Cross pollution evolution

With the amount of cross pollution between console and computer gaming we’ve seen during these last ten years plus, it’s not wonder it sometimes seems that things have almost flipped around. With the further advent of Steam and its competitors like GOG, combined with the ever-furthering PC gamification of the consoles, consumers do move towards the PC and its digital consoles.

The cross-pollination has also become increasingly more and more evident with the Japanese developers porting their titles to Steam due to having to deal less bullshit from Valve’s end to certain extent, and not having to care about other licensing issues or having to give a second thought about physical media. This is essentially the cheap option, when you don’t have money to release a full physical release. The recent Kickastarter for Arcana Heart 3 Love Max Six Stars!!!!!! (yes, with six goddamn exclamations) basically had no chance of seeing further ports if it hadn’t been for Steam. Depending how the title will see success after it’s been launched at whatever date in the far-flung future, the possibility of convincing execs to further port the game for other platforms is possible.

That’s probably the main reason why Japanese companies have begun to see Steam as a valid option; costs. Much like with Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, Japanese game developing execs have to be convinced with data and analysis. And tradition, can’t forget that. It’s the corporate culture. To keep using the aforementioned Arcana Heart as an example, the cost of developing a port of an arcade game that never saw major success on consoles and never would stand out from obscurity is just tad too high. The main problems with this isn’t just paying the workers to port the game, but the ad campaigning and licensing costs to console companies too. Pressing the physical media isn’t as expensive as people would think, but the logistics and rising material costs do add up pretty fast, especially if you’re intending to do region specific releases, which nowadays is absolutely stupid thing to do. Just throw in a language selection in the menu and be done with it.

Steam publishing removes quite a lot of logistic headaches in this regard, and in Arcana Heart‘s case may not require too much porting depending on the arcade hardware it’s running on. Which seems to be Taito Type X2 Hardware, which means it’s Windows XP driven. Easy as shit to port to Steam and other similar hardware to be honest and shouldn’t cost much anything. Hell, I think there’s a version out there on the Internet that’s essentially just the arcade executable, that runs just fine on Win7, but I remember that could ruin Window’s core folder structure or something else. Anyway, due to the lack of sales with Arcana Heart means that whatever way to save money and have it out there at the lowest expense possible means that it might make some money.

It’s no wonder Japanese companies have begun to aim to release games on Steam as well. Steam may not have the installation base in Japan that it has in Europe and US of A, but if they want to tap that digital sales market they better rip their preconceptions out and strike when the iron is still hot. This is evident with all the digital services Japan has for its own indie scene with the likes of DMM and DLsite, which work more as online shops for digital content than dedicated clients. These have been popular for number of years before Japanese developers begun to move their software to Steam. Once the ice was broken, even the smaller success software would bring in data to show that Westerners indeed would purchase their titles in digital form. Make no mistake, all Japanese titles that have seen success on Steam is all thanks to Western consumers.

The old argument for cross-pollination is that it offers the consumer choices, that the consumer can play a game on whichever platform they choose to. This is only a good argument on the surface. If you had all the titles on all platforms, the concept of having different platforms makes no more sense. The PC would always come out on the top. Not because it’s superior, but because everyone needs a goddamn computer of some sort nowadays. People hate buying new console hardware, but if it’s on PC, might as well skip purchasing that new Sony console. Steam’s model as a digital console steps in just fine, thought their UI has a terrible design, it functions quick and easy. It might seem awkward, but having multiple different systems with different games would further encourage software and hardware developers to hit different niches and expand the market. Nintendo’s consoles won’t disappear as long as Nintendo keeps making exclusive games that people want to play. Uniqueness in library content after all is the lifeline of a console. The more unique a library is, the more contest the console can tackle. Take that uniqueness away, and you’ll effectively get Steam, a system everybody wants to pick up because it’s the cheapest option.

Not even joking about that. One of Steam’s main point is that it’s cheap both to the consumer and developer. Most games don’t even require a high-end PC anymore because consoles have become dumbed down PCs to the point that Steam is getting ports from consoles and they’re for all intents and purposes identical. Hell, cross-play between console and PC versions has become a completely viable option. It’s no wonder console gamers who are sick and tired of seeing developers screwing them over and seeing support being dropped in favour for the upcoming systems and moving to PC, where they have no real need to concern themselves over that.

