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Vol. 2, Issue 13
February 25, 2000

Pad Happy:

Choose Your Format

by Nick Ferguson



As the PS2 launch approaches, Nick F. takes a look at what the next generation of consoles might spell for the PC.

hen is a PC game not a PC game? When it's been converted onto console, that's when! Or so the logic used to go. Console gamers are used to getting "special" versions of top PC games like the Quake series years after release on their original format and struggling to play mouse-driven RTS games with a manky Playstation joypad. For the last few years, our smug cries of "superior playability and design" and "hardware stability" have been met with manic laughter and ripostes along the lines of "try going online with your N64" and "Playsation 3D sucks!"

But is all this going to change with the release of the Japanese PS2 in just over a week? Will console gamers miraculously gain the ability to laugh at the next batch of 3D accelerators, with their "mere" hundreds-of-thousands polygon counts? Will we laugh as Windows 2000 turns out to be another buggy dud from The World's Favorite(tm) developer (open-source - as if!), hogging more megs of RAM than ever before and sucking speed from your dream machine like a vampire with a passion for CPU cycles?

Probably not (after all, that Dreamcast in the corner with "Compatible with Windows CE" on it runs Soul Calibur just dandy). But I do think another quantum shift (whatever that means) is happening in the relationship between PC's and the dedicated games machines (believe it or not, some people use PC's for reasons other than gaming). The last shift happened about four years ago, when the 3D card market finally took off after the release of 3dfx original Voodoo (remember the first time you saw GLQuake?) and PC game graphics finally began to totally outclass those of the Playstation and N64. Sure, the PC was always home to the more technically advanced games (various flight sims, Doom, System Shock) that weren't possible on consoles of the time, but it had never been able to compete with consoles when it came to those all-important whizz-bang eye-candy spectaculars.

Since then, the PC has stolen a massive lead in terms of technology and shows little sign of stopping - the Dreamcast may have matched a top-of-the-line PC at the time it was released, but not any more. Remember when the PlayStation 2 chipset was unveiled last spring? Back then, it seemed the performance of the "Emotion Engine" would be waaaay more powerful than anything available on the PC by the time of release, but with the release of nVidia's GeForce chipset (and Intel cramming more and more Mhz goodness onto those li'l silicon wafers) it looks like the PS2 will only have the edge for a matter of months, at most. GT2000, meet Halo running on a Gigahertz PC with Voodoo 5 acceleration. Gah.

Fair enough, but the consoles have been catching up in another race - the battle to dominate your phone line. Most people who've played multiplayer games online will tell you high-bandwidth, massively-multiplayer is the way to go. If you've experienced the joys of being a LPB, there's nothing sorrier than a whining HPB telling you that they'd rather be playing Goldeneye four-player, split-screen (sure, it's fun... but it ain't CounterStrike). Sony's plans for a massive global broadband network could well make the fabled "set-top box" a reality in many homes - I'm sure that's what they're hoping if they really are losing $180 a pop (as it's rumored Sony are) on the Playstation 2 at launch. Two million consoles in two days, they reckon? Let's see, that's (pulls out calculator)... a $360 million loss. Woooo.


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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. Pad Happy is © 2000 Niick Ferguson. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, so watch it - we know kung fu, gaijin.