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Encyclopedia > Microsoft Ants

Microsoft Ants is a free multiplayer game for 2-4 players on the Microsoft Gaming Zone. The objective of the game is to get the most points by eating or stealing food, and making use of the various powerups available. Each player begins at a nest with a pre-programmed number of ants, whose goal is to scurry around the gamefield and bring back to their home nest various pieces of food such as candy, cookies, twinkies, etc. with each piece worth 15-30 points. When time runs out, the highest point score wins. With an easy interface and simple graphics, but a limited amount of time and varying levels of competition through different maps, the Microsoft Gaming Zone officially classifies Ants as a "strategy title" and generally reccomends practice before taking on multiple opponents. Microsoft Zone (also known as Zone. ... A Twinkie is a Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling created by Hostess, and baked by Continental Baking Co, which is owned by Kansas City-based Interstate Bakeries Corporation. ... Microsoft Zone (also known as Zone. ...



Ants was created in late 1996 as a proprietary game for Microsoft's MSN service. At this time, MSN was the online service that was integrated into Microsoft Windows and you could access it by double clicking the MSN icon on the desktop, which would open a "My Computer" type window where you could use the service. 1996 (MCMXCVI) was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. ... Proprietary indicates that a party exercises private ownership, control or use over an item of property, usually to the exclusion of other parties. ... MSN (or The Microsoft Network) a collection of Internet services provided by Microsoft. ... Microsoft Windows is the worlds largest operating system for use on personal computers. ...

After AOL releasing newer versions of itself, and Prodigy Internet, which was a giant upgrade of the popular online service Prodigy, Microsoft took MSN in a new direction by upgrading its own service with a flashy new layout powered by ActiveX called "onstage". Part of this service included a brand new section for kids and game fans. It was called "Spike's World of Games," or "Spike's World Online Game Magazine." This article or section seems not to be written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia entry. ... Prodigy Communications Corporation was a dialup service (a sort of mega-BBS) for home computers in the United States before the advent of the Internet. ... Look up prodigy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT, SEHK: 4338) is an international computer technology corporation with 2005 global annual sales of US$39. ... In programming, the Component Object Model (COM), also known as ActiveX, is a Microsoft technology for software components. ...

Spike's World featured games such as Scrawl, a popular game-show type game, and Ants. Ants premiered in early 1997 as a RTS game, which were uncommon at the time. Ants displayed the latest in Microsoft's game technology and it was paired for download along with Direct X 3. RTS may refer to: Ryan Copley, A super awesome guy Jacob Fischer, A . ... This article is about the computer terms. ...

During this time, Steve Murch, a then-employee of Microsoft, convinced Bill Gates to acquire a small online game site (then owned by Electric Gravity). Between 1996-97, Murch worked on modernizing the site and adding -- and sometimes remaking -- new games. Joshua Howard, also an employee at Microsoft in what would later be the MSN Gaming Zone department, petitioned Microsoft to make the movement of Ants onto their servers a priority, and eventually "Microsoft Ants" became one of the original games to be tested and officially inducted (though slightly manipulated) into the newly remade Internet Gaming Zone. This was done primarily as a result of its easy interface and its cute characters, who both spoke to and interacted with each other at the whim of the user. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT, SEHK: 4338) is an international computer technology corporation with 2005 global annual sales of US$39. ... William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is the co-founder, chairman, and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the worlds largest software company (as of April 2006). ...

In the late summer of 1998, the Internet Gaming Zone was taken over and made a part of MSN while being renamed the Microsoft Gaming Zone. At this point, since the "onstage" part of MSN was gone, Spike's World was gone too. There was no way for anyone to play games on the site, Ants included. Finally in October 1998, after several code changes which included modification to images and existing maps, Microsoft premiered "Microsoft Ants" as one of the games available to play on its servers. The game was free and available to play online after a quick download of integrated software for anyone who wanted to play it. Shortly after Ants was officially on Microsoft servers, Joshua Howard left Microsoft to work elsewhere, and would not become involved in Ants again until returning to MSN Gaming Zone several years later. 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year of the Ocean. ... Microsoft Zone (also known as Zone. ... Look up October in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year of the Ocean. ... This article is about the computer terms. ...