All platforms shouldn’t offer the same experience. The cross-pollination however will go to the point where consumers will have a choice to just select one and have everything on it, damn the quality and competition. Valve and Steam will keep themselves relevant while both Sony and Microsoft will cannibalise each other. Nintendo will most likely keep themselves relevant by hitting the market consensus by innovating and expanding the market. All this is really a change we just have to live with.

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Demo the Trailer

There’s a rather lengthy writing on how there is no such a thing as a cinematic video game. It’s a good read, arguing largely on the same issues as this blog when it comes to storytelling in video games. If you can’t be arsed to read it, it essentially goes a long way to say that a game’s story ultimately is best when told through the medium itself; the game’s own play, not cutscenes or the like.

The question asked in the writing whether or not games need to be movies at all should be an outright No. Indeed, a player plays the game for the active play, and whenever he loses that active part e.g. in a pre-scripted sequence, the player’s interest wavers. Movies are different beasts altogether and have their own ways of doing things. Video game industry has relied too much on text and video in its storytelling, and the best thing coming from certain old school games is that they lacked both text and video to some extend and gameplay did tell the story. The game industry masturbates at their masterful storytelling never to realise most people seem to use Skip button more than anything else in these games. I’ve still yet to find a modern game that did storytelling better than The Legend of Zelda. Every step of that game is an adventure worth telling on its own.

PlayStation Expo was last weekend, and we saw a lot of trailers and some gameplay footage. There is an interesting disparity here, where the consumers get all hyped up because of pre-rendered footage that is aimed to make the game look as good as possible and often lacking in any sort of gameplay footage in itself. Game trailers, as much we might hate to admit it, are largely just about the cinematic flavour in the same sense as movie trailers are. Best bits picked into the trailer to show something nice to possibly track an interest. However, whereas with a movie trailer you may get the genuine idea what’s it all about, a trailer about a game lacks that punch as it has no interactive elements. It’s just footage of a game, or even worse, just footage of the videos inside the video.

To use The Legend of Zelda as an example again, a recent trailer for Breath of the Wild combines in-game videos with some gameplay footage with specifically selected sceneries. It’s also very boring to look at on every level. The direction isn’t anything to write home about, neither are the actual game content we get to see only a little bit of. All the enemies and NPC we see are boring as well. The music tries to hit your feelings, but only fanboys would falter at that point. Like if Mega Man X would just suddenly pop up as a Marvel VS Capcom character, same thing.

What the trailer does is that it shows you stuff that’s largely incoherent and has no context. The fantasy is represents isn’t classic Zelda, but Zelda games haven’t used their original source of fantasy for a long time now. It’s more like a Chinese knock-off now.

A trailer for a game does not meet the same qualifications as a trailer does for a movie. A game demo is to a game what a trailer is to a movie. However, for some years now a lot of people have been asking what has happened to game demos. All platforms seems to have less and less of them. There is no one concrete reason, thought the most common that gets mentioned is that a demo gives a straight and raw deal what the game is like, and seeing games’ overall quality has been stagnant, people simply aren’t interested in purchasing a game after trying out its demo. Jesse Schell argued in 2013 that games that have no demo sell better according to statistics. I don’t see a reason to argue otherwise three years later, seeing there is still a lack of demos.

If a demo cuts sales of a game, that means the game isn’t worthy in the eyes of the consumer to begin with. The less information the consumer gets, the better for the developer and publisher. Sucks to be the consumer who buys games without checking and double checking sources and Youtube videos how the game plays out, and even then there’s a lack of interactivity.

This is where raw gameplay footage serves a purpose, as do Let’s Plays. If trailers are made to simply sell you the game with the sleekest look possible only to fail you when you pop the game in and see how much everything has been downgraded from that spit spat shiny video, then raw gameplay and Let’s Plays are the opposite. Well, the opposite would be a game demo, but you get the point. The two showcase the game as it is in all of its naked glory and allows more direct and objective assessment on the quality of the product. Of course, no company really would prefer giving this sort of absolutely objective view on their game, unless the circumstances were controlled and hype would take over.

