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New Game Download Site Offers Play-As-You-Download Service 104

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the instant-gratification dept.
arcticstoat writes to tell us that despite the many game download sites already available, another one has decided to give it a go; only this time, with a twist. UK-based Game Domain International is launching their AWOMO service that will allow you to play the game before it's done downloading. As an added incentive to get people to sign up, you can try out the beta now and get Rome: Total War for free. "The trick, according to GDI, is its 'unique technology' that 'lets you start playing before the game has finished downloading, meaning you can be up and running, jumping and fragging in minutes rather than hours.' Although some other download services allow you to start playing a game before it's fully downloaded, you usually still have to download a big chunk of data before you can start, and GDI reckons that it's cracked this problem. According to GDI, AWOMO takes a look at your PC's spec and connection speed, and then hooks you up with a sufficient buffer to stop your game stalling during gameplay. The company is confident that 'the delivery system accurately predicts the data you require next and ensures it's already there waiting before you need it.'"
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New Game Download Site Offers Play-As-You-Download Service

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  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:57PM (#26178067) Journal
    The 80s called. They want their "Please Wait. Loading..." screens back.
    • by theaveng (1243528)

      In the 80s it sometimes took my Commodore 5 minutes to load Activision's Mindshadow. Then you flipped the disk. And it took another 3 minutes of more waiting.* I hope this service works better than that!

      *
      * This was before the fast-loaders were invented.

      • did the c64 fast loader really do anything? i didn't have one (i only had the modem/voice synthisizer/5 1/4").
        • by theaveng (1243528)

          Me neither, but later games (after 1985) included boot programs that acted as fast loaders. For example MicroProse's Red Storm Rising could load in less than a minute - a huge improvement over the standard 5-8 minutes it would normally take.

          Due to a hardware engineering mistake, the 1541 drive was a very slow machine - not much faster than a 4.8 kbit/s modem. With software boot programs, it could get upto 56 kbit/s.

        • by flynn_nrg (266463)
          Fast loaders replaced Commodore's ROM routines, which were incredibly inefficient, with custom code that was uploaded the disk drive and dramatically reduced loading times.
    • by Improv (2467)

      I think the 90s version of this was "Streaming...", courtesy of Realaudio..

  • How? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by revoldub (1425465)
    So does this new technology only allow client only based games, where maybe you could download the first part of the game, and progressively as you complete different levels the rest of the game downloads?
    I don't see it being very plausible in multi-player games as you would most likely have to have the whole engine and all the map / character textures and video rendering engine?
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Funny)

      by nategoose (1004564) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26178233)
      It starts out as text base and then as the download progresses you'll start to get crude low polygon monochrome wire frames with only PC speaker beeps. Eventually you'll get to high polygon count fully textured and shaded 3D graphics with surround sound.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by eln (21727)

        So in other words it's blocky and ugly during the entire game, but the ending sequence is AWESOME.

      • by Joe Snipe (224958)

        That actually sounds like the premise for a really fun game. Sort of like a first person "AI coming of age" rpg.

      • Re: Gum. (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It starts out as text base and then as the download progresses you'll start to get crude low polygon monochrome wire frames with only PC speaker beeps. Eventually you'll get to high polygon count fully textured and shaded 3D graphics with surround sound.

        This should work very well indeed for Duke Nukem Forever... if the download takes a year or two to complete.
        >shoot

        YOU SHOT A DUDE [xxWaystLandxx].

        >shoot shoot shoot

        COME GET SOME! [RAzOR] IS FRAGGED TO PIECES.

        YOU SEE A STRIPPER.

        >give money

        OOPS MY BAD, THE STRIPPER WAS AN ALIEN AND ATE YOU. QUICKLOAD Y/N?

        >y
        >xyzzy

        GOD MODE ACTIVATED! AND I'M ALL OUT OF GUM.

        But seriously, if they can make this work, I would think it might shave a couple of years off Adobe's development time for making their ent

      • by EnsilZah (575600)

        Hey, maybe you should pitch that to Introversion! [introversion.co.uk].

