Interview: Gavin Longhurst of BigWorld Technology

Creating Worlds with BigWorld

An Interview with Gavin Longhurst of BigWorld Technology

By Shayalyn

Even the most avid gamer may not be aware of what goes into making an MMO because what goes into creating their game doesn’t concern the average gamer so much as the end result. That’s why you may not be aware of the BigWorld Technology Suite, a collection of MMO
development tools. But BigWorld could likely be behind a game
you’ve played, or one you will be playing in the future. Ten
Ton Hammer’s Jeff Woleslagle and I sat down with Gavin
Longhurst, Director of Business Development for BigWorld, to discuss
his company’s product and its future in the gaming industry.

What is the BigWorld MMO Technology Suite? It consists of things like
server applications, an advanced 3D game engine, and content creation
tools. The BigWorld Suite can be used for such things as building
terrain, simulating weather events, producing realistic water effects
and creating dynamic lighting. It contains sophisticated animation
tools, as well. Dark & Light uses
BigWorld’s server technology. Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment
has licensed the BigWorld Suite for its MMOG in development, Stargate

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Gavin Longhurst

What makes developers turn to BigWorld, and why should gamers care?
There are a couple of compelling reasons to consider:

The first reason is time. BigWorld can help your highly anticipated MMO
get to market sooner. “[The BigWorld Suite] can virtually cut
the development time in half,” said Longhurst.
“Developers can jump in and start designing a game right
away. They can concentrate on making the game instead of making the
technology to make the game.” Not having to create or modify
a graphics engine or other tools allows game developers to get into the
meat of making a game world much faster. Longhurst mentioned a Chinese
MMO, built using the BigWorld Suite, which is poised to release within
12-18 months as opposed to the usual MMO development time of 3 or 4

The second reason involves quality and playability.
BigWorld’s graphics engine was created to make slick looking
games that play well on most gaming rigs. Although Blizzard’s
World of Warcraft wasn’t created with BigWorld, it does serve
as a model for an expertly designed and implemented MMOG.
“One of the big things that sold people on WoW was polish. It
looks good and plays well, and the game runs smoothly on even lower end
machines,” said Longhurst. “[Creating the tools to
make] games that run on a wide range of machines, with support for top
end and bottom end, has always been a design fixation of

But do the graphics look good? You be the judge. The images below come
from BigWorld’s fantasy demo, which is used to sell
developers on the Suite.

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It would be fair to wonder whether a single technology solution would
turn out cookie cutter MMOs, all with the same look and feel, but
Longhurst assures, “The client is fully
customizable.” A look through some screenshots of games using
BigWorld’s suite seems to support his claim. BigWorld also
integrates with other design solutions such as Speed Tree.
Additionally, Longhurst claims, “[BigWorld’s suite
is] fully scalable, so it’s a good solution for anything from
the smaller Asian MMOs to something huge like Dark &

We asked whether the BigWorld Suite would build games that support
Windows Vista. “There’s a transitional phase right
now, with the majority of machines still running Windows XP,”
Longhurst said, “so it’s just not the right time to
think of supporting Vista only.” However, when the time is
right, BigWorld will certainly support Vista and DirectX 10.

And what about Macs? “Mac doesn’t have a lot of
pull for us right now,” Longhurst said. “The
fanbase is small; but on the other hand, it’s fanatical. Mac
users have a certain light in their eyes when they talk about their
Macs.” Despite small, rabid bands of Mac users (including
some Ten Ton Hammer staffers), Longhurst said, “[Mac support
is] not our highest priority right now. There’s just no
compelling reason.”

When we asked Longhurst to tell us what would make a developer consider
the BigWorld Technology Suite as the platform for a new MMO, he said
assuredly, “The fact that it works. It’s something
a developer can start using today to begin making their game.”

The average gamer may not pay much attention to the nuts and bolts that
go into making an MMO, but since BigWorld purports to help developers
build polished and playable games in less time, it’s worth
getting to know more about this game development platform.

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About The Author

Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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