Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong and Asteroids. Today many video games feature ultra-realistic high-definition graphics and complex gameplay. In addition, modern video games can be played online, allowing gamers to build large social communities that focus on specific video games and video game genres.
Gaming platforms such as Xbox Live and Steam have contributed to the rise of social gaming as well as the development of advanced gaming technologies. Many gaming platforms also provide APIs that allow developers to incorporate online game data into their websites and applications. At the time of this writing, there are 179 games APIs listed in the ProgrammableWeb API Directory.
This article features five popular online games that offer APIs for developers.
Alan Becker has spent several years meticulously building a full-world recreation of Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 Studio Ghibli film "Spirited Away" and the project is still in progress.
Video game genres
There are many different types of video game genres and subgenres, and some are better known than others. Popular game genres include action, adventure, real-time strategy and role-playing. The online video games featured in this article are in the subgenres massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and sandbox.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)
The MMORPG category is a combination of the role-playing and massively multiplayer online game genres. The term MMORPG was coined in the late 1990s and refers to a video game where there are a large number of players interacting with each other in a virtual world. Examples of MMORPGs include Dark Age of Camelot, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)
The MOBA group is part of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre and includes video games where teams of players compete with each other with the goal for each team to destroy the other teams' main base or building. Examples of MOBAs are Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends and Nosgoth.
Sandbox video games, sometimes referred to as "open world" or "free-roaming," are games where a player is able to freely roam a virtual world and choose his or her own objective for the game. The sandbox type of video game has been around for quite some time, possibly as early as the 1980s. Examples of sandbox games include Assassin's Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft.
Official website: Dota2.com
Developer: Valve Corporation
PW API profile: Steam Web API
Dota 2 is a very popular action-and-strategy game where players choose from a wide selection of hero characters which possess a variety of skills and abilities. Players form two teams of five players that consist of the heroes each player has selected. Dota 2 was originally a user-made modification for Warcraft 3 but evolved into a stand-alone online video game. Earlier this month, Valve Corporation announced on the dota2updates Twitter feed that Dota 2 had reached 7 million active players.
Dota 2 is published and distributed via Steam, an entertainment platform that is also developed by Valve Corporation. The Steam platform features thousands of games that can be instantly accessed, allows users to create and share content for games, allows online games to be played on nearly all types of devices, and allows gamers to join groups and participate in a large online gaming community. According to the Valve Corporation website, the Steam platform "distributes and manages thousands of games directly to a community of more than 65 million players around the world."
The Steam Workshop is a tool that allows players to create and submit items such as weapons, badges, clothing, etc., so that they may be considered for inclusion into actual games. Game mod authors can also directly publish their mods to the Steam Workshop allowing players to subscribe to the mods that they want to use. There are currently thousands of items submitted for consideration in the Dota 2 Workshop and over 1,600 items have been accepted for use in the actual Dota 2 game.
The Steam Web API allows developers to access Steam data for use in third-party applications and websites. Currently the Steam API can be used to retrieve news feeds for each Steam game, global stat information by game, and information about Steam users. Item data can be retrieved via API; however only item data for Team Fortress 2 is available at this time. Item data for other Steam games will be available via API in the future.
Official website: EVEOnline.com
Developer: CCP Games
PW API profile: EVE Online API
First published in May 2003, EVE Online is one of the largest science fiction / space massively multiplayer online games and is set in the very distant future. The game allows players to pilot ships containing advanced equipment and weaponry through a galaxy with many thousands of star systems.
EVE Online allows players to choose from a variety of in-game professions such as mining, manufacturing, trading, etc. Players can also choose to participate in combat which can be player against player or player against the environment.
EVE Online is available via the Steam Platform and at the time of this writing, the game has more than 500,000 subscribers. CCP Games, the company that develops EVE Online, is also using Amazon AppStream to experiment with character creation on high-res touch devices. Amazon AppStream is a service that makes it possible for developers to stream resource-intensive applications like MMORPGs from the cloud. Halldor Fannar, CTO of CCP Games, is quoted in the press release as saying:
"We've had many (wild) dreams about what the amazing character creation experience from EVE Online could become on a high-res touch device. Amazon AppStream is allowing us to realize those dreams, enabling us to experiment and better understand the opportunity with only a minor up-front investment. There is a very exciting future here."
