June 20, 2013

A Serious Look at Next Gen

Now that we've had a couple days to let the dust settle it's time for an in depth look at next gen. While I still don't plan on buying an X1 and I have many issues with their policies there are some things to consider in it's defense. As to the PS4 it's still feeling like a hero but it's still only licking the boots of the glorious PC which is still at least 2x better than consoles in terms of performance for this next gen. A high end now is more than 13x the performance of current gen ps3/360 and while there are many great advantages from the consoles for us pc gamers the fact that we're still stuck with 2x performance that won't be fully used for the most part is a little sad.

To elaborate games today are made with consoles in mind and put on pc with the same work having been done for both. The problem is because they're designed for consoles they're completely nerfed to keep from destroying the consoles. With this next gen all that extra power means better games. Then that remaining 2x performance can be used primarily for graphical bonuses while core gameplay is maximized. It would still be nice if we had greater hardware from the consoles but considering the price range we're looking at it's a bit of a deal. In particular because the hardware is so close to pc I actually do expect to see virtual machines running the new gen OS in a relatively short timeframe which will save me big $ in playing exclusives for the consoles. I'm quite sure any pesky verification problems we're complaining about today will be handled fairly quickly in a VM but just as much for the consoles they'll probably get hacked substantially faster this gen than before for the same reason and with a modded OS a lot of those gripes will go away.

As to the defense of the X1 in the allegations of anti consumer policies it's an uphill battle but before this generation is out I believe that under the right management they have a chance to turn it around. In particular the main complaint is that it's a stripped down version of steam with none of the benefits and all of the disadvantages. This can be fixed down the road though, maybe after a price drop or two. I'm comfortable with not having used games on my pc because of how inexpensive they can be sometimes. The problem with the X1 is that I inherently have a disc, a kind of physical property that cost me 60$ or more on average to purchase and I should therefore have the right to do with it as I please including giving it away. If the X1 had insisted instead on going to exclusively digital download this wouldn't be as much of a problem for me though I would still have issues if the price didn't come down substantially as even on steam the new games tend to only cost 50$ and there's sales for them within 3 months usually to make me happy. If the X1 fully adopts the steam model instead of one foot in the door one out like it does now it can resolve that problem. As to the always online component they've already established that it's not necessary and when the servers go down the console login restriction will I assume be patched out or somehow taken care of. Why have it in the first place? Their first immediate update from launch should at least be increasing this timeframe to maybe once a week, to once every 3 months ideally getting it down to either never or only having to login once per new game. As to the additional fees for kinect and viewing shows/movies there's no damn excuse on that one. In particular if we're paying the same initial price. If the pricing came down and went to flat rate per viewer maybe it'd be less of a gripe. Either way though you're not paying for a cinematic experience in your home, you're paying for convenience of not having to go to a theater and pay full price for each person plus theater price stacks plus gas/travel expenses, etc. Right now renting the movie from the console can cost as much as the theater but you can have your own snacks from home, no travel, as many viewers as you want, pause/rewind etc controls over the movie and that's what you're paying for. You pay to save money, and if they're going to charge you on top of the initial price then it's a horrible deal, if however instead of paying 8$ for a rental it were only 1$ or 2$ and maybe 1$ per person then I would be less concerned assuming the stupid kinect didn't think there were a bunch of people in the room when you're all alone as it sometimes will do. For the record after my last post before this one a friend gave me a kinect he was going to throw away so I figured I'd test it. Total failure. It also caused a red ring on one of my consoles so thanks a lot for that one. Moving on there isn't a huge defense for the X1 at the moment and it's really trying to sell you on promises and pipe dreams, and if you've ever taken a business class the first thing you learn is NEVER BUY A DREAM. Maybe we'll revisit down the road and some things will be fixed but for the moment until we at least know actual details and firm numbers which M$ is adamant in not releasing to us at this point then I would say don't even reserve the console.

Supplemental rant on the X1 is the hard drive. Given that we are having to install and verify every day and thus going back to why not just go full digital, the fact that we only get 500gb internal drive is laughable and insane. In particular considering the price and size, if you saw the hard drive pics the casing is huge and I don't know why they went that way, and my understanding is it's proprietary another laugh. I think I saw 7mm 1tb drives at computex, tell me how this happened honestly. I bet it cost the same price or more for a smaller drive as it would to get a larger one.

As to the PS4 not a lot of news to add on top of my previous posts about it. I'm a little sour about needing the PSPlus service for online play but honestly I'd say at this point it's for the better as it still comes with all the benefits and it's cheaper than XBGold. Though I am leery about them adding the same problematic restrictions as X1 in the future at least for the time being they seem to understand that first and foremost they are a gaming company designing gaming hardware for gamers and the battle for the living room is secondary to the core consumer base which is paying for a gaming console not a fancy DVR. I don't doubt Sony will be pissing us off at some point but at least for the time being we can relax a little.

I'm still waiting for official news on if the consoles will support 4k out of the box or if they're planning on adding that through an update later on somehow. It may not seem like a big deal to some of you but truly 4k is just as big of a difference to 1080p as 1080p was to standard definition. It's worlds more effective than the best anti-aliasing out there at the moment and is a serious selling point for me. Ignoring different panel technologies, input lag, response time, refresh rate, etc. Though I'm also worried at the console's ability to even render it at a full 30fps under significant load like what you'd expect from some of the high end shooters running on the next engines.

I hope that you learned something even if it didn't change your mind about anything at least now you know more and can talk about the subject knowing what you're saying and maybe have counter arguments for specific points. Now we sit and wait patiently for AMD to start laying down the law with new GPU's. Which as a side note I would mention that all the consoles use AMD gpu's, specifically wiiU, X1, and ps4. I may be wrong because I'm a little rusty on this gen console hardware specs but that might also be true of wii, and 360, though I'm pretty sure ps3 uses something else.

Addendum Forthcoming:
I wrote this last week before the xbox 180 announcement in which a lot of the DRM was stripped away along with some of the features I might have actually liked such as 10 consoles for "family" or w/e with sharing. That having been said there isn't much to clarify other than now the X1 will only require a one time validation. This whole thing is only getting worse, by caving and trying to give in to our demands they look weak and flimsy and even worse they're cutting more features for the sake of appeasement without adding much back in return. While it's a big step in the right direction as their policy as it stood was horrific especially for someone like me that frequently changes ISP's where I might not have net for an entire week waiting on the new setup I simply wouldn't be able to play games and that's not the kind of state you'd ever want to see me in. As it stands the X1 is trying to save face but is really showing both shame and disappointment in the process and at this point honestly it's not going to bring them many new customers and might just as likely drive some away. Not to mention paranoids like myself that wouldn't buy it now on principal that they even considered it to begin with and thus could at any point go back to it and I'm not willing to take that risk. 

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