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How the PC Is Making Consoles Look Out of Date 568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How the PC Is Making Consoles Look Out of Date

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  • by click2005 ( 921437 ) * on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:18PM (#35433736)

    Its not that PCs make consoles out of date really. The higher cost of the more powerful consoles required MS & Sony to subsidize the initial cost and to justify it by making them seem a longer term investment. PCs are very easily upgradable.

    I'd bet that the next gen MS console will be a MIPS/ARM CPU system with GPU modules that can be upgraded. It'll run WindowsEntertainmentOS (a combination of WindowsMediaPlayer, DirectX and Windows 8/9). It'll be like a PC but locked down so the media/games industry won't moan too much. People are only just buying 1080p now. PCs took a big step backwards when LCDs became dominant. CRT monitors had much higher resolutions.

    In the future you wont buy games you'll buy game engines then 'rent' the level/texture/map data which is only available via a steam-like streaming service. It'll kill most piracy and that hated second-hand games market. They might allow games to be sold but only if they get a percentage.

  • Re:Not only graphics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:44PM (#35434132)

    I used to think that, too. I currently have a Wii and an Xbox and guess what: I find shooters to be more precise with the xbox controller. (the technique, of course, is totally different (less natural) but more precise in the end)

    I would have never thought that I would find it to be that way. Its surprising and I still don't know why it is, but its true for me.

    It's possible that I have a bias here because most gaming I do is on a PC. I am therefore open to suggestions that I may not perceive it that way if I had equal experience with each kind of input device. Having said that, at least in my personal experience I know no better controller for something like a 1st-person shooter than a keyboard and mouse. It seems like with an Xbox-style controller I can be either fast or precise depending on the sensitivity setting, but it is quite difficult to achieve both. It often ends up being a balance or a trade-off.

    With a mouse I can be slow and precise or I can be fast and precise. It is far easier, for me, to suddenly turn around and get a fast yet accurate headshot against an enemy alien (or whatever) with a mouse. With an Xbox-style controller I often barely miss the headshot and end up getting myself killed or having a big struggle that could have been a fast encounter.

    I think it's partly because the mouse can cover more ground more swiftly. I can flick it across the mousepad in a fraction of a second. I can also suddenly stop its movement and the cursor instantly stops with it. Also, a mouse cursor usually has an acceleration setting that makes the sensitivity setting less important. With an Xbox-style controller it seems more important during gameplay to maintain a positional advantage, i.e. to get the drop on an enemy. With a mouse and keyboard I feel more like my reflexes and ability to pay attention are the primary limitations.

    The comparison you raise is interesting to me. I have hardly ever used a Wii and even then I have never tried playing a 1st-person shooter. I think for a shooter the Wii controller may be hamstrung because the one-handed controller is trying to provide the functionality for which a PC would use two hands, one on a mouse and the other on a keyboard. For that reason I can see why you would say the Xbox controller is better albeit less natural.

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @03:54PM (#35434306)

    Exactly. I just finish Dead Space 2 on the XBox. Stunning looking game even blown up on a 65" screen. I need to spend another $1000 so I can get some extra lighting effects?

    The only upgradability I can see for a console is things that would not stop any game from running on any console regardless of the upgrades installed. For example, maybe buying more RAM for the system or graphics card. The game could take advantage of the extra RAM if it's there, otherwise just default to the base level.

    Eh... even typing it out there makes it sound like a hassle. I think bigger hard drives will be the extent of things as they are now.

    That's why I went console gaming. My PC gaming is now booting a Mac Mini into XP and catching up on older stuff I missed with the help of Steam and GOG. Finally played KOTOR late last year (it was... OK), and this month it's Baldur's Gate and maybe Syberia because I'm in the mood for a Myst-like puzzler for some reason.

  • by LordStormes ( 1749242 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:03PM (#35434430) Homepage Journal
    As a PC and console developer with over 50 different consoles connected to my TV, including everything from the Fairchild Channel F to the 360 and PS3 Slims, I consider myself something of an expert on this. Since 1974 or so, the same pattern occurs. Consoles come out, with comparable graphics capability to the current-gen PCs. Everybody says, "Wow, look at these awesome graphics!" (I remember when they said that about the IntelliVision!) Then, the console is released, and it's the "current-gen" console for 4-5 years, effectively freezing innovation on that console. During that time, several revisions of the bleeding edge in PCs occur. Right now, the current-gen consoles are running on 2006 tech, so everybody correctly says, "Wow, the PC can do so much more with 5 years more evolution than the Xbox!" and they're right. But when the Xbox 720, PS4, and (insert ridiculous name Nintendo comes up with for new console here) come out this/next year, the gap will be closed, and everybody will sound stunned with their "Console gaming is back!" articles. Rinse and repeat in another 5 years. The only way to break the cycle would be more frequent updates of the consoles, which defeats one of the biggest draws to console gaming, the "No matter what, if you have an Xbox, you can play this game and have a good experience" factor. Compare that to the middle-to-high-end gaming PC I bought in May 2010, which now can't run 80% of the games being released this summer on their optimum settings. PC gaming is for people who want to pour money into upgrading their hardware every 6 months, and console gamers are people who would rather spend that $200 on the Assassin's Creed box set that includes actual DNA from Ezio Auditore than another 8 gigs of video RAM. This is a non-story.
  • Re:Graphics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:21PM (#35434660)

    The thing is, it's not all about graphics.

