Gaming
xfire
PC Gaming Essentials: Xfire

It’s not uncommon to hear people complain about the complicated nature of PC gaming. While there may be a certain amount of truth laced into such grievances, I find that they’re often about very overstated issues. Most of these arguments harp on things like driver installation and product updates. One of the more annoying instances of such a discussion indicates that the online nature of this current generation of consoles is somehow superior to the tried and true dedicated server model you’ll find on the PC.

I’m not here to un-complicate what should be second nature to this generation of tech-savvy gamers by telling you how to keep you GPU (that’s pronounced GEE-PEE-YOU) drivers up to date, nor am I going to write a compare-and-contrast piece pitting the benefits of a unified peer-2-peer system against dedicated servers. What I would like to discuss, however, is a utility that makes online gaming on the platform easier, more viable, and ultimately more fun.

Enter: Xfire.

Xfire was first released way back in 2003, and set out to simplify online gaming for PC gamers. So, what is it? Well, it’s essentially an instant messaging client, with loads gaming-centric functions piled on top. When it first appeared five years ago, with only its most basic features, it was still easy to see its potential as a platform. By 2007, they had over seven million registered users, a number which can only grow as they add support for more titles, and continue to enhance their product with new and exciting features.

What can these features do for you? Well, let’s briefly go over each of Xfire’s core functions, so you can see for yourself.

  • Track, and follow your friends

      One of Xfire’s original features allows you to see what you friends (and your friends of friends) are currently playing. Not only does Xfire tell you what game they’re playing, but also what server they’re currently playing on, as well as their score. This leads into what is potentially Xfire’s single most important feature: it grants you the ability to follow a buddy into a server, assuming you own the same game, with the click of a single button. No more searching through server browsers or trading IP information—one click join has you covered.

  • Search for servers and remember your favorites

      Instead of letting your gaming experience get bogged down by the use of many different utilities, Xfire attempts to make others obsolete. If you need an external server browser, just hop on over to the server tab and you’ll find one that rivals tools like All-Seeing Eye and Gamespy. The server tab also lets you keep track of your favorite servers, in addition your most recently visited locations.

  • In game messaging

      As an extension of Xfire’s instant messaging functions, it allows you to view your friends list and send and receive messages while in a full screen game. While it’s not recommended that you use this feature in the heat of battle, it’s not terribly obtrusive either, as incoming messages only pop up briefly in the lower right hand corner of your screen. If you wish to open the in game message window, you simply hit a combination of keys (default: scroll-lock+x) when the opportunity arrives and an overlay window will appear. In its newest releases, this window even allows for mouse navigation.

  • Voice over IP

      Many PC gamers are perfectly happy using their own Ventrilo or Teamspeak servers, but Xfire seems to be aware that not everyone has such a luxury. While the game allows you to host your own private text chat rooms, this obviously just won’t do for in game communication with your friends. And while this function practically takes a page out of Xbox Live’s play-book by using a users own Internet connection to host the chat, it gets the job done. For more casual users who can’t rely on a rented VoIP server, the built in voice chat serves its function well enough, and unlike Xbox Live it supports more than two users at a time.

  • File and patch downloads

      The files tab serves as an area where gamers can get the latest goods. This includes new mods, patches, trailers, etc—all distributed through Xfire’s own torrent-like p2p service.

  • Profiles with stat tracking, screen-shots, and video

      Sometimes you want to show off, and Xfire gives you the means to do so. Since the very beginning, Xfire has tracked the amount of time you put into your gaming habit (don’t worry MMO addicts, you can turn that feature off), but recently they’ve gone out of their way to provide the community with more robust, profile padding features. You can now take screen-shots (scroll-lock+s), that are automatically hosted in your profile—or even capture your greatest gaming moments on video, which are compressed by the client after your gaming session comes to a close, and also automatically hosted on xfire.com.

That’s not even the end of the line for Xfire’s incredible and quickly growing feature set. There are now built in guild functions, advanced stat (kill:death) tracking for certain titles, and there’s even a way to integrate World Of Warcraft character data into your profile. Xfire is a powerful tool, and it offers PC gamers so much more than a unified friends list. With over a thousand supported titles, and a list of features that continues to grow with every update, it’s difficult to find a compelling reason not to use Xfire. With all these features, you might find yourself asking where the fifty dollar yearly subscription is hiding—don’t worry, it’s still free.

2 comments
Kid-Cha-Ching
Kid-Cha-Ching

DUDE, awesome post. Props. I don't see a lot of people talking about how awesome PC gaming is, they just keep raving it has no games *rolls eyes*. And LOL! If you're serious Phantom I hope they get a new Dean ;).

Phaethon
Phaethon

TOTALLY ripped off Xbox Live :-P