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Researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA, have created prototype software that lets up to 500 users participate in processor-intensive “first-person shooter” games such as Quake II. In the past, players running such games on their personal computers could join only a handful of competitors via the Internet. But the IBM software parcels out responsibility for simulating different zones of Quake’s dungeonlike world to remote linked or “grid” computers. The system mediates between the users’ computers and the grid computers, handing over a character’s direction, speed, and other data when it steps from one zone to another. James Kaufman, the project’s lead researcher, says IBM is “talking to customers” in the online-gaming market about how the system could help them create bigger, busier fantasy worlds.

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