Swedish network technology company Pikkotekk got in touch to tell us about their new project: putting 1000 players in the same shooter, with everyone on the battlefield able to shoot everyone else. "About one year ago, we were talking with CCP and we came up with this idea that if we made a MMO FPS in Unity, the technical achievement would be of such magnitude that it would even impress random women in bars," says Pikkotekk's Christian Lönnholm. He might not be quite right about this achievement being quite that level of magnitude, but the concept is certainly impressing me. More below.
The idea is to create server architecture that will handle hundreds, even thousands, of players in the same game world. The technology relies on overlapping "cell servers" which work a little like mobile phone networks do in the real world: the person walking around a city doesn't notice when his call moves to the nearest mast, and so it will be with the cell-servers in Pikkotekk's Pikko Server.
The Pikko architecture consists of Pikko Server and several cell servers working together. Players in an online multiplayer game connect to Pikko Server, which handles load balancing between the cell servers. The cell servers handle physics, game logic and more.
Each cell server handles only the activity in a small part of the virtual world. The cell servers can be seen as cells in a virtual mobile phone network. When a person with a mobile phone moves in the real world, the phone will switch to the closest base station without the mobile phone user noticing it. In the same way, a player moving around in a virtual game world will switch completely seamlessly between the different cell servers.
It should, they claim, mean that the main limit on displaying players in the world will be with the cilent, and not the sever. Full tech blather can be found here (PDF link).
Illustrative video of Pikkotekk's Unity-based mock up of "Robots Vs Tanks" can be found below. They're aiming for a 1000-person FPS world record event sometime in the near future, based on this idea. For stay tuned for information on how to get involved in that.