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This Page Updated:
Fri Jan 23, 1998

Multiplayer Gaming
Page 1: Making Gaming more Interesting
By: Evan Jones

Multiplayer games were once the only kind of game that could be found, with few exceptions. Only solitaire and the like were playable with by yourself. With the creation of computer games the opposite became true. There were some multiplayer games, like hot seat games where two or more people take turns on a single computer, but those games were rare. Luckly for us the times are changing and multiplayer computer games are now on the market in great numbers.

About 25 years ago, a little bit after the Internet went public, the first real multiplayer games surfaced. There were two types, the play by e-mail and the Multi User Dungeon (MUD). The play by e-mail games were essentially board games like Axis and Allies, strategy games like Diplomacy or role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. They were games that only needed some information to be passed back and forth between a few players and the time it took that information to get to the other end was not important. Eventually someone created MUDs, which are still popular even today.

MUDs are multiplayer computer RPGs, modified versions of old text based computer games where you control a character by typing commands (Eg. get torch, light torch). The biggest and most important difference is that MUDs are altered to allow many people to wander around this virtual world at the same time. Eventually MUDs became more complex to the point where players can create their own rooms and fill them with their own objects. The social aspect was really what made the early ones so popular, with the option of calling a small portion of this new world your own giving you a reason to come back. Obviously these two aspects make the games interesting enough to make it worthwhile to type every command, because hundreds of people still play MUDs every day.

The multiplayer gaming trend really started moving thanks to one game, Doom. When id software's creation came along, players could run around a world more realistic then ever before and hunt down up to 3 other people. This game was different then the slow paced multiplayer games of the past, it was real time, fast moving, kill or be killed action. It was the multiplayer options which made Doom such a legend. No longer were you slogging through a maze full of dumb computer controlled enemies which were very predictable. Now you were hunting and being hunted by a living, breathing, thinking human who could adapt and learn. People loved it, and people bought it.

After the popularity of Doom, other game companies saw the advantages of multiplayer gaming. The next big multiplayer games were Command and Conquer and WarCraft 2. These real time strategy games let you play with up to 8 people at the same time, which translates into much more fun. Quake 2 is the next level, whose engine is not limited in the number of players, but is only restricted by current hardware limitations. The largest deathmatch to date has been 70 players on id software's DEC Alpha which runs at 500 mHz. Now multiplayer gaming is so popular that some people are making money by charging people to play computer games over a network. These network arcades are springing up everywhere.

Most companies now know realize that multiplayer support is necessary for a successful product. Some companies are now experimenting with multiplayer only games like SubSpace and Ultima Online, or multiplayer oriented games like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Multiplayer games are so popular because of the human aspect. You are no longer truly alone, you are playing with and against actual people that you may or may not know. Opponents are intelligent rather then stupid, and will adapt and are unpredictable rather then always acting according to fixed behavior rules.

The Internet is the next obvious horizon for multiplayer games. Some hurdles will need to be jumped before they will hit the mainstream. The biggest problem is that consumer level Internet access is limited to 28.8 kbps, which is much too slow for graphically heavy data streams or information that is created by many players. Latency, the delay caused by a slow connection, is the real bane of Internet gaming. Latency issues can be reduced by complex programming called client side prediction, which is the route taken by such projects as QuakeWorld and SubSpace, but it will not fade until cheap, high speed, digital Internet access is available to the majority of consumers. When that occurs Internet multiplayer gaming will be the only way to go. With advancements in consumer Internet access around the cornner and computer hardware like 3D Accelerators we are on the verge of being able to create a true interactive virtual society.

Screenshots

Doom was the game that really brought multiplayer gaming into the lime light

WarCraft 2 was another game to really shine because of multiplayer support
Further Info

The MUD Connector
A huge resource on MUDs that has everything you will ever need

Kali
Kali is the cheapest, best Internet multiplayer gaming system around with thousands of users.

Network Arcades
Making money off of the multiplayer gaming craze



The Future of Gaming is created by Evan Jones