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Unity Evaluating an MMO engine

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Hi Everybody, Our team is currently in preperation phase for building an MMO. At the moment the big question is ofcourse the engine. The two obvious options are 1. creating an engine from scratch 2. buying an existing MMO engine After some initial research (including a post on gamedev, some guys might remember that) we believe buying an engine is an expensive but still viable option. We have found some MMO technology providers and are comparing their features. The reason for this post is to get some ideas from the community on which features to look for in an MMO engine. Currently we are evaluating on the basis of the following numbered by priority 1. The technology should be tested and proven with existing commercial titles 2. Liscensing terms and pricing 3. Scalability 4. Setup and running cost 5. Graphics I would like to run this thread as a brainstorming session with as many ideas as possible so please guys any comments are welcome. Thanks

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Hey, I thought I'd give my $0.02. I think scalability is a very important factor. There is hardly any point in an MMO if it's not massive. It'd be nicest if the world could have a feeling of continuity to it (rather than having to jump around between places that may as well be disconnected). I think it'd be nice if multiple platforms were supported and the graphic requirements were quite flexible. You can do a lot with well designed models and good textures! More importantly than technology I guess has to be the game itself (and pricing). No matter how technologically advanced a game might be, and how clever it is... a boring game is a boring game. I think it'd be nice if you could somehow allow players to all interact with one another and fight freely (assuming that's part of the game) without huge ability gaps opening up over time. Consider real people, a skilled fighter can't beat 5 people with moderate ability. It'd also be good to see safe areas in the game (holy ground ala highlander :) ).
Hope this is useful,

Dan

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Yes the game design matters a lot in the actual success of a game title. At the moment though I am more concerned about the technical aspects of an MMO engine. Another thing I should mention here is that we are planning for the serious games industry.

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I don't believe there exists an MMO engine that has been proven with an existing commercial title. Stargate Worlds is using the Big World engine, and BioWare is using the Hero engine, but they are both still in development.

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What to look for? That's the wrong aproach to the situation.

What does your game need?

It's irrelevant what marketing hype says about engines. What will you need in your game?

Deformable terrain? User customizable? Real-time FPS combat? Turn based? Running from browser? Snowflake-like objects, where not two of 240 million in-game items are the same?

Or just another WoW clone (in which case, you're in luck - see Turbine).

But if you buy an engine first, without knowing exactly what you'll need, then you just bought yourself an answer, without knowing the question.

Scalability: Not an issue if you intend to run instanced content - just add more machines. Crucial and only factor if you'll run SecondLife.

Setup and running cost: If your game will be making $1 bil a year, all engines are free. If your most optimistic plan is to earn $100,000 after 2 years of operation, then remember that beggars can't be choosers.

Graphics: Runescape has reached 7 million subscribers. And yet the graphics are appaling. Do they really matter? Better yet, where will you find enough artists to deliver high-resolution, mip-cube-reflection-mapped 15k poly characters and art ( all 15,000 of them ).

Licensing terms: The license is given. You accept it or not. It's not a matter of debate or opinion. If you cannot operate under a given license, the product is done for.

But above all, don't buy a solution, looking for a problem. Look at game design document, do some load estimates, look over features and what direction the game will take. Then see if there's possibly something close to that available. If you're lucky, you'll find 1 engine. If you have even slightly non-conventional ideas, then there are none that would meet #1.

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I agree that the best engine is the one that best fits ones requirements. But even though if it does meet the requirements there is always the factor of false claims. I believe that urchin asked the question in this context. I dont have this kind of knowledge and only someone who has already worked with anyone of the existent MMO middleware can probably provide this insight.

Following are the existent MMO middleware available in my knowledge:

Multiverse
Big World
Hero
Nevrax MMORPG Skeleton
Olive
Is Turbine still available?

Anybody know of any other options.

Is there anyone here who has worked with any of these and can possibly give the original poster and all of us an insight about them. What were the things that they faced problems with, what were the good things about the technology?

I guess that this sorta information will be really valuable for all. But the big question is that Is there anyone who has has this knowledge AND is willing to share it with us.

Just my 2 cents.

EnygmyX.

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I agree with Antheus.

What is an MMO 'engine' anyway? IMHO, there is no such thing in existence. There are MMO development suites, but they consist of many engines, such as a sound engine, graphics engine and a network engine. You should look at what you want before buying an answer.

As a matter of fact, you can easily put together your own MMO development suite for free by downloading stuff off the net without buying anything!

Here's a few examples/suggestions;

Networking

- SDL_net (C++/C#)
- RunUO (C# exclusively, but can be converted to C++)
- vbGore (more of an MMO development suite, but still has it's own networking component, written in VB6)
- RakNet (C++)
- Torque (C++)

Graphics

- Quake 3 (C)
- Torque (C++)
- Ogre3D (C++/C#)
- Irrlicht (C++/C#)
- XNA (C#)

Sound

- OpenAL (C++)
- FMOD (C++)

Physics

- Ragdoll (C++)
- Open Dynamics Engine (C++)

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You might also want to ask this guy: http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/profile.asp?mode=display&id=46406, who's probably one of the few that has hands on experience with shipped MMO platforms.

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There really isn't much in the way of an open source or free MMO platform. There are a few like Multiverse, which really lack the ability to do the first M in MMO well. There is a selection of pro MMO platforms, but unless you can pay 500K in short order then don't bother. Most of the majors have prototype evals which include binary versions of the engine and a 3 month license. But after that time you need to find a publisher or investor to pay the license fee.

As far as open source goes, ogre is nice render wise. But its a mishmash of good and bad. Large terrain support through plsm2 is not the greatest. Culling blows, no DX10 support yet. On top of that you need a ton of other code to have a viable MMO. There is a selection of middleware out there, but you would end up licensing as much or more than just buying the whole MMO engine.

The available open source software could make a MMO. I just don't think it could do it well without basically rewriting everything.

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