Kaneva: An MMO Engine For Everyone
Atlanta company seeks to make amateur game development dreams a reality
How many million times, on how many million message boards has the thread “I want to make my own MMORPG, want to help?” appeared? Usually these threads meet with scorn and speeches about how the fans will need millions of dollars and a dedicated staff to consider such a project. Last week while in Atlanta I came across a company who has set out to change that: Kaneva. This company has produced a gameless MMORPG engine that they intend to distribute freely to amateur and professional game developers alike. At first glance, it sounds too good to be true, but what they showed definitely has the potential to level the playing field and open up MMORPG creation to practically anyone.
The number one goal of the game engine is ease of use. In my career as a journalist and game developer, this engine rivals any I have seen in terms of ease of use. The engine wraps world building, NPC creation, quests, and much more into one neat package. Christopher Klaus, the Founder and CEO of Kaneva, was quick to point out that their engine had been developed for no game in particular. A neat fact, but what does it mean? It means that they took no shortcuts that may well have worked for one title, but perhaps not the next. The system is large, flexible and thus allows developers to create content for any number of games. Theoretically, someone could use these tools to create anything from an MMORPG to a single player FPS.
On the graphical side, the engine supports the latest in 3D graphics technology including Direct X 9.0c, per pixel lighting, skeletal systems, advanced particle effects, normal and bump mapping, FX shaders, shadows and much more. All this means that the graphics can be as good as the artists who create them.
The editor imports art assets from 3ds max. This means that most likely, in order to use it, developers will need this rather costly modeling software. However, even if you are not an artist, Kaneva has a plan for you. As part of their online hub, they also intend to have a marketplace for 3d models. This should allow artists to make some money, and the non-artistic to purchase assets to fill their worlds, cheaply. Their website already features a database of art and the team did not rule out the idea of having a core of free art to get people started once the system officially launches.
Another neat aspect of the platform allows the more technically inclined to change parts that they may not like. For those who need that extra customization, each aspect of the engine, or a blade, is modular and can be swapped or changed by talented programmers. For example, a company could totally remove the AI that comes with the system and implement their own. That said, the bulk of changes, for the more technically inclined, can be accomplished the Lua or Python scripting. Although, Kaneva was quick to emphasize that developers may create a full and complete game without ever leaving the editor.
As a proof of concept, the team developed “Monkey Paintball” an MMOFPS that is now available for players to try in an early beta state. The entire game took a team of four people three months to develop, including art. Is it a triple-A title? No. However, from a brief look it is functional, fun and decent looking. In this FPS title, tribes compete for supremacy. There are AI and real enemies, and full support for many kinds of instanced matches, which have more in common with Counterstrike than the average MMORPG. This game shows the flexibility of the engine and is available online for anyone to try at kaneva.com.
Aside from MMORPGs, Kaneva has built their website with community in mind. They offer hosting for movies, machinima, e-books, comics, movies, trailers and much more. This means they have positioned themselves as a home for aspiring Spielbergs and Browns, as well as potential Garriotts.
Upon hearing their plans for user content hosting, the first question that came to mind was “how will people sort through all the crap?” This reason is why Kaneva wants to promote community building. Users are able to rate what they watch or play, thus allowing the best games and films to rise to the fore. As our own hype-meter demonstrates, this may not always be foolproof, but should enough people participate, it helps.
Kaneva’s engine may well remove the necessity of programmers from the equation for would-be game developers. Artists are still required, but for the first time all those “what if” posts on the message boards seem that much closer to reality. What is more, their system allows these hobbyists to make some money for their time. The first real test of this technology should be Rapid Reality’s MMOCenter.com, which we will profile this Friday based on my visit to their studio. The engine is now available online for people to beta test, and offers the potential of an exciting new niche in MMORPG gaming.
We look forward to your thoughts on this article in this discussion thread.