The Definitive Multiplayer PPC Game Roundup – over 60 games tested


UPDATE (09/23/2006): Note that I haven't updated this roundup with the following reviews (make sure you read them all!):
Cake Press by HeroCraft HiTech
Fast Sudoku 1.2 by PPCLink
Mahjong and Chess by RealDice
4Connect by 4Pockets (another title with serial Bluetooth support!)
Air Hockey Challenge by 4Pockets (Wi-Fi p2p & BT PAN; a great Air Hockey clone)

UPDATE (10/30/2006): 3D Constructo Combat by ConcreteSoft (native Widcomm BT & WM5 only; a slightly(?) overpriced two-player 3D arcade with VGA hi-res support)

UPDATE (11/22/2006): 4Pockets releases desktop PC version of great PPC-based multiplayer games 4Connect and Great Gold Rush
The new networking model of the Microsoft BT stack in WM5 AKU3. It supports a rather restricted, but, with several LAN-based multiplayer-based games, usable Bluetooth PAN model. Make sure you read this article if you have a MS BT-stack-based WM5 device with the AKU3 upgrade and would like to play local LAN games over Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi!

UPDATE (04/05/2007):
  1. Dr. Pocket updated with multiplayer capabilities and Jaybot7’s GREAT music. This title is a Tetris / color matcher title with, as opposed to Travel Collection of the same developer, central-server-based game with a lobby. It also supports the PPC2k2 operating system.
  2. Orions: Legend of Wizards - this unique round-based strategy / Magic: The Gathering clone, highly recommended title offers direct connections (entering IP addresses), which is really flexible (for example, letting LAN-based games) unless both parties are behind a firewall / are NAT'ed. This title, as with Dr. Pocket 3.0, doesn't allow for in-game chatting.
  3. The 100% CPU usage bugs of the RealDice titles have been fixed in the meantime and also a new title, RealDice Dominoes, has been released. Please see THIS for more info.
  4. A great Doom port, DoomGLES / DoomPPC, has been released, with direct, multiplatform (desktop Windows vs. Windows Mobile devices) multiplayer capabilities. It's FREE and highly recommended, particularly if you have a Windows Mobile device with 3D accelerator support.
  5. Napoleonix, an excellent, hi-res capable Stratego clone by Inscenic, developers of well-known title Warring Nations and Creatonia; direct IP-based play.
And what's not available yet:
  1. There is still no playable demo of the Shadow of Legend MMORPG
  2. Infinite Dreams' K-Rally, probably the best game of last year, still hasn't received a multiplayer update.
  3. Venan Entertainment's new minigolf game Super Putt Xtreme only supports hotseat multiplayer.
  4. The multiplayer update for the Windows Mobile version of Call of Duty 2 is stated to be released in April.
As soon as I have some time, I'll make the necessary changes. Nevertheless, the following article is still highly recommended - just make sure you ALSO check out the above reviews.

UPDATE (11/04/2007):
  1. the Call of Duty 2 Multiplayer add-on has been released and is pretty good; see THIS
  2. I've published the MIDlet Bible HERE, also explaining whether it's possible to play multiplayer games over Bluetooth. (Unfortunately, not on the Windows Mobile platform, "only" on Symbian and several "dumb" platforms.)
  3. Another GREAT breakthrough in Windows Mobile networking: unrestricted BT PAN server with the MS BT stack!!
  4. ConcreteSoft releases 3D Lawn Darts: the second Windows Mobile game of the developers that brought out the pretty nice 3D Constructo Combat for the Windows Mobile and the Java platforms. IMHO, it's not as good as their first game, but opinions certainly differ. (BTW, 3D Constructo Combat, as of this writing, still doesn't support the MS BT stack...)
  5. Shadow of the Legend has been released
UPDATE (06/13/2008): the new version of Pocket Commodore 64 3.0 supports multiplayer; see THIS


(End of update section; now, the original article follows.)


Fortunately, lately, a lot of new multiplayer (MP for short) games have been released for the Pocket PC (PPC for short). As 1, very few and either space-constrained or not any more up-to-date (Semperaptus' roundup (definitely an excellent one, worth reading) is over 2.5 years old) roundups are only available; 2, MP-related questions are always asked on PPC boards and 3, several MP-related PPC community threads contain a lot of misinformation (for example, calling games that don't have any kind of MP capabilities multiplayer-capable and so on), I've decided to write an all-in-one roundup of all the available MP games for the PPC.

Note that this roundup not only concentrates on multiplayer games themselves but also a lot of other, related areas: Internet chess servers, Bluetooth (BT for short)/Wi-Fi peer-to-peer (p2p for short) technology, comparison of the available Java Virtual Machines (JVM's) speed-wise and a lot of other generic PPC tips and tricks. Furthermore, PPC users that previously weren't interested in the various networking techniques accessible with PPC's will find a lot of interesing information in this roundup. In addition, I really recommend this article to anyone that often has to participate in boring meetings and/or travels a lot and would like to find new ways of entertaining him/herself and/or killing time.

This roundup will also be a gold-mine for anyone that wants to develop or have developed multiplayer games because it gives a complete picture of what kind of multiplayer support should be in a decently written game.

Please note that, because I've tested and described a HUGE amount of games, this is not a complete review of each of them. Even in its recent form, it is well over 100k chars. You will need to do a lot of forum/Google searching if you want to get more information / read other, more complete (but not neessarily multiplayer-related) reviews of the reviewed titles.

What I have provided, on the other hand, is

  • a complete tutorial on setting up/starting MP modes (this is painfully missing for example from the TapzMania: Bug Killer online tutorial or from the Valentine Chess docs, as far as different MP usage scenarios/setups are concerned)
  • direct comparisons of each title to its alternatives (see for example the 'Chess' or the 'Pool' category) in the same category (as with, say, in my Golf , Arcade or Adventure game roundup)
  • direct comparisons of subjects like the number of available players on a public game host server or server availability. You won't find non-exaggerated available player numbers and "hey, sorry guys, our server will be down for a month!" announcements in the official advertisements/ home pages of the games, that's for sure :)
  • real (!) tests (I've run all these games on my numerous test PPC's, in all the possible networking configurations) as opposed to advertisements – for example, nowhere else will you find any information on, for example, Olmichess 2.61's being PPC2k2 only and so on.
  • unbiased opinions

    Also note that "a good comparison & feature chart is worth tens of thousands of words". That is, make sure you scrutinize the main comparison chart. It has all the (comparative / quantitive, not subjective) information you may ever need. It's best to read Section 1.1 (Connection Types) first and, then, jump straight to Chapter 3 (The Main Comparison Chart) right away and, while you are looking at the chart, read the explanation in Chapter 3 if you don't understand something.

    First: What do I mean by multiplayer? The ability to compete against other human opponents on (at least) two PDA's (this is what I call 'inter-PDA') via some kind of a preferably wireless connection. If you've ever played, for example, any MP-enabled Blizzard title on the PC, you do know that it's much more entertaining to play human opponents than just the (with, for example, Starcaft, silly/ incapable) CPU. The situation is the same on the PDA.

    The size, battery life, privateness (other people sitting next to you don't necessarily see the screen of your PDA, particularly if you hide it in your palm, unlike with a notebook) and wireless capabilities of PDA's make them excellent toys while, for example, sitting in a boring meeting (a thing that often happens to me). Then, you can just fire up a multiplayer game with a mate in the same room/on the internet somewhere else, and just kill time by playing him/her. The same stands for boring, long-lasting train/car commuting. (Incidentally, you may also want to read Andy Whiteford on the importance/usability of MP capabilities, social activities-wise).

    Taking this all (size, privateness, battery life etc.) into consideration, PDA's are much better suited for MP games (and are much more flexible at that) than desktop PC's – or, at least, for some game genres (not, for example, Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games, because of the lack of the keyboard and mouse combo control; the same stands for games requiring really high-resolution screens (SVGA+) and/or that are CPU-intensive).

    Before we jump right into discussing the games themselves, let's elaborate a bit on how Pocket PC's (or, more broadly, computers) can connect to each other and/or the Internet so that they can play each other.

    1.1 Connection Types

    There're several connection types you can utilize to play multiplayer games.

    First, we should make two distinct categories: one of them is based on the physical medium (a cable (wired) or just the air (wireless)) and the connection type used over this medium (over the air, it can be Infrared (IR for short), Bluetooth (BT for short) and Wi-Fi). The other category is based on the connection architecture by which the two PDA's (or the PDA's and a central game server) are connected.

    The former category may be well known to everyone so I won't really elaborate on it; please see the following comparison chart (also available here as a separate chart):
    Test cases:Direct cable connection req'd? (p2p)Direct visibility req'd (p2p), resulting in really awkward playing?Range (p2p)Additional power consumption (heavily depending on the particular model, power saving mode etc)Ubiquitusness in typical middle/high-end devices: PPC2kPPC2k2WM2003WM2003SEWM5
    Wired (cable): Serial+-2-6m's-+++++
    Wireless (air): IR-+1-4m10-50 mA+++++
    BT--<10m10-100 mA-so-so+++
    Wi-Fi--<100m100-500 mA--so-so++

    The columns in the chart, I think, speak for themselves - in there, I've not only elaborated on the protocols themselves, but their availability in non-entry level Pocket PC's, depending on the Pocket PC / Windows Mobile operating system version.

    As can be seen, while they were really rare with Pocket PC (2000) and Pocket PC 2002 devices, Bluetooth and, later, Wi-Fi have become ubiquitous and, now, can be found in almost all non-entry-level Windows Mobile 2003SE and 5-based Pocket PC's.

    The (typical) power consumption and the maximal distance (when used in peer-to-peer connections - that is, two Pocket PC's directly connecting to each other, without using servers in between) of the different protocols can also be seen. As most of you may already know, Wi-Fi will chew through your batteries really-really fast, while BT (or, for that matter, infrared connection) may be far more battery-friendly.

    The latter categorization (connection architecture) requires much more attention because it involves a lot more variability than just the type of the wireless communication.

    In a bird's view, there're local and Internet-based connections. Local connections don't require an Internet connection at all and, in most cases, utilize really local connection types (infrared or Bluetooth). Internet-based connections, on the other hand, requires you to have an internet connection but, in exchange, can make you able to play anyone, anywhere on the Internet, not just in your close (some (dozens of) feet) proximity.

    The possibilities don't end at this, however: there can even be a mixture of these two connection techniques which give the PDA's enormous flexibility in configuring games.

    1.1.1 Strictly local connections

    These are meant for short-distance (1-10 metres - 3-30 feet - between the two or, in cases, more players) playing.

    Note that I don't use the expression 'peer to peer' (p2p) here because p2p games can also be played over the Internet – I'm discussing strictly local connections here, which don't involve any kind of Internet connection. That is, the networking architecture in these cases is very simple: it only contains two (or, with games supporting more than two concurrent players, more) Pocket PC's. It can be depicted as follows:


    Fig. 1: local, P2P networking architecture


    (The dotted lines/Pocket PC's mean they are optional – with games only that support them.)

    As can be seen, regardless of the actual connection type (wired serial or wireless BT/IR/Wi-Fi), there're two (or, in cases, more) Pocket PC's connecting to, with two devices, each other and, with more than two Pocket PC's, the server (the Pocket PC that hosts the game) device.

    Right now, Bluetooth is best suited for playing local games (in most cases, in the same room) because of the not too small (as opposed to IR), still, not unneededly large (as opposed to Wi-Fi) range, the moderate battery consumption and the availability in even low(er)-end/older devices (it was pretty common in even mid-range WM2003 devices, unlike with Wi-Fi and can be added to almost any old Pocket PC via now, cheap CF/SD cards).

    You can also play local games via Infrared; doing this for an extended length of time, though, can be very tiring because of the need for aligning the IR ports during the game and the sometimes (with some device combinations) very limited range.

    Wi-Fi has a much better (with most local games, unneededly large) range than the previous two connection types. It can also work in local, P2P mode (by directly connecting two or more PDA's and nothing else) and has a much larger data throughput. It, unfortunately, also has a much higher power comsumption (and the larger throughput isn't needed in current MP games), which can't really be reduced, not even with different power saving modes (they will, in general, not help at all with games). Nevertheless, as with some types of games & devices combinations Wi-Fi is the only way to participate in local games, I've paid it special attention and have also run several Wi-Fi compatibility tests.

    There may be two subtypes of BT and Wi-Fi connections, regardless of their real type: ones that automatically find opponents (mostly, clients find servers; an example of this is 4Pockets' Gold Rush; it's only with few games that servers find clients - an example of this are the Infinite Dreams titles) in the local network and ones that don't. The latter ones require the players to enter the (local) IP address of the server Pocket PC in (all of) their client Pocket PC('s). Naturally, the latter approach isn't the most convenient one, particularly, if the server doesn't display this address and, consequently, you need to look it up yourself (as described in the BT PAN (alternatives: iPAQ HQ, AximSite, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox or BrightHand) and the Wi-Fi p2p tutorials). Fortunately, several games allow for storing server IP addresses in clients (for example, Quartz 2) so that, in subsequent games, clients won't need to enter it again. In addition, really few local or Internet gaming-capable games don't display the IP of the server (the hosting PDA).

    Bluetooth connections, in addition, can be directly managed. This means a game will be able to find opponents without the gamer's needing to set up a local Bluetooth network (called Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN)) between the devices. This may, with compatible games (for example, Battle Cake and Wontom Poker) also make sure that Pocket PC's equipped with the Microsoft BT stack (HTC's Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, all the Dell Axim x51 devices etc. Note that in late March we've successfully migrated the Widcomm BT stack to the x51v!) will also be able to participate in Bluetooth games. The latter would be impossible with games that solely rely on Bluetooth PAN - the MS BT stack doesn't support BT PAN at all.

    There is a third form of Bluetooth connectivity - that of using Bluetooth serial connections. While this connection form would offer by far the broadest compatibility (compatibility with even the oldest, non-Microsoft/non-Widcomm Bluetooth implementations that could, otherwise, never be used in any other way and, of course, compliance with the Microsoft BT stack), only one game (TapzMania) supports it. This is a pity because a lot of games would really gain a lot if they supported serial Bluetooth connectivity, especially on devices with non-Widcomm BT stacks.

    Note that the question of relying on BT PAN or directly managed/serial BT connections and finding opponents automatically on local networks are completely orthogonal and have nothing to do with each other. There are games that don't manage their BT connections directly (that is, they require the users to pre-establish a BT PAN between the Pocket PC's) but still use automatic local client discovery; for example, The Great Gold Rush or Warfare Incorporated. This means their client auto-discovery will also work on other types of local, wireless networks; most importantly, Wi-Fi. Of course, with these games, you will need to manually start a Wi-Fi P2P network before starting the game – as with manually starting the BT PAN network.

