Enter broadband GAMES
Online computer games are the in thing. Find out how gamers from across the globe meet via the Net
THE FUTURE of entertainment in this century is online. Every month, several thousands of video game enthusiasts take to the Internet, playing multiplayer games computer games that pitch a player against other gamers from across the town, or across the globe via the Net.
A typical online multiplayer game is highly absorbing with fantastic worlds to travel in, incredible characters and creatures for the player to take the roles of, and... is notoriously addictive. Themes of adventure and battles are what most of the successful ones such as Ultima online, Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies deal with.
Interestingly, even with the increasing traffic online, multiplayer gamers still have been thought to exist as a segmented group enamoured with their escapist worlds, almost like a cult. The generic gamer still plays non-online games on his TV using game machines PlayStation, GameCube or the Xbox, created by the behemoths of the video game industry, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.
The world of gaming is about to move into hyper-gear with two new developments. The arrival and proliferation of high-speed Internet connections to residences worldwide is the primary factor. High speed connections open up the Net in ways ordinary connections never can. Very recently, Bangalore was blessed as the first city in India to get access to residential-level high-speed connections, also called broadband. The second factor is that the highly anticipated iterations of the most popular video game platforms, namely Playstation 3, and Xbox 2, which are slated to be released within the next two years, have been especially designed to take advantage of broadband. This could suddenly set the stage to have all major games being Internet-based, and online games to be the reigning art form of the century, just as movies have been of the last.
Playing with strangers
Playing video games via broadband opens a world of previously unimaginable possibilities. Primarily, there is the thrill of interacting with strangers as far off as England or Argentina through a game. Each player would manifest in the game as an "Avatar", a character that you control in the game with your game-controllers. There would be as many Avatars in the game as would be players. Your Avatar may be in the form of a captain of a squad of soldiers charged with breaking into the game-world of "Scandinapura" to rescue a wounded and captured team mate held deep within the confines of a dungeon in the centre of a fort. As you are helicopter-dropped at the north-end of the fort in the dead of night, you watch in horror as a two-storey tall "Wehrbler", a stealthy dinosaur-like creature pops out of nowhere, and with a terrifying roar, picks up two of your team-mates with its tusks, and dashes them to the ground. The Wehrbler then snorts into the air, and thunders towards you, as you fumble to aim your high-powered laser gun at the beast... The situation described above is typical video game fiction, but the emotion it creates in the players is real. Just as you may be a player from India, your team mates may be 20-somethings from England and China; the helicopter folk may be from Pakistan; and the Wehrbler, your cousin Gokul from his living room in the U.S.
These are not your typical pen friends. "Game-friends" may be more appropriate. Geographic proximity, cultural divisions and economic disparity melt away in the game-world. There is more cooperation or aggression (depending on which side of the team you are in), but in the end, there is relaxation, satisfaction and a deep sense of camaraderie.
Extrapolating this several times, one can imagine entire populations meeting online on super-massive game worlds, engaging each other in battle, journey, or even virtual sports. Mini-versions of this grandness already exist in games such as Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies.
Broadband games may be assembled by a team of talented artists and programmers in Los Angeles, Seoul or in Thiruvananthapuram: The Internet is doing a good job of levelling the playing field on all aspects, including production. India already has been making slow but steady strides into game production. Studios such as Dhruva, Paradox Studios, Indiagames, etc. are reputed to be doing high profile work in the country.
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