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Put your gaming skills to the test—online!

by Mark Reed

Warrior Are you tired of conquering the same dungeons, knowing your computer’s every move, or beating up on Pauline, Michele, and Ben in hearts? Then take your game online.

Just about any game you can think of now has an online component, so instead of competing alone against your computer, you can interact and engage with real, human opponents from around the world in online races, aerial battles, role-playing games, and countless other contests—and Windows 98 will give you the competitive edge.

Windows 98 is your best weapon
Windows 98 supports the most advanced gaming technologies, such as Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) and Multimedia Extensions (MMX). Plus, Internet Explorer 5 has built-in DirectX multi-media services to make online games faster, richer, and more interactive; and to let you take advantage of the latest gaming hardware.

Armed with all of this technology, you’re ready to put your skills to the test. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Latency? Ping? Lag? What does it all mean?
Online gamers often discuss “latency,” which is the time it takes for data to travel from one point on the Internet to another. You may hear gamers refer to latency as “ping" or "lag.” Your “ping rate” is a measure of the time (in milliseconds) it takes for a signal to travel from your computer to your opponent’s and back.

If you have a slow connection to the Internet, or if one of the Internet gateways or servers between you and your opponent is especially busy, you’ll experience high latency, and you may see delays or disruption in your game. In addition to choppy or jerky game play, you’ll be helpless against the attacks of your opponent if he or she has lower latency than you. To avoid getting trounced, you can take steps to ensure a good online gaming experience and equal footing with your opponent when you go into battle.

Get ready to rumble
The most important step in achieving low latency is getting a fast connection to the Internet. A 56-Kbps modem will work well, or better yet, get broadband Internet access. Make sure that you have the most recent modem drivers available from your modem's manufacturer (visit the manufacturer’s Web site for more information), and find a reliable Internet service provider.

Graphics-intensive games will work better if you optimize the performance of your computer. Defragment your hard disk regularly, and close any programs you don’t need before you start a game, so there is nothing else draining power from your computer.

The MSN Gaming Zone
When you’re ready to start playing games on the Web, a great place to start is the MSN Gaming Zone, one of the most popular interactive gaming destinations on the Internet for everyone from hardcore gamers to card game players. You can choose from multi-player CD-ROM games like Age of Empires, Rainbow Six, or Quake II; card games like spades, hearts, bridge, or cribbage; and board games like backgammon, chess, reversi, and checkers. In addition, you’ll find:

  • Thousands of people playing at all times of the day.
  • An active community of gamers communicating through chats, tutorial sessions, and tournaments.
  • Free matchmaking for popular CD-ROM games to help you find and compete against other players.
  • Original, multiplayer games designed specifically for the Internet.

Play ball!
Click “Game Index” on the left side of the Gaming Zone home page, and you’ll find a menu of all the games in the Zone, sorted alphabetically. Each game page lists separate rooms for that game under various categories, such as for beginning or advanced players. Each room name has a number beside it showing how many people are currently in the room.

Next to each player's name in a game room is a latency indicator that shows how fast your current connection is to that player. When you join a game, look for players with a green latency indicator, which indicates low latency.

Once you start playing, you'll find an active community of players who will help you get started, learn the lingo, and maybe even share their gaming secrets. While you may be enemies in combat, you're sure to make new friends.


Mark Reed
Mark Reed
welcomes all challengers in online hearts.

Looking for help in the Zone?
Microsoft Support’s MSN Gaming Zone Troubleshooter can help with common issues and problems.

More gaming help:
For other gaming issues, the MSN Computing Central Computer Games Forum has information for gamers, from help on troubleshooting a game installation, to tips on the best 3-D card, to hints on beating a tough level.