Initial Impressions of Microsoft's Game Room

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Bill Loguidice's picture

Well, I downloaded Microsoft Game Room last night on my Xbox 360, and the two game packs, which essentially featured a small selection of Atari 2600 and Intellivision console games, and Konami and Atari arcade games. I came away underwhelmed. While some of the basic concepts are sound, like being able to create your own virtual arcade rooms to decorate and "walk" around in (your avatar is shown sidling up to a machine), and being able to visit others' arcades, it's not exactly as aesthetically pleasing and as smooth of an interface as I would like. Nevertheless, I'm sure I could get used to that, but where it really breaks down for me is in the video emulation, which simply doesn't seem to work that well with my 50" 1080p HDTV at the distance I am from the screen (about 10 feet). What do I mean by this? Well, particularly with some of the arcade machines, like Lunar Lander for instance, everything is just too small to comfortably make out from a distance, and the zoom options - which are only accessible from a menu and are not real-time - don't really help, so there's naturally lots of wasted space on the left and right of the screen. Of course, some games fare better with this than others, like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision games (though I didn't feel like the latter controlled all that great or that the emulation was 100%), but I still found the experience rather uncomfortable, no matter what screen settings I chose. There are additional options for adding and removing scanlines and various other display and sound trickery and ambiance, but nothing worth really sticking with.

If you demo a game, it's a one time, timed free demo, then you have to use credits to play the game (they give you 20 to start out with), or purchase the game, of which there are two major options: purchase just for this console, or purchase for play on others devices as well (in this case, your Windows PC). In any case, I'm going to experiment more with this new service when I have time, and see if being closer to the TV (as in, off my comfy sofa) makes me any more "comfortable", as there are certainly some interesting aspects to this, including issuing challenges to your Game Room-owning Xbox 360 or Windows friends.

So, for those who tried it, what are your thoughts?

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Thurstan (not verified)
game room

Had a quick play with it last night and I liked the look of it, being able to change the themes is very useful. It does give you the feel of an arcade, but obviously you need machines in there which cost points!

i only played two intellivision games and they looked fine on my 32" LCD tv, the emulation looked fine to me.

I just need more time to play with it to make any real judgements

Chris Kennedy
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Arg

That's tough to hear. I really thought that Game Room would perhaps be what finally got me back into using my Xbox 360.

You can emulate, but you can't match the real thing. I thought by now things would be better optimized. If one of us plays Centipede and gets a ridiculous score, others should be able to see it in the top scores.

I will probably check out any demo form of this that I can use, but it sounds like there is some need for improvement.

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Bill Loguidice
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Chris Kennedy wrote:

I will probably check out any demo form of this that I can use, but it sounds like there is some need for improvement.

Well, the good thing is that you only need to download three things to have access to everything, plus they give you 20 "tokens" free, plus some free achievements just for doing a few things. You can also demo any game for 10 minutes once, for free. After that it's either use a token or purchase it.

There is definite room for improvement, though honestly, given the way its emulated, I wonder if the part I have the most issue with - the actual playfield presentation - can ever be fixed. Hopefully I can get to try it again over the weekend.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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Rowdy Rob
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That's disappointing, Bill.
Bill Loguidice wrote:

There is definite room for improvement, though honestly, given the way its emulated, I wonder if the part I have the most issue with - the actual playfield presentation - can ever be fixed. Hopefully I can get to try it again over the weekend.

I find that many of these "classic game" presentations on various platforms are darn near unplayable. They do weird things with the screen display, and in almost all cases, the control schemes make controlling the games extremely wonky, if not outright unplayable. For example, the "Atari's Greatest Hits" collection on the Dreamcast was horrible, and the only game that was playable with the controllers was "Warlords." I find this to be the case with just about every other home "classic game" packages I've played. And this isn't even taking into account the accuracy of the emulation.

The only exception I've found was Jakks Pacific "TV Games Ms. Pacman" game, which has several arcade classics that play beautifully on that system's arcade-style controller.

Mame still seems to be the way to go for arcade classics.

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Bill Loguidice
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I agree 100% Rob, though

I agree 100% Rob, though what bugs me is that there ARE ways to tune these games for display on big screens at HD resolutions. Most of the Xbox Live Arcade games for instance, that were released as individual games, for instance, like Time Pilot, which had both an original mode and an enhanced mode (reskinned graphics and sound), look and play just fine. The issue no doubt is the "universal" emulators used by the interface, and the apparent inability to individually tweak a particular game for max screen real estate or other performance/play considerations (since it's probably more or less the equivalent of just running a ROM from the emulator). Again, I may be blowing this a bit out of proportion, but in my play of vector games like "Lunar Landers" and "Asteroids", when played in the manner I described in my blog post, everything was very difficult to see.

MAME is wonderful and I use it all the time on my MAME arcade machine in my basement, but it's probably partly also due to the whole TV versus monitor thing and the respective distances the player is away from each screen. That's probably why I also prefer strategy games on the PC versus console, as tiny objects simply work better on computer monitors where your nose is close to the screen. Of course, I may also just be getting old!

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Rowdy Rob
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MS Game room and Mame
Bill Loguidice wrote:

MAME is wonderful and I use it all the time on my MAME arcade machine in my basement, but it's probably partly also due to the whole TV versus monitor thing and the respective distances the player is away from each screen.

I've been mildly entertaining the idea of building my own cocktail-style Mame cabinet. Is there any reason not to use a standard-definition TV in a MAME cab? I know you have a special monitor in yours.

Bill Loguidice
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Rowdy Rob wrote:
Bill Loguidice wrote:

MAME is wonderful and I use it all the time on my MAME arcade machine in my basement, but it's probably partly also due to the whole TV versus monitor thing and the respective distances the player is away from each screen.

I've been mildly entertaining the idea of building my own cocktail-style Mame cabinet. Is there any reason not to use a standard-definition TV in a MAME cab? I know you have a special monitor in yours.

It's a Well Gardner 27" arcade monitor, yes. It's the kind for mounting, meaning all the internals are exposed. It's matched up with an ArcadeVGA card in the computer.

Anyway, a cocktail project would be quite fun (it's something I've considered myself), though keep in mind you can get cocktail multi-games (JAMMA board, not MAME) for as cheap as ~$1,000 shipped, so they're certainly more cost-effective than getting something like I have (which is around $4,000, though I didn't pay nearly that much).

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Mark Vergeer
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Mark's initial impressions...

Checked it out as well. Bill you should do a video on it as well!

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | Mark's Tube

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retroc64
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I don't particularly like

I don't particularly like arcade and video games, but I love computer RPGs, strategy and text adventures. Wouldn't it be cool to have an XBox 360 Commodore 64 Bedroom. LOL! You could customize your bedroom, buy C64 titles and stick them on your virtual shelves and watch Commodore 64 commercials by William Shatner on your 13" CRT.

Mark Vergeer
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Now that's an idea!
retroc64 wrote:

I don't particularly like arcade and video games, but I love computer RPGs, strategy and text adventures. Wouldn't it be cool to have an XBox 360 Commodore 64 Bedroom. LOL! You could customize your bedroom, buy C64 titles and stick them on your virtual shelves and watch Commodore 64 commercials by William Shatner on your 13" CRT.

Now that's an excellent idea actually!

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | Mark's Tube

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