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How the PC Is Making Consoles Look Out of Date 568

An anonymous reader writes "What has been clear from this year's Game Developers Conference is that consoles are beginning to show their age. With nothing beyond a possible Nintendo update on the horizon, developers at this year's GDC have turned their eyes to the PC. The article includes three videos that give a fantastic insight into where PC graphics are headed, including a version of Epic's Unreal engine, Crytek's Cryengine 3, and DICE's Frostbite 2 engine. Considering that these leaps in eye candy are only possible with the current state of PC graphics, we wonder how long consoles will be the target platform for development of blockbuster games."
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How the PC Is Making Consoles Look Out of Date

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  • Not only graphics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devxo ( 1963088 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:13PM (#35433666)
    You also need a PC with keyboard and mouse for precise controls. That's something consoles don't offer. There is no way you can use console to shoot me as fast as I can shoot you with a mouse. As soon as I see you, you are dead.
  • by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <> on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:15PM (#35433700) Homepage
    Actually the Wiimote is pretty good for aiming, once you get used to it. Only flaw is turning is slow.
  • Said many times (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:17PM (#35433720)

    But I still prefer console. A PS3 at that. Sony may be evil.. and they may gradually strip out features people have already paid for and do all manner of slimey underhanded stuff.. but as long as I can play every day shooter and plants vs zombies and the occasional "real" game.. I'm happy.

    Console is nice because it's consistent. My PS3 is probably for the most part identical to yours. I don't have to worry about how much ram I have or my video card to know I'm getting the full, intended experience.

    The bleeding edge "every last FPS" stuff may end up moving to PC, but I think consoles will still have a place for people like me who want to just buy something and start playing.

  • by cream wobbly ( 1102689 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:17PM (#35433722)

    Am I missing something? Consoles have always lagged the availability of hardware in PCs. Plus, when you throw $1000 at a problem, you're going to get better results than throwing $300 at the same problem.

    What might be a better analysis would be an analysis of how programmers are targetting each platform. In the "good old days", you'd target the specific hardware of a Gameboy. The Playstation, you'd talk to libraries if you were nice, but you could still hit the metal. Nowadays, you're not going to be hitting the metal in anything; so I'd bet the advantage of console hardware, being a known target, is lost when compared to the unknowns of a PC.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:18PM (#35433740) Homepage Journal

    Doesn't matter, as long as your opponents have the same limitations. It's still frustrating at times, but it got me out of the PC upgrade cycle for a while, and it's been a good experience. Console graphics of this generation have definitely been approaching "good enough" in my book, and the next generation will definitely last a good while too. Even in PC gaming recently there haven't been many games pushing the latest hardware to the limits.

  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:19PM (#35433752) Journal

    "Considering that these leaps in eye candy are only possible with the current state of PC graphics, we wonder how long consoles will be the target platform for development of blockbuster games.""

    PCs have, for the most part, outclassed consoles in terms of graphics for years. For most games which are available on the consoles and PC, the PC version will almost always feature higher resolutions and better textures and other graphical bells and whistles (even in cases of console ports). However, pure graphical power isn't why people buy consoles and not PCs. People buy consoles because it's cheaper (at least, it's cheaper than buying a state of the art video card every two years), it's accessible, and its better integrated with their home theatres. I think consoles will stay the target platform for blockbuster games for a long time.

  • Graphics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:23PM (#35433802)

    The thing is, it's not all about graphics. I can spend £40 on a game for my PS3 that's, what, 3 years old? And it will be very, very close to what the PC version is like. Or I can spend £10 less on the PC version, but I'd need to spend hundreds of pounds upgrading my PC every year. And then I'd have to put up with all the DRM junk. And PC versions tend to be buggier. So no, right now, I don't really "get" the appeal of PC gaming. The cost vs reward doesn't add up.

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:26PM (#35433846)

    Sony is not and was never a game company. Microsoft knows more about doing this than Sony.
    Sony is good at designing hardware but horrible at designing software and not particularly good at developing gaming hardware.

    Microsoft has developed keyboards, mice, and games in the past. Microsoft understands how PCs work and could probably do it. Nintendo could probably do it also. Sony will have learned their lesson, the main lesson was they only offered an expensive version of PS3. The trick is to offer different versions, much like how you can get the value edition of a video card.

  • Popularity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arctech ( 538041 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:29PM (#35433884) Journal
    In the scope of things, the fact that the 360 and the PS3 are showing their age doesn't translate to a mass migration of developers to the PC platform. For a long time now, consoles have gained and held the larger gaming audience compared to the PC, and that market continues to be the biggest and most profitable market. For the majority of the time, PC's hold a significant technological edge over consoles, which is nice for when you want to punch things like Crysis ahead of the graphics curve, but it isn't as if all the console gamers converted to the PC platform because Crysis was pretty.
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:29PM (#35433894)

    i go way back to the Riva TNT2 and voodoo2 days. i bought a top of the line voodoo2 the day it came out back in 1998. cost me $299. these days a top of the line card is $500 or more and it sucks enough electricity to power a small town.

    x-box 360 cost me $299 same as my PS3. i can also use each one to watch media on my tv without the hassle of doing it on the PC which is usually in the opposite side of the house or room. the games are usually the same which means that the gameplay experience is the same. most people won't spend the money just for the graphics card. the "gamer" is now a 40 year old person that plays Cityville on facebook. not a nerd playing Doom, command and conquer or starcraft on their PC

  • by rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:31PM (#35433928)

    Even in PC gaming recently there haven't been many games pushing the latest hardware to the limits.

