I haven’t written in a while, not because there is nothing to say, but because I have been busy with other stuff. So here is a post of random thoughts.
So last month L.A. Noire, advertised as the most expensive game ever, was released for XBOX360 and PS3, but not for PC. People keep talking about a “next generation” in consoles, but that next gen already exists among us PC enthusiasts. Now I do not want to start a war between consoles and PCs, but this is something I have learned and have numerous examples to its veracity: Complex games are far better on PCs than they are on consoles. Console controllers are fine for simple games like arcade ports, 2D scrollers, racing games, simple sports sims, etc., but for FPS, or third person 3D, or RTS games, PC controls are far superior. Keyboard in one hand and mouse in the other just feels more natural than two thumb controls and a dozen awkwardly placed buttons on controllers designed for 12 year old hands.
So why do gaming companies not support PC gaming anymore? Most likely it is sales, and also copy protection, and not having to try and support 3 dozen different graphics cards, all good reasons. But games are hitting an upper limit in how complex they can be by pandering to consoles. A complex game like L.A. Noire could be a lot better on a PC, but there are no plans to port it. Even though I own both an XBOX360 and a PS3, I will not be getting it anytime soon. I already got Red Dead Redemption collecting dust, having never gotten past the tutorial because I hated the controls so much. (I don’t really play game with controllers, I use my PS3 for watching videos, and my XBOX360 for playing Kinect Sports and occasionally Windows Media Center).
I tried the demo for Dragon Age 2 on my PS3, the PC version is better. I tried console and PC versions of DC Universe Online, and the PC version is better. They ran into a problem on DCUO in that there is a power combo that is uber powerful when played on the PC version (specifically the Transmutation power in the Sorcery line and Shuriken Storm on the Martial Arts line would, when executed in sync, do massive amounts of AoE damage). This combo was easy to execute on the keyboard/mouse, but damn near impossible to do on the console controls for the PS3 version. The problem was that there was no fix for the PC version that did not create a massive nerf of the PS3 version. I do not know if they ever fixed it, I stopped playing DCUO back in February, and haven’t gone back.
WTF is going on here?
Another blogger name Cyber Trekker over at http://thegreatslexpedition.blogspot.com/ has been posting a lot that Cyberspace (aka the Metaverse, aka the 3D web) is already dead, thanks to mobile communications which are moving people back to “reality”. (He’s not the only one, I have been seeing a lot of 3D web is dying articles lately, this was just one). Simultaneously I see this video demonstrating Windows 8’s new interface model, which looks like Microsoft has plans to turn the PC into a big Windows phone. Simultaneously EA announces that SimCity 5 will be a Facebook App. Meanwhile, famous game designer Richard Garriott wants to create a new “semi-3D” Virtual world portal that will tie social networks like Facebook, with mobile apps, with new virtual worlds into one big happy family.
I’m sorry but, this is insane.
Let me be clear: There is enough room on the Internet for everything and everybody. Some may get the impression that the 3D virtual worlds are dying because their “share” of the internet is getting smaller. In fact, the 3D Web continues to grow and it is only a matter of time before it too expands into the realm of mobile computing. Its already making minor dents. But I have always said that the 3D web will never take over the 2D web, instead they will enhance each other.
Second: Memo to Microsoft: If I wanted to have my PC work like a tablet, I would just get a freaking tablet. The Windows 7 interface is the greatest PC interface ever, and I already have gadgets on my desktop that show me news and weather and other stuff, and it is a lot prettier than the ugly orange-green-blue-purple mobile phone interface you are pushing for Windows 8. Why not multiple interface models? One for traditional keyboard and mouse, one for “touch screen”, and one for Kinect? You did not think of Kinect did you? The bottom line is this: If you focus on merging the PC experience with the mobile experience, you are going to lose on both fronts. Android, based off Linux, is already available for PCs that want to behave like mobile phones. There is no need to have common interfaces between devices.
Thirdly, Facebook sucks for gaming! I know how the 300 million facebook users seems like a huge audience for gaming, especially social gaming, but every game on Facebook is a novelty at best. SimCity might do well, as long as it is simplified to the casual user (wasn’t that what the godawful SimCity Societies try to be?) As far as trying to interface a virtual world with Facebook, its been tried multiple times, always ending up in failure. Facebook is a place designed for real people and real identities, virtual worlds are place for fantasy and role play make believe. Are you really interested in letting your family, friends, and workplace know about your cosplay activities? Virtual Worlds and real life Social Networks do not belong together, ever!
Is there a pattern here? We have console game designers trying to turn console gaming into something it is not. We have advocates of mobile computing saying that mobile computing will take over everything, which is clearly not true. We have game designers tinkering with gaming on social networks, something it is clearly not designed for. We continue to have people wanting to merge social networking and virtual worlding, which are incompatible.
The only pattern I can see is that there seems to be an ongoing battle between those that want to merge everything together, and those like me that think we are better off using the right tools for the right uses. But this battle has been going on for a couple of decades. In the 90’s “portal” websites like AOL and Yahoo wanted to be everything for everybody. They wanted to make their websites so complete, there would never be any reason to go anywhere else. They failed of course, but a lot of good came out of those attempts. Now Facebook wants to play the “portal” role, and mobile phones and gaming consoles want to eliminate the need for PCs, and none of these objectives will succeed, but maybe some good will come out of the attempts.
Or, maybe there is no pattern here.