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The State of PC Gaming


Chris F
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Prompted by:

http://www.lcvg.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=2438

 

I've noticed that much of the discussion here at LCVG revolves around the console world. The post count here in the Computer forum here at LCVG.com pales in comparison to the console based forum (well, except for the Portables & Boneyard forums). I know that for myself, it's primarily because consoles are more accessible, and for the most part offer better gaming experiences.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love my PC, and all it has to offer me, but it seems all it's relegated to is a First Person Shooter & Real Time Strategy machine, with not much else. I can't even think of more than 3 PC games I'm looking forward to this year, but I can't even count how many console games I'll likely be purchasing.

 

The main games I play on my PC currently are: BF1942, UT2K3 and Tron 2.0. All FPS, and all which if available on console, I would prefer on there instead. My PC offers higher resolution, more FPS, mouse and keyboard support, online play... Why do I feel the need to play it on a console?

 

What do you guys think the PC world needs to embrace, or adopt, to make it compete with the console gaming world? Or does the PC market suit your needs, and doesn't need anything to advance it? Does the PC stand a chance in a market where dedicated gaming machines rule?

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One thing that I think sorely hurts the PC world is the lack of a standard voice chat system. I never knew I would miss it until I started playing on Live.

 

Sure, we have instant messaging and programs like TeamSpeak, but the fact that there are so many of them to choose from, which causes too many segregated communities, is a huge downside. If the PC world had a standardized naming and chat system like Live (and maybe the PS2, I don't know) it would make it much easier to get a game of [insert game here] going with people you enjoy.

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It was noted at some gamesite someplace that gaming needs regulation on the PC. We see huge amounts of shit being shovelled out for the PC because there's no licensing required nor any quality control. No console manufacturer would dare to let Big Wheel or whatever the smeg it's called get released.

 

The PC market is glutted with too much:

 

a) Same old, same old

B) Rip-offs of same old, same old that dilute product quality and make it harder for consumers.

 

For all the garbage that the consoles get, I think the problem is even worse for anybody trying to get into PC gaming now.

 

And there's also, naturally, the huge problem with the constant upgrading. PC tech is always so bleeding edge that it cuts a lot of people off from playing it. It's really a shame, I'd be PC gaming until the cows came home if I could. Always been my favorite platform for gaming. Yet I have a (much-loved) GameCube, why? Because it was cheaper than building up a PC with comparable performance. Isn't that just sad?

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One thing that I think sorely hurts the PC world is the lack of a standard voice chat system.

 

I always find this strange, because the PC gaming world existed before voice chat did within it. But I'll be the first to say that Xbox Live has extremely spoiled me. You can be assured that 95% of the people on Live have voice chat capabilities, whereas with the PC world you have to choose an application, hope that other people use it, and then coordinate that way.

 

Another thing I think is the constant upgrading that's almost required each year, sometimes even less. Every year a new game comes out that pushes current hardware to the max, and those people that don't upgrade get left in the dust. Now myself, I'm a hardware junkie, and take any excuse to upgrade my PC, but a lot of people aren't like me, so maybe they're discouraged by that? Buy a console and you're almost guaranteed 5 years of life, and no need to upgrade. Everyones on a level playing field.

 

Take Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. Both games look amazing, but how many people will have PCs able to run them looking like that? Maybe if the current trend of hardware upgrades every 6-12 months was staggered a bit more, then people would embrace gaming a bit more on the PC.

 

For all the garbage that the consoles get, I think the problem is even worse for anybody trying to get into PC gaming now.

I'll agree there. But that's probably due to the fact there are much fewer A+ titles released for the PC, than for consoles. Is development time for PCs longer than that of consoles? In the time DNF/D3/HL2 have taken to get to our PCs, we've seen a flood of A+ titles for our consoles.

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To add to my previous comments on voice chat, why don't more games come with voice chat as a standard feature? Certainly it can't be that hard to integrate into the game as Live and the PS2 online service have proven. Why must PC gamers rely on third-party software for voice chat, which is often crucial to games like Savage, Battlefield 1942 or any game where you must coordinate a team, while any multiplayer game gets the goods on Live?

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I hate to say it as I love PC gaming but I really think this is a dying game platform. As HDTV becomes more and more prevalent over the next few years the PC's biggest advantage (resolution) will disappear. Granted, HD penetration isn't going to occur as quickly as we'd like but it will be a major player in the death of the PC as a gaming platform.

 

After resolution the PC's best feature (IMO) is mouse/keyboard input. Console's can certainly equal this feature but specific accessories are never purchased in great numbers. Still, the option to equal or better the PC on this front is always available to console makers.

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Is development time for PCs longer than that of consoles?

 

Brian would certainly be able to handle that question better than I, but I imagine it probably is, even with rushing the game out the door as happens so much these days. Realistically, you have an X-Box or a PS2 or a Cube. And it is standard hardware, period. You program a game for it and you're done. On the PC you can be juggling tons of different set-ups and you have to make your game work on all of them. I imagine that probably takes longer than it does with a console, but I could very well be wrong.

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Originally posted by Pharmboy@Feb 4 2004, 07:48 PM

On the PC you can be juggling tons of different set-ups and you have to make your game work on all of them.

