What is it?: A broad middleware offering specifically for making MMOs and online games
Company: BigWorld Technology
Price: See website
[To read all of Develop's Key Release technology profiles, go here]
For those considering the creation of a new MMO, BigWorld Technology presents a tempting offer.
The result of ten years’ work, the tech outfit’s middleware platform is designed specifically for developing massively multiplayer and other online games.
It provides users with an infamously highly scalable server capable of supporting millions of players, a 3D client that promises to deliver an increasingly robust experience, integrated content creation tools, server tools, mobile and browser integration, a third-party plugin library and a complete support service.
And with a number of new features incorporated in 3.0, BigWorld is set to increase its standing as a prominent player in the competitive middleware space.
“The main areas we’re currently focused on are improving shadow and lighting performance in the core DirectX client, extending iOS and web browser integration, a big client facelift, social networking functionality, extended web services for BigWorld Server, and Collada support,” says the firm’s social media director Matt Daly of the company’s plans for the platform.
“In order to open up the field of play to indie developers, we’re now also offering offering a BigWorld Indie licence, in addition to the commercial licence,” he adds.
Perhaps surprisingly, Daly claims that the underlying needs of massively mutliplayer developers have not changed all that drastically over the past decade; albeit with the caveat that the likes of browser, social, mobile and free-to-play have marked important milestones in the evolution of crafting MMOs.
“We've had the BigWorld client in a browser since March of last year, and have seen the browser-integrated game space growing rapidly,” confirms Daly.
“Online publishers like Bigpoint, Aeria and Perfect World are creating a richer and longer-term social context for gaming experiences with browser-based games.
“Aeria publishes Realm of the Titans and Kingdom Heroes Online, two games that have benefited from some level of out-of-game social networking connectivity.
"World of Warplanes, another BigWorld-powered title, is integrating Overwolf to bring social networking, chat, one-click machinima publishing, and other such functionality directly into the game UI.”
The impact of social networks on MMOs certainly can’t be ignored – especially as they give developers a direct route to extending user engagement to include time not specifically spent in-game.
It’s that trend that inspired BigWorld’s Web Player, which helps bring MMOs to web browsers, allowing licensees to take their games and players deeper into the realm of social networks.
APPLE IN ITS EYE
BigWorld is also increasing its focus on iOS. While the company has supported mobile for several years, the ongoing rise of iOS has prompted the tech outfit to increase its support for Apple’s portables.
As a result, BigWorld currently has a working demo of an iOS client connected to the same server that's running its PC ‘Fantasy Demo’, meaning that two users can share the same game space and all data exchange therein while one is on a computer and the other is on an iPhone or iPad.
While the introduction of support for iOS Apps to connect to a BigWorld Server is one of the most substantial updates to 3.0, it is the many more subtle changes that may have more impact on the daily workload of MMO development.
“Besides browser, mobile and Collada integration, we have quite a bit of additional shininess coming to our client in version three,” confirms Daly.
“We're implementing brand new lighting and shadowing capabilities, including deferred lighting rendering, PSSM, HDR render, SSAO, dynamic shadow maps, and lightmaps.
"FXAA anti-aliasing is being worked on, as well as soft particles and other similar goodness.”
Over on the server side, noteworthy improvements include new components to better support external services like TwistedWeb, as well as asynchronous two-way calls within the server.
Certainly, Bigworld Technology is set to be kept very busy over the next six months as it extends version 2.X and readies 3.0.
Fortunately, the efforts of the team at the Australian based company mean that if you’re an MMO developer, your workload should be a little more manageable once 3.0 is in the wild.