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  1. #11
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    I will watch the meetings, however, no matter what the patch difference is, eventually you need to stream that data to the client one way or another. If a zone is 208 gigabytes, those 208 gigabytes will need to end up on the client machine at some point and there's no way around this. Additionally, I also don't know why you would need a world 1000 times bigger than WoW. Anyone in the games industry will tell you that games are all about creating the perception of reality using various "hacks". There are ways to make a world seem huge without actually making it 1000 times the size of wow.

    I think the idea of a massive world seems really fun on paper and is really exciting from a technical point of view, however, I don't think it's realistic or practical from a game play point of view. One of the things i've always heard from people who have worked on commercial MMOs is that it takes a very long time to populate large worlds with assets. With a world 1000 times the size of WoW, it's going to take years to populate the world with assets and that's with a large team of people working on it. If the plan is just to have large terrain with no assets in it so that the world feels big, than i would argue that you don't need to go there to achieve that. From a game play point of view you want the whole game to be relevant. You don't want 80% of the game to just be randomly generated for the sake of making the world seem big. No one is going to ever explore a world that size. That's a huge cost in time and development with very little return on fun, in my opinion. Especially when 80% of world will never be explored anyway as most people will be begging for fast travel to avoid long travel times. What I think you want to do is create a large world that is fully populated with content and then fake making the world feel big without going to great technical lengths to create a world where over half of it will never be explored.

    The only reason I'm so pationate about this is because i too was in love with massive terrains and have been working on a game of my own in a different engine for a long time. When I got into the games industry many people who have worked on commerical MMOs and other games where terrain was very important made me see that huge massive terrains are just not practical from a game play point of view because it's a huge cost that doesn't really contribute to the fun factor for most players. Again, what most players want is cool content, not a huge world where 80% of it is just randomly generated terrain with no content that contributes to making the game fun. Making the game fun is far more important than making it feel big and there are much cheaper ways of making the world feel big while still creating a world big enouph that it can be fully explored and populated with content that players can interact with.

    One approach might be to create a playable world the size of wow or smaller. If you get into a spaceship I would simply render a very low resolution planetary terrain while flying around in the spaceship, however, the terrain that you can see from space is not explorable, it's just there to make the world look big from outer space. When you actually land on the planet, the explorable world is a manageable size and is fully populated with content for players to interact with. In other words a planets explorable world is probably WoW size or smaller, most likely smaller. This is just one approach off the top of my head, there many other ways to make a world feel big while still making the playable world a manageable size. While I think the idea of huge massive terrains is really cool, I don't believe it's practical from a game play perspective and requires a lot of time an effort with very little return from a game play perspective.

    Using the approach I suggested or some other approach that achieves the same goal, will allow you to do terrain in the traditional sense. The saved time, using this approach, will give you more time to focus on making the game fun rather than spending large amounts of time and development just to make the game world big, which contributes very little to fun, in my opinion.
    Last edited by jjguzzardo; 04-30-2011 at 05:10 PM.

  2. #12
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    On of the things that i got from the meeting was wanting to treat a vertrx as the primary object to store, when actually, its an abstraction over a 2D space. For example, a property describing mob types need not be at the same resolution/spacing as the heightmap. For that matter, the splatmap might be twice the res as the heightmap. Any boolean value map may even be an svg or other vector format thats rasterized at runtime.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by chronos78 View Post
    JJ the only reason I believe that this will be possible is because the world is so large. Early estimates put the amount of data per patch that has to be streamed to the client is about 3-70k depending on compression and amount of modifications to that patch. Which isn't too bad considering. Now when you put that into context of the size of a zone and travel speeds something interesting becomes apparent. Let's say walk speed is 1.5m/sec and since no one walks in MMO's run speed will be our low end travel speed at 3m/sec. At this speed it takes 7.4hrs to cross a zone end to end. If we say that are max flight speed is 800% or 24m/sec it still takes almost and hour to cross. If one were so inclined to explore the entire zone at flight speed it would take them 31 days to see every patch in a zone if they never once stopped nor crossed a patch more than once. Even the slowest internet connections should be able to keep up at that speed.

