When BitTorrent was invented it solved a problem, that of shifting large amounts of data round the Internet in a speedy, efficient and reliable manner.
For more than a decade it has achieved that task admirably but due to its great potential it still manages to feel somewhat under utilized at times.
BitTorrent Inc. is certainly doing its part to open up fresh avenues and applications for the protocol and today we learn of another company making use of BitTorrent to improve efficiencies and enhance end-user experience.
CCP Games is the Icelandic studio behind EVE Online, the space-based MMORPG game that first appeared in 2003. While BitTorrent enjoyed its 10th birthday a couple of years ago, EVE Online will celebrate its first decade this May, but not before a few changes have been made.
EVE Online currently has around 500,000 subscribers who are each required to run the EVE Launcher, a tool which installs, patches and repairs the EVE client. However, the company reports that they are not happy with aspects of the Launcher and how it behaves in certain situations.
“It is at times a bit cumbersome when it comes to updating the EVE client – how many of you had to download a full client install because the EVE Launcher patching failed? Quite a few according to our statistics,” CCP begins.
“Combined with our own desire to be able to push out EVE client updates more frequently and reliably, we have decided to go back to the drawing board and rethink some of the things we are doing; trying to find ways on how to improve the overall user experience,” they add.
To do so CCP are working on improving the Launcher’s self-update mechanism and its ability to download and update the EVE client. For this they will rely on an old friend.
“After careful investigation of a lot of different distribution and update mechanisms we have decided to base the EVE Launcher’s future download mechanism on the widely used and battle-tested BitTorrent protocol,” CCP reveal.
“The main reason why we are doing this is that BitTorrent itself can utilize a number of different transport channels at the same time and is thus less prone to failing on that level. Our current mechanism is built on HTTP 1.1 only, which is a protocol that was not designed for transferring large amounts of data.”
Due to this design shortcoming, HTTP transfers – especially partial ones – are prone to errors which can corrupt the EVE client. With Bram Cohen‘s baby, this isn’t an issue.
“With BitTorrent we do not have this problem as it can run on top of a number of different protocols. Furthermore the protocol does a double validation of transferred data, ensuring that it is actually what we wanted to download and not some digital garbage,” CCP explain.
“Eventually it is also possible to prioritize files over others when downloading which opens up a whole lot of possible future improvements to the user experience – for instance the ability to create your character while the game is still installing.”
While the BitTorrent implementation will be transparent, there are bound to be plenty of EVE users who understand the protocol and how it functions, and might therefore be worried about it greedily eating up available upload bandwidth as it seeds the client to other users. CCP say they have that covered.
“By default the new EVE Launcher will only make you share the data required for installing the client while you are downloading; once your download is complete you will not be distributing it to others, unless you explicitly enable this in the options – after all it might be useful for sharing the installation across your local network. We are also, by default, limiting the upload rate so that it should not affect your normal internet usage. This can be adjusted within the settings, should you wish to do so,” CCP conclude.
Facebook and Twitter previously revealed that BitTorrent is doing wonders for them too, so it’s great to hear of another successful application taking place outside the regular file-sharing space.