    There're games, on the other hand, that manage their BT connections directly and, therefore, require absolutely no human interaction (not even the need for pre-pairing the Pocket PC's that take part in the game) to discover clients; for example, Battle Cake, Wontom Poker or the Infinite Dreams titles.

    As far as BT PAN is concerned, you may want to read an article on setting it up at PPCT, iPAQ HQ, AximSite, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox or BrightHand. You'll definitely need this with some of the PPC MP games which (also) support BT PAN.

    Note that there're (currently) no Pocket PC MP games that would manage their Wi-Fi connection automatically (as opposed to managing BT connections). That is, with all games that can be played over Wi-Fi, you must manually start a local Wi-Fi P2P network before starting the game in the way explained in this article. There're many MP games that let you play opponents via Wi-Fi. Naturally, BT should be preferred whenever possible over Wi-Fi because of the power consumption. It's only when a given unit can't take part in a BT network/game (because it has a BT unit that is incompatible with the native BT management or a BT unit that doesn't support BT PAN if the game doesn't support native BT access) when you should consider utilizing Wi-Fi to connect local Pocket PC's. Note that, as has been pointed out in the Wi-Fi p2p article (see section "Connected networks – Bluetooth PAN and Wi-Fi P2P working together?"), it's impossible to have a Pocket PC network that has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth units.

    1.1.2 Internet connection- and/or IP-based connections

    1.1.2.1 Games with a central Internet server


    Typically, with games that support and/or require a server, you connect to a central (which, in most cases, is run by the game developer) server on the Internet to look for opponents/games to join. The architecture of this connection can be depicted as follows:


    Fig. 2: connection architecture of games with a central Internet server


    This model has both limitations and advantages.

    The clear advantage is that your opponent(s) do(es)n't necessarily need to be in the close proximity of you – he/she can play you even thousands of miles away. In addition, the server may offer you the ability to choose from other opponents if you don't have anyone to play (and don't want to play the CPU either). The latter is particularly important with lively and crowded chess servers like ICC or FICS (more on them later in the chess chapter) where you'll find opponents very easily.

    Another considerable advantage of this model is that it makes it possible to play games even from cradled (or, more generally, "hidden", including proxied GPRS) PDA's. With serverless (meaning that the in-game PDA's connect directly to each other and not to a server on a third computer), but IP-based, long-distance MP models (more on them in the next, 1.1.2.2 section), this is impossible because of effectively being hidden behind a firewall.

    Finally, the server may offer the players other goodies; for example, online ranking system (ladder – see for example the Blizzard titles and how battle.net works) but, at least, online high-score storage.

    The main disadvantage with these games is that you always have to connect to the Internet to play games like these, even if you and your playmate(s) is/are sitting next to you. Instead of using free, out-of-the-box working (no need for external Wi-Fi access points of Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to connect to the Internet), say, Bluetooth local connections, you end up having to connect to the Internet with all its shortcomings and problems.

    For example, if you use Wi-Fi to connect to the Net, it may be very expensive (Wi-Fi fees), not always available (short range/accessibility of Access Points (AP)) and battery-hungry. The other, most widely used Internet connection alternative, GPRS (or other mobile phone-based wireless Internet connectivity technologies - GSM/HSCSD/ EDGE/3G/CDMA 3G/EDVO/ 1xRTT/HSDPA; in this article, I only use the word 'GPRS' when I refer to any mobile phone-based connection type), means you'll need a GPRS-enabled (preferably with BT so that you can easily connect to it from your PDA), separate (if the phone is not built in into your PDA) phone and a GPRS subscription.

    And, even if you have (almost) unlimited access to GPRS, the slow (sometimes even in the range of 1-4 seconds) response time (the so-called 'lag') of GPRS makes playing some game genres (for example, action games) impossible. This is why action games don't usually have any kind of IP address-based, remote access – the lag would be far too much to play anything requiring really fast reaction. Note that it's not just GPRS that is laggy – a remote server-based game will always have noticeable lag because of the Internet's laggy nature, even if you use a very fast (local) internet connection.

    Another disadvantage of the central single-server model (in addition to the need of using the Internet at all, with all its hurdles – the lag, which can be enormous via GPRS and other mobile phone-based technologies, the need for an active Internet subscription and/or connection etc.) is the consequence of the possible downtime of the server. During any downtime, no client will be able to connect to the server. (This is what is completely unknown with Pocket PC's playing over local connections - they use no external servers, so, server downtime can't affect them.)

    The possible downtime of a central server can very easily be fighted by using local servers – servers that you can run on your desktop (or, in some cases, even on your Pocket PC). There're quite a few games that support this – unfortunately, not all of the server-centric MP titles.

    If you have a local Internet server (especially if it runs on the PDA of one of your PDA's), you don't necessarily have to have access to the internet if you, say, want to play your mate in the same room - both of you need to connect to the server in order to "see", and, consequently, play each other. And, this server can be in the same local (preferably wireless, BT PAN- or Wi-Fi P2P-based) network, even, in some cases (see the OmniGSoft titles and the PPC-based server they offer to use!), run straight on one of the PDA's itself.

    There may be serverless, but internet-enabled games too, with a different set of (dis)advantages.

    1.1.2.2 Serverless IP address-based games

    It has the advantages of both models previously discussed:
    - the ability to play people far away (Internet-based)
    - the ability to set up a local, free and fast (!) peer to peer network between PDA's without the need for any kind of Internet connection

    This means the best, most versatile games are the ones that allow you to directly enter the Internet address of the other, hosting party and don't need to rely on any kind of server.

    The major problem with these serverless games is that they can't be played with PDA's that all have hidden/non-existing internet addresses. For example, if all the PDA's involved connect to the Internet through ActiveSync or firewalled GPRS (both "hide" the IP addresses of the PDA's; therefore, nothing can directly connect them from the outside world), no game can be set up. If at least one of them has a "real" Internet address (because, for example, it's connected through a properly configured LAN or a GPRS subscription that uses non-proxied, direct IP's) and it hosts the game, it'll be possible to start the game, though, even if all the other PDA's (the clients) are connected to the net via ActiveSync/ proxied GPRS.

    Note that, starting with Windows Mobile 5 (WM5), the ActiveSync situation have become much better. With WM5, if you configure your Windows desktop to forward the server ports to your cradled Pocket PC, the latter will be able to host IP-based games. You can find a complete article on the networking model of WM5 here if interested. I also recommend the microsoft.public.pocketpc.activesync newsgroup – there, in my posts, I also elaborate on the secrets of the new networking model.

    Please note that many people think (see for example this thread) that you can't play Internet-enabled P2P games (that is, games where you must enter the IP address of the game-hosting PDA) in a BT PAN network. That's certainly not true. BT PAN, as with Wi-Fi p2p, is a "real" network – a network with (at the first connection) DHCP and real IP addresses, unlike, say, a BT serial connection.

    I know this networking topology stuff can be pretty hard to digest because there're so many possible configurations, especially with games that you can enter any IP into. Feel free to ask further questions if you need more clarification and don't forget to check out the "Categorization on the connection type (local / IP-based p2p / Internet server)" chart here, which lists all the possible connection configurations, their advantages / disadvantages and requirements. In order not to force you to follow the link, the chart is reproduced here too:
    Test cases:RangeLAGCentralized ladder/hiscoreAbility to play total strangers if no local opponents foundCompatibility with game host devices behind a firewall (incl. AS/GPRS)Does it work without an Internet connection?Does it work without an additional server?
    IP-less local (natively managed) connectionsLocal<<100 ms--N/A (it doesn't use IP)++
    IP-based local (BT PAN/Wi-Fi) games (no Internet connetion required)Local<<100 --+ (if used via BT PAN/Wi-Fi p2p)+ +
    IP-based Internet p2p Entire Earthin the range of some hundred ms; with GPRS, much more----+
    Server-based (both locally and developer-hosted)Entire EarthIn the range of some hundred ms; with GPRS, much more+++--


    1.1.3 Examples of connections

    Now, let's see some examples (games) of each connection type/category. (See the previous chart!)

    1.1.3.1 IP-less, local, natively managed Bluetooth connections

    Examples of this genre: Infinite Dreams titles; Mobirate titles; Warfare Inc. in native BT mode; Quartz 2 in BT mode; Battle Cake; Wontom Poker; PopperZ

    These games manage the BT connection automatically, meaning you don't have to do anything to set up your connection. This means you only need to start (host) a server on one PDA and start a client on the other(s). The devices will automatically discover each other and connect. No additional magic is needed (not even do a Bluetooth pairing before).

    1.1.3.2 IP-based local (BT PAN/Wi-Fi) games (no Internet connetion required)

    There're two subtypes of these games: games that auto-dicover servers in the manually started BT PAN/Wi-Fi p2p networks and games that don't.

    1.1.3.2.1 IP-based local (BT PAN/Wi-Fi) games (no Internet connetion required) with server auto-dicovery

    These (still local-capable; that is, games that don't (necessarily) require an Internet connection) games use local area network multicasting (a well-known, widely used way of discovering other computers on a local network) to discover servers. This means the users must start a BT PAN (or, alternatively, Wi-Fi p2p) connection between the two (or more) devices before you go to the client mode on the non-hosting PDA('s). The auto-dicovery makes sure no IP's need be manually entered.

    Examples of these games are the Fathammer games, Warfare Inc. in TCP/IP mode, ZIO Space Tactics and Gold Rush.

    1.1.3.2.2 IP-based local (BT PAN/Wi-Fi) games (no Internet connetion required) without any kind of auto-dicovery

    With these games, you must explicitly start a BT PAN or a Wi-Fi p2p network and explicitly enter the hosting PDA's local IP address to (all of) the client(s). As has already been pointed out, if the IP isn't explicitly displayed by the server (this only plagues very few games, fortunately), see my BT PAN and Wi-Fi P2P articles on finding them.

    No Internet connection is required for playing – everything is done over the BT PAN/ Wi-Fi p2p connection.

    Examples: Warfare Inc. in TCP/IP mode, OmniGSoft titles (when you run the server on one of your PDA's), Quartz 2 1.2 (TCP/IP mode - not in native BT mode!), RocketElite 2.1, CanTris, The Travel Collection

    The OmniGSoft titles require a dedicated server to be run; in this case, practically, on one of the PDA's. This means you must also explicitly enter the localhost (127.0.0.1) IP address on the PDA that hosts this server, not only the LAN address of the PDA on the clients.

    1.1.3.3 IP-based serverless Internet p2p

    Examples: see previous (1.1.3.2.2) section

    This mode can be used with exactly the same games as IP-based local (BT PAN/Wi-Fi) games. As there's no external server (with the exception of the OmniGSoft titles, which I'll promptly discuss), any game hosting PDA behind a firewall (ActiveSync/firewalled GPRS) can't be accessed. This is the worst problem with this connection type.

    The only software developer, OmniGSoft, which offers a server runnable on both the PDA and the desktop, offers a remedy to this problem: don't run the server on one of the PDA's (if they're all cradled and/or behind a firewall) but on a directly accessible PC. Then, the problem of the inaccessible game-hoster PDA just goes away.

    1.1.3.4 Server-based (both locally and developer-hosted) connection model

    These games all require an internet connection (unless they can be used with user-hosted servers and you run the server on the local, not Internet-connected LAN) and, because they (can) run the server on a computer that is accessible (not behind any firewall), overcome the problem of not "true" Internet clients (like cradled (ActiveSync) or firewalled-GPRS-connected PPC's).

    There're three sub-categories in here.

    1.1.3.4.1 Games that use a centralized server and can't be used with local servers

    A well-known desktop/Macintosh analogy to this model: a well-known centralized server for desktop Blizzard RTS games is battle.net. (Speaking of Blizzard games, they belong only to this section – there's no battle.net server to be run locally – and the LAN games with one game as a host and others as clients; the clients use LAN multicasting to find the server, exactly as with the games in the 1.1.3.2.1 section.)

    Examples of games of this kind: i-mate, Realdice and DreamQuest titles, Chesscapade, Valentin Iliescu Chess, Intelli Chess (ICC), Olmichess (FICS), Snails 2.6 and (from version 1.6) The Travel Collection.

    These games can't be used (except for The Travel Collection, which also has a direct connection type) when the server is down. They are the easiest to use (along with the games that have native BT connection management – see section 1.1.3.1 for examples of them) because you don't need to enter any server addresses/IP's into any of the PDA's. You just choose Multiplayer and enter the centralized server, where you can look for opponents.

    As these servers are centralized (meaning all users use - at least seemingly - the same server), they have the potential of being able to choose from a lot of opponents. Unfortunately, that's the case only with ICC and FICS chess servers; all the other (listed) games have very few online gamers (if anyone at all).

    1.1.3.4.2 Games that can use both a centralized server and a local server

    Examples: CUBE, Quake I

    They have the best of both worlds: you may have access to a server full of opponents to play and you can also run your own local server if the central server goes down or is laggy.

    As these games not only contain a wired-in (centralized) server address but can also be configured to use another one, in general, they are a bit harder to play. In general, you'll see a server input box in them where you have to enter the server address. An example with the Dan East version of Quake I (see the "Join the game at" text input field):

    click for screenshot

    1.1.3.4.3 Games can only use a local, user-run server

    Examples: CanTris, OmniGSoft titles (note that Cantris can be used in serverless, P2P mode too and the OmniGSoft server can be run right on the PDA, meaning no additional server computer is needed)

    With these games, you must run a server of your own and you must always enter the address of this server in all the PDA's that want to participate in the game(s).

    Now, for the games.

    1.2 Software developers with several MP titles

    1.2.1 Fathammer (a.k.a. Vasara Games)

    This Finnish developer house has produced several multiplatform titles, some of them being MP. Unfortunately, some of their other, really nice games (most notably, Toy Golf – you may also want to read my roundup of PPC golf games to see how cool the Fathammer title is compared to the alternatives) are Dell Axim x51(v)-only and lack multiplayer capabilities.

    I've tested two of their PPC MP games, Stuntcar Extreme 1.0 and Geopod 1.1 (also see this PocketGamer thread on the latter game). As with all the other FatHammer products I've tested (you may also want to read my shoot'm'up roundup (link at the 5. Recommended articles section!) on their AngelFish compared to some other shoot'm'up games), they install themselves in RAM (for example, Stuntcar Extreme into \Program Files\Fathammer\StuntcarExtreme\), even if you explicitly instruct them to be installed elsewhere. All these games can be, however, safely relocated to the File Store/a storage card with a simple file copy and the executable link recreation in \Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Games.