Hype and game trailers tend to go hand-in-hand with certain titles. Just as these trailers are made to hype us to hell and back, the hype keeps us from seeing possible flaws. Then you have ad people rising the fire even further and so on. Look how No Man’s Sky was hyped and how the product ended up being and you’ll see how much we need demos, but as consumer we can’t effect that point one bit. After all, we’re just money pouches to fund whatever personal glory trophy projects these innovative and creative gods of creation want to make.

I picked up Tokyo Xanadu eX+‘s demo recently and made the decision not to purchase the game until I can get it dirt cheap. The game does not stand up to Falcom’s brand overall. The demo’s content are largely boring and feels archaic, like something from a PS2 game. As a consumer I am glad I had the chance to personally assess the quality of the product to an extent before shoving my money into it. This should be a possibility for everyone when it comes to games, as developers couldn’t just dilly dally. The lack of demos is also one of the reasons why Steam allows consumers to return their games if they do not meet the expectations. Demos would have probably prevented this to a large degree.

Let’s talk about Muv-Luv’s changes

By now those of you who’ve got the Steam release of Muv-Luv have most likely noticed changes in there. Most changes have been for the better, some out of necessity.

Before we go on, let’s re-iterate how the companies are related to each other. Degica is the company localising, they are in charge of translation and publishing, while ixtl is the rights holder and makes the final decisions what’s in and what’s out. âge’s the developer, and ixtl was put up to manage their IPs. Both âge and ixtl are under Acid Company Limited.

Degica may be the one in charge of the translation and publishing part, but whatever changes they do ultimately has to go through ixtl. If they decide to veto e.g. a translation title, Degica’s translation staff got nothing to say to it, unless they can provide some hefty evidence, as you may have noticed that both Takimekazuchi and Chizuru are properly romanised instead of using the more archaic forms Takemikaduchi and Chiduru. You can probably expect some bullshit things left in along the line anyway. I’m half expecting something along the lines of not using the official English title of  Sado Island. Hell, it’s even on the island’s own official tourist brochure. I don’t know how the hell Amaterasu missed this one, it’s not even an obscure tourist location. I can even pick up my 1970 World Atlas and take a photo of the page where Japan and its islands are showcased. Give me a moment, and I’ll take it!

DSC_4669
Page 70, Suuri Karttakirja, based on Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World, 1970

To be fair again, Sadogashima too is used (sometimes as Sado-ga-shima to boot), albeit not as common worldwide. Even on modern maps, like the one Google uses, lists it as Sado Island. Other languages seem to mainly use Sado, thou I admit Isla Sado sounds awesome.

The most clear cut changes are the new songs in the soundtrack, and music is almost always the hardest thing to license when it comes to Japanese products, especially TV-shows and movies. This is because a single show can include music from various different rights holders, and some may want their music be licensed episode-by-episode, which is why sometimes opening songs are replaced with instrumental versions in Western releases, like The Skull Man‘s or Mobile Suit Z Gundam. Sometimes music pays homage to other songs, and hits a bit close home. Metal Gear Solids theme is reminiscent to The Winter Road, and âge is known for their musical homages. Just like how Metal Gear Solid’s theme was essentially dropped after it was accused of plagiarism, and ixtl wants to avoid such controversies at all costs. They’ve dealt enough with plagiarism claims as is.

That said, while わるだくみ/Warudakumi had its own fans, Drama Bomb! isn’t really bad by any means. It and the other additional song are most likely leftovers from Schwarzesmarken‘s development, as both of them were composed by Evan Call. They have a distinctly different sound to them from the rest of the soundtrack, but like with most things, it’s really up to taste if you like them. It was probably the best for ixtl to replace the songs rather than risk accusations and possible lawsuit. That’s business for you.

This issue extend to Muv-Luv Alternative. One of its more iconic songs, Assault Landing, is similarly a direct homage to Basil Poledouris’ Kledanthu Drop from Starship Troopers. Then you have that pastiche of Buster Machine March and the other examples. You should be half-expecting their removal for the exact same reason.

