Status Update: Jim at GDC

By Jim Rossignol on February 20th, 2008 at 7:54 am.

So yeah I’m at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and hanging about talking to game people in overcrowded bars. It’s a fun time, with a few moments of genuine delight at the bright shiny world of gaming that lies ahead of us, and a few moments of numbing jetlag or vertiginous horror at our absurdly debauched modernity.

The really astounding thing about this event is that it makes it quite clear just how many really bright people there are who basically just want to enjoy their lives by spending them making games. Bright people should really be using their giant brains to fix the sky or create cures for hiccups, but I’m nevertheless chuffed that some of them are putting their energies directly into the thing that I care most about: defeating boredom (or Ennui Lite, as I’m rebranding it for 2008). I’ll blog about one of these people a bit later. He’s someone you’ve never heard of, and who blew my mind with a laptop and a half hour conversation.


The Intel guy said logos are expensive, but we prove otherwise

But anyway, let’s talk about The Personal Computer Gaming Alliance. Or how Intel and their gigantic computer chums want to save our platform.

Representatives from Intel, Dell, Nvidia, Ace/Gateway, Microsoft and Epic gathered to talk about their plans for PCGA. In trundled the press with their backpacks and dictaphones, and sat down to have a bit of a listen before asking some questions.

Intel’s Randy Stude, an imposing type with a peculiar grey felt shirt, stood up and told us how the companies had come together to create the PCGA, a non-profit organisation intended to advance the PC gaming platform. He gets to be president, which he sounded indifferent about. Some of the others get titles too.

Stude then explained that the consortium of bigwigs was going to help developers do two things. Firstly, they intend to fix the flow of information about the PC as a platform. This is a kind of bigger version of the Valve hardware survey, only the PCGA want to figure out exactly what hardware is out there and who owns it. Then they want developers to look at this and get excited about making games for PC. Secondly they want to give both consumers and developers a better handle on what PCs run what games. There’s no detail on how they’re going to do that, but the consensus seems to be that there’s going to be a band on a graph somewhere into which certain PCs will fall and be categorised as being suitable for a particular type of game. Again, this is bit vague, but the intention certainly seems admirable. It’s all about improving the “customer experience” with gaming on PC, which was a phrase reiterated at least half a dozen times during the presentation and the Q&A that followed.

Stude said that the PC had both massive growth and massive piracy. The growth, according to DFC intelligence, which tracks online, in the shops, and MMO subs, is up 12% on 2006, with $2.76bil made in 2007. That’s about 30% of all games sales. There are also said to be 263 million online gamers worldwide.

The floor was soon open to questions and the world’s PC press struggled to grasp what PCGA were trying to achieve, with mixed results. People asked whether the PCGA would recommend Vista, or if it would fix bugged game releases. Maybe, they’re just getting started.

Mark Rein, one of the members, made his views about integrated graphics known: he’d rather they were expunged entirely, and PCs shipped only with nice, fat, accelerated graphics cards. Impossible, of course, but you can see why he thinks like that. He was also pretty sure that PC games had to stay on the shelves at retail, rather than using all that fancy internet delivery magic.

PC Gamer’s Tim Edwards: “Does the PC even need retail, I mean-”

Mark Rein. “YES! Yes.”

Later an anonymous man in the audience started screaming at Rein, shouting “Haven’t you heard of the Internet!?” It was interesting. Rein, who had heard of the internet, observed that piracy was so bad that people even ran cracked servers for pirate CD-keys of their games. This was what the real thread of the discussion moved around: how to get around piracy. Stude couldn’t quote figures for losses from piracy, but it certainly seemed that everyone in the room felt it was the most unattractive aspect of the PC, after exploded system specs. How do we fix it? Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Nobody really knows. Maybe the PCGA can come up with some suggestions. Make your games free might be one. Who knows…

The presentation ended with a mixed feeling of anticipation and validation. PC gaming is huge, and growing, and the big boys know that they have to get a handle on it, and that they can’t leave it up to the single-entity consoles to lead the charge into the future of gaming. I really hope the PCGA can settle some problems and do some things to change the landscape of gaming in a positive way. I really hoped it doesn’t just fizzle out and quietly disappear. While I’d argue that it’s people like Valve and the Runescape boys that are really doing the most for the PC, it’d be good to know that the commercial magnates are actually paying enough attention to realise they have to work together. That alone, I suspect, could be enough to make PC gaming a far stronger, safer place for development.