As soon as it appeared, Ants became an instant hit for the Internet Gaming Zone, or "the Zone" as it would quickly be dubbed by its more die-hard users. This was due in part to loyal fans having followed it from Spike's World. However, because the Zone was still in its infancy players wanted a game that would be simple, easy to use and understand, and could almost guarantee that there would be little to no problems in playing it. "Ants" easily met this criteria. A single game could take no more than twelve minutes. It was easy and clean enough for children to play, but addictive and strategic enough for adults to enjoy it too. The popularity and population soared, reaching almost record levels in a short period of time, sometimes hosting over 500 -- or more -- players in four to six game rooms at once.

As well as giving you the ability to play the game itself, there were also various tournaments and ladders that you could play in to get a ranking/rating. These ladder standings -- given to Ants by the IGL -- enjoyed a brief popularity from 1998-1999, only to decline until their re-emergence in 2002 courtesy of Ants Plus.


Initially there were six original maps, varying in difficulty:

  • Tiny - A very tiny map, 6 minutes in length, with no powerups, just food.
  • Small - An 8 minute map, smaller in size than most others, but contains a few powerups.
  • Gauntlet - A 10 minute map, contains two clusters of powerups, and a powerup flower to the top left of the map. There is only one source of food, and that’s a jelly at the bottom right of the screen.
  • Medium - A 10 minute map, mainly associated with fighting and battling, even though there is 4 sources of food, there is only 1 powerup flower; hence the immediate decision is to get to the middle and get powerups, since if someone gets a fire-powerup, you could be in trouble.
  • Treasure - Probably the most popular original map, this 12 minute map is varied and balanced for many different strategies and styles of play, there are 20 powerups symmetrically placed across the map, with food positioned in the middle, and around the outside.
  • Islands - Considered the expert map, this 12 minute map is centered around the first minute, where you have to get to the swimant powerups, otherwise you could be in trouble.

In a rare move (and probably due in part to the constant complaining from Ants players), in early 2001 Microsoft Gaming Zone released a brand new original map, Ocean. Ocean was essentially a combination of Islands & Treasure squashed together and spread out over a much larger surface. This was cheered by the Ants community.

In late 2001 with the leaking of the normally heavily guarded Ants code which was used by Microsoft to create the Ocean map, several regular players began disecting & analyzing the code, with the goal to create their own maps and eventually their own map packages. Soon, in early 2002, the code for map creation had been decoded and circulated among a few players. This resulted in an explosion of "homemade" maps and a release of the "Ants Map Maker," courtesy of Ants player FCouples. Later, more Ants Map programs were created, including the Map Designer Program from Slayer. FCouples later improved his Map Maker, giving it better compilation facilities and larger map sizes, among other features.

The Ants Map Maker was a treasure trove for Ants players, who would collectively go on to create over 850 known maps, all from the original code. Once the average player was able to easily create their own map, however, most "new" maps ended up as unoriginal knock-offs of the six original maps and Ocean. Many of these maps contained bugs within the code which would cause a player's game to crash or to not start at all. One notable exception was the Popcorn map, a map 14 minutes long that combined the fun of Treasure with the skill level of Islands with an entirely new map layout added in, complete with barriers, additional food, and additional ants. Despite the increase in maps, and thus an increase in players to the site, Microsoft still publically refused to acknowledge any of the new maps as "official" maps. By this time however, it was too late. Maps were everywhere, and the surge in availability of new maps, no matter how poorly constructed, once again caused a temporary increase in popularity and player population for Microsoft Ants.

