December 6, 2005 4:00 AM PST

New gateway to multiple virtual worlds?

If you're a devotee of big online games like "World of Warcraft," there's a good chance you've wished you could easily move from one title to another without having to load an entirely different piece of software each time.

Needless to say, at least for now, such fluid border-crossing is impossible with anything outside of the Sony Online game universe (which includes "Star Wars Galaxies" and "EverQuest"). On Tuesday, however, a Mountain View, Calif., start-up called Multiverse Network is trying to change that dynamic by launching a platform that will make it possible for players to switch between any online game included in the company's network.

News.context

What's new:
A California start-up is launching a platform that will make it possible for players to move between online games without having to switch software.

Bottom line:
Multiverse may be an innovative concept, but observers say its future depends on whether it can attract game developers who will use its platform to create new, moneymaking games.

More stories on virtual worlds

Multiverse's founders think consumers should be able to switch easily between different virtual worlds. And they say their new game developers' platform, called Multiverse, can make that happen, while giving small online game developers the ability to work on top of an existing network of games and software code.

Multiverse is a lot like the enterprise software developers' kits used to build back-end systems at big corporations, but with an open-source twist that lets programmers share what they create.

Instead of defining business processes for things like accounting, the game platform provides developers with a physics engine; the basics of a virtual economy; art assets and much more that they can use in their own games. Once a developer has incorporated those elements and others into a new online game, Multiverse links the new title to its network of virtual worlds, all of which share a common entry point for users.

"We have all these gated communities: 'World of Warcraft' over here, 'Star Wars Galaxies' over here and 'EverQuest' over here, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to cross the gated communities. But the number of (users) going into them is growing exponentially," Multiverse co-founder Corey Bridges said.

Why not access them all at one point? That's what Multiverse is trying to do, while cutting down on development costs.

Traditional approaches to making online games can lead to development costs as high as $20 million. As a result, few small publishers can compete with game giants like Sony Online and NCSoft.

Multiverse execs say they can get small game companies going for as little as $10,000. And they're backing that up by giving software to developers for free. They will only make money on commissions that come from subscribers to the games that were created with their technology.

Looking out for the little guy
"The business model is long-term," said Richard Bartle, one of the pioneers of online games and an editor of Terra Nova, a leading Web site about virtual worlds. "Although Multiverse's software will help speed up the to-market time for companies, it's still going to take developers ages to create content."

While Bartle is cautious about Multiverse's business model, he's fascinated by its potential.

"Small-scale professional developers will be able to use it to create innovative new virtual worlds," Bartle said. "It lowers the barrier to entry." Also, academics will be able to use it to create their own virtual worlds for experimental purposes without spending big dollars, he said. Such uses could, for example, include studying virtual worlds to better understand real-life economic or sociological behavior.

Just to prove Multiverse can work, the package includes a pre-built virtual world called "Kothuria: The World's Edge." Any new Multiverse customer can take any of the elements of "Kothuria" and modify them for their own purposes. Therefore, Bridges added, a developer with minimal resources can quickly take pieces of "Kothuria" and blend them into a new game.

"Game developers have been telling us, 'Wow, this sounds like a good idea, but build us a game using your platform,'" Bridges said. "Walk a mile in our shoes."

The building blocks of "Kothuria" are an open-source framework that includes layers determining the physics of the game, as well as its logic and rules.

"Say you don't like the combat system," said Bridges, "or say you want to extend it, you can just extend it or swap it out. What this does is it gives game developers of all stripes and strata a niche to do what they do best."

Ron Meiners, community manager of the virtual world "There" and an expert on online games, believes Multiverse could present new opportunities.

"The cost of production now is really restrictive. This will hopefully open up the process to many more ideas and hopefully some innovation," Meiners said. "And certainly without the need to create the kinds of profits needed by most studio projects, people will hopefully be able to take chances that aren't really realistic now."

Of course, Multiverse's future depends entirely on whether it can attract the kinds of game developers who will use its platform to create new, moneymaking games. But Bridges said the nine-employee company is in it for the long haul. He recognizes that it faces a chicken-and-egg dynamic, but added the company already has a number of potential customers lined up, though he would not name any of them.

Meiners said he is inclined to see if Multiverse can make a go of it.

"It will just take one really good product to launch them," Meiners said. "I think the novelty of such a success would draw a lot of people and keep the ball rolling. It's hard for me to believe that people won't find this notion exciting."

11 comments

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Great
If there wasn't already a reason to die behind your PC, there is now. Endless gaming...
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
exactly
you know, I'm not ashamed to admit that I love to play video games, but I would be if that is what I lived for. I wonder if they realize how much of their life that they are wasting?? And I really wonder how many people from 20-30 will have horrific eye sight by the time they are in their 60's!?

