Internet gaming's high ping rates and hanging connections may no longer be a "clear and present danger" if author Tom Clancy -- and some new Java-based technology -- have anything to do with it.
Clancy's Red Storm Entertainment and IBM have announced a development agreement that the companies hope will ease online gamers' frustrations with Internet latency and provide for more stable and communal Internet gaming environments.
Using a 100% Java-based, IBM developed technology code-named InVerse, players of the yet to be released game "Tom Clancy's Politika" will be able to expect high-performance, real-time multimedia exchange over the Internet, Red Storm and IBM say. The announcement is the fruition of months of Red Storm's efforts to get Politika stabilised for the Internet.
"It's a very convenient marriage," says Doug Littlejohn, head of Red Storm.
Red Storm was looking for a collaboration technology and their requirements are "core to IBM's business", says Richard Redpath, Red Storm project manager and senior architect for IBM.
IBM claims that its technology is well-suited to take on the gaming applications because it can host simple chat rooms or elaborate virtual communities while dynamically coping with notoriously unreliable Internet connections on the fly. InVerse allows clustering or distributed implementation of servers to accommodate and adapt to system load and the given application's needs. Most Internet gaming configurations now use a single server, which leads to lag time as the number of clients increases and the load on the server grows proportionately. This system might suit smaller numbers of players, such as two or three, but as more players join and the game grows, servers run out of horsepower and the high ping rate is born.
Because of the gaming industry's history of pushing what is possible with multimedia, 3D graphics and now the Internet, IBM sees InVerse's use in games as a gateway or proving ground to potential business applications, namely insurance and banking industries.
Tom Clancy's Politika is the first Red Storm game to use InVerse and will be previewed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Atlanta next week. The game is slated to ship this fourth quarter. Set in future Russia after Russian president Boris Yeltsin dies, the game concerns power struggles between the church, KGB, Mafia, reformists and other political groups.
While Politika supports only eight players at a time on a given session, Red Storm expects to author new games that have up to 100 players supported simultaneously by the end of 1998, and over 1000 players duking it out together by 2000. It's this enormous load that InVerse will eventually balance.