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Dr.Finger
01-25-2007, 12:56 PM
Microsoft's Games for Windows Event - January 23, 2007 at the XChange in New York City

I was lucky enough to attend Microsoft's kickoff for their new Games for Windows initiative. Coinciding with the launch of the new Vista OS, Games for Windows is Microsoft's attempt to bring PC gaming back to the forefront.

First up at the event was a demonstration of how games will work in, and with, Vista. Microsoft seems to be serious about making gaming a more integral part of it's new OS, consequently games will have their own Explorer, accessed directly from the start menu. Inside of the Games Explorer you have access to all of your various games as well as features like Parental Controls, which is pretty self-explanatory, and a Hardware Rating. Basically the Hardware Rating boils your hardware configuration down to a numerical rating from one-to-ten. Games for Windows branded titles will have their minimum requirements expressed both as this numerical value and the traditional component minimums. While not a big deal for the veteran gamer, this will allow the more casual gamer to determine whether or not their system can handle a given title. The hardware requirements for Vista itself are fairly hefty, so pretty much any system running the OS will be a gaming rig.

http://www.evilavatar.com/images/thumbs/Microsoft%27s%20Emmy%20small.jpg
Yes, Microsoft also won an Emmy for technical achievement.

Another major piece of the Games for Windows initiative is the interconnectivity with Xbox Live. Three titles on the floor, Shadowrun, Uno and Halo 2, were playable on both Vista PCs and Xbox 360s while allowing for cross-platform gaming. Vista users can get gamertags just like 360 owners with all of the functionality intact. An adapter that will allow gamers to use their wireless 360 controllers on their PCs will also be in stores soon.

Direct X 10 cards - The tech demo for the DirectX 10 cards blew me away. Instead of the usual waving grass, rippling water, lens flare and shiny things this demo was an infinitely growing tree/rock formation/waterfall. You could zoom in and see amazing detail in the formations and zoom out and see the grand scale of the object, all with dynamic lighting and all of the other bells and whistles. The difference between the pitted rock and even a great texture of a pitted rock was amazing. The implications this has for games that use randomly generated environments is pretty impressive.
http://www.evilavatar.com/images/thumbs/DX10%20tech%20demo%20small.jpg
The DirectX 10 demo, with 768MB GDDR3 video card next to it.

Shadowrun - When word hit that the classic SNES/Genesis RPG would be coming to the PC as a first person shooter howls of rage were heard across the intertubes. Well fear not because the game is actually a lot of fun. First off, in addition to the standard arsenal of FPS weapons your character has access to both magic and tech abilities. For the demo I played you had teleportation, gliding, and radar sight at your disposal. At first these three abilities didn't seem to fit too well in an FPS, but after a short training level you begin to see the possibilities they present. Using the radar sight to locate an enemy behind a wall and then teleporting behind them for a quick kill is just the start. In the single-player campaign you level up and learn new skills and abilities just like an RPG, while in multiplayer modes you earn money with which you can buy skills and abilities for your character between rounds. This game was also notable for including cross-platform play, allowing PC owners to compete against their 360 brethren. Some of the graphics (building textures for example) were rather mediocre, especially when compared to the eye candy on display in rest of the exhibition, but unlike most of the other titles Shadowrun was running on DirectX 9 and not DX10. The title is still several months away from completion so these flaws can be massaged away before release. Expected release - First half of 2007

Age of Conan: Hyborean Adventures - How does this game look? Try to picture Oblivion as an MMO and you'll have a very good idea what Age of Conan looks like. The character creation looks to be as deep and detailed as any I've ever seen, so one of the biggest gripes some have with MMOs, look-alike characters, should be less of a problem in AoC. Unfortunately that customization comes at a price, as the game looks rather generic and has very little of the design flair that the big dogs on the market have. What it does have that most MMOs don't is blood, by the bucketful. Being able to grab and opponent and execute a combo that lops off their head with one blow is a very nice touch. Also differing from the MMO norm is the combat system. You use the number pad to control how you swing your weapon (forehand, backhand, downward, etc) and the combat is more real time than turn based (again, like in Oblivion). The emphasis of the game will lean more towards PvP combat. You will eventually be able to own property and recruit hirelings like architects to build structures, with an eye towards massive city vs. city and guild vs. guild combat events. In addition there will be a more story driven single player aspect of the title, but when you hit the towns it shifts almost seamlessly into an MMO. Expected release - Q2 2007

http://www.evilavatar.com/images/thumbs/Age%20of%20Conan%20small.jpg
See your enemies driven before you...

