I am a long time gamer, I mostly play PC stuff now since my 7th ps3 was stolen (no, not a joke, it is a ridiculously long story I will write sometime). I took up listening to podcasts and making one myself (http://www.damnitslam.com). I spend an immense amount of time just checking out what is going on in the hardware world, I have built 2 pcs, working on a third (first liquid cooled machine), and am about to graduate as a computer engineer.
You may ask yourself what else I enjoy, well... not a lot of time goes into much else. I watch football on sundays and run a fantasy league, watch hockey when my team ends up making the playoffs, and I check in on my favorite player from time to time (username hint hint... Evgeni Nabokov).
If there is anything else you want to know heat over to my podcast site and click on "about us", or hit up the CBlog, I am sure I will answer mostly anything you all would like to know.
In my last blog I wrote about just where my mindset was moments after watching Sony's press conference. Days have passed that seem like seconds, and we've had "leaked" interviews along with tiny details that will help to give a snippet of what the next few months may end up being.
I haven't digested E3 yet. I haven't actually seen anything outside of the demos at the press conferences. Quite honestly the worst part about E3 is simply not being there when you want to be no place but there.
The point of this post is to really digest what is happening, lay it all out, and look at just exactly what it all means. First off, let's leave games aside, exclusives aside, and first party bullshit aside. I want to take a moment to prognosticate the future without arbitrary reasons as to why it may or may not go this route.
We know the landscape of input devices are changing, we know the landscape of output devices are changing, and we know there are people who simply cannot stand it. Personally, I think we need multiple screens. We need many screens. We need to get this bullshit user interface crap off of the screen and create an image that is something you can immediately envelop yourself in. NO, that isn't impossible now, but I'm sure some would agree that the most minimalist of user interfaces, the most natural of inputs and outputs, the more natural and subliminal everything feels. I have built/upgraded my current PC for the simple feature of running three screens. I think I might want 4 just to have the "other crap" on that one and out of the way to eliminate flipping between things. We'll see, but I can tell you right now, I wish I had this... As far as where this all unfolds, just keep the image of that heart rate monitor in your head. Imagine playing just dance with that on and try to grip a controller with that on. Imagine playing CS:S with a vest that hits you when you get shot. Playing everything through the Oculus Rift instead of three screens in a comfortable environment. Yes they have advantages, but they also have disadvantages. I don't think making everyone get gigantic hamster wheels and wireless displays on their face with motion sensing controllers in each hand so that I am actually "doing" everything in the simulation is critical. I'll get to why in a moment, but our brains are a whole lot smarter then most people realize.
So what happens with the things that talk with the input and the output? Valve has been working on monitoring gamers while they play and working on using those readings from sensors to help envelop the player. I think that might hurt things. It's like lucid dreaming, when you know it's happening so you just dick around. Subconsciously, maybe that is impossible, maybe your chair will sense things based on the angle you sit and help to bring things in close by having more natural sounding 180 or 360 degree speakers. I think the best answer is straightforward and simple. Create the most natural display equivalent to what we see when we open our eyes and use that as the basis for engagement. I don't want to get shocked every time I mess up in a game, I'd rather have fun.
In terms of the other hardware, I would love to see something where HSA goes insane. Where the predictive voodoo inside of the APU architecture allows for parallel processing calculation to always happen in the best spot and where things like overhead aren't an issue.
I always here about how games look really good and how impossible it is to make things lifelike. I look at things and see potential. I wish for something that isn't motion blur, for things that don't have to be anti-aliased, and where textures aren't compressed. Let's take a look at games that were at the conferences. How many were just shooters with somewhat similar environments, how many were cell-shaded (because that "ages" better!?), and how many were lifelike natural worlds that seems like the places we could walk outside to in 5 minutes? When you record a movie it just is the real world. In philosophical terms, the thoughts in your head can be considered reality, giving the theory behind the movies like The Matrix and others. This doesn't mean everything has to be made out of mind-blowing realistic graphics! When I remember arcades there was practically nothing, but I was transferred to another world. When I play Kentucky Route Zero I play something that I wish was my world. There are always a million ways to draw a circle, art has taught us that. We didn't need the 3DS because we have something called shadows that turn circles into spheres. (seriously, look at the texture on that thing!)
When I think about this I imagine someone playing Mario without the sound (no cheating, mute that shiz). We all know the noise it makes, we know what's missing, we are humming it right now in our heads, but the fact of the matter in that instance is that there is no sound. We can't see the wind, but we can feel it. We can't see how light and sound bounces off everything, but we know it does. The way games are put together is the work of thousands of people trying to recreate that. Filtering is a way for GPU vendors and hardware manufacturers to make their life easier. Mods are a way for someone to build on all of that and make something compelling.
So, 10 years from now what happens? Where are we the "next" generation of hardware? Remember a year or three ago that someone was blabbing about the "one console future" and about half the room stood up and shouted "PC GAMING!" This is kind of like that, but with actual reasoning behind it.
Right now all of the consoles (apart from the crazy uncle, Nintendo) run on the same architecture. In 3-5 years phones will be on something very similar as well and some already are. We will likely have very similar and extremely efficient hardware powering just about everything. That's the beauty of building a system on a chip. You can take this one portable little thing (think raspberry pi) and put it in just about anything. You program it in such a way that it is slightly different and make it work better at what this specific application is. Like taking FPGA design and combining that with an all-in-one chip.
So, we have our "design" for that chip now. We know what the goal is, it's just a decade or so of work to get there. What does that mean in terms of gaming and that whole "one console future?" The way I see it, the future is here/now. We have our one console whether we admit it or not. The only "issue" is getting those pesky publishers to stop playing favorites. For the OS to be the determining factor. Steam vs. PSN vs. XBL is the ACTUAL battle from here on out. What would you rather have?
Either choice, it's a lot better outlook then when people were planning on strapping two power supplies to a PC and having 2 KW output to 4 graphics cards. Maybe just a little bit more fine tuned.