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Gaming

Checkers jumps back online

After almost a week of server failures, Microsoft restores service for the online versions of a handful of classic games included in recent versions of Windows.

Microsoft restored online service Monday for a handful of games bundled with recent versions of the Windows operating system, after nearly a week of outages.

A Microsoft representative confirmed that the games were inaccessible for much of the last six days due to intermittent problems with the Microsoft servers hosting the games. The faulty hardware was replaced Monday, and all games appeared to be functioning normally.

"It's unfortunate Microsoft doesn't seem to take it very seriously."
--Online backgammon player Andrew Solmssen, on the recent interruption in game availability

The affected games--backgammon, checkers, spades, hearts and reversi--are all free for Windows users. Microsoft provides the client software to run the games in recent versions of its Windows operating system, including the current Windows XP, and runs the online services for them through Zone.com, the online gaming section of its MSN Internet service.

Players started complaining last week in Usenet groups and other online forums that they were being disconnected from games or unable to access them altogether. Attempts to start games either produced error messages about inaccessible servers or resulted in endless attempts to find someone to play against.

Andrew Solmssen, a Santa Monica, Calif., computer consultant, said Monday that he's been unable to play his usual daily game or two of backgammon since last week.

"I'll come home after a long day and play a couple of games," he said. "It's an interesting little diversion, because you know there's a real human being on the other end."

Solmssen joined Usenet posters in faulting Microsoft for failing to provide any information on the outage. "It's unfortunate Microsoft doesn't seem to take it very seriously," he said. "There doesn't seem to be anyone whose primary responsibility includes these games."

The Microsoft representative said the company fixed the services as quickly as possible, once the nature of the problem was clear, and that Zone.com has several customer support options for reporting problems.