Virtual worlds

2 min read

I’ve always been fond of computer games. Although I’ve never been really any good at playing them, I’ve always been fascinated by the technology behind them − the way that the console developers and the games makers seek out new ways to capture our imagination by their wares.

Back in the old days when my son and daughter were a lot younger, I remember buying them a copy of a game called ’Phantasy Star Online’, which ran on the now sadly defunct Sega Dreamcast console.

In its time, the game was rather revolutionary − by connecting the console up to an online server through a dial-up modem, my children could do battle against a world full of aliens by teaming up with groups of people from across the world, while actually engaging in a conversation with them through the use of a bespoke keyboard.

Despite the fact that technology has marched on considerably since the days of the Dreamcast console − notably with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii and now the Microsoft Xbox with its Kinect technology − none of these developments have really caught my imagination in the same way that the concept behind Phantasy Star Online did all those years ago.

Until last week, that is, when I learnt of a new development that could once again bring a new dimension to the gaming experience.

Because now, it would appear, a bunch of folks at a Dutch-German start-up company called iOpener Media aims to once again reinvigorate the world of online gaming by allowing players to engage in the excitement and suspense of participating in real sporting events where they can try to beat professionals, as well as other virtual game players, right from their own homes.

Needless to say, its not just the folks who might one day be able to virtually compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix against Lewis Hamilton that are getting rather excited about the technology, but also the people that run the sports events − just imagine the increase in their target audience when motor racing events actually become participator sports.

The company claims that market reaction towards its new gaming proposal has been phenomenal − and I can believe it. Although its initial focus is on race games, it believes that the satellite-navigation-based technology can be deployed in all games involving moving objects and, in the near future, it intends to address other genres such as flight simulators too.

If there is one limitation to the technology it is that, for obvious reasons, players will never be able to participate in any games that are not actually based in the real world – and, for many gamers, doing battle with hordes of the undead or flying around a fantasy world engaging in skirmishes with the dark side is half the fun of such games in the first place.

Perhaps it’s time to dig out the Dreamcast and see if that old server is still running.

Best wishes,

Dave Wilson
Editor, Engineeringtalk

Dave’s comments form part of the weekly Engineeringtalk newsletter, which also includes a round-up of the latest engineering products and services. To subscribe click here