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Why windows gaming hurts gaming

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Adherents of the belief in the so called PC gaming master race will objects to the assertion on the face of it, but after much analysis I have concluded that what I call the Windows Gaming Snob Society is hurting the gaming industry more than any other factor.

Let's start with economics. Consoles are designed to be moderately priced for the masses. Prices for a gaming worthy Windows computer start at $700 for a laptop and $500 for a pre-built desktop (minus monitor and with standard peripherals). Keep in mind that desktop will need immediate upgrades of around $300 or so for monitor(s, "serious gamers" have at least 2), ram, and graphics cards a grand total of $800 at least. A console on the other hand is intended to cost $500 or less, and includes peripherals and uses a standard television. Why so low cost? because these are specialised machines to do one job, and to have mass appeal, which means they can't be priced so much that the average consumer thinks too much about the expense, we are after all talking about a machine for playing games, with other features only niceties. That puts a limit on how much horsepower can be put into a console. The Razr Edge is a good example, it costs $1000 and is basically a handheld console with substantial graphical power (by the standards of the WGSS). The market for it is as you might expect for the cost, very small, not many have actually been sold. The PS4 by comparison has sold one million units, and costs only $399 or your regional equivalent before VAT. You simply cannot economically put a 3.0Ghz Quad Core i7 and two GTX Titans in a console and get it made cheaply enough to get it for sale under $500. Decisions have to be made, because a console isn't just the chips, it's the case and the UI and the code underlying it. A windows box on the other hand has much freer economics because additional parts are self-selected, a user chooses to upgrade a card or not, a user chooses to upgrade an OS or not. This creates problems once games come into the picture.

How so? So we don't get ahead of ourselves, let's start with graphics. At the present time the Windows Gaming Snob Society claims that a game is unplayable crap unless it runs at 1080p and 60fps. That kind of performance costs money, keeping in mind the upper limit of $500, it's very hard to do. 720p and 60fps or 720p and 30fps are much more economical, but those numbers are likely to earn the developer the scorn of the Windows Gaming Snob Society, at least until 4k Graphics come onto the scene in large numbers, when 1080p becomes unplayable. It doesn't make economical sense for the developer to make one version of the software with one set of graphics and one for another version. Frankly it's expensive and time consuming enough to optimise the game for Windows.

Optimisation is a significant problem for windows, because installed software negatively affects the game. Hardware as well negatively affects the game, and the developer must engineer the game to run well without knowing what the user has on their machine or what updates microsoft will release. Add to that the economic interests of hardware developers who push for the game to run with their hardware, but because of the Windows gaming environment, the game must still run with the competing product. All that work costs a lot of money, and if they happen to choose to optimise their game around a theoretical setup, which a user doesn't have, which causes the game to not function as the user expects it to, they declare the game broken garbage and take to the internet to announce it to the world without considering the fault could lie with them and their hardware. Frankly the thought never enters their minds because their hardware is obviously the best hardware in existence and it contains the best software in existence, and this game should run best on their hardware. As a result the developer is pressured to spend more money and time optimising the game for a small minority of the market.

Cost to the user. This is a favourite topic of the Windows Gaming Snob Society. They boast proudly that their god Gabe Newell has created Steam, an online marketplace for games which offers games at lower prices than often the same game would cost for a console user. Unfortunately for the developers this is economic suicide. In order to get their games on this marketplace they have to comply with the terms of service, and allow their software to be sold at discounts. It's good news for the consumer, but remember that the developer is obligated to provide technical support and patches for the software to optimise it for the consumer, which costs money, money the developer is not getting out of the purchase cost of the game. It helps the consumer, but the developer takes a smaller piece of a smaller pie, and is obligated to spend more on that pie, or suffer the marketing consequences of low ratings, and negative press, it doesn't make economic sense.

With all the reasons not to release a game for the windows platform, why would a developer do so? They do it for two reasons, firstly the Windows gaming market is not insignificant, and second if they don't the WGSS will immediately petition the developer to release it on Windows, which starts the whole cycle of spending on support. To make up the difference, developers lean on console users with higher prices, fewer discounts, and in game microtransactions. Developers have tried to put the same sort of systems in the Windows versions of their games, see Sim City, but the WGSS very quickly rebelled at the notion of it, forcing the developer to backtrack, the same thing happened with Diablo III and Dead Space 3 on the Windows platform. So, why not develop for the Windows platform exclusively, and release a console version later. Profit margins are lower, remember, and the market is smaller, and developers who fail to spend enough can experience very negative press very quickly. Some companies have managed relative success with a game here and there with Windows exclusives, but look at the list: Starcraft II, WoW, WoT, Dota, LoL, and TF2. Every single one of those was, with the exception of WoT, born of an older game released long ago which was itself very popular.

In conclusion, we find that Windows game development costs more at the inception, costs continue over longer periods, and profit margins are lower, and the demand for developers to meet an hypothetical and shifting standard of graphical fidelity results in more mainstream games with more micro-transactions, and higher prices. Resulting in more bankruptcies and more virtually identical games. Screw the Windows Gaming Snob Society, and if Microsoft wants to end support for Windows gaming in Windows 8, or is hostile to Steam, more power to them.

For $200 you can get a PS3 with all of it's games, then spend $400 on a laptop that can't run games but can do almost any productivity task you ask of it, in the end you've spent half of what a Windows Gaming Snob Society Member spends on their gaming rig, and in a round about way, you've helped the developers more.

the most immersive single player experience

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recently, at my local game store, a fellow patron asked the question, what game had a good immersive single player experience. that got me thinking. what really would be the most immersive single player experience! after much consideration I compiled a list? before I get to that list, though I think we need to clarify some terms. Immersion is the ability of an activity to consume an individual's attention. This incidentally, is what psychologists consider to be the definition of "fun." Having established the definition, let's discuss the list, and why each earns it's place.

First, and most immersive are driving/racing games, though not necessarily arcade racers. Driving is something almost everyone int the world has some experience of, even if it just riding in a car. When the game includes a competitive aspect, the player is tempted to focus more on driving, to obtain the best position, and avoid other drivers. Combat vehicle driving is just as immersive in some cases, but not all.

Second, depending on personal experience are either flying or Science fiction FPS games. If the individual has experience with flying an aircraft of some sort, that real world experience will inform their experience of the flying game. In the case of an air combat game, the competitive nature of the simulation adds to the experience. If the player has no experience of flying an aircraft, or other flight simulators, the Science Fiction FPS is the next most immersive. This is because in a Sci-Fi FPS, the player relies entirely on the game to provide information about the world, everything is removed from their day to day experience. Gamers with previous flight experience will likely consider this their third most.

Third, for the non pilots are the historic military shooters. Historic shooters edge out the MMS, slightly, because the weapons used and the environments are less likely to be familiar to the player, thus, much like the Sci-fi FPS, the player relies on the game for information about the world.

Fourth are the modern military shooters, for those of us who lack first hand combat experience the situation is unfamiliar, and there is an aspect of competition, but the familiarity of the environment, modern times, with recognisable objects and brands pull the player out of the experience because any inaccuracy is immediately apparent, and our minds know this isn't real. This is why MMS rely on fast action, the instant competition forces players to focus, but every soda bottle and every car that isn't realistic enough or is recognisable enough tells the player, they're in a fantasy world. I would go so far as to postulate that competitive FPS players, that being the MMS players mind you, like a chess master, doesn't see the world, they see only the map, and their minds calculate probability of detection.

Fifth are going to be Sci-fi action RPG's, of the third person variety, like Mass Effect or Remember Me. Again, as with the FPS, it is the world's alien ness that make it immersive, fantasy games also fall into this category, by the way. The player relies on the game to learn about their world. One minor point of clarification. though, I mean only the third person Action RPG's so no Diablo or X-COM.

As you might have guessed, sixth are modern military third person action RPG's, including games like Sleeping Dogs, and GTA V. Despite their unfamiliar situations, the third person perspective, and the familiarity of the world makes them less immersive.

