We Need More Hardcore PC Games!

I used to curse my computer. Let me rephrase that. I used to string together odd words to create new curses, shrieking in blood-curdling tongues at inanimate objects. Countless controllers and keyboards shattered or rendered inoperable. Lord, I miss those days.


TheWitcher2_Main.jpgWe need more hardcore PC games that evoke those reactions. I’m not talking making them tougher, uber-bloody, having more nudity or more cringeworthy, uncomfortable dialogue. (That said, Duke Nukem Forever is coming out in a couple weeks…HEYO!). What I mean is that we need more games need to truly push the limits of what a system can do. For every benchmark-worthy game like a Crysis 2, there are hundreds of Flash games and bite-sized casual apps these days. We need more titles that can make your PC cry for mercy. These games challenged hardware makers to come up with faster, more efficient chips. It opened up new development areas to explore. What? You think 3D computer technology would’ve gotten this far without games? These feelings start bubbling up like clockwork every year around this time as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (A.K.A. E3) rolls into Los Angeles. (And, it should go without saying, I can’t wait to see what’s next when I hit E3 next week.)


Before you write me off as a shill pushing new desktops and laptops, (ahem) hear me out. I’m saying all this as a life-long gamer.


Back in the day, being able to play just about any PC game was a badge of nerdly honor. You’d feel this sense of accomplishment not just from beating a PC game – but getting it to work! It could’ve been toggling dip-switches, setting up commands in a .BAT file or troubleshooting your unique configuration at home. You wanna play Wing Commander? Do you have that new Soundblaster audio card? Do you have 640KB of RAM? And when 3D cards came onto the scene….well, let me put it this way: I remember buying a 3D card and not being able to play a 3D game I bought for about 3 months because the drivers hadn’t been resolved yet. As opposed to the two horse 3D arms race we have now (NVIDIA vs. AMD), there used to be a ton of other chip makers. Trying to make EVERYTHING work together in harmony back then required the patience of a saint. And admit it, you swiped RAM from your brother's computer when he wasn't looking just to give yourself that little extra boost. 


311073.jpgBut when everything came together, it was like the computing heavens opened up. You were doing things your buddies and your parents couldn’t. I remember calling my dad into the room once telling him to check out the graphics spewing from our home machine. He was actually dumbfounded that the PC he was using to track records on spreadsheets was suddenly churning out Kilrathi warships. Of course, he’d just ask, “What the heck’s the point?” Games were the show piece, the way to establish that you had the baddest beast of a PC on the block. Hey developers hitting E3 next week: You know where I’m coming from!


These days, we’ve got it easy by comparison. You install something with a couple button presses (Or just play it in a browser). Drivers are detected, downloaded and installed almost automatically. Processors are getting more sophisticated while the games scale better, requiring less horsepower to run. Case-in-point: Going from the computer-crushing Crysis to its sequel’s release a few months back, we’re seeing games that run on a wider variety of computers with fewer headaches. Don’t get me wrong – this is a GREAT thing and brings more people to the game “party.” An off-the-shelf value PC can play a number of current titles (at least on some basic level).


But what about rewarding the enthusiast? I used to point to games like World of Warcraft, citing that the unique art style looked good when playing on some rickety rig, but ratcheted up well with higher-end hardware.


How about unloading a ton of extra features for PC players that want to unleash their rigs? Higher resolution textures than consoles can handle is one example (thank you, BioWare, for releasing a PC-only Hi-Res texture pack for Dragon Age 2). With all this talk about how new engines are so damn scalable (whether we’re talking id’s Rage Tech, Epic’s Samaritan demo – or whatever new hotness lurks over the horizon) I want to see more games that are perfectly playable on low-end machines – at least on par with a game console. Then, when you start flipping switches and cranking up settings, you get treated to something that can challenge your system, show you a PC’s true power, and still look good while doing it.


TheWitcher2_Settings_P.JPGThe inspiration for this little diatribe: I just played the The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. On my ENVY 14 laptop. My gut reaction was to play with all the settings at 11, with everything – including all those neat post-processing features flipped on. It looked stunning -- as you can probably tell from the screenshots in this blog. But the second the game started, the fan fired up and the GPU went nuclear. I had to readjust game settings to a sensible level. Y’know what? It still looked great. It also showed me something that my next computer could aspire to in the future.


I guess the short version of what I’m trying to say is that while it’s awesome that games no longer punish the player to install-and-run, I still wouldn’t mind seeing more games punish and push hardware as far or further.


Now that I got this random rant off my chest, I’d love to hear yours. Have any hardcore horror stories to share (Call of Duty, anyone?)? Let’s hear em! Oh, and for those not at E3, what are you looking forward to hearing about? And here’s me asking for trouble: If there are questions you’d ask game developers, what would they be?


…and if you’re at E3, first drink’s on me! (DISCLAIMER: offer not valid in the state of California between June 6th and June 10th, 2011. ;p)

Tags: Game| HP| PC| The Witcher 2
Labels: Game| hp| pc| The Witcher 2
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