Is MS's X-Box online strategy going to make sense?

Graeme Clark

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Because right now, with the little information we have now, it doesn't.
There's talk about MS working on setting up a network, and deciding if it will be free and that there won't be games until then.
Am I missing something here? Why is a network needed? Doesn't the DirectX tools used include DirectPlay like for a PC? If so, then for many games a DirectIP connection is all that is needed to play with someone else and all that needs to be supplied is a way for players to get started which many PC developers already provide at now charge (Battle.net, Westwood Online, WON and MS's own Zone).
Games that require a server are of course a slightly different story, but is MS's envolvement really required? I mean, how many servers are there out there for Quake 3, Half-Life (and it's mods), Tribes 2 etc. Lots, and for the most part, without much publisher support.
And I know that MS doesn't want this thing turning into a mini-pc. But they also want us to fill up the HD with downloads and add-ons and other goodies. Wouldn't this be easier with a browser, KB and mouse? Especially once the users start making creations (assuming MS doesn't try to stop that too)?
I'm optimistic, but I'm worried this is going to be screwed up.
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Gary King

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I think MS is creating the online network to make things easier for gamers and developers. Developers will be free to implement their own online networks (re: Square's Play Online), but the cost of doing so is prohibitive in many cases, and Microsoft already has a good infrastructure set up.
For games like Unreal Championship, the network may serve only as a list of current games (like GameSpy for Unreal Tournament), rather than a server; however, a centralized list of all current games will certainly make finding a game nicer than randomly trying IP addresses
 

Morgan Jolley

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And I know that MS doesn't want this thing turning into a mini-pc. But they also want us to fill up the HD with downloads and add-ons and other goodies. Wouldn't this be easier with a browser, KB and mouse? Especially once the users start making creations (assuming MS doesn't try to stop that too)?
They won't be making a browser, keyboard, or mouse, and any tools used for making game mods will have to be implemented into the games (like a level editor/creator). I don't see why everyone is talking about being able to make mods for games for consoles now just because the X-Box is made by a PC software company. We lived through the DC without mods and the Japanese are happy with the PS2 online without them, so whats the big deal?
 

Adam Nixon

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You're right, Morgan -- mods will have no discernable impact on a console's online success. That's one of the reasons why the PC will still survive as a gaming platform. That level of user-created customization is something you can't find anywhere else.
I think Microsoft would have HUGE success with this provided they DON'T charge for the service. If I'm already paying $50 a month for broadband, I sure as hell won't be happy about kicking out another $10-20 in fees on top. I'll just go back to the PC for online gaming.
 

Morgan Jolley

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I think that mods and such will come to console gaming (they sort of did with Quake III for DC) but there really is no use for them yet. One of the great things about the PC is that it isn't aimed at everybody and is in a separate market from consoles, so they can have games that require hundreds of hours of gameplay and 2-D graphics and people will still buy them if they are good rather than look good. Mods and such are slowly coming to consoles via map makers and customizability for characters and levels and such. I wonder what will happen when a 3-D version of RPG maker is made.
 

Graeme Clark

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They won't be making a browser, keyboard, or mouse, and any tools used for making game mods will have to be implemented into the games (like a level editor/creator). I don't see why everyone is talking about being able to make mods for games for consoles now just because the X-Box is made by a PC software company. We lived through the DC without mods and the Japanese are happy with the PS2 online without them, so whats the big deal?

