Sun to open source Java gaming software

At its JavaOne developer conference next week, Sun Microsystems will unveil plans to release new graphics and networking software to the open source community.

The software will include graphics technology aimed at making Java-based game development easier for software developers. Until recently, the software had been under development within the Java Community Process as part of Java Specification Request (JSR) 134. "We're shifting the work from JSR 134 to the open source community," said Sun's chief gaming officer, Chris Melissinos.

The company will also be releasing a "server-side framework" designed to support networked games, according to Sun's chief technical officer for software, John Fowler.

Both projects will be hosted on a revamped version of Sun's Web site, which will serve as a portal for Sun's emerging developer community for Java gaming.

The changes to are part of a broader effort Sun will announce next week aimed at building new development communities around the Java platform. "We're going to energize a whole collection of communities around Java with a new infrastructure," said Fowler

JSR 134 specifies a group of application programming interfaces that Java developers can use to more easily create things like 3D animation and sound for games.

The plan to move JSR 134 development from the more restrictive Java Community Process to the open source community is a good idea, according to Java developer Stephen Hodnicki, whose company Legacy Interactive Inc. has built a real-time 3D game based on Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE). "I think there are developers who have been itching to get their hands on this and to contribute in any way necessary, or possible, to that effort," he said.

Mobile phones have been a bright spot for Java, which to date has proved to be more popular as a server rather than a client platform. "It has the potential to be a big market," says Gartner Principal Analyst Michael King, who says that with more than 420 million mobile devices available, the mobile phone gaming market represents more potential customers than the combined total of Sony Inc.'s Playstation 2 and Microsoft Corp's Xbox users. "Game developers are pretty interested in this space because it's easy to write a game and the potential market is pretty huge," King said.

Sun is clearly interested in the gaming space as well. The company recently created a new Game Technologies Group within its software division that will be headed by Melissinos, a nine-year Sun veteran.

"They have some definite traction in the gaming space," said King.

To prove that, Sun will be hosting a three day Video Game Summit at JavaOne next week. The event will feature developers from mobile gaming companies including MForma Group Inc, Sorrent Inc, and THQ Inc.

Sun's Game Technologies Group is unlikely to create the next Grand Theft Auto, however. "Sun is not going to produce any games," said Fowler. "We are not a game developer, we are an infrastructure developer."

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