STUART'S WORLD 1 - September 1995
|Hello. I'm Stuart. Welcome to my world. On this page
over the coming months, I'll be chatting with you, my PC chums, about every conceivable
aspect of those lovable multi-thousand-pound machines that we all use solely to play games
on, almost as if we were stupid or something. Except that you won't be doing any of the
talking, obviously. No subject will be too controversial, too trivial, too irrelevant or
too over-exposed to get dragged out all over again and subjected to the kind of over-drawn
waffling rubbish that's already afflicted this intro. So, er, let's get on.
This month, I'd like to chat about formats. No, not the ones you do to your disks (those days are over on PC GAMER), but the ones you play games on. It's long been a bugbear of the development community that they have to spend three times as much time converting their exciting hit games to run on other machines as they did on writing them in the first place, time which they'd much rather use on writing brand new exciting hit games (or hasty, slightly-tweaked sequels to the original exciting hit games, even). This problem has seemed to get much worse of late, with the introduction of the CD-i, 3DO, Jaguar, Saturn, Playstation et al, while all the old formats hang around stubbornly just to confuse matters. And on the face of it, it's a nightmare sure enough. There are at the moment at least 11 viable platforms for games to be published on, all sufficiently different to require major programming overhauls to be converted across. The world's best developers are scattered, mostly exclusively, across all those formats (Shigeru Miyamoto on the SNES/Gameboy, Sensible and Bullfrog on the PC/Amiga, Sega's AM2 team on Saturn and so on), so it's a nightmare for game players as well as game writers.
But could it be that there's a tiny pinhole of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel? Could it be that in the near future, you'll only ever need to buy one machine? And could it be that that machine will be a PC? I'll explain.
With the advent of the faster Pentiums, we've finally (or will shortly have finally) reached a point at which PCs are powerful enough to emulate practically any other games machine. There are already full-speed emulators for most of the old 8-bit machines, and Amiga ones should present no great problems in six months or so's time, when the machine is finally and utterly dead beyond resurrection or copyright worries (although that's another story altogether). Indeed, the Amiga's 16-bit architecture and floppy disk storage should make emulation a simpler task than the Spectrum and C64's convoluted operating systems.
More excitingly, though, we've already seen the first on the next-generation machines appear on the PC via hardware cards. The 3DO and Jaguar cards aren't in full production yet (as far as I know), but both have been seen and neither pose any major technical difficulties. Rumours persist, too, of a Playstation card, and if the idea catches on, well, the potential is obvious. No more colossal tangles of power leads, no more wearing out of your TV's SCART lead switching between half-a-dozen machines, no more 4-way adaptors branching out of 4-way adaptors and putting dangerous strains on your electricity sockets. Whenever a new state-of-the-art console comes out, just plug the card into your P200 and away you go. The switch to CD-based machines has meant the last real obstacle to total compatibility has been removed. All that stands in the way of gaming nirvana now is the cretinous mentality that leads idiot console manufacturers to make their own machines incompatible with games for them from US or Japanese territories.
Ah. I appear to have shot down my own argument in flames. Damn. Better luck next month, eh?
WILLY THE WOLF'S WORLD
Hi kids! I'm Willy The Wolf, and I'm Stuart's cuddly chum! I'm here to appeal, in a Children's-BBC-puppet-sidekick kind of way, to the emergent 'PC Kids' market! And if your dad's got a PC, and he lets you use it to play shallow console-type platform games, only not as good, then I'm your chum too! Hurray! I'll also be providing a sort of ironic counterpoint to Stuart's main topic every month! Isn't that great? This month, I'd like to ask "If PCs are so great at emulating stuff, how come even a 100Mhz Pentium can't accurately recreate a load of 1978 Atari VCS games without getting all the colours wrong and losing half of the sound effects and collision detection to keep the speed up (as seen in Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack)?" See you next month! Awooooooo!