      • It starts out as text base and then as the download progresses you'll start to get crude low polygon monochrome wire frames with only PC speaker beeps.

        This sort of progressive refinement is a nice idea. But in fact, the text-mode phase need not last very long. Unless you're buying a copy of a game on disc, you probably downloading it on at least an entry-level broadband connection, such as 768 kbps DSL. Such a connection can move a 4 MB MP3 in less than a minute. If it's possible to zip .kkrieger into 96 KiB, the entirety of Wolfenstein 3D into a shade over a half MB, or Super Mario 64 into 6 MB, it's certainly possible to fit the first few levels of a 3D

    • Software streaming is nothing new. Altiris [symantec.com], Citrix [citrix.com], and Microsft [microsoft.com] all offer solutions.

      Microsoft's application streaming is the best of the three (in my opinion, from demoing each of them). They acquired it from another company, and the technology was formerly called SoftGrid.

      It allows amazing flexibility, because all you really need to do is "sequence" the app, and it creates a file called Feature Block 1, which contains only the portions of the program required for initial launch. The rest of it is str
    • by KillerBob (217953)

      Played WoW lately? They have a version of the client that plays the game while streaming content to your PC... most of the time, you'll have the full game installed, but that version is available for download from the website. It's usually only offered (or made obvious) to people who are on a free trial friend code.

      It's about a 5MB initial download, and the content streams as you play. It's compatible with both of the expansions, too, though I never actually tried taking my character off Azeroth with it, so

  • by MessyBlob (1191033) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:06PM (#26178209)
    This looks like a way in for agent software to charge for modules of software, e.g. episodic games. Alternatively, it looks like a good technology to speed up app launch on any system, using caching.
    • It looks like they still charge the same as most places (full retail game). Although they do appear to also offer rentals. They say they charge 1/5th of the game's price per hour until you own it. In some cases they'll also do weekend / overnight rentals.
  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:06PM (#26178211)
    Perhaps I should patent the idea of adding random superfluous crap to the end of any file such that it can be opened and the useful part accessed before the tail end of it has fully downloaded.

    Or then again, maybe adobe acrobat plugins and web browsers already do that.
  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:06PM (#26178217)
    The concepts is awesome, especially for those of us who use services like this. However I am unsure about how they can accurately predict where a player in "going". In some linear games this might not be too hard but what about GTA or other sandboxed games? Also in many cases it seems as though the game engine itself is a significant part of the download. If the entire engine must be downloaded first, then it is not so similar to other download-to-buy services. Still despite my concerns I will keep my eye on this one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dk90406 (797452)
      My thoughts as well. But realistically thinking, the game engine is probably pretty small (say 30 MB) compared to textures, audio and video. So for a linear games or level/scenario based games, this seems feasible.
    • by theaveng (1243528)

      Maybe it works similar to Metroid Prime on the Gamecube where the "next" room is preloaded as you approach it, thereby eliminating the need for loading screens.

    • With a fast enough link, that isn't a real problem. You download all the data for the area around the player. As they move, you download data for the relevant areas they are moving to. Also while they are fiddling around, you are still downloading, of course.

      As for engines, they don't seem to be that much of most games. Maybe 50MB tops these days including all the DLLs they need. That's not a ton when you are talking about a 5+GB game.

      I don't anticipate this working well on low bandwidth connections, but I

  • Guildwars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26178237)

    Guildwars has done this for years. I think WOW does as well.

    It's great if you're at school or work or grandma's or somewhere else. Just stream in the content you need for the region/quest you're in.

    • Not really the same thing. What you are talking about is loading an area before you get to it. Games have been doing that since the original Playstation, or ealier. But to play the games you mention, you still need to download them in thier entirety first, and then install them. This service claims to bypass that. I presume that the install time is very short too.
      • Re:Guildwars (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cephah (1244770) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:40PM (#26178657)

        Not really the same thing. What you are talking about is loading an area before you get to it. Games have been doing that since the original Playstation, or ealier. But to play the games you mention, you still need to download them in thier entirety first, and then install them.

