Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hello, this is where I'll blog about Syntensity, an open source gaming/virtual worlds platform. The name is a shortening of "Synthesizing Intensity" - by which I mean the creation of captivating, immersive gaming experiences.

Syntensity is a continuation of the Intensity Engine, which (briefly) is a client+server for 3D games/virtual worlds (which utilizes Cube 2, SDL, Python, and various other open source libraries/projects). "Intensity Engine" will continue to be the name of the code for the core client+server package, whereas Syntensity is the combination of the Intensity Engine with a central website and active support infrastructure (stuff like user management, collaboration services, asset hosting, etc.).

The Intensity Engine will remain open source, as always intended. Anyone can take the code and do whatever they want with it. Syntensity is in addition a complete service, based around the Intensity Engine. It's a single 'world' (or 'universe'), you might say, that you can log into and do stuff in.

Syntensity's main focus is on collaborative creation of games - in a way that hasn't really been tried yet. The goal is for participants to 'build' the world themselves, writing new games and improving upon existing ones. (How this is done will become clear later on, when the platform goes live.) Thus, Syntensity's slogan is 'Participatory Gaming' - in reference to participatory culture.

Syntensity will be free. This is possible because every part of the server infrastructure - from individual game servers (called 'server instances' or 'instances' in Syntensity) to the asset metadata backbone - has been built for efficiency, keeping costs low. So, I am funding the initial expenditures myself. In the longer term, depending on how fast Syntensity's userbase grows, obviously some source of income will be necessary. And, I believe there are a lot of interesting business opportunities around Syntensity, which don't contradict (1) the code being open source and (2) normal usage of the service being free. I am thinking about stuff like advertisements, premium services, and so forth.

Note that 'games' have been mentioned quite a bit in this post, and 'virtual worlds' a lot less. The reason that I'm focusing on games is that - at least to get started - it helps to have focus. But nothing in the technology prevents more general virtual world uses.

So, where does all of this stand? The immediate reason for my writing this post is that, yesterday, I ran the first successful integrated test of all the components: I set up a game, logged into it, moved around and edited, and successfully saved my changes to the central infrastructure. Doesn't sound like much, but it involves all of the components working together, many of which are either completely new or have seen extensive changes in recent months.

So, the code for the initial release is basically written at this point. I hope to soon start alpha testing, on an invitation-only basis in order to keep things manageable (but, the code to the Intensity Engine will be open, so anyone else can play around with it if they want). This will happen as soon as

  • I get the code a little more stable, and

  • when the artwork is finished (I hope to receive it soon, so far it's looking very good)

and assuming there is no sudden development on the business side that warrants changing the timetable. So, most likely in a few weeks.

I purposefully haven't linked to anything, as there really isn't much to see yet. I'm also not promoting the project either, except from writing this post. For now, I leave you with the following kind-of-meaningless screenshot of the client GUI (but better than nothing...):

Actual screenshots as well as videos should appear here soon.