An architectural approach to providing online game infrastructures
The business of the online games industry is a complex one, requiring the input and integration of many variables -- people, business conditions, product goals, and more -- to create, implement, and distribute a successful online game. In the third of four articles, Senior IT Architect Veronika Megler offers a scenario that demands a new set of functional requirements, identifies e-commerce needs and methods to solve them, and discusses how adapting the existing infrastructure can help providers handle device-connectivity issues.
By now, you have a basic online game infrastructure in place. Should you be satisfied with the outcome?
The answer is "yes." And "no."
On the "yes" side, be proud of what you've accomplished already. In Part 1 of this series, you learned to:
- Migrate from a game focus to a business focus, using an e-commerce model to ensure success
- Apply business patterns to the development of a game environment
- Craft a business description of the environment you want
- Take that description and pull out pertinent elements, and build a solution overview of the project
- Use the overview to identify the needed patterns to develop the infrastructure
In Part 2, you learned to:
- Refocus on the game, applying a patterns-based perspective to illuminate its design
- Outline and understand why to chose certain patterns, based on your determinations
- Walk through the application, applying patterns as you go
- Examine scale requirements and determine which patterns fit those best
- Integrate runtime patterns into workable solutions
- Match real-world products with the runtime functions
- Determine when and where reuse (buying or borrowing) was appropriate
The reason to not be satisfied yet? Consider that the scenario you based your initial overview on is not the only scenario; in fact, it is a scenario that can evolve. So you have to dig deeper into the bag of functions and produce some additional ones.
In this article, I look at two important, potentially profitable topics -- producing and selling ancillary products, and establishing a communication connection with the gamer.
It's an ever-changing world
Now look at a scenario that describes game-playing as a lifestyle, which might prompt you to think about maximizing your profit potential. Later in the article, you'll look at device-connectivity issues -- you make no profit if your gamers can't reach the game!
The new scenario: Playing as a lifestyle
Add a new dimension to your game players, Ken and Barbie.
The potential game player, Ken, has seen an advertisement for your newest PC-based MMOG, HAL 2010 - Universe On Demand, in the latest online issue of The Hip Gamer's Magazine.
Ken's favorite game environment is his game console, which he has plugged into his state-of-the-art big-screen TV with surround sound. This lets him feel like he's totally immersed in the game he's playing -- a complete escape from reality. He's a hardcore player and he expects your game to live up to his hardcore expectations.
Of course, keeping up with his technology habit is expensive. Ken has found a way to supplement his income in a uniquely pleasurable way -- he scouts the game, collecting weapons and building up characters, then sells them to other players. This way, he supplements his income while maintaining his habit.
His girlfriend Barbie is a much more casual gamer. She is a technology fashion maven -- she always has the latest cell phone with covers that match her wardrobe and mood. She maintains her fashionista reputation by wearing T-shirts sporting the avatar from her favorite game and by carrying her personalized avatar coffee mug. Her favorite gaming environment is her phone. This lets her play in snatched moments, on the go while waiting for the bus or waiting for her best friend to arrive at Starbucks.
Because her best friend is always late, Barbie has recently upgraded to an N-Gage (a hybrid mobile game device by Nokia) which makes her game-playing a more pleasurable experience. Although she sometimes plays simple games when she's tired (Tetrus, Patience), she often enjoys the same games that Ken plays. However, her character is generally far less powerful since she does not invest the same amount of playing time as he does.
With this scenario as a guide, you've now identified a whole new set of functional requirements. How does your infrastructure so far stack up against these requirements? What holes do you need to plug?
The new requirements
First ,make a quick list of the additional requirements:
- In-game commerce, to allow Ken to sell his in-game characters, weaponry, and possessions.
- Out-of-game commerce, to sell T-shirts and mugs with game characters to Barbie. If you allow gamers to create or customize their avatar graphics, you could potentially create customized T-shirts, with their selected avatar and game nickname. This would give your gamers a way to find each other outside the game -- and create another aspect of community.
- Access from other devices -- consoles, cell phones, and N-Gage. Given the fast-converging and simultaneously diverging cell phone, PDA, and handheld market, you probably don't want to limit your device access too narrowly.
So, how do you go about supporting these added requirements? Start with commerce.