Video game season began a few months ago. A group of us at the office decided to invest in PC upgrades and many have been spending more time on PC gaming than console. Apart from the occasional PC pains (crashes, installation complications, weird voice chat compromises, etc.) the PC gaming experience does not fail to impress. Although current gen consoles have come a long way in their capabilities, there is still a significant difference in feature and quality.
Take Battlefield 3 (one of my current favorites)… the PC multiplayer maps are massive in comparison to their console counterparts. The number of players are far larger on each map. The graphics are undeniably better. The physics are more accurate. There’s more details. The quality of player is superior. Argue if you want, but the experience it better.
I’ve been playing the campaign in Dishonored. At first, I was disappointed with the difference in the graphics vs. the teasers in the commercials. However with the help of a few tweaks, I’ve become more than satisfied with the aesthetic of the game. These kinds of tweaks (here and here) are not possible on consoles.
Furthermore, LAN Parties just aren’t the same with a console. Most console multiplayer games require an internet connection and an official internet game server. Most multiplayer PC games allow you to configure your own game server or even host from your own instance of the game. I’ll exclude the controller vs. keyboard and mouse argument. That’s a discussion of its own.
So, am I done with console gaming? Absolutely not. Console gaming is easier. There are fewer bugs, crashes and complications. The Xbox live experience is the best centralized social gaming solution on the planet. I know who is playing what games with whom and can text or voice chat with them even if I’m not playing the same game.
So, what’s the point of my rant? Hmm…
I’m having fun playing PC games. I even enjoy some of the challenges of tweaking each game to their optimal settings. But, I miss the simplicity and reliability of console gaming.
What’s the fix?
That’s a loaded question: Microsoft has all of the ingredients to fix this. Windows 8 plays all nicey-nice with the Xbox 360. They have tablet and smartphone tools (smartglass). The gaming community needs to unite around a common communications platform. Steam is on the right track with their integrations, but most folks don’t want to manually add non-Steam games to their Steam libraries. To complicate things, EA (and other competitors) have started Steam-like services (but they lack the non-sales tools such as central chat, and social integration). Raptr is a great stop-gap solution: it allows you to connect all of your game networks (Xbox live, PSN, Steam, Xfire, etc.) into a single interface as well as keep track of your achievements and trophies. Think of it as Facebook for gamers.
All of that still wouldn’t be enough. There will always be the technical challenges of deploying demanding software onto diverse systems. Gamers love building custom rigs. There is a very active competition between friends to see who can build the best machine. That guarantees diversity in hardware. Which, in turn, guarantees instability.
So, now what? Live in both worlds? Buy 2 copies of each game? Well, some forward thinking publishers (including Steam) have allowed a purchase to work on multiple platforms. This is specifically why I purchased Portal 2 for the PS 3 (my 2nd least used platform). It included activation and cross-platform compatibility with Portal 2 for PC via Steam. Sadly, this is an exceptionally rare occurrence.
I’ve switched between console and PC games every few years. This is the first time that I’ve felt a need to keep a foot in both buckets. I haven’t decided which way to go, but I have a hunch that the next generation of top tier consoles will help me decide.