Current status

In 2000, Microsoft Gaming Zone started to become a target of continuous hack attacks. Hackers—and for the most part, script-kiddies—both targeted the Zone software. Hackers and script-kiddies mostly left Ants alone to concentrate on Member plus frequented chat rooms and game rooms. This continued sporradically for the next several years, until 2003 when the worst hack-attack occurred by the use of social engineering, giving the intruders access to the administrator tools. The intruders used their new-found tools to ban players and other site volunteers. This meant bad news for Ants, as it soon found itself a vulnerable target due to the fact that it was free, outdated (no major code changes had occurred since early 2000), and the fact that several of the "script-kiddies" behind the attacks were regular Ants players. This led to Ants being used as an occasional testing ground for newer and more malicious assaults on Microsoft servers while the script-kiddies & hackers attempted to stay one step ahead of the Microsoft administrators and system operators. This article is about the year 2000. ... Microsoft Zone (also known as Zone. ... Look up hacking in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A hacker is a person who creates and modifies computer software and computer hardware, including computer programming, administration, and security-related items. ... In computing, a script kiddie (occasionally script kitty) is a derogatory term for people who use scripts and programs developed by others for the purpose of compromising computer accounts and files, and for launching attacks on whole computer systems (see DoS). ... Computer software (or simply software) refers to one or more computer programs and data held in the storage of a computer for some purpose. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... In the field of computer security, social engineering is the practice of obtaining confidential information by manipulation of legitimate users. ...

Despite all of the troubles, representatives from Microsoft Gaming Zone, when publically peppered in chats by Ants players, would refuse to give a direct answer on the future of Ants. Ambiguity ran rampant, with crisp one or two sentence responses becoming the standard response. Finally in early 2004 Joshua Howard announced that Ants would eventually be taken off of Microsoft Gaming Zone servers, and not released to anyone else or the general public. News of this created distress within the Ants gaming community, and an independent attempt by an Ants regular to begin creation of an "Ants 2" code ended with Microsoft threatening legal action towards the player. Refusing to back off despite attempted negotiations, Microsoft continued its threats and eventually the project was scrapped and the code hidden away.

To supposedly prepare for this eventual demise, Microsoft moved Ants to a different section of its Zone; however, as of November 2005 Ants still remains on Microsoft and may be found on their servers once signed in to a .NET Passport [1].

Due to users being booted offline, lagged, hung up, frozen, or attacked many Ants players left to find other sites to spend their time on; or migrated to other games on Microsoft Zone with less frequent interruptions from Denial of Service attacks. Collectively, Ants suffered a drastic decline in population starting in early 2003 which continues to this day. Where game rooms used to be filled on a Friday or Saturday night, there now resides only a handful of players. A denial-of-service attack (also, DoS attack) is an attack on a computer system or network that causes a loss of service to users, typically the loss of network connectivity and services by consuming the bandwidth of the victim network or overloading the computational resources of the victim system. ...

The future

The future of "Ants" is still uncertain, though some of it appears positive. Ants receives only a trace percentage of what it used to have in player numbers, and no popular new maps have been created for it since early 2004. Ants will be hosted on We Play Games; a website of Jason Cook currently under development. It is expected to launch "officially" on June 1st 2006.

External links

  • Ants Forum - an active forum for Ants players (old and new) to meet
  • play Ants on MSN Games (sign into .NET Passport)
  • download the game and remote game launcher
  • Microsoft Ants page on Zone.msn.com
  • A History of Microsoft Ants
  • Strategy Gaming Online Reviews Microsoft Ants (c. 1998)
  • March 17, 2004 chat transcript with Joshua Howard, the "Godfather" of Microsoft Ants
  • associatedcontent.com game review, Microsoft Ants, June 2005
  • Tutorials & Downloads, Microsoft Ants Maps (last update 10-04)

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In the rain forests of the Amazon, for instance, ants are so numerous that their total weight is about four times the weight of all the area’s mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined.
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