Five Exciting Things About The Future Of PC Gaming

I went to a few panels at PAX Australia this year, but one of my personal favourites was "What's Driving The Future Of PC Gaming", which featured an all-star cast including the man behind Star Citizen, Chris Roberts. Listening to a number of smart people discuss the future of the PC as a gaming device was a pleasure. Here were some of my favourite insights from the panel.

1. Alienware Believes The Living Room Is The Future

In fact, they're banking on it, to the point where one of their living room focused devices comes packed with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard, because it suits lounge room gaming.

"There are thousands of games on Steam," said Joe Olmsted, a Product Development Manager at Alienware, "and hundreds of those are playable with a controller.

"Since we've started this project we've seen so many devs come out with multiple person 'couch' games."

One of the games referenced was the Australian-made Screencheat. A game that works best with four people in the same space, using controllers in a living room situation. We're seeing more and more of these kind of games being released on PC, says Olmstead.

2. Oculus Thinks Virtual Reality Is The "Final Platform"

What does that mean exactly? Well, it doesn't mean that virtual reality is for everyone, or that virtual reality will be the only platform on PC. Callum Underwood, the Developer Relations Manager at Oculus VR was adamant that other ways of using PC gaming will continue to exist long after the commercial release of the Oculus Rift. He even acknowledged that not everyone will enjoy virtual reality.

When Callum said that Oculus expects virtual reality to be the final platform, I'd suggest he's referring to the fact that it is about as far as we can go in terms of an actual platform. Virtual reality is, for want of a better term, as immersive as gaming can get, particularly as it solves all the problems that come with it over the coming years.

3. But Mouse And Keyboard Still Has A Future (Obviously)

But for all the talk of controllers and VR, the panellists were convinced that the (not-so) humble mouse and keyboard still has a place in PC gaming. Of course it does. Callum Underwood, from Oculus VR made the point that Oculus tends to demo games using a controller because firstly, controller literacy is high and, secondly, you often need to look at a keyboard whilst playing. That doesn't really fly with the Oculus Rift. Experienced players will very rarely need to look at a controller whilst playing.

But, of course, the mouse and keyboard is still absolutely the best and most efficient input for many games. Civilization was an example brought up by the panel. No-one could ever imagine playing that without a mouse and keyboard.

A general theme from the panel dialled in on the ability of PC gaming to evolve in multiple different directions at once. One of the key strengths of PC gaming is its ability to shape itself for the user. People want different things from video games, and PC gaming is able to provide that kind of choice. It's easily the most malleable platform in gaming.

4. PC Is A Breeding Ground For New Ideas

The idea of PC gaming as a breeding ground for new innovative ideas was a powerful one for the panel. This comes almost directly from the ability of small teams to create, build and release games relatively cheaply and easily. This allows for innovative ideas to transform what we imagine gaming is capable of.

It's about digital distribution and the barriers this removes. Chris Roberts made reference to the removal of middle-men. This means that certain developers don't have to sell as many games to be successful, allowing creators to take bigger risks with their games.

Games on consoles tend to be strangled with the cost of production, especially on the AAA side, which sometimes leads to certain niche genres not being catered for. This isn't the case with PC gaming, and as it continues to grow in scope we'll continue to see more interesting games and interesting ideas.

5. PC's Future Is Also About Its Past

"A huge advantage of the PC platform is not just its future, but its past," explained Aidan Scanlan, the Assistant Director of Design at Bioware.

By this, Scanlan is referring to how easy it is for gamers to buy and keep the old games they loved on the PC platform — especially compared to consoles where generational leaps often mean the old games you own are redundant and unplayable on your new box. The ability to build and maintain a library of games for years, and have them work on new operating systems is a huge boon for PC gaming and a pretty solid reason for gaming on a PC.

Services like Good Old Games are a part of that, helping make older games playable on new PCs.

I think my key takeaway from the conference was this: PC gaming as a platform is more relevant than ever, and it will stay relevant because of its ability to remain flexible and malleable. It evolves quickly and it evolves very specifically to each player's own unique needs. You can make PC gaming work for you and what you want. The same cannot be said of more rigid console platforms.

I walked out of the theatre with one thought on my mind: "I really need to build myself a new desktop PC".


    As good a point as ever to counter "The death of the PC". Having a main PC in the study, one hooked up to the TV as a media center / streaming machine, and an nvidia shield for streaming elsewhere in the house, it's just proof how versatile it is. Plus, building a PC is such a personal rewarding experience. So glad I've been able to do that.

    In short - yes Mark, you do need to build yourself a new PC ;)

    The fact that I can play a game from 40 years ago on my PC with no thought given as to the how says it all.

    I can't wait to get into some 4K gaming, long story short my TV/ PC monitor died yesterday.

    My new TV is a 50" TCL 4K TV, i managed to pick it up for $1000, it's not in the same league as Samsung or LG but reading reviews they don't seem to that bad and watching 4K demo video on the display model it seemed to just as good as the big brands but $2K cheaper then the equivalent big brand models.

    New 4K TV with a new GTX 980 hopefully my eyes will be getting some 4K gaming goodness when the TV gets delivered on Tuesday.