Developers of games (not MS) could easily make tools available that are for a PC, like they are for current PC games, and then make them available to download to an X-Box. The tools do not have to be implemented into the game and they do not have to be developed on the actual X-Box system.
People are talking about it now becase the rules have changed. We now have a system that will give us acces to files through the internet, and a place to store them in the HD.
People have always liked being somewhat creative. There are a number of console games that allow you to create your own levels and play them. From Excitebike to Tony Hawk 2. But those were somewhat limited and harder to share with others. A complex level in a FPS can be 10+ MB which makes saving on a memory card prohibitive.
The DC didn't really have any place to save anything of significance, but many games did have the ability to download little extras for games that were saved on the VMU and many people have figured how to get programs working on the DC in the form of emulators, a VCD player and MP3 players.
The online and storage abilities of the PS2 is very very new. Even before that though, people were trying to do thing with the PS2 besides play games and DVDs like get Linux working on it (which was very popular in Japan).
The point it that people are interested in doing things with their system besides just playing the games that developers put out there.
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Morgan Jolley

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And you know what? Those people can just buy PCs and do all that. There are games like RPG Maker that allow you to custom design an ENTIRE GAME. IMO, who cares if you can't make a mod of a game? Why not just buy a PC and do it? Why not just enjoy the game? Why not care about something else? The thing with Linux on the PS2 was pretty pointless since all it did was run Linux, you couldn't do much else. Also, the VCD, MPEG, emulator and such for DC are not that great, considering there have been problems with sound for some games and that you can just have all those on your PC (which is required to make them). In fact, you could use your DC with your PC monitor, which would make emulation on the DC even more pointless. Yes, its neat to learn how to program for the DC, but you could use it for something new, like creating an original game...anyway, back to my original point. Console games don't have the ability to do mods yet because they don't need it.
 

Graeme Clark

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For games like Unreal Championship, the network may serve only as a list of current games (like GameSpy for Unreal Tournament), rather than a server; however, a centralized list of all current games will certainly make finding a game nicer than randomly trying IP addresses

Of course, browsing software would be included with the game, and the only thing the developer would need to setup is a server with an updated list to send.
The only problem with this is, who would run the servers. Now we mostly have fans and ISPs running servers for the PC games. I'm not sure how willing they'd be to set up servers for X-Box games, but I'd imagine that if, say Halo were MP, we'd see enough popping up. I mean, how many Counterstrike servers do we really need?
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Morgan Jolley

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Actually, I heard that MS might impose a payment thing where you pay a few dollars (like 5 bucks) a month for using the online thing, then the prices for all the games you play online per month that have charges for them are added to the total, and MS sends you a single bill with all the prices added up. The PS2 (and probably GCN) let you go online and the individual games can have a payment system of their own.
 

Adam Nixon

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Not one of those options sounds enticing. The last thing I want is to be perpetually PAYING to play console games. At least I don't have to worry about bills being incurred when I play Unreal Tournament or Age of Empires 2. Do manufacturers really think the console online business will turn a profit with any of those methods? By establishing a free service, that's INCENTIVE to game online for me (and countless others). Just imagine how many copies of Unreal Championship or other multiplayer titles would fly off the shelves if all you had to do was go home and pop it in the drive. SIMPLICITY -- that's the defining trademark of consoles. Why screw it up now?
As for servers, I can't see a network of user-run setups being allowed by MS. There could be vast inconsistencies in the network speeds, not to mention the increased vulnerabilities to security attacks. The thought of a virus crashing my X-box sends chills down my spine.
 

Morgan Jolley

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The PS2 won't have a pay to play system unless the company who made the game implements one. The thing is, the game will be about $30 and the service will only be a few bucks a month. Its not going to be a $50 game and a $20 service. PlayOnline (Squaresoft's big online thing) will let you play games by Square, Enix, and Capcom online for only one price (as in pay $10 a month and you have unlimited play of every single online Square, Enix, and Capcom game for PS2). At least, thats how its supposed to pan out. Square, Enix, and Capcom are all working together for online stuff, and that is how it looks like its going to work right now.
 

