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Virtual Worlds Conf: Multiverse, Under The Hood

Speaking at the ongoing Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose, Multiverse founder Corey Bridges and co-founder and CTO Rafhael Cedeno gave attendees a peek under the hood of its flagship product, giving a highly technical look at how the multi-world OGRE/
Multiverse, which builds networks for MMOs and online worlds, has been up to big things recently. Earlier this year, it officially launched version 1.0 of their platform, with four worlds as part of its "Worlds in Progress" initiative, a collection of early prototype games and worlds built on its platform, with the aim of providing consumer access to the network. Just recently, Accelerate Technology unveiled a business-purposed virtual world built on the network. At the Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose, Multiverse founder Corey Bridges and co-founder and CTO Rafhael Cedeno gave attendees a peek under the hood. "Multiverse is a company founded by early days Netscape guys. We’ve been building technology our whole careers, so we really approached this from a platform development point of view," Bridges said. He highlighted some features that set Multiverse apart: it's a complete MMO technology solution -- a "world browser," with a built-in server client, tools, starter assets and sample worlds. It's got open standards-based technology with rapid prototyping, and users can develop and deploy it for free with no up-front costs, skipping the publisher and sharing 10 percent of revenues with the company. "Our success depends on your success," Bridges said. Multiverse Network offers ready consumer access via the client world browser, and all games and worlds launch in the network. "You never pay us a dime until you start charging consumers," Bridges added. “You also keep all intellectual property rights.” Large companies may pay licensing fees instead. "We do think virtual worlds are a new medium... there’s a whole wide array of uses," Bridges explained. Not simply for games, or exclusively for business, Multiverse aims their network at multipurpose uses. "We want anyone to be able to use it.” Cedeno demonstrated the game engine, turning shadows on and off to show off the high dynamic range lighting. "You can make your game look as high end as you want,” Cedeno promised. "We support both OpenGL and DirectX.” Bridges added that clients examine the machine that the product is installed on, and degrades the quality as needed for performance. Noting the importance of streaming video and audio to the virtual worlds space, Cedeno explained that the world browser doesn't limit the amount of video or audio streams. True HD videos are downloaded onto the system, and can even become texture on objects. "This technology itself is developed from [Microsoft multimedia framework/API] DirectShow," Cedeno explained. "Almost everyone has [video compression standard] h264, which is like the YouTube codec. We’ve developed streaming technology so you don’t need the media on the user machine to start watching it.” Next, Cedeno and Bridges demonstrated one of the business trainer apps recently announced from Accelerate, created in about five weeks with the help of multiverse text support. As explained in the initial announcement, the user interface looks like a PDA, and includes texting, an embedded web browser, and a GPS. There are quests, like obtaining one's employee security badge -- and if the user has a camera on his PC, their photo can be sent to the actual security desk via the virtual world, and the user's real-world security badge can be issued next day. "We have something called the master server, and that’s really the only server we run," Cedeno explained. And since the master server maintains the user's login info, only one login is needed for all the worlds. The network allows friends that are in different worlds to chat with each other, since all user servers are connected to the master server. "We do have premier hosting services we can suggest, but we are not in the hosting business," Cedeno elaborated. Some tech specs on the Multiverse World Browser: it has a 3D rendering engine based on OGRE/Axiom; it runs on Windows XP or Vista using DirectX, and it's written in C# and scriptable in Python. As concerns the Multiverse servers, they consist of distributed plug in architecture, are written in Java (including server plug-ins) and scriptable in Python, and it has a standard JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) back end. It also has a multiverse-agnostic rule set (MARS), an open source library of plug-ins for mobs, combat, inventory and such. Multiverse's tools are comprised of a world editor, terrain generator, and model viewer, along with conversion tools for 3Ds, Maya, Blender and other apps. "Though we don’t have in-engine editing tools, that doesn’t mean our users can’t import one," Bridges added, citing SketchUp as an example. The server system is based on a plug-in design, Cedeno explained, allowing for the use of third-party plug-ins. "Something people take for granted is that building a UI is easy," said Cedeno, touching on the user interface for conclusion. Multiverse made sure to make a completely customizable and easy to use UI system, containing pre-coded customizable UI components and examples, like minimaps, chat windows and help windows.

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