Like Bartle he thinks traditional games are totally unsuited to wired play and believes a more appropriate model is something organic and communal - almost like a soap opera. He also suggests voice recognition could play a key role."People are happy with text but they don't necessarily like typing. However, there are around 800 active MUDs out there in cyberspace (Bartle's is available on Wireplay) and players commit hundreds of hours to them.But MUDs, with their anorakish appeal, also have their critics. Edgeware-based developer Argonaut is currently completing a game called Spy V Spy which, according to the company's founder, Jez San, proves it.He says: "Most `Net ready' games you see now are actually developed for a LAN which is why you get lag.
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That's why voice recognition might be important," he says.But then, there are others who believe fast, arcade-style games can be made workable on the Net despite latency. Bruce Onder, of developer Digital Arcana, says: "MUDs will never be popular to a mass audience Not everyone wants the mass market, so that's fine. MUDs invite players to join a fantasy world where the rules and adventures are decided by the whole community of players Play is text-based so commands are typed It sounds weird and it is. It costs up to 6p a minute.The alternative to a closed network such as Wireplay is playing on the Internet itself. Easily the biggest Internet game so far is Quake, which grew after publisher, id Software, made network code freely available to fans, inviting them to set up their own servers. Today there are over 2,000 active Quake World "clans".But Quake's popularity cannot disguise its essential drawback, namely "latency" or "lag" - the games equivalent of lip-sync problems on TV.
The problem with a fast game like Quake is that it is unplayable unless pressing the joystick produces immediate results on screen.Factors such as modem speeds, dodgy connections and even the speed of light make lag an insoluable problem for Net gaming as it is now Another flaw is more sociological than technical; bullying. He is widely credited as having invented the first online games genre - the Multi User Dungeon. While it's fun thrashing opponents it's no fun being thrashed Richard Bartle, of Muse, thinks this is a major drawback. "You must be able to play an online game at your own pace ... for as little or as long as you like," he says.Bartle is entitled to strong views. Colin Duffy, head of games at Wireplay, believes the market will obey the same rules as any new consumer entertainment medium."It's like TV, video or the CD.