Another big change people have noticed is that the script has been completely revised to the point of it essentially having no traces of Amaterasu’s fantranslation. If we’re completely honest here, that translation had issues. At points it was incoherent with issues with language, outright missing cues and throwbacks to âge’s previous works and top it all, had inaccuracies to the point of changing some of the characterisations. One of the reasons I never felt strongly for Ayamine was because the English subtitles didn’t really reflect the Japanese, giving her a slightly but significantly different impression what sort of person she was. The same applies to Class Rep. Ixrec or however his nick is spelt has said that he himself didn’t care for Extra, and it shows in his script.

The new script basically does away all these issues, but it’s natural to complain about these changes. It is a normal psychological reaction to feel negatively towards a new translation you’ve grown with. One example would the the Finnish retranslation of Peter Pan. The original wasn’t exactly accurate and took a lot of liberties, translating the names in a more Disney-esque way than anything else. The new translation is more accurate and representative in what ideas the book holds, but people disliked it anyway because it was new and against what they were used to.

As for the cropped CGs, âge’s been doing that since 2007. This isn’t exactly anything new, and these complains are coming in about a decade too late. The reason again is corporate politics. It’d cost more to add more content to the CGs to fit in the new resolution than to crop them. For purists, it is bullshit, but hardcore purists wouldn’t want to play anything but the original CD release anyway. Gotta read it as originally intended. In addition, depending how the CG is stored in the files, ixtl shouldn’t have much problems showcasing the whole CG in the Gallery mode.

As for the lack of porn, Steam doesn’t allow adult content like that. Secondly, producing a patch on itself is its own thing, separate from the rest of the deal. It may sound bewildering, but as the Muv-Luv Steam Version is based on the All-Ages version, it takes work from ixtl’s side to even create a patch to put in the necessary scenes and their script.  My guess is that patch isn’t high on the task list, not by a long shot. A wild guess would be that we can expect to see some proper news about the patch closer to Alternative‘s release. Then again, most people tend to say erotica scenes don’t matter or add to the story, but as soon as they’re missing, people seem to go ballistic.

There is also the issue of them being porn. ixtl and âge have been trying to clean their image, despite their streams not showing that, and there’s also the issue of age, or rather, the assumed age of the characters. Miki’s not the most legal looking character out there, and such things will cause certain troubles if not handled properly.

Still, I’m willing to bet it’s mostly about the money that goes into developing patch, as it might possibly break game saves and the like. From what I’ve seen, even when âge showcases how powerful their editing software are, they’re barely able to anything complex. Every game they’ve developed, like Faraway Dawn and those minigames in Altered Fable‘s Before the Shimmering Time Ends  have been horrible. Hell, the beach ball minigame in bugged to the point winning and losing really is dependent on said bug. I doubt the current release of Muv-Luv would even be out now if they didn’t have outside help.

Outside these, all the rest are more or less in line with the usual updating that don’t require any special mention. Some don’t like how large the user interface is, but I bet these people forget it’s supposed to work on tablets too, hence the design. Some have complained about yakisoba sandwich not being yakisoba bread, when in all actuality it should be baguette with fried buckwheat noodle. There’s some corporate bullshit in the background as usual for Japanese companies, and if you’ve ever really looked into how ixtl and age handles stuff beside their publicity, there’s some rotten stuff in there. The same applies to all Japanese companies, but it’s sad to see that being a rule in their corporate culture than an exception.

If we’re completely fair, if you have complaints that are about the CGs, music and the like that does not concern the English script or Degica’s English publications and PR, you should throw a message to ixtl instead.

Muv-Luv is out on Steam

I feel like pointing this out, even thou most of my readers already are reading it. Muv-Luv’s out.

The question now is; will I be replacing my old screenshots in the previous posts? The answer is… maybe. Most likely a no, because of archival purposes.

If you’re interested to see what’s new and how it looks, I recommend checking the stream I did with Alternative Projects people under ARG podacst banner with some guests.

It’s a been journey. Now just to sit tight and wait for the physicals and Alternative.

A lack of steam in a machine

Valve’s Steam Machines were launched some seven months ago. They’ve made no impact on the consumers’ habits or to the general scene. The industry expected them to have an impact or challenge the existing consoles, but the reality is, nobody outside hardcore Steam fans gave a damn about them.