Then I went to another event down the street and saw the actual future of PC gaming. It was incredible, and I can’t talk about it until the end of the month. Bah.

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44 Comments »

  1. Roman Levin says:

    Out of that 2.67 billion dollars, how much was WoW?

  2. Lacero says:

    Forget wow, I want to know what that other event is. An nvidia event? Spore? A new version of windows live?!

  3. The Sombrero Kid says:

    this is clearly a case of we have to combine forces to compete with valve since we’re already years behind them and they’ve already solved all those problems and the reason they were being vague is cause they didn’t want that to be obvious.

    a little more competition in the digital distribution arena wouldn’t hurt though.

  4. Meat Circus says:

    “Randy Stude”

    I’m not sure it’s appropriate for Intel employees to be attending under their porn names.

    PCGA: The people who have done most to destroy PC gaming will now do more of the same until they save it. Clearly they plan to take the “beat you till your morale improves” approach.

    Did anybody point out to these self-important gimps that they are the cause of all of PC gaming’s current woes, and that there’s not a chance in hell that they can save it given their current mindsets?

    Where were Valve? Blizzard? The Indies? You know, the kind of people who have actually been acting against as a bulwark *against* the damage wrought for and by the PCGA members?

    Let’s just hope that the innate wretchedness of its participants means that it dies a swift and merciless death before they do much more damage of the “Games for Windows Live Gold” variety.

  5. Anthony Damiani says:

    I fear this ends in restrictive DMA and damage to the platform as a whole– almost certainly no benefit. See how well the “Windows Live” initiative did.

  6. Leeks! says:

    @Lacero

    Age of Decadence, obviously.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    Rein is an idiot.

    He systematically misses the point on every single issue and gets everything wrong.

    In fact, it seems to have been a week of startling idiocy to spew from the mouths of Epic windbags.

    The sooner they sod off to their new home as the preferred developer for the LOLFAGtards of XBoxLiveLand the better.

  8. oryly says:

    I see their evil plan. First they get everyone to download their PC hardware survey thing. Then when it detects that you pirated a game, it kills you.

  9. Razor says:

    It’s kinda weird, isn’t it? Piracy seems to the catch-all excuse for all kinds of problems. And yet I don’t hear Valve bitching about it nearly as much as many other vendors in the gaming industry (or other industries for that matter).

    Could be, um, that a game sucks and no one wants to buy it? Or maybe people have tried Steam and prefer it to retail?

  10. Stick says:

    Non. Profit. Organization?

    … I suppose they can call it that, in the same way [Insert Propaganda Arm of Genocidal Historical Group] was a non-violent organization.

    @oryly: Nah, no profit in dead potential marks customers. I’d expect it to kill your graphics card, fry your CPU and invalidate your Windows installation.

    Hookay, maybe that’s enough rampant cynicism for one day. :)

    “Then I went to another event down the street and saw the actual future of PC gaming. It was incredible, and I can’t talk about it until the end of the month. Bah.”

    Tease!

  11. Epicurian says:

    Stick: I call Godwin’s Law on your comment.

    Back to the issue, it is curious to see Valve absent from this ‘non-profit organization’ (kind of a BS statement, since it is an investment by these companies to make mondo cash).

    Razor is on to something, with Valve a little silent on the issue of piracy. Half Life 2 is available out there for people to just download, but I’ve never heard Newell complain about it at all.

  12. Stick says:

    @Epicurian: I know. I tried [genericking] my way around it, but it didn’t quite work… :)

  13. Crispy says:

    Isn’t it a bit rich that an Epic rep was there after Cliffy B shunned PCs in favour of consoles?

    I mean, it’s one thing sitting on the fence, but it’s quite another to try to keep one foot either side of it. Sooner or later you’re gonna slip up and your nuts won’t thank you for it.

  14. Rook says:

    Why does some of this sound like Windows Experience Index again, and haven’t people been trying to pigeon hole PCs into a grade card score for decades now? It NEVER FUCKING WORKS.

  15. Mickiscoole says:

    @Stick:
    The U.S department of happy puppies?

    And I don’t think that it really is the future of PC gaming, as it’s too early for Valve to give out details of their next big thing, as they probably only just started working on it.

    And I will always buy retail – Buying the box just contributes to the illusion of ownership – but I would rather support my local independent games guy and thus the local economy. That and the state of internet in Australia is atrocious

  16. Ben Abraham says:

    “I really hoped it doesn’t just fizzle out and quietly disappear.”

