Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Games Technology

Has the Console Arms Race Stalled? 231

Posted by Soulskill
from the settling-in-for-the-long-siege dept.
An article at Eurogamer argues that even with a successor to the Wii on the horizon, the console arms race we've watched over the past few decades is in the process of changing dramatically, with base hardware taking a back seat to software and peripherals. "Even the most basic yardstick for console improvements has become a little hard to read. It used to seem like a reliable idea that every five years or so, consoles would catch up to the PC — a platform which sees advancements every few weeks — and remain competitive for a while, before the PC's cutting-edge accelerated away. ... However, the upgrade cycle appears to have slowed considerably — with games that actually demand cutting-edge systems being few and far between, and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past. ... If not a halt to progress, this is certainly a slowing — and probably one which is welcomed in most quarters. Consumers love improvements in graphical quality, but most would probably prefer to see any major increase in development budget being spent elsewhere — more detailed content, more expansive storytelling, more progress in areas that have been neglected in the former headlong rush to cram more polygons and effects onto every screen."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Has the Console Arms Race Stalled?

Comments Filter:
  • Yes. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vegeta99 (219501) <rjlynn@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:40AM (#36206802)

    Yes it has.

    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @06:35AM (#36207218)

      Despite how much the Slashdot and Gamer community decries DLC... it's kind of to 'blame' in my opinion.

      I still play TF2 more than anything else. It was released in October 2007 and it still feels fresh.

      We're not only stagnating on the engines our games run on... we're not even necessarily playing new games.

      Hardware manufacturers aren't the only ones who are realizing that it's more profitable to hold onto what you've already made and just make more of it.

      Sticking to the current Source Engine has probably saved Valve a boatload of money. Epic Games has continued to improve Unreal Engine 3. But it's mostly be evolutionary add-ons and optimizations for multiple platforms. They're able to ship more copies of UE3 without having to re-invent the wheel.

      We're also going to hit a bottleneck. With rasterization every little effect and feature is a unique hack. In order to have those hacks work together is a nightmare. And then artists have to spend a significant portion of their time optimizing their assets for a rasterized pipeline.

      I think we're hitting the limits of what people can manage to keep straight with rasterization. The future is raytracing in my opinion--it's just too slow at this very second. But it's fundamentally far simpler and easy to create content for. You want a reflective material. Great. Create a ray. Shoot it in the reflection vector. Once it hits something it'll follow that shader's properties. And so on and so forth.

      Lighting, shading, rendering, effects.... it's all easy and straightforward to write. It's just kind of slow. Maybe Caustic's OpenRL and Optix will fix that in the future. Time will tell. But the status quo is an unfortunate dead weight hanging around the advancement of image fidelity.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        TF2 sort of jumped the shark with the engineer update. Valve hasn't released hardly any new "official" maps since launch (besides the Arena maps), and opinion varies wildly on the quality of the included "community" maps. While it's been a financial success and is probably a keystone to their development process as a whole for the source engine, it feels played out to me. I finally lost interest in early 2010. I will log in from time to time, but the same 10 maps by no means "feels fresh".

        • Valve hasn't released hardly any new "official" maps since launch (besides the Arena maps), and opinion varies wildly on the quality of the included "community" maps.

          TF2 started with 6 maps.

          It now has 48 game maps (51 total maps counting 2xTraining maps and 1xItem Test).

          Of those, 18 are Community maps; 2 of the community maps were only textured by the community (Valve did the map layout and geometry).

          Valve has added 26 (of 32 total) Valve maps on the following dates, from most to least recent:
          2011-04-14 (1): koth_badlands
          2011-01-19 (1): cp_5gorge
          2010-12-17 (1): cp_degrootkeep
          2010-10-27 (2): cp_manor_event, cp_mountainlab (these are textured by the community, though)
          2010

      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Sunday May 22, 2011 @03:38PM (#36211002) Journal

        I wouldn't say it is just that, it is also that there is only so much eye candy you can look at while getting shot at, and too many turned gamers off by putting out completely shitty console ports, with just a little bling added if that.

        In the 90s and early 00s I was the type that had a new PC every two years and was constantly upgrading in between, all trying to get the good framerate. But now with so damned many games being designed for crappy 5 year old consoles first you know what? kinda pointless ATM. I'm quite happy with my Phenom II 925 quad (picked up nearly 2 years go) and the HD4850 my GF picked up for me (those were released in what? 07?) and even on newer games like Batman AA and Just Cause 2 frankly I get all the eye candy I can look at and it runs just fine at my native 1600x900, so why bother upgrading?

        I think the problem is too many focused on the bling bling and not the overall gaming experience. I have a couple of gaming customers that bought Crysis for the benchmarking, but do they actually play it? Not really. Sitting here playing in the shop I have folks come in and go "ooooh wow, what is that?" when I'm playing Brothers in Arms, even though that game is going on 8 years old. The reason they oooh and ahhh is because they focused on the experience with decent acting and a story that flows, so you feel like you are in the middle of Band of Brothers on HBO.

