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Online and offline gaming
Another way to classify newer games is according to the potential numbers of (simul-
taneous) players and whether or not they use networking technologies. Multiplayer
games, both online and offline, may be played at home, at school, in the office or virtual
`cafes'.These could be single-player games that are hosted online (many of them as free-
ware or shareware), team-play games (from two to 30 players), as well as Massive
Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG's) with thousands of simultaneous players. MMOG's
make use of vast virtual territories supported by server networks, allowing players to
interact simultaneously and seemingly seamlessly over the Internet.The most prevalent
among these are fantasy and science-fiction role-playing games, battle strategies and `god'
games. Consoles are beginning to make their first moves into online gaming, with
Phantasy Star Online for Sega Dreamcast the first title to allow this. Xbox is another pro-
duct with a subscription service for online gaming.
Other net-based gaming environments are possible. Simple and attractive games may
be written using Macromedia's Flash which offers a low-cost alternative to the types of
games outlined previously. A Flash licence costs around
60 under Macromedia's
Education Licence Programme. Flash syntax lies somewhere between Java and JavaScript
and, as most IT and computing science departments have a basic grounding in one or
both of these languages finding or training suitable personnel need not be overly difficult
or expensive. A Flash game requires a smaller programming team and useful games can
be written by one programmer rather than the large teams that are needed for today's
blockbuster games.The ARKive Project (@Britstol, http://www.arkive.org.uk), which is
building a data resource of audio, still and moving images, and text about endangered
species in the British Isles, has made very effective use of games constructed in Flash as
part of its education outreach activities.
Numerous games which demonstrate the potential of Flash in the education and her-
itage sectors are freely available online. A large game repository, such as
http://www.flasharcade.com
, gives a quick overview of the range of different applica-
tions for Flash. Puzzle games based on popular templates matching colours, shapes and
other patterns can encourage learning and exploration. Flash has the facility to create
applications which incorporate video and formats supported include MPEG, Digital
Video, QuickTime and AVI. Rich media objects can be animated and resized and scripts
can be written to increase their interactivity. Flash content can be supplied to any browser,
platform or device that supports the technology, including PC's, personal digital assistant
(PDA's), gaming consoles, interactive TV's and 3G mobile phones. Macromedia works
with leading providers to ensure broad compatibility across desktop, home and mobile
device platforms.
Flash content is not as technically advanced as some other forms of gaming technol-
ogy, but its strength is its widespread compatibility, its ease of use and its low cost devel-
opment environment.
Equipment issues
Console-based systems
A video console is essentially a highly specialised, single-purpose computer and over
100 million consoles are in use globally with numbers increasing by the day. Most sys-
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