Microsoft’s Live Arcade system sounded odd to me. I could see how kids would love these brightly coloured, simple games, but why would grown up gamers part with real cash for these downloadable treats? After sampling several through free demos, it became apparent that much of their charm is actually because of their simplicity, not despite it. While returning to the world of Frogger holds no interest for me, there is something inherently funny about playing a 35 year old card game on £300 console with a 32″ TV (I’m talking about the unreasonably addictive UNO).
But there is more to it than mere quirkiness. The ability to dip into games for a short session has been lost in the mire of overly complex gameplay mechanics that require an investment of several hours at a time. When paired with the frenzied brilliance of, say, Geometry Wars, the winner is clear despite the simplicity of shooting at coloured shapes (though because of the consoles raw power it manages effortlessly to look gorgeous too). Bungie described their job in Halo as finding 30 seconds of perfect gameplay and then repeating it in varied way throughout a game. That 30 seconds may involve complex tactical choices or a finely tuned physics engine. But it doesn’t have to.
Xbox Live’s easy payment system for downloadable content has undoubtedly aided the success of Live Arcade, and although some “retro” games are really just forgettable rehashes (Pacman, Frogger, et al.) others are genuinely great games in their own right and perfect for the older gamer who needs to fit games around his work life and not the other way around. And if you have a 360, check out the Live Arcade within the next week and you can pick up the full version of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker absolutely free. Yes, Microsoft just gave something away.
Meanwhile my laptop has been suffering from hard drive issues. It appears corrupted beyond recovery (even by one of Rav’s signature wipe ‘n’ go routines). Although I wouldn’t expect it from a two year old machine, Dell have, unsurprisingly, taken the “that’s why we recommend customers keep their warranty up to date” line. In many ways I’m actually glad it’s out of warranty — it avoids the hassle of dealing with them, requiring them to confirm the fault and cause, and waiting around for them to ship out a replacement part. Since I know what I’m doing, strolling into a store and buying it myself is both more preferable and speedier. And fortunately I have recent backups thanks to trusty Syndrome so take this as a reminder to do yours too. Depending how long it takes to sort out, however, updates may be scarcer and I may not be able to take it to Germany. I am not unhappy with Dell’s performance in general, but since I intend on purchasing a high-end desktop next, I think this confirms I’ll probably be looking elsewhere.
25 August 2006 at 5:03 pm
You just don’t like Frogger cos you you can’t play it :p
25 August 2006 at 5:06 pm
ooo and Try Mesh Computers. Thas where I’m probs gonna get my desktop for uni. They have VERY good offers at the mo. I really shud have read the whole thing first lol
18 September 2006 at 6:23 pm
My name is Larry and I am a customer advocate here at Dell headquarters in Texas. I came across this post about your problem with the hard drive on your Dell notebook. While I see you have already had the drive replaced, I wanted to get more information about what happened in case there is something we can improve in our service.
If you would like to get with me about this, I can be reached by email at Customer_Advocate@Dell.com (please add ‘ATTN:Larry’ to the subject line to ensure it gets to me).
Dell Customer Advocate
19 September 2006 at 3:06 pm
> I am not unhappy with Dell’s performance in general, but since I intend on purchasing a high-end desktop next, I think this confirms I’ll probably be looking elsewhere.
Why? I’ve been using Dell’s Precision workstations for serious work for quite a while now, they have always performed well and have been tolerant of the amount of abuse I deal out to them…
I guess for High-End desktops you’d be looking at Dell, Alienware or a custom build job?
19 September 2006 at 4:19 pm
For price I would normally go with Dell but I get the feeling their build quality has been declining in the last few years. To have a hard drive fail in 2yrs is not what I would have expected of them, particularly when they seemed to treat it as my fault for not purchasing an extended warranty.
Now I would probably look at a custom build job despite the extra expense. However, as you can see above, they recently contacted me regarding this post so I’ll let you know how it develops and whether it changes my mind. I do (unlike some) remain generally impressed with their level of customer care.
20 September 2006 at 1:34 pm
Their laptops have a slight hard-disk eating tendency, to be fair, as do many laptops. My highest-end Toshiba Tablet recently killed its disk as well…
Perhaps interestingly, the primary reasons I buy Dell kit are their customer care and reliability.
Their customer support for Precision Workstations has been outstanding, with people who actually know something(!) helping with relitively complex problems such as CPU overheat conditions when I swapped a 2.8GHz processor for a 3GHz procesoor, whereas Toshiba suggested that I might have voided the warranty by removing a dying hard-disk to extract the data.
I have been generally less impressed with their Desktop support than their workstation support, but their computers, even the cheap Dell-Outlet machines seem to run solidly, and the average turn-around time for a fix is only ~24 hours, compared to a week with many companies.
I’m not convinced that their workstations are the fastest machines in their class, but my demands are for things that work all the time and get fixed quickly when they stop, compared to the very fastest kit.
Compared to all the junk providers that I’ve seen students struggle with when things go wrong, they have been superb. But as I say, this is for a range of machines for which one pays a substantial premium.
I’m interested by their response above, let me know how that pans out.
Incidentally, I’ve seen serious problems with people trying to home-build kit, even people with a high degree of technical competence. For example I’ve seen one case where an obscure motherboard bug resulted in a machine not working for nearly a year whilst the various component manufacturers blamed each other. Personally having seen this happen to someone else, I’m not interested in playing this game, but your milage may vary…. It can be fun as well 🙂