id's Carmack & Stratton QuakeLive Interview
|Author: Roger LaMarca & Drew Campbell
|Image of the QuakeLive homepage.
As part of our QuakeLive public beta launch coverage, QuakeUnity brings you an interview with id Software's John Carmack and Marty Stratton. John Carmack, of course, is id Software's co-founder and lead programmer. Marty Stratton, formerly the Director of Business Development, is now the producer of QuakeLive.
John and Marty discuss the QuakeLive backend infrastructure, their work with mod authors to bring additional features to the game, and the hiring of developers from inside the Quake community. Additionally, the duo weigh in about the complexities of the technology behind QuakeLive, the possibility of licensing the system, their commitment to to stop cheating, and the marketing strategy behind the game.
QuakeLive Server Infrastructure
The computers that support the QuakeLive network are located at different data centers around the world. For past games, such as Quake III Arena, most, if not all, of the backend infrastructure was located physically on the id Software network. These backend services were fairly low bandwidth applications such as the master server, which reports the list of available game servers. Marty disclosed that what little services were running on the id network during the QuakeLive closed beta consumed at least half of their total bandwidth.
To serve what they hope will be a large demand, id has located the backend servers, which collect massive amounts of data from every QuakeLive player, at GNi. They are a hosting provider in San Francisco that specializes in meeting a client's rapidly growing needs. The Linux based servers, which are powered by four quad-core processors, run QuakeLive's redundant Oracle database environment. Since QuakeLive's profitability has yet to be proven, id is implementing cost prevention measures, such as only using Oracle Standard Edition instead of the more expensive Enterprise version. Various tasks are offloaded to Python application servers also located at GNi.
"For a free game, we want to make sure the business model can prove itself out before we make a large commitment. There is still a lot of optimization and changes we are making on the backend just so we can get the database utilization down as low as possible.
"It is a lot of the same things MMOs (massive multiplayer online games) go through. We kind of joke of that we are a team of nine internal developers and four external contractors that have almost created an MMO infrastructure for a first person shooter. But with all of the persistence, such as the awareness of the system knowing when players are online, getting notifications when friends get awards, and all of the statistics, it really is as persistent as arena first person shooter can get." -- Marty Stratton
The static content, such as the site's graphics and the game data itself, is being delivered by Panther Express
, a lower priced content distribution company. With the total size of the game currently under four-hundred megabytes, download times should not be not be an issue for broadband users.
Since QuakeLive is a closed environment, id Software is the only one that is able to run game servers. To make sure players have the most optimal ping times, they are working with multiple game service providers such as Hypernia to have servers in the United States, Europe, and Australia for this public beta launch. Timothee Besset, a programmer on the QuakeLive team, is responsible for the backend code that dynamically launches game servers. He has set up the backend to look at different load patterns that will spin up individual game instances on the servers depending on whether a game is needed in a specific location. The backend is optimized enough to even know when a specific gametype, such as Capture The Flag, is needed in a geographical region. The main goals of the backend are to have a perfected system where the largest amount of players possible can fit on a single server and to make sure player demand for additional game servers is constantly meet.
QuakeLive Mod Support
after a tournament match played using the Quake III CPMA mod.
Although id Software has no plans to allow user-made modifications to be incorporated into QuakeLive, they have gone out of their way to hire one of the most successful Quake III mod authors to help them with their project. id revealed to QuakeUnity that Kevin 'arQon' Blenkinsopp, author of the popular mod Challenge ProMode Arena
(CPMA), has been hired as a contractor on QuakeLive. If you're not familiar with CPMA, it is the premiere mod of choice for Quake III tournaments. It includes competitive features such as modified gameplay physics, multi-view demos, and highly customizable HUDs.
Blenkinsopp has been working with id for quite some time on many of the QuakeLive features including the implementation of the Clan Arena gametype. Most recently, he has been working on a competitive feature set, something a lot of players have been requesting. Some of the features that will be incorporated include timeouts, team locking, and various other types of competitive features. While hardcore CPMA fans will be disappointed that the mod's unique gameplay physics will not be incorporated, another popular enhancement from CPMA will be included: the netcode.
"We feel like we have a pretty compelling offering with over forty arenas, five of which are completely new for QuakeLive. Most of the good Team Arena content has been included and everything has been given a pretty dramatic facelift. We've taken a lot of the competitive changes for arenas and moved them over to QuakeLive. In most cases, they have been a positive change for both the competitive and new players as far as balancing out item placements and things like that. We've looked at a lot of different ways mod teams have done things. Obviously, Rocket Arena is a pretty big thing and Clan Arena falls into that general category, although slightly different. We didn't want to take anything directly from other mods, but rather include our own offering.�
"Moving forward, additional content will depend on how our business model works out and what type of audience we have. The system has been developed to allow us to add new content relatively easily, but a lot of the uniqueness of QuakeLive comes from the fact that we control everything. It's a bit of a tradeoff, but I think we have a nice balance. Hopefully we have a lot of really excited players and the advertising revenue comes in. If that happens, we can keep the team together supporting the game." -- Marty Stratton
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