Sunday, 6 December 2009

Opensource/Free Virtual World Platforms - Part 1/2

With 2009 rapidly coming to a close, we have seen a number of changes in open-source Virtual World platforms and engines, with the noticeable departure of M.U.P.P.E.T., the arrival of Unity, and the no-show of Myst Online. This is the year-end round-up of the current state of play.

Changes through 2009
Visitors to the M.U.P.P.P.E.T home page are informed that the website is down for maintenance, as they get ready for the next version. However, that message has been there since at least August 2008, and neither of the two links on the home page, to the latest version of the software, and to the SIGGRAPH documentation, currently work. I think we can safely say that after more than a one year absence it is unlikely that they will return.

The big news during 2009 was the introduction of the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) from Epic Games, although it is still to be determined if this free games engine can be utilised to support Virtual Worlds. For this reason it is not included in this current list, but it has been the subject of separate articles in this blog. Also during 2009 came the announcement that the Unity multiplatform game development tool, was to be made available for free. Unity does appear to have all the ingredients necessary to support the building of Virtual Worlds, so I have included it in the current list.

Missing from the list is Myst Online, who made the following announcement more than a year ago:
Cyan Worlds, Inc. has agreed to put the program code sources for Myst Online: Uru Live into open source. The code sources that will be included are the code for the client, all the servers and tools. With the source to the client and the servers, fans should be able to set up and run Myst Online: Uru Live and bring Uru community back online.
However, there is still no sign of this being followed through.

Current Platforms

The Croquet Project is an international effort to promote the continued development of the Croquet open source software development kit, for creating and delivering deeply collaborative multi-user online applications. Implemented in Squeak Smalltalk, Croquet supports communication, collaboration, resource sharing, and synchronous computation among multiple users. Applications created with the Croquet Software Developer's Kit (SDK) can be used to support highly scalable collaborative data visualization, virtual learning and problem solving environments, 3D wikis, online gaming environments (MMORPGs), and privately maintained/interconnected multiuser virtual environments. Since release of the Croquet SDK in 2007, the SDK has not been under active development. All continued development of the technology has taken place under the very active Open Cobalt effort.

Croquet is MIT licensed.

The Metaverse Project
The Open Source Metaverse Project, or OSMP, was a multi-participant shared virtual world online platform. This platform was free and open source software co-founded in 2004 by Hugh Perkins and Jorge Lima.

OSMP is loosely modeled on the World Wide Web borrowing ideas from existing worlds such as Second Life, Active Worlds, and There. This project aimed to produce an open source engine for the creation of streamed 3D worlds, also making it possible to interconnect existing worlds into a single open, standards-based Metaverse.

As of 2008, the project was no longer active. Most developers shifted focus to development of open source software compatible with Second Life, but the software is still available on SourceForge.


OGRE (Object-Oriented Graphics Rendering Engine) is a scene-oriented, flexible 3D rendering engine (as opposed to a game engine) written in C++ designed to make it easier and intuitive for developers to produce applications utilising hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. The class library abstracts the details of using the underlying system libraries like Direct3D and OpenGL and provides an interface based on world objects and other high level classes.

OGRE has a very active community, and was's project of the month in March 2005.[2] It has been used in some commercial games such as Ankh and Torchlight.

Open Cobalt

Open Cobalt is a free and open source virtual world browser and construction toolkit application for accessing, creating, publishing, and hyperlinking avatar-based multi-user virtual worlds that are accessible both on local area networks or across the Internet. It is designed to enable the deployment of secure virtual world spaces that support education, research, and the activities of virtual organizations. The Open Cobalt application is a type of 3D browser that can be used to define and access a network of interlinked 3D virtual environments in much the same way that web browsers are used to define and access web based content on web pages.


OpenMASK (Modular Animation and Simulation Kit) is a platform for modular applications development and execution in animation, simulation and virtual reality fields.


OpenSimulator is a 3D Application Server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. OpenSimulator allows you to develop your environment using the technologies you feel work best - we've designed the software to be easily extendable through loadable modules to build completely custom configurations. OpenSimulator is released under a BSD License, making it both open source, and commercially friendly to embed in products.

Project Darkstar

Project Darkstar is an open source MMOG middleware solution written in Java by the Project Darkstar team at Sun Microsystems. It is a research project currently headed by Sun Microsystems engineer Jim Waldo that was publicly released on August 30, 2007[1], and "aims to help developers and operators avoid a range of serious, yet typical, problems associated with massive scale online games, virtual worlds, and social networking applications today, including zone overloading, data corruption, and server underutilization."

Project Wonderland

Project Wonderland is a 100% Java and open source toolkit for creating collaborative 3D virtual worlds. Within those worlds, users can communicate with high-fidelity, immersive audio, share live desktop applications and documents and conduct real business. Wonderland is completely extensible; developers and graphic artists can extend its functionality to create entire new worlds and new features in existing worlds.

Sirikata is an BSD licensed open source platform for games and virtual worlds. They aim to provide a set of libraries and protocols which can be used to deploy a virtual world, as well as fully featured sample implementations of services for hosting and deploying these worlds.


Unity is a multiplatform game development tool, designed from the start to ease creation. A fully integrated professional application, Unity just happens to contain the most powerful engine this side of a million dollars, but now available for free!


VastPark is virtual worlds technology done right. The framework is simple, distributed and extensible. It's not a single virtual world. Instead, it provides free software tools, APIs and open source libraries so you can deploy (and even monetize) your own virtual worlds and add ons for all kinds of organizations and purposes.

vr juggler

The VR Juggler project was started in 1997 by Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira and a team of students at Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center. This ongoing work has produced a freely available open source, community-oriented virtual reality application development framework. VR Juggler is released under the GNU LGPL and will always be available for anyone and everyone to use free of charge.

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy and propersous 2010.