Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Player Dynamics in Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Xinyu Zhuang, Ashwin Bharambe, Jeffrey Pang, Srinivasan Seshan

October 2007

Keywords: Games, massively multiplyaer, measurement, player dynamics, churn

Millions of people now participate in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), placing tremendous and often unpredictable maintenance burdens on their operators. Thus, understanding the dynamic nature ofMMOG players is critical for the designers and implementers of the systems and networks that host MMOGs. This paper improves our understanding of player dynamics in MMOGs by collecting and analyzing a 5-month long measurement study of World of Warcraft, a leading commercial MMOG. Our novel findings include the following: First, the distribution of player session lengths is similar to that of peer-to-peer file sharing sessions, despite a game's interactive nature, but has a shorter tail. Second, we find several good predictors of session length, such as in-game character level or age. Third, despite the social nature of MMOGs, interactivity between players accounts for little of the dependence between sessions of different players, and most sessions are not correlated at long time scales. Fourth, changes to a game's virtual world can cause dramatic shifts in the population densities of in-game locations, which are otherwise relatively stable.

30 pages

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