The case for a unified online gaming language has been with us for some time, as consoles, codebases, platforms and the networks that these systems run upon evolve, asking the impossible is no longer the impossible, everything now falls within the realms of reality and only take a few genius’s are needed to figure it all out and turn a few well taken truths on their heads.
The general consensus is not that separate platforms cannot exchange data with each other it is the manner in which these exchanges take place, the amount of work and manpower required to code these types of language and the business model behind allowing multiple platforms to play together.
The most recent example of cross platform play was in the case of Shadowrun (a game by FASA studios) which allowed players on both the Microsoft Xbox 360 and a normal household PC to play together in the same network, perhaps not the overwhelming success that it could have been, but they may be down to the fact that Live! For windows is still in it’s infancy and the face that shadowrun was never a FPS (First Person Shooter).
Consoles used to be about franchises, the exclusives, the must haves – nowadays, exclusives are expensive and with the 3 console manufacturers all heading to or surpassing the 10 Million installed base, platform holders no longer have the ‘exclusive’ bartering PR lines of old, with the exception of a few titles – Halo and MGS spring to mind.So the war is now fought, on power, reliability, usability and functionality.
Why can’t we all play together, the simple fact – money. If we all had the ability to choose our platform irrespective of our friends choice or ‘who’ we could play with then perhaps our choice of platform would be different. If we get the politics out of the way what really stops us from playing together.Games are often released on all platforms – take Call of Duty 4, available on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 – all of these platforms are online, they all operate on the same TCP/IP free exchange of information and I would assume that they use the same data for working out online play.At it’s heart online play comes down to a set of data being sent across and network, interpreted and displayed. Player A moves their character 10m forward, their location in terms of X, Y and Z is sent to the cluster and everyone else receives this data so their screen is updating accordingly.
That’s an incredibly basic overview of a single action in an online shooter. But you would have to assume that the data that is sent is similar or near identical across the platforms.So maybe it is the architecture behind the games, behind the technology, the servers. PC’s use their own dedicated servers for online play (player’s can even set up their own servers), 360′s use the Live! architecture provided by Microsoft, and the PS3′s use their own proprietary set of servers (I’m not sure who provides these). I can’t envisage a time when Microsoft will let Sony use their servers and certainly not for free, PC’s players will always want to set up their own clusters for clan play or private matches, the same is true of Sony renting out their infrastructure.
Maybe then it is the players who are unwilling to change, happy with their platforms and respective bragging rights.In the constantly connected world we live in, perpetually online, constantly contactable – is it really to much to ask that we all be allowed to treat our games like we treat or social lives. To be free of the restrictions placed upon us by platform choice and to be able to buy what we want to play on the platform we wish to play it, but more importantly to able to play with whomever owns the game.