Middleware is a growing field in gaming. Whether it's a program designed to handle one aspect of a game really well (the foliage-generating SpeedTree or the Havok physics engine) or a more broadly applicable tool (Epic Games' Unreal engine), there's a growing market for applications that relieve developers of certain game-development burdens.
In the latest big-name middleware deal, Simutronics today announced that it has licensed its HeroEngine massively multiplayer online role-playing game tool to BioWare. The program, which can be used by developers for everything from game design to billing players, is at the heart of Simutronics' own Hero's Journey MMO game, set for release in 2007.
The Edmonton, Alberta-based BioWare licensed the HeroEngine for use in the first title from its new satellite studio, BioWare Austin. Simutronics claims that the HeroEngine can cut two years of technology development time off of licensee schedules, allowing them to get games onto shelves in half the time.
Typically BioWare develops its own engines for its games in-house, although this is not the first time it has taken the middleware route. The company has licensed Unreal Engine 3 for use in its upcoming Xbox 360 sci-fi action role-playing game, Mass Effect.