[Juser] GameTap, PubSub/PEP, and missed opportunities.

Jason Salaz jason at zenenet.com
Thu Jul 20 21:53:46 CDT 2006

I was going to write this as a post on my blog, but it would fall on
deaf (or otherwise uninterested) ears.

Please don't consider the following a spam-vertisement, I'm just
giving a little bit of information for those not 'in the know'.

GameTap is an on-demand (subscription) gaming service.  It's actually
quite well put together.  The library is updated every Thursday, and
the client software typically has gotten a software update every one
or two months (also always happens on a Thursday specifically).
I'm sure you can find their homepage if you're interested in more
specific details.

Today, probably at the start of their business hours, their
development team pushed out an update to ALL subscribers (i.e. I'm
sure that BETA testers had this functionality for at least a month
now).  This update offered up:
1) Multiplayer on limited titles.
2) Per-game group chat and challenges. (there is no global chat room,
you had to explicitly enter a room and 'turn yourself on' to the chat
room for the game)
3) AIM integration.

I looked at the all the locations for AIM information and the design
of the client and the general integration and I thought "hey, this is
really cool, I don't have to alt+tab into and out of the client
anymore".  I found a few bugs with the service, but I digress.

After using it for a few minutes, I realized that this rollout of
'features' could have been an absolutely great opportunity for XMPP
that just didn't happen.
I remember the discussion over on Standards-JIG about pubsub, and how
in the future, presence enabled software/hardware could send
information to your connected XMPP resource and allow subscribers to
see what movie you are watching, what tv show you're watching, **what
game you are playing**, etcetera.

While I have no doubts that this AIM integration had a huge marketing
deal behind it, I still can't help but imagine how it would have been
if they set up a scalable jabber service and had an internal
deployment of PEP/PubSub.

Towards the end of my gaming session just a few minutes ago, a friend
I was conversing with on AIM (through the GameTap client) mentioned my
away message.  A drab and un-informative "I'm playing a game".  I
would have loved to have that person see "I am currently playing Super
Baseball 2020, on GameTap".  Or perhaps more specifically, I would
have a myuser at gametap.com/GameTap resource with that specific
Not to even mention that everything they do ( muc rooms, invites, etc.
) could have been done with full flexibility of XMPP specs.

I would think it would be a bit much to even THINK about asking them
to take back and re-do their deployment. So, unfortunately, I think
that ship has sailed, and there's no looking back.

I guess all I want to say is that I'm very disappointed that another
vendor went proprietary, and consequently has to mish mash features
(those aim provides, and those it doesn't) between AIM and their own
I'd be interested to learn just how they do 'signalling' within their
own client.  Whether AIM is solely for aim user chat, or if a
'specially crafted message' announces availability in the chat room,
or invites a user to a game, or challenges a user to a game.
I guess there's always WireShark if I'm /that/ interested :).

All of this could have been done with XMPP.  It can be kept 100% in
house, and built from the ground up. Not to mention that if they were
to build an XMPP server cluster, if 1 server goes down, all features
relying on it don't absolutely bomb out and die.
If AIM goes down, a major part of their service just gets cut off.

Imagine if this network were federated, and once pubsub really gets
out in the wild, we'd already be having our current gaming status
available for anyone we have on our user lists.

Now that I think about it, I seem to remember hearing that Time Warner
is the parent company of GameTap, and *AOL* Time Warner would have a
lot of pull when it comes to a mass messaging/communication method for
one of their products.

'What could have been' is the theme of this message.

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