How should I architect my DB & API server for a turn based multiplayer iPhone board game? (thinking about nodejs, mongo, couch, etc)

By : k00k
Source: Stackoverflow.com
Question!

I'm working on a turn based board game for iPhone and eventually Android. I'm using Appcelerator Titanium to develop it. My multiplayer design is similar to Words With Friends. Users take turns when ready, and then the opponent's game board is updated accordingly.

One of my needs is to have a messaging API which enables the 2 players' devices to update one another on the status of the game board after a move. Thinking of doing this with JSON and keeping a JSON object on the device which contains the location of all game board pieces at any given time. This is the object that will need to update on the local device and then send a change to the opponent's device after a move is made.

I've done APIs in the past for mobile platforms and to do so I've used PHP with MySQL and sent JSON back and forth between the API server and the mobile device. Works just dandy for low concurrent users, and generally non-massive apps. Here's to hoping this one will get massive ;)

So now, instead of a general httpd server and the like, I'm starting to think about persistent sockets and if they're needed or not for my new game. I'm also thinking that it might be smart to forgo the big LAMP stack, and for scalability and maybe ease of development, to lean more towards a data flow of something like Mongo/Couch -> node.js -> iPhone. I'll be honest, it would be my first foray into a non-sql db and node.js as well.

Interested to hear others' takes and experiences on this, more options/thoughts, and whether I am thinking about it the right way, or just creating headaches for myself.

By : k00k


Answers

I've just started learning mongo, and it isn't hard to learn. Things like indexes and explain are there and work the same. When it comes to architecture, you want to think the opposite of SQL; instead of needing a good reason to de-normalize, you need to come up with a good reason to normalize. The guys at 10gen (who make mongo) will say that thinking of hierarchical is a more natural way of thinking about things, which I would agree with (tentatively). Finders feel sort of sql-ish as well, although you will still use map-reduce for aggregation queries.

From what I understand about couch, the big difference is there is a strong focus on the distributed replication thing. Mongo focuses more on performance over massive amounts of data (although they have autosharding and a great scaling story too). I would go mongo, unless you are actually going to use the distributed aspects of couch.

Node has got to be the coolest thing ever, and I think this would be a great application for it. I have zero experience with it, but from what I have read, it is great for loads of small requests, and scales up wonderfully. Idiomatic javascript lends itself quite well to the whole eventing model, and with v8 it runs just obscenely fast.



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