Crysis - The title every graphics junkie has been salivating over for months. And, yes, it looks every bit as great as you thought it would. The leaves and trees move and sway organically. The enemies move smoothly around the various obstacles and crumble delightfully when capped. The level of detail on everything was just awesome to behold. The relatively short demo I played was set in a jungle with normal military-type enemies, although later stages of the game will be a bit more fantastic. Pretty much everything in your environment is destructible. A few well-placed machine gun rounds will take off the tops of palm trees in the distance and a solid thump from the butt of your rifle will remove the corrugated tin roof from one of the shacks. The game plays mostly like a standard first person shooter, with a few twists thrown in. Your character can customize their 'Nano-armor' to give their character different enhancements. Camouflage allows you to sneak past, or up to, enemies. Strength lets you hurl large objects, including enemies, long distances and super-jump. Speed makes you a blur to your foes. While fun none of these enhancements really added much to the strategy in the section I played. At the moment it seems more like Far Cry 2.0 than a whole new game. Expected release - Q4 2007

World in Conflict - This real-time strategy title posits a world in which the Soviet Union, instead of collapsing in 1989, launches a full scale invasion of Western Europe and North America. Unlike most RTS' you don't have to get bogged down in resource management and base building, all you have to do is plan and fight. You begin each map with a role (armor, aircraft, infantry and support roles) and a set number of unit points. You 'purchase' units using these points and send them out to battle. When a unit is destroyed, its point value is re-added to your total so you're never left without any units. Battles are won, and lost, by capturing and holding strategically significant points on the map and winning the 'tug-of-war' for control of the map. The graphics in World in Conflict are top shelf. The camera can zoom in tight enough to read the signs in the windows of the small-town stores and zoom out enough to really see the entire battlefield. The camera controls are mapped to the WASD buttons to make it easy for players to zip around the battlefield and manage the action. The environment, in this case a small mountain town in the Pacific Northwest, shows the scars of battle as the detailed units sweep through smoothly. The Red Dawn-esque story is shepherded by veteran military/espionage writer Larry Bond and it sounds like a cool concept for a game. Let's be honest, almost any RTS that isn't set in the near future, WWII or Gondor is a refreshing change of pace, but this one seems like a keeper. Taking resource gathering and base construction out of the equation and boiling it down to just strategic combat may open this title up to a lot of strategy-phobic gamers out there. Expected release - second half of 2007

http://www.evilavatar.com/images/thumbs/WiC%20small.jpg
I love the smell of napalm in the morning!

Supreme Commander - The floor title closest to release, Supreme Commander lives up to the buzz as (possibly) the next big thing in strategy gaming. Firstly, it looks great, especially on the dual widescreen monitor set-up at the show. The right hand screen shows resources and a map of the action, with the left hand screen showing the nitty-gritty action. The units are bright and colorful with some very nice designs. Overall it controls like your standard RTS with resources, bases and the like. The real fun began when you zoom out, and out, and out. The scale of the battles is truly stunning and really feels global. Unfortunately I didn't get a sense for how well this feature works. It seems like it could be really revolutionary, but it also feels like a bit much to manage at one time. Expected release - February 20, 2007

Casual Games for Windows - Microsoft seemed very enthusiastic about this initiative, and with good reason. Developers like PopCap make a ton off of simple games with broad appeal, and the Xbox Live Arcade has been a big hit with similar fare. The titles available for play were a good mix of XBL stalwarts (Uno, Geometry Wars Retro), puzzle games (Luxor, 7 Wonders) board games (chess) and even action (Darwinia). Nothing exactly mindblowing, but solid, fun titles. Expected release - January 30, 2007

Overall this was an interesting peek into the near future of PC gaming.

bapenguin
01-25-2007, 01:11 PM
Sweet. Great article. Wish I could have gone. :) I miss all the gaming I used to do on my PC, so here's hoping developers start making more solid title on the platform.

Draconis
01-25-2007, 01:23 PM
Too bad it didn't go into further details. The UAC details about installing programs and games has me very concerned, not to mention the ordeal that Vista will be using up CPU cycles to check and make sure your signal is not violating "Premium Content"


I don't have high hopes for vista as an OS, or even as a gaming machine overall. We'll just have to see how things progress.

Oxonian
01-25-2007, 01:26 PM
Basically the Hardware Rating boils your hardware configuration down to a numerical rating from one-to-ten. Games for Windows branded titles will have their minimum requirements expressed both as this numerical value and the traditional component minimums. While not a big deal for the veteran gamer, this will allow the more casual gamer to determine whether or not their system can handle a given title.
I hadn't heard of this. How does a fixed scale work in the context of computer hardware components, which are constantly advancing? For example, let's say Crysis is rated a '5' on the Hardware Rating, while (say) Doom 3 is rated '3'. Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?

