Black Viper
Black Viper
Dec 282001

Console or Computer?

Gaming has been in my blood since the first time I played PONG at a friends house. Was it fate that PONG debuted the same year I was born? I think so. My first gaming system was a Atari 2600. I truly enjoyed all of the blocky sprites and the genuinely uncomfortable smash-the-corner-in-to-the-palm-of-your-hand one button black joysticks that came with the system. Many hours were spent in front of the TV set, playing mindless hand-eye coordination games. Those were the days…

My first “true love” has to be the Commodore 64. A computer built for the home user, as opposed to Apple’s in schools and IBM’s in office’s and an outstandingly (for the time) advanced system. Not only was it used for “educational” purposes, such as typing up my school reports (and having others pay me to do theirs), to keep my parents happy, but it was used to teach me the beginnings of programming. The games were so enjoyable that I figured that no console (without a keyboard) could possibly ever touch a “dedicated” computer environment built for gaming. RPG’s are hindered on anything less than the ability to have a keyboard for input. I knew that I would never want to go back to a console…

Along came Nintendo. I did enjoy the “updated” graphics (compared to the 2600) that the console sported, but the game pad really made me mad. I liked joysticks. I purchased an Advantage for the system and that really breathed new life in to a console that I figured would not go much farther. Back to the Commodore 64…

After a long absence from the gaming industry while I served in the US Military, I returned with a EXTREME need to play the best of the best… After all, the amount of time that had passed, we should have all been playing 2048×1563 on a flat panel screen… Not quite.

The first “Gaming System” I built had a new P166 with 32 MB Memory and a Matrox 4 MB card. Hell, with this, you could do SO much, right? After all, the Commodore only had 64K! Wrong. It was not until I built the state-of-the-art P2 300 with Dual VooDoo 2’s that the industry actually caught up to where I felt they should have been already! Then, the gaming industry started to annoy me. With a different Direct X version arriving every week, driver versions that had to be installed in a particular order and buggy games with large patches being the “norm” and not the exception, I began to remember the days of the Atari 2600 when you could just “Plug” in the cartridge and “Play” away.

Having my “Gaming System” evolve from that super P2 300 to the now (as of this writing) P4 1.8 GHz with a 64 MBvideo card (twice as much RAM as my system memory had in the FIRST computer). I did not expect much from a console system…
But, after all, it does have the tried and true “PC” components installed!


With a hard drive, a crippled P3 733 and a bastardized GeForce3 at the helm, I figured the XBOX would send me back to the days of “Plug and Play.” I am very sick of OS configurations, driver conflicts, patches and tweaks. I want to play. Plug in controllers, insert DVD and fire it up… Wow. It does look very pretty, but I am sure that it cannot touch the frame rates, nor the pure cool factor of playing Max Payne at 1600×1200 on a system that I “normally” use for gaming… But, I was not planning on it. After all, the XBOX was ONLY $300. 🙂

(UPDATE: 23FEB2002) I do wish that SOME game developer would get the bright idea of using the hard drive and memory cards for something more than save games… Like, maybe even CONTROLLER CONFIGURATIONS! Wow! They might even be able to INCLUDE them in the save game, of which I am assuming that configurations for 12 buttons, 2 d-pads and 2 sticks cannot take up THAT much room! I almost always hate the “default” controls. I want to remap every button to what ever I want. When is this actually going to happen?!?

Copyright infringement?

The music industry has lately (and a bit more quietly in the past) voiced a rather drastic opinion on “Digital” copies of music. Whether it be file swapping MP3’s on Napster or making a backup copy of a CD to play in the car or give to the kids for their room, the music industry says that it is VERY wrong. Ok. Fine. I was under the impression that I could copy the CD for PERSONAL use…

Micro$oft and there wonderful Windows Product Activation that I am VERY not happy with, also is taking a rather drastic approach to copy protection by pinning software to the hardware. Ok. Fine.

