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AOL creates kit for 'ping and play'

Tool kit is designed to let online game developers integrate AIM and ICQ messaging software into their titles.

America Online is releasing a tool kit designed to let online game developers integrate its AIM and ICQ messaging software into their titles, the company said on Monday.

Doing so will give players the ability to see whether fellow gamers are online and then communicate with them in real time. They will also be able to "ping" friends from inside a game application.

As instant-messaging services have continued to gain popularity, companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo and America Online have been adding more features and frills. Microsoft recently launched a subscription-based gaming service over its MSN messaging software.

The AOL kit's release follows the integration of its instant-messaging software into "The Matrix Online," a multiple-player game from Warner Brothers.

Using the kit's tools, developers can add instant messaging into any new or existing game, AOL said. Developers can also create game character "bots" or "help me bots" so that gamers can ask for and receive responses in real time without adding new demands on the customer service department, the company said.