The 4K generation

During the last generation Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were dubbed the HD Twins. Not necessarily by the industry itself, but at least a small amount of people. While the current generation, that will be usurped by the Switch next year, started with HD as well. However, seeing we’re again at a point where companies do mid-generation upgrades instead of just mid-generation re-design, I’ll be dubbing PlayStation 4 Pro and Project Scorpio, whatever its finalised name will be, the 4K Twins. Technically, Xbox One S should be added there too, but the games are upscaled to 4K rather being native. Call me nitpicky.

The 4K is a bit of a problem, because most people don’t have 4K screens yet. Just like HD became a thing in the last generation, it’ll take some time before 4K becomes a standard. Scratch that, technically 4K is a standard already, but the standard is not widespread within the general population in the Western world like. It takes time for people to adopt the latest cutting edge technology, and that’s good. Why is that good, people are holding technology back! I’ve heard someone ask. The reason is that despite some technology not being able to sell well at first, the reasons can be many. The high price, the unnecessary complex nature and usage, quality and sometimes not being wanted often are the more pressing elements. LCD television technology itself is a good example of this as both LCD, Plasma and CRT television existed, and to some extent still exist, beside each other.

It would seem that the general population prefers to have mature technology in their hands instead of cutting edge.

The 4K and HD will exist beside each other at least to the end of the century, if not more. This is a guess on my part, but seeing how 8K is already making its first initial rounds, investing into a 4K screen might feel a bit off. Then again, that is the evolution of technology. Something new will always be waiting just around the corner. That’s why we always come to a point where we can pick something new up, or wait until things are ironed out and becomes more affordable.

That doesn’t really work with the 4K twins.

If these were redesigns of the existing consoles like what we’ve seen in the past, there would be no real contest which one to pick up. Usually. The last version of PS3 is just ugly. The issues with PS4 Pro and the upcoming Scorpio will have whole slew of new problems that have not yet been fixed. Mainly because we have don’t have an idea what those problems are, but most likely both companies are well aware of the issues with their machines prior to launch. The Red Ring of Death is still something that looms over Microsoft’s machines. I haven’t heard any major malfunctions from this generation, outside some people seemingly having a bricked Wii U thanks to Mighty Number 9, but at least one person has reported a molten PS4Pro. Take that as a grain of salt and do some research on the whole thing. Every thing’s possible, I guess. I’m no plastics expert. However, ever a single case like this usually rings the alarm bells in people’s heads.

The whole possibly molten PS4P aside, the issue that we should be more aware is the performance issues. Perhaps the hardware found in the PS4P is of higher calibre than the base PS4’s, but that should also mean that the games should run at a higher quality. Yet, if we take Digital Foundry‘s reports true, some games run worse on PS4P for whatever reason. Be it because of the new hardware or lack of optimisation (or the lack of experience in optimisation on PS4P) this is something I wouldn’t accept. But Aalt, aren’t you the one who says graphics and hardware doesn’t matter? Yes, yes I am and I’m getting to that.

The whole deal with mid-generation updates is, by all means, to allow the developers to put better looking stuff out there and have their games run better. In reality, this thought goes only halfway through. Devs most likely will push for better looking stuff, but will continue to ignore optimisation and 60fps lock if the game needs to be out. Some titles will sell with their name alone, damned be the quality of the title. The design quality of a game should not be dependent on the hardware. The controller a game is played with affects more the design than the hardware, thou we all can agree that simple number crunching power can allow some neat things overall. In the end, it’s the design that counts. What design, well, that’s another post.

Now, the question I have about the PS4P, and Scorpio by that extent, if we should be an early adopter or sit back and wait the kinks being ironed out. Honestly, that’s up to you. Some places recommend getting the base version for normal 1080 screens and some say go for Pro anyway. I’d recommend just checking the facts out and making a decision on those.

But, there’s another quick thing; should we all just jump in with the latest tech and keep things rolling around at the speed of sound? No, because that’s impossible. As said, most prefer mature technology and even tech that’s half a decade old can feel the most wondrous when properly designed and put into use. Those who didn’t experience Laserdisc’s abilities to have multiple languages on the disc were in awe by  DVD’s ability to house such things. There’s also the point that not all people simply have the money to keep up with the pace. As such, expecting companies to have things living beside each other is to be expected and that is exactly why  SONY has not yet moved the base PS4 from the market. People will simply pick it up for its price alone and might have rationale reasons not to go for the more expensive piece.

