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The Game Room Needs Renovating

It's been out for over a week, but a few pesky problems still linger in Microsoft's new emulation shell.

As someone that's been playing games for almost as long as they've been making them, I have a certain fondness for the old stuff. That's not me sitting out on my porch, trying to tell you that Paperboy is better than Halo 3, or how tough we had it in my day, or forcing you to get off my lawn or anything. I'm of the mind that games keep moving forward in a way that, in a lot of cases, makes what came before it sort of obsolete.

But ever since the switch to polygonal graphics back in the mid-90s, a lot of great 2D stuff started getting this nostalgic "frozen in time" look to it. By comparison, that old stuff from the early polygon days looks like absolute garbage by today's standards. That ended up fueling my desire for the classic days of 2D gaming more than anything else, and it's retained a certain nostalgic glow for me ever since.

With that in mind, you won't be surprised to hear that I was pretty excited about Microsoft's Game Room when it was first announced. Though retrogaming services have certainly come before it, they always felt limited. Sony's putting out those same ugly-ass PlayStation 1 games that, let's face it, are still piling up in my garage. Nintendo's focusing mostly on re-releases of old 8- and 16-bit console games, which is fine, but again, my collection still runs deep. Arcade emulation, that's my thing. It requires too much free space to actively collect arcade games. So hearing that Microsoft was going to be getting into that on a mass scale--and that they'd be focusing on some fairly obscure stuff right out of the gate--sounded like my sort of thing.

Game Room gets a lot of things right. Really right, in fact. The games that are capable of having online leaderboards have them. And the games retain their original boot-up sequences. The emulation feels right. All that is key. It provides a good, level playing field and creates a competitive landscape for classic arcade games that hasn't really existed in some time. But it still needs some work.

Game Room's most substantial issue is that games seem to seize up from time to time. It's only for a split-second, but it's enough to be noticeable. It's enough to take you out of the moment and think "well, maybe if they weren't rendering this stupid fake arcade full of avatars behind the game, this wouldn't keep happening!" For the record, I turned that stuff off, but it still happens. It drags the whole experience down a little bit.

 CAPTION_RESULT_COMPLAINT
Also, if you've spent any time with Game Room recently, you'd probably agree that its stability is a serious issue. Sure, it has online leaderboards and a smart challenge system that lets you create closed groups of players for one-off competitions. But the game still comes up with a "sorry, the servers are unavailable" message almost every time I load it up. And I usually have to retry a few times before my games are uploaded to my active challenges. And, most importantly, I've had it lose high scores on me once or twice. My Red Baron score should be much higher than it is!

Also, hearing that there won't be able new games for a few weeks is pretty disappointing. All along, Microsoft's been bragging about its seven new games per week, and how they'll have over a thousand games within three years. So get started already. Honestly, there's only so much Jungler a man can take.

I'm sure everyone has their big list of old games they'd love to see added to Game Room over those three years. My list used to be huge and sprawling, but it's quickly narrowing as I spend more time with the challenge system and leaderboards. Now, I only want games that seem like they'd be fun to play in competition. Plus, I favor games that haven't been released to death in other packs. I mean, I'm sure they'll get around to Pac-Man eventually, but I think I've played enough Pac-Man for awhile... plus I still have the original Xbox Live Arcade release.

Anyway, right. Here's my list of games that I'd like to see in Game Room. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.
 

Games That Should Be In Game Room

1. Bosconian
2. Pooyan
3. Food Fight
4. Robotron: 2084

Yeah, it was already out on XBLA. But starting a challenge on Wave 20 or something would be nuts.

5. APB
6. Toobin'

They'd need to add online multiplayer for this to truly be fun.

7. Venture
8. Congo Bongo
9. Satan's Hollow
10. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
11. QIX

Yeah, proper actual arcade Qix. Not this Qix++ garbage.

12. Elevator Action
13. The Legend of Kage
14. Major Havoc
15. Total Carnage
16. Zaxxon
17. Reactor

It'd suffer from the lack of a track ball, but still... Reactor.

18. Q*Bert
19. Astro Blaster

Sega's shooter was full of all kinds of weird secret bonuses. This is MegaMania before MegaMania was MegaMania.

20. Amidar
21. Space Fury

More bad-ass vector bad-assedness.

22. Hot Rod
23. Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart's Super Off Road
24. Zoo Keeper
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Posted by Jeff
As someone that's been playing games for almost as long as they've been making them, I have a certain fondness for the old stuff. That's not me sitting out on my porch, trying to tell you that Paperboy is better than Halo 3, or how tough we had it in my day, or forcing you to get off my lawn or anything. I'm of the mind that games keep moving forward in a way that, in a lot of cases, makes what came before it sort of obsolete.

