The future is, it seems, digital downloading of games. So what is the future of digital downloading? Well, perhaps it's this: AWOMO, or "A World Of My Own", is coming to the end of its public beta this week. You've got two days left to sign up and get Rome: Total War for free, if you're interested in testing the service. It's a rather neat idea: a download service that downloads content as you play. It delivers the essential files to get you started with just a short period of buffering, and then fetches the rest of the game once you're busy playing. After the jump: more info, and a call for questions.
Here's some more press releasey details on the technical side of things:
GDI’s proprietary distribution platform, AWOMO, features a number of technical innovations which reduce the effective download time of large games from hours to just minutes, providing consumers with short waiting times – up to 20x faster than conventional services.
“The primary way in which AWOMO achieves this goal is by exploiting the simple principle that a gamer does not need to access the entire game data right from the beginning,” Roger Walkden, CEO of GDI explains. “In the same way a person watching a movie does not need to see the end first, nor does a gamer need the whole game just to start playing. The data needed for later levels can be downloaded safely in the background with no interruption to the game experience.”
As the consumer begins downloading, AWOMO analyses the PC and tests the connection speed, compiling an optimised download that will allow them to start playing with the shortest possible wait time.
The secret lies in the conversion and optimisation process for each game. The QA teams prepare the games by generating sets of ‘data-time’ maps which a neural network subsequently analyses to calculate the most efficient way to deliver the data to a gamer at a given connection speed. The more the game is tested, the smarter the platform becomes and the smaller the initial download.
Results vary by game: for some, the initial download can be as little as a twentieth of the data – the core ‘engine’ plus other essential information. Others may require a larger download to ensure there are no interruptions to game play, but the AWOMO platform also has a couple of other unique tricks up its sleeve to help minimise the initial download size.
“Many games actually have large amounts of repeated or redundant data,” reveals Walkden. “For example, the same visual feature may be reused many times and stored as a separate instance each time. AWOMO simply replaces repeated data with a reference to the original. Similarly, information which is never accessed by the game is discarded, much as the audio compression used for music downloads discards data the ear can’t hear.”
“AWOMO is like building a road in front of a driver as they progress – as far as they are concerned, the road is there all along, when in fact it’s being laid just out of sight,” Walkden explains. “Of course, as with all great technologies, what happens ‘under the hood’ is unimportant to the consumer. As far as the gamer is concerned, AWOMO is just the platform that delivers a game far quicker than any other download service – and that’s all they need to know.”
Clever boys, eh? There's even a front-end 3D world lark a way off it seems, although they're just getting the technical details of really fast downloads going for now. We got in touch with AWOMO to find out more, and they're keen for RPS readers to put any questions you might have directly to them. Do you have a question? Post it in the comments, and I'll round them up and send them off. If we get enough, and the answers are interesting enough, perhaps I'll knock up a post on the subject next week. Question away!