One Instance to Rule Them All

I’m sure most of you will agree that todays MMORPG are not exactly what you first imagined when you first heard of MMO games. What do you mean I have to pick a server? We all don’t play in the same virtual world? I know I sure didn’t. I had the fantasy that hundreds of thousands, millions even, of players were all playing in 1 virtual world and not split up between dozens of separate servers. What a let down when I finally learned the awful truth.

So whats stopping todays MMO from creating 1 massive virtual world where everyone plays together? I mean Second Life is doing it.

“Second Life is simulated on a large array of Debian servers, referred to as the Grid. The world is divided into 256×256 m areas of land, called Regions. Each Region is simulated by a single named server instance” Src:

Even though your going from instance to instance your still in the main world and still connected to everyone else. If you want to meet with someone, regarding where you are, you can still meet up. The same cannot be said for basically every other MMO out there. (Please correct me if I’m wrong)

So whats the problem? To start there are some technical as well as game play issues that would have to be over come.

Any MMO gamer will tell you as soon as you enter a large populated city everything goes to hell. Its happened to every single MMORPG I’ve ever played. So what can be done? Well I’m not a network engineer or anything, but it can be simply that the amount of bandwidth that is needed is not possible to obtain on cable or DSL. Perhaps more servers spread out over a larger network. As I said I’m not sure what the solution would be, I just know its not possible with todays technology.

Processing Power
With any MMO, the most taxing part on the CPU is the combat. The servers need to calculate thousands of factors within a spit second, so if you have just 1 gaming world and it just happens that you have an extreme amount of players in one area, going by Seconds Life server configuration, it would crash that server. Each area (instance) in Second Life is tied to one server, so if you have too many players in the instance there is no way that server could do the calculations needed for combat. You would have to setup some of limit so you can’t have more than X amount of people in the instance at one time. But doing that wouldn’t make a true virtual world. Imagine trying to go to NYC and being stopped by a cop and told “Sorry we have reach our limit for this area, you will need to wait until someone leaves”

If you managed to get beyond the technical issues with having 1 virtual world, the next problem would be how to do quests. You certainly can’t have 10,000 people doing the same quest at the same time. And if you decide to create separate instances for quests, well than again your not in a true virtual world. MMOs would have to create a totally new style of game play that do not rely on quests cause they just won’t work.

How would battles be fought? If you can have a raid of thousand, ten thousand or even a hundred thousand users, how can you possibly setup battles. Again, the whole idea of combat would have to be reinvented.

Even with all these issues to overcome I’m sure sooner or later someone will do it and it, I just don’t think it will be done anytime soon.

Edit: I have just been informed that Eve Online is setup as one main virtual world or galaxy if you will. At its peak hitting 32,955 users logged in on Dec 3rd, 2006 Src:


  1. I may be wrong, but I think Guild Wars also has one main world server but instances the PvP battles.

    I think the “one world to rule them all” concept will work for certain games like the Sims or Second Life, but any games where you’re competing for resources (gold, experience, quests, etc.) is going to be insanely difficult to manage with that setup.

    Not to mention someone’s personal computer trying to load up thousands of people all at once in busy places…. That’s going be clunky.

  2. EVE Online is the only truly non-sharded, non-instance virtual world. And as opposed to other MMO who follow the theme-park structure, EVE fits more the sandbox type of play.

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