Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 9/05/2002Y'all know that I jump up and down a lot when things get connected: there's something magic about networks that years in the business hasn't quite managed to make mundane. Grid computing has a lot of that magic: hundreds or thousands of independent computers hooking up across the Net to co-operate on big tasks.

Thursday 9/05/2002

Y'all know that I jump up and down a lot when things get connected: there's something magic about networks that years in the business hasn't quite managed to make mundane. Grid computing has a lot of that magic: hundreds or thousands of independent computers hooking up across the Net to co-operate on big tasks.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the open source Globus Project, which is a collaboration between academia, R&D companies and big commercial outfits like IBM. The project bods said that it was aimed at large scientific and technical uses -- but it turns out that one of the first proper commercialisations will be gaming. The Butterfly Net gets going today: it uses the Globus system to provide a robust, cheap and powerful set of tools for what they call massive multiplayer games, thousands of players in shared environments, hacking and slaying, firing their laser cannon, trading in souls or doing whatever it is these people do when they're not watching Star Trek.

Butterfly Net says that it won't do the games themselves -- it'll just provide the tools to other games writers. That sounds like a top idea to me: Xbox and PS/2 developers know loads about consoles and nothing about building reliable systems that can support millions of users. And yes, they're thinking about million-user games: they're thinking about environments with plots, scripting and characters more akin to a movie or a TV series than Quake XVII: they're thinking very big indeed.

As the main man in the project, David Levine, says, there's a nice feeling of a big wave about to start. We've always known it would happen sooner or later: the very best thing about grid computing is that now we know how.

It might even be the thing that gets me to break down and get another console, after being a videogame reviewer for five years led to massive binary burnout.