Itâ??s the big risk, bigger reward gamble for developers, but when it comes to MMOGs, at least thereâ??s plenty of middleware to choose fromâ?¦

MMO Engine Round-Up

You know a middleware sector is healthy when there’s an overflow list of companies you can’t fit into the five slots available for the Develop technology roundups. Indeed, in the case of the technologies hoping to improve the efficiency of the development of massive multiplayer games, one of the hardest decisions is working out where to draw the dividing line between other associated technologies such as networking and the emerging blackarts of hosting and service management.

Emergent Technologies is working hard on its Server and Online Elements for example, while Perpetual is basking in the reflected glory of its recent BioWare product win. It also offers a backend platform for MMOG deployment and operation.

Similarly, Sun Microsoft’s open source Project Darkstar framework remains available for those who want to abstract away the problems of server-side performance. Networking technologies such as Quazal’s Net-Z and Rendez-Vous lobby services could also be used to create less massively persistent online gaming environments.

Still, it’s fair to say that as with the first wave of MMOG middleware, which burnt out at the end of the Internet tech boom, most online developers still seem to be happiest doing most of the tricky stuff in-house.

BigWorld v1.8
Clients: Cheyenne Mountain, Netease, Slipgate Ironworks plus over a dozen others
Host Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 (PS3 forthcoming)
Integration with: 3ds Max, Diamondware, dPVS, Maya, Spatial Voice, SpeedTree, Vivox
Price: Combination backend royalty and/or upfront fee available on request
Contact: Gavin Longhurst,

The current industry leader, BigWorld was also one of the first commercially available middleware MMOG engines. Designated a ‘complete solution’, it provides you with a 3D client, server and development tools such as its integrated model, particle and world editors. This, and its advanced terrain engine, enables the creation of large worlds with seamless indoor/outdoor environments, while its load balanced server technology can support millions of users.

Technology: Monumental Technology Suite
Clients: Available on request
Host Platforms: PC (Windows/Linux), Xbox 360
and PS3 planned
Integration with: 3ds Max, Diamondware, dPVS, FMOD, Maya, SpeedTree, Vivox
Price: Prototype, production and commercial licenses available
Contact: Alan O’Dea, +44 115 958 3178,

Rising from the lessons learnt from Climax’s stillborn Warhammer MMOG, Monumental Games has taken a fluid, production-centric approach to its middleware. It offers a complete tool-chain for rapid content creation by artists and designers, enabling them to preview their assets and get them into the game.
The tech also uses many procedural techniques for both terrain and characters to allow for scalable asset and content creation.

Technology: Icarus Platform
Clients: Available on request
Host Platforms: Windows
Integration with: 3ds Max, Ageia, FaceFX, MilkShape, Motion Analysis, SpeedTree, Vivox
Price: Available on request
Contact: +1 919 244 3048,

An example of a MMOG developer which built its own tools and is now offering them on a commercial basis, Icarus reckons the main selling point of its Platform is that it handles everything from content production and asset management tools to game system modules and a full suite of network administration utilities.
Content creation tools include an integrated building and object editor, particle editor and sound editing tools.

Technology: HeroEngine
Clients: BioWare
Host Platforms: Windows
Integration with: 3ds Max, Ageia, Diamondware, dPVS, Maya, SpeedTree
Price: Available on request
Contact: Neil Harris,

Live switching between in-game and editing modes is a key feature of the HeroEngine, thanks to its HeroBlade architecture which links into a share asset library. Any changes made are dynamically updated in each client. Gameplay tweaking is also aid thanks to the HeroScripting language, while DreamManager tool enables designers and QA staff to make notes directly into the game’s 3D space.

Technology: Multiverse Platform v1.0
Clients: Over 11,000 registered teams
Host Platforms: Windows
Integration with: COLLADA, FMOD, SpeedTree
Price: Free for development, royalty up to 10 per cent
Contact: Ron Meiners,

A different approach to MMOG development comes from Multiverse which offers a free development license to its technology, as long as finished games are made available within its Multiverse Network. Free-to-play games don’t incur a licence fee, while commercial games royalties are capped at 10 percent of gross revenues. Client, server, infrastructure tools and gameplay plug-ins such as AI, physics, questing and combat are provided.

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