        Last time I played Guild Wars I downloaded a 50 kb executable and streamed content as I entered new areas. Makes me wonder if you've even tried the game.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by KillerBob (217953)

          WoW also has a small executable client that streams content as you play. Sadly, it's quite laggy as you enter new areas, and doesn't seem to remember old areas though. :(

          • by tricorn (199664)

            WoW only does that for the test-drive client, but I found it worked quite well, I didn't find it laggy at all. Going to a new area could cause a short delay, but it appeared to cache it for use after that point.

        • by Tycho (11893)

          If you like the methods of one big download with Guild Wars, adding the switch " -image" to the end of the string pointing to gw.exe in the shortcut will download the current versions of every area including the core PvE areas, the expansion PvE areas, and all of the PvP areas. Expect to download several gigabytes of files, which end up in one big file, bad for FAT32 user potentially.

  • Have you ever tried to run a Virtual Machine with off a Drive Image on a Remote Network location. It does work.

  • Do I own the games? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by omnilynx (961400) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:17PM (#26178371)
    Let's say I take them up on this beta offer and download Rome: Total War. Then I decide their service just isn't for me. Do I own Rome: Total War? Can I play it after I quit their service? Or does it check with their service that I'm entitled to play the game every time?
    • Who cares!? It's a free game! You slashdot people even complain when you get free stuff. :P
    • by skeeto (1138903)
      If you ever played Rome: Total War, just once, you wouldn't even bother asking this question. You would be asking if they forced you keep it. :-P
  • by syrinx (106469) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:25PM (#26178469) Homepage

    The trick, according to GDI, is its 'unique technology' that 'lets you start playing before the game has finished downloading, meaning you can be up and running, jumping and fragging in minutes rather than hours.'

    Interesting, but we need both sides of the story: what does NOD think?

  • Wasn't this Infinium's primary business model before their fearless leaders were charged with fraud (unrelated)? They would stream old games with a "proprietary technology" that was basically over-the-network virtual memory with pre-caching based on data collected from local runs.

    Pretty clever, I guess. I wish modern games like WoW would do something like this. It definitely reduces my impulse game purchases, knowing that I'll have to wait 8 hours to download content that I may not ever see. On the oth

  • To me this seems like it could have really interesting implications for IO queuing algorithms. If this service has an algorithm that can accurately predict what data a game will need then the same technique could be applied to loading data for local applications from the hard drive.

    -Buck

    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      This technique has been used for quite a while in console development for the purpose of ordering data on the physical media. The perfect candidate for this is a completely linear level (racing games, snowboarding game, etc), but many games can benefit to some degree. Keeping data stored by locality helps to reduce seek time, and allows faster/smoother streaming.

      It's not actually too difficult in concept. Simply play through the game on a dev system, and spit out a table of what files were accessed at wh

  • This isn't new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Narishma (822073) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:33PM (#26178571)
    Other services like Steam and Metaboli already allow you to start playing the game while it downloads the rest of it in the background.
    • by gparent (1242548)
      What games are we talking about here? Anything that runs on Source?
    • by PylonHead (61401)

      Yeah, my understanding is that steam was originally designed to work like this.

      In reality, games released on Steam do not use this functionality because the user experience is not what people expect. People would rather queue up a game and come back later to play than start playing immediately and experience random pauses during play.

      One of the early games (rag doll kung fu) took advantage of this by loading low res cut scenes with the game, and then downloading high-res in the background:

      Through the magic

      • by canajin56 (660655)
        When steam first came out I was able to play half-life 2 almost immediately. It downloaded stuff I needed fairly well, so there wasn't much delay, although sometimes during area changes it would stop to load for a while. Too much of a while. So I let it finish over night ;) They turned this feature off since then?
        • by Narishma (822073)
          Yeah I remember playing HL2 like that when it came out. Bioshock too was like that on Steam.
  • Blizzard already did this with world of warcraft (you play as it downloads) for new accounts. They weren't the first to do it either, so I'm not sure how this is news...
    • by Jthon (595383)

      I like Blizzard but that's not how it works. You download and install the game before playing.