    I do. Sounds exactly like what most commentators have pointed out already: A cartel of big companies that already have a vested interest in controlling the PC gaming sphere, all getting together to *further* consolidate their control… okay, I went a little too Big Brother there, but fair call?

    Down with it, I say!

  17. Okami says:

    Rein is an idiot.

    You know, for once I agree with you.

  18. Meat Circus says:

    It’s worse than that, Ben Abraham.

    It’s a cartel of companies who have been complicit in PC gaming’s decline, which is far more worrying than their just being a vested interest.

  19. KBKarma says:

    Well, well, well. This seems rather useless.

    Digital distribution is NOT the way to go? Why? I’ve had few problems with it.

    In fact, the only problems I’ve had with Steam were caused by products from two of those members: my nVidia graphics card and my Windows XP OS.

    Interesting, isn’t it, how there are only two game developers involved in this thing? I had some respect for Epic, but recently it’s becoming eroded.

  20. Meat Circus says:

    Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?

    It’s because they haven’t been successful at it when Valve has.

    Perhaps if they’d stuck UT3 on Steam, it might not have bombed like angry Islamist so much.

  21. Butler` says:

    This kind of thing should be reassuring. It isn’t.

  22. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    What did happen to that Windows Experience Score thingy? It was supposed to be on the back of every box ever, but I don’t recall ever seeing it anywhere but on my desktop (5.7 btw! I think that’s good).

  23. Andrew Simpson says:

    Christ, Epic needs to get a clue.

    How do you beat piracy? The answer is incredibly simple. Make your service offer more value and be more convienient than the pirates.

    This is why Steam is only a P2P implementation away from being perfect genius, it’s co-opting the pirate’s method, in a way. You make it easy to download a game. You make it possible to run it on any computer without restriction, and you make it possible to run without having your CD in the drive. Then the autopatching and the community features make it a noticably better service.

    The only restrictive anti-piracy stuff Steam employs is keeping the game’s files encrypted until launch day, which isn’t that onerous because it goes away entirely after launch, and is a 100% effective way of eliminating zero-day piracy, meaning Steam is always the place to get a Steam game first.

    And not to mention the margins are better per unit on digital distribution are better than retail, so piracy hurts you less anyway if you shift less units.

    If they don’t get Valve on board, this alliance is going to fizzle out in 6 months. You can bet that.

  24. Theory says:

    Even if this bigwig corporate agglomeration can overcome its inevitable infighting, which I severely doubt it will, their efforts have already been obsoleted by Steam. The most they will ever manage is an impact in the ever-shrinking and increasingly less important retail sector, and maybe, just maybe, improvements to pre-built PC specs and bloatware.

    Valve on the other hand have already solved most of the software issues they’re tackling and are quite capable in the future of solving the rest. Who needs the Windows Experience Index (which is a neat system, incidentally) when the software you’re browsing and buying through knows your computer’s capabilities to the last CPU cycle already? The only question is why Steam doesn’t run that check already…

  25. j says:

    He’s someone you’ve never heard of, and who blew my mind with a laptop and a half hour conversation.

    Less information on silly (possibly irrelevant from the history of this kind of thing) measures and more this. Please do this entry soon!

    Then I went to another event down the street and saw the actual future of PC gaming. It was incredible, and I can’t talk about it until the end of the month. Bah.

    And this one!

    Also anyone remember the Mark Rein comment about what was new in Unreal 3?

    Uhh…graphics?

    I bet he’s enjoying those Gears cheques (fun game).

    Not the future however.

  26. Meat Circus says:

    I can state, categorically, that none of the following are the future of PC gaming, and more to the point, they know it:

    Intel, Dell, Nvidia, Ace/Gateway, Microsoft and Epic

    The pretense is staggering.

  27. Lunaran says:

    We’re all just talking about two different things. They want to save the future profitability and market share of our platform. This is to help themselves first. The hardware guys want to keep selling lots of hardware, etc etc.

    I think they’re more interested in preserving the past of PC gaming and just calling it the future, really.

  28. Tak says:

    Posting this while I should be working, so I might get myself blocked :p But it must be said:

    “Then I went to another event down the street and saw the actual future of PC gaming. It was incredible, and I can’t talk about it until the end of the month. Bah.”

    Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner!