Not even their controller has made a huge impact. They’ve sold about a half million Steam controllers according to themselves (which may or may not be an exaggerated number) and the number compared to the amount of Steam’s users is laughably low. The thing is, computer is the king of input devices. You can essentially add any input device you want and even build your own, and then hope for the best the games on Steam support it, and that their anti-piracy system doesn’t screw you over. But that’s the point; PC itself is that Wild West of every thing’s free, but Steam limits the user, and Valve trying to push the Steam controller is an example of further putting that console twist to what essentially is a digital console.

However, are all these controller sold separately? Without a doubt no. This half million sales figure most likely includes sold Steam Machines as well, which would mean that the Machines have probably sold less than a half million in six month’s sales period. There are no exact numbers anywhere, and we’ll most likely never hear any. Valve had partnered with numerous companies from Alienware to NEN to deliver their machines, a thing that caused more confusion to the general public than anything else.

People who already wanted to play console games on a power PC already had their gaming rig build and ready to go, and those who didn’t want to spend few thousands to build a supercomputer were satisfied with the console versions for their own reasons.

The Steam Machine is a physical iteration of a digital games console, and it showed that people aren’t willing to dish out money on yet another machine to play games when they have a computer to run Steam on. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbone sold over a million units on their first day back in 2013. To compare how well those two sold compared to Steam Machine, PS4 had sold 10.2 million units and Xbone 5.5 million in the same passing of time.

Steam Machine has been barely a splash in a puddle, comparable to any other dud console in the game history, especially with Valve’s status. If we’re completely honest, Steam OS is an idea worth jack shit as it supports no standards widely used. Linux is a nice thing but has its own problems, while Windows still rules as the standard OS across the world in most cases, followed and overtaken by Apple’s machines in certain fields. There is no reason for a consumer to move from their standard current setup to a dedicated Steam console. There are no benefits to do so, especially when Steam is free to download.

Steam Machines have nothing to do with PC gaming, much like how the only thing Steam has to do with PC gaming is that it’s a software on PC that functions like a game console. Giving Steam Machines any credit for driving Linux gaming is stupid, as Valve already released a version of Steam catered for Linux users before Steam Machines.

What appeal do the Steam Machines have? I have to ask this, as it seems that everything was against them. They had no exclusive deals that other consoles had as all titles that were offered through it were also available on the Windows Steam. The controller had put off a lot of people due to its general functions, especially in an environment where you can put a goddamn fleshlight into the USB jack and play games by using your hip movement. Their price range is rather on the high-end, starting from around five hundred dollars if their site is to be believed. That puts it automatically above the basic budget the common consumer wants to put into a game console, and both Xbone and PS4 are cheaper. Whatever capabilities the Steam OS is wasted on a  Steam Machine, when you probably have a computer sitting next to your desk.

Steam Machine baffles me. What was the point of it in the end? To make a computer more user-friendly for a console user?  If that was the intention, they’ve underestimated their consumer base in a major way.  A console is just a box to play games on, and without anything special on a particular console (especially in the price range they are in) Steam Machines withered fast. It doesn’t help that after the Steam Machines’ launch, Valve did exactly jack shit with them and their promotion has been worse than the new Ghostbusters’.

The only good thing from all this is the fact that Valve really is intending to push Linux gaming further, but as said, Valve had been pushing that before Steam Machines. Without a doubt they are one of the major reasons why they are doing it now, and perhaps had planned it beforehand. Valve should drop their nigh stupidly manical ideas of pushing a physical iteration of Steam any further or an Operating System dedicated to it, and stick with driving more Linux and OS compatible titles.

The last thing that shows that Valve failed with Steam Machines that there is no buzz about them. There is not discussion on the general level or even news about them. Occasionally you can see news about Xbox or PlayStation, even about the Wii U. People will discuss them and their games. Steam Machines will be a footnote on electronic gaming history alongside Atari Jaguar.

However, that controller of theirs has still something in it. It’s floating in the ether and pops up in discussion about controllers, but that seems to be it. Still a failure in the end.

Microsoft combining their platforms

For some time now I’ve been expecting Microsoft to return to their native PC market. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is hitting the PC via Windows 10 Store. Similarly, Forza 6’s slimmed down version is getting a release via Win10 store as well.

What does this tell you? This tells you that Microsoft is unifying PC and Xbox One.

