From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Online games refer to video games that are played over some form of computer network, most commonly the Internet. The expansion of online gaming has reflected the overall expansion of computer networks from small local networks to the Internet and the growth of Internet access itself. Online games can range from simple text based games to games incorporating complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players simultaneously. Many online games have associated online communities, making online games a form of social activity beyond single player games.
Early online games
Online games started in the 1980s with MUDs, simple multiplayer text-based games, often played on a BBS using a modem. These games were frequently based on fantasy settings, using rules similar to those in the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Other styles of games, such as chess, Scrabble clones, and other board games were available. Since continuous connectivity was often expensive as access was frequently charged on a per-minute basis, some games were set up as play-by-email games.
First-person shooter games
During the 1990s, online games started to move from a wide variety of LAN protocols (such as IPX) and onto the Internet using the TCP/IP protocol. Doom popularized the concept of deathmatch, where multiple players battle each other head-to-head, as a new form of online game. Since Doom, most first-person shooter games contain online components to allow deathmatch/arena style play.
Real-time strategy games
Early real-time strategy games often allowed multiplayer play over a modem or local network. As the Internet started to grow during the 1990s, software was developed that would allow players to tunnel the LAN protocols used by the games over the Internet. By the late 1990s, most RTS games had native Internet support, allowing players from all over the globe to play with each other. Services were created to allow players to be automatically matched against another player wishing to play.
- Main article: Browser game
The development of web based graphics technologies such as Flash and Java allowed browser games to become more complex. These games, also known by their related technology as "Flash games" or "Java games"), became increasingly popular. Many games originally released in the 1980s, such as Pac-Man and Frogger, were recreated as games that could be played using the Flash plugin on a webpage. Most browser games have limited multiplayer play, often being single player games with a high score list shared amongst all players.
Pet games are also very popular amongst the younger generation of online browser games. These games range from the gigantic games with 70 million + users, such as "Neopets" , to the smaller end more community based pet games like Petnebula.com, or TheUltimateHorse.com.
More recent browser-based games use web technologies like AJAX to make more complicated multiplayer interactions popular.
Massively multiplayer online games
Massively multiplayer online games were made possible with the growth of broadband Internet access in many developed countries, using the Internet to allow hundreds of thousands of players to play the same game together. Many different styles of massively multiplayer games are available, such as:
- MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game)
- MMORTS (Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy)
- MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter)
Advances in browser-based technologies have allowed the creation of browser-based MMORPGs, using similar as other browser-based games.
Due to current technology limitations, browser-based games cannot bring the same graphical or sound quality that custom-client MMORPGs can. Browser-based MMORPGs tend to be a little cheaper than full-blown MMORPGs.
A profitable industry
The rising popularity of Flash and Java led to an internet revolution where websites could utilize streaming video, audio, and a whole new set of user interactivity. When Microsoft began packaging Flash as a pre-installed component of IE, the internet began to shift from a data/information spectrum to also offer on-demand entertainment. This revolution paved the way for sites to offer games to web surfers. While many games charge a monthly fee to web surfers, such as World of Warcraft, many other sites relied on advertising revenues from on-site sponsors, while others, like RuneScape, lets people play for free and lets players have the option of paying, unlocking new skills for the members. After the dot-com downfall in the early years of the 21st century, many sites solely relying on advertising revenue dollars faced extreme adversity.
Despite the decreasing profitability of free online games websites, some sites have survived the fluctuating ad market by offsetting the advertising revenue loss by using the content as a cross-promotion tool for driving web visitors to other websites that the company owns.
Not all the online gaming is profit based. Online communities also exist around open source games such as
- Stellar Crisis
- Black Nova