At this point the standards get a bit murky, seventh one might include Mech games like Armored Core and Mech warrior, and other games where the player plays a non-humanoid character, from a third person or even first person perspective. If it sounds a bit odd that a game which allows players to play as an alien creature is less immersive than GTA, even if it is first person perspective, think about this. While it is an unfamiliar experience in which we rely on the game to inform us about our world, it is readily apparent we are not human, and therefore it is difficult for the player to relate to the experience.

At the tail end of our list in 8th, 9th, and 10th are sports games, RTS's and so called "god games," and finally, tun based strategy games

Sports games, of the non driving or flying variety offer significant immersion only to a few, but it is solely the competition and familiarity with the sport that creates immersion. Ninth, the RTS games and games like Sim City, and even Diablo, are obviously unreal, and players know this, but the real time aspect puts them above turn based games which like a side scrolling game have only difficulty to offer the player.

The logic of female heroes in games

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So, recently the CEO of Epic games said that there wouldn't be a Gears of War game centred around a female hero, for various reasons. He cited the increased polygon count of the female form versus the male. That's a may be, I don't have the .src for Gears of War, but so long as the game engine can handle it I believe it makes sense to have a female hero. Ok,  so before we go any further let's deal with the elephant in the room, SEX. Sex is a big issue in the US, and how developers use it, most people would rather they didn't, can cause issues for the corporation. So long as the software doesn't step outside certain boundaries, as soon as the game is released and players see the content, those disappear. In the risk averse corporate environment, fears over depicting sexuality kills a great many games. Have we covered sex sufficiently? I hope so, because we're moving on. Female heroes have two benefits over male heroes, one women relate to them more readily, and second, males also are affected by having a female character. It varies with age of course, but with a female hero, a male will likely experience desire to protect her.

Valve, friend of Linux or foe?

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Unless you've been living in a cave, you've heard about the Steam box. The miraculous tablet sized, ok, more like a bag of coffee sized device that will be as powerful as the most powerful gaming rig of the most elite of PC Elitists in their most ivory of towers, and it will be completely modular, allowing it to keep pace with technological developments. If you've heard about the Steam box, chances are you've also heard it will run Linux, the open source operating system based on UNIX, and developed initially by Linus Torvalds. Until now Linux has only occupied a sliver of the desktop PC market, un-noticed by most consumers. Valve claims they decided to opt for Linux because of changes in policy at Microsoft. Whatever the fact is, a desktop computer built specifically to run Linux by default and sold to the public means more exposure for the OS. Is it time to uncork the champagne and drink a toast to the rise of Linux? Maybe not, there are many unanswered questions and cause for concern. Transitioning to Linux is not the easiest thing for a Windows user to do. Linux has an entirely different file system from windows. Then there is the terminal, Windows long ago did away with the need to invoke a terminal and use text commands, Linux still makes regular use of the terminal and text commands. A recent article from CVG confirmed what I'd already guessed, that Valve would make their own Linux distribution. Granted, the article was probably not written by a Linux user and details might have been lost in translation, but it makes some sense. Developing their own Linux distribution kills two metaphorical birds with one stone, it can be made simple enough for windows users to easily transition to, and it will sort one of the biggest issues with Linux from the corporate standpoint. Linux is open source, which means any user can ask for and has a right to the source code for any program they run, for individual users this is a very good thing, but to corporate users open source sounds like, zero copyright protection. That is to the corporate user a very bad thing, it screams zero profits. If Valve develops their own distro they can make it closed source and proprietary, rather than being bound by GNU or Open Source agreements. Valve would also be free to develop their own proprietary version of the Wine software, using the original package as a base, taking advantage of Open Source for corporate ends. Developing a Linux box with standardized hardware sorts a major stumbling block for Linux development, no longer would every implementation be unique, and that would be good for developers, but the uniqueness of each Linux box is part of what makes Linux special, it can be installed and run on a system with as little as 64 Mb of RAM, when Windows demands 2GiB at minimum just for the OS. For Valve, developing Linux is not completely a win win, there will have to be deals made and developers convinced and coders hired to make it all work, and that will take time and money. If it cuts the heart out of the Linux community, is the increased exposure of Linux worth the price? Linux could end up becoming in essence a Valve production par with Windows or Apple's Macintosh OS.

