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Internet Games on Windows XP

Published: August 06, 2004

(Note: This topic describes not just Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2, but also Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3.)

On This Page

Benefits and Purposes of Internet Games on Windows XP
Overview: Using Internet Games on Windows XP in a Managed Environment
How Internet Games on Windows XP Communicate with Sites on the Internet
Controlling Internet Games on Windows XP to Prevent the Flow of Information to and from the Internet
Procedures for Configuration of Internet Games on Windows XP

Benefits and Purposes of Internet Games on Windows XP

Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (SP2) includes six standard games for Windows and five Internet games as part of the installation package. These games can be accessed through Start\All Programs\Games or Start\Programs\Games. The six standard games do not interact with the Internet in any way, in other words, the user plays against the computer. The Internet games, however, communicate across the Internet so the user can play against human opponents (not the computer). To allow moves to be passed between players, the Internet games open a connection to servers hosted by Microsoft.

Internet games use client-server technology. The only Internet communication sent by the Internet games clients is to the centralized game servers. The game servers proxy the connection for all the players in a game and broadcast game moves and status messages to clients as required. Players in a game do not send Internet traffic directly to other players in the game.

Overview: Using Internet Games on Windows XP in a Managed Environment

The Internet games in Windows XP are similar to the games offered on the MSN Web site, MSN Games by Zone.com, which is located at:

http://www.zone.msn.com

However, the games in Windows XP have reduced functionality. They do not support free-form chat, the ability to customize the user’s name, competitions, tournaments, lists of contacts, and access to ratings and recorded scores, among other features. The Internet games that come with Windows XP do not have any Web component in and of themselves and their functionality and communication with the game servers is limited, as described in the following subsection.

The games that come packaged with Windows XP can be excluded from installation or removed. By eliminating access to the Internet games on the client computer, you will eliminate communication with the game servers. Direct access to this site can also be blocked at the firewall or gateway server as described in “Controlling Internet Games on Windows XP to Prevent the Flow of Information to and from the Internet,” later in this section.

How Internet Games on Windows XP Communicate with Sites on the Internet

When the user navigates to Start\All Programs\Games or to Start\Programs\Games, and then clicks one of the five Internet games listed, a dialog box opens announcing the intended connection to the free game server. The dialog box displays a warning message concerning information being passed and gives the user the option to cancel the interaction. If the user chooses to connect, a limited interactive session with the server is established.

This section describes various aspects of the data that is sent to and from the Internet, and how the exchange of information takes place:

  • Specific information sent or received: When a user plays an Internet game in Windows XP, the information that is sent to the game server consists of the following:

    • Randomly generated identifier: A randomly generated, globally unique identifier (GUID) is created on first use and is stored on the server and the client. This is used to anonymously (but uniquely) identify each client connecting.

    • Locale setting: The locale setting for Windows XP is sent to the game server when the user connects.

    • Game play data: Each of the player’s moves is sent to the game server. The server validates each move, updates the state of the game, and broadcasts any required updates to the other clients in the game (cards played, pieces moved, and so on). The server retains only the information necessary to track the current status of the game.

    • Predefined chat messages: The user can choose from 30 predefined chat messages to send to other players in the game (the messages are passed through the game server). Users can turn the chat capability on or off. There is no capability for free-form chat.

  • Triggers: Users must select one of the Internet games from the Games menu and then click OK after seeing the splash screen.

  • User notification: No information is sent if the user does not proceed past the splash screen, which briefly describes the information sent to the game server.

  • Encryption: There is no encryption of data.

  • Access: Game server support staff and MSN Games by Zone.com operational support staff have access to a limited set of data. The data consists of the number of successful games completed, the number of disconnected games per GUID, plus data about the performance and load on the game servers. Note that the history of moves made and past games are not stored on the servers.

  • Privacy: A limited privacy statement is displayed in the splash screen for the Internet games. The text is as follows:

    This game matches you with players from around the world. If you choose to PLAY, the game sends Zone.com certain system information and a computer ID solely to administer and enhance game play. No personal information is ever collected. No information is sent if you click 'Quit' now.

    If you are not already connected to the Internet, you will be prompted to do so in the next screen. Click 'Play' to continue.

  • Port: The port ranges are 28000 through 29000.

  • Transmission protocol: The client connects to the server using TCP/IP Winsock (Windows sockets API).

  • Ability to disable: User acceptance is required to play the games. It is possible to uninstall the games by using Windows XP Setup, or to block access to the MSN Games by Zone.com Web site through the use of a firewall rule.

  • Uniquely identify user: The randomly generated GUID described earlier in this list is used to anonymously (but uniquely) identify each client connecting. No personally identifiable information about the user is transmitted to the game server.

Controlling Internet Games on Windows XP to Prevent the Flow of Information to and from the Internet

The most direct method of preventing the flow of information is to exclude or remove the Internet games from the installation. Since Windows XP clients connect to the game servers through a Domain Name System (DNS) entry, however, using a firewall to block the DNS entry for the MSN Games by Zone.com Web site at www.zone.msn.com will block the connection from the Windows XP game clients to the server. If a client requests access to the site, an error message will be returned. Procedures for removing the Internet games through Control Panel and by using an answer file (during unattended installation) are described in the next subsection.

Procedures for Configuration of Internet Games on Windows XP

The following procedures describe:

  • How to use Control Panel to remove Internet games from an individual computer running Windows XP with SP2.

  • How to exclude Internet games during unattended installation of Windows XP with SP2 by using an answer file.

To Remove Games from Windows XP Through Control Panel

  1. Click Start, and then either click Control Panel, or point to Settings and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click Add or Remove Programs.

  3. Click Add/Remove Windows Components (on the left).

  4. Select Accessories and Utilities, and then click Details.

  5. Select Games, and then click Details.

  6. From the Games dialog box, clear the check boxes for the games that you want to remove from the installation.

    There is a single check box for all the Internet games. If any Internet games are removed, all are removed.

  7. Follow the instructions to complete the Windows Components Wizard.

To Exclude Internet Games During Unattended Installation by Using an Answer File

  1. Using the methods you prefer for unattended installation or remote installation, create an answer file. For more information about unattended and remote installation, see Appendix A, "Resources for Learning About Automated Installation and Deployment."

  2. In the [Components] section of the answer file, include the following entry:

    Zonegames = Off

    Note   You can also check a registry key (manually or with a script) on a computer running Windows XP with SP2 to see whether the games component is installed. Do not, however, change this registry key. A registry key value of 0x00000000 means the component is not installed, and a value of 0x00000001 means the component is installed. The key is as follows:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\Oc Manager\Subcomponents\zonegames

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