Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Things I Want (Donkey Kong Arcade) and Things I Dont Want (OnLive)

I read some interesting things this week between epic sessions of Gears and poker. First, Nintendo has launched its Virtual Console Arcade, which brings emulations of classic coin-op arcade games to the Wii. When I read this, I thought, my goodness these people at Nintendo are brilliant. They know just what we want. Retro arcade titles downloaded to your new shiny extra large SD card (which you can now launch games directly from, rather than just storing them there. Dont ask.) Then I read the group of launch titles Nintendo had picked: Gaplus (also known as Galaga 3), Mappy (a mediocre 1983 platformer), Star Force (a primitive Xevious clone), and Tower of Druaga (Namco's red headed stepchild of a maze game). It was at this point that I realized this is the same group of people that named the premier consumer electronic entertainment product in the world after a part of the British male anatomy.

What are these people thinking? Does anyone on the planet earth really want to play Mappy? Are you effing kidding me? That game sucked twenty years ago. Meanwhile Nintendo has Donkey Kong, which many people (including yours truly) consider to be the greatest arcade game ever made - and they just let it sit there by the side of the road like a used condom. Donkey Kong is Shigeru Miyamoto's seminal masterpiece of video game design, but the NES version available on the Wii VC sucks because it doesnt include the cement factory and later screens (such as the legendary and impossible to reach kill screen) where the game runs out of memory and crashes. My message to Nintendo:

Give me kill screens or give me death.

Moving on to things I dont want, lets talk about OnLive, touted by some as the true next generation of gaming. From IGN:

"Just announced at this year's GDC, OnLive is an on-demand gaming service. It's essentially the gaming version of cloud computing - everything is computed, rendered and housed online. In its simplest description, your controller inputs are uploaded, a high-end server takes your inputs and plays the game, and then a video stream of the output is sent back to your computer. Think of it as something like Youtube or Hulu for games."

Before I say anything else, let me tell you where I stand: if OnLive is the future of gaming, that is a future which does not include your truly. I will be residing in an assisted living home with my NES, Genesis, PS2, Xbox and my 37 copies of Burnout 3 and I will be eating boiled cabbage 3 times a day and be perfectly happy because some douche in a suit didnt shovel remote gaming down my ethernet port.

Personally, I think its a bit far fetched and certainly not for hardcore gamers. I can see this kind of thing being a success with casual gamers, where graphics quality and lag dont pose any threat. But for starters, I just dont believe its possible to encode 720P/30FPS video and stream it over the internet in realtime. There will be lag, the question is just how much, and for me the answer is any amount is too great for a serious gaming session. Think about how annoying a laggy online match of Gears or Halo or Call of Duty is - now imagine trying to play the entire single player game that way. Now factor in that PC gamers have been using resolutions exceeding 1900x1200 for years, often with frame rates of over 60FPS, and you can see how this is going to be a hard sell. Even if the lag is minimized and the video encoding/compression is stellar, there is no way these games will look as good as if you were running them on your own high end PC. My message to OnLive and its partners:

Give me local gaming or give me death.

Assisted living is OK too.


umopapisdnpuaq said...

The Onlive is vapuorware. Even if they get it up and running and you use it for a few months. It's still just vapours you're getting.

It's also likely to be totally US-centric. Onlive should look to Asia if they believe their idea is so good, they may actually have the speeds to support the system.

The current spike in Xbox marketplace arcade game prices to default 1200 and up to 1600 is the same kind of marketing think that actually loses them money because 10,000 x 1200 is much less than 20,000 x 800, plus it encourages people to regularly buy arcade games.

Gamers know what they want and don't need to be force fed old games where nostlagia is the biggest reason to play them.

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