    Fathammer games only have a local, serverless connection model (no IP can be entered) with auto-discovery. If used via BT, you must start BT PAN manually before trying to connect; you don't, however, need to supply IP addresses as clients use multicasting to discover servers. The same stands for Wi-Fi: the Wi-Fi P2P networks must be manually started before starting the game; servers are discovered by multicasting clients.

    Fathammer titles, unlike almost all the other titles, are not compatible with WM5. For example, Stuntcar Extreme 1.0 available from Handango, Clickgamer (or, directly from Fathammer's SCE pages) is not compatible with WM5 (it just doesn't start). Dell's customized version (see this page) is, on the other hand, is; at least with the Dell Axim x51 series.

    Unfortunately, the same stands for Geopod. I don't know a specific WM5/x51 version of it - haven't found anything on Dell's homepage or anywhere else.

    1.2.2 DreamQuest

    They have several multiplatform MP games. These are all AppForge-based; they, therefore, may be quite slow if you play them against the PDA (this is why, for example, their Chess also has a button to interrupt the Artificial Intelligence (AI) computation). Therefore, it's preferable to play them online where the slowness of the AI isn't a problem.

    Its MP model is central server-only. The server even has a HTML front-end here where you'll see how many players there're (in general, not many: between 0 and about 10; many times tested during the DQ tests spanning several days). There're discussion forums in there too (without much usable stuff, though – I could, for example, find nothing on other users' experiences with trying to connect to a PC-hosted game from a PDA).

    The PC versions of their games (you can't host games on the PPC) allow for hosting games on your own PC too (even the trial PC version makes this possible); however, I couldn't connect to them from Pocket PC's because of the trial restrictions.

    There isn't really a point in hosting a game on your PC to avoid the need for direct Internet connection, however, because even then the clients need to have Internet connectivity. The reason for this is the very awkwardly designed Multiplayer menu in all the DreamQuest games: in order to be able to join a locally hosted game, you must go to Multi/Play Online (which requires an Internet connection), and only after the list of the current games having been downloaded can you click the "Use IP" button on this screen. This is very bad design because it makes it impossible to use for example BT PAN or Wi-Fi p2p. And, of course, there is no native BT support.

    Hosting a LAN game is done as described here and here; an example screenshot:

    click for screenshot

    The PPC multiplayer module is severely crippled in that it only allows for joining games, but not creating them, even on the "official" server. For example, the following screenshot has been made after creating a game on my desktop PC (using the nickname 'Entiia').

    click for screenshot

    Note that DreamQuest games used to come in two flawors: Pro and Classic. The latter can't be used for multiplayer gaming.

    As far as WM5 compliance is concerned, I've tested the latest, 6.50 version (released Feb 2, 2006). It seems to work (HTC Wizard screesnhot) - at least in single player mode. I, however, couldn't test its MP capabilities because their central server was down (x51v screenshot).

    1.2.3 i-mate titles

    They're, IMHO, better than the above-mentioned DreamQuest titles in that they're native Pocket PC apps, unlike the Appforge-based DreamQuest games. That is, you won't be upset by the (particularly AI-wise) slow game. Also, their Backgammon title is shipped in the Extended ROM of most? all? i-mate-rebranded WM5 Pocket PC Phone Edition device (as well as with their ROM upgrades). This means if you don't stop the auto-install of the Extended ROM after a hard reset, you will most probably find the i-mate Backgammon on your, say, i-mate k-jam (HTC Wizard) PPC PE device.

    These games use a central Internet server-based only mode.

    You'll see the following screen quite often because of the very few online players:

    click for screenshot

    With some i-Mate games (for example, Pool), you can choose the board you want to join:

    click for screenshot

    while, with others (for example, Checkers), this is done automatically (meaning you can't choose your opponent; however, as there're very few players online, you will almost surely run into your mate if your timing is good):

    click for screenshot

    The server also offers chatting capabilities:

    click for screenshot

    As can be seen on the above screenshot, both players are named "Guest" in here; other i-Mate games are not necessarily the same in this respect. For example, you can define your name in Checkers:

    click for screenshot

    The games work OK, except for the built-in on-screen keyboard, which is very hard to use on VGA devices in some i-Mate games (it only registers taps in the upper left screen quarter with Checkers). With other games (for example, the landscape Pool), however, it works OK.

    Note that while their central server, Club i-mate, doesn't have any trial version game, Handango (and its alternatives) has. This is why I've only provided Handango links and haven't directly linked the i-mate shop, except for Checkers (see below).

    Unfortunately, to register a non-guest account on clubimate.com, you must have an i-mate phone. This means you can play games as guest only if you don't have any genuine i-mate phone. This won't be a problem at most times, however, because there're so few gamers online (if at all) – you'll surely meet your mates if you want to play them and, therefore, not having a distinct nick won't be a problem.

    The i-Mate games (I list them as opposed to the case with DreamQuest; the latter developer has them all in one page):

    1.2.3.1 i-mate Checkers Multiplayer (trial available here)

    1.2.3.2 i-mate Dominoes Multiplayer

    1.2.3.3 i-mate Backgammon Multiplayer

    1.2.3.4 i-mate Number Place

    1.2.3.5 i-mate Blackjack Multiplayer

    1.2.3.6 i-mate Lines Interactive

    1.2.3.7 i-mate Cosmo Interactive

    1.2.3.8 i-mate Filler Multiplayer, 1.1

    1.2.3.9 i-mate Pool Multiplayer

    As far as WM5 compliance is concerned, I've tested the latest, 1.1 version of i-mate Checkers (released Jan 2, 2006). It worked great in a ActiveSync-based x51v vs GPRS-based HTC Wizard setup (x51v screenshot).

    Note that the new chat interface doesn't let for using arbitrary text, just pre-defined ones. This is certainly a problem.

    1.2.4 OmniGSoft

    OmniGSoft, while having a lot of other games (some of them, for example, the 2700g-optimized Chopper Fight, is really worth checking out), only has two MP titles: 3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2f and 3D Mini Dogfight 1.5f.

    Both games use the same OmniGroups networking engine; therefore, they must be used/configured in the same way in MP mode.

    These games have a freely installable and runnable server with even a PPC version. This server can be run in the background, so, you can play and host the server on the same device. This, unfortunately, noticeably slows down the local game (at least the iPAQ 2210 – on a faster device, the slowdown factor is not that high).

    The PPC server (the visual rendition of PC-based server is exactly the same as on the Pocket PC, as is the case with the game) is pretty well configurable (screenshots only taken from Jetfight; Dogfight is pretty similar):

    click for screenshot

    An example screnshot of the main screen, showing user-created games ('ggg' in this case), the IP (you won't need to use other means to look it up if you don't remember it or it arrives via DHCP), the client connection/disconnection reports (see the localhost and PAN login reports!) and even the FPS (frame per second) of the selected user.

    click for screenshot

    In the single player mode, the speed of the two games is very good on all the test devices: on the old, PPC2k2 iPAQ 3660, on the iPAQ 2210, on the VGA PL720 (even without the hacked GAPI driver – with the hacked one, it was, I think, equally fast), on the HTC Wizard and the Dell Axim x51v.

    Over BT PAN (with the server hosted on one of the PPC's), the playability was very good; it's just at peaks of action (for example, shooting) that the gameplay becomes a bit jerky because of the (slight) lag. As with BT PAN, Wi-Fi p2p also works flawlessly.

    Unfortunately, the game doesn't particularly like more than two players - with four of them, even if the Pocket PC game server was hosted on a fast PPC, the game on all Pocket PC's become much slower than with, say, two players only - even over Wi-Fi connections. This is definitely a problem with the game. If you, however, don't plan to play the game with four players all the time, you'll find its speed more than sufficient.

    The games have turned out to be absolutely unplayable over GPRS (as is easy to predict – after all, these are both fast-pace arcade games requiring as little lag as possible). Any PPC connected to the Internet via GPRS trying to access a remote game server crashed at once after displaying the first frame:

    click for screenshot

    It should be pointed out that this is not because of the excessive bandwidth needs of the communication (I've checked the bandwidth usage and it was minimal) but the lag sensitivity.

    I've also tested the interoperability of Jetfight versions 1.1 and 1.2 (if you wanted to play with 1.2 clients using a 1.1 server because the sysadmin haven't upgraded the server to 1.2), including 1.1 servers. Any kind of version mixing (for example, 1.1 vs 1.2 clients) resulted in instant packet error messages. Fortunately, the upgrade to 1.2 is free for 1.1 users. (The same stands for Dogfight upgrades.)

    You may also want to read my roundup of all PPC-based golf games on OmniGSoft's 3D Nine Hole Golf title. Note that an even better version of the review has been published in the April-May issue of Pocket PC Magazine.

    As far as WM5 compliance is concerned, I've tested 3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 between a x51v and a HTC Wizard over USB ActiveSync LAN connections (that is, connecting the two devices to two desktop PC's via ActiveSync). Multiplayer worked flawlessly in this setup on both devices - even the "slow" Wizard (without overclocking).

    Naturally, as these two devices both have the MS BT stack (meaning absolutely no BT PAN support), I couldn't test BT PAN-based multiplayer. In Wi-Fi p2p, they worked just OK.

    A stress-test example screenshot of the server screen, showing the three other Pocket PC's have joined; in-game screenshot, showing the four opponents.

    The latest, .f versions released this February started supporting 240*240 square screens too.

    1.2.5 Infinite Dreams

    Super Miners 1.07 is a great Boulder Dash- and Explode Arena 1.2 a very nice Bomberman clone.

    These (WM5-compliant) games only support native Widcomm BT management. This, unfortunately, also involves their inability to make use of the Microsoft BT stack, which is a pity because some other titles (most notably, Battle Cake and Wontom Poker) have excellent native MS BT stack support, in addition to supporting the Windcomm BT stack.

    With both test Pocket PC's that have the MS BT stack (the x51v and the HTC Wizard), while they work great in single player mode (even the "slow" HTC Wizard), they don't even display (see screenshot here) the multiplayer option, which is present with WM2003(SE) Widcomm devices, as can be seen here.

    As far as Pocket PC's with the Widcomm BT stack is concerned, the games ran flawlessly on the test iPAQ 1940 and 2210 (both come with Widcomm BT stacks). It's, however, impossible to play Infinite Dreams games in MP mode on the Pocket Loox 720 unless you use the compatible BT DLL files that are distributed bundled with Battle Cake. Please read this article for more information on this question and for links to other game developers that may include the necessary, compatible, PL720-friendly DLL's with their game(s).

    Unfortunately, the Infinite Dreams people seem not to bother about this problem – they haven't tried to fix this problem for almost a year (since I've first reported the bug) and, after my having discovered the solution to the problem, haven't answered my mail either.

    I certainly recommend these games – they are pretty addictive, with pretty good retro music. If you need a game with support for more than two players (and you do have that many Widcomm-based Pocket PC's - or, for that matter, MS Smartphone or Symbian S60 devices), Explode Arena will be certainly a very good choice.

    They are much better than PopperZ (the other Bomberman clone) and about equally good as The Great Gold Rush. The latter, however, has much better networking support: it allows for any kind of local networks instead of managing BT connections natively and, therefore, also allow for Wi-Fi p2p networks for Pocket PC's with incompatible – some Widcomm- and all MS BT stack-equipped – devices.

    1.2.6 Mobirate

    They have two MP games (their third, known title, Motogear, doesn't have MP capabilities – only an online ladder): Billiard Master 2 v2.03 and Bowling Master v1.02. They are Widcomm BT-only (no IP/server-based solution). The MP mode is working flawlessly and is very easy to set up. It, however, only supports Widcomm 1.4 and above BT stack versions (no MS BT stack support). This isn't a problem with built-in BT units as WM2003+ devices have exclusively 1.4+ Widcomm BT stacks (it's only the not supported PPC2k2 devices that may have older versions) but will certainly be a problem with CF BT cards that only have old(er) Widcomm BT stacks.

    A screenshot of it finding all BT-enabled devices (even my S-E T610 phone) upon searching for a server:

    click for screenshot

    The only other MP billiard game currently available, the already-introduced i-mate Pool Multiplayer, is diametrically opposed to Mobirate Billiard Master 2, connectivity-wise: it can only be played over the central server (as opposed to the (Widcomm) BT-only approach of the Mobirate title) and isn't a bad game either. Therefore, if you are into MP pool games, you may want to examine both titles, depending on your connectivity needs (local BT vs remote Internet server-based). I'd, personally, prefer the Mobirate title – it's still much faster than the i-mate title (all i-Mate titles use CF .NET; this is why they aren't THAT fast, compared to native C++ programs) and allows for far more precise aiming.

    The multiplayer module of Billiard Master and Bowling Master don't run under MS BT-stack enabled WM5 devices (see this and this). It doesn't run on the WM5 iPAQ hx4700 either. It does, however, run on the Dell Axim x51v with the Widcomm BT stack installed.

    The new, 1.02 version of Bowling Master was released this February; it still doesn't support multiplayer using the MS BT stack. The developers are promising to add support for the MS BT stack, though.

    1.2.7 Realdice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em (Pocket PC), 3.07 and Multiplayer Championship Backgammon 1.1)

    The Realdice titles are of the very few games that receive updates very often and are constantly upgraded/bugfixed. In addition to (unlike, to my knowledge, any other MP titles, except for the new OmniGSoft titles released in Febryary, 2006!) being 240*240 square screen-friendly, they also have a VGA-optimized version with high-resolution graphics. Unfortunately, this also involves being really (on the verge of unplayability!) slow and hard on the battery on some VGA devices - for example, on the Pocket Loox 720. Interestingly, on the Dell Axim x51v, both games run perfectly and I had absolutely no speed problems. On QVGA devices, the slowdown is noticeable (on both the HTC Wizard – i-mate ROM version 2.16.9.1 – and the iPAQ 2210) but not that big a problem as on the Pocket Loox. Before purchasing, you may want to give a try to the games to see whether it runs fast enough on your particular Pocket PC.

    Also, the games are multiplatform: both (current) titles (currently) have Palm OS versions and Poker also has a MS Smartphone and a free (!) desktop Windows clients. (Unfortunately, there are no Symbian versions.)

    Realdice titles all use a central server model. You can register an account right from inside the games; after that, you'll be able to log in. Unfortunately, the games don't support the non-central-server architecture, which is a pity, as the other Backgammon title, the i-mate one, is also central-server-only. LAN and/or generic TCP/IP support would indeed be nice so that you don't have to have an active Internet connection to be able to play.