    Now this would be far from you typical play experience. More likely a player would find themselves playing in only parts of the zone depending on their current status in the game. These parts could easily be cached on the client side so that once downloaded from the server they would only need to be occasionally checked to see if there wasn't newer versions available on the server. The client side cache would also have a purging feature that would unload the least frequently patches from storage if the cache starts to reach a user defined limit. This way we allow the player to decide how much of their hard drive they wish to allocate to the game. It also prevents us from having to send 100's of gigabytes of data that would have to be stored on the client. Something else to consider is that the data storage requirements on the server are different than that of the client since the client only needs height, visibility, and texture splats while the server requires a lot more to keep track of all that it need to simulate the game world. This means where the server may need around 208GB a zone the client only need about 45GB. Of course we won't expect the client to save all the data for the zone at once, just the parts they need for the areas that they are currently playing in. Personally I thought this was a rather elegant solution for a fairly complex problem but we won't know for sure if it will work until we get a demo up and running to test it.
    Hey Lee, it looks like I was writing my post when you posted. First off, let me just start off by saying you're doing an awesome job so please don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. This is a friendly locker room debate after which, we all go out on the field and play ball as a team. I'm sure you get pounded with opinions every day and from all sides, however, I really feel strongly about this so I have to make my case.

    You're hypothesis about how to make this work technically, sound really good. I have no doubt that you have the skill and ability to accomplish this technically. However, the technical side of things is not really my main concern. All my industry experience is telling me that a lot of development time and effort is going to be spent building overly complex technology around a feature that has 100% technology coolness value but almost 0% game play value. Yes, we'll all have the satisfaction of a grand technical achievement and the kid in all of us that wants to make huge giant universes will be overjoyed, but the player who has to spend 31 days flying across a zone is going to be really pissed and the player that logs in to do quests isn't even going to know 80% of the world exists. The bottom line is, for players, large worlds become more of a burden than anything else and have virtually no game play value.

    You already said the typical game play experience is going to be playing in small parts of the world. So why not build the game around the 99% use case rather than the 1% edge case. The art of game development is using smoke and mirrors to create the perception of reality you want the players to feel while staying focused on developing features that add real game play value. I mean, if the player isn't going to actually spend 31 days flying across the zone and your going to have fast travel in the game anyway, than why would you build a huge amount of technology to create something so big that 80% of it is just going to hard disk bloat that no one will ever see?

    Every commercial game I've worked on has used smoke and mirrors to create the perception we want the players to experience. The reason smoke and mirrors are used is because the most important part of any game is fun. All game development should be focused on fun factor not cool factor or awesome technology factor. Flying 31 days across a zone is cool but not fun. A world 80% unexplored is cool but not fun. Really, the only time the world needs to look huge is when you're flying in outer space. When I'm playing in a zone with my friends, I don't need the world to be 1000 times the size of wow. When I get into a space ship and fly into orbit that's the only time I need the world to look big and that can easily be faked. So my suggestion is to focus on game play that has real playable value. Make terrain in the traditional sense where the world is big enough to be playable and then fake the rest. This way you can focus all your development effort on features players actually care about rather than features that are just cool. Traditional game zones for MMOs are usually hundreds of megabytes not hundreds of gigabytes so I really think something is wrong here.

    One thing that's nice about Zynga is they have a massive database of game play statistics from literally hundreds of millions of players all over the world. It's so vast that they literally hire Harvard grads and professionals from places like Goldman Sachs to analyze data. This data is used to help make decisions about whether or not a proposed game play feature is a good idea. Now I can't go into specifics or I'll lose my job, however, I can say that over and above anything else, players value simplicity over complexity and they value content over size. Players want playable content that they can interact with more than they want a huge massive world that they'll never even see. Basically people want to have fun. So if I'm making a game and I'm spending a ton of time and resources on features that contribute more to the coolness factor than the fun factor than my priorities are misplaced. I feel very strongly that the size of the world is something that has 0 game play value and should be handled by smoke and mirrors so that game development can focus on things that will directly contribute to making the game fun.