But ever since the switch to polygonal graphics back in the mid-90s, a lot of great 2D stuff started getting this nostalgic "frozen in time" look to it. By comparison, that old stuff from the early polygon days looks like absolute garbage by today's standards. That ended up fueling my desire for the classic days of 2D gaming more than anything else, and it's retained a certain nostalgic glow for me ever since.

With that in mind, you won't be surprised to hear that I was pretty excited about Microsoft's Game Room when it was first announced. Though retrogaming services have certainly come before it, they always felt limited. Sony's putting out those same ugly-ass PlayStation 1 games that, let's face it, are still piling up in my garage. Nintendo's focusing mostly on re-releases of old 8- and 16-bit console games, which is fine, but again, my collection still runs deep. Arcade emulation, that's my thing. It requires too much free space to actively collect arcade games. So hearing that Microsoft was going to be getting into that on a mass scale--and that they'd be focusing on some fairly obscure stuff right out of the gate--sounded like my sort of thing.

Game Room gets a lot of things right. Really right, in fact. The games that are capable of having online leaderboards have them. And the games retain their original boot-up sequences. The emulation feels right. All that is key. It provides a good, level playing field and creates a competitive landscape for classic arcade games that hasn't really existed in some time. But it still needs some work.

Game Room's most substantial issue is that games seem to seize up from time to time. It's only for a split-second, but it's enough to be noticeable. It's enough to take you out of the moment and think "well, maybe if they weren't rendering this stupid fake arcade full of avatars behind the game, this wouldn't keep happening!" For the record, I turned that stuff off, but it still happens. It drags the whole experience down a little bit.

 CAPTION_RESULT_COMPLAINT
Also, if you've spent any time with Game Room recently, you'd probably agree that its stability is a serious issue. Sure, it has online leaderboards and a smart challenge system that lets you create closed groups of players for one-off competitions. But the game still comes up with a "sorry, the servers are unavailable" message almost every time I load it up. And I usually have to retry a few times before my games are uploaded to my active challenges. And, most importantly, I've had it lose high scores on me once or twice. My Red Baron score should be much higher than it is!

Also, hearing that there won't be able new games for a few weeks is pretty disappointing. All along, Microsoft's been bragging about its seven new games per week, and how they'll have over a thousand games within three years. So get started already. Honestly, there's only so much Jungler a man can take.

I'm sure everyone has their big list of old games they'd love to see added to Game Room over those three years. My list used to be huge and sprawling, but it's quickly narrowing as I spend more time with the challenge system and leaderboards. Now, I only want games that seem like they'd be fun to play in competition. Plus, I favor games that haven't been released to death in other packs. I mean, I'm sure they'll get around to Pac-Man eventually, but I think I've played enough Pac-Man for awhile... plus I still have the original Xbox Live Arcade release.

Anyway, right. Here's my list of games that I'd like to see in Game Room. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.
 

Games That Should Be In Game Room

1. Bosconian
2. Pooyan
3. Food Fight
4. Robotron: 2084

Yeah, it was already out on XBLA. But starting a challenge on Wave 20 or something would be nuts.

5. APB
6. Toobin'

They'd need to add online multiplayer for this to truly be fun.

7. Venture
8. Congo Bongo
9. Satan's Hollow
10. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
11. QIX

Yeah, proper actual arcade Qix. Not this Qix++ garbage.

12. Elevator Action
13. The Legend of Kage
14. Major Havoc
15. Total Carnage
16. Zaxxon
17. Reactor

It'd suffer from the lack of a track ball, but still... Reactor.

18. Q*Bert
19. Astro Blaster

Sega's shooter was full of all kinds of weird secret bonuses. This is MegaMania before MegaMania was MegaMania.

20. Amidar
21. Space Fury

More bad-ass vector bad-assedness.

22. Hot Rod
23. Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart's Super Off Road
24. Zoo Keeper
Posted by raiz265

awesome how i don't know any of these apart from qbert

Edited by EpicSteve

Zoo Keeper!
 
Microsoft not releasing games immediately as promised will leave a lot of people who are on the fence about Game Room (like myself) not caring. They need to keep updating content.

Posted by SoftButtCheeks
@raiz265: 
 
Not knowing Double Dragon? is that even possible?
Posted by august

s.t.u.n. runner
 
road warrior

Online
Posted by HypoXenophobia

Was Enduro an arcade game? I used to play it on my atari, I have a strong affinity to that game.

Posted by MrJared

Props for Bosconian at #1. Not my first choice, of course, but back when I worked at Namco on one of their many Museum Collections, I loved playing Bosconian on my breaks. The voice clips crack me up.

Posted by Turbo_Toaster

Oh how I would love to play some normal goddamned Qix.

Posted by Nes

Bosconian definitely needs to be in Game Room.

Posted by Sweep

When you said you were waiting to play APB, I thought you meant the upcoming MMO from realtime worlds. You confused me with your jungler voodoo, Gerstmann!
 
