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6/8/2007
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BioWare Adapts Complex Event Processing To Online Gaming World

BioWare is using StreamBase's Stream Processing Engine, which is able to analyze up to 350,000 messages per second, for tracking players' actions and movements.

Complex event processing, a new technology where a software system watches events streaming through the enterprise's software infrastructure, has obvious business possibilities. But it's also being adopted by a major game producer in hopes of increasing the complexity of logic in online games. And that example may offer lessons on the real possibilities of complex event processing.

Complex event processing has also caught the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies, which have made a strategic investment in Lexington, Mass.-based StreamBase Systems through In-Q-Tel, the independent investment firm that supports technologies of interest to the CIA. The amount was not disclosed.

But StreamBase is used by Canadian gamemaker Bioware, the supplier of Apple Mac OS, PC computer, and Xbox console games such as Baldur's Gate based on Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. For its new foray into multi-player, online gaming, it's looking to go beyond computer and console game approaches and capitalize on complex event processing from StreamBase Systems.

"With a multi-player online game, you don't know whether you're going to have 1,000 people playing or 50,000," says Bill Dalton, technical director of BioWare. His firm needed a system that could analyze events on a massive scale as they occur in an online game environment and select the right adjustments for the environment.

One of StreamBase's functions is to analyze events and make sure no intruder is trying to disrupt the game's logic, make malicious movements against the activity of other players, or activate the hidden Easter eggs that are sometimes known to lurk in the game's logic. An Easter egg might make a sound that was not consistent with the game's design, show a message, or cause a character to move out of the logic of his role, Dalton explained.

"Some players get to know the game intimately" and can use logic discrepancies, or in some cases, hidden "Easter eggs" -- logic bombs planted by individual game developers as their signature in the game. Those skilled at triggering Easter Eggs or unexpected game sequences can frustrate other players in an online setting. BioWare doesn't want its players' loyalties to the game to be threatened by whimsical or unpredictable game sequences, Dalton noted.

StreamBase's Stream Processing Engine is able to analyze in optimum cases up to 350,000 messages per second. Its StreamSQL can slice and dice message streams into timeframes or event-related sections for particular views and analysis.

BioWare is using the StreamBase Processing Engine as its platform for tracking players' actions and movements. "It will be embedded in the foundation of the game platform" and will "monitor and maintain the status of all players. Each player's movements and actions need to be tracked."

BioWare has not announced the name or described the nature of its online game, but Dalton said it will be launched in 2009. Dalton said his firm wants to do more than match the state of the art represented by such online games as World of Warcraft. He expects the complex event processing built into his firm's game to allow richer role playing and interactions between players.

StreamBase was founded by Michael Stonebreaker, an early researcher of relational databases at the University of California at Berkeley. Stonebreaker's research teams produced both Ingres, an early competitor of Oracle, and Postgres, now the PostgreSQL open source database project.

Its 2009 release of an online game will be its first foray into what's known as the massively multiplayer online role playing game. Bioware reported revenues of $17.5 million in 2003 before it was taken private and stopped reporting revenues. Part of its MMORP game development is underway in Edmonton, Canada, and part at its labs in Austin, Texas, Dalton said.

The use of role playing logic is expected one day to be applied to business scenarios for executive and team training purposes.

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