Online console gaming has truly arrived with the Sega Dreamcast and its built in modem. Find out how Sega's ISP SegaNet fares after several months of playtesting.
SegaNet is an ISP built from the ground up for gamers. The local access numbers are designed to be within one or two hops of strategically placed server hubs. One of the 8 main hubs is Denver! While there are local servers for NFL2K1, 4x4 Evolution and NBA2K1, there are no Denver Quake 3 servers so Q3 has been quite laggy.
--SegaNet is offering a rebate check for $150 plus a free keyboard when you sign up for 18 months of ISP service with them. This will cover the $149 cost of your Dreamcast, and if you need an ISP or have an ISP for your computer, why not replace it with SegaNet for a free Dreamcast?
---So far the games you can play online with your Dreamcast are NFL2K1, NBA2K1, Quake 3 Arena, Chu Chu Rocket, Pod Speedzone and 4x4 Evolution. You can use any ISP with your Dreamcast to play these games on the internet, but Sega offers 50 free hours of SegaNet gaming with each Dreamcast and I suggest using them. So far reports of other ISP's performance seem to be rather poor. Other ISP's may not be close to a Sega server at all, and most ISP's give data prefernce to e-mail, chats and IM's over game data. With SegaNet, fast gaming is the priority.
---This January, Sega releases their Ethernet adapter which will allow Dreamcast owners to use a Broadband connection(DSL, Cable) for games on their Dreamcast. Right now, Quake 3 is the only game that supports it. Expect to see broadband support for next year's crop of sports games.
---So how do these games fare over a 56k modem? For the most part excellent. Both NBA2K1 and NFL2K1 feature easy to read connection ratings for each user online. When you enter a room, you can see if people's connection to you is either Poor, Fair, Good or Better. This will help you weed out potentially laggy games. If you hang out in the Denver room, you will find people in the area and usually the connections are Great. It is possible to find Great connections as far as New York and Miami. Quake 3 allows you to scan each server for ping and each client's ping. However, as I mentioned before, Quake 3 has no servers in Denver. The closest servers are L.A or Chicago. So far, my Quake 3 experience has been terrible, with constant 'Connection Interrupted' if I try to play Q3 at anytime during the day. After 10p.m or so, it becomes quite lag free and very fast and enjoyable.
---There are normal dial-up modem problems like disconnects, losing contacts with opponents etc.. Sometimes I'll play a friend of mine in Boulder and the lag will be atrocious. And as usual, right around 6:00pm-9:00p.m. seems to be very laggy, as most people come home from work and hit the internet.
CHU-CHU ROCKET -This is the first game that you could play on SegaNet. It is a simple puzzle game played with 4 people. Up to 3 people can go on the net and find opponents to play. It is a fun and absorbing puzzle game, however the opponent base has dwindled since the arrival of the games below.
--CHU CHU ROCKET online gets a 6.5 out of 10 rating
NFL2K1---This game has provided me with MANY hours of SegaNet enjoyment. Nothing is as satisfying as crushing some trash-talker who picked the Rams with a well placed fade pass to Joey Galloway. Online play is diverse. Expect to have games where people play by the rules...expect to have games where your opponent will onside kick every time and go for 2 every time. Expect to be quit on if you're winning and expect much trash talking from keyboard owning opponents. Sometimes the lag will screw you bad. If it's really slow, you won't even be able to get a pass off before you're sacked.
---NFL2K1 supports up to four players per Dreamcast. You will definitely play 1v2 or 1v3 games. Some of these 2-3 player teams have devastatingly effective blocking on the tosses, but some of them just plain suck. That's the beauty of SegaNet. You never know how good your opponent will be.
---NFL2K1 on SegaNet gets an 9 out 10---
The same makers of NFL2K1 bring you the best basketball game ever...and it can be played on the internet. Most players seem to be on the East Coast servers. NBA2K1's network interface is the best of the bunch. Offline you can set Macros for your keyboard(f1-f12) so in-game trash talking is as easy as the press of a button. You can also set filters that will Auto-Decline undesirable opponents. The filters let you Auto-Decline opponenets with Poor Ratings, No Keyboards, or lets you filter the type of gameplay(exhibition or street) challenges. This will cut down on the number of times you will have to decline an opponent for whatever reason. NBA2K1 supports up to 4 players per Dreamcast.
---NBA2K1 gets an 9 out of 10 rating online.
