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Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Slow Return To PC Gaming

I've discussed, at length at times, here how I've gotten more and more distance between me and my once beloved PC for the purposes of gaming. Consoles were once an afterthought for me ... but the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 paved the way with with titles like Phantasy Star Online and GoldenEye that made the living room a more and more attractive place to game. The night after I left my first office job, the going away party descended into a four hour late night GoldenEye match. Try doing that on your PC.

More than anything, modding kept me on my PC. I learned a lot about object orientated design from UnrealScript and ... well ... blowing stuff up. Really - trying to build a better nuke grenade is a great way to learn about abstraction. That peaked for me with the last Make Something Unreal Contest and I never finished any of my follow up projects.

Now, though, I'm getting back into it. Here's why:

With pre-existing hardware, you can still cheaply upgrade
I still have the same $250 rig I got from Frye's a year or so ago. A RAM upgrade and a $200 AGP card is suitable for playing most every game out there at fairly impressive specs. No, it's not equipped to go SLI - but more on that later. Point is - if you have an old computer laying around, you may be able to play games at the same res as a 360 or PS3 (or better) for the cost of a Wii.

Huge library of older games for cheap
Sure, this is true of the PS2 as well - but choosing between Knights Of The Old Republic II or Fable: The Lost Chapters for $20 each is a nice treat.

First Person Shooters used to be a genre which dominated PC gaming - now not so much. Now RTS and MMO games are the real reason to keep that PC hardware around. I don't know how long that will last, and these genre's aren't the biggest draw for me, but they're still there.

Ah yes, good old modding. I can't say that staring at old code that never really got its due and wondering how long it would take to get it playable isn't a curious thing. I'm seriously considering taking all the stuff I never properly released and combining it as one final mod pack for Unreal Tournament 2004. It would be an updated version of the UXL mutators, some gametypes I never released and a stripped down version of the turn based code I didn't really finish.

This isn't all peaches, though. I'm still not sure how long this love affair will last:

Games For Windows is a marketing trick
I'm so wildly disappointed in the "Games For Windows" branding now. Simply because I can see it for what it really is - a way to force gamers onto Vista. I don't see any real benefit in it. The 360 controller is apparently not very useful on the PC. Sure, you'll get some cross-platform multiplayer benefits - but if Microsoft isn't willing to share Live with XP users ... I'm not about to spend the extra cash for Vista to play along.

Microsoft has cannabalized PC gaming for their Xbox strategy - and "Games For Windows" is just another meal for Vista.

XNA is a shallow strategy right now
As I've noted before, XNA is really good for other XNA developers right now. I can't develop on the PC and easily deploy to non-XNA machines - so I'm not sure what the point is right now. I've been a pretty good cheerleader for the concept, but it's getting time for Microsoft to pony up. Stop talking about being the "YouTube for gaming" and do it.

The Hardware Curve
Buying PC parts is like getting a new car - the worth depreciates from the moment you take it off the shelf. I've hurdled the requirements bar for the last crop of games, but we've got monsters like Crysis and Unreal Tournament III around the corner. Consoles conversely better with age, as developers learn new tricks to apply to the hardware. If or when parrellel cards (SLI or Crossfire) become a standard - I don't see myself trying to catch up anymore.

So far now I've got the hardware to catch up on the games I've been missing out on at settings to make them look impressive and maybe cap off my modding work. If I can run Unreal Tournament III, I might fall back into that crowd. We'll see.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that I'll be doing more PC gaming now that I've got a decent computer. Firstly, more WINE options will be open for me with an NVIDIA card and secondly, I have a Vinders partition which I can fall back on again.

First on my To-Do list is to buy and download some Linux native games though.

Josh said...

Linux whats? ;)

I'm actually feeling overwhelmed at the moment, I've gone famine to feast. I've got some stuff to finish on the PS2 (Dark Cloud 2, Okami), DS (Hotel Dusk), a slew of old console games to revisit (PSO, XCom, Zelda) and now PC games (Dungeon Runners, Fable)