    The number of the online users when I tested was between 0 and 2. On the next two (Poker and Backgammon) screenshots, there're two and one of them, respectively:

    click for Poker screenshot

    click for Backgammon screenshot

    An in-game (Poker) multiplayer screenshot:

    click for screenshot

    And, two screenshots of the ingame chat; the first is the notification (see the icon in the upper right) and the second is the chat window:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    The on-screen, proprietary keyboard is very slow to use (on all the test devices I've tested it on regardless of the VGA/QVGA or operating system version; the only exception is, again, was the Dell Axim x51v, where it responded instantly) and only has basic cursor movement support (for example, you can't move it). Fortunately, you only need to use it once (upon registering your account and/or logging into the game first); after that, the game remembers the account settings.

    1.3 Chess games (other than the DreamQuest title)


    Unfortunately, few PPC chess games offer multiplayer capabilities. Just a few of them that don't (I've checked these): PocketGrandmaster 2.1 by Clevergames, ChessGenius 1.7 by lang software, Rampart Chess 2.2 by Rampart Software Development, 9 95 CHESS 4.5 by Mobile Digital Media, Majestic Chess 1.5.1 by Boomerang Games and Rooks Revenge 1.0 by ASAP Games.

    Even the ones that do have MP capabilities are severely restricted because they support neither Internet Chess Club (ICC) nor Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), the two most widely used Internet multiplayer chess services. (You may also want to read the following Wiki entries comparing them: ICC and FICS), which is an enormous handicap if you'd like to play strangers and not only your mates (and/or rated games). Unfortunately, as of now, there're no generally usable (meaning no-guest-only or no-PPC2k2-only) FICS/ICC clients for the Pocket PC. Online chess/game servers (if they do work at all) provided by PPC game developers are almost always empty – you won't find anybody to play if you don't make an explicit appointment with your mates.

    If, on the other hand, you only want to play your mates and the lack of the ability to "pick up" unknown/random opponents and/or incompatibility with FICS/ICC is not a problem, the current crop of MP-capable PPC chess games may be sufficient for you.

    1.3.1 A side remark: FICS & Java

    FICS recommends Jin as the preferred FICS client. Its Java applet version is already deployed here:

    click for screenshot

    This is how the same dialog looks on the PDA (using Olmichess on PPC2k2 – see the discussion of Olmichess later):

    click for screenshot

    Unfortunately, the (same) applet doesn't work on the Pocket PC. With both the Java-enabled NetFront 3.2 and PIE with the CrEme 4.1 JVM plug-in, it throws a java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: javax.swing.Jpanel:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    (Incidentally, if javax.swing.Jpanel and all the other needed classes were accessible to the Java plug-in, it would still not work: as the main game window is a top-level frame opened by the same applet, PIE isn't able to render anything and, therefore, without rewriting the code itself, impossible to make the applet PIE-friendly. You may want to read this thread for my explanation of why it's not possible to run applets that open top-level frames in PIE and Thunderhawk. Yes, Thunderhawk doesn't work either.)

    Also see this thread on PPC compliance/plans on an MIDP version.

    1.3.2 Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 by SUPERSCAPE

    This WM5-compliant game only supports a central server-based model; it, generally, works (except when it doesn't – for some days last October, it didn't). It has these MP modes.

    An example screen of finding an opponent and playing him.

    Interestingly, when I tried to connect to the central server via a non-firewalled (!) EDGE connection (from both a WM5 and a WM2003SE PPC), it didn't work. AS-based test connections, on the other hand, worked flawlessly – in all OS'es (incl. WM5).

    1.3.3 Valentin Iliescu's multiplayer chess

    This game is also one of the very few free titles. It only works using an existing MSN Messenger account; therefore, you'll need both an active Internet connection and an MSN Messenger account to be able to use it.

    It's not trivial to run it in multiplayer, especially if you also plan to play the game against desktop (PC) opponents. Therefore, I elaborate on this subject a bit more.

    To start an online game, if the desktop party (in a desktop vs. PDA game) originates the game, the PDA user will need to run MSN Messenger on his/her PDA in the background so that his/her name can be clicked on desktop computers. Also make sure that the second player also logs in (Game/Multiplayer) before the originator starts the game.

    If, on the other hand, a PDA originates, it doesn't need to run MSN Messenger because its user can directly enter the full MSN Messenger (email) address into the PDA (unlike on the destop).

    To sum it up: on the desktop, you must log in to the correct MSN account before connecting. On the PDA, you only need to log in before connecting if you want to play desktop opponents; otherwise, you don't.

    The MSN login screen on the PPC:

    click for screenshot

    and on the desktop PC:

    click for screenshot

    The opponent chooser is different on the two platforms. On the PPC, there's no opponent list:

    click for screenshot

    while, on the PC, there is (listing all the online MSN buddies, not just them that activated the chess client):

    click for screenshot

    If the desktop originates the game, the client will be notified:

    click for screenshot

    Note that many people claim there's a free user database to choose from with the Valentin Iliescu chess – that's certainly not the case (also see the comparison chart!)

    It wasn't able to connect to the server via firewalled GPRS – it just refused to connect, while, with exactly the same settings, it had no problems connecting using the USB cradle. (I've tested this several times, on both test PPC's.):

    click for screenshot

    Verdict: highly recommended (if you don't run into GPRS problems and/or don't try to use it via GPRS).

    1.3.4 IntelliChess 2.7.33 by Intorine

    This game is an Internet Chess Club (ICC) client. ICC-compliance means a lot of online opponents (as opposed to the other tested multiplayer games, except for FICS-compliant ones) – you'll always find opponents (at least if you use the desktop version). As opposed to FICS, this is a commercial service; still, you can give it a test ride (register here).

    Let's elaborate on the differences between the PDA and the desktop version. If you prefer using the PDA version, be prepared for bad news.

    First, if you log in from a PDA client (I've tested this on two of my PDA's, over both GPRS and AS Internet sharing), you will still be invisible if others try to match you (unlike if you try to log in from the desktop ICC client) and you can only log in using a guest account in order to be able to play other people (in both the default "seek" and the "match" mode). This means it's impossible to use your regular ICC account to play games on your PDA.

    Furthermore, the random seek dialog is much worse too: in the desktop version, you can set the rating of your would-be opponent, along with tons of other parameters:

    click for screenshot

    while in the PPC version, you can't:

    click for screenshot

    This makes this client almost useless for serious chess players that would want to play only good opponents and/or play using their own ICC account.

    It has other annoyances which aren't obvious for new users: for example, if you connect to the ChessClub (ICC) server, it automatically switches to Seek mode, meaning it will look for an opponent even without you explicitly instructing it to do so.

    Some other examples:

    This is how matching with a particular user is initiated on the desktop (note that I've already started the game – see the status, lower window – and I've re-chosen Game/Match to show the dialog):

    click for screenshot

    A screenshot of the Match dialog on the PDA:

    click for screenshot

    and a screenshot of playing a PDA-based client (the client having logged in from a guest account and having challenged the desktop-based account) on the desktop:

    click for screenshot

    Verdict: The multiplayer mode of this game is far-far inferior to the desktop version. The guest-only restriction of the PPC version makes this app almost useless. I wish Olmichess (to be introduced below) had WM2003-compatible network access.

    1.3.5 Olmichess 2.61 by OlmiSoft

    OlmiSoft's app supports FICS (Free Internet Chess Server).

    It has a pretty good user interface; for example, built-in suport for even registering on the FICS server:

    click for screenshot

    Also, it has a games and a user list:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    You can, unlike in Intelli Chess, play a rated game; you can set this parameter at inviting another user:

    click for screenshot

    Now for the bad news: it is only compatible with PPC2k2 devices (the latest version was compiled early 2004 when there still were a lot of PPC2k2 devices in use). This means it always connects on my test iPAQ 3660 (PPC2k2):

    click for screenshot

    while it refuses to do the same on my WM2003+ ones (tested on iPAQ 2210 and PL720, even through different Internet connections and setups). Therefore, it seems this game will not work on any WM2003+ device.

    BTW, once you sign in the client (on a PPC2k2 device), you won't be able to sign out. This means all subsequent restarts will result in the game's reentering the server. To help this, just remove the

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\OlmiSoft\OlmiChess\User]

    key from the Registry before restarting the client.

    1.4 Torpedo (a.k.a. Battleship) games

    1.4.1 Handmark Battleship 1.06

    This game supports both IR and TCP/IP; the TCP/IP mode worked flawlessly in a BT PAN and over Wi-Fi p2p. It's also WM5-compliant but has severe problems with the Dell Axim x51v (latest, A06 ROM). Avoid trying to run the game on that device. The WM5 HTC Wizard, on the other hand, runs the game just great.

    click for screenshot

    The remarks here are also worth reading.

    1.4.2 Space Tactics 1.0 by ZIO Interactive

    This very (almost 4 years) old, but even (fully, as opposed to the previously reviewed Handmark Battleship 1.06) WM5-compliant game is pretty similar (but much cheaper - $5.95 vs. $19.95) to the just-discussed Handmark Battleship.

    It also works over LAN (including BT PAN and Wi-Fi p2p); the IP input dialog,

    click for screenshot

    has a very annoying feature: there's no backspace key, you have to start everything from the scratch if you mistap anything.

    An example in-game screenshot:

    click for screenshot

    Some other screenshots: on my WM5 test devices, it worked flawlessly in the AS-connects-to-GPRS situation. Some other examples of this: entering the IP; getting ready for the game.

    1.5 Miscallenous (other) games


    1.5.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 by Handmark

    One of the very few RTS games for the PPC – much better IMHO than the other PPC RTS games (for exampe, Argentum). Supports both TCP/IP and native (Widcomm) Bluetooth-based gaming; worked flawlessly with all my test PPC's. With Microsoft BT stack-based devices, the commection type-chooser dialog isn't shown when you click "Play Multiplayer"; that is, you won't end up having to try to make native BT work in vain. With them, the only way to play MP games is hosting a game on a non-proxied Pocket PC over the Internet (necessiating Internet access with every Pocket PC taking part in the game) or via Wi-Fi P2P games. The latter work flawlessly, even with four players.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much you can set at creating and starting a game – that is, there're no "cooperative team-up/strictly competitive" flags unlike in decent, 2+-player desktop RTS games. You can only choose the map and the game speed:

    click for screenshot

    In BT discovery mode, as with, say, Mobirate titles, it also finds all the discoverable BT devices, which may make setting up a game harder:

    click for screenshot

    Under WM5, it works great on both the x51v (with QVGA resolution only) and the Wizard over TCP/IP connections including Wi-Fi - worked flawlessly in the ActiveSync vs non-proxied GPRS test (the GPRS HTC Wizard hosting the game).

    Another example screenshot, taken during my "maximal number of available users" stress-tests. Excellent playability even with four players.

    1.5.2 CanTris 091002 by Mikko Kankainen

    This free game from Finnish Mikko Kankainen is certainly worth giving a try.

    As it's IP-based (in addition to the native IR support), it's BT PAN- and Wi-Fi ad-hoc capable. As it doesn't have native BT/Wi-Fi connection management, you need to start the BT PAN / ad-hoc Wi-Fi network before connecting. Then, start the server on one device (tap on the screen / 2 Player/ TCP/IP / Start Server) whose IP address you know (2 Player/ TCP/IP / Start Server), while, on the other device, go to 2 Player/ TCP/IP / Client instead, enter the IP address of the other PDA and off you go.

    Because it's IP-based, you can also play remote games, assuming the PDA hosting the game is not behind a firewall or firewalled ActiveSync/GPRS.

    It also supports a portal server model to help the all-devices-behind-firewalls problem (and adding capabilities like high score up/download and opponent choosing). The server must be hosted by the user, though, because Mikko hasn't managed to set up a public server.

    To do this, just get a JVM and start the server with java -jar CanTrisServer.jar. After this, on the (PDA) clients, go to Options/Configuration... and fill in the necessary fields:

    click for screenshot

    Unfortunately, its portal server model isn't working with WM2003+ devices – it shows the message "Could not carry out the requested action. Are you connected to the Internet?". On a PPC2k2 device, however, it works just great:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    The game also supports several older WindowsCE versions/platforms – even old H/PC Pro and PsPC devices. It's also fully WM5-compliant.

    1.5.3 Quartz 2 PocketPC, 1.2 by Elements Interactive BV

    This multiplatform game (also has clients for Symbian S60/S80 and UIQ phones, in addition to MS Smartphone/desktop Windows) supports both TCP/IP (displays the IP in hosting mode) and native (no-need-to-configure) BT. Also, it has a separate, high-resolution (VGA) version - good news for VGA owners.

    The latter (native BT management) didn't work in any Widcomm configuration (even with pre-enabled PAN). Its error handling is very weak: for example, it didn't even display an error message when I was supposed to switch on the BT unit of my PL720 but didn't. It just went on.

    Over a pre-started BT PAN, in TCP/IP mode, it works:

    click for screenshot

    The same stands for Wi-Fi P2P (in TCP/IP mode): then, it works great, even with four players.

    Unfortunately, not even the Microsoft BT stack native support is flawless: the HTC Wizard (tested with both Qtek 1.6.x.x and i-mate 2.16.9.1 ROM's) isn't able to host games (it displays the "Host failed to start" error message), the x51v is. Then, the HTC Wizard was able to find it and play against it.

    Please note that you must explicitly make the server discoverable in BT settings so that clients can find them!

    Note that, under PPC2k2, over a pre-set up BT PAN network (Widcomm 1.3.1), the device still tried to connect to the Dial-Up Networking modem when it tried to access the server. Simply removing the given connection from the Connection Manager helped this problem. I didn't encounter similar problems with WM2003+ versions. Also note that version 1.2 isn't compatible with PPC2k2, only 1.1.

    An example stress-test screenshot and another one. Excellent playability, no slow-downs, even with four players.

    1.5.4 The Great Gold Rush by 4Pockets

    4Pockets, developer of other, excellent titles like Harry Putter's Crazy Golf (see the April-May issue of Pocket PC Magazine for a review), has proved again they make exraordinary games.

    The Great Gold Rush is an excellent game with LAN (BT PAN and Wi-Fi P2P) capabilities. PopperZ (the other Bomberman clone) pale in comparison to this title – it's just much more fun in both single and multiplayer mode. Make sure you give it a try!

    It worked flawlessly in every possible (Wi-Fi / BT) configuration with 3-4 players, except for one PDA: the iPAQ 1940 in BT PAN mode. On the 1940, the incoming (not the outgoing) BT PAN stream is very slow and very laggy - it can lag with several seconds. This is especially true with more than two concurrent BT players but clearly visible with even two players. (While Wi-Fi works just great on even "low-end" devices like the iPAQ 3660 or the HTC Wizard). This also means it's impossible to host games on the 1940 because, then, all games will lag.

