Home > Articles

Client/Server Interaction in the WorldForge Project

WorldForge developer John R. Sheets talks about the interaction between client and server applications in the WorldForge gaming system.

WorldForge developer John R. Sheets talks about the interaction between client and server applications in the WorldForge gaming system.

Client/Server Interaction in the WorldForge Project

The Altima Project started back in October 1998 with the ambitious goal of creating an open source version of the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) Ultima Online. People from around the world would connect across the Internet to an imaginary game world, and create fabricated characters to roam around that world gathering treasures, fighting monsters, and building up a virtual society of their own. The project soon outgrew this narrow scope, and after renaming itself The WorldForge Project broadened its ambition to include all types of networked games, in the Ultima spirit and otherwise. Where Altima was to be an online fantasy role-playing game, WorldForge was a generic online game-playing system for fantasy, sci-fi, and any other genre, with potential for role-playing scenarios, real-time strategy games, board games, text-based dungeon games, and whatever other online games people might like to develop.

The grand theory that breathes life into the WorldForge gaming system is the specialized interaction between client and server applications. In the WorldForge (WF) model, any WF client can connect to any WF server, negotiate a common set of assumptions, and begin playing whatever game the server is offering. If the game involves a role-playing world like Ultima, the client application might activate a graphical user interface (GUI) for creating and viewing imaginary player characters. If the game was a turn-based strategic game like StarCraft, the same client application might activate an entirely different interface. If the game server supported both 2D (third-person overhead) and 3D (first-person Doom-style) views, the client might allow the player to choose which style to use.

Such a flexible, universal connection scheme is no easy goal to achieve, and in all honesty has proven more complicated than we originally guessed. Early on, we began designing a generic protocol, code-named Atlas, which would act as the bridge between client and server.

The Atlas protocol is a specification of the language a WorldForge client and server must use to communicate. Regardless of what architecture and data structures they use on the inside, the clients and servers must translate their actions and data streams into the Atlas protocol before sending it across the wire. Although Atlas started out as an XML-based protocol, it has, in the spirit of WorldForge, broadened into a more generic specification that can take the form of XML for easier human consumption, or a compact binary form for more efficient transmission, or other forms as necessary. For convenience, all of this can be encapsulated by a wrapper library. The Atlas-C++[4] library provides a C++ implementation of this; other bindings in different programming languages may appear in the future.

In the two years since the WorldForge project began, we have produced a rich assortment of tools and applications, and a positively huge collection of quality graphics, music, and artwork, all of which resides in publicly accessible CVS archives. Quite a few client applications have surfaced, although only three are still actively maintained. UClient is the shining star against which the other clients are measured. Written with the Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) graphics library, it is by far the most mature client, and has been featured in all three WorldForge demo releases. UClient is the only client to date that can connect to WF game servers. The other two major clients are XClient, a very nice-looking 3D client, and Anvil, a GNOME client that is still quite rough around the edges. (Anvil is one of my pet projects; unfortunately, development on it ground to a halt while I worked on my book.) In the future, Anvil will likely become more of a game editor than a client.

WorldForge has spawned a potluck of server projects, too. Each of the three official demos has employed a different server. The first demo used a rough-hewn Java prototype server, quadas, to provide simple chat and movement. The second demo sported qserver2, an enhanced version of quadas ported to C++, which added rudimentary support for animations and more sophisticated movement. The third and most current demo, Acorn, introduced a storyline and multiple characters, and Cyphesis, a server written in Python with strong Artificial Intelligence support. The next major step in server development is STAGE, an extensively designed server model that builds on the successes of the previous servers and is theoretically capable of handling a full-blooded game world. STAGE will make full use of the Atlas protocol, as will all clients who attempt to connect to it.

WorldForge still has a long way to go in order to fulfill its lofty goals. The first year of development was somewhat chaotic and didn't produce as many tangible fruits as hoped; however, the time spent building and throwing away prototypes is now starting to pay off, as the lessons we learned help guide us to create better server models than we could otherwise. With the dawning of its third year of life, WorldForge is poised to make some serious waves in the online gaming community.

See also:





About the Author

John R. Sheets has been following the GNOME project on a day-to-day basis for more than two years, since GNOME was only six months old. He is a software developer for CodeWeavers, Inc., where he works on Wine and GNOME. In his free time, he is helping the WorldForge Project to create a free online multiplayer gaming environment. John is the author of Writing GNOME Applications (Addison-Wesley, 2001), and the maintainer of the OpenBooks Web site.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020