        Frankly, and I doubt I'm alone, I'd be happy to play a game with Far Cry 1 level graphics if it has a decent story and great controls. Too many of the newer games feel like nobody even bothered to test it with a keyboard to see if it was playable, or it has show stopping bugs that make it so you end up having to wait, sometimes months, just to get a game stable enough to play through.

        Bling bling is nice, but give me story, give me some decent AI, I'm so sick of devs bolting on MP and expecting that to be the "fix" for their shoddy AI. If I wanted to run around like a chicken with my head cut off while someone screams nigger and faggot I'd be playing halo. Thanks but no thanks devs. Give us atmosphere and a believable world, give us AI that will put up a good fight instead of the cheap "rubber band AI" that EA uses, where on hard you have a private that can snipe from 1000 yards behind cover while taking more rounds than the Terminator. We have multicore now, why aren't you using them for pathfinding and AI?

        And finally do something about your shitty DRM devs! I'd list all the times it has bit me in the ass but I think this guy [metacafe.com] says it best. So in the end I end up playing older games, games where all the patches are out, where I can download the crack so DRM don't bite me in the ass, games where I've seen enough reviews to know it is actually worth my time. In the end I'd say the consoles are just a symptom of a larger disease, the Activision "Lets milk that IP!" disease, where everything is just another copy of another copy and is frankly boring as hell. Why should I bother upgrading, when the new bling bling games the only thing they offer is bling?

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      A longer explanation would be that each generation of gaming consoles effectively are a dead end. There is no upgrade path for the hardware, the operating system on a new generation isn't really designed with backwards compatibility in mind and the consoles are locked down to a level making it only possible for the most extreme hackers of each generation to really do something outside the ordinary with them. Gaming consoles are there for consumption, not creativity.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        It is really down to biology rather than technology, once games look just good enough and sound just good enough, compared to reality, you are stalled until you get a virtual substitute for reality.

        Until virtual reality glasses are here, with high resolution images, consoles can at this point only really chase lower price rather than higher power.

        The big convergence between what consumer PC's are capable of doing at a price and what consoles can do is coming closer and that console licence fee for soft

  • I for one have never really seen the point behind spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games, only to be surpassed within a few months. As things currently stand, it's actually opening PC gaming to a far wider audience as the price of an adequate gaming rig is quite reasonable. Also, i'd rather have longer and better games than I would slightly better looking ones. And even still, games with modding support can often receive graphical boosts down the line an
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by feedayeen (1322473)

      I for one have never really seen the point behind spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games, only to be surpassed within a few months.

      As things currently stand, it's actually opening PC gaming to a far wider audience as the price of an adequate gaming rig is quite reasonable.

      Also, i'd rather have longer and better games than I would slightly better looking ones. And even still, games with modding support can often receive graphical boosts down the line anyway.

      Since when have you ever spent a thousand bucks on a PC and then faced a situation where you where not able to play a game that comes out just months later? If you're going to the Gray Box Store and buying the cheapest thing you see with a mouse, keyboard, and LCD, sure, you can't play everything at even decent visual levels, but you're looking at $400 pre-built computers at this point but even that thing should be able to run Crisis with decent settings*.

      Would I like to see games improve in quality? Absolu

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games

      Honestly, I keep hearing people say this, but this is simply not true.

      I'm fairly certain I can define myself as a hardcore gamer. And whenever I buy a new pc, I buy high-range but not ultra-range parts, keeping the total price below ~750 Euros (monitor not included).
      And my current pc has already lasted 3 years, being able to play ALL the latest games. And my previous pc lasted about 5 years, also all the while able to play all the then-latest games.
      Both pc's I've upgraded in their lifetime only once: adding

  • It's about ROI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:47AM (#36206828)

    It's not really saying that the console arms race has stalled, but is instead saying that the graphics arms race has stalled, which is probably true, and that efforts are shifting, which is also probably true.

    After all, just as dpi in printers stopped being a selling point once they all got "good enough", and just as megapixels are becoming increasingly irrelevant as a differentiating factor between cameras, so too are the graphics in today's games reaching a point where the return isn't worth the investment for the developers. Graphics are already "realistic enough" for most people, and trying to move things closer to photorealistic gameplay is probably not worth it, since the return they get is minimal, while the effort required is exorbitant. Instead, spending it on improved gameplay or other elements is a better return on their investment.

    Games like Minecraft doing so well just hammers that point home.

    • by Zumbs (1241138)

      Graphics are already "realistic enough" for most people, and trying to move things closer to photorealistic gameplay is probably not worth it, since the return they get is minimal, while the effort required is exorbitant. Instead, spending it on improved gameplay or other elements is a better return on their investment.

      Indeed. Let the movies go for photo realism. When the tech gets cheaper and more mature, it can be used in games. Meanwhile, I look forward to an increased focus on gameplay and storytelling. Who would have thought that consoles would bring about such advancements ... ?

      • yes, so many many games seem to invest everything in making things look pretty and somewhere along the way... they forget it's supposed to be a game they're making rather than some kind of interactive movie.

        Somewhere around Oblivion or perhaps slightly beyond that is where I stop caring about how pretty a game is and being able to see every follicle on a characters beard really doesn't add much for me.