The Xbox brand has been less successful than Microsoft wanted it to be. From the very first console, it never dominated the market anywhere to any extend outside the America. The Xbox lost to PS2, the 360 lost to the Wii and Xbox One doesn’t seem to sell anywhere. These have translated into losses very fast, but Microsoft’s vast monetary resources have kept the brand afloat.

Not only that, but the consumer has made clear what sort of OS they prefer. Windows 7 is still the most used OS at 52.34% market share, followed by Win10 and the goddamn WinXP. Nobody liked Windows 8, and it looks like Win10 is gaining foothold because it’s a forced update. It offers something to the hardcore gamers for sure, but that’s a niche audience at best.

UWP, the Universal Windows Platform, aims to run platforms on both PC and Xbox. Seeing how Microsoft is turning Xbox into a gaming machine that can be upgraded in hardware, like almost any PC. Hell, at this point they should do away with the Xbox brand as a console and start selling them as gaming designated PCs. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody has done that either.

On top of that, Microsoft wants to get into the whole Augmented Reality stuff.

It seems they are restructuring themselves harshly, but something doesn’t seem right. They’re not making a clear-cut difference with the console market, but they are teetering on its edge. With the upgradeable hardware they are essentially announcing that their targeted consumer base will be smaller than previously, as most console gamers are not into modifying their hardware in any way.

This weird split won’t push either Xbox side or the PC side if the UWP in the way they are hoping for. Digitally, the UWP acts as one platform, but we always have to remember that there exists a large amount of different hardwares running Win10. For the cross platform to work as intended, all UWP games would need to be tied to the Xbox side of hardware in performance and options. I do not see a scenario where UWP would allow any Xbox game to use the full potential of the PC hardware because Xbox hardware exists.

On top of that, DirectX 12 will be Windows 10 exclusive and that won’t affect anything. Rather, if UWP will utilise it, the Xbox will most likely get an equivalent update to it.

UWP and Win10 Store will function as digital game console, much like how Steam works, and that is what Microsoft will have an uphill battle with. Steam is without a doubt in a monopoly position when it comes to digital platform on PC. Both EA and Ubisoft tried their own thing and failed. GOG is sticking around as a good alternative for older games. Some have expressed the worry that Windows 10 will put games behind a walled garden, forcing people to use certain software to access their games to begin with with always online functionality, but you’d think they already got used to it with Steam.

Xbox as a brand had some root as a console name, and had dedicated fans just like everything else. However, unlike most of Nintendo’s consoles, both SONY and Microsoft were always the hardcore red sea competitors. But now there is an ad floating around with a modified Xbox One claiming that Together we are ONE, and especially mentions how the whole thing goes from the best casual games to a new generation PC gaming. It’s laughable and implies that PC gaming is the hardcore market, which it really is as we’ve discussed previously.While it’s sidestepping the hardcore fallacy, it resorts to casual fallacy with no care in the world.

The Xbox One seems to become a Steam Machine in many ways, an incredibly dumbed down computer for games.

None of this matters if the software they’re offering isn’t  up the task. Microsoft can reorganise the Xbox brand and their PC side as many times as they want to, but without the software to push either one, they will fall flat. Gaming on consoles has always been about one thing and one thing only; games. With Frankenstein’s monster -esque change they’re making won’t benefit the gamers or themselves as long as they intend to mix PC and consoles together.

I see this becoming another failure in Microsoft’s ventures. Zune failed, Microsoft phones failed, Microsoft’s tablets have been failing and now their consoles have failed and are being turned into third-rate PCs. The only reason Microsoft is still around is what made them big in the first place; Windows. The OS installation base is still large and Office is still largely a standard, but with their misadventures and constant screw-ups they are doing their hardest to fuck this monopoly up.

More Steam consoles coming your way

Recently Valve Corp. put out news concerning a portable Steam machine. No, not a laptop, but a handheld console.

What a console is has been through a change as of late, and Steam isn’t the only one that’s to be credited with this. All the account systems we have now have effectively become the consoles themselves. While this is a change from physical to digital, the core function hasn’t changed.

To recount, a console is essentially physical DRM. Unlike some PC DRM that are highly invasive and might even destroy the users’ HDD. Consoles have pretty much always been about plug-n-play, thou we can argue about Pong consoles. That simple function of having the game in, either built-in or as a cartridge, and have it there the moment you turn the machine on. That is the core difference between a console and a PC. This dynamic has changed, for better or worse.

