The Xbox Advantage

A good friend of mine has nearly sworn off the Xbox stating that the PC is a much better gaming platform. I mean, who can argue with its potential for a faster processor, better graphics card, various input devices, etc.

Wait. Back up. Look at that word: potential.

My friend was all, "Let's play Everquest II". Okay. Great. I pick up a copy. Install. Install. Install. 45 minutes later, I get this leetle teeny dialog that says something about pixel shaders and texture units and that I can't play EQ2. Yo, Google. Talk to me. Well... apparently, the video card that I bought just last year isn't good enough. Oh, great fun.

Greg runs off to Fry's. Buys new video card for $100.

And lay on the pain. Nearly 24 hours later, I'm still struggling with a crashing system. Apparently, my Windows XP installation (upgraded from Windows 98) just doesn't like my new card/driver. I get fleeting glimpses of the classic blue screen before the machine reboots. It comes back and says, "there was a crash. send a report to Microsoft?" Generally, I always say no here... I don't want Microsoft knowing what's up on my box. But what the heck... I give it a shot. It reports my graphic card driver is the culprit. Heh. Thanks for the info.

Where am I now? Reinstalling the operating system from scratch, hoping that will cure the situation. Thankfully, this is just a gaming system where I don't have to worry about installed apps or docs or whatever.

What's the point of all this?

With the Xbox, I buy a game. Put it in. Play. Fun fun fun.

With the PC, I buy a game. Oh. My hardware isn't good enough. Pay more. Waste time. Play on teeny screen rather than big tv. "But the graphics are so much more detailed!" Bite me.

Xbox programmers build their games for the Xbox. It is a known quantity and they make the game run as best they can on that machine. They concentrate on squeaking out the last bit of performance. The best load time possible. Clean interaction with the controller.

On the PC? Fuck load time. Let's move it to market. Let the user buy faster hardware. Graphics? They can buy a new video card. We don't have to optimize it. I work in the software business. I know what it does to programmers. You concentrate on getting the software in your users' hands. If there is a reasonable excuse to avoid extra work in favor of time, then you take it. PC game developers could care less. They'll make you upgrade rather than optimize that loading time. They'll consume more texture memory rather than fit it to your 32MB video card. No skin off their back.

The Xbox (and other consoles) are the best platform because you can concentrate on the game. It isn't about the latest hardware. Buy it. Play it. Have fun.

Don't be fooled by the potential for faster CPUs or graphic cards. It's a sucker's bet. Stick to your console...

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