Saturday, 17 October 2009

PC Gamers Need To Vote!

I've just been to Dells IdeaStorm web site and submitted an idea asking Dell to help the PC gaming industry establish a long term base level of hardware to help bolster the PC gaming industry and pull it out of decline. I'll post the text of the idea below. But first let me say PC gamers need to do something to push the hardware and software industry together to establish a base level of hardware that will support all games at decent settings.

When developers develop for the Wii or Playstation they know it's a long term commitment. The hardware will be supported for at least the next 5 to 10 years. It takes on average 3 to 5 years to develop, test and polish a major gaming title. If not, then longer. Microsoft want to refresh Windows every 2 to 3 years. As we've seen with Vista there is no guarantee of backwards compatibility.

So a game which started development with one Windows platform in mind might suddenly become usless unless the developers alter the game to support the new platform. This is very costly and time consuming. We need a better solution for PC gaming than Windows!

The Dell IdeaStorm post: Establish A Base Level For PC Gaming Hardware.

Ever since games consoles could hold their own against the processing muscle of the PC, the PC gaming industry has been in decline. There are a number of reasons for this. Which I will detail below.

1) The PC as a gaming platform shifts far too rapidly for games developers to keep up with. There is no base level of hardware to target. This makes it very difficult and costly for games developers to develop for the PC.

When a games developer target the Playstation, they know the hardware spec will be good for at least 5 to 10 years. Typically it can take 3 to 5 years just to develop, test and polish a game for distribution. So an unchanging stable platform is absolutely essential!

2) Security is an issue!!! Increasingly modern games are becoming on-line affairs. We no longer pit our wits against AI. We join virtual battle with each other. However PC gamers are at a disadvantage. Windows.

Making Windows secure for on-line activities can be a costly business. PC gamers take a hit in the wallet and performance of their gaming rigs. As though Windows it's self wasn't enough of a resource hog. PC gamers need to shell out for anti-virus software, anti-malware software, spam filters and firewalls.

Now it's true all this software can be had for free. But the free versions are always crippled in some way. They're never as fully functional as their paid for equivalents. Even worse! Some malware has now started pretending to me anti-malware! Gamers who get duped risk losing their passwords and privet details. Including payment details. Credit card numbers, bank account numbers and the like. The potential for fraud here is massive!

The solution is quite simple and one the likes of Sony has been using for years now. Don't use Windows for gaming. The Sony Playstation doesn't use Windows as it's OS. But the games run just fine all the same. The graphics are excellent and the games have on-line connectivity. Nobody seems to be worried about viruses or malware.

Dell already supports Ubuntu. The World of Goo and the Penumbra Trilogy both run flawlessly on Linux and sold well. It might be an old game now but Doom 3 runs perfect with no loss of detail or functionality. Clearly Linux can handle complex and demanding on-line multi-player games.

A secure PC platform for gamers is essential! That security shouldn't bring with it a performance cost. Gamers should not be installing additional software just to make their gaming rigs secure. Linux is the answer.

3) Performance and Stability. Anybody who has played a game on Windows knows the frustration of BSODs at just the wrong moment. It's unacceptable. All gamers also know the reason they need PCs with fans so loud they are in danger of suffering industrial deafness is because Windows needs a reasonably beefy system just for its' self if its' to be responsive and sprightly.

Adding a demanding game with high resolution graphics and a web connection adds a load Windows often just can't handle. So Windows throws it's hands in the air and hides behind a BSOD. The problem is resource management. Windows just can't do it well enough.

Linux on the other hand does a much better job out of the box. No tweaking. No over clocking to squeeze some sort of performance out of the processors. No industrial refrigeration required. That doesn't mean Linux can run Halo on the BBC Micro. But it does mean more of the systems resources are freed to help the game run smoother with greater stability.

But even Linux software crashes sometimes. So what then? Well Linux crashes in a graceful manner. Normally the app will simply shut down and the user will return to the desktop. In very bad crashes the user will be kicked out to the log-in screen. However the system will almost never lock up completely in a BSOD like scenario no matter how badly the game is written.

A robust OS like Linux is essential for high-end demanding games. Linux is that OS.

Dell needs to serve its' gamers better. Help the PC industry establish a base level of hardware by producing a gaming rig and commiting to that hardware spec for 5 to 10 years. Preferably 10 years.

Choose hardware that is Linux compatible. The XPS 700 series is already Linux compatible. This will allow the industry and gamers to choose their OS. Gamers who want more security and performance can choose Linux. Gamers who want to be compatible with yesterday can choose Windows. Or we can dual boot and be compatible with everything.