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Sun, Caltech get into games

A group from the company teams with the California Institute of Technology to get into the online gaming business.

A group from Sun Microsystems and the California Institute of Technology is jumping into the online gaming business with the launch of the GameWorld Internet Club.

The venture, which includes new push technologies, is the latest in a much-hyped and increasingly crowded field that many analysts still think has big moneymaking potential. The industry is supposed to generate sales of $1 billion by the year 2000 and includes the Total Entertainment Network, MPath, and more recently Microsoft.

The new company, called Adventure Online Gaming, is teaming up with Netscape Communications, Marimba, and Apple Computer, among others, to launch the product. The game is based entirely on Java and can be played by PC, Macintosh, and Unix users, as reported yesterday by CNET's NEWS.COM.

"We design games that are multiplayer from the ground up, and they're easy to use," said John Greensage, president of Adventure Online Gaming and a former project manager at Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The product will go into public beta testing this summer. Pricing hasn't been set but will be less than $10 a month, he said. There are going to be five games at launch, with a new one offered monthly.

The game includes chat, 3D graphics, and avatars. One of them, Realms of Gaia, has been designed in the "swords and sorcery" genre and lets players fight against interactive monsters in a complex plot.

GameWorld offers play without downloading or installing software. Instead, it relies on technology that automatically "pushes" a new game to a user's desktop each month.

"The delivery of GameWorld's new monthly games directly to players without the need for installation is an ideal application of Marimba's Castanet," Marimba chief executive Kim Polese said in a statement.

It also is one of the few gaming networks that can be used with the Macintosh. "GameWorld finally brings together the Internet with truly cross-platform entertainment," said Jay Arcos, new media director for Apple's MacDirectory Online.

As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, Disney's Daily Blast, which is the entertainment giant's foray into online gaming, is not yet Mac compatible.