View Full Version : Console/PC game programming
01-20-2004, 11:36 AM
Okay, this is my rant about the world of video-game programming and the console vs. PC debate. It's related to DX:IW because this game is the perfect example of what burns me up about PC games, and both PC and Xbox gamers are reading this forum, I'm guessing.
First, I'm well aware of how difficult it is to design for a non-unified architecture and so on, I used to be in a programming course so I know a little more than the average user.
What continues to piss me off, however, is how I see this constant jump in PC technology that leaves so many potential gamers in the dust...yet console game developers manage to make do with the same old hardware. First-generation games on the PS2 were cool looking, but second and third-gen titles blow them out of the water nearly three years later - it's more obvious than me shelling out $200 for a new video card...but I haven't spent a dime more on hardware.
Yet my Geforce 4 MX is declared invalid, impotent and useless tech in about two years. And to get "good" performance I would have to power up my system to the tune of several hundred dollars...maybe even more than a thousand for "prime" speed.
So I now can't play Deus Ex:IW or many other upcoming titles... that's life, I know, and my fault for buying low-end tech. But hold on, what the infernal blazes is up with that statement? Myself, and likely thousands of gamers in similar situations (financial/time constraints) are being constantly alienated from PC games because of this.
How is it that an Xbox/PS2/etc programmer can make do with the same tech, but every damn PC-game developer can't? I know, to be thruthful it's all about the money, but when console sales go up, and PC sales go down, somebody has to start taking notice.
My personal belief is that all aspects of the PC gaming market need to slow the crap down a little bit. If game companies spent a little more time researching the "old tech" they would likely find ways to improve performance and graphics quality without a new spiffy video card. It's done all the time in the console world. If said spiffy video card manufacturer then spent a little time working with developers to teach them new ways to use "old tech" then it would become an even faster process, resulting in games coming out on time, with less bugs and more gamers could buy it.
Instead, we have "company X" produces the fastest thing since the Ferrari, so "game company Y" takes (ahem) "full" advantage of said expensive technology...meaning they use the new, abandon the old and barely scratch the surface of the tech and release a buggy, half-ass title. Gamer Z (me and many others) takes a look at this forum and other games and say "piss on this, I'm buying another console game."
I realize the advantages PC games have, with increased downloadability, customization and (most of the time) better graphics. But you know what? I don't really see the difference between the Xbox copy of DX:IW and the PC, especially since the only way I can play it is on the console that I can buy for less than most video cards, and I only have to buy one every three or four years.
Perhaps those more knowledgeable than I in the realm of game programming could shed some light on this?
Very good points, and I kinda agree with them. However, it is this exact race forward that keeps the tech economy going.
It is true that over time, developers could squeeze wayyyy more performance and effects out of current (or even outdated) hardware. In fact, that did kinda happen over the past couple years... Hardware had so outpaced software in terms of technology and capability, while game developers spent their time building games that could be played on those ancient MX cards with decent graphics and reasonable eye candy.
It's just that we've reached another evolutionary point. In the same way that games stopped supporting video cards with less than 32MB of RAM, they have ceased supporting cards lacking in the most basic common functionality (using DirectX as the basis for the definition of "basic," we see that shaders have been around for many years, since DX8.1). The fault isn't so much that of the consumer, for purchasing obsolete hardware (it was obsolete before it was ever marketed). The fault lies with nVidia for selling those damn cards without fair warning...
The computer race sucks, but it's how progress is made, and how the economy keeps rolling along.
01-21-2004, 08:10 PM
The problem with the Geforce4 MX thing is that you obviously bought it thinking it would be a "good card". It was never intended to be a "good card," even when it was released. In fact, when benchmarked, its performance in games is closer to that of a Geforce 2 GTS or TI card.
You have a right to be angry, but you should be angry at nVidia for releasing these deceptively named cards hoping that people like you would fall into exactly the trap you find yourself in. You might also give yourself a little credit for not reading up on what exactly this card was that you were buying - if this card ever had a legitimate market position (see below), it was for people looking for the least possible cost in a graphics card, and who might load up an old flight sim or play The Sims but otherwise would not play games on it.
About its market position... I really could not tell you why they released that graphics chip. It has no purpose. Like I said, it performs on the level of a Geforce2 GTS or a low-level Geforce3. When the cards with the Geforce4 MX chips came out, they were priced about the same or even a little more than the Geforce2 cards. So there was already an nVidia card at that cost and performance. So why did they release it? I think they wanted people to think they were upgrading when they really were not. By doing this, nVidia effectively made some sales without giving the buyers a good enough graphics card that they wouldn't need to upgrade again, a problem that the rest of the computer industry is having some trouble with right now. Heck, you can buy a $70 processor from just about the bottom of the Athlon XP or P4 lines, and still get the same game framerates that everybody gets with your particular graphics card, even if they spent $400 on their processor. Not that that justifies what nVidia did with the MX lines.
01-21-2004, 08:29 PM
Thanks for the replies, educational all of them.
Nvidia has to be condemned for releasing their crap MX line, but I did not buy it thinking it would be a "good" card. I bought it thinking it would be good enough... still, that's semantics I suppose.