    I don't know what this is caused by – the different (Samsung) CPU in the iPAQ 1940? This problem needs a bit more investigation. Nevertheless, I'm sure that, unless you have a iPAQ 1940, you'll find this game really good.

    Note that, in multiplayer, you can only play people with an entirely different copy – that is, you can't just copy your copy over the other Pocket PC's. That is, unlike with most of the other tested games, you can't just deploy your (legal) copy to the other Pocket PC's you want to play with – while they work in single player mode, they will refuse to do the same in multiplayer. However, this game is so fun, particularly in multiplayer mode, that it may be worth purchasing more than one license. Now, I wish all Pocket PC's had so good a D-pad and buttons than the Casio Cassiopeias...

    A stress-test screenshot of the server screen. Flawless gaming even with four players (tested over both Wi-Fi and BT).

    1.5.5 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 by RU0 games

    A typical "scener" game: great music (composed my the Danish ex-demogroup Silents) and a good 3D engine. The multiplayer part is both cooperative (helping each other) and 1v1 (you can fire rockets on the other party). That is, the game can be pretty funny because you are not totally independent of your opponent but, as you play the game on the same field, you can outspeed him/her at attacking enemies and/or picking up power items. Also, by directly tapping the enemy on the screen, you can attack him. This is topped by the extremely good music and the very good Bluetooth compliance.

    This game is a bit harder to configure for multiplayer than other games because it's the only known MP game to utilize Bluetooth serial connections. This means you must supply the BT in and/or and outbound ports to the game in the Options/Bluetooth menu. This is, fortunately, not very complicated.

    As the official multiplayer helper homepage only contains Smartphone-related information, I've written a small tutorial on doing this.

    Relying on serial Bleutooth ports also means the game is compatible with both the Widcomm and the Microsoft BT stacks (and even with some older, rarer BT stacks explicitly supporting BT serial ports but nothing else); this is certainly very good news.

    After setting up the BT serial ports, you can start the game with Play/2P Arcade. You must choose a As Master on one device and As Slave on another. Note that the messages will be pretty strange in here (they are printed on one another) – you will really want to play with this part to learn how it really works.

    A tip: as far as the excellent in-game music is conerned, if you want to listen to it outside the game, there're three non-encoded MOD files (playable by, say, Winamp) in \Program Files\Games\ ModMusic\ (incidentally, this can be relocated to a storage card by editing HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\RU0\Tapz1\moddir in the Registry). Unfortunately, in the game, you can't listen to the music in stereo unlike in, say, Acky's Breakout.

    Also see this review of the game pack of four of RU0Games' titles.

    1.5.6 CUBE

    It's a free First Person Shooter and only runs on 2700g-enabled Pocket PC's (right now, only the Dell Axim x50v and x51v). As it's an OpenGL ES game, it'd run far too slow without Intel 2700g hardware acceleration. That is, currently, it only runs on the Dell Axim x50v/x51v. Note that, contrary to what some say, it runs on the WM5 x51v flawlessly too.

    Unfortunately, I haven't managed to make the multiplayer work between Pocket PC's and desktop clients. I've elaborated on this problem and my findings here. In the comparison chart, therefore, I only supply untested, theoretical information.

    1.5.7 Snails 2.6 by PDAMill

    This otherwise very nice and also WM5-compliant game is only capable of using a manufacturer-provided server – it has no direct/local multiplayer capabilities. Opponents are displayed by their PDA-set username, so, they can be easily found (also because there're very few online players – if at all) and chosen to be played:

    click for screenshot

    Note that the other three notable Worms clones, Worms World Party by JAMDAT (v1.0.4), Asta La Vista Baby by SmartFantasy and Soldier Ants (1.51) don't support any kind of inter-PDA multiplayer (which is a pity for $24.95 of the Jamdat game).

    Unfortunately, the game server seem to having been down for quite a lot time (three weeks at least – while it still worked last November). That is, don't be afraid of the clients exiting in 40-50 seconds after you try to connect to the server by clicking Done on this screen.

    BTW, much as the installer program shows a list of a lot of Pocket PC models, there's still no genuine VGA version.

    1.5.8 RocketElite by Douglas Beck/Digital Concepts

    This really nice game supports TCP/IP-based, serverless multiplayer. A screenshot from setting up the MP game:

    click for screenshot

    (note that the PDA was connected to both the PC through USB and the other PPC via BT PAN; this is why two IP's are displayed at the bottom.)

    Another, ingame (MP) screenshot (two scores displayed for the two players):

    click for screenshot

    Note that the game installs some 180 files; therefore, installing it may be a bit slow to slow File Store/Built-in Storage or unoptimized memory cards.

    Watching the demo (accessible from the main menu) is highly recommended to understand how the game should be played.

    1.5.9 Wyvern client

    This is a Wyvern (it's a graphical Mud-like network) client (really a lot of online users; client/server model-based online-only game). Please also see the official Wyvern homepage; it also has desktop/Java clients and it's here that you must register (guest login is disabled, as opposed to what the PDA tutorial says). The Java application requires JDK 1.4.2, so, it's highly unlikely that it runs on current PPC Java Virtual Machines.

    The PPC-compatible Wyvern client is written/compiled for a much older Java version; therefore, it runs on almost everything. Get the installer CAB file from here (also see this PDA-related page if interested). You can directly install it or just extract the biggest file from it (CAB files are generally ZIP files, so, you can just step into them if you use, for example, Total Commander on your desktop computer) and rename it to anything.jar; for example, wyvern.jar. A breakdown of running the game in different JVM's:

    1.5.9.1 Jeode 1.7.3

    Very slow! Example screenshots:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    (The Java invocation script, assuming both the JVM and the JAR file is in the main memory (it can – and should! – be placed elsewhere, as with all the other JVM's below; I'm still showing RAM-based scripts to provide as easy-to-modify scripts as possible), in the root directory. Please read my tips here on relocating the JVM to the storage card/FS: 255#"\Windows\evm.exe" -cp \wyvern.jar wyvern.client.palm.PalmClient )

    1.5.9.2 Jeode 1.9.3

    (Incidentally, if you use this client, you may want to read my article on making it work from non-RAM memory too; alternative links: iPAQ HQ, AximSite, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox, BrightHand)

    Orders of magnitude faster than the older Jeode 1.7.3 and lacks the bugs (for example, the menu bug) of CrEme:

    click for screenshot

    1.5.9.3 Mysaifu 0.2.3

    As of version 0.2.3 (released 15. Mar, 2006), Wyvern runs under the excellent and what is more, free (!) Mysaifu flawlessly, but comparatively slow (as opposed to earlier Mysaifu versions) in both WM5 and previous operating systems, on both VGA and QVGA devices. (On the former, it's highly recommended to use the device in native VGA mode because even the small fonts are unnecessarily large in standard/SE VGA, while the menu bar on the left and the map itself at the top is already small. On QVGA devices, the GUI is perfectly OK, as can be seen here, here and here.)

    First, get Mysaifu from here. Install the CAB file and, after extracting wyvern.jar from the Wyvern CAB file, copy the latter to your PDA. Then, create a link (command) file with the following contents:

    255#"\Program Files\Mysaifu JVM\jre\bin\jvm.exe" -Xmx5M -cp \wyvern.jar wyvern.client.palm.PalmClient

    (here, change \wyvern.jar if you've placed the JAR file to somewhere else than the main storage. Don't forget to add quotes if the path contains a space; for example, "\Storage Card\wyvern.jar". If you've installed Mysaifu to a memory card/file store, also make sure you modify "\Program Files\Mysaifu JVM\jre\bin\jvm.exe" accordingly. Don't neglect the -Xmx5M parameter – if you don't use it, you won't see anything of the map because of out of memory errors)

    Note that this is the first Mysaifu version to run Wyvern flawlessly; for example, the previous, 0.2.2 version still had a problem: If you bring up a context menu on an inventory item (alternative screenshot here and (WM5) here) the game starts to throw exceptions (alternative WM5 screenshot here) and you won't ever be shown the context menu any more. This made the game useless. Fortunately, the new, 0.2.3 version runs the game flawlessly - albeit a bit on the slow side. CrEme and the latest Jeode versions are far faster - too bad they have far more limited device compatibility.

    1.5.9.4 IBM WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment 5.7.2 - Personal Profile 1.0 (a.k.a. J9)

    Works with decent speed but has a nasty and, as it seems, unfixable bug: about two-thirds of the actions just won't work because tapping doesn't work. In these cases (too), java.io.UnsupportedEncodingException's are thrown in the module that communicates with the server – maybe this is why some server responses just aren't shown (including for example reading the signs):

    click for screenshot

    It has other bugs too: it doesn't insert line breaks in the text at the bottom if you don't explicitly switch to using Large fonts in the Menu (Change Font):

    click for screenshot

    Script: 255#"\Program Files\J9\PPRO10\bin\j9.exe" "-jcl:ppro10" -cp \wyvern.jar wyvern.client.palm.PalmClient

    1.5.9.5 CrEme 4.1

    Orders of magnitude faster than Jeode 1.7.3; at about the same speed as Jeode 1.9.3/IBM J9. If you have a pre-WM5 device, this is the JVM to use.

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    Note that you must follow this tutorial on making it work under the so-called 'TinyAWT'. The default renderer has fatal, menu-related bugs: clicking the Menu icon in the upper left displays the menu for a fraction of second.

    Script: 255#"\Windows\creme\bin\CrEme.exe" -Ob -classpath \wyvern.jar wyvern.client.palm.PalmClient

    1.5.9.6 VGA mode

    In true VGA, the map itself has restricted horizontal dimensions, but, as far as verical screen usage is concerned, you may safely switch to Large Map in Change View:

    click for screenshot

    All the other screens use the higher screen resolution. An example (inventory screen):

    click for screenshot

    Bottom line: currently, you can use the Wyvern client only with either CrEme (if you have a pre-WM5 device), Mysaifu or Jeode 1.9.3 (or any other, "new" Jeode JVM that has much better speed than 1.7.3). If you have a VGA device, you'll want to use the client in native VGA mode, particularly if you run the game under Mysaifu, because of the big characters (albeit the author of Mysaifu has promised to look into the problem. CrEme is also pretty ugly in the standard SE VGA mode - using the native VGA mode is highly recommended with it too).

    You may also want to read these posts/articles on running Java on Pocket PC's.

    Note that I haven't included this client in the comparison chart as it's quite different from the other MP games.

    1.5.10 The Travel Collection 1.6 by pocketadventures.com

    A very good, WM5-compliant Chess / Checkers (aka Draughts) / Reversi (aka Othello) / 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe / 4 In A Row (aka Connect 4) / Dots game. Has everything you need for both single and p2p play.

    As far as plaing the AI is considered, it has a very fast AI – much-much faster than, say, the DreamQuest titles (just compare, for example, the chess module to DreamQuest Chess!). Graphically, and, particularly music/sound effect-wise, its certainly superior to most games (and all chess/board games) in this roundup. Most importantly, the music has been composed by Jason Surguine (aka Jaybot7) and the sound engine also supports stereo playback. Also, on VGA devices, it fills the entire screen (and the screen taps are registered in the right position) in native VGA mode.

    As far as the multiplayer mode is concerned, it supports both IP-based and central server-based gaming. The former worked OK in the BT PAN and Wi-Fi p2p tests. The client/server side (the server displays the local IP):

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    It also supports chatting (which is painfully missing from most of the tested p2p games) with the messages being stored in a list and also displayed in the top left corner of the screen:

    click for screenshot

    click for screenshot

    The central server mode, unfortunately, is only used for finding opponents; the in-game communication, on the other hand, isn't routed through the server. This does have an undoubtedly positive effect on lag/latency/stability, but also means firewalled/ActiveSync-connected clients won't be able to able to play each other if none of the players have direct access to the Net. This may indeed be a problem in cases.

    Some screenshots of central server-based gaming:

    Setting up a game to be a server (the initiator):

    click for screenshot

    The dialog to choose between private (LAN) and a public (server-based) game:

    click for screenshot

    The dialog to name a public game:

    click for screenshot

    The server started to wait for incoming requests:

    click for screenshot

    (Also note that this screenshot shows a firewalled client with "real" IP 80.244.98.76 and local IP 192.168.55.101, the ActiveSync (I needed to use it to take a screenshot of the game) local IP with pre-WM5 devices. In reality, an ActiveSync-connected, pre-WM5 server can never be able to really act as a real server.)

    Finally, this is what the client sees on the central server game list:

    click for screenshot

    Bottom line: this game is certainly the best multiplayer board (Chess / Checkers (aka Draughts) / Reversi (aka Othello) / 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe / 4 In A Row (aka Connect 4) / Dots) game available for the PPC. I wish it had a more firewalled server-friendly central server-based MP mode, though.

    1.5.11 Classic Checkers 2.0 by GameEnergy.com

    This is a central-server only checkers game.

    Compared to the i-mate and the DreamQuest Checkers titles, it may be a better choice (assuming its central server continues to be up) because of the much lower price and lower system requirements/higher speed (no AppForge/CF .NET). However, compared to the absolute killer in the board game category, The Travel Collection, it's certainly a worse buy. The Travel Collection is definitely superior in almost every respect (for example, in-game music) and, for the double price, it also offers five other board games and direct p2p play.

    I've emphasized "assuming its central server continues to be up". When, around the 20th Oct, I've created two new user accounts, it took for them about two weeks (!!!) to be registered. After, however, I've received the verification codes, online games worked OK. This may mean pretty bad server availability – buyer, beware.

    Some example screenshots:

    You can add buddies so that you can play them as soon as they become online (you don't need to communicate the room/board name, unlike in several other, server-based games) – this is definitely a big plus.

    click for screenshot

    After the buddy has accepted the request, he can be directly played:

    click for screenshot

    This is how the MP game starts:

    click for screenshot

    The chat notification is pretty OK:

    click for screenshot

    Upon subsequent logins, fortunately, the login is remembered:

    click for screenshot

    (BTW, these logins/verification codes are all stored in the Registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Game Energy\Checkers\UsernameX and VerificationCodeX if you want to re-setup your accounts and/or you don't want to type much when you re-login after a delayed verification code delivery.)

    1.5.12 Battle Cake 1.1 by HeroCraft HiTech Co. Ltd.

    This natively managed, both Widcomm and Microsoft BT stack-friendly Bluetooth arcade game (no TCP/IP-capabilities) is pretty entertaining, especially when played by more than two players. Read the official homepage for the story/how the game must be played. It can be entertaining in single player mode too – you may really want to give it a try.