The trouble is, they don't make it work on all of them. Even when my specs exceed the recommendations on the PC game box, I'm not sure if it will run well. I've had smooth games one day that chugged the next. I think PC game developers make an assumption that computer gamers are very tech savvy and can optimize their system for gameplay. In my case, that's not necessarily so. I like drop-in gaming, not downloading drivers and tweaking settings. I also find the keyboard to be a complete waste of a gaming controller. Yes, a mouse is easier, but A-S-D-F movement is ridiculous.

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I've had smooth games one day that chugged the next.

 

I've never actually had that happen without my knowledge of why it happened. For me it was usually after installing something, or having too many background processes running. I consider myself PC-tech saavy, so it wasn't a problem for me to fix. But I can understand the average user, who just wants to play the damn game, having issues like that.

 

I also find the keyboard to be a complete waste of a gaming controller.

Could you elaborate on that for me Allen? I've always found playing FPS with a keyboard and mouse superior to a gamepad, although with consoles I don't mind using a controller. As long as the games on consoles control well with a gamepad, I never make a big deal out of it. Of course, most console games have an auto-aim feature, something I always shut off on PC games.

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Originally posted by Ruffneck@Feb 4 2004, 10:48 PM

I also find the keyboard to be a complete waste of a gaming controller.

Could you elaborate on that for me Allen?

Shirley.

 

I find analog stick movement to be far, far superior to using typewriter keys. Push stick forward, go forward, etc. "A for left, S for right" or however you set it up is insane. The arrow keys are on the wrong side of the keyboard to use efficiently.

If I take my hand off the controller, I can put it right back and place my thumb over the stick. On a PC I have to look down. And with some games, like Tom Clancy-based titles, the sheer number of keystrokes you have to press (and remember) makes the game too complex. A controller is designed with gaming in mind, a keyboard is for writing.

 

I understand why people like mouse shooting. Everything you do on a computer daily reinforces aiming accuracy. I was once the computer tech for an office (being the only person who actually owned a com-poo-tor) and I got in trouble for insisting that people play Solitaire and Minesweeper, though it is the fastest way to teach mouse skills. If only I could have installed Half-Life for them.

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While I certainly won't be claiming the death of PC games anytimes soon..... I can see it dying down.

 

A) It's stuck in a rut of FPS, RTS, Sims/Tycoon and RPG. Everything else the PC is known for, Flight Sims, Turn Based Strategy, Wargames, Racing sims, Adventure etc have become tiny niche markets which don't bring in the big bucks. Sports is dominated by EA only.

 

B) It's too complicated. People simply don't know what hardware is in their computers, all that they know is that it's "new" (which aparently ranges from 1 day to 5 years). A list of what's required is useless (no matter how realistic it may be) simply because the majority of people that would even need to look at that see that their version of Windows is supported and assume that it will work.

 

Then when it doesn't they have no place to turn because the game can't be returned, they don't know enough to troubleshoot it themselves, and tech support at most companies seems to be useless.

 

For the tech savy this just isn't that much of a problem. I've never owned a game that I couldn't get running on my computer. I've run into problems and have been frustrated by a few, but in most cases they run fine right away, or within a few minutes of a problem being discovered.

 

C) Hardcore appeal. The games made for PC, at least the high profile ones, appeal to the hardcore. This is not a big enough market, and it's also a market that likes to "try" before they buy, and since they're savy, they can do so even when the publisher has made no means available for them. In some cases, the'll only buy when they're forced to.

 

D) Consoles are hurting the PC now more than at any other time IMO. Of course every generation of consoles rings a death toll for the PC Gamer, yet PC games continue to survive. This generation has been a bit different though, as the PC is having enough troubles keeping up, let alone passing the consoles in the areas that it excells.

 

When the Saturn and PSX were released, they could do things that barely any PC could touch. The PC was caught in the middle of 3D card hell with no standard chipset or API catching on, and the only games that took advantage of these cards were primarily the ones that came bundled with them (I had a Edge3D which was a Diamond card using an early Nivida chipset that was pretty much only useful to play ports of Saturn games that I already owned, and then a Stealth3D, which was a pretty nice 2D card for the time).

 

It didn't take too long though for the PC to make some huge strides once the Voodoo cards gained their popularily. Quake, released in 96, coupled with a Voodoo card could do more than the PS could and a year and a bit later Quake 2 blew the 32 bitters out of the water.

 

From what I've seen, the PC is not making the same strides this generation, and while HL2 and Doom 3 look like they may be to games to make these strides... if they can be ported faithfully to the XBox, then it's really only a baby step.

 

Combine this with the fact that FPS have really gained in popularity, and quality on the consoles, they're starting to make inroads into online play, and look good enough that resolution isn't as much of a factor, with their patented ease of use... it's no wonder the PC is starting to look less and less like a gaming powerhouse.