      Are you sure it supports a 60Hz refresh rate? That's one of the reasons I'm holding off buying anything for 4K right now. Once HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.3 become standard though...

        Looking at the website, the TV has got a refresh rate of 200Hz.

        Having a quick look at it, HDMI 2.0 doesn't seem to matter too much at the moment, once 4K becomes cheaper and more standard it might, anyways i'll give 4K gaming a try, if it's not that spectacular i'll go back to 1080p or try 1440p.

        Either way i'll have fun seeing what my new TV and video card can and can't do.

          Yeah that sounds good. Ive just seen too many "cheap" 4K monitors and TVs locked at 30Hz.

          It doesn't have a refresh rate of 200Hz, I can guarantee that.

        HDMI 2.0 and Display Port 1.2 can do UHD at 60hz, the only UHD TV's that have Display Port though, are high end Panasonic models.

    As a mostly console gamer atm, it's really great to hear about these things. I have a bit of basic PC set up that goes to the TV. It's not great but it will do until I get a new kick arse PC. When that happens, I think my gaming will swing back in favour of the PC.

    At the end of the day though, I like variety so I'll probably always mix and match platforms (as I've always done) because there is so much to play out there. And if you can afford to, then why limit yourself?

    In response to the KB & Mouse comments:

    1) "Controller literacy is high" : And KB/Mouse literacy isn't. If a person can afford a Console, then it is almost certain that they've also used a keyboard and mouse. Controllers are almost entirely for gaming, KB/Mouse, is used for... everything. So i think that point isn't valid...

    2) "often need to look at a keyboard whilst playing" If you're doing this, you're doing it wrong

    Last edited 02/11/14 2:39 pm

      Exactly!! I don't ever look at my keyboard when playing a PC game. It's also very difficult not to position your hands, especially with the Keyboard Bumps on "F" & "J" keys.

      Only time you would need a controller with VR is when your physically running around in your house or something.

      It's true that just about everyone knows how to use a keyboard and mouse - for typing and clicking on icons. Using them both simultaneously to control a game is another thing entirely. To those of us who've already mastered it it's easy to forget how complicated it seemed at the beginning.

      Whereas if you know how to use a controller, then by default you know how to use one to control a game because that's all they can do. I know quite a few people who are perfectly comfortable with controllers but struggle with KB/mouse.

        Me, I sit in front of a computer all day at work. Throw in a game & it's suddenly amateur hour.

      I was at the panel, Mark probably didn't explain the context well enough. The problem is that in VR you can easily represent the controller without a problem, it's a completely known quantity. With a keyboard unless you have your hands completely bolted to it at all times it's too easy to simply loose where you are, not to mention the fact that there are a gazillion different keyboards. People are more than familiar with the usage of Mouse and Keyboard, it's just not optimal for VR usage (quite frankly neither is the controller since it lacks fidelity.

      Definitely agree, I hardly even know what the keys on my keyboard look like because I never see them, if you know how to touch type then you will never have a problem.

    My personal view from that panel was that Chris Roberts came across very PC-master-race-douchey (but given the specific topic of the panel that might have just been playing to his audience), and it was pretty poor that Joe from Alienware repeatedly referred to big gamic rigs as not being "spouse friendly". Seemed unnecessary, and a perspective I thought we were trying to get away from.

      Seriously? Do people still say "PC Master Race"? Or is it just the jealous "console kiddies" that still say that.? ;-)

      Last edited 03/11/14 12:41 pm

        It just seemed the best phrase to sum up the way i thought Chris came across.

    There was nothing douchey at all about what Chris Roberts was saying: The simple fact is, Chris Roberts is making a 4k game that is being optimised heavily for Virtual Reality. No console can currently support what they are doing with Star Citizen. I went to the seperate launch event and got to talking with one of the First Person Shooter developers. It was a huge eye opener. I've done a lot of programming/game development related stuff, but some of what I was told was actually rather shocking. For instance, they basically don't use normal/bump mapping in Star Citizen. When you see floor tiles in the game, it's because they've actually modelled the geometry for the floor tile. The same is true of the ships. And for the HUD display, it's a combination of Flash animations being rendered onto 3d geometry, and actual 3d geometry. EG the missile lock on animations are actually 3d models being manipulated/rendered in real time. Consoles would literally die trying to draw half of the stuff they are doing in-engine.

    Last edited 03/11/14 1:13 pm

    Hang on, I thought PC gaming was dead/dieing... I guess I'm a year late to the party.

    Last edited 03/11/14 1:34 pm

    The first time I played a Civ game was on the PS1 with a controller. The main benefit the PC version had was not waiting 5 minutes for a turn to process but the PSX version made me fall in love with the series.

    Keyboard and mouse sucks, there has to be a better solution than a gamepad. I play RTS exclusively with a mouse, shortcuts are for wimps (Warzone 2100 a game I originally only played on the PSX).

    Loving the new improved Kinnect - cheap commerical hw. Really hoping that now that they've improved the camera that more will happen with them or that kind of interface. And yeah go the virtual reality.

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