Invading The Game Room

Posted by Jeff (3415 posts) -

 If you don't want to roam around the avatar space, you can opt for menus instead.
In case you missed out on the announcement back in January, Game Room is Microsoft's new platform for emulated games of yesteryear. It'll be able to handle old arcade games as well as classic consoles, and the Game Room shell will be a free download when it hits this March as a part of Microsoft's "Block Party" promotion for Xbox Live Arcade.

Of course, you won't be able to do very much with that free shell. The whole point is that the Game Room is a place for you to purchase and download old arcade, Intellivision, and Atari 2600 games. Or, at least, that's the plan so far based on the companies that have currently signed on and allowed their catalogs to appear in Game Room. In the future, it's possible that more older games could appear, and without prompting, the spokesman I interviewed mentioned the Dreamcast. That's obviously not a confirmation, but I was left with the impression that Game Room could have a pretty wide scope, once the really old stuff is out of the way.

So far, Intellivision, Atari, Konami, and Activision are on-board, which translates into a lot of Atari 2600 and Intellivison games, as well as some arcade games from Atari and Konami. I went through and played a few games, like Pitfall!, Super Cobra, Astrosmash, and Shao-Lin's Road. The emulation seems fine and it's complete, right down to the games' boot-up sequences and the need to insert fake coins to play. You can view the action in different ways, to, like an arcade-like view that shows the artwork that surrounded the monitor on some arcade games. In this view, you can also see a slight curve to the monitor, and Centipede had vertical scanlines, matching the original. If you want a clearer view, you can get a zoomed-up view with no scanlines, which maintains the proper aspect ratio for the original games.

Game Room utilizes save states, letting you pause a game and pick it up again later. But you can also use this to rewind time in your games. If you're not playing a ranked match, which is the only way to put your score up on the online leaderboards, you can hold down the left trigger at any point to start rewinding your mistakes. In these unranked games, you're also given full access to the arcade machine's original DIP switches, the Atari 2600's difficulty switches, and the full options of an Intellivison game. Playing Intellivision games also lets you call up the full gamepad, complete with overlay.

You can also view save states from the leaderboard, letting you see how the top players play. The save state system also plays into Game Room's challenge system, which allows you send specific challenges to up to seven of your friends. These can be simple high-score battles, but you can also force the challengers to start at a specific point in the game and configure a host of other options, like the number of times a player can attempt a challenge or how many days the challenge will last. This means that you don't need to actually get everyone together at the same time to start up a challenge, which is a necessary touch.

Microsoft is claiming that it will add seven new games per week, and players that purchase games on the first day will get a little bonus mascot that can be placed inside the Game Room's virtual arcade. Mascots include things like a vector-based tank from Battlezone, or Pitfall Harry. If you don't show up on the first day to make your purchase, Microsoft plans to make the mascots available separately for a small fee. Let me just state here that I think that paying for mascots for your virtual arcade is crazy talk... but it was kind of cool to see all of the little things running around on their own while cruising from room to room.

  Finally... a front-end that will let you play Jungler.
Game Room will have 60 achievements worth 1,000 points. But those points aren't tied to any specific game. Instead, they're tied to medals that you can earn by playing your purchased games. There are nine medals per game, and they're broken up into three tiers of three medals each. This means each game will have a high score challenge, each will have a "time spent" medal for simply playing the game, and so on. I glanced over the achievement list, and it looks like those are also broken up into tiers, with at least a few devoted to your overall time spent in Game Room. So if/when you reach the 36-hour mark, you'll get points for doing so.

While I didn't stare at it long enough to know for sure, the emulation in Game Room appears to be competent and accurate to the original games. All of the emulation work is being handled by Krome Studios, who is also developing the front-end and avatar environment.

Commercialized emulation has always been a tricky business, since the rampant availability of old games online means that everyone else is competing with the low, low cost of "free." The Game Room wrapper has some interesting ideas in it that shine up the experience and might just make this stuff worth paying for. The fixed cost of three dollars per game (with an additional two dollars if you want to play your games on both a 360 and a PC) seems reasonable, too. That said, the lack of proper online play in two-player games like Outlaw is an already-visible omission that means the Game Room still has plenty of room to grow.
Staff
#1 Posted by Jeff (3415 posts) -

 If you don't want to roam around the avatar space, you can opt for menus instead.
In case you missed out on the announcement back in January, Game Room is Microsoft's new platform for emulated games of yesteryear. It'll be able to handle old arcade games as well as classic consoles, and the Game Room shell will be a free download when it hits this March as a part of Microsoft's "Block Party" promotion for Xbox Live Arcade.