Dean Cooper

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Ah hah! This is a great topic. There are basically three different options as to what MS can do with there online support and I think the future will hold all three options. It all runs down to what the developer decides to support. Lets look at the possibilities, and after reading the following if you can comeup with more ideas please add to my post.
Option one:
What MS (or the game developer) can do is setup a main group of servers to host games ala Everquest and charge a fee to maintain the hardware and bandwidth required for the game. This setup works really well in the massive multiplayer online games like EQ, Asherons call, Anarky online and so on. All three of these games have proven that there is a market for this type of setup and players are more than willing to pay a fee to play (whether you like it or not) and MS can add content to the game as time goes on without a hitch. The big problem with this type of setup is it’s a Bandwidth super hog! and is quite expensive to maintain. So charging a monthly fee is justifiable.
Option two:
For games like Diablo II, Starcraft and so on, MS (or the game developer) can set up a host gateway like Battlenet. The bandwidth requirement is drastically less than option one and can be compensated by having advertisements as part of the user interface. This type of setup will cause one of the connected Xbox units to act as the host and the user’s ISP handles the bandwidth burden of the game itself. This is why companies like Blizzard can offer this type of system for free to the gamers and works very well for games that have 8 players or less.
Option three:
The last option is to release a host program that gamers can run on their PC and have some type of gateway program like Gamespy to list the dedicated hosts available. Like option two, the users ISP handles the main bandwidth burden and the host gateway program can be compensated by online advertisements as part of the user interface so it would be offered free to the users.
What Option is the best is really up to the type of game that your playing, and I realy expect to see all three options or at least the first and a combination of the second and third options provided by Microsoft, or the game developer in the future.
Now for the off topic part of this thread, Player mods!
Just because the game is on the Xbox doesn’t mean you can’t create a mod on your computer and use the built in BB connection and harddrive to download, save and play your mod on your Xbox. That is what makes the Xbox a step ahead of the rest! If a developer wants to support something like that they can and not have to worry about the players not having the right hardware to play the new mods. That would allow players to be able to share their creations over the internet. Its really the best of both worlds, the hardware consistency of a console and the accessibility and customizability of the PC even though its far from being one.
Dean
 

Adam Nixon

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I prefer option 2, but I think we'll be seeing more of option 1, I'm afraid. As for option 3, MS has done nothing but try to put distance between the X-box and the PC -- they'll probably want to maintain that distance. That's why I believe the only mods or new content we will see will be downloaded through MS directly. I can't see them allowing me to import new levels from UnrealEd to the X-box, not to mention the hassles of going from a PC environment to a console. I don't think the X-box HD was intended for that.
I know some companies charge (I'm going to pay when Star Wars: Galaxies comes out), but the RPG world is different than the action world. In an RPG you're constantly improving your player, versus Quake 3 where the goal is to simply "cap" everyone in sight. I wouldn't be interested in paying for Unreal Championship.
I'm not sure I like the online concept for consoles at all. If companies move to a pay-or-don't-play concept, I foresee a second video game "crash" on the horizon. In addition, I think there's a severe overestimation about how big the audience is for online fees. I can't imagine parents would allow their kids to charge up a storm every time they rented a new game, so that's going to eliminate a HUGE chunk of potential subscribers. Nintendo doesn't seem to have any real interest in online gaming from what I've read -- I wonder if they'll even release the modems over here. Granted, not every title will take advantage of that, and I certainly don't see any online-only titles being a success for any consoles.
Publishers have been salivating over the "massively multiplayer" cash pot since Everquest hit. If the market is flooded with these pay titles, it's going to severely limit the customer base. I'd be looking at one or two titles per-month only, which would be FAR less than the amount of games I actually purchase. Most people don't have the money to support several games per month.
Perhaps it's just me, but some of these plans remind of (shudder) -- DIVX.

[Edited last by Adam Nixon on August 28, 2001 at 05:35 PM]
 

Dean Cooper

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Adam, you have to remember that its people like you that the gaming companies will have to please. If there is a flood of Everquest type games the weak ones will die due to lack of support and the strong ones will cary on. Like I said before, it all depends on the type of game your playing. The pay to play just isn't fesable to implement for games like FPS, because people can already play that type of game on thier PCs for free. Microsoft is pushing the non PC thing right now because its not out yet...and they are fighting the " its just a mini PC that you can't upgrade" image. Once the system is out and makes a fair user base MS won't have to fight that image anymore, and you will see tools for your pc to create player mods a much more common thing. Developers right now are playing it safe, and that will change with time depending on the sales of the system.
Dean
 

Adam Nixon

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It's these kind of discussions that make me REALLY want to see the X-box on an even platform with the other 2 consoles. There IS tremendous potential in the machine, I just hope developers utilize it.
I had high hopes for EA, seeing as how they were (I think) the first "big" name to sign aboard. Unfortunately, they seem content to float the same title across all three platforms -- which means the titles will play best on the PS2, with minor graphical ungrades for the GCN and X-box. Publishers SUCK.
 

