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Clan Wars

Official Blog for the popular Browser MMORPG "Clan Wars". You can play Clan Wars at clan-wars.org

Author: highborn

Contributor: Slayback

Server Hosting for a Startup

Posted by Slayback Wednesday June 24 2009 at 9:58PM
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During the production of Disciple and in some previous ventures, I've gotten familiar with the pros and cons of several different types of hosting.  I'm not going to share my opinions on specific hosting providers, but I do want to share my learnings on types of hosting and what we have found worked the best.

First, there are 4 main types of hosting that one considers:

  • Shared
  • Co-Located
  • Dedicated
  • Virtual/Cloud

Each of these has pros and cons, which I will cover.

Shared

These are the cheap hosted accounts which you share resources on a server (or cluster of servers). These aren't a fit for a game of this type, but there are many instances in which they would work well.  For instance, if I were to be creating a traditional website, there is no reason to start on anything larger than a shared hosting account.  Then, after you outgrow that, you can move to one of the larger hosting types.

Pros:

  • CHEAP!
  • Easy management, usually with nice control panel
  • No need to get your hands dirty with setting up web or database servers

Cons:

  • Usually very limited resources.  If you grow quickly you can easily hit the limits of this type of account.
  • You can only run the types of code they support.  Usually Java and more advanced services are not available
  • Performance is usually mediocre at best since they tune the servers to support everyone, rather than how your code needs to run

When to use it:

  • Early stage of a startup (alpha or beta)
  • Simple web applications
  • Company landing pages

Co-Located

Co-located hosting is where the provider provides the power, bandwidth, and rack space and you provide the servers.  This means that you're responsible for either purchasing or leasing the server.

Pros:

  • Can be cheaper in the long-run than dedicated hosting
  • You can get great performing servers that fit your needs exactly

Cons:

  • Expensive cash up-front for servers or a long-term lease commitment
  • Rack space is still not cheap
  • You are responsible for most aspects of server management

When to use it:

  • You're business plan is set and you have predictable revenue streams
  • You need beefier servers than most hosting providers will give you at reasonable costs

Dedicated

Dedicated hosting provides a good balance of cheap start-up costs and great performance with the ability to run anything you want.  There are many "managed" hosting providers out there too that will handle the management aspects of your server, such as monitoring and taking care of simple problems for you.

Pros:

  • Little to no start up costs
  • Great performance
  • In many instances less management than co-located servers

Cons:

  • Often there are long-term contracts, especially for "managed" hosting
  • You will still manage many aspects of your servers
  • Usually high monthly costs

When to use it:

  • You need more power than a shared hosting provider, but aren't ready for the commitment of purchasing or leasing servers

Virtual/Cloud

While this technology isn't new, virtualization technology has greatly improved in the last several years to the point that this has created a whole new market segment in hosting.  This started slowly with "Virtual Private Servers" (VPSs) and has morphed into what is now called cloud computing.  Cloud computing is typically a combination of technologies - virtual servers and then a mechanism for users to either manually or programatically provision new servers on-demand.  This has been a boon for startups and is our current choice of hosting environments.

Pros:

  • Near-instantaneous server provisioning
  • Great environment for building scalable applications
  • No setup costs
  • Advanced features available such as server cloning and backups
  • Typically high-performance servers are available
  • For the price of 1 dedicated servers, you may get 6 virtual servers

Cons:

  • Managing all aspects of large number of virtual servers can create management overhead
  • A single virtual server is not as powerful as dedicated servers, but much more powerful than shared servers

When to use it:

  • Any startup
  • A great alternative to shared hosting providers for a small increase in price
  • An application that needs horizontal scalability

Conclusions

At this point, it should be evident why we are using a cloud provider.  With any online game, the demand can fluctuate quickly and with little to no notice.  If we were using a dedicated or co-located provider, our only solution would be to have servers sitting idle "just in case".  With our current provider, we can clone an existing web, application, or database server in about 15 minutes and immediately have additional capacity.  We think that this gives us the best chance to make sure that when you, our players, come to our game, you can get the best experience possible.

I hope this little bit of tech insight has been useful and I'll try to answer any questions anyone may have in the comments.

 

The Making of a Browser MMO: International Relations Part III

Posted by highborn Thursday June 11 2009 at 6:06PM
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Greetings Disciples!