---QUAKE 3 ARENA
As I mentioned before, QUAKE 3 ARENA has no local servers. This means that my connection at anytime before 10pm has been unacceptable, riddled with frequent interrupts. In January, the release of the ethernet adapter will eliminate all these problems. There are tons of opponents to play at any time online. 4 player deathmatch only is supported. Quake 3, despite the interruptions, is still fraggin' awesome. This is a highly addictive game that every Dreamcast owner should buy.
---QUAKE 3 ARENA gets a 9 out of 10 rating online.
---4x4 EVOLUTION is an SUV/Big Truck racing game that allows for 4 player races via SegaNet. In fact, You can race against PC and Mac owners of the game too. So far, all of my races have been very lag free with my connection rating saying "local", so I'm assuming that there are servers in Denver. There are people who race online with this game, and then there are races you can enter, where everyone ignores the checkpoints and just offroads. This game hasn't received as much press as Sega's first party titles but it has a large online community and is a total blast.
---4x4 EVOLUTION gets an 8 out of 10 rating online.
---STARLANCER Starlancer is a space combat sim where you are the pilot of a heavily armed spacefighter. Offline, Starlancer is reminiscent of Colony Wars for the Playstation, where the player is involved in an ongoing battle between good and evil. Online, Starlancer is all about Deathmatches. Up to 6 people can join a game at a time, and matches are easily found and created on Gamespy servers. Ping has been excellent, but this game only came out Nov 24th, so there aren't a ton of opponents yet.
---There are 6 different game types to choose from online : Asteroid Arena(standard deathmatch), Tag Bomb, Nuclear Threat, Dark Reign and Vampires. Games can be played in standard or team format.
---STARLANCER is much more of a niche game but the ability to have 6 players in a game, and the beautiful graphics elevate it above niche a tad. The controls are simple and flying your ship is a breeze. If you love space combat games, this is a no brainer.
STARLANCER gets a 6.5 out of 10 rating.
---POD SPEEDZONE Pod Speedzone is a futuristic car racing game with combat elements thrown in. 3 Power-ups can be found on the tracks-Turbo, Mines(rear) and a Wave(forward)attack. There are 6 tracks and 8 cars to choose from. The tracks are laden with multiple routes and interactive environments(obstacles and creatures that will try and stop you). Pod's framerate is a rock solid 60 FPS, even while online. POD is still a brand new release the online community needs to grow. Unfortunately, even though there's nothing inherently bad about POD, it manages to remain stuck in the doldrums of utter averege-ness. This averege-ness might assure that Pod's online community remains small.
--POD SPEEDZONE ONLINE RACING gets a 6.0 out of 10 rating.
--SPEED DEVILS ONLINE RACING
Speed Devils is the latest racing game to hit SegaNet. It is basically a graphically enhanced version of last year's Speed Devils racing game. The biggest difference being the online play of the game. In a unique twist, all of your car upgrading must be done online. The only way to boost your character, cash and car is on the internet. When you first log on, you are given $10,000 and 2 cars you can buy with that. Then it's off to the races as you attempt to earn more cash to purchase upgrades for your car and its parts. If you damage your car in the race, you just blow some of your hard earned cash to repair the damage, or you will suffer a serious performance hit. As you win and upograde your car, it will begin to evolve. More chrome and flashy parts like bull-horns will be added, giving your a kick ass look.
--There are a ton of people online playing Speed Devils and the competition is fierce. If you know someone with the game, you might want to make your own room and spend time boosting eachother's cash and experience points so you can get some of the faster cars in the game. There a ton of Clans out there racing and they all have top of the line speedsters, so this technique will get you ready to race them.
--Speed Devils Online does have an offline racing option. You can race opn any of the tracks with any car in the game. It's good for practice but the true game is meant to be played online. Online is whwre you earn the money and experience to advance in the game. You can bet other racers for cash or vehicles. There is a track (New York) that can only be played online.
--Speed Devils plays very well online, with little lag, but expect to see some warping and lag sometimes. Expect to blow many hours onoine with this game making a name for yourself on the circuits.
--SPEED DEVILS ONLINE gets an 8.0 out of 10 rating
---SEGANET gets a 9.75 out of 10 rating.---
Never has it been so easy to get a game going against a human opponent. The games are highly playable, and it is easy to filter out the potentially laggy games. I hate playing console football vs a computer, and with SegaNet I will never have to again.
If you are a gamer and you don't have a Dreamcast to play online with, you are a fool.