    The thing is, no matter what these guys do, PC gaming isn’t going anywhere. By it’s very nature the PC is the most open and experimental of all platforms (not to mention most powerful, for those willing to invest). You don’t need anyone’s approval to create a game on the PC. If you have a brilliant idea and a knack for code, that’s enough. The people calling this a profit-security move and an attempt to lock in PC gaming’s past and call it the future are right.

    Not to mention, you will never be able to accurately say ‘this machine can run this game at 80% of prettiness factor’. Too many variables in hardware and software configuration mean that even if Jim and Sue have the exact same computer spec-wise, they can have entirely different performance. Everyone here knows this, these companies know this, and yet from the sound of it they’re pretending it’s not true. Unless they just want to standardize parts to a select few garunteed compatability vendors, in which case hardware wise you’ve just recreated the console market.

    That has to be what this is. An attempt to recreate the success of the proprietary hardware/software console market. Lock everything in and solve your piracy concerns, garuntee yourself hardware sales, and call it the future of PC gaming.
    Of course, they’d kill off any actual future of PC gaming in the process. No more neat RPS articles about ‘people you’ve never heard of’ and the real future of gaming.

    I’m rambling, but think I hit most of my concerns. Back to work, arrrr.

    And to add another voice to the message, pirated games isn’t a problem when you product is worth the 45-60 bucks slapped on the box. The crackers will always find a way, *always*, until you’ve got hardware keyed control, and anyone who remembers floppies shipping with dongles knows how well that turns out.

    Make your product worth the money. Quit spending too much money to make up for the fact that your product isn’t worth the money (read: extra shineys, even those of us that can run it don’t want it if the game isn’t fun).

  29. Dinger says:

    Current Consoles: Low consumer barrier-to-entry, high developer barrier-to-entry.
    Current PC games: High consumer barrier-to-entry, low developer barrier-to-entry.

    Wildcard: low developer barrier-to-entry means low pirate barrier-to-entry.

    PCGA makes a lot of noise about lowering the consumer barrier-to-entry, and they need to. At the same time, they don’t have the authority to change the video card market, the single largest barrier the consumer has: Dell is still going to make cheap PCs with no video card slot, nVidia and AMD are going to churn out both shared-video min-spec cheapo cards and ultralux quad-SLI monsters with built in N1 and EPR readouts, and developers are going to be faced with a shear between the ultra-enthusiast, enthusiast and volume markets. For them, PCGA will have a handy range on the back of games that will help people in making the decision NOT TO BUY THEM.

    So, do they promise much to lower the consumer barrier-to-entry? No. In fact, they raise their hands and say “sorry”.
    What about developer barrier-to-entry? All this talk about working together on piracy, what is that going to mean? An industry-wide initiative to make developing or working on games more expensive, so Microsoft can lock out the little guy “for the good of the industry”?

    Why retail? Where do you think most game players get Microsoft, ATI, nVidia and Intel products these days? Of course they’re interested in the retail channel. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they worked up a way to require each game to have an RFID serial tag placed on the computer, which every component in a “trusted videogame chain” had to authenticate before starting DX support. That would stop those illegal downloads! (except for the cracked ones)

  30. KingMob says:

    For once I agree wholeheartedly with Meat Circus.

    ps. Seriously, the last paragraph of the story makes Jim a heartless tease.

  31. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Damnit, Jim, I’m a Medic, not a cross-internet psychic! Spill the beans already!

  32. DigitalSignalX says:

    I’m at once skeptical and overjoyed. I love that huge money hardware titans say they *want* PC gaming to stay alive and prosper. I’m dead scared that Microsoft is at the table. Not only is it a direct threat to the 360, or at least a horrible handcuffing to it as games for PC might invariably be limited to what they can port over, but it will mean more of this transparent DX10 Vista only gaming propaganda.

  33. anonymous17 says:

    –biased idea below–
    Computers are consoles, consoles are computers. This is a truth, however when trying to compare the two it becomes very difficult to say this can do this that can do that because of the guide points (ethics) of their design. If we look at the original xbox it was an example of a console that in many ways bridged the gap between consoles and pc’s. Where as mega drives and playstations were clever powerful machines, they were limited by the companies that built them to control what they could be used for. It is true there are some clever techs that unravel the firmware allowing greater flexibility, but alot of these hacks are aimed at be able to play pirated games and legally backed-up games.

