Oracle decided to pull the plug yesterday on Project Darkstar, a Sun Microsystems project aimed at creating the backend infrastructure for virtual worlds. It was the labor of love of Chris Melissinos, the chief gaming officer at Sun who announced on his Facebook page that he was leaving Sun after 16 years.

One of the first major adopters of Darkstar was Rebel Monkey, a casual game company started by Nick Fortugno and Margaret Wallace. That company went under last year. The shutdown of Darkstar was announced on the project’s community forum.

Project Darkstar is open-source software written in the Sun-created Java programming environment. The point was to help developers create persistent virtual worlds that could grow to millions of players with the simple scaling of computer servers.

The question is whether the Darkstar community will continue to develop the project on its own. Sun also cut Project Wonderland, an open-source tool for creating 3-D environments. I think the pattern here is clear. If you have the word “Project” in your name at Sun, you’re going to be axed by the bean counters of Larry Ellison, Orace’s chief executive.

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