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Running head: ARCHITECTURE COMPARISON

Architecture Comparison: Multiverse vs. Second Life

Cale Dunlap

DeVry University
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Abstract

This paper discusses a comparison of the Second Life architecture and the Multiverse

architecture and why one may prove more scalable than the other.
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Architecture Comparison: Multiverse vs. Second Life

Second Life and Multiverse while at the surface may appear to be roughly the same thing,

they are two entirely different animals when viewed behind the scenes. Second Life is a largely

in-house developed system which scales to incredible masses and runs on a relatively thin client.

Multiverse also scales to large masses but seems to use more existing technology to achieve its

goal. This may prove to seal Multiverse‟s fate as nothing more than a „Second Life clone‟ and

will probably be perceived as such.

The Art

Second Life uses an art development process based around primitives instead of meshes.

The primary reason was that meshes couldn‟t be compressed enough to gain the speed that the

Second Life developers needed in order to incorporate their largely scalable server architecture

and thin-client design. They instead opted for an approach based on mathematical equations

applied to primitives. This kept the size of the content low which allowed them to pass this

information between simulation hosts (servers) and the clients very rapidly, not requiring a lot of

bandwidth.

Multiverse uses standard formatted artwork but uses tools to export this format to another

format that the Mutliverse renderer can understand. Since Multiverse really seems to be meant to

be a rapid prototyping platform marketed to developers of video games, they‟ve left their

systems very open-ended through extra content and scripting. With specific regard to art, since

Multiverse doesn‟t seem too concerned about scaling each of their customer‟s applications to the

size that Second Life does, they chose to make the client download the artwork before-hand.

After the assets are all created, they go up on the Multiverse network, which provides a

repository for the clients to download all required artwork before entering a world.
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The Servers

The Second Life servers are centric to a specific area of their world. Second Life runs a

section of their entire world on specific servers in order to divide up the workload. Each grid

location on their map represents a server. These servers share information only with their nearest

four neighbors in order to reduce the complexity of scaling later on—why share information with

more than for servers when you don‟t need to? In a grid pattern, each square is only adjacent to

no more than four other nodes. It is a very efficient way to divide workload and scale the system

so that it will not experience the growing pains that an entire mesh topology may experience

when it reaches a certain point.

Multiverse doesn‟t use such a process, since their business model is basically a giant

repository for smaller games, one could probably consider each of these games “instances” of an

application that runs inside of the Multiverse “cloud”. Each of these games can decide how it‟s

server architecture will work. It may choose to use instance-based, shard-based, or zone-based

servers depending on the game‟s requirements. Compared to Second Life, this is a much broader

solution that was made in order to accommodate many different types of requirements where

Second Life only had its own set of requirements; Multiverse has to deal with a much broader

range of customer requirements.

The Client

The Second Life client runs on practically any system imaginable—essentially anything

that supports OpenGL. Second Life has a client for Windows, Mac, and PC. This was the driving

force behind their decision to use OpenGL has the graphics renderer.

Multiverse client, while not explicitly specifying which type of operating system they

support (at least in the document that I read), since it uses C# to extend its capabilities I‟m very
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certain that their client will only run (easily) on Windows machines. While there are ways to get

C# code to run on different operating systems, the common user may not know this option is

available or may not know how to do it. This is definitely a limiting factor in Multivers‟s design.

The Economy

Second Life uses an exchange-rate based economy to manage supply and demand in their

virtual world which ultimately drives their content. If the content is not desired, it will not sell,

and thus will not survive in the game. This is a very clever way to manage the content

appropriation instead of allowing their players to essentially have a giant sandbox with which

they can develop various inappropriate artworks.

Multiverse hasn‟t implemented such an economy. The economy in the Multiverse games is

driven by its customers. It is up to Multiverse‟s customers to provide their players with an

economy. Multiverse doesn‟t use an economy to manage the content of its games. In a way I feel

this is a good thing for Multiverse‟s business. If they choose not to have a specific type of

economy, they can attract a larger market of developers—even if those developers do not pay to

use their service. If developers choose not to charge their uses to use their virtual world, then

Multiverse in turn does not charge the developers. This means that Multiverse gets free market-

share and the developers get a free place to build their virtual world—in turn allowing users to

play a game for free. On the other hand if Multiverse‟s customers decide to charge for their

game, the model at which they do so is up to them, Multiverse simply provides a fulfillment

service to the developer.

Conclusion

While not all topics of MMOG design are covered, four of the most important ones have

been. These are the client, server, art pipeline, and economy. Multiverse‟s system architecture is
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designed to be more of a fulfillment platform for MMOG developers who are on a budget. This

is sort of converse that of Second Life which is in itself a research laboratory turned MMOG

developer. Second Life had the resources to develop their own MMOG engine while Multiverse

is striving to be a platform (or engine so-to-speak) to other MMOG developers who need one

quickly. This difference in goals produced two different architectures in system design even

though on the surface both games may look very similar.