    Good, because I've been running better than 1080p since before it was called 1080p (got my 24" 1920x1200 monitor in 2007).

    I can spend ã40 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.

    Only it will require the use of a controller as opposed to a kayboard and mouse. This may be a boon, I'm not passing judgement, but I prefer mouse + keyboard.

    Or I can spend ã10 less on the PC version, but I'd need to spend hundreds of pounds upgrading my PC every year.

    Wrong, wrong, WRONG. My PC is from 2006/7 (4 / 5 years old compared to your 3 year old PS3). Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Q6600, nForce 650SLI motherboard, GeForce 8800GTX graphics. I have upgraded nothing since I bought that, and I spent around £1000 at the time on it. Now you could argue that it's the equivalent of £250 per year since 2007 in upgrades, but you're missing a vital piece of information: I'm not upgrading my PC. It's 2011, I can still play Assassin's Creed II, Prototype, WoW, Mass Effect 2, any number of graphically intensive games titles at 1920 x 1200 at more than playable framerates. I have yet to encounter a game which I cannot play at detail levels which far exceed those of the latest generation of consoles.

    And then I'd have to put up with all the DRM junk.

    Uhhh... You must be new here. PS3 is DRM'd up the wazzoo! Blu-Ray? HDCP? My PC doesn't have those, and I get 1920x1200, thanks.

    So no, right now, I don't really "get" the appeal of PC gaming. The cost vs reward doesn't add up.

    Cool, that's fine! Just remember, though, it's opinion, and not one based entirely upon fact.

    Edit: Fix UNICODE support. For fuck's sake, it's only been 14 years.

    £ £ £ £ £ £ £
    < Fix that.

  • Re:Not only graphics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dc29A ( 636871 ) * on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:46PM (#35435038)

    I had a PS3, tried the whole "ditch PC gaming for consoles" trend. Didn't work for me for many reasons:
    - Don't like console controller. I could never get used to it.
    - No complex strategy games like Civilization, no good RTS games, very few decent RPG games.
    - No good MMOs.

    So I got a new SB 2500K rig, never been happier. Steam/Impulse are fantastic, and new PC hardware is not expensive at all (unless you want to go into multi screen / Extreme CPU setups). For the common layman like me, a midrange quad core with a midrange video card is all I need.

  • by LordStormes ( 1749242 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:51PM (#35435106) Homepage Journal
    I think we'll see a Wii 2 in time for Christmas 2012, and an Xbox 3 isn't outside the realm of possibility for that same timeframe. Sony is still spending too much dev time trying to patch Geohot out of existence every two days to worry about a PS4. The Wii has the most ground to cover - it is by far the weakest in graphics, processing power and non-gaming multimedia capabilities, and its one novelty, motion gaming, has now been one-upped by both of its competitors. Nintendo NEEDS a new console to remain relevant in the living room, and its board room knows it. Remember, Nintendo doesn't generally announce new consoles until they're almost done (the 3DS wasn't even a rumor until about 4 months before its launch), so there could be Wii 2 prototypes running right now that we aren't aware of.
  • by Urza9814 ( 883915 ) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @04:53PM (#35435128)

    Could it work? Certainly. Could it be sold for under a couple grand? Doubtful.

    Consoles used to be able to beat computers for gaming value simply because computers weren't really designed for gaming. Now computers are arguably designed _solely_ for gaming. That's the real test. If you look at the marketing for high end desktop components, it's almost all about gaming and multimedia. The only way for consoles to remain a better value is to either have the console as a loss leader or to lower the price through volume - but even with volume, a console would have a hard time doing much better than Dell. Yes, making something really revolutionary would be great too, but no matter what, you'll mostly be running PC hardware. It's already build for gaming; why reinvent the wheel?

    There's a reason we don't have things like cartridges on PCs already, and that is because optical media is good enough. And cheap. Nobody is going to pay a premium for games on cartridges, because there's just no benefit to it. Blu-ray can already read data at 288Mbps+. Do you really need more than that right now? You don't need anything near that fast to read video data for full 1080p, so even with massive resolutions you should have plenty of data left for the game itself. If you're reading and writing, then yes, solid state is great. But for read-only data, there's no reason right now to move beyond Blu-ray.

    What consoles really need to do is be simple. Realize that people aren't buying a console to have the latest and greatest high-tech gaming system anymore - they're buying one so that they can have a system that's easy to connect, easy to use, and that they can play with their friends. Especially playing with friends - focus on the ability of a console to easily have 4 players (or more) in the same room. Hell, throw two video cards into it so it can output to 2 TVs, and have 8 controller ports. That's something you'll never see a computer do. Basically, make the gaming console a _social_ device.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry