Posts Tagged ‘ PCs ’

Gaming: The Power of a Good Story

Games, games are changing.

Yes the graphics are always improving and the physics engines both imitate and subvert reality in many outstanding ways but now we have something more….

Story.

At the dawn of video games, there wasn’t much space in cartridges or floppy disks for stories.  Most developers didn’t bother, but as the first decade of gaming progressed (that’s the 80’s for you youngsters, yeah the ones wearing the John Hughes’ movie wardrobe), RPGs crossed over to home computers and PCs, which meant stretching the hardware to accommodate story beyond “here be aliens, shoot them!” explanation of the earlier frantic gaming mechanic.

Most of said story remained buried in the manuals with the game itself providing more shooting, spells swinging and sword bashing than complicated plot points.

Not anymore.

Somewhere around the turn of the century a combination of more powerful machines and graphic cards, game worlds could be rendered in glorious 3D (as opposed to the chunky polygons of the century before) and with plenty of space in both hard drives and disks (CDs, then DVDs and now Blu-Ray) they could inject great soundtracks, thousands of lines of spoken dialogue by dozens of highly skilled voice actors (and not a few celebrity cameos).

Which still leaves one thing….

Story!

The best games in the last few years, specially in the Console/PC RPG market, not only have stunning visuals and fast paced action but powerful story lines.  You don’t simply want to blast your enemies into pink (or green or blue, whatever) mist, but you want to known what your father was working on, who is behind the abduction of of human colonies and why your family was slaughtered while you were spared.

Story matters.

Story makes the difference.

The age of true interactive entertainment is here.

——-

And to show you what I mean, here is a bit of epic writing that turns the Mass Effect franchise into something more than alien fodder blasting or Space Opera Light:

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PC vs. Consoles: The Upgrade Wars

My first console was a Atari 2600, my second an Xbox.

Yeah, you read that right, from 2-bit to 32-bit.

So what did I use in the intervening 20+ years?

Computers.

First there was the C-64 which lasted about 8 years, then a Compag 486 that lasted all of 3 years or so, then a HP Pentium one which lasted about as long, a Pentium II which lasted about 3 and now my current machine which lasted about 3, and really only used it for a year’s worth of gaming.

Seeing a pattern here?

No.

One word.

Upgrades.

Constant, expensive and infuriating upgrades. That’s the real advantage of a console over a PC. Yes, you can spend about $2000.00 (U.S.)  for the fastest Alienware, which will be completely obsolete a day and an hour and a half after booting it up for the first time.

Why is that? It’s the nature of the beast.

Software makes for PCs know that the next piece of graphic hardware or memory expansion is just around the corner and so they program their PC exclusive software to match. That’s what  Origin started in the 90s and everybody else jumped in. But consoles don’t work based on an accelerated upgrade curve. They are projected to be on the market for about 4 years. Which means that if you buy an Xbox or PS early enough, you will be hitting it’s prime 2 years into its prime. In order to catch up in a PC you probably have to change graphic cards every six months.

Now you do the math. Factor software costs, base hardware costs, oh and OS compatibility.

And now most of the games that once were the exclusive domain of PCs are just as good if not better in consoles; RPGs, FPS, sandbox games, air/space combat sims, you name it. And the controls are better over all. Yes, I know that nothing beats sniping with a mouse and keyboard, but I can run, strafe, lob grenades and stab you with a bayonet using my Xbox dual triggers before you can pull the trigger on that rifle.

And with online services like Xbox live, consoles are now crowding the last PC frontier, the online RPG (MMORPG).  Now the biggest hits come on the console first and later for the PC. Gone are the days of weak Arcade or PC to home ports.  In fact one of the reasons MMORPGs stay in business is that they keep their system requirements as low as possible for as long as possible so as to no alienate dedicated players who don’t have the time, money or inclination to run to the Best Buy(tm) every time the company decides to launch an upgrade. Of course they do take the risk that their graphics become outdated, but that’s a risk that the folks at Blizzard (for example) are willing to take in order to keep their 11 million subscribers.

Besides, many games these days are more about pretty shade effects, object dynamics and cinematic sequences than actual long play. Might as well buy that game and stick it into your console than to tear out the guts of your machine just to play 10-15 hours of pretty graphics. Your best friend already played the game, finished it and is already downloading the next expansion while your sitting in your bedroom floor tearing bloody clumps of hair wondering why the latest piece of Plug-and-Pray(tm) shit you bought only gives you a blank screen.

I’ll give you this much, some PC games still look pretty, but as you see the trailer below, ask yourself, why is this game PC-exclusive, when you and I both know a Xbox 360 or PS3 could do it without breaking a sweat?