New Scientist Breaking News - Gamers to rule their own virtual worlds
Gamers to rule their own virtual worlds
Multiplayer online games could be made more robust and immersive by using peer-to-peer (P2P) networking to let players store part of a virtual universe on their own computer.
Researchers say blending P2P networking - best known for letting people find and share music and video files online - with online gaming could make virtual worlds more stable and, eventually, more expandable.
Massive multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, provide users with a complex virtual world in which to interact and act out adventures with others. Popular titles in the genre include World of Warcraft, Everquest II and Final Fantasy XI.
But existing games require users to connect to a centralised server owned and maintained by the company behind the game. Although this makes a game easier to control and maintain, it also provides a single point of failure and can complicate expanding it for large numbers of player.
Now researchers at France Telecom have built a simple role-playing game that works without the need for any centralised server. The project, called Solipsis, lets users interact within a virtual space hosted collectively on their own computers.
"The idea is to have an infinitely scalable world," says Joaquin Keller, who developed Solipsis at France Telecom's research laboratory in Issy-Les-Moulineaux, south west of Paris. "The current approach has limitations."
The Open Source Metaverse Project, for example, lets users build visually complex 3D landscapes that can be linked to one another online. Some existing virtual worlds may also switch to a P2P network scheme eventually. Second Life, created by Linden Lab of California, US, was built with a P2P system in mind, although currently it runs on several large servers.
Julian Dibbell, who co-edits the online gaming weblog Terra Nova, says P2P networking could go beyond just solving technical issues to generate more interesting forms of virtual interaction. "At the moment, the games companies are in control, and they tend to be autocratic," he told New Scientist."When you go peer-to-peer you have the prospect of common or complex governance."