You can future proof your technological choices only so far. At some point, all your equipment will be old and replaced with new standards. Old does not mean obsoleted, and old can be of service years more than the newfangled piece of tech with all the problems still laying in the shadows.

I admit that this post was, to some extent, me putting my own struggle with the current generation down and to try make sense how to proceed in purchasing a console, or if I should even make a purchase overall.

Microsoft Live E3

Xbox E3 presentation was less about the Xbox and more about how Microsoft has made a clear motion to push multiplatform support through their Live account system, something that the recent purchase of Linkedln will without a doubt tie into. Minecraft is an example how they are pushing this cross-platform play, signifying that they intend to be everywhere they can push their Live on.

Most importantly for Windows 10.

The current Windows 10 userbase is smaller than Microsoft has wanted it to be, about half the intended size. Not many people want to install it due to various reasons, ranging from its awkward UI design to the included spyware that takes screenshots and sends it to Microsoft. Use GWX to prevent all related updates. Combined with Xbox One’s lacklustre success, it’s understandable for Microsoft to want push multiple approaches.

Steam’s nigh monopoly position on PC went completely unchecked and as Microsoft essentially left their main platform for the wolves, Windows 10 and DirectX 12 will have a hard time to regain some ground back. Whether or not they can is a whole other issue, especially seeing how reports on the usability of Win10’s game store are far for admirable.

Maybe Microsoft is extending itself too thin. They tried taking over the console market and failed, then bought Nokia (which fucked us up) and failed miserably there too. I would argue that their experience with Nokia was the step towards what we’re seeing how, with further emphasize on Windows’ software compatibility across platforms. Gaming in Windows was strong after Microsoft began larger support for it, but we have a point in time where they essentially just left it be.

Indeed, Xbox has always been about dumbed down PC gaming, and now it seems Microsoft is intending to bring that dumbed down PC gaming to Windows at full force. PC used to be a platform of total freedom, that was its main pull, but now we’ve lost that and have become complacent in exchange for comfort. Windows’ modern design is also indicative of this, where users are not required to learn anything about computers any more and all systems are made so closed that the end-users have almost no real control options over their own systems.

With the Project Scorpio, Microsoft further shows that they don’t really give a damn about the console market. The promotional video Microsoft showcased for it spells their mindset; hardware power. To quote, This was the console the developers asked us to build. A console is a box to play games. It doesn’t matter how powerful the box is if it doesn’t have games that are fun and entertaining to play. Historically, the least powerful console has won each generation, as they’ve generally gained the sheer overpowering numbers in games. Do remember that the MegaDrive got push with Mega CD and 32X over SNES in terms of power, so that generation is not an exception.

While releasing an updated console has not been anything new, this sort of fetish to keep consoles at the high-end of technology has all to do with the PC mindset. The PC market was about the high-end hardware, the cutting edge tech, whereas console market used to be about the matured technology that had become cheap to use and produce. The game industry fellates and masturbates over 4K image, but the general audience barely knows such thing exists. With 4K, game development just got a notch up expensive. Much like with films, the Triple A game industry has gone completely insane with the million dollar budgets and barely produce any mid-range budget games.

If they indeed try to go generationless with Xbox, they’ll surely fail as any hardware ages and needs to be replaced at some point. Wear and tear are a reality, but much like how Nintendo generally replaces their consoles with cheaper, more efficient alternatives, a console can survive for long damn time as long as it has support.

But releasing a more powerful console per generation in the same “family” is nothing new. Atari did that too, but nobody really liked the 5200.  These high-end models don’t have a successful history with consoles or games and I don’t have much faith that they’ll do anything new or special now either.

All in all, the Xbox E3 presentation was, at its core, a showcase of Microsoft simply pushing the Xbox brand unto Windows 10. Their console has been failing, as indicated by their use over seven million Killer Instinct matches played instead of citing the number of players. That tells you a damn lot.

An Australian friend also noted that the places and scenery in Forza are fucked and don’t represent the real places at all. What’s the point of using real world locations if you’re not even going to try to be accurate with them?