Goodbye, Original Xbox Live: Our Memories

Though far from the first time a console had gone online, the November 2002 arrival of Xbox Live for the original Xbox eventually proved to be among the most successful.

Nearly eight years later, the service spans two consoles and over twenty-three million accounts--some free, some paid--offering not just online multiplayer, but downloads of demos, full-fledged games, in-game content, music, movies and more.

But to move forward, Microsoft must first take a step back. "We need to make changes to the service that are incompatible with our original Xbox v1 games," the company said earlier this year, revealing that it would discontinue original service on April 15.

So, with today marking the last full day that owners of original Xbox games can play them online via Xbox Live, we've compiled our brief thoughts and our memories :

Goodnight, Sweet Prince by Chris Faylor

Dearest Xbox Live v1,

I understand you will soon be leaving us, and while I haven't utilized some of your offerings in a great long while, I want you to know that I look back on our time together with great fondness.

For example, it was sure swell to get Halo 2 on launch day, hop online, and discover that my far-off brother and friends had done the same. It wasn't exactly the same as playing side-by-side, but it was close enough. Nowadays, that experience seems mundane, but back then it was novel.

Of course, as you're no doubt aware, much of what you offered has been upgraded and expanded by your sibling Xbox Live v2 and cousin Xbox 360. Halo 2 has since been usurped in our rotation by Halo 3 and other Xbox 360 games, plus the various responsibilities that come with age.

But while many of your offerings have since been revised and revisited, some remain as hallmarks of soon-to-be-gone era. The addictive blend of Phantom Dust's destructive action and customizable card game-style attacks--players would assemble a deck of skills and abilities and then draw from it randomly--remains unmatched. There's been nothing quite like Steel Battalion: Line of Contact and its hulking forty-or-so button controller, and there's likely not to be anything like it again.

Surely, some will lament that you ushered in an era of pay-to-play multiplayer and eventually popularized microtransctions, not to mention how you've provided countless discriminating teenagers with microphones and a captive audience, but that's for a different time.

For now, Xbox Live v1, just know that you'll be missed.

I Hardly Knew Ye, by Brian Leahy
My experience with the original Xbox Live is not as illustrious as Mr. Faylor's because during its golden age, I was trapped behind a firewall at college, unable to get most games to connect for online play.

During my Freshman year, before BitTorrent put an end to open college Internet, I managed to get a few games of MechAssault in here or there along with some Spies vs. Mercs in Splinter Center: Pandora Tomorrow. I even jumped online for some Madden 2003, which solidified by still-standing reluctance to play Madden online with strangers. Forty-five minutes voice-chatting with one person is usually either uncomfortable silence, constant taunting, or listening to whatever is going on in my opponent's household.

I never actually got to play a good amount of Halo 2 online as bandwidth limits and insane firewalls were setup by the game's release. By the time I was free from my unfavorable Internet situation, the Xbox 360 had been released.

I hopped on to Halo 2, only to be destroyed by the viscous playerbase. My console FPS skills had not been developed yet and I promptly went back to PC shooters until Gears of War was released--but that's another tale.

Even though I didn't use the original Xbox Live all that much, I followed the growing player population and popularity of the service with Halo 2. I'm glad Microsoft had Xbox Live on the original Xbox because it made Xbox Live on the 360 that much better.

Now, can I finally have more than 100 friends on my list, Live?

LIVE is Dead! Long Live LIVE!, by Jeff Mattas
Back when the original Xbox Live service was announced, I was cautiously excited about its potential. Would ponying up an unprecedented $49.95 per year really add that much to my gaming experience? How would it compare to the limited (but free!) online functionality lightly-utilized by forerunners like the PlayStation 2 and the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast? Despite unaddressed questions and skepticism, I plunged in and subscribed as soon as the service launched.

What struck me the most about the service was how it enabled a lot of possibilities for console gaming that were previously exclusive to the PC realm. Online play with integrated voice chat seems old-hat now, but its execution in the original Xbox Live service really impressed me. Sure, the premise wasn't exactly new - I'd already been voice chatting my days away in Counter-Strike beta on the PC - but realized that bringing that sort of experience to the living room couch was going to induct a brand new mass of gamers.

Xbox Live also unleashed regular DLC on the console-gaming populace. Much of the first downloadable content was free to download before the giant shift to paid-DLC. The PC gamer in me still cringes at some of the price-points for the types of content I'm used to getting for free, but I think it's safe to say that I've downloaded several hundred dollars worth of content since the service launched. I'm still happy that I made about 90% of those purchase.

These days, all of the major console players are active in the online console space, but none have been able to match Xbox Live feature-set or level of quality. Even Sony, once champion of the "free is better" philosophy for online services, has begun considering a paid-subscription model for the PlayStation Network. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

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