Microsoft Research Working On Smartphone Multiplayer Gaming

Microsoft Research is working on a project called Switchboard which explores on better way to implement smartphone multiplayer gaming. The cloud service will handle the multiplayer gaming requests, finding opponent, network handoff, etc. MSR will present the paper Switchboard: A Matchmaking System for Multiplayer Mobile Games during MobiSys 2011.

Here is the description of the project,

“Multiplayer gaming on smartphones is a very challenging technical problem,” he says. “Gamers move around, the wireless channel is hostile, the bandwidth you need is not always there, disconnections can happen, and smartphones are energy-constrained.

“If you just take a game and put it on a smartphone, it is not going to work.”

The key to Switchboard is that it works as a “matchmaker,” finding potential game players and assigning them to a group most similar for each player’s phone and network connection.

“Let’s say there are 20 candidates for a game,” Bahl says. “You might find that some have very low battery levels—even if they wanted to play the game, they would be able to play for only a few minutes. Others might be moving around so much that lots of handoffs [between cell towers] will happen, resulting in disconnections, and they will not enjoy the game. Or some might be located in highly congested areas where a lot of people are using phones and the available network bandwidth is low.”

Switchboard finds suitable game candidates by “pinging” their phones to estimate latency: the time needed to move a packet of data. Latency is important to gaming because a long lag time—in the hundreds of milliseconds—to move data can affect game play.

During the tests, MSR team used the service with HTC Windows Mobile. However, there is still the possibility of the same coming to Windows Phone if the research pays off. You can read on the research here.

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