Xbox LIVE is online multiplayer gaming. There are other options out their like the Playstation Network and the Xbox LIVE clone – Gamecenter on iOS, but for real gamers out there Xbox LIVE is the defacto standard for online gaming. So, why is it taking so long for multiplayer gaming to arrive on Windows Phone? According to Victor Bahl, director of the Mobile Computing Research Center at Microsoft Research Redmond:
“Multiplayer gaming on smartphones is a very challenging technical problem, Gamers move around, the wireless channel is hostile, the bandwidth you need is not always there, disconnections can happen, and smartphones are energy-constrained.” To put it simply, “If you just take a game and put it on a smartphone, it is not going to work.”
So, what’s there solution? Switchboard. Switchboard is currently being developed by Microsoft Research as a service which matches up gamers based upon different variables such as their phone and network connection.
“There are techniques for multiplayer games to handle ‘jitter’—occasional spikes in network delay,” Sharad Agarwal (from Microsoft Research)says. “When those techniques react to jitter, you may see a player or object jump from one spot to another. Such ‘glitches in the matrix’ become problematic if they happen frequently. A major challenge in this work is to predict what a player’s latency will look like for the foreseeable duration of a game and minimize such glitches.”
“Switchboard finds suitable game candidates by “pinging” their phones to estimate latency: the time needed to move a packet of data. Latency is important to gaming because a long lag time—in the hundreds of milliseconds—to move data can affect game play”, notes Gantenbein.
It sounds as if the multiplayer solution for Windows Phone is much more complicated that we imagined and Microsoft could release a “half-baked” version of multiplayer which frustrates its users, but it sounds like they are going to test and study the problem until there is a viable solution which makes sense for their platform. Here’s hoping Switchboard is the answer and comes sooner than later.
Read the entire post over at the Microsoft Research website.