    If you build terrain in the traditional sense and use smoke and mirrors for the rest, you're going to be far better off in terms of time, resources, and game play than you will if you go down this massive world road. Again, you can build each zone using traditional methods of streaming in terrain. These zones are where players play the game. This world could be the size of wow or smaller. If i get in some kind of space ship to fly to another continent on the same world than I can fly over the terrain normally and there could be warp stations at the end of continent A that warps me continent B. I don't need to fly over gigabytes of terrain between continent A and B to make the world feel big. This is a lot of development effort for 0.1% of the game. If I get into a space ship that goes into orbit, I can fake huge worlds with really low res terrain or even large spheres with noise maps. That's really basic, but you can create the exact same perception without all the wasted development effort on content that will just end up being hard disk bloat and you focus on features that are important to game play and fun.

    Again Lee, you're doing a great job and I really mean that so I hope I wasn't offensive or a dream crusher. I just really want to get my point across because, in my opinion, you can accomplish all that you want using the perception of size rather than spending a ton of time and resources making it a reality in size.
    Last edited by jjguzzardo; 05-01-2011 at 04:49 PM.

  4. #14
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    Well I have to disagree with you JJ. You are right theres no fun in flying around 31 days to explore the whole zone but I think that is not the point.
    I've played lots of mmo and I felt the same in all of them... after a couple of months the world is explored almost entirely and the magic world that it could have been is now in a little box that you already know and there's no fun in that neither. I like the proposal of having an insanely huge world, theres is always the change to discover something rather than the smoke and mirrors everybody uses, once you have look at the other side of the curtain the magic vanishes.

    As I've said on the meeting what worries me is the bandwidth. But I think that if Lee can pull this off he will need 2 or more terrain servers apart of the game server it self. Well this could be expensive but it can be done.

    And regarding the compression, I don't see any reason in compressing the server side data unless we can send the chunk compressed to the client as is stored without dealing with any decompression/recompression cycle.

    And I think that the index of the zones should be handled by a DB of some sort, reading an plain text index from a file is a pain for the FileSystem unless we can install something like the VMWARE FS that works really well for this kind of circumstances.

  5. #15
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    I've played lots of mmo and I felt the same in all of them... after a couple of months the world is explored almost entirely and the magic world that it could have been is now in a little box that you already know and there's no fun in that neither
    What makes a world magical? The size of the world or playable content? Do you really think making a game 1000 times the size of wow will change that? Probably not, because the only difference between a world 1000 times the size of wow and the MMOs you've played in the past is that when you run out of content you'll have 100s of miles of empty terrain to run through. Since game play is defined by content, there's no difference between huge expanses of empty terrain with no content and simply no content at all. If Blizzard sent an email out to former players and told them they added 100 miles of randomly generated forest to the game do you really think anyone would be clambering to get back into wow? No, not unless there was some meaningful content to go with the forest.

    I like the proposal of having an insanely huge world, theres is always the change to discover something rather than the smoke and mirrors everybody uses, once you have look at the other side of the curtain the magic vanishes.

    The size of the world has nothing to do with this because a world 1000 times the size of wow will be 90% randomly generated terrain and 10% playable content. That's no different than any MMO you've played in the past other than the potential absence of zone walls. Once you've seen one randomly generated tree, rock, or hill, you've seen them all so I don't see how less content than wow with more empty terrain is going to be better. Maybe there is a belief that every nook and cranny of this huge massive world will be populated with content. I know what goes into making a commercial MMO and it would take an army of programmers, artists, and most importantly designers a decade or more to populate a world that size with meaningful content. When I say 10 years I'm being optimistic. Also, when i say meaningful content I don't mean randomly generated canned quests or mobs. If you play an MMO and the magic leaves after playing with content created by designers than randomly generated content isn't going to solve the problem. Again, a game is all about content/gameplay, not world size so I'm suggesting that if we're trying to make a game then lets focus our tech on a cool game play rather than a cool terrain engine.

    Additionally, Once this complex architecture is in place it will bleed into every aspect of game development and make most things that would be simple using traditional methods far more complicated than they need to be. So now the complexity of building meaningful game play is significantly greater just so that we can support a feature that doesn't really contribute to game play but is kind of cool from a technology perspective.