    PC’s lay between this feeling of flexible hardware that the xbox was and the fact that it is an ‘uncontrollable’ hardware medium. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, despite simplified software, chip hardware and tutorials available on the net are able to maintain a good grasp of their platforms. Despite the great things hackers were able to do with the xbox, it all remains strictly illegal in Microsoft’s eyes. The opening and modification of the hardware is a direct contravention of the policy you accept by buying the console in the first place.

    The PCGA is a good idea, but its goals are contorted. Is it a method to unify the market and give greater access to hardware for games, in the way a ps2 is geared towards graphics and polygon chomping might (in its time) or is it a way of starting to restrict and control what some one can do with their pc for the greater goal of simplifying computer hardware in the future.

    Software and hardware form the backbones of consoles and PC’s. Currently Windows dominates the market, lets turn the PCGA on its head. Would it not be better to aim at a more operating system type environment in which all games could be installed. This ‘shell’ could be then within or alongside any OS on any system (intel/amd/powerpc/mac/…). A good example of this environment is steam, but I would suggest a freeware environment that sleeps like Steam but that would actually have steam installed within it, like a compatibility layer in linux for running windows type programs. This ‘skin’ would provide all the resources for running games, with bias towards graphics and interaction. Naturally a conceptual layer like this would need to have a windows type ‘retro’ layer for games already out designed to be installed under windows. It would be similar to say the ps3 console menu with polite lists and perhaps nice animations.

    The PCGA is a collection of hardware firms, interested and recognising the effect of programs and ideas like Steam. Is not a software solution the most resource efficient as future hardware would only need to be tested with a single ‘skin’ for ensure gaming compatibility. Does not protecting games from a single OS (windows) free up designers to think and work in the environments they want rather than appealing to what they feel is the market. When Grand Theft Auto III was released sales of the ps2 accelerated because people could only get that game on the ps2. The current environment on consoles is very different, games often appear on both the 360 and ps3, as well as the wii. The PC market remains the same, Windows, and with a new Microsoft improved ‘Games for Windows’ which seems to mean you will need a very powerful pc and then Vista as well. The hardware companies recognise this as a problem but probably will not take the capital risk to develop something truly innovative. This attitude is the most problematic for people when looking at buying computers, as they will be told a thousand and one different things, especially is they have not computer experience. I think to find out a top end gaming machine would probably cost £2000 would shock them. Additionally people wanting to sell computer games must be able to make a profit from the games themselves. This alliance does not represent people that make games. Microsoft occupies a unique position within the alliance because it controls the ‘software’ of the pc. I think this will turn out problematic for the PCGA as it becomes apparent that Microsoft wants different things from the PCGA than the other companies. This is the complete proprietorial dominance of the software required to play games. This is the case already and it will want to maintain it.

    In Summary, Windows is not the cause of the problem in gaming but it is a problem and will not help things along. Gigantic Sumo Software Corporation flab fests like ‘games for windows’ are not want people want to see. They want a simple ‘skin’, a gui and compatibility layer for functionality of all their games old and new. A layer where steam can also fit in as well. This layer is geared for high level functionality and fast networking, the best that the machine running it is capable of. This would go nicely with the idea of coming up with ‘bands’ of pc capability with a simple ‘low, medium, high’ concept.

    This idea is not to prevent innovation in hardware, end up handing all our gaming hardware keys to either intel or amd, but initiating ideas and development about the market. Software compatibility and hardware clarity is what is needed, not the other way around.

  34. Theory says:

    tl;dr for above comment: the PCGA should make a free platform-agnostic OS designed purely for gaming.

    IMO, that would help developers at the expense of the players. I never enjoyed having to reboot my computer to play Flight Simulator.

  35. Dinger says:

    Well if you want to argue it that way:

    This alliance does not represent people that make games.

    Here lies the nugget. They do not make games (for the most part), but they want to encourage development of high-volume AAA games for PCs. For processor and graphics card manufacturers, the reason is absolutely clear: gamers are one of the major consumers of the high-end stuff, where the profit margins are huge. Crysis and Bioshock don’t just earn money for the development houses.
    For Microsoft, people like to point at “Games for Windows” and the DX10 debacle, and claim that “state-of-the-art” games serve Microsoft as yet another way to sell the latest flavor of Windows.
    Okay, fine, and all that. Here’s another possibility:

    Computers are consoles, consoles are computers.

