PC Gaming – Now and the Future

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What a time to be a PC gamer! We really have never had it so good. And future is looking better and better….

Welcome one, welcome all to my first blog post for Richer Sounds. I’m going to talk about a subject that is very dear to my heart.. Gaming; or more specifically PC gaming and why it could be as important to you. As a fanatic, it’s easy to slip into uber-geek mode of extremely techy-talk and references, so I’ll keep things light for now. However, please forgive me if I wander slightly into that world.

Why?

This is the question I’m asked the most. To be honest I sometimes struggle with a concise answer. Why go to all that trouble with PC equipment when you could just buy the latest console premade for you? Plug in. Pop in the latest title. Plonk yourself on the sofa and there you go. Job done. For some people that’s fine. I want to point out the advantages of the other path and leave you to make up your own mind. Console gaming is safe and easy, like buying a family car. There are a few different models and they come in some nice colours but they are by-and-large the same. Power Steering. Cup holders. Sat-nav. You know the drill.

OXO became the first visual graphic computer game in 1952.

OXO became the first visual graphic computer game in 1952.

PCs are the hot rods or muscle cars of gaming; more powerful, can be as beautiful or as ugly as you like, infinite variation. Want a glowing blue orb in your room? Yep, no problem. Want a small silent discrete box hidden away? Of course you can. Only need a machine to run 2D classics? Want a multi-thousand pound powerhouse to run everything at ultra for the next 7 years? Easy! Have it your way.

Power is cheap

One of the biggest arguments against using a PC for gaming is the apparent cost. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, you can spend thousands on a gaming PC… but you do not need to. If you shop smart and stay away from big-name-out-of-town-retailers, you can build yourself the same machine for a fraction of the cost. Build? BUILD?? Don’t worry, modern parts go together like Lego kits these days. If you still don’t fancy it there are many reputable independent companies that will tailor build you a system for a modest fee.

Once you have your shiny new computer it will last you until you feel the need to upgrade it (that’s right, upgrade it)! No need to replace the whole thing and get rid of your old collection of games. In fact, a small upgrade to a system can breathe new life into a tired collection, as you can push the game further than you have been able to previously.

Digital distribution

Developers are embracing digital distribution in their droves, either with Valve’s all conquering Steam storefront, or making their own similar front ends (Electronic Arts’ Origin or Ubisoft’s Uplay for example).

This means no more having to take time out of your day to get the latest releases, or relying on your local store keeping a copy of that old classic you never got at the time. Which very neatly brings us on to….

The indie scene

It’s not only the big boys that get to play – Indie development hasn’t been this strong since the home computing boom of the 70’s-80’s. Bohemia’s DayZ selling as many copies as the latest version of the legendary SimCity (in a much shorter time), for example.

These days anyone with a good idea and some skill in programming can get their game to your living room at super reasonable prices, bypassing all the usual hurdles of securing a publishing and distribution. Generally using crowd funding to secure the necessary capital to get their ideas from their minds to your screen, they are freed from the demands of the mainstream publishers pressures to deliver a product that sells X million units.  The indie scene is packed with genuinely fresh and uncompromising ideas.

4K gaming

PC gaming at 4K resolutions*… One of the beauties of PC gaming is the level of customising you can do. Unfortunately it’s not that practical at the moment. The cost would be prohibitive to all but the keenest enthusiasts: a pair of GTX780ti video cards will set you back just shy of £1,000. Throw in the cost of a monitor and the cooling for those cards, and you won’t have much change from two grand. Ultra settings at anything higher than 30 Frames Per Second can be largely forgotten about for now. Even with 4K being possible, we’d hold back for now and rely on a top notch 4K Ultra HD monitor or TV to handle the upscaling. That way, as and when components get cheaper and of higher quality, the monitor will still be able to display the resolution.

* For those who are new to this… The resolution of a digital image refers to how many individual tiny pixels comprise what you see. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution the more detail you have. There is more to a quality experience than just this number. More on this subject to come…

Living room streaming.

This is what could change the image of PC gaming forever! Get away from hunching over keyboards, on to big comfortable sofas with glorious HD TVs. Have all the benefits of PC (the better graphics, bigger choice of games) in your living room, like a console!

How is such a thing possible you might ask? Simple, I’d say. Valve (developers of the mighty Half-Life and owners of the Steam digital platform) are launching the Steam Boxa small compact PC that plugs into your TV/Home theatre system using a HDMI cable. It runs a lightweight Linux based operating system (SteamOS) that is built specifically for gaming. The Steam Box then uses the power of your main computer to do all the donkey work. All it needs to do is pump picture and sound out to the TV. These boxes will be starting at some very, very reasonable price points…

Even with a lot of ground covered, there’s still ‘the modding community’, ‘massively multiplayer games’, ‘ultra-widescreen formats’, ‘using your PC as a home media server’….

For now, happy gaming everyone!

Author – Mark, Reigate store