Monday, January 29, 2007

Gametap (PC)


http://www.gametap.com
- Signed up for their 99 cents for the first month deal. $10 a month after that or around $84 for the year.
- Subscription based gaming service where everything gets unified through a single client interface bringing a pseudo console feel to the pc. Hundreds of older games (and more getting added all the time) including quite a few emulators and lots of edutainment/children/family titles which is the main reason I signed up (more on that later). Don't expect latest releases though there is some exclusive content like the Sam and Max series.
- I tried a pretty large variety of games. There is a pretty good control mapping support including gamepads. For this initial test I only used keyboard though.
- Some controls didn't work as well. Take centipede for example. The mouse is usually a good fit for trackball games but here it was almost like the mouse emulated a keyboard instead of sending the full range of mouse data like acceleration and speed to the game. It played ok but not great. You'll actually get better results on something like Mame.
- Several games run under emulation. Some systems I tried were: all the sega stuff (genesis, sms, game gear, 32x, dreamcast), neo geo, atari 2600, c64, 8-bit (seemed like NES), and several aracade titles including many older capcom games like the street fighter series and final fight. These all ran great and at full speed. Even crazy taxi on dreamcast ran perfectly smooth. Some of the emulators are built into the front end while others are spawned off as separate processes (like 8-bit stuff). Dos games work well and most seem to be speed limited and include full soundblaster/adlib support.
- Don't expect any classic nintendo games since I'm sure those are all saved for the Wii Virtual Console where they can milk you dry.
- It can make your software firewall complain alot since it needs to validate your account a lot before starting a game. Sometimes supporting dll's on certain emulators also complain for outbound access.
- Each game has its own volume directory but there is no EXE there. Everything must be launched from the unified gametap client.
- Downloads are slow. You can have up to 3 background downloads at the same time. Either way total download rate is capped at 2mbps for all of gametap. I never once saw it go much higher and I have premium cable RR with 8mbps down (which I can get regularly with other services). Some of the more recent larger games like Baldur's Gate II could take the better part of a day to download so some of that instant gratification is taken away. The best thing to do is just dedicate a day or so to just downloading games you might be interested in and then check them all out later.
- You can create up to 8 sub accounts which you can then login on other machines. Each machine can d/l and play different games all at the same time so it's kind of nice that the whole family can enjoy gametap for one price. It would have been nice to be able to quickly copy over the files for a downloaded game to another machine. I wonder if copying the volume directory would work. I might have to give that a try. There is also a nice set of parental controls you can apply to the accounts.
- There are lots of children educational games. What really sucks with some of these older games (say 1999) is trying to get them installed in winxp. That's the big value of something like gametap where they clean up the installer and make other modifications to the original game is it just easily runs under the gametap client. The time and headache saved right there is almost worth it. This holds true for everything else they do. Sure you could go the emulator,dosbox,mame route but they really did do a pretty good job of packaging all this stuff into a simple unified easy to use system.
- The kids games run on a pretty low end machine. Right now I've got it running on a p3-1ghz, 512meg ram, gf3 ti200. Reader Rabbit runs great. Just make sure you meet the min requirements. I had a geforce2 gts in there at first (not on gametap's list) and the client kept crashing. It's been fine with the gf3.
- Some games could have used a bit more polish than others. Most kids games only run full screen at 640X480 (it doesn't scale). The original Prince of Persia requires you to download the pdf manual to get by the copy protection. But most work just fine.
- There's some streaming video content that I didn't care too much about. A few games had some cool extras with additional background, interviews, or trivia information
- some games have online leader boards or even online play though I didn't test any of this.
- Forget about installing any mods to any gametap games since I bet all the game files are encrypted/drm'ed out the wazoo.

Overall It's not too bad of a value especially if you have younger kids. If it was just for me I'd probably pass.

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