do we create a NVE that allows millions of users to participate at the same time? And, how can we lower the costs in development and deployment so that NVE may become as commonly and easily accessible as today’s WWW?"

The intersting thing about this apporach is that MMOGs demand a different way of thinking about P2P. Traditional P2P networks try to achieve the biggest network horizon possible. Users who want to find a rare file potentially need to search the whole network, or at least big parts of it.

Players in online games however don't need to know what's going on a different island or continent. To them only their immediate environment matters. Of course this environment is changing all the time, so it needs to be highly flexible. VAST uses a special flavour of neighbour discovery for this that takes into account many aspects of MMOGs: Areas can get crowded, users can be alone on their property and so on.

The whole concept is described in detail on their website, and I encourage you to read it. It's a very interesting way to think about P2P, and it makes you wonder whether such frameworks could be used for P2P-based social networks or even P2P localization.

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