Hoplon Infotainment: An innovative approach to online games

Published on 29-Mar-2006

Customer:
Hoplon Infotainment

Industry:
Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
Brazil

Overview

Hoplon Infotainment implements innovative online game on hosted platform based on eServer zSeries 900, DB2, Rational Purify and Linux,

Business need:
To offer a robust, streamlined, open standards-based deployment platform for a new online game.

Solution:
The Linux®- and IBM DB2®-based TaikoDom game is hosted by IBM on an IBM eServer® zSeries® 900.

Benefits:
IBM DB2 delivered a 30 percent performance increase over the earlier Oracle database system. IBM Rational® Purify® enabled programmers to quickly fix issues with game code.

Case Study

“ We wanted to create a game deployment platform that was much more scalable and flexible than existing models, and it was clear that IBM’s approach would allow us to do that in a way we had not considered before...a way that is new to the industry.”
– Tarquinio Teles, Hoplon CEO

Lead image
Image courtesy of Hoplon Infotainment

An alternative approach to online game computing

Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) have become stunningly popular, with millions of players worldwide interacting with one another in real time. With the large number of users playing a game at any given moment, reliability and scalability of the game platform and its underlying IT infrastructure are critical.

Hoplon Infotainment, a pioneering Brazilian developer of online games and game architectures, was originally considering cluster and possibly grid computing technology for its forthcoming game deployment platform. When attending a grid computing presentation, Hoplon was introduced to the IBM On Demand Business model and the service-oriented architecture (SOA) concept. That meeting changed Hoplon’s course completely, and its new game, TaikoDom, is now being hosted by IBM on an IBM zSeries 900, on an on demand basis.

“We were very excited by the ideas that IBM presented,” says Tarquinio Teles, Hoplon CEO. “The concept of On Demand Business and the flexibility offered by an On Demand Operating Environment paralleled our thinking very closely. We wanted to create a game deployment platform that was much more scalable and flexible than existing models, and it was clear that IBM’s approach would allow us to do that in a way we had not considered before...a way that is new to the industry.”

Traditional online games exist in one or more “shards,” or identical duplicates of the complete game environment, with all functions and interactions built into each one. A large game can have a very complex, costly, underutilized infrastructure, with multiple shards running on multiple servers and a great deal of redundancy.

By contrast, Hoplon’s game platform places all users in a single shard, but with a modular structure. Dedicated software modules handle specific functions (for example, a physics modeling engine that controls how a spaceship behaves) for all players. This modular structure fits in well with the idea of a service-oriented architecture. In an SOA, computing functions are packaged as services that communicate with one another using open standards and clearly defined interfaces. In Hoplon’s design, each functional module becomes a service component. If more modules or more capacity are needed, they can be added quickly and easily; the game “universe” can grow organically.


On Demand Business Benefits
  • IBM DB2 delivered a 30 percent performance increase over previous Oracle database solution.
  • Hoplon’s innovative game design leverages the attributes of service-oriented architecture to enable streamlined, organic growth of the game environment.
  • IBM Managed Hosting Services optimize IT investment by delivering the benefits of IBM e server logo zSeries technology without requiring the purchase of a mainframe.
  • IBM Rational Purify helped speed time to market for Hoplon’s new game by enabling a single programmer to quickly solve critical memory issues.


Mainframe and hosting advantages
Originally, Hoplon had planned to devote discrete servers to the game’s modules. But the zSeries support of SOA and its ability to accommodate the game’s modular design in a seamless, flexible way also enabled Hoplon to leverage other competitive advantages inherent in a mainframe platform: security, reliability, high availability and scalability.

For a new game company trying to establish itself, and not knowing the expected number of players, the purchase of a mainframe can pose a con-siderable financial risk. IBM Managed Hosting Services is an ideal solution: Hoplon’s game runs on an IBM zSeries 900 located at the IBM Service Delivery Center in Hortolândia, Brazil.

This arrangement offers a number of advantages. The zSeries has the ability to create new virtual machines on demand, scaling rapidly and dynamically as needed to accommodate the shifting needs of users. Also, the hosted solution eliminates large-scale capital and resource investments in IT, making it much more affordable for game developers to enter the market. “Mainframe hosting allows us to run a server that can grow as large as necessary while remaining stable. Hosting lets us grow at our own pace, in a more comfortable way, without having to make large up-front commitments,” Teles notes.