        On the other hand being able to interact with the world in more interesting ways, have the game surprise me

      • Re:It's about ROI (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @07:13AM (#36207358) Journal

        In fact the graphics might be as realistic as some people want them to be. I like FPS and sandbox type games, but I am not sure I would want to play one that is photo real. Part of the fun of these games is that its cartoon violence. If they reminded me more of the terrible things I have seen, or the really terrible things I have seen on the news I think it would remove the joy of play.

        Do you really want to drive down a street in GTA past some meth-head twitching with withdraw showing their missing teeth and jaw swollen infection? Do you really want see the guy you just shot go pale and grab at the wound in despair? These games are about escapism to some degree and while up to a point making them more and more realistic made them more emmersive, we are near the place where if we carry it much farther we are going to start feeling bad for the fates of the characters. If that is what you want perhaps you'd find a John Stienbeck novel more satisfying than a game.

        • This is a very good point. When I play GTA3, for example, I find myself not caring about the game and just stalking the streets at 3AM finding old ladies to kick to death. I'm not sure I'd enjoy that very much if it looked real.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Graphics are good enough, I would prefer they spent the extra resources on better writing and designing an aesthetic to wrap the whole game in. Or perhaps even QA, when a console game can't be released without significant bugs, you know that there's serious issues.

      • The tech has gotten cheaper and more mature. ATI has eyefinity cards that can run games at 5700x1200 or 5700x2400 resolution, for under $250-500 (using multiple monitors) people have just stopped updating their machines.

        We had this problem a long time ago about the time the Quake game engine ruled the roost. Everyone was playing Half-Life, Counter Strike, and Team Fortress. They would run on a sub $100 graphics card. These days its about the same.

        It's not even really a developement cost that is at i

        • by Beardydog (716221)
          Testify! Also, people don't seem to have much imagination when it comes to computing power. Minecraft proves that people are interested in deep, different game mechanics, but aspects of it are severely Iimited by processing power (water, in particular, stands out). As proceesing power continues to march along, physics libraries advance and settle, and companies invest in exploring the possibilities they provide, we won't just see destructible walls that scatter a few physics objects. We'll see games in whic
    • Re:It's about ROI (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aix tom (902140) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:30AM (#36206990)

      Exactly. I also still remember soundcard "arms race" where they trumped each other with the midi channels and sample quality every few months. That also has reached a "good enough" level so that nobody really cares about that any more. The same thing is or will be happening to graphics.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Good analogy...the sound card is now a moot point in choosing a computer (in fact the "sound card" ceased to exist in Windows 7)

        I think graphics still have a way to go until they reach that point though...integrated graphics still leave a lot to be desired.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I don't know about that. PC game graphics for some genres are still increasing dramatically. I think a part of the problem is that you can't typically upgrade a console in ways which would make this happen. With PC games you typically have the luxury of throwing in a couple detail settings above what typical computers can handle to give a bit more life and to satisfy the people willing to spend huge sums of money on their rigs. That typically doesn't happen with consoles for obvious reasons.

        A $100 video car

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      That's rubbish, graphics cards are still advancing at a ferocious pace.

      What's happened is that:

      a) Content production has plateaued so those graphics cards are just being used for higher frame rates and higher resolutions, not new effects (are there any effects left to do?). Upping the level of content would be massively expensive - you'll need twice as many people working on it.

      b) The spread of graphics card ability is wider then ever so the difference between a high-end card and what they're aiming at is q

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        On topic of ATI vs nVIDIA, as it currently stands and has been for a couple of years, nvidia offers CUDA, but costs about 10% more per FPS you get out of the card at the same level of quality.
        Two years ago nvidia used to also have better drivers, but nowadays it's been in reverse (example: DA2) with nvidia actually having game breaking bugs at AAA game's release - something that used to happen to ATI before but hasn't lately.

        So in the end you need decide if you need CUDA or not. That's the real choice. Spee

        • Two years ago nvidia used to also have better drivers, but nowadays it's been in reverse (example: DA2) with nvidia actually having game breaking bugs at AAA game's release - something that used to happen to ATI before but hasn't lately.

          ATI had that happen with Brink's release less than two weeks ago.

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      Games like Minecraft doing so well just hammers that point home.