    It's a multiplatform title (very few other games have this capability): there're clients for both PPC (PE), Palm OS (5) and Symbian (both S60 and UIQ). That is, if you have some friends with a, say, Nokia 3650 or a Sony P800+, you'll be able to play against them.

    Fortunately, all the bugs of the previous, X-Mas version have been fixed and the game also runs on the Pocket Loox 720 with the additional BT DLL's described here.

    You may also want to check out this review of the game. Note that it has been written before solving the Windcomm incompatibility problems and is, therefore, not up-to-date PL720 compliance-wise. It, however, does have some cool screenshots.

    1.5.13 PopperZ 1.0

    This Bomberman clone seems to be pretty interesting in single player mode where, for example, you can hide in a bush. In multiplayer mode, however, the game is far less exciting than the closest alternatives; most importantly, Gold Rush.

    The game only supports native MS BT stacks; it has no Widcomm support. Also note that it's particularly slow to connect to Pocket PC's with the MS BT stack and, during discovery, it keeps trying to pair with all the available BT units in the vicinity of the PDA's.

    Note that the installer asks "Install to Smartphone" at the end of the installation. Don't uncheck this checkbox – it refers to the Pocket PC. Also, the multiplayer mode is deactivated in the demo version.

    1.5.14 Wontom Poker

    This pretty nice Poker game only supports local natively managed Bluetooth gaming. It, however, supports both the Widcomm and the Microsoft BT stacks and it has absolutely no compatibility problems. Please read this article for more information and a complete comparison to the Realdice Poker title.

    2. Untested and/or IR-only and/or not really MP games

    2.1 Untested because of the lack of a trial version and/or disabled multiplayer mode in demo/trial

    Game authors/developers should not disable the network option in their trial versions (if they release the latter at all) because, this way, it's highly possible I have missed (as with would-like customers) some otherwise great games.

    2.1.1 Bingo, 2.0

    2.1.2 Pocket-Jongg 4.2.net for Pocket PC, 4.2.1


    This seems to have native support for IR and, which is much more important, LAN.

    2.1.7 Touch Poker 1.0.1 by Touchdev Limited


    No trial version. It seems to support local IP-based LAN.

    2.1.4 MicroQuad 1.1


    It seems to be able to be played in the most flexible IP mode (that is, even through BT PAN). I haven't been able to test it because of the trial version – after choosing Multiplayer from the menu, I was presented a screen displaying my IP and the message announcing waiting for other clients. I, however, haven't found a way to actually connect to servers from other PDA's – there were no 'connect to' features anywhere. This must be a restriction of the trial version – dunno because I haven't found any information on the restrictions.

    Unfortunately, according to sponge, the well-known Pocket PC games enthusiast, the best game in the genre, Crazy Kart (version 1.04), doesn't support MP (and is unlikely to get – the int13 folks have been promising it for almost 2 years).

    2.1.5 Pocket Bar Billiards 1.21

    (also see at Handango)

    No trial version. Seems to be IP-based.

    2.1.6 iGolf 1.04 by CECRAFT


    The trial version doesn't have MP capabilities; so, I couldn't test whether they work at all. (The game ran OK even on VGA devices.)

    Note that this is version one (not iGolf2). Its successor, iGolf 2.0, no longer has network multiplayer capabilities.

    You may also want to read this review.

    2.2 "multiplayer on the same device" (no wireless / inter-PDA) titles

    Note that the ports of, on the desktop PC, famous multiplayer games do not necessarily have (decent) multiplayer capabilities. A well-known and often-cited example is Everquest. The (as opposed to Everquest, unofficial) ports of Warcraft I and II (see this PM and this PG threads) don't support multiplayer capabilities either (too bad!) because of the limitations (not only the lack of Battle.net support) of the Stratagus engine). The Pocket PC version of the famous, free, multiplayer, TCP/IP-enabled HellChess (1.2) (also see this PG thread) doesn't have any kind of MP support either, unlike its desktop cousins.

    2.2.1 Scavenger Ride "Signs", 1.0

    2.2.2 Quash

    2.2.3 Mad Marbles, 1.0

    2.2.4 Reversi (Othello) for Pocket PC, 1.3

    2.2.5 Quizland, 1.1

    2.2.6 Pachisi, 1.0

    2.2.7 Bonus Dots Head2Head, 1.5

    2.2.8 Counter Sheep, Second Edition v1.5 from Oz Creations

    (also see this PG review).

    Unfortunately, "Player v's player" in the description only stands for local "multiplayer" capabilties.

    2.2.9 BrickSlider (Pocket PC edition), 2.01

    The authors call the capability of storing multiple player profiles "multiplayer".... argh!

    2.2.10 Simbsoft Volleyball

    and

    2.2.11 Resco Seal Ball (v1.10)

    Much as these two games have no real multiplayer capabilities (the Resco title doesn't have any; the Simbsoft one can be played by 2 players on the same PPC; one with the D-pad, the other with the stylus), I really recommend them because they're just fun.

    15+ years ago, Arcade Volleyball was one of the best MS-DOS multiplayer games. Please see Arcade Volleyball Online and GPL Arcade Volleyball (the latter is a multiplatform remake). Also see acid-play's review; note that this review is seriously flawed: the game is in CGA (not EGA!) and also runs on original PC's/XT's and, to be on the subjective side, deserves far more than 50% (no wonder there're a lot of online versions/remakes!). After all, it was able to make me and my friends play it hours a day back in 1989-1990 :)

    The developers really should add real MP to these games – they certainly cry for it!

    Also see the PPCT threads (Resco, Simbsoft Volleyball).

    Unfortunately, the also great (native VGA)

    2.2.12 Resco Table Soccer

    (as of version 1.21) doesn't support real multiplayer either – it only allows for downloading new stuff from net/ an online hi-score table. And, the same stands for the other Resco titles as well – none of them support MP (xBall (v2.00), GameBox (v1.12), Sudoku (v2.11) , Guardians 1.21 (also see my shoot'm'up roundup at the URL's listed in the 5. Recommended articles section on Guardians).

    Despite what some say,

    2.2.13 MetalShard Pocket War

    (as of version 1.6) supports no true multiplaying; just syncing between the Pocket PC and the desktop to continue the game on the other platform.

    The same stands for games like

    2.2.14 Pocket Mini Golf 2

    – many people think they're inter-PDA multiplayer. That's not the case, unfortunately. Furthermore, iGolf 2.0 no longer has network multiplayer capabilities, as opposed to version 1.0, as has already been pointed out.

    Incidentally, my roundup of all PPC-based golf games also contains information of the other, on-the-same PPC "MP" golf games (ZIOGolf 2, Links 1.0.0, OmniGSoft - 3D Nine Hole Golf 1.0v, iGolf 2, Tiger Woods).

    Please note that the "MP" titles listed, for example, here are not necessarily MP and/or Pocket PC – some of them are Palm OS-only.

    Finally,

    2.2.15 Atomic Cannon

    This game is from the author of Acky's XP Breakout, one of absolutely the best Pocket PC games. This title isn't much worse than Acky's XP Breakout (its soundtrack could be a bit better, though). Unfortunately, it severely lacks any kind of wireless multiplayer capabilities.

    2.2.16 Virtual Pool Mobile

    This game, which is far more spectacular than the two reviewed multiplayer titles (it supports VGA and even the Intel 2700g) should too have multiplayer. (Review here.)

    2.3 IR only – no support for other ways of communication

    2.3.1 Scrabble 1.01

    (also see this PPCT article for a decent review/comparison)

    2.3.2 KSE Backgammon 2.0 by KSE Software

    2.3.3 Microsoft Entertainment PocketPak by Microsoft Corporation


    Three of these games (Hearts, Reversi and Sink the Ships) are IR-enabled (the others aren't). No other MP capabilities are present. Also see this SemperAptus review.

    2.3.4 Exit Nights

    It only supports IR; not any kind of TCP/IP / serial connection is possible. I've tested multiplayer between the PL720 and the iPAQ 2210; it worked flawlessly (albeit a bit slow and with very short range).

    (Incidentally, this game suffers from the same problem as Fade, the megahit of the same company: it installs some 700 (!) files. Therefore, installing it to the RAM is definitely not recommended (possible speed problems). The same stands for the File Store/Built-in Storage (not to lock it with excessive write operations). Furthermore, you may end up waiting a LOT if you install it to an unoptimized storage card. Please read this (or, alternatively, this) thread on optimizing storage card speed.)

    2.3.5 The four games from Webfoot Technologies

    (Beamable Gin Rummy, Beamable Checkers, Beamable Chess, Beamable Backgammon).

    As they have no trial versions and their descriptions only mention IR support (and nothing else), I've excluded them from the test. Unfortunately, their homepage is still "coming soon".

    2.3.6 Pocket Rockets Pro by BigSlick

    A poker game with even PPC2k (SH3/MIPS) support and priced at $4.95; too bad it only supports IrDA.

    2.4 Announced as MP games but not released yet

    Unfortunately, the long-announced

    2.4.1 Tactical Incursion from Xen games

    has still not been released.

    2.4.2 The IMAGiNET

    MP games (one of them would be an interesting fighter games a'la Street Fighter 2) announced over half a year ago have not been released yet either.

    Pocket PC Studios known for their, for example, Warlords II and Ancient Evil, is working on their (TCP/IP) MP-enabled title

    2.4.3 Europa Universalis II

    for over half a year. Hope it'll be released soon!

    2.4.4 Ballshooter Games' Caramba! Caribbean Pirates

    has not been released in the last 1.5 years.

    2.4.5 Lands of Shadowgate from Infinite Ventures

    (not to be mistaken for Shadowgate Classic!) – not touched for the last 1.5+ years. It'd be, however, just a Play-by-Sync "MP" mode, as opposed to what some people say.

    2.4.6 Hooverz from Elements Interactive Games

    This game seems to be pretty promising. Given that Quartz 2 (and other Elements Interactive titles) have proved to be pretty good, I don't think this title will be a letdown either.

    2.5 Stopped being developed/hosted

    2.5.1 Jake Poznanski's Pocket Game Network


    has been put on hold since its introduction two years ago.

    2.5.2 Buglord

    The only version released from this game, 1.0, contained a disabled multiplayer menu. The developer promised they would also deliver multiplayer capabilities in subsequent versions/ expanstion packs. Unfortunately, they have went out of business shortly thereafter and, therefore, there were no updates at all. This is a pity because the game was really good.

    2.6 Non-working and/or haven't had the time to fine-tune it


    2.6.1 GridBloc Game - Wi-Fi / WirelessPPC edition, 1.37



    This game requires Macromedia Flash Player 6 for Pocket PC (or 5 – I haven't tested the game with that Flash version).

    First, when you click the GridBloc link in Start Menu/Programs/Games, it invokes GridBloc.exe, which starts Pocket Internet Explorer. The Flash file, PATH\GridBloc\GridBloc.swf, however, doesn't load. Fortunately, if you click HOME\GridBloc\GridBloc.html (or, from Netfront, via File/Local files), it will be loaded. However, none of my test PDA's / configurations was it able to connect from – probably, the network server is down.

    2.6.2 MobileChess 2.0 from ID Gaming


    It's another FICS chess client costing $24.95, last touched in early 2002 and having, in theory, pretty nice capabilities.

    A login screen screenshot:

    click for screenshot

    Unfortunately, the game doesn't seem to work – even tested on a PPC2k2 device to find out whether it's suffering from the same problem as Olmichess. I've tested over USB and GPRS and to both the US and the German server:

    click for screenshot

    Incidentally, I've looked around in the installed system files to find out if they have the server address wired-in. I have only found (numerous) references to http://www.pocket-games.com/account/chess/ (which responded to my HTTP requests, certainly showing that it's waiting for a dedicated client to connect) in ArmChess.exe. As it didn't find the (outdated and no longer working – FICS uses http://www.freechess.org/cgi-bin/Register/FICS_register.cgi instead for registering; keep this in mind if you try to register a FICS account using the "FREE REGISTRATION" button from inside the game!) string 'http://www.freechess.org/Register/FICS_register.cgi' either, the server address(es) aren't stored in easily checkable/hackable textual form. Therefore, without using dedicate network packet sniffing tools, it's impossible to say why this client isn't working.

    2.6.3 Dan East's Pocket Quake I


    I, after spending some hours on it, haven't been able to make this game work in multiplayer mode. It can definitely be played over the Internet; there are (were? Neither of them worked when I tested) even dedicated PDA Tournament edition servers (requiring the Tournament Edition of Pocket Quake (also see this PM thread on it) to connect).

    By themselves (and without using the Tournament Edition), these games are only able to be played in multiplayer with a PC-based server. Also see this forum. I haven't tested this functionality.

    Note that Quake I (and, prolly, Pocket Quake II, also accessible here) runs even in 320*240 Landscape mode quite smoothly (with stereo sound) – even on VGA devices. Please note that you should download PocketQuake Launcher (PQL) to be able to easily switch between screen orientations/ sizes, without having to modify the configuration file yourself. The screen size can be set in this app after pressing the More button; also, it's in this dialog that you need to define the executable of PocketQuake.

    Furthermore, to be able to run Q1 on VGA devices, you'll need this fix – just overwrite the old EXE file with it. Note that you'll lose the GUI, but at least you'll have the game screen. (See this thread for the source-level explanation and this thread for the fix itself.)

    Note that Pulse Interactive's (also see their Championship Hearts and Championship Spades) are now distibuted as DreamQuest games.

    2.6.4 Quake Mobile 1.2

    This game still has no multiplayer capabilities and, given that the author last released a new version some 5 months ago (in early December 2005), it's highly unlikely to get any. Please read the linked blog entry for more information.

    2.6.5 Noctem Entertainment's Quake 3 1.1b

    Unfortunately, it didn't run on any of my test Pocket PC's. Please read the linked blog entry for more information.

    You may also want to read Hosting a Quake 3 server on the Pocket PC.