Of course, you won't be able to do very much with that free shell. The whole point is that the Game Room is a place for you to purchase and download old arcade, Intellivision, and Atari 2600 games. Or, at least, that's the plan so far based on the companies that have currently signed on and allowed their catalogs to appear in Game Room. In the future, it's possible that more older games could appear, and without prompting, the spokesman I interviewed mentioned the Dreamcast. That's obviously not a confirmation, but I was left with the impression that Game Room could have a pretty wide scope, once the really old stuff is out of the way.

So far, Intellivision, Atari, Konami, and Activision are on-board, which translates into a lot of Atari 2600 and Intellivison games, as well as some arcade games from Atari and Konami. I went through and played a few games, like Pitfall!, Super Cobra, Astrosmash, and Shao-Lin's Road. The emulation seems fine and it's complete, right down to the games' boot-up sequences and the need to insert fake coins to play. You can view the action in different ways, to, like an arcade-like view that shows the artwork that surrounded the monitor on some arcade games. In this view, you can also see a slight curve to the monitor, and Centipede had vertical scanlines, matching the original. If you want a clearer view, you can get a zoomed-up view with no scanlines, which maintains the proper aspect ratio for the original games.

Game Room utilizes save states, letting you pause a game and pick it up again later. But you can also use this to rewind time in your games. If you're not playing a ranked match, which is the only way to put your score up on the online leaderboards, you can hold down the left trigger at any point to start rewinding your mistakes. In these unranked games, you're also given full access to the arcade machine's original DIP switches, the Atari 2600's difficulty switches, and the full options of an Intellivison game. Playing Intellivision games also lets you call up the full gamepad, complete with overlay.

You can also view save states from the leaderboard, letting you see how the top players play. The save state system also plays into Game Room's challenge system, which allows you send specific challenges to up to seven of your friends. These can be simple high-score battles, but you can also force the challengers to start at a specific point in the game and configure a host of other options, like the number of times a player can attempt a challenge or how many days the challenge will last. This means that you don't need to actually get everyone together at the same time to start up a challenge, which is a necessary touch.

Microsoft is claiming that it will add seven new games per week, and players that purchase games on the first day will get a little bonus mascot that can be placed inside the Game Room's virtual arcade. Mascots include things like a vector-based tank from Battlezone, or Pitfall Harry. If you don't show up on the first day to make your purchase, Microsoft plans to make the mascots available separately for a small fee. Let me just state here that I think that paying for mascots for your virtual arcade is crazy talk... but it was kind of cool to see all of the little things running around on their own while cruising from room to room.

  Finally... a front-end that will let you play Jungler.
Game Room will have 60 achievements worth 1,000 points. But those points aren't tied to any specific game. Instead, they're tied to medals that you can earn by playing your purchased games. There are nine medals per game, and they're broken up into three tiers of three medals each. This means each game will have a high score challenge, each will have a "time spent" medal for simply playing the game, and so on. I glanced over the achievement list, and it looks like those are also broken up into tiers, with at least a few devoted to your overall time spent in Game Room. So if/when you reach the 36-hour mark, you'll get points for doing so.

While I didn't stare at it long enough to know for sure, the emulation in Game Room appears to be competent and accurate to the original games. All of the emulation work is being handled by Krome Studios, who is also developing the front-end and avatar environment.

Commercialized emulation has always been a tricky business, since the rampant availability of old games online means that everyone else is competing with the low, low cost of "free." The Game Room wrapper has some interesting ideas in it that shine up the experience and might just make this stuff worth paying for. The fixed cost of three dollars per game (with an additional two dollars if you want to play your games on both a 360 and a PC) seems reasonable, too. That said, the lack of proper online play in two-player games like Outlaw is an already-visible omission that means the Game Room still has plenty of room to grow.
Staff
#2 Posted by Imperial_ninjA (21 posts) -

3rd
#3 Posted by rjayb89 (7717 posts) -

42nd.

#4 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

Y'know I'm almost actually hyped for this. 
 
MY only problem is that it'll be waaay to easy for me to endlessly spend money there. I might have to buy everything.

#5 Posted by Daftasabat (510 posts) -

This should be free

#6 Posted by Keavy_Rain (129 posts) -

Looks interesting, but I'd rather see it as a subscription-based servce.

#7 Posted by SonicBoyster (348 posts) -

Sign me up.  I miss me some Intellivision.  It's Burger Time!