      Or in big company speak, "Make a Portal, not another CoD. It works out best for everyone."? :)
    • by fermion (181285)
      I would say three things have happened to hurt ROI. FIrst, PC gaming became comparable with hurt the console and left two players, Nintendo catering to youth and Sony catering to the older crowd. The MS got in the game with xbox, and through agressive pricing, at this point free with a qualifying computer, set an unattainable maximum price for a high end console. This does not hurt Nintendo, but killed the launch of Sony PS3 which would have set the highest standard for the console. Who is going to inve
  • They need give software a chance to catch up. Hardware is not the limiting factor anymore. It doesn’t take much crappy programming to trip you up when you are trying to render billions of pixels consistently within a small window of time, throwing in some network latency for good measure.
  • Demographic Shock (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ensayia (912026)
    The Nintendo Wii and various versions of the handheld DS have outsold everything else so powerfully that companies are now forced to rethink their previous strategy of better hardware = better console. Given those factors and that the casual and 'family' gaming market has vastly overshadowed every other demographic and It's easy to see how the entire gaming landscape has changed since the PS2/XBOX/Gamecube generation. One rather bad downside to this trend is that shovelware is surging in this current gener
    • by QuantumLeaper (607189) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:29AM (#36206988) Journal
      The real problem is whoever is in the lead gets a truck load of shovelware, and that been happening since the Atari 2600...
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      if you think shovelware is surging you must not have been paying attention in the past, shovelware has been a problem always, you remember all the greats from the NES/SNES/Genesis era, but there were many not-so-greats and a fair share of omg-why-am-i-playing-this titles
      • I like to think that reduction of shovelware is one of the upsides to the (inevitable, IMO) trend towards a download-only model for games. If you have an integrated, online shop for games, you'd be stupid not to incorporate a rich rating system--something that takes taste into account like the Netflix system. Shovelware will naturally sink to the bottom, and even if it means no less is produced, it will take less effort to seek out the good games.

    • by Beardydog (716221)
      The Wii and DS sold well, true... but there's so much shovelware out there that it's difficult to turn a profit on anything unless you're Nintendo. You can make a fantastic, innovative shooter and get it into stores, but it winds up on the shelf next to a knock off shooter, a pet sim, a boxing game, and a sport compilation, each at one fifth the price.

      Peoe in the Wii space are hurting.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In terms of the graphics race, I think the next big thing to hit consoles(or gaming in general) would be Real-Time RayTracing. Consoles typically have specialized hardware(although they seem to be heading towards general-purpose these days), so a specialized RTRT chip wouldn't be out of the question if it were cheap enough and fast enough. Things like Caustic Graphics OpenRL come to mind.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Real-Time RayTracing simply isn't going to happen.

      a) It's not desirable. It looks cool for scenes with shiny spheres in them but it doesn't match the way light works in the real world.

      b) The amount of transistors needed to do make it happen would produce WAY BETTER results if used for other rendering methods (real time radiosity...?)

      • by Firehed (942385)

        What do you mean raytracing doesn't match the way light works in the real world? It's an exact reproduction of the real world. Light is emitted from things and enters your retina, and interacts with whatever's in between you and the light source. The only difference is that computers are working from your eye going forward, instead of the light source working back to your eye. It's still straight lines, reflection, refraction, and changes that occur along the way.

        Your second point is valid (for now), but th

    • by hedwards (940851)

      In the long run, that's the way I imagine things going. A large part of the problem right now is that it really needs an accelerator, but at this point I don't know of any companies that make them. But in the long run, most of the complaints I have about graphics would be solved with a move to ray tracing. It's surprisingly jarring to have shadows misbehave and yet it's also very difficult to get right.

      • Take a look at Geomerics [geomerics.com]. Most of the visual quality that raytracing is supposed to provide is really better handled by radiosity, and Geomerics real-time radiosity and dynamic lighting is the best I have seen. It is being used in the new version of EVE Online and Battlefield 3. CUDA acceleration was just released for the SDK, which should bring radiosity lighting calculations down to less than 3ms/frame.

        It is based on "geometric algebra" (GA,real-valued Clifford algebra) which without any exagger

  • Quality v. Content (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JJJJust (908929) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [tsuJJJJ]> on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:59AM (#36206872)

    Graphics aside, it's no secret that there's been a big change from a mantra of "quality, quality, quality" to "content, content, content"... and non-related content at that. A PlayStation did one thing - it played video games. The PS3 can do nearly everything... even function as a computer if you don't upgrade the firmware.

    In prior years, it would take you at LEAST a week to finish a campaign on any respectable video game. These days, you can finish a video game completely in two days. Then spend five more days fiddling with the "bonus content". If they spent more time developing a good story as opposed to unlockables, that race may accelerate again. Developers aren't struggling to use the processing power they have at their disposal. There's no reason for innovation at this particular time.

    We need to get back to a time where developing solid and expansive CORE content -- not extras -- was what mattered.

    • by Ruke (857276)

      Why? People seem to enjoy the extras more than they enjoyed the old "monolithic" style of games.

      I'd love to come up with a more nuanced discussion of game design than "no u," but your post contains noting but sweeping generalizations, without citing any specific examples. What PS1 games were so much better than anything that we've got nowadays? What exactly do you mean by "core content" as opposed to "extras" - can you name any historic or current games that exemplify your point?

      From where I'm sitting, I'

      • Do people really enjoy them? A lot of the companies still making 'monolithic' games are doing better than the ones pumping out short games with DLC or that rely on achievements to extend the game. Sure there are achievement addicts that buy / rent loads of games to have loads of achievements but can you call that enjoying a game?

