Play Where You Like!
By Jeff "nonick" Solomon
A snapshot of the gaming industry taken now looks very different from a similar snapshot taken last year. PCs are faster and more nimble, and games like Unreal have made new strides in realism and gameplay. The success of DirectX and Windows' support for gaming has allowed the platform to mature into a widespread industry standard, and that same standard will be a driving force behind the Dreamcast, the industry's most anticipated new console system.
Five years ago, it would have been ludicrous to think that Microsoft would have a hand in a popular console system. Now, that's exactly what's happening. Even more amazing is the fact that a version of Windows will be driving a gaming system that is leaps and bounds beyond the Nintendo 64 and Playstation in terms of functionality!
The future of gaming is inexorably tied to the PC industry and the Internet. This translates into continued advances of gaming hardware and software technology for PC-based systems - running a variety of competing operating systems- and also a heavy influence on console systems, which are adopting PC-like features to remain competitive with some of the more flexible qualities of PCs.
The best thing to come out of this wildly confusing, exciting time is that there is more variety and interoperability than ever before. Mac OS X, Linux, and Be will continue to exert tremendous pressure on Microsoft, and force Windows to evolve as rapidly as possible as a gaming platform. Faster hardware will enable developers to take games into uncharted territory in terms of realism and excitement.
There are more opportunities for new ideas to emerge and attract attention- just look at the Dreamcast's VMS and the amazing potential of the Be OS - but there is also a consistent backbone to it all that will continue to ensure the industry's success no matter what happens. Gaming is now ubiquitous. Where once it was a niche market dominated by a few large companies that offered proprietary systems, the gaming industry is now a driving force at the forefront of the wildly successful PC revolution.
As the computer industry moves forward, the relevance of the actual "PC" as we know it will probably decline. PC-like services will become streamlined, and will find their way into telephones and television sets. Most devices will communicate with each other using standardized protocols that link to the Internet.
The Dreamcast is an early example of how the future of computing will most likely be anti-computer. Computers will vanish- specialized devices using services pioneered by PCs will become common everywhere. At such a point, it is very possible that gaming systems will once again resemble consoles, in the sense that the Dreamcast is a console that benefits from having PC technology packaged inside.
The very best elements of PC technology will be combined with efficient architectures that capitalize on open standards and communication protocols. Technology will be able to evolve without forcing the industry to make wholesale changeovers of fundamental technology, as has been the case in the past. Devices will be flexible, open, and very, very powerful.
We are in a transitional pioneering stage right now. The gaming industry, no longer limited by perception, audience, or technological boundaries, is moving forward at the speed of the computer industry. Programming is becoming easier. End-user devices are cheaper and far more capable. Excitement and communication within the industry are at an unprecedented level and will only continue to grow.
The future is here in the form of units that combine the best elements of PCs and consoles, ease of programmability and raw functionality, and breathing room for improvements down the line. There are no limits whatsoever.
- Jeff Solomon is a regular contributor to loonygames.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. Play Where You Like! is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, dammit.|