Microsoft's Diabolical Plans

At GDC this year Gamespot sat down with Dean Lester, the top dog of Microsoft Windows Graphics and Gaming division. A few tidbits were collected during the interview, one being that Direct X 9 may be the last DX we see for a couple years. Another interesting spot of news is that MS has some pretty extensive integrated gaming plans for the Longhorn OS.

As has been rumored, Longhorn will likely include a major overhaul in Window's visual presentation, which may include 3D interface elements. Lester also said it would include a special "My Games" view that would centralize all the matchmaking, control panel settings, patching tools, and game lists and make such tasks much simpler. Microsoft is working on streamlining a number of current technical trouble areas, like the installation process and display drivers, and will centralize game updates through a Windows Update-like patch server. It's also looking into making it possible to run Windows games directly from the CD without installation. Somewhat more straightforward features include adding sophisticated matchmaking into Microsoft Messenger and parental controls over which users can play certain games.

As much as some of you hate it when Microsoft makes industry wide changes and assumes control this particular idea sounds pretty slick. The current release date for Longhorn is 2005.

Comments

Ooh, pretty update on the comments system.  Though maybe its because Im using IE.

Okay, Im not sure how this is a good thing exactly.  First off, to me it seems like MS commiting suicide, but Ill expand on that in a minute.  Right now though, I don't think any of these things are good for the industry in general, with the possible exception of no new DX versions.  It basically sounds like they want to turn the PC into a very expensive console.  If I wanted a console I would buy an XBox.

One, this patching system sounds great.  I mean sure, you have one giant button you can click on that updates everything, just like Windows Update.  What bothers me is this part

and will centralize game updates through a Windows Update-like patch server.

Notice, a server, centralize, not the game publishers server, or your own server, thier server.  Whats that?  Microsoft doesn't think Candy Cruncher deserves to be on their server?  Or Serious Sam?  Or any game that thier publisher didn't pay a sh*tload of money for?  Too bad, you can't use any of the patching features.  

It's also looking into making it possible to run Windows games directly from the CD without installation.

Why do we want this?  If I didn't want to have the game installed to my 80GB HDD that I paid for, I would have used that money to buy a Console.

The plan is to set up a numerical system that categorizes and groups system levels, and when this goes into effect in 2005 or so, a level-1 system might represent the current or year-old value-priced PC configurations, while level 2 and level 3 group systems that define the mainstream and high-end performance of the time. As PCs progress, new levels will be added.

Sweet Deliah!  Who in here thinks this is a good thing?  We all know that arbitrary numbers assigned to system performance never lie!  3DMark is my God!  Soon, Unreal 2005 will say "You only need Level 1"!  What an improvement, this way they can lie about arbitrary Microsoft performance points instead of lying about straight facts.

One of the bigger surprises came when Lester mentioned that Microsoft is working on a standard PC controller, which would allow a more seamless conversion of cross-platform titles and generally simplify the use of PC gamepads. To get the ball rolling, Microsoft will update its Sidewinder lineup with its own next-generation PC controller, but also expects other controller makers to follow suit. The heart of the controller initiative revolves around standardizing the number, type, and layout of buttons. In contrast to how it's now necessary to program PC gamepads for specific games, the standard should make things more plug-and-play.

Okay again, why?  Who the ***** wants to interface with thier PC exactly like they do thier console?  They say they will get more ports this way, and I still ask why?  Who wants the PC to become the very expensive console port box?  Its not really a matter of this being a bad idea, but its place is not on the PC.  If you want a standard button layout, buy a damn console, theyre very cheap.

Somewhat more straightforward features include adding sophisticated matchmaking into Microsoft Messenger

Oh great, now Windows will launch Messenger every time I play a game, instead of every time I go to hotmail.com, or launch Outlook Express.  I don't think this is a bad idea either, but what do you bet that the AIM client, Trillian or Jabber won't be allowed to use this support?  A neat idea that will probably be poorly implemented or proprietary or both.  Again, I'm only going on MS previous track record, I haven't seen this in action myself.

Now, as to why I think this is suicide.  

1) Consoles.  Most of these features the XBox already covers, and it covers them better than a PC implementation probably would.

2) Price. How many people will buy a new OS just for these features, when for the same price they can get an XBox or XBox2.

3) Home Market. The big purchasers of OS upgrades are corporations, not home users.  Home users by and large pirate or keep what they have.  The only ones who would upgrade would be power gamers, and thats not a very lucrative market, especially when alot of them will just pirate it out of spite.  Plus, with a sagging economy, people will be less likely to throw money at something like an OS upgrade, when what they have works fine.

4) QA.  This is related to the patching system, but it seems like they are mainly trying to make the whole PC gaming experience friendlier.  While this isn't a bad goal, none of these features will keep people from releasing buggy, sh*tty games.  The patching server will probably make matters worse, actually.

Hmmm so in other-words don't hold my breath for MS to fix the DX9 sounds problems they introduced into an otherwise stable environment. *sigh* better go get out my works big stick of premier support love.