        The games people hold in the highest regard are the Super Mario games, the Zeldas, the Starcraft series, etc. They're games that are more 'old school' than new school and they ma
    • A few weeks ago there was this story on slashdot about how most people don't finish the game's main story anymore [slashdot.org]. I don't think adding more would do anything to help the perception of quality.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        I finish more games now than I used to. A large part of that is that the games I'm playing tend to have a more realistic learning curve. Also typically if I'm getting frustrated playing it usually gives me something else to do in the mean time. Old school FPS games like Doom and Quake were a real bitch if you couldn't handle a particular part of a level and lacked the determination to load time after time after time for however many tries it took. Granted that's not much of an issue for a hardcore gamer, bu

        • Also, bugs that eat saves definitely kill any interest I have in finishing a game.

          Does this include games specifically programmed to automatically save continuously, including a save after your character has died?

          • by hedwards (940851)

            I've been fortunate enough not to get bit by that yet. I have however had save points which left me too close to a really hard part after I'd lost all chances to fix whatever it was that caused the battle to be unwinnable though. Forcing me to backtrack from earlier.

    • by captjc (453680) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @09:09AM (#36207932)

      A PlayStation did one thing - it played video games. The PS3 can do nearly everything... even function as a computer if you don't upgrade the firmware.

      The Playstation is a bad example. It was always the Media Center of consoles. The first one gave users a CD player (some say a pretty damn good one too) when most people were just beginning to buy CDs. The PS2 brought DVDs into many people's homes. Lastly, the PS3 is all about Blu-Ray and video streaming.

      If you want an example of only playing games, that is Nintendo. The Wii is their first console that did anything other than play games and even that isn't that much compared to the PS3 or 360.

      In prior years, it would take you at LEAST a week to finish a campaign on any respectable video game. These days, you can finish a video game completely in two days.

      As for single player campaign length, I think there is also the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia in play. I believe that game design has improved much over the last 10 years, length included. On average, games have become shorter, but IMO it is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that plenty of older games have about the same amount of content (give or take) but seemed to stretch the length out with tricks like too much repetition, back tracking, and difficulty spikes that kept you replaying over and over until you got it right. It only had the perception of length. Go back and play some of those old school classics and see for yourself. Many modern games (the good ones anyway) eschew this (or at least try to keep it to a minimum) in favor of a 8-12 hour campaign.

      For myself, I prefer a game that is 8-12 hours over one that is 40+ hours. Besides the repetition of "kill hoard, reload, repeat" and wading through 20-40 hours of backtracking and kind of crappy story lines it is easy to get either bored and lose interest or say "screw it" and put it into god mode and finish in a few hours. Whereas I can beat a 10 hour game in a day if I really wanted to or a couple hours a day for a few days. If anything, I find myself finishing more games now than when I was a kid.

      What I am saying is the quality is the issue and not length. I have rarely concerned myself with bonus content. Once I finish the game (being the end boss), I am done. I don't care about finding the hidden coins or getting the skulls or every achievement or what-have-you. It is extra content for the "true believers." Don't concern yourself with it if you don't want to but don't fool yourself into thinking that it would be a better game without it. It would be the same game just minus the filler. The big difference is that filler used to be in the campaign, now it is more of an optional extra.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I got my PS3 primarily for blurays, I also play a few games on it, but it was mostly about blu ray. In retrospect I don't think I would've bothered because by the time the format wars finished the ability to stream more or less replaced my interest in owning.

  • by mentil (1748130) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:59AM (#36206874)

    The Wii's successor is rumored to have more horsepower than the Xbox 360/PS3, so it's not like the arm's race is over. Sony and MS simply realized that hardware improvements that have been made possible in the past 6 years don't translate to drastically better graphics sufficient to get people to buy a new console yet. Also, Sony isn't looking forward to selling another $800 machine priced at $599.
    It's easy to forget that 2 console generations ago, consoles output at 320x240 resolution. Now, console games can run at higher resolutions than many computer monitors. The obvious quality improvements that come with increased resolution aren't going to come again in the near future.

    • by Superdarion (1286310) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:54AM (#36207074)
      It also doesn't help that monitors' resolution race has completely halted at 1080p.
      • It's back on, at least in little spurts. Go over to Dell's website. They have a 27" 2560x1450 monitor for under $1000 now. Which is better than the 2560x1600 which has been sitting at $1500 plus for several years now.

        I think that once the thin is in race is over, should be soon I'm seeing 50" TVs now that less than 3cm thick, they'll get back to ramping up the graphics.

        Personally I'm wanting three of those 27" monitors run off one of ATI's high end offering. Would be very sweet.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        i used 1024x768 for more than ten years of my life, then i upgraded to 1440x900 I am not a programmer by trade and i'm not as young as i used to be, unfortunately windows handles high resolutions very poorly and as such i would be squinting most of the time to read menus and text on screen..
        • by Joce640k (829181)

          That's a question of dot pitch, not the number of pixels on the screen.

          eg. For ages the 'standard' resolution was 1280x1024 and you could choose 17" or 19" monitors. The 19" monitors obviously have bigger pixels.

