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AOL Releases Game Developer Tool

Libe Goad

AOL has introduced a new tool kit that will allow game developers to integrate AOL Messaging into online games.

The release follows a successful trial with The Matrix Online, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment Inc.'s massively multiplayer game, which is loosely based on the film trilogy. The system allows users to search out other gamers or to talk to friends from inside the game environment.

"The marriage of the AIM service with online games gives developers a unique opportunity to massively increase the popularity of their games," America Online Inc. spokesperson Chamath Palihapitiya said.

The development kit "offers online game developers the nation's largest instant messaging community to not only add new players to their games, but to enhance the overall experience," Palihapitiya said.

The AOL Messaging Software Developer Kit allows game creators to incorporate AIM, ICQ services and AOL Buddy List features directly into the game and allows for the creation of "player interaction Bots" or "Help Me Bots" that can offer real-time helpful hints and other customer services.

In-game messaging is nothing new to the online gaming world—developers have used varying forms of messaging in games for at least a decade. A handful of other games have used IM and e-mail as an integral part of the gameplay, sending the user messages that will help solve an in-game puzzle and giving the game another touch of realism.

Over the past year, unions between gaming and instant messaging have been more prevalent than before. AOL partnered with WildTangent Inc. to offer games through its IM service. In April, Microsoft Corp. introduced a games subscription service through MSN Messenger, allowing customers to play endless amounts of chess, an online billiards game, "Wheel of Fortune" and a word game titled "Upwords."

AOL says developers will benefit from using AIM in their games. First, the company says, it will save on bandwidth in the game. And, with the creation of Bots, using the AOL SDK can reduce demand for customer service assistance, which can be quite costly for companies hosting large-scale online games.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.

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