Lets meld the technology, shall we? A feature on the XBOX is the ability to “copy” music CD’s to the internal hard disk for later playback either with or WITHOUT a game in the system! Yes, you can, if you so desired, take a CD, “rip”
it to your friends XBOX and walk away while your friend enjoys the newly copied songs! Is that NOT copyright infringement? Micro$oft actually HELPS you do this?!? For two industries to collide so on this system, I am surprised that the music industry allowed it to happen. After all, you can also copy a song onto the little memory unit…

(UPDATE: 18FEB2002) A kind reader informed me that you actually cannot copy a song onto the memory unit… the original statement was just to see if someone has made a program to do so… but why would you need to… since you can just take the CD and copy it direct, anyway!

Online Gaming

I want to play online. Period. I do not have the ability to do so because cable/DSL is yet to be available in my area. Even though I have called the phone company under different names (heheh) and expressed my deep desire for such a high speed connection, they do not seem to care much. Here comes Micro$oft.

Soon, Micro$oft will be offering an online opportunity for the Xbox to link up gamers to play over a broadband connection. This could be a good and a bad thing. I feel that allowing the XBOX to be placed on such a medium would also allow the undesirable effects of “downloadable” patches to fix a game that was released to early (or should have never been released at all). Even so, how about those wonderful folks, such as I, who cannot get broadband? Will we just be stuck with a crappy/buggy game? Even though I no longer enjoy updating to newer and “faster” drivers, at least I am ALLOWED to download and install them! Will we be “allowed” to purchase an “expansion” pack to FIX the game and add a few “new” features without having to use the internet? I am also sure that the expansion pack will NOT be free… Even more food for thought, will we be able to swap songs off of the XBOX to others with broad band connection? Only time will tell…


Console ports over to the PC have been around for quite awhile, but never really catch on. The restricted interface (game pad), the annoying “save game points” and the jump/seek/kill puzzle solving of the console games is sad at best. Can the XBOX turn around this trend?

I am hoping that game developers will use the internal hard drive for something other than patch storage. I also hope that they realize that more than one person can play a particular game on a system. Dead or Alive 3 does save your progress and unlock particular sections, but does not have the ability to “save” profiles of different users. A console downfall in my opinion. Project Gotham Racing saves your progress, gives stupid stats such as how long you have played, and gives the ability to copy it to a memory card for transfer to another system. Kudos to the developers. Azurik gives the ability for a single player game with save points. GET OVER IT! If I want to save every three feet, I should be able to! I hate the developers telling me WHEN and WHERE I can save. Very annoying…

Minimum requirements?

Something that has really burned me in the recent past is the minimum requirements for games. You may not feel my pain, but it really sucks to have a “super computer” and all the games run just fine on a P200! Do we really need to play Quake at 275 FPS? We can only visually see between 60 and 70hz! Anyway, I would much rather have a game that has detail sliders, etc, than to be STUCK at what a developer thinks the game should be at… I do understand they are attempting to market their games to a large audience, not the relatively small number of people with high end gaming systems, but the choice can and should be there.

Diablo 2 was one of the “could have done more” games. Blizzard is famous for marketing games for the masses, but they also have plenty of followers that actually LIKE playing a game above 640×480!

Since the XBOX has a relatively “high” configuration compared to the minimum requirements of games at the local software store, I am hoping that developers will make games that actually utilize the system powers and not be stuck in the “got to work on a low end system” loop. Unfortunately, I am sure that the XBOX will get many ports from soon to be released PC games. Since the development cycle has raised so high, I am also sure that when the brand new game is released for the XBOX in 2005, not many people (hard core) will take notice. The ports will more than likely be stuck in the “minimum PC” configuration loop and not be able to take full advantage of the XBox powers. Sounds to me like a lose/lose situation…
Back to the PC…

Black Viper
December 28, 2001

Revision History

December 28, 2001: Initial release.

February 18, 2002: Included information about transfering songs onto a memory unit.