With the upcoming Nintendo NX, we have seen signs that there could be a unified account system across Nintendo platforms, akin to how PSN is shared between Vita, PSP, PS3 and PS4, or how Microsoft accounts can be shared across all MS machines. With the constant increase in digital nature of the games, the physical machine has lost most of its meaning, especially now that PS4 and XBone are very similar in design and build.

Valve’s Steam was a bit ahead of this all, providing this sort of digital game console before stepping in with the hardware business. It’s very strange to see Valve Corp. to push out multiple versions of their Steam machines. At the moment, their most expensive machine variant goes for $4 999,99 while the lowest goes for $449. That’s strange, very strange. If Valve wanted to hit the same consumer group that the Big Three are competing for, this sort of multiple machine approach feels very strange indeed. It’s understandable why to offer a digital game console on PCs, as it streamlines the usability but doesn’t magically make it PC gaming. The machine, with it being slowly but surely being turned into a mere notion, is irrelevant now. It wouldn’t be for PC gamers, who would want to modify and tweak their games to the absolute maximum possibilities and beyond, but with Steam even these so-called PC games have gone with the console route and made everything simple. It’s the plug-n-play mentality, and calling that PC gaming would be demeaning what it is.

Steam OS is another example of this change, as it quite literally turns your PC into a game console. You’ll be losing all the benefits PC gaming used to have with Steam, and with an OS the last remnants of PC gaming are almost completely lost. The only things that Steam allows the consumer to do that resembles PC gaming are options that are not found on consoles, eg. higher resolution and additional effects. These games are still tied down to the system, just like console games are.

PC gaming isn’t getting the same games as consoles and having them on better specs. Hardware race used to be a big part of PC gaming, but not anymore. There’s still those who masturbate over getting that extra frame per second over someone else, but that’s practically meaningless in comparison to actual PC gaming, where the hardware race was to actually get the game run properly. PC gaming wasn’t plug-n-play, it wasn’t necessarily easy. That’s an atmosphere that PC game is in the end. Whereas arcades were all about the reflexes and split second decisions, the PC was a thinking man’s realm. The main reason why UItima always sucked on consoles was because it’s a PC game series. It wasn’t just developed for PCs, it was designed and its core lays with the PC way of thinking. You find all the best Western RPGs on PCs, because they’re text heavy, adventures, designed to blazed through in a relatively slow pace. With consoles being in the middle between arcade and PC, they could’ve been a healthy balance between the two. The Legend of Zelda, the first properly popular Action RPG got that genre coined because it functioned like an RPG with its relatively slow overall pace but with the need to be able to manoeuvre properly in arcade like action. While most people think PC RPGs in terms of levels and numbers, these levels and numbers have been streamlined in Zelda to be simply represented with hearts, pieces of the Triforce and equipment.

In Japan this was represented in Visual Novels and their own adventure games and simulators, where the text and menu heavy games ran rampart. The occasional action game you saw was either clunky or horribly choppy to the point of almost impossible to play properly.

With PC gaming almost completely lost due to consoles becoming dumbed down PCs and the games getting mixed, it’s not surprising to see a generation or two thinking that PC gaming is just playing games on PC, which is dumbing and tamping it down to lowest common extreme.

In a recent report we saw that the most played games on Steam are Valve based. This is very similar in where those who own Xbone mostly favour games close to Microsoft’s own brand, and similar fashion follows with Nintendo and SONY as well. As much as people would hate the idea, there’s four big console companies out there, Valve being included with the Big Three.

The Portable Steam machine is… a machine to play Valve games on the go without having to resort lugging your laptop with you, essentially. I’m not a fan of the preliminary design we’ve seen, but then again the whole idea of having to use a dual-stick controls is a turn off. That’s actually a good example of a way how PC was adapted to consoles. It’s an inferior method of control despite consoles allowing whatever type controller you wanted to buy and use. The NES was a bastion of controller selections and there’s a very good reason MadCatz has a negative rap to its name, despite producing high-end arcade sticks as of late

The change from having consoles gone to digital realm is something that consumers need to get used to. That is one reason PC gaming barely exists, and you can thank Valve’s Steam for that.