A few notes on writing multiplayer games

Dan Kegel
Nov '98
I'm a programmer who has had the pleasure of working on a few popular multiplayer games written by Activision; the first two I worked on were Mechwarrior 2: Netmech DOS, and its followon Mechwarrior 2: Mercnet DOS. I was mostly responsible for getting the networking up and running after somebody else designed it. I ended up writing a DirectPlay clone for DOS, MacOS, Win32, and Linux. I also learned that there's a lot more to game networking than DirectPlay functionality.


Mercnet is a 3d giant robot combat simulation, where each player pilots a giant robot which strides around the world, possibly with teammates, accomplishing the various objectives of the mission (inspect an enemy building, blow up an enemy vehicle, etc.) in the face of often overwhelming opposition. The game is derived from a role-playing game from FASA, and a lot of the richness of the game comes from the original. The successful player learns quickly how to customize their 'Mech to have a good blend of weapons, armor, and other equipment, and learns the tactics specific to online play (e.g. leading the target to compensate for network lag, and the manoever called the Circle of Death).

Observations based on experience, in no particular order