Otoy: Instant Messaging Gaming

I haven’t seen any mention of this New York Times article on the lists or blogs, but not only is there a mention of Director, but it contains information that may be of interest to anyone working on networked games. The NYT site will only have the original article (“For an Inventor, IM Opens a WindowTo a World of Games”, October 21, 2004) available to registered users for a few more days, but the full text is on some kid from Iowa’s web page, and I’ve excerpted interesting points here (emphasis added).

For the past year, Jules Urbach has been crunching computer code in a converted bedroom on the second floor of his mother’s house in Sherman Oaks, Calif., fine-tuning a piece of software that may well revolutionize online gaming.

Mr. Urbach hopes they will be inspired to irrevocably change the online gaming landscape. His invention, which he calls Otoy, is a game engine that piggybacks on instant messaging, and thus it is something of a Holy Grail in the software world.

Mr. Urbach is a video game prodigy. In 1992, shortly after graduating from Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, he created one of the first CD-ROM games (the best-selling Hell Cab), then became the first developer to design a 3-D video game (Real Pool, www.shockwave.com) using Macromedia Director software, a feat that even Macromedia’s executives had thought was impossible.

In 1998, Mr. Urbach founded Groove Alliance with Chris Kantrowitz and Peter Laufenberg. Groove was one of the first game companies that created 3-D products exclusively for online use, churning out dozens of titles for Nickelodeon, Disney, Shockwave and Electronic Arts, among others, and providing a healthy living for Mr. Urbach, who now pays the mortgage on his mother’s house.

”I look at something like Everquest, which is very complex and very addictive, and I see that working for simpler games as well,” Mr. Urbach said. ”That desire to be part of a larger community is just part of human nature.”

To that end, Mr. Urbach has figured out how to use compelling low-memory games, many of them Groove games that occupy less than 70 kilobytes of memory, for Otoy. Users will see a link in their instant-messaging windows that will open a second window, adjacent and slightly larger. This is Mr. Urbach’s versatile Otoy IM portal.

Otoy, which Mr. Urbach plans to make available next year for free downloading, can also be used to pull up Web browsers, MP3 files or Excel spreadsheets, depending on the programmer’s intent. Mr. Urbach also has Photoshop built into Otoy.

Worth looking up.