Saturday, June 16, 2007

Multiverse: Strolling Seamlessly Between Game Worlds

Allowing Serious Games to be played through one client

Via: Multiverse and The Economist

WHEN you sit down to play a “massively multiplayer online game” (MMOG) your computer connects to a distant server which holds all the data needed to model the synthetic realm and to co-ordinate the actions of different players. The “client” software on your computer updates the server with your every move, and the server keeps all players informed of each other's actions. This enables each player's computer to render a vivid, three-dimensional world.

The software that does this, however, is proprietary: each game requires its own client and server software. MMOGs and virtual worlds are, in short, like walled gardens. You cannot move from one virtual world to another.

What happened on the Internet was that the web came along and provided common, open standards for both client and server software, doing away with proprietary online services and bringing together previously separate communities. Now a firm called Multiverse Network hopes to do the same for MMOGs. It has created MMO client and server software based on open standards, and a way to move between virtual worlds built on its platform, just like following a link from one web page to another. And it has made its software available for free download by anyone who wants.

Multiverse provides the full technology for world creation without an up-front license fee, though they do take 10% of game revenues when the developer starts charging for the game. If they never charge, it's free forever. The platform itself is a scalable, extensible technology for creation of a prototype or production world.

Even now, some teams are able to put together very respectable worlds in a matter of a few weeks. The platform is built from the ground up to enable a wide range of innovation in game and world design, and to be available for no money up-front. All of this changes the dynamics for creative game design, removing the imperatives created by some of the high-cost alternatives, by making a fast and free alternative. It puts the game designer back in charge of the design process.

The visuals displayed from the game on the website are decent, but not what most would call "AAA" quality.

According to Ron Meiners (Developer Relations Director, Multiverse), "the visual capabilities are already in the engine now. It's up to the developer to decide what level of graphic detail works for the project. Metaverse wants to support the complete spectrum of developer choices, and currently supports a wide variety of high-end graphic effects", he says. Basically, the platform supports being extended to support more, though they don't know who's done this yet. They also support a wide range of full-screen compositing effects. But it's up to the developer to make and implement these choices.

With a common client and an integrated network, all of them available to the public will be much more visible, and all of the non-profit worlds being built, for academic or marketing purposes, will act to draw in new users to expose them to the whole network. This also enables people to add components to the technology that others can make use of.