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Sun's Project Darkstar aims for gaming services

Sun Microsystems is trying to use a variation of its Sun Grid to get a foothold in the online gaming industry.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based server and software company started sharing details about its Project Darkstar at the Game Developer Conference last week, betting its rentable computing infrastructure will be of interest to those who want to set up massive online games.

Project Darkstar is "a research effort aimed at simplifying the process of developing multiplayer online games that can be deployed on a massive scale and made available to players using virtually any client device," according to the project site. The first technology coming from the project, the Sun Game Server, is designed to run any game in conjunction with gamers using any kind of gaming device.

Sun started offering early access to the service and released details of the interface details for both the Darkstar servers and gaming devices connecting to it. Though Sun has a fondness for games written in the Java programming language and running in a Java environment, the company also is supporting games written using C++.

The project was the brainchild of Jeff Kesselman, a Sun Labs programmer who also has contributed to several games. For example, he wrote Internet networking code for "Duke Nukem 3D," he wrote on a Java gaming Wiki page. Karl Haberl, also of Sun Labs, leads the project.

According to the blog of Chris Melissinos, Sun's chief gaming officer, "Project Darkstar seeks to eliminate many of the major issues that game developers face when looking to develop an on-line video game. We believe that game developers should do what they do best: make great games. Today, game companies who seek to build an on-line game are expected to become experts in network technology, scalable architectures, database performance tuning, etc. when they should be applying those resources to building story, characters, environments and gameplay."