I understand that everyone has a hobby, but get real people, a hobby is something you do when you have spare time to get away and relax, not something that you clear your schedule for hours for on a daily basis.
Posted by jmassey--2008 (12 comments )
Link Flag
Eventually
Mankind may move into a virtual universe ala the Matrix and we'll still be creating virtual worlds to escape from that one!
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this is already here.... new?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.thex3dxperience.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.thex3dxperience.com</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.starbasec3.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.starbasec3.com</a>

sites weve done both use open 3d standards to link 3d online games and worlds for over 8 years...

look for the mediaverse.net portal soon.

a little googling goes a long way in reporting....;)c3
Posted by cube3 (190 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not that new of an idea
Check out Kaneva (www.Kaneva.com) there are over 100 games in development on this platform with a similar model.
Posted by gframe (1 comment )
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Virtual worlds and reality
Ah, to flit between different nodes of virtual environments like a shadow loose in 'cyberspace'. Sounds kind of fun. For me, this sounds like a good plan, as I'm one of those people who live in these virtual landscapes whether they call them 3D chat programs, MMOs, MMOGs, or MMORPGs.

Many people 'live in their own little world', well, I can honestly say that I actually BUILT mine: www.cyberwolfman.com/thisisit.jpg Hee hee hee

In fact, I've been using these programs for some time, and have been a beta tester for some of them: www.cyberwolfman.com/3d_chat.htm

Christopher Hall, in regards to fantasy and reality; the two can co-exist, and, if you have an imagination, you can create a better reality. Einstein himself said that "Imagination is more important than reality." It's the dreamers who create works of art, invent things to make your life better, write songs and books and create software to make your life more enjoyable even if it's to just while away a few hours in an entertaining software program along with people from other parts of the world. It's also fun to let your mind play for a while, un-fettered by the worries of reality, of greedy politicians, more restrictive laws, less privacy, and abuses of eminent domain to take away people's property without their consent. You wouldn't deny us a small escape from what we have no control over, would you?

Jessica, in regards to eye strain; you should look away from the monitor from time to time and practice eye exercises, even if it's to look at the palm of your hand for about five seconds then to a far away point outside your window or a wall in the far side of your room. Perhaps you can get an LCD monitor, or just a newer and bigger CRT monitor? The prices on them are coming down, now. Maybe due in some small part to better stuff coming out soon, like the nano-emissive displays using carbon nanotubes. But, adjusting your computer's Display Properties may give you a quicker fix. (Advanced computer users can skip the rest of this paragraph.) Right-click on your desktop, choose Properties, then the Settings tab. Then choose Advanced, then the Monitor tab. Look in the Monitor setting section and change the Screen refresh rate to a higher Hertz like 75 Hertz, if you have it in the drop-down list. If you don't, you may want to change the Screen Resolution to a smaller size first, then do that. You may also be suffering from allergies. You could try an over-the-counter allergy pill for a few days to see if that gives you any help. BTW, I'm not a doctor, or even play one on TV, so I can't diagnose what may be the trouble you're having, just suggesting things that may help you. But, if you continue to have eye pain, you may want to get them checked, or maybe consider spending less time in front of the computer and possibly the TV.

Michael Grogan, ever see the TV series "Wild Palms"? There's technology out there now that can simulate a virtual environment that's nearly indistinguishable from reality. Things like VRD (an acronym meaning Virtual Retinal Display). It uses low-powered LASERs (yes that's an acronym too) to 'paint' full-colored and full-motion video onto your eyes, or to be specific, your retinas. At higher power levels, it isn't transparent, but overlays what your eyes see, replacing reality. The military were testing that back at Wright-Patterson AFB several years ago, and are now replacing the more antiquidated HUD systems with it. You could be a 'coppertop' (a human battery) just like the people the machines were using for a power source in the "Matrix" movies sooner than you think. If you're not, already... After all, what you think of as 'reality' is just an interpretation by your brain of the information you receive from your senses. For all you know, the 'real world' could be governed by a kind of system like eschatological pantheistic multiple-ego solipsism, and the denizens thereof could be little more than flotsam cast hither and yon by the whims of the majority. WEG

- CyberWoLfman
Posted by CyberWoLfman (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
thanks
..for the information, but it will be impossible to look at the computer less being as this is my job and because of this, I do not watch tv at all unless it is a rented movie from blockbuster and maybe an occassional day where I might enjoy a video game(these fall on days that I do not work). And as far as the hertz are concerned, they are already at 85 which is the highest that my computer offers.

Do you have any other recommendations?
Posted by jmassey--2008 (12 comments )
Link Flag
MMO
I've got an idea for a MMO and I don't know what to do. How do I make it happen
Posted by Life-Chat (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MMO
I've got an idea for a MMO and I don't know what to do. How do I make it happen?
Posted by Life-Chat (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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