Codicier
01-25-2007, 01:34 PM
Last line of the Supreme Commander paragraph has "but" where it should be "bit"

Other than that, awesome writeup, and I also wish I could have gone. I mean, I'm not going to be upgrading for a while (very happy with my current XP setup) but it's not like I'd pass up the chance to see cool stuff.

CrashCart
01-25-2007, 01:35 PM
I hadn't heard of this. How does a fixed scale work in the context of computer hardware components, which are constantly advancing? For example, let's say Crysis is rated a '5' on the Hardware Rating, while (say) Doom 3 is rated '3'. Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?
You beat me to it. While a fixed number might be great if hardware never changed, it won't make any sense years down the road when what used to be a bleeding edge game can run on everyday hardware. Same goes for rating a system between one and ten. It doesn't mean anything after a couple of months have passed.

Great article either way, though. I doubt I'll be installing Vista anytime soon, but it's nice to see that some effort is being made to make PC gaming an easier experience for the end users.

BleedTheFreak
01-25-2007, 01:36 PM
I hadn't heard of this. How does a fixed scale work in the context of computer hardware components, which are constantly advancing? For example, let's say Crysis is rated a '5' on the Hardware Rating, while (say) Doom 3 is rated '3'. Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?

I'd imagine that as time goes by your own number slowly lowers unless you've been upgrading it. Not sure *how* that would work, but it seems like the best solution. Maybe every 6 months or so the hardware database this thing uses gets updated and auto-run the benchmark tool to give you a new number based on what's "high end" at the moment?

I know the scale goes up to 5.9, for some reason. I'm hoping I break a 5.0 myself.

Kweli
01-25-2007, 01:36 PM
We are testing Vista on a few of our business machines... It seems like the rating system isnt the greatest... You get a score based on your 'weakest link'
So you can have a great CPU and 2gig's memory, but still get a low score because of one lacking part

Sion
01-25-2007, 01:39 PM
The best part about Games for Windows?

DVD cases!

Oxonian
01-25-2007, 01:42 PM
I'd imagine that as time goes by your own number slowly lowers unless you've been upgrading it. Not sure *how* that would work, but it seems like the best solution. Maybe every 6 months or so the hardware database this thing uses gets updated and auto-run the benchmark tool to give you a new number based on what's "high end" at the moment?
Oh, wow, I'm sure that the casual gamer is going to love watching his hardware depreciate before his very eyes. :rolleyes: I know the stuff I have at home isn't worth much anymore, but I don't know I like the idea of my OS giving my PC the equivalent of the Wicked Witch's scream, "I'm melting! I'm meltinnnnng..."
We are testing Vista on a few of our business machines... It seems like the rating system isnt the greatest... You get a score based on your 'weakest link'
So you can have a great CPU and 2gig's memory, but still get a low score because of one lacking part
Isn't that the most sensible way, though? I don't want to take home a game thinking I'll be able to run it, only to discover that my blazing-fast GPU is getting held up by a CPU straight from La Brea. Unless we're talking about the rare situation where one good component can actually shoulder some of the burden from a weaker component, the user needs to know the bottleneck.

BleedTheFreak
01-25-2007, 01:48 PM
Oh, wow, I'm sure that the casual gamer is going to love watching his hardware depreciate before his very eyes. :rolleyes: I know the stuff I have at home isn't worth much anymore, but I don't know I like the idea of my OS giving my PC the equivalent of the Wicked Witch's scream, "I'm melting! I'm meltinnnnng..."

Well, I am just speculating. You make a good point, but I think it would be important that casual players understand that 2 years after thy buy that 5.3 rated PC, it's really only a 4.6 or so now. That sort of thing. Well, I know I would, and I also know casual folks like my wife wouldn't care much one way or the other. If you are a person who WOULD care about your rating dropping, it occurs to me that you'd also be a person who would be inclined up upgrade, maybe.

Dr.Finger
01-25-2007, 01:52 PM
I hadn't heard of this. How does a fixed scale work in the context of computer hardware components, which are constantly advancing? For example, let's say Crysis is rated a '5' on the Hardware Rating, while (say) Doom 3 is rated '3'. Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?I asked the Microsoft rep about this and pretty much got a non answer. I'll keep on it though.

Voodoo
01-25-2007, 01:55 PM
I hadn't heard of this. How does a fixed scale work in the context of computer hardware components, which are constantly advancing? For example, let's say Crysis is rated a '5' on the Hardware Rating, while (say) Doom 3 is rated '3'. Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?After that Vista's replacement comes out so this scale will be... as Microsoft would state... Legacy. :D

Magnanimous Gnome
01-25-2007, 02:01 PM
I'm curious about the hardware ratings as well.

