All posts by Megan Smith

Optimising server performance for multiplayer online gaming

Academics from the University of Lincoln, UK, have investigated game server performance metrics, and how they may best be used to explore the behaviour of multicore server processes.

The work focuses on small-scale stand-alone game servers, running on standard consumer PC architectures, which support a large proportion of online game play. These servers are highly sophisticated and complex software applications; understanding their behaviour goes hand-in-hand with performance optimisation.

The research was conducted by James Munro, a research student at the School of Computer Science, along with Dr Patrick Dickinson and Dr Kofi Appiah.

He said: “With some online games there are dedicated servers but many are run on standard consumer equipment, such as people’s own computers at home. Player experience is often compromised due to the speed the server can process the information, making server optimisation an on-going challenge for developers.

“It is difficult to critically compare previous studies due to the inconsistent, ad-hoc metrics used to analyse performance with little consideration of how to interpret results. Our research centred on finding the best metrics and how you can best compare and therefore optimise simple server architectures.”

The team suggest that people who want to do comparisons of these types of games on these architectures should consider using a specific set of metrics they proposed, to establish a common set of comparable parameters.

They collated metrics used in these studies, proposed some new ones, and through a series of experiments examined their inter-relationships and how they may best be used to investigate the behaviour of multicore server processes.

Dr Dickinson said: “We concluded our experiments by using our suite of metrics to show how the relationship between game mechanics and performance can be quantified and used to inform game design. We see the continued development of empirical analysis based on server metrics as an area which is not only attracting academic interest, but also has the potential to deliver new and useful tools to industry.”

The paper ‘Investigating informative performance metrics for a multicore game world server’ is published in the journal of Entertainment Computing Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2014 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1875952113000165

Graduates from UK’s first Social Computing degree will fill skills gap

The face of computing and computer science has changed dramatically over the last ten years, with social media transforming not only the way business operates but society as a whole.

In direct response to this increasingly digital landscape, the University of Lincoln has created the UK’s first BSc (Hons) programme in Social Computing that will teach the fresh skillsets required.

The key computer science components such as programming, mathematics and software engineering will form the basis of the degree, but it will expand into the crucial areas of social software design, implementation and evaluation as well as analytical aspects of social data.

Programme leader Professor Shaun Lawson, from the University’s School of Computer Science, said: “The design, understanding and analysis of social media platforms need to be an integral part of the computer science curriculum.

“In particular there is a big demand for graduates who have the right kind of skills to not only design and implement these mobile and social software platforms, but to also analyse how people are using the existing platforms in order to improve them. Business and industry need people who can make best use of these social media applications.”

The programme will build on existing links with industry partners in order to produce highly employable computing graduates with skills that are relevant to a wide range of commercial employers.

Professor Lawson, who is the Director of the Lincoln Social Computing Research Centre (LiSC), added: “At the programme’s core is computer science and programming, so students will learn how to design these systems, which right now is a huge requirement in industry.

“The difference with this course is that it will build on those core areas taking into account the massive explosion of a particular type of computer platform. Every business is interested in social media and how it can gain an advantage over competitors, and our graduates will have this crucial knowledge.”

Students will also have the opportunity to work with academics and postgraduates in LiSC, the first UK research group to explicitly focus on social computing from a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) perspective.

Much of the Centre’s work is directed at understanding people’s use of social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, as well mobile apps and games.

The BSc (Hons) in Social Computing is now recruiting for its first cohort of students in September 2014.

For more information please go to http://auth.lincoln.ac.uk/home/course/cmpsocub/ or call Megan Smith on 01522 835719.

Robotics project highlighted as one of the best in Europe

The European Commission has named the STRANDS robotics project as one of the best, as part of EU Robotics Week.

Lincoln’s robot Linda has been taking part in a robot marathon this week, squaring off against robot partners in Leeds, Birmingham,  Sweden, Germany and Austria.

The robots have been battling it out to be the last one standing – the challenge is for them to autonomously patrol a populated environment for as long as possible, covering the most distance in the shortest time.

Linda is currently in the lead on best distance travelled. Go Linda!

STRANDS is an EU-funded project enabling robots to achieve robust and intelligent behaviour in human environments.
The robots will be evaluated in a care home for the elderly in Austria (assisting human carers), and in an office environment patrolled by G4S Technology security firm.

Follow the final stages of Linda’s progress in the robot marathon at http://strands.acin.tuwien.ac.at/marathon.html