          The same thing still happens...if your eyes aren't as good as they used to be then look for a screen with bigger pixels.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:06AM (#36206900)

    ... one of the real issues is risk aversion and title stagnation. Every modern game has to cater to the lowest common denominator due to game budgets, in a way the lust for pretty graphics has caused game developers to reduce the game aspect of games and simplify games to such an extent they become little more then stale worlds of aesthetically pleasing art. It's been a long time since I've seen game (not a movie or movie game as I like to call them) based on _just_ the idea of the game rather then going for the special fx and bling. Take the latest L.A. Noire, the more graphical horsepower has increased the less the focus is traditional games and more on cinematic experiences and IMHO that is a negative thing since the more passive games become the less interested I am.

    It's one of the reason I can't stand modern "RPG's" there is barely any participation left because the action gaming mechanics have been ripped out of them to make sure people who don't like participating in their games can watch and run through the content. This is bad because it alienates what many of us got into gaming for in the first place - to participate rather then be pushed through content on a conveyor belt of automated-combat. FF12 takes the cake in what I consider the devolution of games where all you have to do is navigate once you set your auto-battle. At that point why even bother "gaming"? Why not just a walkthrough on youtube of someone else playing and get the same experience for $0 money down?

    • by hitmark (640295)

      Thankfully it seems we are getting a resurgence of the "shareware" era, this time via steam and the download channels of the xbox360 and ps3. There seems to be a massive number of experimental games coming out via those channels that are made by small teams or individuals, much like how ID Software got started by allowing the first chapter of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom to be shared.

      • Thankfully it seems we are getting a resurgence of the "shareware" era, this time via steam and the download channels of the xbox360 and ps3.

        Xbox 360 I'll grant you because it has Xbox Live Indie Games. But where is the form to sign up for SCEA's PLAYSTATION 3 developer program? http://www.tpr.scea.com [scea.com], the developer relations site that this press release [eventnewscenter.com] cites, hasn't been responding for over a month now.

  • by Leo Sasquatch (977162) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:25AM (#36206966)
    Graphics look amazing. Crysis on high-res looks like you could open the TV screen and pick a leaf off a tree. But the immersion factor of the gorgeous graphics breaks down when you try to play with them. When you shoot a car windscreen, and it doesn't break. Or shoot the tyres, and they don't pop. Or the gas tank and it doesn't explode.

    Even sillier - shoot your AI squadmates in the head, and they just go "Ow, quit it!". Worse, you have a magic gun that won't let you pull the trigger if you're pointing it at a non-enemy. I played the opening level on Halo Reach, and was so bored when I got to the first farmer, that I just shot him in the head to shut him up so I could get on with alien-killing. Well, the gun went bang, and a blood-spatter hit the wall behind him, but he never missed a word of exposition. I shot him 10 times - the same thing happened. On the 11th shot, I just died. Up until then, my teammates hadn't seemed concerned about my actions, and they didn't actually take offence, just some mighty vengeful god struck me down until I agreed to play nice.

    Or the world looks open and inviting, but you're just as much on rails as if you were playing some arcade light-gun game. Like Bad Company 2, where any deviation from the set path gets you a 5-second countdown to insta-death. Or Gears of War, where you're a grotesquely-muscled space marine who can be forced from his chosen path by three chairs piled on a table.

    The thing is, many games have got bits of it right. Just Cause 2 gives you an enormous world, and near-total freedom within that world. Heavy Rain changes the gameplay based on your actions. The Witcher makes every choice have a consequence you might not like, but at least you get to make the choice. Modern hardware has the power to create incredible, immersive game experiences, but a lot of studios would rather make Big Guns, Shiny Metal 5 using a well-established engine because that's easier, cheaper, and practically guaranteed to sell to their target demographic.

    Maybe the next arms race will be environment engines that come a little closer to replicating the properties of objects, so that glass always breaks, wood and cloth always burn, and you don't need the red key if you've got the rocket launcher.
    • Or the gas tank and it doesn't explode.

      I know, completely off topic, but I want to mention that the mythbusters busted that myth. Gas tanks don't explode when you shoot them.

      • We want our games to have movie physics, not real physics. Gas tanks should explode. Walls should be demolished. Explosions should cause only minimal personal injury (nothing more than a little clothing damage and soot on your face) as long as your feet are not on the ground. All bullets should be potentially dodge-able, except for NPCs who have delivered all of their exposition.

      • by not-my-real-name (193518) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @11:27AM (#36208848) Homepage

        Gas tanks don't explode when you shoot them.

        But they should. I say that we all write our representatives and ask for legislation asking that the auto manufacturers add something to cars to make the gas tanks explode when shot. It would be something like what they did with the Pinto, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

      • When "Mythbusters: the Game" is produced, I hope the designers make a note of it.

        Would you prefer to play as James Bond or as an anonymous CIA desk jockey?

    • by syousef (465911)

      I played the opening level on Halo Reach, and was so bored when I got to the first farmer, that I just shot him in the head to shut him up so I could get on with alien-killing. Well, the gun went bang, and a blood-spatter hit the wall behind him, but he never missed a word of exposition. I shot him 10 times - the same thing happened. On the 11th shot, I just died. Up until then, my teammates hadn't seemed concerned about my actions, and they didn't actually take offence, just some mighty vengeful god struck me down until I agreed to play nice.

