For anyone who took part in the Xbox Live beta test all those years ago (well in gaming years anyway, where technology quickly ages!), the realisation of the enormous magnitude that this new service could provide was just mind blowing and indicated it could be the start of something special. My admiration of a console that had for me the benefits of quick and simple gaming without the fuss of drivers and the vast expense of a PC setup, took over my life and inspired me to create a gaming website around it.
Although this site has now demised due to the immense workload it provided ( admiration to the Admin here for putting up with it for so long ), my fondness of that little black box and its connectivity still grew. So what it wasn’t actually that little and certainly not the prettiest console to look it, but it had strength and muscles pronounced from every corner that would push online gaming to the next level.
Now Xbox Live has moved onto the Xbox 360, new features like achievements have popped up (literally) to further enhance the already stellar feature set of this online world. So now we move onto Live Anywhere, which is Xbox Live transplanted onto other platforms, but how will it all gel together?
Imagine if you will, you are surrounded by technology (some of us will not have to think much about this one!) and every device has the opportunity to connect and share information. To be part of a central network that is glowing with communities, data and connectivity. Well this is the dream Microsoft will surely want us to realise some time in the near future, but we haven’t quite got there yet!
So we can view our friends list already on Xbox.com and read messages, but that is about the limit on the PC until Live Anywhere launched on Windows Vista. Shadowrun, the first game to take this approach has been released now and for the first time Xbox 360 gamers and PC gamers can actually compete in the same arena, in the same game, with the same friends etc.
This is very exciting stuff and the fact that this hasn’t happened sooner will probably surprise a lot of analysts. Imagine all those PC gamers out there with their water cooled computers humming away, all lit up like a Christmas tree on steroids thanks to those neon light thingymejigs. They number in the millions upon millions, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the potential this could create for the Xbox consoles as a platform and the indeed for the neglected PC user.
Yes it all works… sort of…
We were promised big things with the launch of Live Anywhere and unfortunately it has failed quite miserably. Don’t panic, Live Anywhere provides all your basic and indeed mid-range features we have come to love on the Xbox 360, but it has lost one key aspect, which could be considered a fatal flaw. They have totally integrated it to the game!
Now this is fantastic WHEN you are playing the game. You have the same dashboard feel of checking your gamerscore, recent players, feedback, messages, friends list, achievement comparison etc, but as soon as you leave it to go back to read your email or browse the web, darkness follows as the empty space where Live Anywhere used to be is now just a cruel memory.
Competing Gaming – Console Vs PC
What is your immediate response when you compare PC to console gaming when we talk about first person shooters? Well of course it is that age old discussion of keyboard and mouse versus a controller. Boy has this argument gone on and on to the point we all start to tear our hair out and now it is more relevant than ever, so get that debating frame of mind back again for yet another round of fisty-cuffs.
Ironically where most of us would be saying “keyboard and mouse is the uber way to express our l33t skills and controllers are for n00bs”, you would be wrong. The controller has won the first fight as in an attempt to balance Shadowrun, they have actually mucked it all up… whoops!
Those lovely features like Auto-Aim, which are normally the saving grace for us console owners have now almost ruined the multi-platform world of Live Anywhere with this unfairness. Of course a patch will be released to sort this, but a silly thing to let through when so much bragging of testing for months on end has a product ship that has this key error.
This though is the future, this is what gamers want, this is what we have dreamed of, and Microsoft could totally dominate the gaming space if this succeeds, but there are going to be many frustrated gamers between now and then for everything to settle down and find that clear light of perfection.
We are still sitting in our leather PC chairs experiencing the initial step of Live Anywhere. It reminds me so much of the original Xbox Live beta all that time ago with its impressive feature set, yet disconnected exit. Maybe in a couple of years when the library of games match the expectations of the PC gamer and proper integration with Windows Vista, we will see the fruits of Microsoft’s efforts come into its own.
There is no doubt in my mind that Microsoft are on to a winner here and if the odds were right, it is worth a punt or two, however the time for it to grow up and become a man is still some time away as Junior is still yet to be fully potty trained. So don’t jump onto the Vista bandwagon yet if you are expecting this to blow you away. As it won’t! Not yet anyway!