    3. The Main Comparison Chart


    It can be found both here and as inline:
  • Game: Developers with more than one product: Infinite Dreams titles OmniGSoft titles (3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 and Dogfight 1.5) Fathammer titles Mobirate titles RealDice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em 3.07 and Backgammon 1.1 ) i-mate titles DreamQuest titles Chess games (in addition to the DreamQuest title): Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 Valentin Iliescu Chess Intelli Chess 2.7.33 Olmichess 2.61 Battleship games: ZIO Space Tactics 1.0 Handmark Battleship 1.06 Game: Misc titles: Quartz 2 1.2 RocketElite 2.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 CUBE CanTris Snails 2.6 Game: The Travel Collection 1.6 Classic Checkers 2.0 The Great Gold Rush PopperZ 1.0 Battle Cake 1.1 Wontom Poker
    Misc : PriceBoth $9.95Both $19.95 $11... $19.95Both $14.95 $14.95$14.95...$19.95; Backgammon comes free with i-mate phones/ROM upgradesAll $19.97 $18.00free$24.95$14.95$5.95$19.99 Misc : Price$6.95$18.99$29.99$11.95freefree$19.95 Misc : Price$9.95$5.95$14.95$12.99$14.95$19.95
    Genre & addictivity / replayability/ recommendationArcade / one on one; highly recommended for Widcomm users!Flight simulator - one on one shooter like the old (1991) F29 Retaliator on the PC or ACE2 on the C64; pretty good over BT PAN or Wi-Fi P2PRacing games (one on one), very good over BT PAN or Wi-Fi P2P, even on outdated Pocket PC's like the iPAQ 36xx seriesBilliard/ bowling; I found the billiard game fun when played in one on one modeAs far as Poker is concerned, it's the best MP poker game. If you're into the genre, you will want to give it a try, esp. if you have a VGA device. The Backgammon title is quite good too (esp. on VGA or 240*240 square screens), but not necessarily better than the especially on VGA devices speed-wise far superior i-mate Backgammon . The latter lacks direct support for the VGA / resolution / square screens though.Mostly card/board games and a pool (billiard) one. The latter is pretty cool in MP. (See my remarks on the comparison to the Mobirate pool game!) Being non-Appforge-based, much faster games than the DreamQuest titles.These are the games that I like the least. They're pretty slow (Appforge!) and the LAN networking model could be betterYou may like it - check out its capabilities.Recommended: multiplatform, always working and free. No central database though.Not recommended as yet: only guest ICC account and other severe bugs; therefore, useless for serious gaming.Highly recommended if you have a PPC2k2 device; otherwise, forget it. One on one; if you like battleship/torpedo games, I recommend this over the Handmark title because of the much lower price tagone on one Genre & addictivity / replayability/ recommendationArcade Bejeweled-clone; parallel game; recommended for BT PAN/native MS BT stack or Wi-Fi P2P usersArcade; Highly recommended if you liked, for example, Choplifter, Lunar Lander or Fort Apocalypse on old 8-bit platforms. Great sounds/visuals. For BT PAN or Wi-Fi P2P users.RTS one on one; highly recommended if you are not a hardcore RTS fan (meaning very high, Starcraft/ Warcraft III-level expectations); BT PAN, Wi-Fi P2P, Internet and native Widcomm BT support.Arcade; one on one/ cooperative game with great scener music; runs on everything supporting BT serial ports (even very old/odd BT stacks)FPS, one on one; if you like FPS games and have an x50v/x51v, this is the game to go forTetris; parallel play, which is not as fun as one-on-one games; still, worth a try. Works over BT PAN, Wi-Fi P2P, IR, InternetTurn-based Worms clone; one-on-one, highly recommended. Server is often offline though. Genre & addictivity / replayability/ recommendationSix board games (incl. chess); highly recommended! Internet- and LAN-based MP gaming.Checkers; Better than the i-mate and the DreamQuest Checkers titles; inferior to The Travel CollectionArcade, played on the same field and, therefore, 1v1-like; very enjoyable! Highly recommended for BT PAN (no support for MS BT stack) or Wi-Fi P2P users.Arcade, definitely weaker than The Great Gold Rush; recommended for MS BT stack users only.Nice multiplatform native Widcomm + MS BT arcade game with several players at the same time; highly recommended Nice multiplatform native Widcomm + MS BT Poker game – a complementer, in this respect, to the Poker game from Realdice.
    Main RAM memory consumptionCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsMust be explicitly copied from the RAM to a storage card after installationCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan all be installed on cards, only the 60k TransportMgr.dll is installed into \WindowsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cards Main RAM memory consumptionCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cards; the only file that remains after uninstall is \Windows\ customer.infCan be entirely installed on storage cardsInstalls 3 .mod files (308k) into \Program Files\ Games\ ModMusic\ (relocatable via registry!)Can be entirely installed on storage cardsOne 181k .EXE; can be anywhereCan be entirely installed on storage cards Main RAM memory consumptionCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cardsCan be entirely installed on storage cards1.9M; can be entirely installed on storage cards
    Number of maximal players in a game2 (Super Miners), 4 (Explode Arena)Many players (but they will slow down the game considerably!); new players can leave/join games any time22Several with Poker, two with Backgammon2 with 2-player games like Checkers and Pool; more with card games2 (for example, Chess) to more222222 Number of maximal players in a game4242many22 Number of maximal players in a game224468
    MP game typecooperative / 1v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v11v1 MP game typeparallel Parallel1v1 only at the timeParallel + 1v1 (same field)Cooperative (?)/1v1Parallel1v1 MP game type1v11v1Parallel/1v1 (same field)1v1 and two team modes for more than two players1v1/team (as of the new, 02/2006 version)1v1
    In-game chat----++?-?+--- In-game chat----??- In-game chat++--- (no need - it’s local only)
    Game: Developers with more than one product: Infinite Dreams titles OmniGSoft titles (3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 and Dogfight 1.5) Fathammer titles Mobirate titles RealDice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em 3.07 and Backgammon 1.1 ) i-mate titles DreamQuest titles Chess games (in addition to the DreamQuest title): Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 Valentin Iliescu Chess Intelli Chess 2.7.33 Olmichess 2.61 Battleship games: ZIO Space Tactics 1.0 Handmark Battleship 1.06 Game: Misc titles: Quartz 2 1.2 RocketElite 2.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 CUBE CanTris Snails 2.6 Game: The Travel Collection 1.6 Classic Checkers 2.0 The Great Gold Rush PopperZ 1.0 Battle Cake 1.1 Wontom Poker
    Operating system compliance (other than WM2003(SE) on the PPC), including other platforms: PPC2k (non-ARM)?--------+---+ Operating system compliance (other than WM2003(SE) on the PPC), including other platforms: PPC2k (non-ARM)?-++-n/a+- Operating system compliance (other than WM2003(SE) on the PPC), including other platforms: PPC2k (non-ARM)?-+----
    PPC2k2?-++; both games work great over BT PAN + autodiscovery---+++++++ (BT PAN + host IP enter works OK) PPC2k2?+ (WM2003 and PPC2k2 versions are separate downloads)++ (native BT)+n/a++ PPC2k2?+ (BT PAN, host IP entered)++; works great over both BT PAN and Wi-Fi P2P---
    WM5?++- (!)+++++++(+)+? (problems on x51v A06; works OK on Wizard) WM5++ (in Wi-Fi p2p MP mode, really slow on the Wizard and, albeit there's connection and the enemy ship is also displayed, constantly displays "NO CONNECTION" in the center of the screen. In single player, worked OK)++n/a++ WM5++++++
    Multiplatform? If yes, can be played against other platforms?+ (Symbian S60/90/UIQ / Smartphone / Palm) /+ (Symbian S60 and Smartphone only) + (PC) /++ (Symbian S60/UIQ) / Smartphone / Gizmondo/ Tapwave)/ +-+ (Palm OS and, with Poker, also MS Smartphone and desktop Windows; the latter is free) / +-+ (Symbian / Palm / PC) / +-+ (Smartphone / PC) /+- --- Multiplatform? If yes, can be played against other platforms?+ (Symbian S60/S80, UIQ, MS Smartphone, Windows desktop) / +-+ (Palm) / +-+ (PC) / ++ (PC, PsPC, H/PC) / ++ (Smartphone / H/PC / PC / Palm) / + (PC) Multiplatform? If yes, can be played against other platforms?-+ (PC)/+--+ (Symbian S60/90/UIQ / MS Smartphone / Palm OS5)/+-
    Game: Developers with more than one product: Infinite Dreams titles OmniGSoft titles (3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 and Dogfight 1.5) Fathammer titles Mobirate titles RealDice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em 3.07 and Backgammon 1.1 ) i-mate titles DreamQuest titles Chess games (in addition to the DreamQuest title): Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 Valentin Iliescu Chess Intelli Chess 2.7.33 Olmichess 2.61 Battleship games: ZIO Space Tactics 1.0 Handmark Battleship 1.06 Game: Misc titles: Quartz 2 1.2 RocketElite 2.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 CUBE CanTris Snails 2.6 Game: The Travel Collection 1.6 Classic Checkers 2.0 The Great Gold Rush PopperZ 1.0 Battle Cake 1.1 Wontom Poker
    Networking model: bird's-eye viewNative (Widcomm-only) BT LAN server-based; server can be hosted on both PPC's and PC's. No central server / native BT / other means.BT PAN/ Wi-Fi P2P LAN-only with auto-discoveryBT native auto-discoveryCentral serverCentral server-basedCentral server-based (LAN couldn't be tested)Central server-basedCentral server-basedCentral server-basedCentral server-basedTCP/IP, IRTCP/IP, IR Networking model: bird's-eye viewTCP/IP; native (MS) BTTCP/IP, IRTCP/IP; native (Widcomm) BTSerial BTTCP/IP with standalone PC-based LAN serverTCP/IP, IR Central server Networking model: bird's-eye viewTCP/IP + central serverCentral serverLAN (BT PAN/ Wi-Fi P2P) with autodiscoveryNative (MS-only) BTNative (MS, Widcomm) BT Native (MS, Widcomm) BT
    Networking model: thorough elaboration: Serial BT support------------- Networking model: thorough elaboration: Serial BT support---+; works great with all the BT-enabled devices--- Networking model: thorough elaboration: Serial BT support------
    Native IR support-----------++ Native IR support-+ and even serial ports; choosable serial port (usable any serial port under COM5)---+- Native IR support------
    Native BT support (if present): MS BT stack compliance and tests?-n/an/a-n/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/a Native BT support (if present): MS BT stack compliance and tests?+n/a-n/tn/an/an/a Native BT support (if present): MS BT stack compliance and tests?n/an/an/a+++
    Widcomm BT stack compliance and tests?+ (add-on BT DLL's needed with some devices)n/an/a+ (1.4+ only!)n/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/a Widcomm BT stack compliance and tests?-n/t+n/tn/an/an/a Widcomm BT stack compliance and tests?n/an/an/a-+ (add-on BT DLL's needed with some devices)+
    If it natively supports the Widcomm stack, is it x51v + Widcomm compliant?+ (with hacked DLL's)n/an/a+ (BTW, on the WM5 iPAQ hx4700, it doesn't even start)n/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/a If it natively supports the Widcomm stack, is it x51v + Widcomm and iPAQ hx4700 WM5 compliant?-n/t+ n/t (BTW, on the WM5 iPAQ hx4700, it doesn't even start)n/an/an/a If it natively supports the Widcomm stack, is it x51v + Widcomm compliant?n/an/an/a-- (not even with changed DLL's) n/t
    Is it fully automatic (no need for pre-pairing)?+ (finds servers automatically, no need for BT pre-pairing)n/an/a + (finds servers automatically (no IP input is needed) if the PAN is manually started; also works over Wi-Fi because of generic multicast discovery)+n/a-------- Is it fully automatic (no need for pre-pairing)?+ (MS only)-+ (finds automatically, no need for pre-pairing)+ (no IP entry is needed; however, serial ports must be set and the two PDA's preferably paired before the game)--- Is it fully automatic (no need for pre-pairing)?--n/a+ (everything is automatic, even enabling the BT unit)+ (finds clients automatically, no need for BT pre-pairing)+
    Game: Developers with more than one product: Infinite Dreams titles OmniGSoft titles (3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 and Dogfight 1.5) Fathammer titles Mobirate titles RealDice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em 3.07 and Backgammon 1.1 ) i-mate titles DreamQuest titles Chess games (in addition to the DreamQuest title): Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 Valentin Iliescu Chess Intelli Chess 2.7.33 Olmichess 2.61 Battleship games: ZIO Space Tactics 1.0 Handmark Battleship 1.06 Game: Misc titles: Quartz 2 1.2 RocketElite 2.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 CUBE CanTris Snails 2.6 Game: The Travel Collection 1.6 Classic Checkers 2.0 The Great Gold Rush PopperZ 1.0 Battle Cake 1.1 Wontom Poker
    Non-native, TCP/IP LAN-based tests/info (if supported): LAN Wi-Fi p2p test (PL720, iPAQ 2210 / iPAQ 3660 + SanDisk Connect Pro, HTC Wizard, Dell Axim x51v)n/a (no TCP/IP support)+; tested on four devices at the same time; works great+; worked great in every tested combinationn/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)++ Non-native, TCP/IP LAN-based tests/info (if supported): LAN Wi-Fi p2p test (PL720, iPAQ 2210 / iPAQ 3660 + SanDisk Connect Pro, HTC Wizard, Dell Axim x51v)+ (tested with four test devices at the same time)++; auto-discover over both Wi-Fi and BT LAN (no IP entering necessary); tested with all the test PDA'sn/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a+n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support) Non-native, TCP/IP LAN-based tests/info (if supported): LAN Wi-Fi p2p test (PL720, iPAQ 2210 / iPAQ 3660 + SanDisk Connect Pro, HTC Wizard, Dell Axim x51v)+n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)+; tested with up to 4 Wi-Fi devices; worked OKn/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP support) n/a (no TCP/IP support)
    LAN BT PAN test (PL720, iPAQ 1940, iPAQ 2210, iPAQ 3660 + Widcomm 1.3.1)n/a (no TCP/IP support)+; tested on three devices at the same time; works great+; worked great in every tested combinationn/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)++ LAN BT PAN test (PL720, iPAQ 1940, iPAQ 2210, iPAQ 3660 + Widcomm 1.3.1)+ (over a manually set-up BT PAN)++n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/t (doesn't run on non-2700g devices)+n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support) LAN BT PAN test (PL720, iPAQ 1940, iPAQ 2210, iPAQ 3660 + Widcomm 1.3.1)+n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)+; worked great in all cases, except for the iPAQ 1940n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP support) n/a (no TCP/IP support)
    LAN discovery to avoid having to enter the server's local IP into clients?n/a (no TCP/IP support)-+n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)+- LAN discovery to avoid having to enter the server's local IP into clients?- (but, at least, stores previously entered server IP's, up to 5 addresses)-+n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/t-n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support) LAN discovery to avoid having to enter the server's local IP into clients?-n/a (no TCP/IP LAN support)+n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (no TCP/IP support) n/a (no TCP/IP support)
    Non-LAN TCP/IP-based tests/info: Non-LAN, fully TCP/IP-based, central server-less P2P: supported?n/a (no TCP/IP support)+ (but unplayable over laggy connections) n/a (no non-LAN support with arbitrary IP addresses; only LAN discovery supported)n/a (no TCP/IP support)- (central server only)- (central server only)- (central server only)- (central server only)- (central server only) - (central server only)- (central server only)++ Non-LAN TCP/IP-based tests/info: Non-LAN, fully TCP/IP-based, central server-less P2P: supported?+++N/A?+- (central server only) Non-LAN TCP/IP-based tests/info: Non-LAN, fully TCP/IP-based, central server-less P2P: supported?+- (central server only)n/an/a--
    General TCP/IP: Does the host display its IP address (if the game is not using a central server-based model)?n/a (no TCP/IP support)+n/a (no non-LAN support with arbitrary IP addresses; only LAN discovery supported)n/a (no TCP/IP support)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)n/a (central server only)-- General TCP/IP: Does the host display its IP address (if the game is not using a central server-based model)?+n/t+ (over LAN, it also has auto-discovery)n/an/a+n/a (central server only) General TCP/IP: Does the host display its IP address (if the game is not using a central server-based model)?+n/a (central server only)n/an/an/an/a
    Game: Developers with more than one product: Infinite Dreams titles OmniGSoft titles (3D Mini-Jetfight 1.2 and Dogfight 1.5) Fathammer titles Mobirate titles RealDice titles (Multiplayer Championship Poker - Texas Hold'em 3.07 and Backgammon 1.1 ) i-mate titles DreamQuest titles Chess games (in addition to the DreamQuest title): Chesscapade 1.52sv1.24 Valentin Iliescu Chess Intelli Chess 2.7.33 Olmichess 2.61 Battleship games: ZIO Space Tactics 1.0 Handmark Battleship 1.06 Game: Misc titles: Quartz 2 1.2 RocketElite 2.1 Warfare Incorporated 1.2 TapzMania: Bug Killer 1.01 CUBE CanTris Snails 2.6 Game: The Travel Collection 1.6 Classic Checkers 2.0 The Great Gold Rush PopperZ 1.0 Battle Cake 1.1 Wontom Poker
    If it supports the central server model: manufacturer-provided Internet server (or local one?)----++++++; ICC accounts don't seem to work in the PDA version!+; FICS-compatible! - only on PPC2k2-- If it supports the central server model: manufacturer-provided Internet server (or local one?)----+ and a server run on a PC-; no public server available; runs flawlessly on the desktop PC; PPC2k2 only!+ If it supports the central server model: manufacturer-provided Internet server (or local one?)++n/an/a--
    Your own server on your desktop?-+, even on the PDA----------- Your own server on your desktop?----++ (Java-based - therefore, prolly runnable even on a PPC)- Your own server on your desktop?--n/an/aN/A n/a
    Cradle vs firewalled (!) GPRS (TCP/IP) testn/a (no TCP/IP support)- (unplayable over laggy connections)n/a (no non-LAN support with arbitrary IP addresses; only LAN discovery supported)n/a (no TCP/IP support)++? (couldn't test because of trial restrictions; others reported it works OK)- (didn't connect over EDGE/GPRS; did connect, however, via two AS Internet pass-throughs it worked flawlessly)- (didn't work over GPRS)- (has only managed to challenge desktop-logged opponents)+ (a cradled PPC2k2 device vs a desktop PC)N/AN/A Cradle vs firewalled (!) GPRS (TCP/IP) testn/tN/AN/AN/A?+ (PPC2k2 only!)+ Cradle vs firewalled (!) GPRS (TCP/IP) test- (physically, it uses p2p communication for gaming)+n/an/aN/A n/a
    If there's a manufacturer-provided server, average number of available opponents at a given time?N/AN/AN/AN/ANot many - between 0...2 during the testVery fewVery few (between 0 and 15) - for example, I've never seen any Chess playersNever seen anyone elseYou can't play strangers, only your MSN buddies Hundreds of themReally a lot -after all, it's FICS!N/AN/A If there's a manufacturer-provided server, average number of available opponents at a given time?N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/ANever saw anyone else than me If there's a manufacturer-provided server, average number of available opponents at a given time?haven't seen anyone except mehaven't seen anyone except men/an/an/a n/a
    Opponents choosable on the server?N/A+ (named games freely joinable)N/AN/A+-+; opponents listed+++ (to a certain degree)+N/AN/A Opponents choosable on the server?N/AN/AN/AN/A+++ Opponents choosable on the server?++ (decent solution - buddy list)n/an/aN/A n/a
    Other server-side goodies (ranking system, saved high scores)N/A-N/AN/A+ Chat, named accounts (the latter only available for i-mate device owners!)?+ (ranks?)-+; a complete ranking system (useless from a PDA because of the restrictions/ bugs); chat notification working even on the PDA (blinking letter icon)+ ranking system; no ingame chat, unlike with Intelli Chess!N/AN/A Other server-side goodies (ranking system, saved high scores)N/AN/AN/AN/A?+; very good! (PPC2k2 only!)- Other server-side goodies (ranking system, saved high scores)-?n/an/aN/A n/a


