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October 20, 1995

BRITISH TELECOM PLANS TRIAL OF MULTI-PLAYER GAME PLAYING

By CBR Staff Writer

British Telecommunications Plc launched its on-line games network at Live 95 in London’s Earls Court last month with the announcement of a free pilot programme intended to support 1,500 people. The pilot of the service, WirePlay, will begin in January with a full launch scheduled for the second half of 1996. The company intends to work with all games manufacturers and is currently partnering with Acclaim Entertainment Inc, Activision Inc, Electronic Arts Inc, Gremlin Interactive Inc, Interplay Productions Inc, Microprose Inc, Myelin Ltd, SCI Systems Inc, Virgin Interactive Entertainment Inc and the English Bridge Union Ltd. On display at the show were two of Interplay’s recent successes, Descent and CyberPool. Players load the game from their hard disks and networking information and movements of other players are communicated with simple vector commands down the phone line. People attracted to the British Telecom stand agreed that nationwide games were more fun and enthused that it was more interesting to play a real person rather than a computer. The pilot will be free and tariff charges have yet to be decided, but British Telecom said it would consider per-second charging at a lower rate than telephone calls. It said it expected to have something firmer before Christmas. The server is a Sun Microsystems Inc 1000E and players need an 80386 personal computer or above, although demonstrators at the show said it was unrealistic to expect anything less than a Pentium to handle games with fast reaction times such as Descent. The system has been designed to handle players using 9.6Kbps modems. British Telecom outsourced the application programming interface that publishers will need to hook their network games to York-based HWA Ltd. British Telecom said following its failure to become a games publisher in the 1980s that it did not have any plans to enter the publishing fray once again and would supply only the infrastructure.

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