      Turbine Games actually pioneered with Asheron's Call. Most of the patches were rather small and you got texture and map updates as you ran around the world. They did this since at the time everyone had dial-up and wanted to save people downloading stuff they didn't need.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rezalas (1227518)
        No, they actually had a client you could play while downloading the game install files. It only worked for fresh accounts. They discontinued it after a little while (rather quietly) but i actually started my second account this way because I was interested in seeing how it worked (and subsiquently discontinued my second account).
        • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
          It's not discontinued; I tried it out last week and it works great if you have a fast enough connection.

          But, unlike the service, my account is also discontinued.
  • Free Game? yay

    Having to return to their website every time I want to play it?/reinstall it? meh...not so much.
  • in case if I ever decide to go back to using my Hayes 2400 modem for my online needs.

    • Liar!
      You never had a genuine Hayes 2400 baud modem! You bought a knock-off, white box, ISA card of dubious origins with a speaker on it. You had a Hayes compatible 2400 baud modem like the rest of us, and you know it because you could probably recite the connection string that you needed to get it to work at "full speed" (read: 'bout 2kbit).

      Admit it!
      • by log0n (18224)

        Hayes Smartmodem 2400 here! It made chrome and blank household appliances cool way before the kitchen style fad kicked in. Still have it some place too.. (/oldfart)

  • Great, 32 bit only (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pop69 (700500) <billy@@@benarty...co...uk> on Friday December 19, 2008 @06:32PM (#26179195) Homepage
    Their software thingy complains it'll only run on x86, people with 64 bit windows need not apply
    • by Yez70 (924200)
      Yea, that really pissed me off too. No 64bit beta support means no chance of me even bothering with them after beta.
      • by ET3D (1169851)

        They will have 64 bit support after beta, so hopefully you won't stay away just because you're pissed off right now.

  • any different from what Gametap has been doing for quite some time now. In fact I had to go fiddling around in the settings to turn it off to make sure when I've 'downloaded' a game it's really fully downloaded so I wont get hit with some very annoying lag in certain cut-scenes as they'd be 'dynamically loading' from the servers just as they were supposed to be playing. I'm more than happy to just wait an extra few minutes to get everything local rather than bother with this type of thing.

  • When you download a game with GameTap, they give you two options: download the whole game, or just the bare minimum. I was playing on a laptop with low free space, so I tried the later.

    If you select the bare minimum, then it leaves a bunch of graphic and sound assets, etc. on their servers, and adds a layer to the game that fetches those assets the first time they're requested. The thing is, it takes several seconds to fetch something from the server, and the game you're playing is inevitably designed wit

    • When you download a game with GameTap, they give you two options: download the whole game, or just the bare minimum. I was playing on a laptop with low free space, so I tried the later. [...] Several games I played would lock up for several seconds every time it tried to play a sound that hadn't been downloaded yet. It was miserable.

      Then it was GameTap's fault for not providing a middle ground: download the bare minimum, and while you're playing that, download other files in order based on a log of the files that the game read while the testers were playing it.

  • ... of ADD! These impatient downloaders would be the people who quaff an entire bottle of Ritalin every day and still feel under-medicated, so they augment it with an IV drip of black coffee. Hold the cream and sugar, please.

  • Run a caching NFS client and mount the remote game server as a filesystem. There are already a dozen shell scripts and utilities out there to preload stuff for booting big servers over NFS. (like if you use NFS for static website data or DNS or nntp)

    Welcome to 1996 people.

    • by nxtw (866177)

      Because an NFS client knows exactly what file will be read next before it's opened, right?

      • Which is why you preload data you know you will need. It's like you read the first three words of a post and then respond.

        • by nxtw (866177)

          Most games don't use the same data every time they are played. The data that is used consistently throughout the game would probably be cached on the local drive after it's first downloaded.