    If huge massive worlds were really fun for players then there would be MMOs or games you could buy that only had huge expanses of randomly generated terrain with no content or game where you could just run around forever. The reason something like this doesn't already exists is not because people in the games industry don't know how to do it, it's because spending huge amounts of technology resources to pull off something like this has almost no return in terms of game play value. While it's fun for programmers to imagine building something like that, it really isn't practical, fun, or profitable. Players just don't care. The players that do care are in the minority, trust me. WoW doesn't have 8 million subscribers because their world is big, they have that many subscribers because their game is simple and fun...key word fun! So lets focus on building a really fun game rather than cool terrain tech that most players will never even see.

    We've already established that nothing like this exists and we all know that everyone in this class loves games. Now think about a game you love and why you love it. I guarantee you terrain doesn't even come into the picture because we've already established nothing like this exists, yet even without large terrain you still managed to love games. The reason we love games is because of meaningful content, cool game play and most of all the fun factor.

    None of this is my call, I realize that and I'm not trying to beat a dead horse but after listening to session 7 it feels like things might be derailing just a little. I'm trying very hard to show that the game of your dreams can still be created without the need for crazy tech required to support a world terabytes in size. I'm trying to offer up my games industry experience in a direct but hopefully helpful manner. If we're dead set on making a massive terrain engine for the heck of it that's fine, lets do it but lets also simply admit that this really has very little to do with game play and more to do with cool tech. I'm down with whatever direction this project takes but after listening to session 7, it feels like the MMO is taking a back seat for cool terrain tech. Having been on several failed game projects due to shiny tech syndrome, session 7 sounded very concerning to me so I'm trying to making a little noise

    BTW, great discussion so far and forgive my walls of text
    Last edited by jjguzzardo; 05-01-2011 at 09:03 PM.

  6. #16
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    We have all heard this same argument before, and I guess it all comes down to balance. Your comment regarding procedural content reminds me of what someone thought of para-sailing over a gorgeous beach - it was great for the first 20 minutes, but more of the same beach just got boring.

    Where I do see merit however, is in exploration value. After a few months of a new mmo, there are guides and maps and knobheads making money off saps by selling them ultimate levelling guides, and suddenly you've seen it all and the game world is stale. A world of the size we're talking about here would not get stale so long as there's incentive to explore, for example, 20 randomly placed somethings throughout the world that people have to find, and when the last one is found there's some world event. If theres no incentive, people won't do it, and it will have that dreadful 0% value.

    A few games that do this well are Wurm online (16x16km), where the whole thing is very much player driven, and people want to search out a good place to setup shop, that's in reach of a water supply, has fertile soil and resources, etc. The second is A Tale in the Desert, which is a scaled down map of Egypt. Again its almost completely player driven, and one has to travel for bloody ages (technical term) for certain specialized resources.

    I definately think this big world has it's merits, but the approach of trying to bake it down ignores all the other options that would be far less strenuous. Why can't the client build his own patches? They can be built from a graph that combines procedural and raster content. If a client wants to dick with the data he can - he will only see it, and the real world on the server will tell him that no, he's not 100m in the air at all, and the authoritive data returned to him will make for...interesting gameplay. The comment someone made about sharing terrain data via a torrent like system was a good one. The idea that you shouldn't trust the client at all is not as simple as that. A server/world verifies and validates a clients actions, but another client can receive a chat message from another without anything more than an ignore-list check. Similiarly, a client could accept terrain data from a client, with nothing more than a hash check from 2 other clients or the server itself. If a client is ever found to have been giving out bad data, they're flagged and not used as peers.
    Last edited by duke22; 05-02-2011 at 01:07 AM.

  7. #17
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    We have all heard this same argument before, and I guess it all comes down to balance
    I'm really not trying to argue here, just trying to make a point and maybe kick a dead horse or two

    Honestly, I'm simply sharing what I've learned from very well known game designers in the industry. I mean there isn't really any debate that a game requires game play mechanics to actually be a game. The presence of massive terrain isn't what makes a game, i feel like a broken record but it's just true.

    Where I do see merit however, is in exploration value.
    I see merit here too as long as exploration can be reasonably done and as long as there's content and game play material involved. I'm also not saying the world shouldn't be big or even huge. It just needs to be managable without an overly complex system.