 

E) As much as I love the mod community and love to see a great game continue to sell well for years... it's gotta be hurting the industry in some way. The good PC games just seem to have more lasting appeal than the console ones. There are people still completely dedicated to games like Starcraft, The Sims, Everquest and Counterstrike. While these games continue to sell well (along with thier expansions), others become bargin bin fodder in a matter of weeks. Why buy new games when I can load up my Steam install and play HL, CS, DOD, Natural Selection, TFC, or one of the thousands of other mods and conversions for free? Sure, it's great for Valve who continue to sell the games that allow you to do that, but it seems to be at the expense of a lot of other games.

 

From what I've seen, the turnover rate seems to be much higher on the consoles. Sure, GTA continues to sell boatloads, but those who are buying it aren't playing it exclusively for 2 years before trying something else. They're also playing Socom, and Madden, and everything else in between.

 

F) Buggy games, too many system setups, and not enough quality control. Nuff said.

 

I anxiously await to see what MS has cooking for it's new Windows to try and make the PC gaming experience better. A standard controller setup may help in getting people to play more consolish games on their PC instead of Playstation, and anything to help people figure out what they have, and what will work on their systems is greatly needed.

 

God that's long... and I didn't proofread as usual.

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The arrow keys are on the wrong side of the keyboard to use efficiently.

 

Thank god I'm left-handed :green:

 

That could very well be why I always have no trouble with the keyboard, I use the arrow keys and can reach them in a moment's notice. Smooth, precise control. Although as far as 'turn left' and 'turn right' go, the first thing I do when I boot up a first-person game is switch that to 'strafe left' and 'strafe right', then use the mouselook to properly 'move'. It makes things MUCH easier and controllable, in my opine.

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I'm left-handed too, but I still prefer to use the Cube pad I've got hooked up to my PC to keyboard controls unless I need the mouse too.

 

To be honest the most common gaming by far on my PC is downloaded demos of things I plan to buy the full versions of on a console, its that bad. My PC does everything non-gaming just fine, and I can't be bothered to upgrade it to play new games when I have consoles that do the job as well if not better.

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Nobody has yet mentioned cheaters. While we are seeing this becoming more prevalent on consoles, it's rampant on PCs and probably the final straw against me gaming online with my computer. Why go to the expense and hassle of upgrading my computer and installing a game if someone is just going to shoot me through a wall?

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Good points all around Graeme. You touched on almost all my concerns with PC gaming nowadays.

 

Nobody has yet mentioned cheaters.

I haven't really had all that many encounters with cheaters in the PC games I play. Most of the games I play multiplayer have anti-cheat measures, such as Punk Buster enabled. I know it won't stop everything, but it's a start.

 

PC games are much easier to cheat on, expecially with trainers, and hacks so prevalent on the internet. But games with built in anti-cheat measures, especially if they're updated on a regular basis, are a step in the right direction.

 

I should also point out in regards to controls, that I've never had a problem with using a keyboard and mouse. While I do like the analog sticks for movement over say, the 0/1 digital aspects of a keyboard, I prefer mouselook to using the right analog stick on a controller. It's definitely more precise, and in games where I have to snipe, it's a very noticeable difference.

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Seeing as how I think we've touched on all our issues with PC gaming in general, or at least the issues that concern us most -

 

What can be done? Can anything be done? Should PC developers take a page from console developers, and attempt to turn our 2000$ PC into 300$ consoles? Should they go for more advanced features to leapfrog consoles, giving us more unique opportunities on the PC?

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I haven't really had all that many encounters with cheaters in the PC games I play. Most of the games I play multiplayer have anti-cheat measures, such as Punk Buster enabled. I know it won't stop everything, but it's a start.

 

I have never had any faith in PunkBuster.

 

I once did an experiement to find out more about cheating, and found PunkBuster-undetectable cheats very easily. This was on CounterStrike.

 

You find out very quickly that there are plenty of others cheating, too.

 

When you have your own cheat on, and you're spectating, you notice that a large population traces enemines through walls!

 

I removed the cheat, and stopped playing in public games altogether.

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and found PunkBuster-undetectable cheats very easily.

PunkBuster is based on user input to what cheats are available. If an "honest" user finds a cheat and submits it to PB, they add protection against that cheat, if they can. There are many people out there actively looking for cheats, and submitting them to EvenBalance (PunkBuster) for inclusion in the next versions of PB.

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Originally posted by Ruffneck@Feb 5 2004, 03:28 PM

and found PunkBuster-undetectable cheats very easily.

PunkBuster is based on user input to what cheats are available. If an "honest" user finds a cheat and submits it to PB, they add protection against that cheat, if they can. There are many people out there actively looking for cheats, and submitting them to EvenBalance (PunkBuster) for inclusion in the next versions of PB.

Glad to hear. Provided that PB updates are carried out frequently, that is a system that I can see working very well.

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PB updates are pretty frequent I think. They just recently signed with EA/Dice for PB support in BF1942, which was implemented in the recently release 1.6 patch. it's a start, and certainly not the end of cheating, but a step in the right direction.

 

They are also providing anti-cheat measures for Call of Duty, which is nice. EA never released any sort of anti-cheat measures for Medal of Honor, so there is rampant cheating on there. So at least one of the WW2 based FPS games gets some sort of couter top cheating.

 

Valve institutes their own anti cheat measure in Half-Life/Counter-Strike/Etc currently.

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