Computer games of the future

If you thought computer games were all about sitting in a darkened room then think again. LancasterUniversityis pioneering a new form of mobile computer gaming which brings together virtual reality and the real world.

Researchers in the Department of Communication Systems, based in InfoLab21, have been developing a new game which can be played by up to five players on mobile phones.

Unlike traditional mobile phone games, this game takes place in real space as well as on a mobile phone screen. Called Pac-Lan, in homage to the arcade classic Pacman, the game enables players to keep track of one another’s position through images on their mobile phones as they chase one another round campus.

Dr. Paul Coulton, head of mobile game development at LancasterUniversity, said: “This game is using a traditional mobile phone game in a different way by mixing the real and virtual world. Players move around in real space interacting with one another, their environment and their mobile phone.”

Each phone has been programmed with a maze, which is based on a map of the University Campus. Players have to collect points from a series of Radio Frequency Identification Tags, which have been attached to yellow disks on lampposts around the University.

When a player collects their points by holding their mobile phone against the disc the virtual reality maze on each mobile phone is updated with the player’s position. Each player shows up as an animated character (Pac-Lan or Ghost) moving round the screen. This enables a team of ‘ghosts’ to track the player down and catch them.

It is the first game in the world to use mobile phones equipped with Radio Frequency Identification Tags – small devices which can transmit and receive data.

The project was made possible by the group’s strong links with Nokia who provided special phones prior to their commercial release.