Last week we left off with the CTO of Resistor being taken into custody by some friends acting like the KGB in Belarus.

As the week progressed we knew that we had to build relationships not just with the executive team of our development partners, but with their employees as well. These are the people doing the majority of the work, and it’s important to be friendly with them as well, since they are often working long nights make sure that software is out on time.

After talking with the team for a few days, we decided to show them what and American keg party is like. In Belarus they are no strangers to heavy drinking, but they had never heard of a Keg Stand. We invited the entire company to come.

We ordered a Keg of micro brewed beer from the brewery across the street and decided to have the party right there in the office after working hours.

Once the beer arrived, the team began drinking immediately. It wasn’t long before the drinking competitions started. To our surprise, the CTO, Marc was beating everyone! This was unexpected since there were some big guys trying to slam beers with Marc, but in a way this was his redemption after the fake abduction he endured earlier in the week.

The development had one last shot at redemption to see if they could find someone to beat Marc in the drinking contest. They convinced the PM, Vitaliy, to challenge Marc. This is a pretty big deal because Vitaliy has a reputation for never drinking, he hates it. But with the pride of his company on the line, Vitaliy did not back away from challenging Marc. Here is the video of what happened:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRDqtz6NLHc&feature=channel_page

So who won? Leave your comments on this blog post.

So obviously we had quite a rich experience in our trip overseas to meet the development partners, but there was a purpose for all of this.

Relationships are key for productivity and general shared excitement around any development project. If someone does not know who they are working for, its hard to care about the end product.

We achieved our goal, we built working relationships and created memories with people from another country that made the development process for Disciple much easier and increased the communication dramatically.

Next week we will start posting about the technology side of Disciple and what went into making the game from that perspective.

Until next week . . .

The Making of a Browser MMO: International Relations Part II

Posted by highborn Tuesday June 2 2009 at 4:50PM
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 Link to Part 1: http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/highborn/052009/3886_The-Making-of-a-Browser-MMO-International-Relations-Part-I

Greeting Disciples!

Last week we left off with getting beaten with branches in a 150 degree sauna in Belarus by our development team.

The next story of our adventures in team building center around the Resistor Productions CTO named Marc. Marc is a good friend with the CEO of Resistor, Tobias, and Tobias knew that Marc had never been overseas. With the anxiety of Marc’s first time overseas, along with the weird feeling of visiting a former soviet state, Tobias went to great lengths to take advantage of Marc’s awkward feelings.

Ahead of the trip Tobias called the owners of Apalon and planned a prank that is so epic in proportion that it rivals anything you have ever seen on the show “Punk’d”.

On the second night in Belarus, Tobias left early to go to dinner with some of the employees of the development firm. Marc was left alone with one of the owners late at night in the offices. It was then that a KGB agent showed up, accompanied by an armed guard with an AK-47.

They approached Marc and asked him for his passport. They told him he was wanted for questioning under suspicion of espionage. Marc was completely freaked out. The agents barely spoke English, one had an AK-47 and they kept his passport. They were yelling at him in Russian and trying to get him to sign a confession that was written in Russian, so Marc had no idea what it said!.

When Marc refused to sign the confession, they handcuffed him and put a black bag over his head. They lead him outside and threw him in the backseat of an SUV. They drove around for about an hour and yelled at him to shut up anytime he asked any questions.

Marc was silent and shaking.

After about an hour of driving around, they pulled up to a security gate and showed their badges. The guard let them through. All Marc could think is that he wanted to see his wife, and that he thought he was going to be tortured in some crazy interrogation.

As the car made its way down into a parking lot, there were a group of men yelling outside the car. They parked the car and took the bag off of Marc’s head, and standing in front of him was Tobias, half drunk, with an evil smile on his face.

It’s probably not appropriate to write what Marc said to him in this blog, but there was a very colorful exchange. After Marc released some tension, he shared the laugh with Tobias and the developers.

Marc said he completely believed it was real, and wondered if he would die. It was the most epic prank he ever experienced and will remember it to the end of his days.

We did manage to capture the entire event on video, but it’s over an hour long, so as soon as we edit it, we will post it for everyone to enjoy.

Come back next week for the last in this 3 part series.

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