I'm not cheesed at Nvidia or Ion Storm specifically, they are just the two biggest culprits in the crap shoot that is the ever-changing market of the tech sector. I'm fascinated by new tech, but I stopped buying it all years ago when I realized that I would just need to shell out yet more dollars less than a year later just to keep up with "decent" levels of speed in the never-ending drive to be faster.
And I did get out of the market of PC games for a few years, switching to entirely console when I bought a Mac...so I must have missed the whole slow-down period DreamEndless mentioned. I've had the PC for just about two years now and I've yet to see a game that's made me want to go out and let these manufacturers' lead me by the frame-rate nose.
I'm just drawing a parallel between the two worlds (console and PC) and thinking that PC developers - both hardware and software - could really do with a dose of console mentality and find a way to make things work better without alienating a great deal of consumers.
Anyhoo, thanks again for your thoughts.
01-21-2004, 09:22 PM
Good stuff Xcaliber, and I agree with all of it. I know very little about PC's and went out and bought a Nvidia Geforce FX5200 for a hundred bucks, upgrading from a Geforce 2 64 meg card for my rather outdated HP comp. I was told by a rep at Staples that it was about the best I could do for a PCI slot, and I guess it was, however now if I want to play the latest games and get any eye candy at all, I'll have to upgrade yet again. Ya the 5200 sucks, (wish I had done a little research before buying!), and that's my own fault, but the devs really need to slow down with all this stuff or give people with lesser systems more options for the graphics so we can at least play the newer games. I would really like to play Half-Life 2, but have a feeling that I will need a new card before doing so. It seems to me that a lot of people on these threads must be rich as well, because a lot of them have up to date systems with all the latest hardware. I have a wife and kid to support and can't afford to go out every six months and upgrade or buy a new comp. Don't the devs understand that by putting out games like this they are alienating a large part of the buying public? God, as much as I hate saying this, I might just go out and buy an XBox!!
BTW, I still can't play DX IW, not because of my crappy card, but this Securom stuff. Another thing that has gotten ridiculous and really really needs to be addressed!
01-22-2004, 12:00 PM
The FX5200 is faster than my card at least. Your problem is probably the PCI slot. I wasn't even aware that a PCI version of the FX line even existed, and for good reason... the PCI bus operates at 33MHz (well, 99% of the time it does.) The AGP bus operates with the same data width at 66MHz, TWICE the speed of PCI, only assuming AGP 1x! Go to AGP 4x or 8x (the most recent) and it runs at 528MHz (through doubling technologies) for 8 to 16 times the data throughput of PCI. So, you bought a pretty respectable graphics chip, but really that chip is probably spending a lot of time waiting for instructions and data to get through that little straw-hole PCI slot.
If you guys want to see exactly what it is that you bought and how it compares to the rest of the nVidia line, go here:
Tom's Hardware, VGA Guide III (http://www.tomshardware.com/graphic/20031229/index.html)
Or directly to the Halo benchmark, the one I consider most relevant because Halo uses the entire Pixel Shader technology.
For a picture of how the cards run on a game that does not use pixel shaders, check out Unreal Tournament 2003 (high end, very nice grafix, but no PS tech used.) Another good one is AquaMark 3, which is a synthetic benchmark geared towards cards that use pixel shaders.
To gauge where your MX card would be amongst those cards, you can probably assume that if the card ran Halo it would get a score somewhere around 2 or 3 fps, or you can go back to the Tom's Graphics Cards Guides Section (http://www.tomshardware.com/graphic/index.html) and look back through the articles to find one that talks about the Geforce4 MX cards. They did review them when they came out, probably vs. the Geforce4 line. You'll have to compare those benchmark scores with the scores of the Geforce4 versus the GeforceFX line in another review, and then you can accurately place the MX cards on the FX card benchmarks.
Actually I ran into This Benchmark (http://www.tomshardware.com/graphic/20030311/geforcefx-5600-5200-03.html#unreal_tournament_2003) which compares a Geforce4 MX 440 to a Radeon 9800 Pro and a GeforceFX 5200 Ultra, in Unreal Tournament 2003, so that might help. Notice that UT2003 is the only game they actually include the Geforce4 MX440 in, because the rest of the tests involve pixel shaders somehow.
01-22-2004, 12:11 PM
Don't the devs understand that by putting out games like this they are alienating a large part of the buying public? God, as much as I hate saying this, I might just go out and buy an XBox!!
FWIW, I've played Halo on the xbox and on my PC (w/ the old Quadro4), and it's actually choppier on the xbox than it is on my old card that isn't even gaming-oriented. The game companies' standards of smooth play on consoles are far below the standards we carry for our PCs. In fact, I remember all the way back to Playstation 1, when 3D games started coming out for that system, and they were choppy then too. I think the designers' framerate standard probably lay somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 for most of the game, with dips down to 10 or below being "acceptable" if they only happened now and then. It might be a little better nowadays, I believe xbox Halo stays pretty reasonable most of the time, but try playing 4-player deathmatch or 2-player coop and you'll notice the framerate really drops when you're firing your guns. At least with a PC, you have the option of upgrading or selecting older games that your card can still play well.
For that MX440, you might consider looking for copies of:
System Shock 2
Thief 1, Thief 2
Soul Reaver 1 and 2 for PC
and games from that range of dates. Those would probably play pretty well.
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