PC gaming vs. console gaming – further thoughts

I’ve had some interesting feedback and additional thoughts from my previous article on how PCs being put into console form factors, with controller-friendly front-ends to mimic the console experience while still offering PC flexibility under the hood.

One bit of feedback is very fair comment. What if you find yourself playing a first-person shooter online with a controller, and everyone else is rocking the keyboard/mouse combination? Conventional wisdom is that will put you at a disadvantage. Whereas on a game console everyone is equally disadvantaged. I agree with that. However, that’s only true for competitive multiplayer. For singleplayer, and for online co-op, it doesn’t matter nearly as much, and it comes down to what you ergonomically prefer. Millions favour the gamepad over keyboard and mouse for the relaxed livingroom feel over sitting at a desk. But, nonetheless, people who are extremely fond of playing an FPS with a controller, probably are better off sticking with dedicated consoles for now. I say for now, because I can see a future where PC games start allowing controller-oriented people to matchmake together to get around this issue on livingroom PCs.

That’s the argument that made a lot of sense to me. The other resonated with me less so. And that was just have a bunch of consoles, and keep them all plugged in. Recapping what systems I own:

Intellivision (actual)
Intellivision Flashback
Atari 2600
Sega Genesis
Atari Jaguar
Sega Saturn
Nintendo 64
Xbox 360
Xbox One

And I’ve probably forgotten one or two. Needless to say, keeping them all plugged in at all times takes up a lot of space, and requires some funky cabling in behind the TV (including adaptors to switch between inputs). And dusting. So much dusting.

I was a big fan of Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee on the original Xbox. I’m interested to play all four games in the Oddworld series. Let’s look at what that requires if doing so on console. Firstly you’d need an original Playstation system, and need to track down the discs for Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, and its sequel Abe’s Exoddus. Those titles seem to be pretty hard to find these days, and seem to sell for $30-45 each on eBay. The only console that Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee came out on was the OG Xbox, so I’d need one of those and the game ($15-20 on eBay when I checked just now). Then Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath also came out on the Xbox, and was one of the last and best looking games for the system, but an “HD” version later came out on the PS3. So you could get the whole collection for just two consoles, but for the best experience you’d do it on three consoles. Either way, the game’s going to cost you about $15 (an old disc for the Xbox, or a PSN purchase on the PS3).

Maybe you spend a bunch of time in used video game stores and flea markets and find some or all of the games a little cheaper, but you’re likely to pay a minimum of $5 each. Realistically, short of a tonne of patience and legwork, you’re likely to spend somewhere between $60-125 for all four games on console, and you’d need 2-3 consoles to play it.

Or you could just spend about $10 regular price on PC for the collection of all four, less if you find the collection on sale (and it seems pretty much every PC game goes on sale at some point or another). And you don’t need to worry about scratched discs and scouring swap-and-shops. As much as flea markets can be fun, it’s no fun getting your game home and finding that the disc doesn’t play.

And what if the disc doesn’t play because you have a hardware problem? Those old consoles will be harder and harder to keep running over time. Heck, new TVs don’t even have the proper hook-ups for some of my old consoles.

So I can see the advantage to console for competitive shooters. And I can see how some people enjoy the scouring, repairing, and collecting that is demanded of fans of classic consoles. But for those who want to spend more time playing and less time tinkering with old hardware and travelling back and forth between thrift shops, and those that want to avoid (in my case) a stack of a dozen consoles underneath the TV, PC gaming consoles increasingly offer a superior solution.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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