    Consider 1982. (or was it 83?) You had three tiers in the home computing market: consoles, 8-bit machines, and 16-bit machines. Consoles played games. 8-bit machines (mostly 6502s with a few Z80s thrown in) played games and did more serious computing tasks. 16-bit machines sucked at games, but were the only route for semi-professional computing tasks.
    Yeah, I used my Commodore 64 as a Word Processor, and I’m sure many other people did too, but it wasn’t pretty. That thing was there for gaming.
    In 1990, things weren’t much different: NES was still around, the Sega Genesis and like consoles took up that segment. The Amiga and the Atari ST were still the gamers’ choice, and heck, AmigaOS was the last perfect PC OS. Those Macs could do a few things, mostly in monochrome. But in the office, the 286s and 386s started sporting VGA cards and soundblasters. They were starting to compete.

    So in the next couple years, the “Gaming PC” line failed and we wound up with Microsoft ruling the roost.
    But as Sony and Microsoft now duel for the “hardcore console”, they’re heading back in that territory. We can talk about Sony or even Nintendo not wanting to slap a keyboard on their toys — until now, Sony’s effort to put Linux on their PSs has been largely to dodge EU tax law. But will that always remain so? Consoles are sufficiently powerful that they can do a lot of the things that gamers need a PC to do (including home theatre), and without the hardware configuration nightmare of the Windows environment. On the other side, like the Apple ][s and Amigas of old, the current crop of consoles plays games better than most entry-level MS-running desktops do. All we need is a keyboard, a mouse, and maybe support for some cool peripherals.

    So if gamers abandon Windows for the consoles, Microsoft would be vulnerable to gamers abandoning Microsoft altogether. They need gamers.

    But making Windows games more like console games is not the answer. Console games are more like console games than Windows games can ever be. Specific identity trumps generic identity and superficial likeness every time.

  36. SwiftRanger says:

    “Does the PC even need retail, I mean-”

    Tim Edwards is cool, but that statement wasn’t. Some companies really need to look at the past sometimes to see what has changed for the worse. A properly worked out boxed copy can have so much added value it’s ridiculous to suggest a future without retail, thinking everyone can or wants to buy online is just as naïve. Offering a choice should be everything, especially in terms of how a product will be sold.

  37. anonymous17 says:

    @Dinger
    “They need gamers.”

    The PC market does not need gamers to support the kind of AAA fandom driven titles pumped out on both the consoles and pc’s because if a gamer wants to experience those games as the designers want them to, they will have bought the console. People that have the kind of PC to run high end games already recognise the reasons for doing so, graphics, sound, video processing, big work screens, powerful CPUs…. These are the things that consoles are missing and this is why the PCGA has formed, to protect ‘customers’ of hardware – ie them being as freely able to use and exploit their hardware as much as possible and to safeguard innovation within their own (the companies) specialities.

    Perhaps a situation like this has existed before, I am unable to counter any such suggestions. My answer directly would be is something like this has happened before, why did it not precede innovation in a much broader scope? Perhaps the technology, perhaps the lack of investment. I think to say that now it is becoming possible to consoles to compete directly with PCs is totally true and the real threat to PC as a platform in the future rather than the notion of the PC as a terminal and application platform. TV’s with sharper resolutions and useful peripherals make it easy for people to surf the internet and work from their TV.

    I do not think my solution sees games becoming generic ‘PC GAME’ type format. The notion of having a grading system totally messes that as pop cap games require far less of a system to run than say the Valve games – at higher settings. Instead it is a way to make it easier to have people use their computer effectively, critically without stifling hardware development. To believe that the PCGA exists solely for the benefit of gamers, both console and pc is wrong. The industry has identified a threat or a potential they wish to minimise or maximise. To them having Windows as a foundation is not a perfect scenario but far better than loosing the domain completely.

    PCGA can claim fairly that it exists because too many people are put off buying games on the PC because every time a new game comes out they need new drivers, a new CPU, more ram, bigger hard drive, the list goes on. Modern consoles (generally) are not upgraded in the same way you know that by buying a game with PS3 written on it, it will work in a PS3. This is the compatibility I think their aiming for. Does not the PC gamer themself though wish to have a say in how this plays out. Perhaps it is for the benefit of the PC denizens that Windows continues to dominate the market, because that is the most suitable a operating system can be for balancing application use with work with gaming. Perhaps the perceived threat to PCs will not exist until your banker can check your bank statement using his Playstation 4. My issue that were this development to continue would PCs be able to stage a recovery in the future when hardware is simply rolled out every 3-5 years and everyone has to upgrade. It being accepted that this is part of staying up to date and this box does everything you need, internet, work and games, with the benefit of minimal confusion.

