Dreaming of Massively Multiplayer Open Source


Remember Myst Online? You shouldn't. GameTap shut the servers for the fumbling MMO in the beginning of this year, leaving plenty of fans of massively multiplayer online puzzle-solving out in the cold. Until the rights were returned to Cyan Worlds, which promptly promised to resurrect the MMO under the clever acronym of MORE -- the Myst Online Resurrection Experiment. Which was all fine, until funding difficulties killed the project once again. Which has since been resurrected again (surpassing Jean Gray's record), this time as a result of Cyan Worlds turning the entire Myst Online platform over to the open source community.

Strangely, this is the first big announcement from any of the "larger" MMOs that involves open source in any fashion. When an MMO dies, it usually dies for good, regardless of how persistent the fan base is toward resurrecting the fallen title into a working project.

The curious part of Myst Online is that Cyan Worlds is going to host a server with all of Myst Online's data for its fans to use. It's quite a conciliatory gesture, especially since other dead MMOs that live on through fans and private servers usually end up having to extract engineer the materials themselves. As Ars notes, this is a great way to keep the game from dropping off the radar for good. The code release will invariably lead to a bunch of rogue servers, but even in this, Myst Online could find a larger base -- imagine a version of the game that's been customized to a completely different experience entirely? Don't discount the coding tenacity of rabid fans. Cyan Worlds certainly isn't.

We mentioned this being the only MMO that's gone the open source route. We can't think of any officially released MMOs that' have dumped their code to the community like this, but that's not to say that the gaming world is devoid of open-source MMOs:

Shown above, PlaneShift is a larger title that's attempting to push an art direction comparable to a modern-day retail MMO. The game features GM events, trading and crafting, and a separate "death realm" that you have to escape each time your character meets the reaper. All that, and it's an open-source title! This game is ready-for-download, unlike plenty of other open-source MMOs that exist more in idea than reality.

Crossfire isn't an MMO in the modern sense of the word, but it harkens back to the MUD era with its simple graphics and archetypal role-playing gameplay. The fact that it's still around in development since its creation in 1992 shows the strength of the open-source community to cling to projects. If people are still tweaking and adjusting a game like this, the sky is practically the limit for a robust title like Myst Online.

Speaking of originators, WorldForge is one of the earliest open-source MMO engines to be released with full-fledged graphics. The giant framework was primarily designed to help developers create alternatives to Ultima Online (if that helps to give away its age), although scant alternatives have actually been created since the framework's launch. You can check the full list here , which can be accessed using one of two 3D clients found here (Ember or Sear). Still, bookmark WorldForge's homepage if you like watching the efforts of a giant community working hand-over-fist to incorporate new functionality into an evolving MMO concept.

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