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The Network Is the Game

Toward the end of the game, The Plot got quite intensive. Most of the casual players had already dropped out, and only the ones with a serious intention to win the game had managed to stay. At this point, the location-based features were unveiled. To accomplish the new IntenseMissions and find The Plotters, the gamers were given new clues based on their real-life location. By now, the players had formed small groups because, at the IntenseMission phase, the clues were given randomly for team members, and there was no chance to solve the mysteries alone in the given time. The teams were also given secure access to a digital map service that could be used to track the individual team members and their movements. Every once in a while, The Plotters appeared on the map screen, giving the players a chance to find and capture them.

Technically, The Plot consisted of services furnished by the carrier and a game publisher. The carrier provided billing, messaging, data access, and the location interface. The game publisher was responsible for hosting the game service, which included the game engine, player management, and ranking lists. In addition, the game service presented different interfaces for the game—WAP and HTML—and facilitated the download of Java games and N-Gage extra features.

Networked games require a game server that provides logic for the game play. In its simplest form, a game server can match two players who use N-Gage game decks for multiplayer games.

The game server can handle a wide array of other tasks. A carrier and a game studio together can provide most of the services needed (see Figure 3.4). Traffic logging, billing, messaging, and location are features that a carrier can bring into the game concept. The game studio typically implements server software for handling online gaming and potentially numerous other extra services, such as extra characters and qualities, additional game levels, game patching and bug fixes, cheat codes, trials and demos, and related material (ring tones, wallpapers, MMS messages, and so on).

Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 The architecture for a networked game.

Carriers manage billing systems and the core components for messaging and network infrastructure. They are in a key position to offer a single interface for carrier services that can be used by all game developers, both internal and external. This way, the carriers can leverage the investments in the system infrastructure and can drive the network usage.

A common carrier game platform can also hasten time-to-market for all new games because a single party does not have to develop everything from scratch (see Figure 3.5). The core components are already in place, and the game developers can focus on their key competence—innovation and game design.45

Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 Platform-based development accelerates time-to-market for new games.

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