*shakes fist*

Moderator
Posted by ch13696

I don't know about the Wii, but I like the PS One classics. Especially since you can transfer them to the PSP. Anyways, I understand your pain.

Posted by AltonBrown

Jeff, I would never even think of getting on your lawn.

Posted by Sin4profit

Play Gravitar, that'll keep you busy until the end of April.
The server issue is a pain..someone said they beat my survival time in asteroids but were unable to load it because of the server. I also had that problem but i just mashed the button til it went through..sometimes taking awhile.
 
My main problem with Game Room as it is right now is how broken up the community is. If you find someone who's really into Game Room, great, but now if you want to challenge them ya have to find out if they even have the same cabinets as you...it just makes challenges more of a pain in the ass then anything. So far of all the challenges i've sent out to people who i know have the same machine as me i've only gotten two people to join in on the challenges.
 
Wanna challenge me in Asteroids, Gravitar, or Centipede...hit me up. GT:  Sin4profit

Posted by ThePhantomnaut

Zaxxon and Strider.

Posted by sopranosfan
@ch13696: I like them too. 
Posted by agentboolen

Price for those games is a bit on the high price....  Not to mention the rewind button ruins those games anyway.

Posted by Oy

Game Room beta...there, someone had to say it.

Posted by FluxWaveZ
5. APB
 
Oh, All Points Bulletin "Retro" version.
Edited by Roger_Klotz

My grandparents own a zaxxon cabinet in their house. Always play it when I'm there. 

Posted by Eijikun

Alien vs. Predator the arcade beat-em-up game!!!
Posted by lordofultima

Yes to Offroad! YESSSSSSS

Posted by CashBailey

Is SPIDER FIGHTER on there.
 
Best SPACE INVADERS knock-off ever made, son!!

Posted by SUPERGHOST

Let them take a couple of weeks to iron out the bugs, that way when the new games come out  the Game Room will be up to snuff!  Games I would like to see: 
-Omega Race 
-Bump n' Run 
-Spy Hunter 
-The Main Event
Posted by StrakAttack

Simpsons Arcade Game needs to be on there!

Posted by erinfizz

I would still be playing this if I could. Also, I haven't thought about Zaxxon in forever, but man that was my favorite as a kid after Smurfs for the Colecovision!

Edited by CarolynP

As someone who's old enough to have known the thrill of getting my initials in the #1 spot on the Yie Ar Kung Fu machine at Pizza Hut, I'm definitely excited about Game Room's potential. And like you, I'm frustrated with the ways in which it's failing to live up to that potential, both with regard to the delay before we see any more releases, and to the technical issues plaguing high scores and challenges and stuff.
 
I agree that the best games for Game Room are those kinds of pure tests of skill that provide a real basis for competition. And  I think that some of the launch games, like Asteroids and Jungler, can still be extremely exciting, if you're the sort who relishes the thought of seeing your name at the top of your friends' leaderboard. I spent more time than I care to admit trying to beat a friend's Asteroids score, and when I succeeded, it was AWESOME. Then you had to go and beat my score. Jerk. 
 
I love this kind of competition. And I think the Challenge function is great for the ways in which it lets you get creative in designing competitions with friends. With a steady stream of quality games that support leaderboards, I anticipate spending a LOOOOOT of time and money with Game Room. I just hope that those renovations you mention happen soon. 
 
EDIT: Also, I suppose this is impossible just because of the way data for friends lists is handled, but I really wish that when I visited friends' arcades, the banners reflected THEIR friends list and not mine. I want to know if it's my name they see on the banner.

Posted by CABBAGES

I bought a few games in game room but they really need to keep releasing games before i remember i have proabably close to all arcades available in mame and with mame i caN even play online !
Posted by Richlough

I'd like to play Peter Pack-Rat again .


  

  
Posted by TadThuggish

Fun fact: Paperboy IS better than Halo 3!  We don't need to tiptoe around that. =)

Posted by Sin4profit
@Richlough: hells yeah, i remember playin this once!
Edited by Coombs

Toobin,  FukenEh
 
I want the Metal Slug games
& if they start releasing newer games Simpsons with online multiplayer would be AWESOME
the Simpsons Arcade game was always one of my favorites and it has NEVER been on a console

Posted by Xander51

I think their emulation of vector displays is actually really cool, and I'd love to see more vector games on the service.
 
I haven't bought any Game Room games yet, partially because of the very issues you describe.

Posted by Driadon

I want...no... NEED some online multiplayer Rampart in Game Room. A buddy of mine, which I used to play D&D with, actually spent more time playing that then actual D&D on game nights thanks to Midway Arcade Treasures

Posted by Trace

Seconding Super Off-Road so very much. I'd love to see that, BurgerTime, and Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat in the Game Room more than a lot of stuff.
 