    My argument is that this is not effective for the market or the end users. It could stagnate development in areas leaving control with firms that pursue their own agenda rather than pursuing avenues they may wish or need to explore to remain a cutting edge technology firm. To bring the example of Commodore 64 Word Processor, would anyone use the application today as a way of getting something done? Presumably not because it does not support other formats, it has no way of talking to modern printers. The central question is how can you make the PC as accessible as a console without taking away what makes it a PC.

    The idea of a generic gaming ‘operating system’ should provoke a reaction, primarily because it is a threat to that level of compatibility. Indeed a capable user can make sure their documents on linux load in windows or osx. Would such a system run within a current one, or alongside windows/linux/mac.
    @Theory, would this be the solution for someone that wishes to play Flight Sim without restarting the computer?
    To replace windows completely would be seemingly out of the question for most people, a target population of very few. A generic compatibility layer does present a strong alternative. Allowing advanced users to do as they wish, simplifying it for beginners. This layer I do not think can be part of Windows because Microsoft would simply seek ownership and only make it available above Windows, this would be a named version of what already exists. A layer as such addresses several problems, the foremost of which is developing a standard for a machine that is essentially modular, providing widespread support for all peripherals and hardware. Windows does not do this directly, but because of a need, spawned by the development of games on the platform rather than itself being pre-geared towards something for people to express themselves with, through games.

  38. sh33333p says:

    “Could be, um, that a game sucks and no one wants to buy it? Or maybe people have tried Steam and prefer it to retail?”

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. If a game isn’t great, why pay money for it. If you want to check out a game but you know it’s waaaaay overpriced and don’t expect to play it very long anyways, the way things are now, you either pirate it or don’t play at all. Maybe there is a demo, but has anyone else noticed how much most demos suck? The filesize gets bigger every year, and it seems like they are more and more restrictive about how long you can play for, or they make you create an account, etc etc. UT3 and Audiosurf, I’m looking at you. Just one of my own mp3s before it expires?!? WTF?!?!?

    What I would really like to see is something similar to (or a modification of) Steam, where the pricing is based on the demand. If your game sucks, it isn’t going to be priced at $50 or $40 very long. Price drops, more people buy. Simple. When Audiosurf drops to $5, I’ll probably pick it up. That’s all I think it’s worth considering it doesn’t actually have very much at all of it’s own content. Not that I can’t afford the $10 it’s at now, but it’s the principle of the thing, innit?

  39. steve says:

    “How do you beat piracy? The answer is incredibly simple. Make your service offer more value and be more convienient than the pirates.”

    Sure, but you’re still facing the “free” versus “costs money” problem. And free will mostly win.

    Today, I can buy cheap MP3s with “one-click” buying at amazon.com. Is that easy enough for people, or will they come up with another excuse why they downloaded that new Britney song?

    While I’m with you on the awesomeness of Steam—well, aside from how freakin’ long it takes to load what appears to be a fairly simple app—it has way more anti-piracy stuff than you’re letting on. Like, it requires you to validate your copy online each time it’s loaded, which makes it the most onerous form of protection out there. You have to prove you’re not a pirate before loading the game.

    Of course it offers an offline mode, but still…

  40. anonymous17 says:

    @sh33333p
    What about people an their consoles, how do they feel when they by a supposed AAA game and it turns out to be BCD? Even after paying £30+.

    @steve
    Would not meeting pirates on their own terms simply involve tossing partially completed games that they can spend ages modifying and tending like a small rooftop garden?

    @Raznor
    I agree, piracy is here misplaced in its role of being relevant to the stated goals of PCGA.
    PCGA goal#1
    Firstly, they intend to fix the flow of information about the PC as a platform
    PCGA goal#2
    Then they want developers to look at this and get excited about making games for PC

  41. steve says:

    “Then they want developers to look at this and get excited about making games for PC”

    Hardware manufacturers need games to force people to buy new hardware; they don’t care if you pirate games, because you can’t pirate the hardware needed to run said games.

    But if the games dry up, that’s a big problem for them. And right now, developers are less excited working on a platform with perceived runaway piracy.

  42. Dinger says:

    Yup, and if you’ve got the technical skill to find the latest video card drivers and install them, you’ve got the technical skill to find the latest cracks too. Maybe teaching ignorance works as a deterrent of mass piracy.