          How can a shell script (which would run separately from a game) know what area the player will go to next (in an open ended game)? How can a NFS client know which files will be used later in the game (such as the files for the outdoor map after the player has entered a large building)? How can a NFS client know which

          • Games are horribly predictable.

            ptrace() it, and depending on what address you're in, start streaming in new data. If you are that hard core about optimizing this non-problem.

            • by nxtw (866177)

              Games are horribly predictable.

              Did you read my post? I noted that some games aren't always predictable and have maps where players can go anywhere. I also noted that a caching NFS client and a shell script can't have the best information to make useful predictions on what should expire from the cache or what should be preloaded next.

              ptrace() it, and depending on what address you're in, start streaming in new data.

              And you've now left the realm of a simple shell script preloading files for a caching NFS cl

  • When I worked for Bell, I got a few tokens for a free game or two. I chose to play Syberia, an adventure game, and it went pretty smoothly. Except for one thing, the system wasn't smart enough to warn me that I didn't have sufficient disk space, so I had to clean up stuff from my HD before I was able to resume the download. It didn't really impact my gameplay otherwise. The other game I tried was a WWII FPS, whose name escapes me. Medal of Honor maybe? That also worked pretty smoothly.
  • I assume this means its there...DRM, that is. From the AWOMO terms and conditions...

    "The term "Game Software" includes the software included in this game, the associated media, any software associated with the online mode of the game, any printed materials, and any online or electronic documentation, and any and all copies and derivative works of such software and materials."

    Possibly a good idea, once I know what I am getting along with the games, but until then, i

  • Sounds like the Mr. Movie on Spaceballs where the new movie comes out before they are done filming it...

    Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at?... When does this happen in the movie?
    Colonel Sandurz: Now, You're looking at now sir...Everything that happens now is happening now.
    Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
    Colonel Sandurz: We passed it.
    Dark Helmet:When.
    Colonel Sandurz:Just now... We're at now now.
    Dark Helmet: Go back to then?
    Colonel Sandurz: When?
    Dark Helmet: Now.
    Colonel Sandurz: Now?
    Dark Helmet: No

  • They want their Unreal Tournament back.

    Basically it's possible with a lot of games. I've had games before where part of a level was defective (scratched CD). The game would play until a certain point, some games would allow you to just replace the bad or non-existent level file with another level file. There were also some games you would have to switch floppy's or CD's to play further levels.

    It's a simple trick, nothing innovative. Just because it's done 'over the internet' doesn't make it new.

  • This looks REALLY suspicious and I would advise that nobody registers or downloads the .EXE files until this has been checked out.

    Firstly the parent company as listed at http://www.awomo.com/?q=node/10 [awomo.com] appears to have an address which is The Queen's residence, Windsor Castle

    http://maps.google.com/maps?client=opera&rls=en&q=12+Castle+Hill,+Windsor,+Berks+SL4+1PD&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&um=1&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=title [google.com]

    Secondly, the company GDI Game

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      To be a PLC in the UK you must be a public limited company with shares traded on the London Stock Exchange.

      No, that's wrong.

      To be a plc you just need to have 50,000 GBP share capital (in addition to normal UK company registration requirements).

      The plc designation allows you to offer your share for sale to the public, but it does not require that you do so, and certainly not on any specific stock exchange.

  • although you may not have noticed, steam will let you start many games before they are finished downloading.

    I noticed this when I accidentally double clicked Half Life 2: episode 1 before it finished downloading, and it launched. I'd assume it works for normal half life 2 as well.

    Steam will selectively bring in the art for the level you are currently playing first. So, you will get a little bit longer loading screen, but otherwise it works about as ok as steam and half life ever worked (which is to say, fil

  • This isn't a new concept, and they are simply competing with other platforms that give the same ability to download games in the background while you play.

    I also believe that the same concept came to programmers who had to deal with a 56K modem, and decompress the .ZIP files. Given that files in .ZIP can be stored in any order, there isn't really a good reason why the most important bits of a .ZIP are placed first as opposed to being in alphabetical/random order. However, a lack of knowledge/tools of the

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