In 2005, CCP Games launched the EVE API project which allows third-party application developers programmatic access to EVE Online game data such as market groups, character data, corporation data, etc.
Guild Wars 2
Official website: GuildWars2.com
PW API profile: Guildwars2 api
Guild Wars 2 is the sequel to Guild Wars, which was first released in 2005. The game is very popular, having sold more than 3.5 million copies since it was released in 2013.
The game is set in the fantasy world of Tyria, a persistent world where players can participate in a choice-based storyline (the game storyline is responsive to player actions). Guild Wars 2 players can choose to participate in small and large-scale combat, battle other players in arenas (player vs. player), choose player vs. environment (PvE) and many other types of gameplay.
The Guild Wars 2 API allows developers to create third-party applications that can access game data programmatically. API endpoints include dynamic events, guilds, items, map information, world vs. world and many others. According to a Guild Wars 2 forum post, developers are actively working on implementing OAuth2 as well as providing support for the APIs that have already been released. Please note that there is no set date yet for the release of OAuth2.
League of Legends
Official website: LeagueofLegends.com
Developer: Riot Games
PW API Profile: Riot Games API
League of Legends is a very popular online game where players chose to be a character, called a champion, and battle against other players with the goal being to take control of the enemy's end of the battlefield. At the time of this writing, there are 117 champions that players can choose from and each champion is useful for different roles such as assassin, fighter, mage, support, tank, and marksman.
According to the Riot Games website, there are currently 32 million people playing League of Legends every month. In July 2012, Forbes reported that League of Legends had officially become the "most played PC game in the world" and gamers had logged in almost 1.3 billion hours of gameplay at that time.
In addition, Digital Trends just reported that League of Legends earned $624 million in revenue in 2013. This number is based entirely on microtransactions and not on monthly subscriptions or other types of revenue streams.
In December 2013, ProgrammableWeb reported that Riot Games had released the Riot Games API which provides developers programmatic access to League of Legends game data. Game data available includes recent games, ranked statistics, runes, masteries, champions, teams, leagues, and more.
Official website: Minecraft.net
PW API profile: Unofficial Minecraft Plugin API
Minecraft was originally created by Markus Persson, who later formed his own company Mojang. The official launch of the Minecraft game was in November 2011 and the official release of the Xbox 360 edition was in May 2012.
Minecraft is a sandbox construction game that features several modes of gameplay (survival, creative, adventure and multiplayer) and players can build almost anything they can imagine. The game features a variety of computer-controlled, non-player characters (NPCs) including cows, pigs, chickens, spiders, zombies and creepers, which are hostile mobs that sneak up on players and then explode.
One example of how Minecraft allows players to build nearly anything they can imagine is the "Spirited Away" Minecraft world created by Alan Becker. Alan Becker has spent several years meticulously building a full-world re-creation of Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 Studio Ghibli film "Spirited Away," and the project is still in progress. Working from screenshots from the movie, Becker is slowly building in Minecraft the locations featured in the movie. Side-by-side screenshots can be viewed at Becker's Imgur page and the official website for the project is SpiritedAwayMinecraft.com.
At the end of 2013, Mojang launched a beta version of a new multiplayer hosting service called Minecraft Realms. Minecraft Realms is hosted on AWS and was designed to ensure that game hosting would be highly scalable and secure. Minecraft Realms also makes it possible for people with little or no technical knowledge to set up and host online Minecraft worlds. At the time of this writing, up to 20 players can be invited to participate in a Minecraft Realms hosted world and up to 10 players can play at one time. Minecraft Realms beta was only released in Sweden but will be made available to other countries sometime in 2014.
Although currently there is not an "official" Minecraft API, there is an unofficial Minecraft plugin API called BukGet which was created to help plugin developers and administrators interact with Minecraft servers.
Mojang is developing an official Minecraft plugin API which is mentioned briefly in a Mojang blog post published Jan. 9, 2014.
Online gaming will continue to grow and evolve along with the development of advanced video game technologies and cutting-edge graphics. Online gaming platforms that provide an API (or APIs) will make it possible for gamers to not only play online games, but help promote and increase participation in those games as well. In some cases, the availability of an API will make it possible for developers to create enhancements for the games themselves, leading to an even better gaming experience for users.
The future of online gaming is going to be fast-paced, social and it wil include many more gaming APIs.
By Janet Wagner. Janet is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, open data, data visualization and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.