my Top Ten games of 2012 (Xbox 360)

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10: Saints Row the Third. Saints Row the Third is all about excess, anything the developers could stuff onto a disk, they did. If you've ever wanted to do it, you can do it in saints Row the third. Sadly, that's all there is here, once you get past the crazy there's not much else.

9: XCOM: Enemy unknown. The game's main appeal is nostalgia, after that it has personalisation, after that it doesn't have much to offer.

8: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. If you've played it, you understand. If you haven't played it, borrow it, or rent it.

7: Borderands 2. A game you can pick up as an impulse purchase, and not be upset with. Unfortunately it does require a steady diet of DLC to keep it fresh for a long period.

6: Far Cry 3.

5: Mass Effect 3. Viewed on its own the game is full of flaws. When we look at it as part of a series, it comes out looking pretty good. It should have been a better game in its own right, but it wasn't. So it gets knocked down to average.

4: Assassin's Creed 3. Who doesn't like being Captain of their own 18th Century sailing vessel?

3: Dragon's Dogma. Good combat, and it manages to avoid "OP Mage syndrome." Too often in medieval RPG's the only truly viable class is the Mage. The rest are in the long run, pointless. If only it wasn't so repetitive, the menus ponderous, and the animations lackluster.

2: The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings. The biggest problem with this game is how massively long it takes to do almost anything, this is a game you have to start on Friday evening so that you can finish on Monday morning. Apart from that the game is very good.

1: Spec Ops: The Line. Some mechanical glitches and limited replay value aside the game is 2012's Dead Space 2, a game that will stay with you for a while, it makes a lasting impression and not many games can do that.

Borderlands 2 Characters, classes, and hints and tips. SPOILERS?

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The characters in Borderlands 2 are:

Character Name: Axton

Axton is the most traditional FPS character, he is equivalent to the engineer in Mass Effect 3. His special is a deployable sentry turret, just like the engineer in Mass Effect 3. While it can be used offensively if thrown into a crowd of enemies it is better used to attract attention away from Axton so he can use elemental powered Assault Rifles, Elemental SMG's, or shotguns, as on his own Axton is weak. Explosive damage is best since he needs to inflict massive amounts of damage quickly; if a baddy targets Axton instead of the turret he needs to kill them quickly, because he is weak on his own.

Character Name: Gaige

Gaige is similar to Axton, based on the engineer of Mass Effect 3 since her special is a deployable item as opposed to an instant effect like the others. If an enemy targets her instead of her deployable she will need to eliminate them quickly with high DPS weapons. Look for instant effects like the explosive damage over fire. Unlike Axton it probably makes more sense to level her deployable instead of her, as her deployable is offensive rather than defensive, like the Combat Drone (Tiktika Ba- whatever Tali calls hers in Mass Effect 3) rather than the Sentry gun. Sharpshooting may be possible with this character depending on how high leveled the deployable is.

Character Name: Maya

Maya, the Siren is equivalent to the Adept from Mass Effect 3. Her special is basically "lift" and "stasis" combined at higher levels it can acquire traits similar to "reave," and biotic combo explosions. At it's heart though it is lift or stasis. When playing solo both evolutions are useful. In fact Maya is probably the most versatile character in the game. Her powers can be used offensively to hold targets in suspension while she or her team fires on them, or possibly to trap a stronger enemy so the team can focus on a weaker one. It is also possible to use the power defensively, to give Maya's shields a chance to recharge, to grab a heal, or just to control a crowd too big for her alone. As such Maya can use almost any weapon, she gains bonuses for elemental weapons, so those should probably be a first choice. She can easily use an SWS, and her skills compliment this well. She should be using her powers constantly so reduce the cooldown time or increase the duration, offensive players should decrease cooldown. defensive players should increase duration. Also, don't pass up "Sweet release," this is Maya's heal when no health pickups are available.

