PC Gaming: Why I'll Never Console Myself with Second Best
The high cost of gaming
It baffles me that the main argument supporting the death of the PC is the price of a DX10 videocard. Do any of these doomsayers realize that there is an Advanced Graphics Settings underneath Game Options on just about every single PC game ever released? Expecting every single PC gamer out there to have the best possible hardware and able to play on the highest allowed settings is naive. If game developers actually programmed this way, why would they even bother putting minimum requirements and recommended requirements on the box of every game released?
Gamers play at the graphical settings they are most comfortable with, and in some cases that means using automatically detected settings, no tweaking at all. Others test the game and their hardware at every setting they can manage until they find one just that is perfect for them, and then post a tweaking guide to the net so others can benefit from their research. If you only have ~$100 to spend you can get an 8600GT, a fully DX10 compliant video card, you don't have to spend $600 on an overclocked 8800GTX to get the DX10 experience, but the choice is there if you are playing on a PC.
That argument also seems to assume that the only game types to choose from are First Person or Third Person Shooter, and by limiting the scope to those games, it can appear that they might have a point. You do miss out on some of the experience if your PC cannot support Dynamic Lighting and Motion Blur, and if there is no storyline to make the game interesting, it can turn an enjoyable experience into a mediocre one. Thankfully that is not the case; there are many other unique types of games, even on the console as Wii sales have shown.
There are many types of gamer, quite a few of which would only consider picking up a First Person Shooter because it has a good storyline, because their priorities lie elsewhere. Is it reasonable to expect that long time players of Sid Meier's Civilization series are going to be satisfied when they are only able to play the upcoming Civilization Revolution for the PS3? Do you think the family friendly focus will draw them or perhaps the simplified A.I. and interface? Should the Caesar and Sim City fans be happy throwing out any feature that doesn't work well on a stylus or gamepad? How exactly will being able to press keys at an ungodly rate qualify you to make over $300,000 playing StarCraft, if all you have are the basic commands that can fit on your controller?
I did it my way!
Then there is the slap on the face that is offered to game modders. Do you expect to see the console equivalent of Red Orchestra, the total conversion mod of Unreal Tournament 2003, being made with the Xbox 360 SDK, or Urban Chaos which was made from Jagged Alliance 2? How about the entire lineup of Strategy First for that matter? They make some of the most in depth strategy and tactical combat games, from historical reenactment to Sci-Fi. These games are not known for their amazing graphics, but because of the complexity of the game, and the ease they can be modded. For many of their titles, the complex AI interactions, formulas and game statistics are all in plain text documents. If you have notepad, you can mod these games any way you want, and huge communities have sprung up to support you in your efforts, and to show off what they have done.
Dawn of War, the Warhammer 40K RTS, is another example of the huge audience of modders out there, with mods running the gamut of simple additions of favorite chapters or races, to total conversions into the epic rules set and unique modes of play. The popular Babylon 5 franchise has yet to publish an official game, but don't tell that to the folks at Space Dream Factory, Babylon 5: I've Found Her has been going strong for years, and not only does it offer a brilliant way to explore the Babylon 5 universe, it also offers one of the best implementations of Newtonian physics in a space shooter I have ever encountered.
Does that look like Unreal Tournament to you? Guess what, it started as a total conversion done by a group of fans!
In the end, a move by the major software publishers to a console only business may spell a renaissance for gamers looking to experience something more interesting than Doom XIV. Anyone searching for a plug and play solution, and casual gamers, will be perfectly happy playing console games from Epic Games or id Software, and those companies can be successful if they follow the model that has worked so well for Microsoft. The hardcore gamers, and those who want to feel the accomplishment of creating or changing a game, could follow a GPL-based Linux model for their cooperative game creation projects. There may be licensing problems to be overcome, but Fan Fiction and Filk are written by starting with someone else's intellectual property and they have existed for a very long time.
Many creators have realized that punishing their fans simply for loving their work is a losing proposition. Baen books has embraced it, they even have published The Grantville Gazette series, an experiment in publishing the best fan stories as reviewed on their forums. They are proceeding on the premise that if you alienate people who love your work so much that they will spend their time and effort to promote your series, as well as their money, you might as well just shoot yourself in the foot.
Gaming, on either platform, is starting to suffer from Sequel-itis so bad that it makes the Police Academy movie series look like a good idea. The many unsuccessful attempts to outright censor games have given game designers a bad name, at the same time they are being sought out by Fortune 500 companies to create serious games to be used for training, simulations or even for health reasons.
The console is the watered down, mass produced version of a complex art form that is still in its infancy. Yes Mr. Thompson, an art form, not a killing simulator. It has been only 25 years since Spacewar! a very short time for a completely new artistic medium to grow from its anonymous infancy to its incredible acceptance today. If the mainstream publishers all want to switch to programming for consoles first, and the PC second, I may have to get motivated enough to go through the list of free game engines and create something a lot better that GTA XIV:Return of the Revenge of the Florida Trailer Park Boys (Manhunt 87 tie-in included). You can have your cardboard burger and cheap malt liquor if you want, but you ain't taking away my Scotch and Porterhouse ... now get off my lawn and take your DualShock 2 with you.
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