Making the transition
The original game was written in JavaTM, using Oracle as its database. With the move to the hosted IBM solution, Hoplon elected to leverage IBM’s expertise and capabilities and switched to DB2. “IBM helped us with porting our data-base functionality and, once tuned, the results have been excellent,” Teles says. “We’re seeing a 30 percent improvement in overall database performance.”

IBM assisted Hoplon in porting its software to run smoothly under Linux on zSeries, including thorough testing. IBM WebSphere® has also become part of the total solution, supporting the billing transactions.

The IBM Rational Purify automated debugging and software testing tool also played a crucial role in bringing the game to market. Hoplon programmers had been battling memory leaks and were spending an inordinate amount of time tracking down the cause. Rational Purify helped them find and fix the problems–including a memory leak that was hurting game performance and causing server shutdowns–in only four days, including software setup and learning the tool. During that brief time frame, Rational Purify also revealed undiscovered errors in the game client, enabling the programmers to head off other issues before they could surface.

Key Components
Hardware
  • IBM e server logo zSeries 90
Software
  • IBM Rational Purify
  • IBM Websphere
  • IBM DB2
Services
  • IBM Managed Hosting Services
  • IBM Migration Services

An innovative new business model
Hoplon’s marketing concept for its online game platform is ambitious. For its MMOG business model, it wanted to go beyond simple pay-to-play gaming, creating a game that could interact with the real world from a product placement, marketing and co-branding perspective. The Hoplon platform takes in-game advertising to the next level: the game would be able to link to real-world merchants, so that a character making a purchase or receiving a reward in the game could actually purchase the real item.

“We see it as delivering on the marketing potential of television, in a way that TV cannot, because our platform is fully interactive,” says Tarquinio Teles, Hoplon CEO. “What we are doing is creating a game experience that is not only more rewarding for the players, but also provides new revenue streams for the game developer beyond the traditional player subscription. The possibilities are enormous.”

Why it matters
As a pioneer in the development of online games, Hoplon knew that to differentiate itself in the MMOG marketplace and attract new gamers, it needed to offer robust advanced gaming capabilities such as 3-D games and a single shard environment, allowing the game "universe" to grow organically and not segregate its players with duplicate shards. Hoplon is leapfrogging traditional IT barriers by optimizing their infrastructure investments to support a complex, robust games environment. This will allow Hoplon to play in the most advanced space of online games and unleash their innovative 3-D game "Taikodom."

IBM and Hoplon, partnering for the future
From the outset, the company has planned to market its software to other game developers. Hoplon’s goal is to deliver a proven game deployment platform that provides robustness, inherent scalability, revenue generation potential and a superior gaming experience that can help game developers grow their business with reduced risk and greater cost-effectiveness.

Hoplon is leveraging its relationship with IBM to make its products very attractive to emerging game companies, by creating a combined offering consisting of Hoplon software and IBM Managed Hosting Services. Hoplon views it as a good fit: it shares IBM’s commitment to open standards and its vision of On Demand Business, and sees its products as being able to help its customers differentiate themselves through innovation. To help facilitate the joint venture, Hoplon became an IBM Business Partner in 2004.

Hoplon sees great benefit in working with IBM. “It’s not just the quality of hardware, software and services, all of which are excellent,” says Teles. “We liked the fact that IBM is both local and global at the same time. IBM has local knowledge and knows how business works here in Brazil. But much more important, IBM has a global reach, and is capable of delivering the same quality of service and expertise that we enjoy here at home to our customers in other parts of the world.”

For more information
To learn more about IBM game and interactive entertainment solutions, please contact your IBM representative, or visit us at:
ibm.com/solutions/games

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
System z

Software:
DB2 Data Servers, Rational PurifyPlus for Linux and UNIX

Operating system:
Linux

Service:
GTS Strategic Outsourcing: e-business Hosting

Footnotes and legal information

G299-0918-00

©Copyright IBM Corporation 2006 IBM Corporation1133 Westchester AvenueWhite Plains, NY 10604U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America3-06All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, the On Demand Business logo, DB2, e(logo)server, Purify, Rational, WebSphere and zSeries are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Java and all Java-based trademarks are registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States, other countries, or both. Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product, or service namesmay be trademarks or service marks of others. Many factors contributed to the results and benefits achieved by the IBM customer described in this document. IBM does not guarantee comparable results.

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