PC. Console. So different?

At this point many (probably too many) people have banged on about which is better; PC or console let alone which console may be better. The question I feel should be asked at this point is, beyond the obvious, ‘are they really so different?’

I’m afraid my answer is a big yes.

Now when referring to ‘the obvious’ I mean, of course, PCs being primarily a keyboard and mouse driven medium vs. the consoles controller setup, the fundamental difference in settings, i.e. PCs ability to change graphics settings, etc. I’m not here to discuss that, though, I want to get deeper into it than that. I want to talk about the design difference afforded to games developed for PC as opposed to console and visa versa.

All hail Gabe

All hail Gabe

I am a PC gamer at heart and it shows. I have the most beastly GPU I can afford, duel screens and nearly 300 games on Steam. Of course I have a PS3 as well but it tends to sit for months on end gathering dust waiting for me to finally play the Uncharted series.

Anyways… I have been playing a lot of Crysis lately, having just finished the first game and powered through about half of the second (Yes, I’m aware everyone else played the series long ago but while Civ V is around I’ll have a lot of games waiting to be played.) With the original Crysis a heavily PC orientated affair it was pretty jarring when everything about the second one drips a console feel. Not to say it isn’t a good time, I’m having great fun with Crysis 2, it’s just that certain things about it make its console leanings stick out like a sore thumb. Then it hit me that these same points appear in so many other games but don’t necessarily get noticed because it’s just what we get. Crysis, it seems, is in the unique position of having its self to compare to. To see the differences up close.

What differences do I speak of? Let’s take a few point by point.

Gun Models

Sounds like a small thing, I know, but the first thing that took me aback when starting Crysis 2 was that the gun models are HUGE. They take up a good portion of the screen and look like they’re being help right up to the protagonists face. A development oversight? No. A development choice? Very much yes. Where is the general playing position of a PC gamer? At their desk no more than a few feet from an often large screen. The console gamer? On the sofa on the other side of the room. They were made that big simply for the gamer to be able to see them properly. The same goes for the HUD. Large graphics, giant font all so the sofa based player can see what they are doing.

Frame Rate & Graphics

Ok, now this is a drum that’s banged on by a lot of PC gamers so I won’t dwell.

There are major differences that have to be accounted for when developing for a console or a PC. The truth is even the new XboxOne and PS4 aren’t nearly as powerful as a half decent gaming rig, let alone an overpowered custom model. Because of this games have to be limited to a much lower frame rate than it would be on PC which could be unlocked to an indefinite amount. The same too with graphics. Where they have to be limited to the power of a console you can go nuts on a PC, especially with the ability to choose the graphics level. That’s why the first Crysis was a kind of trial by fire for your PC when it first came out and would have been practically unplayable on the contemporary console hardware.

FOV (Field of View)

Again, this comes down to sitting across the room from the screen. Whereas with console you have peripheral vision of much of your living room with the screen being but a window into the game thus requiring a much smaller FOV, on PC your screen is practically your entire view so the game needs to make up your peripheral vision with a larger FOV. Not only this but with this larger field there is more to render on screen at once which consoles tend not to be able to handle. There are a lot of PC ports that do not include options to adjust this which surprises me given that we can tweak everything else. In fact, it not just makes for a better playing experience to be able to manipulate the FOV, some people need to as the zoomed in, narrow vision of games such as Call of Duty on the PC make them feel ill. I don’t have this issue personally but I respect that others do and that developers could do more to not make their customers sick.

An example of varying FOV

An example of varying FOV

There are a lot more points but I don’t want to go on all day and most of it is covered in thorough and concise manner by YouTubes own Cynical Brit: TotalBiscuit (Seriously, check him out if you haven’t already. He’s got a lot of good points.) Now, I realise as a PC gamer I always have the choice to change the change pretty much whatever I want with help from PCgamingWiki so I won’t complain too much. I merely wanted to highlight how fundamental development choices have to made to account for either PC or consoles.

The truth is games growing up either in console or PC waters are distinctly different and have difficulty crossing over. This is one of the reasons why I fear the Steam Boxes won’t catch on nearly as much as we would hope. Then again, Valve may very well pull it out of the bag because, despite our scorn for the absence of Half-Life 3, they are awesome.

For now, though, I’m going to go back to Crysis and see how many other games it was influenced by other than Resistance, Half-Life and Mass Effect…

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