Staff Roundtable: The Future of Simulations Part 2 – PC’s versus Consoles Page 2

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20mm (continued): My hunch is that it will happen first in the racing simulation genre. Build a solid console racing sim with all the physics we simmers demand. Make it driveable with a MOMO wheel and pedals or any other brand. Make it totally scaleable so that the young Jedi-racer can set it up and fly around the track until he pukes. Or more likely gets bored with it. Then he discovers the scalability sliders. Hmmm, wonder what it would be like not to have “glue-tires”? He tries it, it’s challenging, but he’s not bored anymore. And maybe the “hook” is set and a simmer born.

"...well, we may in fact be dinosaurs..."But is that a good thing for the console game maker? Are they going to want to have a customer who uses the same game 50 times longer than he normally would have? Is the “bored” factor heavily in their favor and not something they necessarily want to be rid of?

I’ve got my guesses on that and they all begin with dollar signs.

But if someone takes a chance and we begin to see some of these “crossover” games that are sims underneath the hood, the race really will be on.

If none of the console developers care about simming down the road and no sim is ever built for the console, well, we may in fact be dinosaurs. We just haven’t turned into crude yet. I know that’s what a lot of you think, you may be right. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe there are other possibilities and other answers…

One final question: How are new simmers “born”?

 "Can they not milk a good core game further?"Beach: One other thing, with games like BoB and Falcon 4 being re-made into new release sims, I think that shows that there is a customer base craving these awesomely deep simulations. The fact that these user groups hang onto and mod these sims to death is evidence to me that an older title still has market value long after the developer gives up on it. That seems counter-intuitive to me from an economics standpoint. You’ve done the heavy lifting and spent the big bucks to get your main product to the market and after the user base has accepted and embraced it, you pull the plug and move on to something else. Can they not milk a good core game further? IL-2 seems to be doing a pretty good job at that technique, although admittedly Pacific Fighters is more than just a “module” since it is a stand-alone program. Still, the technology that is the core of PF is probably very much like that of IL-2… which I’m sure saved a lot of development time.

Here’s a question: Do consoles like the PS2 and Xbox have the capability to hook up to PC-type monitors? I’m just wondering, my brother has a PS2 and he plays Ghost Recon I think it is on his television. And after seeing it on my PC at 1600 x 1200 resolution, I just sorta hurl seeing the graininess. Just wondering if that capability exists?

Joe: Yes, it does, with a third-party breakout box. It doesn’t much matter, though, as the Xbox renders at 640×480 and only interpolates higher resolutions for output.

The Xbox 360, though, renders internally at 720p, making it perfectly suited for output to HDTV. It’s not 1600×1200, but I bet if you game with an Xbox and a nice HD-capable widescreen, you will be plenty happy with they eye candy due to the fact that the R520 GPU in the Xbox 360 will run at 4xAA at all times.

guod: The next gen consoles support HDTV monitors. The number of big, plasma monitors showing Xbox 360 output at E3 was staggering.

McGonigle: Recently I broke down and got myself a PS2 bundled with GT4. I thought I needed a bit of mindless fun in the couch from time to time. Whoops, not the kind of fun you were just thinking of! I also got WRC4 and IndyCar Series 2005.

After about a week of driving GT4 I tired of that one. Hundreds of mindless driving tests, some of which are ridiculously easy and some are extremely hard because they involve driving a very tight and narrow course within a time limit. Imposing such time limits are kind of silly, because they invite you to slug it through in an “arcadey” fashion. And with a gamepad the whole experience kind of sucks.

One of the selling points of GT4 is that the user can collect about 10.000 different cars. See if I care. I’m past that kind of collecting-obsession. Another thing that ticks me off with the way console titles are structured, is the unlocking things paradigm, and the dictatorial developers who decide how I should approach and play my game. “Start here and progress like this”. Truly a way to passify the gamer.

GT4 doesn’t even look too good on the TV screen, and the driving model is greatly simplified. The steering is clearly coded to be done with the gamepad. There’s a deadzone which isn’t present in WRC or ICS2005. WRC4 is also arcadey in the way you reach impossible high speeds very quickly, and again the player is encouraged to drive in a way which is not realistic, in order to be competitive. Looks ok though, and it even has an in-car view. ICS2005 has an in-car view but is ugly to look at, has frame rate issues and is impossible to drive with the gamepad using the super-sensitive steering. I could connect my DFP wheel, but then I’d rather play the PC-release of the original ICS. Oh, users were screaming for a patch that never came. WRC4 is the officially licensed Rally Game and the stages are ultra short and might as well be replaced by well made fantasy stages. No one would notice the difference

I’m very disappointed in the whole console experience. To me it is shallow and extremely unsatisfying. As I have never been able to enjoy First Person Shooters, I can’t really say for sure, but I think that consoles might be especially geared towards those types of games. The gamepad seems like a sensible type of controller for FPS.

Notice that all three titles mentioned above are sequels? I think titles for the consoles are going the way of movies and the music industry, i.e. publishers only release “blockbuster” titles and will be extremely reluctant to try something new. They’ll rather provide more of the old stuff, and spice it up with nicer looking graphics. But graphics isn’t everything.

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