The Game Palace is a large mansion/casino in Cyberspace where players can meet to play traditional card, board and table games, chat, flirt, and do a form of legal gambling. This is a large social environment, filled with traditional games which are designed to appeal to a broad audience, rather than just teenage boys.
The palace has an open architecture which allows for many different types of multi-player games to be played. The basic design is a cross between an on-line chat area, and a multi-player game server.
A key attraction would be the ability to socialize - to talk to your opponent, kibitz with other spectators, or just chat in one of the lounges or private rooms, however this ability would require a telephone hookup (this could be implemented most easily using a 976 line, although eventually the telephone could be hooked up to the set top box directly). This space should be designed so that most games can be played without a telephone.
The following types of games could be supported:
This would initially require two full-time programmers to work on the game palace shell (one for the server and one for the client), and part time programmers to work on the individual games which hook in. A 3D artist will be needed initially to model and render some room templates. Because of the open design, more elaborate features can be added at a later time. Another programmer is needed for the 976 interface, which can be added later.
The operation of the Palace at the Orlando site can be initially handled by a single PC, similar to a multi-line BBS. Ideally, the server should be run on the head end servers, but it may be cheaper to implement it initially on PCs that are networked to the servers. Another PC with digital telephony capabilities will be needed for the 976 line. These two PCs would be networked together. The Palace PC would tell the Voice PC when users switch to a different room, other than that, the two PCs can be completely autonomous.
The Pseudo-3D interface resembles a large multi-roomed mansion, as seen from overhead. Each room contains icons, which represent the people in the room. A large collection of icons is available to choose from, initially you just get a randomly colored smiley face. As you gain experience, you will learn how to use different icons so you can change the facial expression that others see.
You use the arrow keys to scroll from one room to the next. When you start playing a game, the screen splits and provides an interface to the game you are playing. You can also watch others play games.
If you are using the 976 telephone line, you will be able to hear the voices of all the players and occupants in the room with you. The icons nearest to you will be the loudest (so you can go off into the corner and chat).
Some rooms won't have games at all and are just for chatting - it is possible that this will be a popular feature and that the number of these rooms will need to be expanded. To keep things cozy and simplify the technical tasks, each room will have a maximum occupancy of around 20 people. The mansion design is modular, to allow it to be expanded by adding additional PCs at the head end.
Gambling, of course, is illegal. We can implement a harmless form of gambling by using a type of fake money in the casino - digital dollars. The program would automatically keep track of your cache of digital dollars.
Another interesting idea is to allow users to buy other users free movies or services by purchasing a ³Gift Certificate² which gets added to their cable bill. If the ability to buy gift certificates is simply provided, users will probably start using these for gambling on their own (using an honor system of verbal agreements).
Some of the moderated games, such as Trivia, Bingo and Wheel of Fortune can have prizes. These prizes could be free movies, or coupons. If the Palace proves to be a popular and addictive hang-out, as I suspect it will, we could begin to charge a low cost for access time (50 cents an hour). Then the prizes can include free access time.
It is possible that the type of game a person plays (Bingo versus Chess, Wheel of Fortune vs. Jeopardy) tells us something about that person. The types of prizes a person selects also tells you something about them. The game palace can be used as a tool for marketing research by tracking the person's activities.