PC Gamers and The PS4: Missing The Forest For The Trees

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One of the main reasons I got into PC gaming was the dismal HD performance on current gen consoles.

Between sub-720p resolutions, frame drops even at 30fps, the constant aliasing and screen tearing, and god awful load-times despite massive HDD installs, the “HD gen” has been a complete joke in living up to that standard. While the PS3 does have it’s share of visually impressive games–GOW:Ascension and The Last of Us being two recent examples–on the whole, both Sony and Microsoft have put out boxes barely capable of high-def content. Thus most of my PC games have been multiplatform ports, which look and run far better than anything possible in the console space right now.

And yet, despite the lackluster showing, the hardware that Sony and MS leaned on for 7 years incurred billions in losses which took years to recover from. So I didn’t expect a huge leap in performance or spec during the PS4 conference a few days back. Indeed, I’d settled on seeing consistent 1080p, but no huge leap in visual performance beyond that.

Boy was I wrong:

Needless to say, I was floored by just how much better the games looked. Whether it was Killzone, Infamous: Second Son, or Capcom’s new IP Deep Down, what we saw was a  bigger, cleaner jump from anything on current gen consoles to date. We also got confirmation the GPU in the PS4 has a peak computational performance of about 2 teraFLOPS (floating point operations per second)–putting it on par with the performance end of AMD’s latest graphics card offerings. Sony also spoke of an system that would be far more inline with PC’s than the complicated Cell ever managed to be, making it easier on developers.

Alas, none of it was enough for the typing birds of prey that make up the PC gaming community. Rather than being impressed by the gap between the two consoles, they turned their nose up at performance current PCs can match and outstrip. Never mind how they’re comparing a $400-500 box using low-power parts to their full-sized systems, which run GPUs and CPUs each worth more than an entire PS3. Being a big step forward has done nothing to quell complaints that console gaming will be an anchor on the quality of PC games.

This grates me for two reasons.

First, for me personally, and the vast majority of people who play games on console…anything beyond solid performance at 1080p is irrelevant right now. Few outside of PC enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals care about higher resolutions right now, and if they do, it’s likely because of 4K, which is still several years away from commercial viability. A multi-monitor setup is overkill to gamers stuck with hardware that hasn’t been able to handle 720p consistently, and wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle regardless.

Secondly, as far as being held back, that means little to me if the games will still look like this. Whether it’s because of the raw power of the consoles or how they’re built with devs in mind, that claim looks far more parochial now in light of the footage shown on Wednesday. Dealing with ports of games that were built around 720p was the last big claim they could make about consoles being a noose; the argument becomes much more minute and harder to justify from here on out.

For me? I’m excited about the next Sony console’s capabilities. I was stunned by just how much better the games looked. I can’t wait to see more.

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2 Responses to PC Gamers and The PS4: Missing The Forest For The Trees

  1. player1 says:

    It’s funny about visuals, I saw someone tweet something about how Quantum Dream doesn’t need 40 million polygons or whatever the high number is they demoed to show realistic emotion. They pointed out that with creativity you can make an emotional game like Walking Dead without the use of billions of polygons. I kind of agree.

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