      Fuck me! if there's ever an apocalypse remind me to leave you the fuck behind!!! Not only do you shoot your friends, but you don't learn even after repeating the same thing 10 times!!!

    • I played the opening level on Halo Reach, and was so bored when I got to the first farmer, that I just shot him in the head to shut him up so I could get on with alien-killing. Well, the gun went bang, and a blood-spatter hit the wall behind him, but he never missed a word of exposition.

      That could be considered one of the acceptable breaks from reality [tvtropes.org], designed to keep players from finding themselves in an unwinnable situation and abandoning not only the game but also other games from the same developer or publisher. Sierra's reputation for allowing the player to unknowingly create unwinnable situations [tvtropes.org] soured a lot of gamers to the entire adventure game genre.

  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @05:26AM (#36206974)

    Beyond increasing core counts (which appears mostly useless for most gaming engines beyond a couple), nothing much is doing in the world of CPUs these days.

    I remember choosing between a 486 @ 25MHz versus 50MHz for an extra several hundred bucks. That's twice the clock speed within a single CPU generation for those who are keeping track.

    A generation later I purchased a Pentium 75MHz, and 18 months after that upgraded it to 233MHz. That's triple the clock speed.

    I even remember having a 400MHz Pentium (II I believe) and about a year later upgraded to a 1GHz P3. That's 2.5 times, not to mention the greater efficiency per clock of a P3 vs a P2.

    I now sit with a nearly *5 year old* dual core 2.4GHz CPU (overclocked to 3.3GHz mind you) and I can't find even a $1000 CPU that will give me anywhere near a worthwhile performance bump for anything other than super specific parallelizable applications like scientific computations or workstation-style 3D rendering.

    This transistor efficiency stall has also hit the GPU market in the past few years. Have a look at how much Nvidia or AMD have pushed top end GPU performance in the past couple years. They're making incremental 15-20% bumps per generation -- that's nothing like back in the TNT/3dfx days when you could count on a 50-100% framerate jump with each successive generation.

    Consoles are stalled because GPU/CPU technology is stalled. If CPUs and GPUs were were keeping up with the previous pace from the 90s, we'd have software/games that pushed those limits.

    • The power you have from your dual core and graphics card, can now be had for half the electricity bill, probably less. True, if they could, they'd double performance and have you choose which one you wanted, but they did find a place where they could improve.

      It may not mean much to you, but here, in Europe, we have significant taxes on electricity and it can save you US$100/month if you just turn off one of those heavy computers of yours. I used to have a few servers running in the meter closet for firewa
  • At least it's slowed down because many games are developed with consoles in mind, tacking on a port to the PC in the last minute and therefore coming nowhere near what a PC game could look like.
    Shitty controls on the PC (e.g., Dead Space, Prototype, Star Wars: Force Unleashed) are just an extra bonus because someone simply tried to map the gamepad buttons to the keyboard.

    • by captjc (453680)

      While I have played many a game that has been ruined by bad controls, at least many companies are now allowing the use of gamepads (usually 360 controllers only) to play them as they would be played on a console.

      What I can't stand is not giving that option (I am looking at you, "Beyond Good and Evil"). What is worse is games that don't even allow key remapping. Both are uncalled for in this day and age.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        Maybe, but if I wanted to use a gamepad I'd be using a console in the first place.

        I won't cut my car in half just because someone only paved a road barely wide enough so a motorcycle can use it, leaving only a small empty strip on each side "just in case".

        • by captjc (453680)

          Not everyone want to spend the money on a console when they have a perfectly good PC.

          Beyond Good and Evil is a good example. It is a bad port with horrible controls. I bought it during a Steam sale never thinking about it. When I tried playing it, I found it practically unplayable. Had they given support for a gamepad, I would at least be able to play it like the console version. However, the mentality of "Gamepads are for consoles, Mouse / Keyboard are for PCs" render the game useless.

          The fact is that PC p

          • But when a game is developed for a gamepad, there is no reason to remove gamepad support just because it is on PC.

            Other than that the publisher wants to sell one copy per person rather than one copy per household. A lot of PC games don't have any support for a shared-screen multiplayer mode (which need not be split in all genres), and a lot of console games built around shared-screen multiplayer (especially one that isn't split) don't get ported to PC at all. They don't care that you have a TV monitor and four Xbox 360 gamepads hooked up to your PC; they want to sell two to four copies of the game instead of just one.

        • by tepples (727027)

          if I wanted to use a gamepad I'd be using a console in the first place.

          Even for games from indie developers too small to be eligible for PS3 or Wii development?

  • and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past....

    What? People played starcraft for ten years! What about Diablo 2? Warcraft 3? Age of Empires? All these have in common two things: First, they're from related genres, which just comes to show my ignorance on other genres. Second, they have really strong multiplayer, which adds replayability far beyond that provided by a good story.

    • To be honest I even still play Warcraft 1 a lot. That gets replay value not so much from multiplayer but from the fun of utterly annihilating the opposition by camping fifty archers on the path from their village to yours and then building an enormous city with a ludicrously large army. Warcraft had its flaws but for me it's still the most fun "strategy" game I've played.

