So, PC gaming then. Lot of talk about its future, what with the potential doom and gloom on one side, and the thriving indie community (and World of Warcraft) on the other.
One thing's for sure though, according to Irrational Games' Lead AI Programmer John Abercrombie - "PC gaming isn't where it was ten years ago and it's never going to be there again."
At gaming festival PAX East, a panel of PC developers were gathered to discuss the benefits of the platform, the downsides and where it could be headed in a few years time. Joining Abercrombie was Terminal Reality's Joe Kreiner and LanSlide Gaming PCs co-owner Mitchell Shuster.
The consensus - that hardware options are limiting games, and the industry needs a standard like Steam to thrive.
Says Abercrombie, "The Steam platform has done, in my mind, wonders for PC gaming. It's made a lot easier. On my work PC, I can play the games I have at home or vice versa, or getting updates, or doing matchmaking, etc. That's awesome. It's pretty much made it into a standard. Unfortunately, there are a lot of standards, other platforms than Steam, Games For Windows Live, download products like Direct2Drive and etcetera. Hopefully one of them wins out, just to say that we only have to deal with one as developers."
"There is no [PC] platform, really. It's just a mish-mosh of hardware, an operating system that kind of supports games," laments Kreiner. "The problem with that platform is, there's no standards and piracy is rampant, so why would we want to make a video game for that platform unless you had some sort of draconian DRM thing to keep it from being stolen?"
"I think there's just too many options out there, honestly. Too many options for people to buy. With the consoles, there's just one. You just go to the store and buy the one," Abercrombie adds.
That's not to say it's all bad news. Kreiner explained that one of the advantages to PC development is in the freedom along with the relatively cheap costs. He noted that to take advantage of the market though, a studio has to specifically target a niche audience - using Torchlight
on Steam as an example.
As for the future of PC gaming Abercrombie and Kreiner agree that "what we've seen in the past five years" will continue to happen, and that publishers will have an even heavier focus on consoles. "What you're also going to continue to see is a lot of indie games on PC, who are pushing the envelope in one direction or the other, and those are both great approaches to PC," Abercrombie said. "I'm glad they're doing it, [if they didn't] you wouldn't have much else than World of Warcraft."
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