They're Random, Baby!

A short history of Halo movie hosting, and what it means to you.

Written July 27, 2003

Back in the day (say, July 12, 2000) there were very few movies being made for the Halo community. This was a good thing, because bandwidth was pretty scarce. Every once in a while, some big film would come out... and everyone and his brother (including most of the big 3D gaming sites) would put up a copy... and though things were often tight right at the beginning, there was almost always a way to get a copy for yourself. Time went on, and the situation stayed pretty static... until one day, Aaron Suhr released Bungie LOVE. This was a vid that coupled Aaron's gameplay with a nicely matched soundtrack, and quite a bit of humor... and the modern Halo vid era was born. And suddenly, bandwidth became tighter.

However, the Halo community stepped up to the plate, with several permanent bandwidth donators and a dizzying collection of part-time donators... and again, bandwidth stopped being a major problem. But time went on, and Bungie's fame grew (especially when, say, Microsoft decided to couple the Halo 2 announcement trailer with the unveiling of Windows Media Player 9)... and bandwidth needs grew, and grew. In the early days of 2002, we had about 5 or 6 permanent donators (including Mythica.org, Subnova.com, Psyjnir.com, ThatWeasel.tv, ourselves, and maybe one or two more that escape me right now) - when a new movie came out, it was distributed to as many of these as we could get it to, plus anyone else who volunteered. Initial demand would saturate a T1 or two - but among all these hosts, that was tolerable. As time went on, however, demand rose, and more and more of the load was being shouldered by Mythica.org, which had a pretty massive pipe, as movie hosts go. When NO new movie was being released, bandwidth usage for Mythica was running at around 5 Mbit/sec (a bit more than 3 T1's)... and spikes (which could last a day or more) of 50-70 Mbit/sec were not uncommon when a popular new movie came out. We still used other movie mirrors... but they were making up less and less of the total, simply BECAUSE the demand was so great. (Subnova, for example, sits on a T1. And it hosts other sites, so donating the entire line to HBO's insatiable movie download needs was not an option. Other mirrors are in similar situations.)

Mythica ran into some hardware difficulties right after the release of the E3 demo trailer, and was out of commission for three weeks. It came back online on July 19, and in the ensuing 8 days, served well over a terabyte of movies to the HBO community. (In 8 days, a T1 can serve a THEORETICAL MAXIMUM of about 130 gigabytes - and in reality, a fully saturated T1 might pour out 80 or 90 gigabytes in that timeframe.)

So: what we're looking at, with Mythica offline, is the loss of the equivalent of 15 or so T1's working fulltime serving movies. We've received a number of emails from people with hosted accounts, telling us they've got 60 gigabytes or so per month they can donate to the cause. We're thrilled there's community support here... but we need people to realize that they're trying to replace a service that poured out 60 gigabytes in a DAY on a regular basis. (So yes, if we got enough of these sorts of hosts - say, 50 of them - we could probably, with some serious back-end rotation work, set up a system that didn't bankrupt anyone and still provided movies that folks wanted to download... but we don't have 50 offers, we've got maybe 5. Which means we'd kill their entire month's allotment in less than a week... and if they weren't careful, would end up racking up overcharges that would kill the chance of ever doing this again.)

Some people are offering their hosting services: this is great, too, but realize that we are a completely non-profit operation. Bungie.org comes out of my pocket, and mythica.org comes out of Brian Towne's pocket. There is no advertising on either site, and no solicitation for aid (though Brian did have a well-hidden paypal donation link for those who wanted to poke around and find it). Paying for 15 T1's at today's going rate ($500-1500/month each depending on where you are) is simply not an option - and even though Brian had an incredible deal on bandwidth, it STILL wasn't free, and in fact was at the limit of what he could afford. If you sell bandwidth in bulk, and can come close to $0.20/gigabyte (which is STILL much more than Brian was paying), please contact us; we'll talk about colocation options. If you're offering standard rates (closer to $1.00 - 3.00/gigabyte)... you're out of our league. If you HAVE a gigantic pipe that you aren't using, and you'd like to donate some or all of it to the cause... please contact us; we'd be thrilled to talk to you. If you're sitting at home on a cable modem, however, we really appreciate the thought... but sticking your server into the melee would be like trying to stem the ocean with a bathtub drainplug.