      I'm going to go and play that now, actually.

      (Also, I want to play Thief again. I might set up a Win98 virtual machine simply to be able to

    • and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past....

      What? People played starcraft for ten years! What about Diablo 2? Warcraft 3? Age of Empires? All these have in common two things: First, they're from related genres, which just comes to show my ignorance on other genres. Second, they have really strong multiplayer, which adds replayability far beyond that provided by a good story.

      Good point, I think you can add modability to the list of characteristics of games that live for a long time .. I was just playing a Rome Total War (initially released in 2004) mod today, and frankly it stands up better 'playability' wise than the latest iteration of the series.

      The pressures of the development and release cycles mean that most games are released somewhat half to nearly finished state, with many having release day patches, so it generally takes in the order of years for a game (plus expa

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      That some games are good and have long lifetimes is irrelevant to the point.

      Right now you can buy a new AAA game and it will run on a 3 year old PC, that wasn't cutting edge when it was bought and has had no upgrades at all, just fine. That was unheard of not that long ago.

      Obviously a 5 year old game will run on a 5 year old PC (well ignoring the odd game famous for needing super hardware).

  • by vlm (69642)

    It used to seem like a reliable idea that every five years or so, consoles would catch up to the PC

    Well, that's a mistaken idea.

    Assuming they mean meaningless specs-man-ship, I've had a 1600x1200 monitor on my desk since the late 90s or so... Not sure which console in the early 00s "caught up" to that.

    Assuming they mean variety of gameplay, where's my hex strategic wargames? My non-arcade flight sims? Assuming we start the console era around 1980, that means they're about 30 years late?

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @07:16AM (#36207374) Homepage Journal
    The console arms race has stalled largely because the economy has stalled. Developing a console, investing in manufacturing facilities etc. is quite an expensive process, one that a company really doesn't want to go through unless they feel that they will be able to sell the console as well as a large number of games for it. In this economy, it's going to be very hard for people to rationalize plopping down $500 or $600 for a new console. Furthermore, since console hardware capabilities are (relatively) fixed, by the time the economy picks up again your competitor will be able to utilize the latest and greatest technology to come out with a console that is better than yours, and you will be stuck like that for the entire life cycle of the console. So there is actually a rather large disincentive to release a new console at this point. The risk to reward ratio is simply too great.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's not likely, as somebody posted somewhere else, this is a really good time for Nintendo and the rest to double down on R&D so that coming out of the recession when wallets open up they've got a new set of hardware to sell. Especially since they should be doing that anyways.

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Except if you're Nintendo, who can come out with four year old tech (in terms of consoles) and market it as amazingly better than the Wii and marginally better than the PS3 and 360, and since the tech is four years old they can put it at a fairly reasonably price point instead of the $500 or $600 a new PS3 or 360 equivalent might be at. What you say _does_ apply to Sony and Microsoft however, who have to wait until they can produce something significantly more powerful than their previous hardware at a pric
  • I think console gaming has been coming really shit lately mainly with Microsoft tainting it with the PC gaming mentality. It's now more acceptable to release shit in a broken state, we get less variety and more sequels. I think MS and Sony relied far too much on pushing the limits with hardware and need to keep their consoles around longer to help everyone recoupe their costs.

    I don't think it's that impressive that MS is breaking compatibility for a a new disc format. I appreciate that they will replace
  • Manufacturers are not making new consoles simply because they lose money on each console sold. [blorge.com] They have to recoup those losses through game sales. They clearly have very little incentive to release a new console, since the longer they can keep milking the old ones, the more profitable they become.

    The exception is the Wii, which actually was in the black for each unit. Not surprisingly, it seems that Nintendo is going to be the first to release a next-generation console. Hopefully this will force MS/Sony

  • Don't forget, we also just came out of a crazy bad recession. This would have been a bad time to release a new console and it is harder for the companies to justify console development costs when investors are demanding cost cutting. Additionally, TSMC has been stuck for over a year on the 40 nm node. The cancellation of the 32 nm process may have impacted some of the plans of the console makers. If they were planning on a chip that simply wouldn't be feasible/economical without a die shrink, then now h
  • With smartphones becoming the main computer for the general public (not the /. crowd of course) it's no surprise that phones will take over as the main game 'console' for consumers. Video Game companies are still coming to grip or flat out ignoring this reality and $1.99 games.

  • more detailed content, more expansive storytelling, more progress in areas that have been neglected in the former headlong rush to cram more polygons and effects onto every screen

    And that's a good thing.

    Can we get some new RPG from LucasArt now? Something as good as Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle?

  • I think with enough power under the hood it really comes down to the games. But with many third party games going multi-platform then this boils down to first party titles.
  • Aside from the occasional must-have exclusive title, Its the large studios that make games that everyone wants to play. They know this, so they publish for anything and everything with a controller. To do this, they'll include enough game content to satisfy the lowest common denominator. A recent title that felt this sting is Rockstar's new baby "LA Noire." According to an interview with Bondi Games developers [tgdaily.com] the title fit on 6 discs at one point. It has been compressed to 3 discs, so I wonder what was lef

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

Working...