#8 Posted by weegieanawrench (1935 posts) -

This is pretty awesome. I can't wait to play my old faves, few that they are. I hope they have Asteroids! 
And sweet, I can't wait to play Battlezone again. $3 for each game is pretty damn decent if you think about how many quarters we used to drop into those arcade machines just for the bragging rights.

#9 Posted by zityz (2360 posts) -

2600 games huh? Hoping they have some keystone capers and zaxxon
#10 Posted by DukeTogo (1504 posts) -

I like it, and even though the whole "free" thing gets thrown around, the vast majority of people don't steal shit online.  Making something like this for the audience it is intended - the over 30 crowd that still remembers playing these in arcades - a worthwhile purchase for a few games here and there.  People of that age generally don't even know about sites that have ROMs, and for those that do, playing them on a TV with a controller with a good interface beats dealing with MAME on a PC.

#11 Posted by Djeffers03 (2545 posts) -

Im so not intersted in this. If I wanted to play old games I would whip out my old consoles or buy them for half the price on ebay, not play them on my 360.

#12 Posted by PureRok (4235 posts) -

Now I can use my arcade stick to play emulated arcade games on my home console!
 
I'm serious. This excites me.

#13 Posted by Shadow (4977 posts) -

Man...and I though Playstation Home was stupid.

#14 Posted by TinaWood (116 posts) -

If the whole Dreamcast thing is for reals, it sounds slightly more appealing to me, but as it stands now, it sounds dull. 

#15 Posted by Milkman (16514 posts) -

All this stuff sounds pretty cool, even if lack of multiplayer is kind of lame.

#16 Posted by Animespara (53 posts) -

well.. at least the service itself is free, looking forward to it.

#17 Posted by TooWalrus (13135 posts) -

I'll give some old games a try, I'm glad they're doing this, even if I don't get super involved in it.

#18 Posted by AgentofChaos (1565 posts) -

To be honest Jeff, I feel that the fun in multiplayer for most of these old games wouldn't have felt great over LIVE, a lot of the fun comes from playing with the duder next to you.

#19 Posted by Atomasist (2818 posts) -

Looks good, but the lack of multiplayer sucks.

#20 Posted by TheGreatGuero (9130 posts) -

1000 achievement points seems pretty low for the game room as a whole, but okay.

#21 Posted by act26 (76 posts) -

I am really excited about this because, 
 
1. i'm 14 so i haven't had the pleasure of playing most of these old games. 
 
2. I live in the UK and there are absolutley no arcade machines anywhere near where i live. 
 
3. You will never be able to buy all these old games and arcade machines anywhere for as little as they are selling them on game room.
#22 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

Rewind sounds pretty brai.. I mean good. Good.  Hope to see it in other emus.
But yeah, there are so few retro titles that I'm willing to double dip on.  Gotta see what's exclusive.

#23 Posted by Nibi (19 posts) -

I thought it was strange that they mentioned Dreamcast. Here's hoping!

#24 Posted by KrunkSplein (8 posts) -

There's only one arcade game I really miss (and have been unable to find for any console in any form).  It was a stupid little game called WindJammers for the NeoGeo.  It was basically a tournament-style frisbee game.  I don't know why I loved it so much, but man did I love it.  Hopefully the Neo will get some love here, but I doubt it.

#25 Posted by Rayfield (2097 posts) -

Kinda interested in what they do with this. The concept and the overall scope seems potentially amazing. Fingers crossed I guess.
#26 Posted by ryuken (109 posts) -

you all are fooling yourselfs thinking thats a good deal, this is just another example of MS getting a bunch of money for something that should be much much cheaper.... and paying for maschots come on!  and you can't even play Vs on any of the games.
#27 Posted by gike987 (1747 posts) -

I'm not sure if this is worth it. With MAME you can use almost any joystick or trackball you want. I'm not sure that all those old arcade game will be fun with a gamepad.

#28 Posted by mracoon (4952 posts) -

Still not worth the price tag.  I could get the Sega Mega Drive compilation that came out last year and had like 50 games for £12 (~ $20), so that's like 25p per game (~30 Microsoft Points). They're charging you 40MP to play the game once! Who do they think they're kidding. Also I don't care enough about achievements enough to buy games just for that and thinking about it I probably wouldn't play most of these games if they were free, let alone being at a ridiculous price.

Moderator
#29 Posted by Generiko (445 posts) -

:( This was supposed to emulate Dreancast games
 
;_;

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