A few weeks ago, we took a not-so-fond look at the console portion of the grotesque, unruly mass (in some circles known as a “family”) that is the gaming world. As we often do with those with whom we share any sort of relation, we proceeded to list off all the ways they've wronged us. We find it to be a good ice-breaker. Now, though, we've been struck with some strange and debiltating malady that top scientists are calling “civility,” and we've realized there's plenty of good mixed in with the bad. No, seriously. Consoles, we may not always get along, but we'd be remiss if we didn't give you due praise for having our backs every once in a while. Now go! Jump past the break before we change our minds.
Massively Multiplayer Paradise
The past few years have seen the emergence of an odd phenomenon: an MMO gets announced – often with a decadent press release full of words like “highly anticipated” and “a videogame” – for PC and consoles. Then time rapidly passes via the slow-moving montage that is life, and the game finally comes out. Problem is, something's missing. Yep: the console version. For example, even the mighty Conan couldn't drive consoles before him and hear the lamentations of their women, nor could Champions Online. And of course, Blizzard's said on multiple occasions that it has no intention of getting in on the console war action with WoW – despite potentially huge profits waiting in the wings. But why? Well, input devices are obviously a big part of it. The lack of a mouse-and-keyboard setup makes traditional skill mapping difficult and communication quite the hassle. There's also console certification infrastructure to consider. On PC, pushing out a quick patch (an MMO's lifeblood where stability is concerned) is only as difficult as you make it. On the other hand, consoles (especially the Xbox) give developers a minotaur maze of red tape, which renders any sort of quick fix nearly impossible.
When It Was Still Underground
Consoles have something of a burgeoning indie scene, but that's nothing compared to PC. Ours is thriving, and is it any wonder why? Huh, it is? Oh, we suppose you'll be wanting details, then. How pedestrian of you. At any rate, this is another instance of consoles' red tape maze (and associated minotaur – you have no idea how thrilled we are to mention minotaurs twice in the same article) rearing its ugly (and minotaur-shaped – that's three!) head. Getting a game onto a console takes money, some form of publishing deal, dev kits, etc. Sure, initiatives like the Xbox's indie channel are easing the process a bit, except, you know, when they're not. At the end of the day, then, it's simply more appealing to develop on PC and skip all the hassle. The end result? Mountains of amazing games waiting just around the corner to (pleasantly) surprise the hell out of you. Don't believe us? Go to IndieGames.com and never be sad again.
Ever tried controlling an RTS with a gamepad? Did you enjoy it? Hah, that was a trick question. If you said “yes,” then you don't exist. Again, given the current state of console input devices, there's only so much developers can do to keep their game's fun factor intact during the frightfully bumpy transition. New input devices like Kinect, Move, and the Wiimote could – in theory – present a solution given their pointing prowess, but even then, it's hardly optimal. As a result, we get the Shogun 2s of the world – tailored to our platform of choice, no less – while console gamers won't even touch the genre when Master Chief's leading the charge.
Anything You Can Do...
With the exception of a console cycle's earliest days, PCs tend to have at least a slight technological advantage (if not the 30 million lightyear lead we're currently enjoying), and developers understandably take advantage of that. Granted, for a while, they just threw us little, dust-coated bones here and there; slight graphical upgrades, higher resolutions, half of an extra player in multiplayer matches – that sort of thing. Now, though, the trend appears to be turning around. At the head of the pack is Battlefield 3, with its 64-player matches (compared to consoles' 24), dedicated server support, and PC-first mentality. Similarly, games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution are touting DirectX 11 support and even AMD Eyefinity, which is the silliest name we've ever heard for a really cool (and expensive) technology. Big-budget PC exclusives may be few and far-between, but we think having the absolute cream of the crop is an adequate console consolation prize. Wouldn't you agree?
Giving Our Favorite Developers Money
Why do formerly PC faithful developers turn to the dark side? Greed, right? Based on chatter 'round these here Internets, you could be forgiven for thinking so. But the reality of the situation is that big-budget game development is – shockingly enough – expensive, and we'd much rather have something slightly “dumbed down” from our favorite developers than nothing at all. Plus, recent developments have seen console gamers slowly exposed to the PC side of things, via initiatives like Steamworks on PS3 and mods in games like Unreal Tournament 3 and (hopefully) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As for allegedly “consolized” games like Crysis 2 and Portal 2, we have three words for you: get over it. They're still great games, and – as we discussed one entry ago – there's a whole mess of PC-centric releases waiting in the wings. This is a good time to be a PC gamer. Why waste it splitting hairs and picking nits when you could be having fun?
Shiny New Toys (For Us to Hack)
What do Kinect, Move, and the Wiimote have in common? Did you say “a million-billion things, most of which are bad minigame collections”? Well, that's technically correct, but not quite the answer we were looking for. See, all three motion controllers have been hacked by intrepid PC techno-wizards, transforming them from ugly ducklings into geese that lay all manner of golden eggs. Kinect, for instance, has been turned into a 3D radar, a gesture-based Roomba controller, and hundreds of other (typically strange) things. So, who's winning the motion control wars? Easy: us.
OK, we know this isn't an ordered list, but if it was, this would be number one. And also number three. And numbers 89-81, because no one pays attention to those anyway. So, we'll just put it out there: Xbox Live. It's a hive of scum and villainy – a minefield of name-calling and tea-bagging where sane members of society fear to tread. But hey, for all the racial slur-spewing 12 year-olds of the world, it's a place to congregate, socialize, and maybe even learn a thing or two about themselves in the process. But, more importantly, it keeps them the hell out of our hair. As a result, PC gaming communities are comparitively more civil, enjoyable, and mature. Sure, there are certainly exceptions to that rule, but we're still incredibly thankful that many of the bad eggs are in a single, easily avoidable carton.
Count Your Blessings
There's something to be said for perspective. Sure, as PC gamers, we encounter our fair share of technical issues, but at least we haven't entirely lost our ability to play online games – possibly for more than a month. PC gaming's decentralized online infrastructure may lead to a lack of consistency, but there are certainly perks. Similarly, we've never had to deal with 54.2 percent failure rate or whatever the Gamecube was.