Say you are looking at Diablo 3, for example, and on the box it says that it requires a hardware rating of 4. Your system scored a 4.5 last week, so you take the game home and enjoy it.

Now say someone with the same system picks up Diablo 3 a year later. They scored a 3 on the hardware test, because of course hardware keeps getting more advanced, so what was a 4.5 last year is now a 3. However the D3 box still says that it requires a 4. Thus this person thinks that he cannot run the game and doesn't buy it.

That was a little convoluted, but I hope you guys understand my point. Will Blizzard and other companies constantly re-evaluate the rating that their games require, even months or a few years after release? Will they then reprint the boxes? How will this work with early runs of games that have yet to sell? Will EB, Bestbuy, etc. use little stickers to change the ratings. I just don't understand how a system like this could work. I do understand the purpose behind it though.

Oxonian
01-25-2007, 02:13 PM
That was a little convoluted, but I hope you guys understand my point.
I got it. Excellent point. I, for one, frequently buy games a year or so after they come out (you would be amazed how much money in hardware and software that saves). I could see the Hardware Rating being little more than an irritant for someone who does that. That's ironic, because a casual gamer probably is especially likely to pick something up only after it's been out for a while.

Slack3r78
01-25-2007, 02:18 PM
Now say someone with the same system picks up Diablo 3 a year later. They scored a 3 on the hardware test, because of course hardware keeps getting more advanced, so what was a 4.5 last year is now a 3. However the D3 box still says that it requires a 4. Thus this person thinks that he cannot run the game and doesn't buy it.
The sensible solution would be to scale the maximum possible rating up throughout Vista's lifetime, hence why a 6.0 is the current maximum possible score. The could bump the max up to 7.0 in 12 months, etc. This is Microsoft, however, so we'll see if that actually happens.

J-Dizzle
01-25-2007, 02:21 PM
No, no, no. This isn't how it works at all.

You get a rating based on your hardware, and it's pretty good as benchmarks go. It hits your memory, GFX card, HDD etc. with different kinds of data, and rates their performance.

At the moment my PC gives me a rating of 4.2, even though most of my components are above 5.0, since it does indeed give your rating based on the slowest component.

However, that 4.2 is NOT ever gonna change. At the moment, based on current hardware, the maximum rating Vista will give you is 5.9. However, this will increase as hardware power increases. So maximum is 5.9 now. In a year the maximum will increase to 7 or 8, but MY PC will STILL be a 4.2. It will just be behind the curve.

So for the next year or so, games will publish THEIR rating as anything up to 6.0 I guess, and I will know that my PC will probably handle them.

As games start to get more sophisticated, their requirement will increase to, let's say, 7,8 or 9, and I know my PC might have some performance issues with them.

But that game that's a year old, and is rated as 5, I still know my PC will handle because my rating will still be 4.2.

Make sense ? I'm kinda tired. :)

Slack3r78
01-25-2007, 02:23 PM
However, that 4.2 is NOT ever gonna change. At the moment, based on current hardware, the maximum rating Vista will give you is 5.9. However, this will increase as hardware power increases. So maximum is 5.9 now. In a year the maximum will increase to 7 or 8, but MY PC will STILL be a 4.2. It will just be behind the curve.

So for the next year or so, games will publish THEIR rating as anything up to 6.0 I guess, and I will know that my PC will probably handle them.
Your attention span is greater than mine. This is more or less what I was trying to say.

J-Dizzle
01-25-2007, 02:26 PM
Your attention span is greater than mine. This is more or less what I was trying to say.

Yes and it took me so long to type it, you beat me to it :)

But your right, this IS how it works. :D

CptTripps
01-25-2007, 02:32 PM
Lots to be excited about for sure!!

RainOfTerror
01-25-2007, 02:45 PM
I been using Vista for a month or 2 now, and I'm not impressed so far.

Any OS that asks you to remove your virus software prior to install, because it is not compatible, is no good.

Slack3r78
01-25-2007, 02:48 PM
I been using Vista for a month or 2 now, and I'm not impressed so far.

Any OS that asks you to remove your virus software prior to install, because it is not compatible, is no good.
Anti-virus software that breaks Microsoft's software guidelines in a way that would render it incompatible with Vista is no good.

GigaFuzz
01-25-2007, 03:55 PM
The best part about Games for Windows?

DVD cases!

2001 called, they want their new box format back!

Oxonian
01-25-2007, 03:59 PM
2001 called, they want their new box format back!
1994 called, they want their catchphrase back.

