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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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October 16, 2007 10:35 AM

Casually Gaming the World

While taking a break from work last night, I headed over to a casual gaming site I often frequent called jayisgames.com.

Now to clarify, I define a “casual” game as one that I can pick up quickly, play for a few minutes, and be entertained. That can mean anything from card games to trivia games to platformers (think Mario) to simulations, and everything in between. Another important characteristic of a casual game, in my mind, is that I can play it inside my browser; in other words, I don’t have to download and install an application.

Generally speaking casual games are not all that bandwidth-intensive. For most, the game downloads through Flash in the browser, with file sizes ranging from a few hundred kilobytes to a few megabytes, so there’s little to no real-time data being pushed back and forth while playing.

But what caught my eye as I visited jayisgames.com last night was their latest game design competition.

They’ve done this a few times in the past: they pick a theme, set the rules, and solicit submissions by the gaming community in exchange for the chance at fame and, of course, fabulous prizes.

This time around the theme of the competition was “ball physics.” What this generally refers to is the use of simple shapes where the gameplay is based on whatever physics are created for that gaming environment.

Here are a few games that I played and enjoyed, with short explanations as to how they utilized the theme:

Asteroid Pilot – You’re a plane in a mine shaft on an asteroid. You’ve got cargo strapped to your tail that you must navigate safely to the top. The only controls are up/left/right. The trick is, as you try adjusting the direction of your plane, your cargo is swinging back and forth below you, making it increasingly difficult to keep the plane straight while not bashing your cargo into the rock walls.

Kaichou – Billed as an “experimental shooter,” in this game you’re a ball that can charge up and shoot other balls, which exploded into multi-colored flowers when hit. Use the directional arrows to move, the mouse to aim, and the left mouse button to charge and shoot your weapon.

Space Kitteh – You’re in outer space. You can jump from planet to planet using your jetpack. You’re trying to save cosmic kitties. (Hey, I never said all my posts were going to be about how to save the world through broadband.)

These are all prime examples of what I consider to be “casual” games.

But the specific games weren’t what caught my attention so much as the scope of the competition.

First off, the rules for this contest were more than 10 pages long, so don’t think this was just some kid in a basement playing around with his friends.

Further confirming the legitimacy of the event were the sponsors, which include Sierra Online, a gaming company whose roots stretch back to 1979, and Adobe, makers of Flash technology.

What really blew me away about all of this, though, was the number of entries, of which there were nearly 50. (You can see the full list here if you scroll down.)

That means 50 people or teams of people took the time to develop games for this competition, many of them independent producers, some likely working with larger developers.

So that means, when I’m playing these games, I’m downloading the work of nearly 50 creative types from around the world.

These developers are all creating something out of nothing using common tools to create unique works, like a writer or a painter or a movie producer.

And now through in-game ad networks like MochiAds, these developers can profit from the attention their games draw. So they’re literally creating value out of nothing more than an idea, their time to develop it, and the attention of users wanting to play it.

I think it’s important to note that the gaming industry isn’t just about people wanting to play games, it’s also about the people producing games, who now, through broadband, have the opportunity to distribute these games digitally to a worldwide audience.

And this competition has proven that not only is there great demand for games, but that the supply of new games is ever-changing and ever-growing.

One other point I wanted to note in all this is that jayisgames.com is wisely load balancing these games across 9 servers. What that means is, instead of having one instance of a Flash game on one server, which can be easily overwhelmed if too much demand materializes (ie, too many people want to play it at the same time), they spread that demand across 9 different servers, so even if one becomes overwhelmed there are others to pick up the slack.

This is an important step to take to ensure that the games these developers have worked hard to create are available for the public to play and experience. And it highlights one solution for overcoming the challenges of building in sufficient capacity to handle the mercurial demand for anything that’s made available online.


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