Character Name: Salvador

Salvador may be called a gunzerker, but he is very much the Soldier class from Mass Effect 3. His skill, gunzerking, the wielding of two weapons and regenerating ammunition is functionally identical to the Soldier, Adrenaline Rush, in Mass Effect 3, if it is not identical in form. Simple, and purely offensive. He can provide cover to his team mates or whatever, but should look for high DPS or RoF to use when gunzerking, for maximum effect.

Character Name: Zer0

Zer0 is a misunderstood character. While most players assume he, because his class name is Assassin, should be a sharpshooter, his action skill/Special; Deception is not suited to sharpshooting. If this sounds blatantly wrong, let me explain. Deception is a two part ability. First it spawns a decoy, then Zer0 vanishes, hence why the power is called a vanish. As soon as Zer0 vanishes and the decoy spawns a timer starts counting down; at it's basic level the timer lasts 5 and a bit seconds. Now, remember that decoy? as soon as it spawns, note that is spawns wherever Zer0 is standing when he spawns it, it attracts the attention of all nearby enemies. That is a problem for a marksman, That target you had all nicely lined up in your scope won't be there when you use your vanish for the damage bonus and invisibility. For that reason Zer0 should not be thought of as equivalent to the Infiltrator of Mass Effect 3, but he is actually the Vanguard, and his power is equivalent to the biotic charge, not an invisibility cloak. Assuming you've bought my argument, Zer0 should wield a shotgun, and SMG, or a high damage pistol. He can use that SWS, but he is no more a "sniper" than Axton is. His power is more useful as a 911/999 power than the turret though. I hope this alleviates some of the confusion, and people learn to use this character correctly.

Thoughts on Mass Effect 3

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Mascritiqued rigcritiques toques for the ending. In response the fans have come up with the indoctrination theory, to try and make sense of a very episodic mess. For me, though there is some sense to be made of the ending as it stands. Firstly, forget basically that Mass Effect 2 happened, and start with Vigil, the Prothean VI on Ilos. Then you need Javik so that you get the full experience of Thessia with that VI. That VI mentions the Reapers are actually serving another or were serving another hidden power whether this means the Catalyst or some other power is not made clear. The Catalyst is where the story takes a turn for the weird, and worse. In my opinion the Catalyst is not as far wrong, but he does not know everything. There's also a fair amount of poor Sci- fi cliche. The one part where I call BS on the Catalyst is when it claims to have created the Reapers. That is highly unlikely, the Citadel then must have always been or been created by another species that the Reapersdestroyed, sort of like the machines in the Matrix.

Mass Effect classes, my thoughts .

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Thembassy Effect series has, as one might expect, a series of different classes, each with their strengths aNd weaknesses. In someways the combat ranges dictate what will excel, and in some ways the mechanics of the game dictate what will excel. The classes in the series are:

Soldier

Infiltrator

Sentinel

Vanguard

Engineer

Adept

In Mass Effect 1, because of how the game is written, combaor invented classes will excel. Infiltrator and Soldier on the top of this pile, over vanguard and sentinel. The main reason is they have proficiency with sniper rifles. For any other class, these are hard to use. shotguns, which are useful in the final battle by then have sufficient accuracy to be fired reliably from the hip, and really aiming a shotgun? It's an up close and personal weapon. Assault rifles are very useful in the game, taking the place of pistols as the go to weapon of chThe issue is that, they can be hipfired fairly reliably by the end of the game, anautomatic shave a high enough fire rate to compensate. It's on,y early in the game that soldiers have the advantage. In Mass Effect 2 the combat changes make almost any class usable on the lower difficulty settings. Some may claim the Adept shines on insanior tethers say the soldier does. Having played through on insanity, I disagree. The Assault rifle is not as powerful as you might want against the Scions, they will destroy you. Go infiltrator, the invisibility cloak works wonders. In Mass Effect 3, however combat is CQB ranges and enemies are more aggressive. A slow and patient warrior is not the way to go, players need more crowd control. Adepts are great at this, despite their Singularity no longer being an instant kill on husks. The Adept is shorted in the firearms department though, and in a tight spot will be slain without squad assistance. No, in Mass Effect 3, CQB classes like Sentinels, soldiers,vanguards, and to a lesser extent, engineers are best. Their ability to deal with enemies at close range, carry loads of weapons, and survive will win the day.

