Imagine for a moment that you had a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor installed and a Mr. Fusion that provides 1.21 gigawatts of energy. What would you do (other than buy a sports almanac)? You can tell us on the news comments page, but if you were an ultra-hardcore gamer, where fame and fortune meant less than latency and Punkbuster, you’d probably want to go back in time at the beginning of online PC gaming and tell them to adopt some of the technologies found in Xbox Live.
You see, Xbox Live is something Microsoft has gotten right from the get go. They have not only outdone Sony and Nintendo when it comes to online gaming services, but by many measures, the PC as well.
When Microsoft began drafting the Xbox Live plan, they turned back to the PC online gaming world to figure out what was done right, and what was wrong. They realized that there was nothing wrong with the technology behind PC online gaming -- it was the implementation.
Despite marketing claims, the Xbox is just a modified PC. In the case of Xbox Live however, being a PC is a good thing. The Xbox has access to the high performance and robust TCP/IP stack that Microsoft has developed over years. For the Xbox, network connectivity is something inherent to the operating system kernel rather than something that is bootstrapped.
Let’s skip the fluffy intro and jump right into the article…
How many times have you actually heard someone use the voice chat feature in Counter-Strike when playing on a random server. Once? Twice? And how many times was the chat actually relevant to the game? Voice-over-IP technologies can bring a lot to a game, but at least in my experience, it remains an unused tool in PC gaming.
I don’t think anyone would doubt the benefit of being able to simply say to your teammates “Wait, there’s one more rushing the tunnel” or “I need backup at the bridge” Not only can it give your Internet games the same level of intensity as a LAN party, but in team-based games, it can significantly add to the gameplay. With the Xbox Live and standardized broadband, voice over IP gets used significantly more. You still run the chance of having a punk just spew trash over the audio channel, however this didn’t happen in my try with Xbox Live. This is probably because no one is truly anonymous and because if you’re going to pay for an online gaming service, you might as well use it.