Dr.Finger
01-25-2007, 04:07 PM
1994 called, they want their catchphrase back.1994 called. They want to know if we'd take Vanilla Ice off their hands.

GigaFuzz
01-25-2007, 04:07 PM
1994 called, they want their catchphrase back.

I knew someone was going to call me out on that one. Hell, I normally don't like it, but it's late and creativity is lacking.

Zeal
01-25-2007, 04:10 PM
Age of Conan is my most anticipated MMO.

I really wanna beta this sucker.

mister_slim
01-25-2007, 05:52 PM
Any more details on Casual Games for Windows? What exactly is it? Is it basically a MS aggregation site? Or more like Live Arcade? Will the games tie into Live at all? Or is it basically just a certification thing?

Schnoogs
01-25-2007, 06:04 PM
No, no, no. This isn't how it works at all.

You get a rating based on your hardware, and it's pretty good as benchmarks go. It hits your memory, GFX card, HDD etc. with different kinds of data, and rates their performance.

At the moment my PC gives me a rating of 4.2, even though most of my components are above 5.0, since it does indeed give your rating based on the slowest component.

However, that 4.2 is NOT ever gonna change. At the moment, based on current hardware, the maximum rating Vista will give you is 5.9. However, this will increase as hardware power increases. So maximum is 5.9 now. In a year the maximum will increase to 7 or 8, but MY PC will STILL be a 4.2. It will just be behind the curve.

So for the next year or so, games will publish THEIR rating as anything up to 6.0 I guess, and I will know that my PC will probably handle them.

As games start to get more sophisticated, their requirement will increase to, let's say, 7,8 or 9, and I know my PC might have some performance issues with them.

But that game that's a year old, and is rated as 5, I still know my PC will handle because my rating will still be 4.2.

Make sense ? I'm kinda tired. :)

That makes sense and should easily scale.

Schnoogs
01-25-2007, 06:05 PM
I been using Vista for a month or 2 now, and I'm not impressed so far.

Any OS that asks you to remove your virus software prior to install, because it is not compatible, is no good.

This is about a 10 on the "dumb reasons to hate an OS" scale.

bapenguin
01-26-2007, 04:44 AM
This is about a 10 on the "dumb reasons to hate an OS" scale.

Especially since you should be doing a clean install from the DVD.

Grifter
01-26-2007, 04:54 AM
I been using Vista for a month or 2 now, and I'm not impressed so far.

Any OS that asks you to remove your virus software prior to install, because it is not compatible, is no good.

I have been using Vista Ultimate X64 for a while now as well and considering it is an unreleased OS still in beta (when I installed it) I think it runs pretty damn smooth, it has yet to crash on me and other than a few programs everything has installed just fine. Considering I haven't installed a single driver (my system may be to old to get Vista support) thats pretty impressive in my book.

Any one complaining about compatibility issues after doing a dirty install of a completely different OS than what was originally on their system can't be to intelligent, of course I have seen your website so no real surprise there.

Dr.Finger
01-26-2007, 06:01 AM
Any more details on Casual Games for Windows? What exactly is it? Is it basically a MS aggregation site? Or more like Live Arcade? Will the games tie into Live at all? Or is it basically just a certification thing?It comes in three flavors. Messenger games, which you play over Microsoft's IM service (now called Live Messenger). MSN web games. And Windows games (7 Wonders, Luxor, Geometry Wars, etc), which you'll be able to DL for between $10-$20. Some, but not all, of the Windows games will tie into Live. I looks to me like Microsoft is trying to give PopCap and companies like that a run for their money, but in the process make a lot more multi-player titles.

president_fred
01-26-2007, 06:21 AM
This is about a 10 on the "dumb reasons to hate an OS" scale.
Is this like the Hardware rating scale in that it increases with time as dumber reasons are invented.
"I don't like windows 3000 because my alien-zombie overlord has the despot edition and I only have peon!"

Stormwatcher
01-26-2007, 06:29 AM
I installed Vista Home Pro on a separate partition yesterday, and so far I love it.

pretty, stable, smooth, does stuff better.

Schnoogs
01-26-2007, 07:32 AM
Is this like the Hardware rating scale in that it increases with time as dumber reasons are invented.
"I don't like windows 3000 because my alien-zombie overlord has the despot edition and I only have peon!"


HA!! I think so.

Roc Ingersol
01-26-2007, 09:32 AM
Won't games being released in 2010 start hitting the '10' mark? What happens after that?
This game goes to 11.

Slack3r78
01-26-2007, 09:41 AM
This game goes to 11.
Winner.

This thread can be closed now.