    (Although Steam, curiously, does its best to make finding the latest video card drivers easy enough to invalidate this).

  43. anonymous17 says:

    Piracy is a problem, but not for the PCGA. Piracy of games promotes buying of hardware. Of course you cannot pirate hardware, but you can pirate a mega drive or psx. Piracy is run away on PC because of the disconnection between the game, the operating system and the hardware. Between any of these three points someone can come in and say, well you do not need to pay for any level up from the hardware. This applies to office and other professional programs as well, which is why I do not think to say piracy is ‘killing pc hardware sales’ is correct. It has an impact but it is likely still positive. I think most pc hardware is more medical, industrial and commercial machines.
    There are few AAA games that are now not released on a console. Therefore the computers main market is shifting to ‘indie’ and ‘amateur’ games. If this is the case then does not the PCGA think it should do something to help that rather then pointing out how unhelpful their position in the industry in the past has been and how they no idea of a way to remedy it?
    The PCGA should be providing platforms for these new developers, giving them access to hardware to test and use, provide useful bench marking schemes and providing more direct support to users. I do not think piracy can be controlled without wide ranging changes of law concerning electronic media copyright.
    Highlighting the fact that Steam and other distribution services are not in this conglomerate is extremely incisive and important as it shows that the companies still have no clear plan of progress or whether they have agreed on anything at all.

    If PCGA exists to get people interested and buying hardware, does not simplifying the ability to do so and having an effective software point between the games and the hardware the key component? What they want is to have a service with a polite subscription fee, Xbox live style, so that users pay to have their hardware stats blared all over the net. Feedback is part of the currency users should use to get what they want from these companies.

    A completely different alternative would be to have all PC games self contained and that to run them you restart the system with the disk in. Running the game directly from the disk and saving to a USB disk or hard disk drive partition.

    @Dinger
    The wide range of user ability on PCs I reckon also complicates things. I actually think its easier to crack a game then decipher the difference of 20 similar sounding, looking, and power of graphics card.

  44. Stromko says:

    @Dinger
    Talking about teaching ignorance, or vice versa… Time-consuming or broken copy protection that legitimate users have to work around causes them to have to go out and find cracks, just so they can boot up a game without the effort of a CD check, or even to be able to play it stably. Morrowind had this issue, the CD checks during play substantially harmed performance.

    Meanwhile someone who pirates a game probably gets a crack in the .rar, so it’s not only free, it’s simpler.

    I’m surprised with so many mentions of Steam and its stewardship of the platform, nobody mentioned Stardock, specifically as it relates to piracy. They shipped Galactic Civilizations II with no copy protection, they were very public about this, and they took a public stand against disruptive copy protection.

    The game sold very very well! At one point an employee of StarForce actually posted a link to a pirate torrent as though to say, “Oh, look at these fools, they have left their gates unbarred and the pirates are raping them as we speak!” And Stardock, didn’t f*cking care.

    They were making great sales because people liked the product, customers wanted good, timely support of their product also. The product shipped in pretty decent shape and got better and better with patches. Purchasing and playing the product was very easy, no fussing with DRMs or dongles or anything. Want a CD and manual, all that jazz? Sure they can ship it for another 10 or 20 bucks. Lose your CD? No problem, in fact you don’t even have to wait to receive the game in the mail, much like Steam you have an account that has the right to download that game and play it on any machine you log in with.

    Stardock has a lot less triple A titles on their market so far, just Galactic Civilizations II and Sins of a Solar Empire (off the top of my head), but to me they’re just as notable as Steam when it comes to saving and honoring the PC platform.

    Basically, Steam and Stardock are an easier way to get a game than piracy. It’s just that simple. No invasive Russian bride pop-up ads, no chills running up your spine when you consider all the nasty virii you could be downloading, no burning CDs or rootkit utilities, just checkout, download, play.

    Popcap also came up with a notable statistic on the whole piracy spectrum, which I believe I read about here on RPS awhile back. They had to eliminate 10,000 pirate downloads to get just a single additional retail sale on one of their games. So you can infer that for every 10,000 illegal downloads, they lost one sale.

    Gametap is also doing a lot more for PC gaming than the PCGA ever will, but I won’t say too much good about them because they bungled their Quest for Glory ports and I can’t run them properly. Grumble grumble. They’ve caused all the honorable abandonware sites to get rid of any title that Gametap offers, which rankles me when Gametap’s emulator can’t effing run a game in a playable state.

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