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Networking—An Integral Part of Mobile Games

The Plot was not solely a marketing campaign. It was a practical exercise to teach the use of mobile data connectivity to cellular subscribers, presenting content that every customer can access. Motivated by the exotic awards—such as trips to Hawaii—the subscribers not familiar with WAP and Mobile Java got excited about the game. Along the way, they found out that using wireless data services is not that hard after all.

The carrier behind The Plot did not offer everything for free; revenue was generated from the increased data usage as people signed in for the service. The game also generated extra messaging traffic as the players contacted each other and tried to solve the given mysteries.

Various networking technologies that are available for game-optimized mobile devices create a fertile environment for cross-platform games. Because there is no single mobile network technology that can serve all possible needs, each of the solutions has its optimal place and purpose in the mobile environment. Communication range, speed, latency, coverage, and cost determine what different technical solutions should be used for (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 Mobile networking technologies.

To begin with, personal networks are best for connecting closely located terminals or other devices together. The Nokia N-Gage game deck is equipped with a Bluetooth connection to facilitate local gaming and internetworking at close ranges with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Local networks typically are used in narrow areas where mobile connection is needed. A wireless local area network (WLAN) is widely used in hotel lounges, airports, and other public areas. WLAN or WiFi networks are more often used by laptops, palmtops, PocketPCs, and similar portable computers than by phone-like devices.

The emergence of the advanced 3G networks facilitates the need for regional, high-speed Internet access. Because of the expenses in building the network, regional networks supporting 3G are initially built to cover geographically limited areas, such as particular cities.

Finally, current national networks cover larger areas and provide access to the Internet at slower data transfer speeds than the technologies for shorter distances. The generic packet radio system (GPRS) currently is a widely used technology for providing mobile data connections in national networks.

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