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GameSpy has released it's latest creation. No, it's not another Planet, it's GameSpy Arcade. This beta version is a user friendly program that "matches people with each other and the PC games they want to play. It supports everything from the hardcore action classics -- like Quake or Half-Life -- to classic, board, sports, or strategy games." It's a big program that not only includes server hookups (as in GameSpy3D), but also tons of chat rooms, instant messaging, and a mini web browser to boot. Here are some of the features ripped from the official website:
Intelligent chat rooms Easy game launching A built-in buddy list and quick message system Player Matching: Never be without an opponent Built-in GameSpy Network news, forums and Web browsing DemoSpy: Find and download the latest game demos SmartSpy: Advanced filtering for faster server refreshes
The program supports a huge list of games, pretty much anything that's popular enough. You'll even find classic games such as spades, checkers, chess, and backgammon. You can take a look at the list of supported games here and because the program is still beta, many games are yet to be added.
Accompanying each game is a chat room where gamers can talk about the game itself, hook up with other players to play, or whatever. But if you're looking to just play, you may find the chat rooms incredibly annoying. Anybody who chats there is usually not looking for a game, but just chatting it up like they're in IRC, talking completely off topic of the theme of the room, spamming about their website, or trying to get kicked. Chatting in the program usually ends up as a waste of time and a slight lag when you're trying to refresh that server list. Fortunately, a plethora of other options is available for gamers to play their favorite multiplayer game. You can either choose from a list of all the available servers to play on, start your own game, hook up with some friends to create a game, or find a compatible player using PlayerSpy. No matter what you do, getting your game on is rather simple. But, that seems to come at a price. Those gamers used to GameSpy3D may find the program a little to user friendly. As GameSpy Arcade is sort of like a "dumbed down" version of GameSpy3D, not every piece of information can be found out about the server and you can't filter everything out. So if you're more of a hardcore gamer and know what you're looking for, you'll probably end up sticking with GameSpy3D. It's nice, but if you're just looking to find the right server, ping it correctly, and join... you should probably stick to GameSpy3d.
There are plenty of other nifty features to the program. One of them is PlayerSpy. It's a simple, yet effective system of finding players, hooking up to play a game, and keeping in touch. With PlayerSpy you can search for players using their name, nickname, email, or ICQ. You can also choose to add people to your buddy list so that you can keep track of what they're doing when using GameSpy Arcade. It's just like ICQ, except localized to the program.
Another feature is the built in web browser. With it you can look at just about anything. It starts you off at a GameSpy news website where you can check out the latest GameSpy arcade news and other gaming stuff. There are also links to to all the big GameSpy sites like FilePlanet. Also, for every game is an accompanying web page. For the big ones there are the Planets (PlanetHalf-Life, PlanetQuake, etc.) and even for the classic games like checkers there is a page describing the game, the system requirements, and links. If you're in a chat room, you can also link to web sites. When you click on a typed url, it will open it up in the built in web browser and you can take a look at it. It's great when you want to check out someone's clan website real quick, or whatever else.
Okay, time to summarize. GameSpy Industries took GameSpy3D, cut down on the technical stuff, gave it a sleek new design (with changeable skins), some new sounds, and packaged it with just about every other GameSpy service out there. It is basically a simpler and packaged version of ICQ/AIM, IE/Netscape, and GameSpy3D. Toss in plenty of links to all the GameSpy websites, a whole slew of banner ads, and a ton of chat rooms, then you've got GameSpy Arcade. All those extra bells and whistles make it look, sound, and feel cozier than GameSpy3D, but they don't make up for the lack of functionality found in the separate programs that are already out there. If I wanna chat, I'll log into IRC. If I wanna keep in touch with my friends, I'll use ICQ. If I wanna surf the web, I'll use Internet Explorer. And if I wanna find the right server to get on and play, I'll stick to GameSpy3D. Fortunately, there are two very high points to the program: it's still in beta so there is plenty of room for improvement, and it's free. To quote Tycho of Penny Arcade, "I think it's worth the zero dollars you'd pay to download it". You may want to stick with what's already out there, but spend your zero dollars and at least give GameSpy Arcade a try.
You can download it, check out the animated Flash preview, or check out the official website for more information.
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