    My first gig in the games industry was to build a combat system with some enemy AI that invovled chasing the player. Since it was my first gig i wanted to impress everyone so I proposed using A-Star pathfinding to accomplish this. This was immediately nixed because I was told AStar was too complex for the task I was being given. I also proposed using a type of behavioral AI system for enemies which, again, was shot down. The reason my ideas were shot down is because I was actually working on systems for various mini games that weren't really the main focus of the core game. The time and effort I would need to spend to build these large systems (large for a mini-game) was overkill. This same concept holds true for terrain systems. If you find yourself browsing white papers at NASA so you can figure out how to stream gigabytes of vertices over the network for a realtime simultion, chances are you're probably building something that's more complicated than it needs to be, especially if there's no information to be found in the games industry itself.

    A few games that do this well are Wurm online (16x16km)
    I agree here too! Large worlds with player driven content are awesome! Darkfall is like this. This (16kmx16km) or even a little bigger is managable using conventional methods that won't take as long to build and still allows you to focus on actual game play rather than a massively complex networked realtime terrain system. My issue is that we're not talking about 16kmx16km but probably something 1000 times that size or more. You can achieve the same or better results in a game with manageble sized terrain like 16x16 (or bigger) as you can with a world that requires terabytes of data. So why spend all the time and effort?

    It's kind of like getting a bunch of friends together with the intent of building a house and then purchasing a plot of land the size of Texas. After spending several years clearing out the land you're finally ready to start actually building the house. However, do you really need a plot of land the size of Texas to build a large house? Even if you built the largest mansion in the world, a plot of land the size of texas is totally overkill just like building a terrain 1000 times the size of wow is overkill for a game. A "big" or "huge" game world should equate to purchasing a few acres of land and then building a masion on it. A game that requires terrabytes of data storage and the smartest minds at NASA is equivelent to purchasing the state of Texas just to build one house. While i totally agree that it's cool, the amount of effort required to do it just doesn't pay out in terms of game play.
    Last edited by jjguzzardo; 05-02-2011 at 04:22 AM.

  8. #18
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    I completely agree with you, but my "bone" is mostly with the idea of storing vertices, when you could store an XML graph that combines client and detail-as-needed to make the storage or streaming requirements utterly negligible. You might have areas that are built and cached at 1m per pixel, others at 64m per pixel, and others that aren't built at all because noones view range has ever hit it.

    It's another post entirely, because I don't think it's doable by anyone other than a warehouse of writers to do eq2/wow style questing. That content - almost none of it procedural - is incredibly time consuming, and as soon as you go down the road where it's what your game is about, you will never quash bad reviews due to lack of content (only due to you putting the emphasis on it!). In this way, SWG was good because it was mostly just repeatable procedural missions that paid off in factional points (which in turn you could spend of faction specific rewards).

  9. #19
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    JJ, just because no one in the industry never tried something like this is not an argument. That argument has been proven wrong countless of times through history. And if the industry thinks a massive terrain is no going to add anything to the game value is not a good argument either. Just using logic if they never built a terrain like this they can´t prove that is not valuable for a game.

    We have, again, to go to what pressures has the game industry, 3buzz doesn't have any pressures like that, we don't have deadlines, or investors looking for a revenue, or anything to prove to anyone, and 3dbuzz has the right to make mistakes and fix them. Yes the class is about building an MMO but it's also a class so if they overkill with the terrain system it could be cut down the system afterwards but the educative value of that development is still there.

    Again this is not a game studio is a Training Site so trying to compare game industry types of decisions with what the staff of 3dbuzz decides is not a good idea.

    But besides that I have to thank you for the insights you are giving. And probably you are going to be prove right regarding this but, hey, let's roll with it. I'm sure this is going to leave you and everyone in this class something good!

    Quote Originally Posted by duke22 View Post
    I completely agree with you, but my "bone" is mostly with the idea of storing vertices, when you could store an XML graph that combines client and detail-as-needed to make the storage or streaming requirements utterly negligible. You might have areas that are built and cached at 1m per pixel, others at 64m per pixel, and others that aren't built at all because noones view range has ever hit it.
    I think that the Idea is to have the whole render of the world only server side and on the client side a smallish (the size of the cache should be an user preference), I don't know if an XML graph is going to be able to hold on here. I think that a combination of a DB driven Index and binary files are the way to go. But I don't know what do you wanna store on those XML, patch info? group of patches? entire zones?
    Last edited by fatgav; 05-02-2011 at 09:00 AM.

