Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Any chance?

I've recently discovered two other projects, Multiverse ( and BigWorld ( Both of these purport to be "Complete MMOG" solutions.

I heard of Multiverse from its relationship to James Cameron, the director, mentioned I believe in a Wired article. According to their press, they support the .mesh format (though I don't know graphic formats) and have a converter to get you from other popular formats, such as Maya and 3dMax. They have a tool for designing the world. They have support for a product called SpeedTree ( for providing scenery.

They provide a client, based on the Axiom 3D engine (, and the client can be customized using Python or C#.

The server is written in Java. Their target platform is Linux, but it also runs on Windows XP. They support multiple servers, splitting the world into a quad tree, and passing off quad trees to other servers. Objects are stored as either XML or binary data. Extensions to the server code are either written in Java, for low-level changes, or Java or Python to add features to their MARS (Multiverse Agnostic Rules System). The server does not currently support instanced areas. It uses TCP and UDP for communication.

The game world Kothuria ( has been built on the Multiverse engine. They do not charge licensing fees provided you do not charge for use of your world.

BigWorld I heard about on the Multiverse forums. I'm not sure what mesh format it uses, but it has a plug-in for 3dMax. They have a BigWorld World Editor to design to world.

They provide a client, the BigWorld Technology Client engine, which is customizable with Python, HTTP and XML. It runs on Windows.

Their server supports multiple machines, and re-aligns server load based on CPU usage. They don't say what language it's written in, but it can be modified with Python. They support dynamic world updates, dynamic manipulation, climate and day/night.

So what does this mean for MMORF? Well, it sure crushes the novelty of it all... I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised -- did I really think no one else would do this?

Both projects talks about being able to distribute the load across multiple servers, which is something that I, too, planned. They both support adding in customizations (I should hope so!) as I did, but I'm again astounded by the popularity for Python in this.

I've got a personal peeve against Python, which is probably clouding my view of it as the be-all end-all of scripting languages. Though I haven't looked too deeply into it, I'm under the impression that the Python runtime allows for some nice on-the-fly interpretation, which can be seen here on the BigWorld site, in the Kill Striff video near the bottom. That kind of interactivity is exactly what I want to be able to provide; not only having a console on which you can change the running world, but to be able to add, change and remove logic to the running server. If these two projects are using Python, I'm starting to ... worry ... that I might have to look into using it too.

I've mentioned before that I've wanted to use C# for this, because that is my current plan for the implementation language. I don't know what kind of interactive solutions are available for C#, or what kind of Python-on-C# solutions are available. I've also mentioned that it would be an interesting exercise to design a stripped-down scripting language, to help the non-programmers still work with the world. Python is a touch too involved for that, and C# would likely be as well.

Both systems provide clients, which is really beyond the scope of MMORF. While I plan to develop clients alongside the server for testing purposes, I hadn't planned on providing a client framework that would be used -- that's something that I would have left to my "customers" to supply.

The World Editor is something I never considered. I suppose providing a world editor would sure make world building a hell-of-a-lot easier than requiring world builders to use their god client to hand-place every item into the world, using the client's interface. Honestly, I hadn't considered it because the purpose of MMORF is to prove the theory that I could write the system, and never to use the actual system for anything concrete. Or populated.

One thing that I haven't found discussed in either project is the interface between client and server (cluster). That is, is there a separate login server, or does each server also act as a login server? If so, is there any rotation of this, or is that done through round-robin methods at the router? BigWorld talks about "[t]he maximum size depends on the number of machines and the switching fabric of the main switch", so this could be exactly what they intend (unless this "main switch" is something they provide.)

I envision MMORF separating the servers that the users connect to (portals to the servers) from the servers themselves -- from a logical view anyway. That is, to reduce the latency (lag) between the user's machine and the world's first point of contact, we might have these points nearer to the user ("near" being a networking idea, not a physical one) than the world servers themselves. The routing and communication between these portal servers and the world servers would then be separately analyzed and configured for optimal communication internally. Of course, they could be the same machine, for the cost-efficient worlds, but I want to provide the ability to separate them.

I'm not abandoning MMORF yet, but it's becoming less of a "wow" thing now. I still want to know, though, that I can write one myself... whether that ever gets done, we'll have to see.

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