Why sniping games don't work

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Sniping, sharpshooting, and snipers have a romantic image in society. They are lone wolves, highly skilled riflemen and women (Lyudmila Pavlichenko for one) who make one shot and kill one enemy soldier. It is a very attractive image, and in multiplayer and first person shooter games there are people who use the sniper rifles exclusively. Some do it right, many more try to trick the game engine and get instant kill shots using a method called "quick-scoping." All that interest gets developers thinking, why not make an entire game based on sniping? Several studios have tried it, but they never have great commercial success, why not?

Flaw 1: Rifle out the window- In many sniper games the developers have characters sit behind a window and poke their rifle out when they're ready to fire. In real life this would get you killed very quickly. Snipers prefer to take up a position far back from the window but still able to shoot through the window. Unfortunately, in many games this is a very bad idea as the cover mechanic permits the AI to see you much easier if you are back from the window rather than right under or beside the window in an unrealistic position.

Flaw 2: Scopes and ranging- Scopes are essential parts of sniper kit, but in sniping games the scopes are static, and crosshairs are useless with no reference to anything. They're designed to create a look. The outcome of which is that players must use the "sniper time" or "sniper breathing" button to hit anything. You should be able to use just the scope alone to score a hit. The other part of this is when the developers give players the actual range to a target. This is not how snipers actually operate, they range to various objects in the terrain, not specific targets. It would not be very difficult to give players the range to the destroyed car on the map, or the rubbish bins in the street, giving players a more accurate experience. It gets very old to use sniper breathing or sniper time to shoot anything.

flaw 3: Environment- Another big flaw. In many of these games there are one, maybe two ideal vantage points designed into the map, which players are expected to use. This does not reflect reality at all. A good sniper will have four places in mind to shoot from, and will construct a rest for their barrel to steady it, this frees their other hand to support the weapon itself. No game has this level of complexity.

flaw 4: Camouflage. honestly guys, Snipers do a lot to conceal themselves and their weapons, why in games are we walking around in BDU uniforms or P37 field uniforms?

Can it be fixed, yes, and no. Yes, in Sci-fi and near future games, many of these flaws can be fixed with better map design and technological fixes. Self stabilising barrels, powered armour, active camouflage, and other technical wizardry can get you out of these pitfalls, but as yet there are no near future sci-fi sniping games. The other way I can see aroud it is to set your game in a time before good sniping practices were known, which means no second world war sniping. Think first world war and before.

Random stuff about Forza 4

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Got some things I want to get off my proverbial chest about Forza 4, so here goes. The devs made only moderate effort to truly improve the game. I was hoping for a more completely new Forza in the fourth version, instead we get some cheesy Top Gear almost nods and a crapload of the same old same old. The cars list sickens me, there are too many US muscle cars, and repeats from Forza 3. It's lazy. Lazy is apparently the new great effort in the gaming world, yuck. One more note on the cars, a list of the top five reasons there will not be more British cars in game.

5.Rights, who holds them? What do they want for them, Turn 10 does not want to have to shell out a tonne of money to get them.

4. No "mint condition" examples available.

3. No access to the mint condition examples, if a car is found that meets their criteria for mint condition the owner will not allow the tests to be run.

2. Balancing. Old British cars were so much better than US Muscle cars that the devs will say it ruins the game by making cars that dominate the competition available at too low a cost.

1. Devs don't fancy them. That's right, it comes down to jingoism. They like Rice Rockets and US Muscle cars, not Jags.

That's about it. Stop being lazy developers and give us a better game.

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