  10. #20
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    JJ, just because no one in the industry never tried something like this is not an argument. That argument has been proven wrong countless of times through history. And if the industry thinks a massive terrain is no going to add anything to the game value is not a good argument either. Just using logic if they never built a terrain like this they can´t prove that is not valuable for a game.
    I never made an argument that stopped at no one has ever done this before. I said no one in the games industry has ever done this before BECAUSE it has no game play value. If no one has ever done anything before you don't just say well cool no one has ever done this before so that means I get to be a pioneer. No, you search for the reasons it hasn't been done before and if there's good reasons, you don't do it or you do it but at least you know you have a very high chance of failure.

    There are very good and solid reasons this hasn't been done before and it's because the amount of work and maintenance required to do this doesn't pay off in terms of game play value. That isn't really debatable and when i say that i don't mean it's not debatable because it's my opinion. Its debatability ( if that's a word ) is dictated by the definition of game play which is mostly described by designer/artist created content (quests, mechanics, combat systems, art, etc). Terrain has value up to a point. When you start getting to a size that's so big most players will never see 80% of it, your value has diminishing returns that fall basically to 0. So there are very good reasons this hasn't been done before.

    When I have a game idea I have the privilege of walking right up to pretty well known game designers like Bruce Shelly or Brian Renolds ( well I have to email brian ). Both of these guys have around 40+ years of game design experience between the both of them and are very well respected in the industry. If you don't know them you can google them as both have wikipedia pages. I can also ask Zynga PMs who will scoure Zynga's database with (no joke) data from hundreds of millions of players.

    So trust me, I have vetted this huge terrain question to death because, like I said, I wanted to do something like this too. The results from data and talking to very well respected designers made me realize that I was in love with the idea because it was a fun probelm to solve more than anything else. Once I realized I could do exactly the same thing with a smaller world as I could with one so big most of it would never be seen, I started going down a more traditional path. So through quite a bit of very meaningful research, I realized my game would probably only appeal to a very, very small handfull of people if I let my desire to create cool tech prevent me from creating a cool game. That's the heart of what I'm trying to say. There's a difference between creating a cool game that people want to play and creating cool tech that's fun for programmers to build.

    So in conclusion, my argument doesn't stop at no one has ever done this before therefore it's a bad idea. My argument is the games industry has not attempted this before because it has no game play value and there's quite a bit of research and anactodal evidence from experienced game designers to back this up.

    We have, again, to go to what pressures has the game industry, 3buzz doesn't have any pressures like that, we don't have deadlines, or investors looking for a revenue, or anything to prove to anyone, and 3dbuzz has the right to make mistakes and fix them. Yes the class is about building an MMO but it's also a class so if they overkill with the terrain system it could be cut down the system afterwards but the educative value of that development is still there.
    This isn't about games industry pressures or investors or even deadlines. This is about creating a game with meaningful game play while not getting side tracked by cool tech. If you're going to write a business application, Nelson will be the first to tell you that there are a whole host of best practices one should follow in order to be successful. The same thing applies to making a game. This has nothing to do with games industry pressures but rather lessons learned and best practices from the games industry that directly apply to the science of making a game. If I wite a database application for personal use, it's still a good idea to follow industry standard best practices so that I can succeed. So I'm saying, if we're making an MMO, this attempt at streaming terrabytes of vertices over the network to a large player base just so you can create terrain that most people will never see is way outside the scope of best practices for game development. So lets at least do this within the scope of best practices so we don't venture down and endless technology vortex of meaningless game play value for years on end.

    Again, the appeal of massively huge terrains that are so big they fill an entire hard drive with vertex data, is only super sexy to programmers who want to solve cool complex problems but has almost no value to players or game play in general. So again, lets make huge terrains that still allow us to use traditional methods so we can focus on game play features and building out the MMO to see if our ideas are even fun before we spend years on end writing a terrain engine that fills a world with gigabytes of flyover country that most people will never see.
    Last edited by jjguzzardo; 05-02-2011 at 03:24 PM.

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