Morgan Jolley

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Some games that offer an online type ability before the service is available will use the ethernet adapter (for PS2 or XB) to hook up to a LAN and then a bunch of people can play a game against eachother, provided they are all connected and have a console, copy of the game, and a TV.
What MS will probably do is allow users to connect to their servers and then there will be servers within that which connect users to eachother. It will probably work like MS' The Gaming Zone idea.
create a mod on your computer and use the built in BB connection and harddrive to download, save and play your mod on your Xbox
That is assuming that you know how to program for the X-Box and the game you are modding. I personally think it isn't worth the effort unless you are testing your programming skills or are doing an assignment for a college course. Also, modding a game on a console is more difficult than on a PC because the PC allows you to browse through the files for the game, whereas the console game only allows you to play the game (on a PC you can view the files but not open them or do anything, since they are in different formats).
One thing developers are going to do now is make level editor type modes and allow people to save maps and such to their HDDs and send them to people using the internet on a console. There will probably be other things that use this. DexDrive allowed people to make custom RPGs with RPG Maker for PSX and then send them to others on the internet.
Nintendo will probably just let people play against eachother without charge. If a charge is implemented, it will be by the company behind the console (Sony, Sega, Nintendo, MicroSoft) or the publisher of the game. Square can charge for Final Fantasy XI if they want to, or they could let it be free. Its their decision. Online RPGs will probably get fees, whereas games like Tony Hawk won't. I think the games that will require the most bandwidth or time (RPGs, sports games) will be the charge ones. Games like action games or FPS' will probably just be $50 and free to play online.
Each company will probably have an online service for free but will create first party games with charges attached. PSOv2 for DC was the first pay to play console game, which was a bad idea since its not even an entirely new game. Hopefully, the 3 big 'uns right now won't make big mistakes.
 

JasonK

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I don't think the console world is ready for pay-to-play internet gaming. I was a big supporter of the DC's plan, where you could use your own ISP (albeit not AOL) and not have to pay any fees aside from what the game cost. We're all aware of the backlash against Sega regarding their plan to charge for Phantasy Star Online Version 2. I know I'm not got gonna pay to play. If internet gaming is done on a pay-to-play basis right off the bat, it will stunt its growth if not crash it, as someone mentioned earlier.
I don't pretend to know what the solution to all this is, but I wouldn't be against what Sony did with Twisted Metal Black, and simply have 2 versions of the game. One w/online play, and one without. If you release them at the same time, charge $10-15 more for the online one. I would gladly pay $60 for PSO2 if I knew the online portion of it would be free. But, then you have to deal with people who buy PSO2 for $60 with no intentions of ever playing it online. They have to shell out more money for something they won't use. (But then again why buy PSO2 if your not gonna go online with it...) These next few years will be an interesting time for us gamers.
Jason
 

Ron Gilbert

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What MS has said so far about their online network is that it will be "affordable", and since you can't browse the net with an Xbox, I guess that helps cost wise? Also, it will work with any broadband service, there will be places set up on their net for users to maintain saved games, a means of instant messaging, and a user identifyer via your memory card (useful if your playing on a friends Xbox). I imagine that certain types of games, such as MMRPG's, will have to charge a perplay fee, however the impression I got from the vaguely remembered interview I'm pulling my info from is that there will be different pricing structures in place, but nothing overly pricey. Which is good, since, as someone else already pointed out, BB service by itself is expensive enough.
 

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