In the latest story in a painfully slow drip, Zenimax Online Studios, the new massively multiplayer cousin of Bethesda Softworks, has announced a partnership with Simutronics to license their HeroEngine development platform. HeroEngine includes a number of middleware tools like SpeedTree, FaceGen, and Scaleform GFx as well as a development suite that allows developers to update their games in real-time, instead of using a series of cumbersome builds that are apt to change day to day.
Among the other big name clients using HeroEngine is Bioware Austin, who are themselves currently in the process of developing their first MMO. Personally, I think any news that lends itself to speeding along development of Zenimax's new project (which may or may not be Elder Scrolls Online), is welcome news. In an age where the development cycle for blockbuster games is in the ballpark of three years, developers need to search out any kind of shortcut they can find. And at the very least, this is the sort of shortcut that lets them focus more of their efforts on those facets of the game that we actually see.