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 Worlds.

Gavin Longhurst

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 years.

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 ours.”

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.

BigWorld Technology Suite demo image BigWorld Technology Suite demo image BigWorld Technology Suite demo image

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 & Light.”

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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