    Explanation of the chart:

    Misc group: a lot of unrelated remarks that I didn't want to put in a separate group, one-by-one.

    Genre & addictivity / replayability/ recommendation : what is the genre of the game? Do I recommend it?

    Main RAM memory consumption : can you install the game entirely onto storage cards? Does it leave/install any files in the RAM / main storage memory? Fortunately, except for Fathammer titles, there're no main memory-hungry apps. (And, as has already been pointed out, Fathammer games can be directly copied to a memory card with a file copier after the installation).

    Number of maximal players in a game : The more, the better/more flexible (think of teaming up in RTS games like Blizzard titles!) with some genres. The number of maximal players is, of course, two with traditionally two-player games (checkers, chess). With arcade or RTS games, it may be bigger, however, letting even more players participate in the game, making it even more challenging.

    MP game type: do the players play each other (as with "traditional" games like chess) or, do they just play parallel, without making any impact on the game of the other player (except for finishing the game earlier). Naturally, parallel games (for example, CanTris, Quartz 2, and RocketElite) may not be as fun as one vs one games.

    Furthermore, if the game supports more than two players, I've also checked whether these players are able to team up (like in any decent MP RTS or First-Person Shooter (FPS, not to be mistaken for Frames Per Second) game) and to form groups, by adding a lot of additional flexibility to the multiplayer game. Unfortunately, only few of the more-than-two-player games support teaming up – for example, PopperZ.

    In-game chat: A decent multiplayer game (especially if it's not just a local BT-only game - if run on BT, you can still speak to the other player because of the small distance) should also contain chatting/messaging capabilities. Unfortunately, even a lot Internet-based games lack this capability (and BT-only games completely). This is particularly a pain in the back in the case of Warfare Inc. because it makes it impossible for teamed up players to talk to each other in the same group (not that it contained any kind of game-level team support).

    Operating system compliance (other than WM2003(SE) on the PPC), including other platforms group: everything related to operating system compliance, ranging from the earliest Pocket PC models with the Pocket PC (2000) operating system thorugh the next, Pocket PC 2002 (PPC2k2 for short) operating systems, WM2003, WM2003SE and, finally, WM5. As WM2003 and WM2003SE is supported by all games (except for the PPC2k2 only Olmichess), I haven't dedicated separate rows for these operating systems.

    Incidentally, as far as the PPC2k2 compliance is concerned, this and this screenshots are worth checking out. They show all the (non-chess) games. Games that have "empty" icons are not compatible with PPC2k2.

    Note that I haven't dedicated a separate row to VGA compliance either. All the tested games are compatible with VGA devices – some of them (for example, The Travel Collection) even in native (not "just" SE/standard) VGA.

    Multiplatform? If yes, can be played against other platforms?: does the game have ports/versions in other mobile (or desktop) operating systems? If yes, are they too multiplayer-enabled and can the platforms communicate with each other? The more platform supported MP-wise, the better – you can play, for example, your friends with Symbian mobile phones/Palm PDA's like with the Infinite Dreams, DreamQuest titles or with Warfare Inc.

    Networking model: bird's-eye view group: summarization of the long section that follows.

    Networking model: thorough elaboration group: the networking model scrutinized. Please note that, in here, italic has been used to denote subgroups inside the highest-level "Networking model" group.

    Serial BT support : does the game support Bluetooth serial communication? As has already been pointed out, support for Bluetooth serial would be very nice in the games because it'd offer by far the best compliance with all the available Bluetooth hardware/BT stacks. Unfortunately, only TapzMania supports this technology.

    Native IR support : does the game natively support infrared communication? Some older titles do; newer (which prefer other wireless technologies) don't.

    Native BT support (if present): subgroup: if the given game supports native Bluetooth management, its compliance with the two industry-standard Bluetooth stacks: Widcomm and Microsoft. In "Is it fully automatic (no need for pre-pairing)?", I've scrutinized whether automatic BT management works between previously non-paired devices too. It's also here that I elaborated on the Dell Axim x51v + Widcomm BT stack hack (and some WM5 iPAQ hx4700; note that I haven't been able to run the latter myself and this is why I haven't made fully-fledged tests) compliance info. Please read this article for more information on installing the Widcomm BT stack on the Dell Axim x51v.

    Non-native, TCP/IP LAN-based tests/info (if supported): subgroup: if the game supports hosting games on a PDA and entering arbitrary IP's to the clients so that they can connect to the host OR the clients/server use LAN multicasting to discover servers/clients, it's LAN capable. In this subgroup, I've elaborated on this, with real-world (both BT PAN and Wi-Fi p2p) tests.

    LAN discovery to avoid having to enter the server's local IP into clients?: if played over a LAN (that is, in this case, a BT PAN and Wi-Fi p2p), does the particular game use any kind of multicasting to discover other devices? Fortunately, several LAN-capable titles do so (and most of the ones that don't at least display the host's IP so that it's easier to find and tell the clients).

    Non-LAN TCP/IP-based tests/info: subgroup: stepping out of the local networks (LAN's) and going towards the "big" Internet, what client/server model does the application have (if any)?

    Non-LAN, fully TCP/IP-based, central server-less P2P: supported?: does the title support games that can't rely on multicasting as the participating Pocket PC's are not in the same LAN but somewhere separated in the Internet, without having a centralized server? That is, can the title host a game and, then, can clients connect to it by entering its IP address? Many games do support this very flexible (as it can also be used over a LAN) connection form.


    General TCP/IP: subgroup: Does the host display its IP address (if the game is not using a central server-based model)? If the game doesn't use managed BT connections, LAN discovery or a central server but, as has been scrutinized in the previous test, can itself host games and clients can connect to it by entering its Internet address (IP), does the host help at this by displaying this address? Fortunately, very few games don't do this.

    If it supports the central server model: subgroup: it, instead of direct P2P connections and hosting games on one of the PDA's, the game architecture is based on a central server running somewhere on the Internet (see Fig. 2 in section 1.1.2.1, "Games with a central Internet server"), is that server a manufacturer-provided Internet server or a local one? (The first two rows in the subgroup, the second referring to section 1.1.3.4.2 and 1.1.3.4.3 - in addition/instead of a developer-provided server, does the developer provide servers that can be run on any PC (or, with OmniGSoft titles, even on the PDA)?)

    That is, does the developer/any third-party hosting company run a dedicated server (if it's not a third-party server like FICS, ICC or the MSN Messenger server) or can you do it yourself?

    Cradle vs firewalled (!) GPRS (TCP/IP) test : in this test, I've tested whether this server works as expected, firewall-wise – that is, can Pocket PC's that are all behind firewalls play each other. As is easy to predict, almost all of them passed this exam – except for The Travel Collection.

    If there's a manufacturer-provided server, average number of available opponents at a given time?: if the developer provides a dedicated server or the game can connect to a third-party service (FICS/ICC/MSN), the average number of average players to play. This is one of the areas that most game developers are very likely to exaggarate, bragging about 'many' online players. These claims must be taken with a bit of salt; unfortunately, there was not a single non-FICS or non-ICC game that I could play anyone except for DreamQuest Spades and Hearts (on the other hand, I've never seen anyone play DreamQuest Chess – check out http://dqzone.com/ to see the online popularity of each DreamQuest game). That is, it's pretty unlikely you will be able to find anyone on other non-FICS/non-ICC servers/with other games.

    Opponents choosable on the server?: are you assigned a player without any chance to choose him/her, or, can you seek/match given users? A decent game should have the ability to name users/games and not just randomly assigning players.

    Note that if a game does not support explicit opponent choice is not a problem with the current server-side player numbers – even with random games, you'll be able to play your mates because it's highly unlikely you'll run into anyone else on the servers.

    Other server-side goodies (ranking system, saved high scores): a centralized server has definite advantages over a P2P and/or local game: it can persistently store game/user data. A perfect example is ICC, FICS or even Blizzard's battle.net – they all have goodies like ladder, rankings etc. In here, I've listed them.

    4. Verdict

    Which one should I get? Or, at least, which one should I try? Which to start with? There're so many games that it'd take me ages to try them all! - you may ask.

    This question is easy to answer. First, a lot depend on your gaming needs. For example,

    5. Recommended articles

  • Setting up a BT PAN and looking up the local IP address of the host (alternative: iPAQ HQ, AximSite, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox or BrightHand)

  • A tutorial of setting up and using Wi-Fi peer-to-peer connections between Pocket PC's

  • Managing Bluetooth serial connections

  • My roundup of some adventure games (alternative links: iPAQ HQ, AximSite, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox, BrightHand, PocketMatrix)

  • my roundup of all Pocket PC golf games

  • my shoot'm'up game roundup (alternatives: PPCT, PPC Magazine, FirstLoox, BrightHand)

  • my arcade game comparison

  • Another reason to get a VGA device - running Legend Entertainment's old adventures reviewed. Was also published on the 22nd page of the July 2005 Pocket PC Magazine (see paper/PDF edition).

  • Allen Gall's article on multiplayer games (PPCMag, Sep. 2005)

  • Genuine HP iPAQ 2210 and Pocket Loox 720 tips for greatly enhancing the compatibility of multiplayer games!

  • Great Dell Axim x51v news – now, the Bluetooth functionality is heavily enhanced! - a must for any Dell Axim x51v users!


    6. Discussions of this article

    Frontpages and/or notable blog entries:
    PocketGamer frontpage,
    Another PocketGamer frontpage on 03/13/2006, after publishing the heavily updated/rewritten version,
    PDArcade frontpage,
    PPCMag Expert Blog Entry by Bob,
    Allen Gall's article; it has also been published in the April-May 2006 issue of Pocket PC Magazine.

    Other (non-frontpage) discussions:
    PM,
    MobilitySite - 1,
    MobilitySite - 2 (sticky in the Games forum!),
    AximSite,
    AximSite - 2,
    FirstLoox,
    BrightHand,
    PPCT,
    PPC Magazine