But yeah, there's significant issues that need fixing. Beyond all the annoying connectivity issues, challenge attempts not contributing towards ranked scores or medals is rather annoying, as is the whole challenge system in general. There should at least be a warning when you try sending challenges to someone that doesn't own the game in question, as I'm in that situation right now, sitting on two Asteroids Deluxe challenges I'll probably decline because I don't feel like picking up that game.
 
Oh, and multiplayer, even if it's as clunky and prone to freezing as Doom was back in the day. I still want multiplayer.

Moderator
Posted by mrcraggle

I can't even buy games from this at the moment. 

Posted by wosifat

My knowledge of old-school arcade games is rusty now, but here are a few I'd like to see make the trip.
-Some of the old multi-player Konami beat-em ups (X-Men, Simpsons, etc)
-Some Capcom fighters, like Darkstalkers, the earlier Marvel fighters and the D&D beat em ups (other names escape me at present, but surely there are some that don't have the name "Street Fighter" in the title).  And I still want to play the original Street Fighter again, even if it sucks...
-Sega needs to get involved.  I want Manx TT Superbike and Sega Super GT eventually, but Space Harrier, Bonanza Bros  and Hang On will do in the meantime.  Maybe Gain Ground.  Remember reading the machine but not having tokens to actually play it.
-SNK needs to be involved as well.  How many arcade games did they put out?  Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug, please and thank you.
-What's an arcade without a pinball machine and some SkeeBall?  Trade tickets for exclusive decorations and trophies?  And how hard would it to get that air hockey table to work?
That's all I can think of at present.  As I said, my knowledge of the olden days fails me.  Here's hoping that even if none of the above listed games see the light of day in the Game Room, what they do give us is still awesome.

Posted by RenMcKormack

all good games jeff.
 
 
I wish that when you entered another arcade that it worked more like PlayStation Home.  Also I would be for getting out weird Capcom stuff like Street Fighter One or Rally Car.
 
Also i got the top score at Finalizer at PAX East. 

Posted by Hailinel

Ah, Zaxxon.  I remember playing that game back in the old roller rink in my hometown.  That, and Galaga.  Lots and lots of Galaga.

Posted by Lambert

Damn, I barely remember any of those games. Jeff is a walking, gaming encyclopedia!

Posted by ArchScabby

Jeff, you is da old.

Edited by Palaeomerus

I wish they'd get the rights to emulate some TI-994A games and some Apple 2 games. I'd love some Choplifter, Parsec, and Munchman. 
 
Also if they do Congo Bongo I hope they do the arcade version.   
 
And I want Gorf and Crazy climber because when I was a kid I'd play that at this  'kids pizza place' (Before there were Showbiz/Chuckie Cheese chains) called Scampi's Organ Palace.  
 
It had a giant automated pipe organ thing that also had drums and brass instruments and lights and stuff. It had twenty or so arcade cabinets too. It was one of those places where kids had birthday parties in Austin back in the day and they'd show cartoons on a big projection screen or have a magician come around doing scarf and ball type tricks. 
 
Ah, good times, especially if you if got micronauts for your birthday.

Posted by Aoi

1 word.  Gorf, son.  Gorf.

Posted by Milkman

I'm still yet to download the Game Room "app". Looks like I'm going to hold off a little longer just so I can avoid these technical issues.

Online
Posted by iAmJohn

Doesn't Sony own the rights to Q-Bert now through some backwards means?  I'm pretty sure that's why Q-Bert was one of the first PSN games when the PS3 launched.

Online
Posted by Vitamin_Dei
@Sin4profit: I think the messaging needs work, honestly. The system doesn't telegraph the fact that you have a challenge waiting unless your see the little scrolling marquis.  
 
The hitching is also a bit of a pain and has thrown me off of a good score a couple of times now. It's not the end of the world, I guess, but it does need to be fixed if Microsoft wants to promote the competitive challenge-based nature of Game Room.
Posted by kishan6

omg double dragon (ugh) lol

Posted by zymase
Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart's Super Off Road  
 
Oh man...  this game takes me back in a weird way no other can.  When I was little our car hit some road debris and tore up the undercarriage, and I was stuck at a truck stop for six hours with nothing but a Super Off Road machine and a mom who wanted me out of her hair.  By the time we left I think I was eight of the entire top ten on that machine. 
Posted by BigDre

I need some Phoenix arcade and some River Raid Atari love!
Posted by Sin4profit
@Vitamin_Dei: yeah the notification is a pain as it never advertises that someone has surpassed your top score in the challenge so you just have to frantically open the challenge screen and click every challenge to see what's what. So i have to leave it to myself to send a message if i take back the #1 spot.
Posted by Asembo

The lack of Pitfall on that list is hurting credibility of this post.

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