    Thats usually because most PC games are being held back by developers pandering to console version limitations from the very start of the development cycle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:51PM (#35434268)

    With a keyboard/mouse setup, I can spin 180, while leaping through the air, target and kill someone all the way across a map almost effortlessly.

    Honestly, that's one of the reasons I dislike modern FPS. Players tend to be hopping, somersaulting, whirling dervishes that have nothing in common with any sort of real human behavior on the battlefield.

    A jump should take you no more than a foot in the air while carrying combat gear, and COMPLETELY ruin your accuracy during and for a bit afterward. If you're going to make your soldiers behave like low-g ballerinas, at least recognize that your game is silly, like Quake Arena.

  • by chammy ( 1096007 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:53PM (#35434288)
    I'd rather sit in my comfy computer chair, chat with friends on Teamspeak as well as in-game chat, and alt tab out of the game to browse the web inbetween rounds. It's not so much the graphics, its the convenience of being able to do more than just sit there and play games.
  • by shadowfaxcrx ( 1736978 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:14PM (#35434584)

    To me the only advantage of a console is that I can go out and buy a game for it and it is guaranteed to work the same on my console as on everyone else's. I didn't have to sit there reading the SMB3 box to find out if my hardware was compatible. I had a Nintendo. It was compatible.

    Same with the PS3. I'm not aware of any new games that won't run on the first PS3.

    I think Sony actually got it pretty much right with the PS3 - they offer different "levels" of consoles to buy, but those levels involve hard drive space (goes to how many games I can store on it, rather than *what* games I can store on it) and bundled accessories.

    If you start offering different levels of console that have different performance numbers, you're going to get into situations where you have to have the "PS4 Gold" instead of the "PS4 Aluminum" or some such nonsense in order to run certain games. At that point you might as well buy a PC.

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @05:49PM (#35435860) Homepage Journal

    It's going to take a quantum leap in hardware design

    You mean the smallest possible change?

    No, more like theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, then leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that the next leap, will be the leap home.

  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <<moc.xobreven> ... .vidavsxd54sals>> on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @07:06PM (#35436896) Homepage

    The rest of my PC I _already have_, and would already have even if I didn't use it for gaming at all.

    Yeah, this is a point that almost always get skipped.

    Every single person on slashdot owns a computer, to within statistical margin of error. Everyone hear debating is debating via a computer they own.

    And in general, I would be astonished if more than 1% of households with consoles in them did not have a computer. And 90% of that 1% of households probably have a Wii, which is not really what we're talking about here. All gamers have a computer.(Please do not think I'm dissing Wiis, which are amazing ideas, an epic win for Nintendo. You got my mom to buy a game console! My mom! You broke the entire damn product market. But they aren't really in this discussion.)

    Now, so all households with gamers own a computer. Maybe 20% of those households do not have one that 'could have been' a gaming computer...they only have Macs or laptops or something.

    But for the other 80%, the question isn't 'What is the price of a console compared to a reasonably powerful computer?'. Everything thinks that, but it's not right.

    The question is 'What is the price of a console compared to simply purchasing a $100 video card and maybe another gig of memory?'. They already have a computer. Everyone already has a damn computer. This is 2011!

    Now, there are other reasons to get a console, but the comparison isn't '$200-$300 PC' vs the console's a $100 video card for the PC you probably already have vs. the console price. Unless you only have laptops or Macs or something, then, sure, you'd have to build a whole computer, but that's not normally true.

    And $100 is plenty fine for a video card, you do not need to spend $250 or whatever 'half a PS2' is. ;) I always go somewhere between $100 and $150 when buying a new one, which I have to do about three times a decade.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @07:57PM (#35437366)

    First, a "top of the line" graphics card cost several thousand dollars in 1998. Your Voodoo2 was a cheap mainstream consumer gaming card with decent 3D performance. It absolutely, positively, was not the top of the line card in 1998.

    Second, the Nvidia 580 GTX is faster than the most powerful supercomputer in the world in 1998. The 580 GTX rates at about 1.4 TFlops. The ASCI RED supercomputer was the fastest computer in the world in 1997 with only 1.3 TFlops. Instead of comparing the Nvidia 580 GTX to a $300 graphics card, a better comparison is with a multi-million dollar super computer.

    So in short, your Voodoo2 wasn't the top of the line card that you remember it being, and the 580 GTX is five orders of magnitude cheaper today than it would have been in 1998.

    (Also, the 580 GTX uses about 250 watts, which is probably what you have in the light fixture above your kitchen table. By comparison, the ASCI RED sucked close to a megawatt, which literally is enough to power a small town.)

The other line moves faster.