Stardock: PC gaming is about to break free of 'poisonous' decade-old standards

By Stephen Totilo on April 17, 2013, 8:30 AM
microsoft, report, directx, pc gaming, 64-bit, stardock, kotaku, 32 bit, strategy

Every year, the people at PC developer Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) release a report to tell their customers and fans how they're doing. Here's the 2013 edition [PDF]. But before you hop over there, check this out:

The report usually includes some interesting analysis about the state of PC gaming. A standout chunk from this year's report discusses a decade-in-the-making move forward for PC games:

For strategy gamers, the last few years have been a mixed blessing. There have been some great titles released but the innovation in strategy games has been diminishing. This is not the result of a lack of game design or inventive thinking. The problem stems from a catastrophic decision made at Microsoft: not giving DirectX 10 to Windows XP users

Microsoft continuing to sell 32-bit versions of Windows well after the hardware stopped being natively 32-bit has held back PC game development immensely.

Game developers have been stuck with DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory for the past decade. While this hasn’t harmed first person shooters (they only have to manage a handful of objects at once), it has been poisonous to other genres. Next time you’re playing an RPG in first person with no party you can refer to DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory as a big reason for that.

With DirectX 11 we can go to town with shader anti-aliasing and lowering the development capability requirements on having a multi-core based simulation (right now, nearly all of a game’s simulation occurs on 1 thread on 1 core). And with 64-bit, we can fit a lot more stuff into memory.

There are whole classes of games waiting to be made that require these kinds of advances. Luckily, after a decade long wait, we are nearing critical mass. The days of games supporting 32-bit OSes is, thankfully, coming to an end. DirectX 10 as a minimum requirement has also arrived.

Sounds good to me. My PC's more than ready for this new status quo. Yours?

Republished with permission. Stephen Totilo is an editor at Kotaku.




User Comments: 36

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TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

Whatever, it may be good for a year or two and they will be outpaced again. I can barely play Bioshock Infinite. The game is so smooth with that old Bioshock/Unreal Engine it feels like I'm skating on ice. That is on Ultra settings and DX11 modes.

Guest said:

32 bit windows xp master race reporting in.

but seriously, its not directx or windows xp holding gaming back, its developers who are too lazy/unskilled to use opengl like everyone else.

1 person liked this | Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

32 bit windows xp master race reporting in.

but seriously, its not directx or windows xp holding gaming back, its developers who are too lazy/unskilled to use opengl like everyone else.

Do you even read bro?

It clearly states, how the lack of 64 bit system adoption is holding back developers because they can't do good use of the hardware specs of the machine, so they are being limited by one core and 2gb ram development.

fimbles fimbles said:

Lots of pc games support all versions of directX.

IMO this is a poor excuse not to develop better scalabililty in to their games sooner.

Sniped_Ash said:

Oh I saw "Stardock" and thought that the "poisonous" standard that they were breaking free from was Brad Wardell and his rampant misogyny.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Lots of pc games support all versions of directX.

IMO this is a poor excuse not to develop better scalabililty in to their games sooner.

(Yet again) Do you even read bro?

MrBungle said:

I wish game developers would just make the best game they can and not pay too much attention to what the system requirements are...

A big part of the decline of consumer PC sales is that there is no incentive to upgrade, people will buy faster machines if they want to enjoy gaming and their current setups are not cutting it. A very well done AAA title can drive sales of things like faster CPUs/GPUs/RAM kits. So, no Stardock, you haven't been waiting on me, I've been waiting for you to do something interesting. I would love for someone to put out a DX11 RTS that allowed 10 or 20K units... Just offer the option to turn down the unit count to allow lesser systems to run the game.

fimbles fimbles said:

Lots of pc games support all versions of directX.

IMO this is a poor excuse not to develop better scalabililty in to their games sooner.

(Yet again) Do you even read bro?

Yes I did, I suggest you do the same.

Quote from article:

"Game developers have been stuck with DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory for the past decade. While this hasn?t harmed first person shooters (they only have to manage a handful of objects at once), it has been poisonous to other genres. Next time you?re playing an RPG in first person with no party you can refer to DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory as a big reason for that."

Cycloid Torus Cycloid Torus said:

I am a dodo about this stuff..so please correct me.

Guest said developers should "use opengl like everyone else". Is OpenGL 3.0 the big turning point? It's been available for almost 5 years. In that time Microsoft has done 'what'? DX10 and DX11 which falls back to DX9 if installed on XP. Has this been the industry standard due to inertial guidance from the head office? Why? Is this due to their interpretation of the remaining huge installed base for XP? Have they really thought about it? A HardForum topic convinced me that the gamers with XP installed on one of their systems are using XP to run OLD games. Could the head office types be clueless?

Fbarnett Fbarnett said:

32 bit win xp? What people with10 year old computers cant play the new games? I blame Microsoft for this.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

What? You only have to look at the steam survey's to see that Windows xp lost most of its ground when 7 came out, hell even Vista was reasonably popular with gamers.

The reason I choose the Steam survey is because, well, a lot of PC gamers have it installed.

Either way, this guy's an *****, although to be fair to him, Crysis flopped a little bit due to its seriously high requirements so I guess they need to get the balance right.

Joel F Joel F said:

Linux has been 64 bit since the start of 64 bit. I'm sorry that people are just so use to Windows that they can't step out and support Linux but as a gaming platform, it has the biggest advantages. It can be packaged with a game FREE. It can be optimised much much more than Windows. Frame rates are said to be higher in Linux in cross-platform games. Virus in Linux is much less likely so resources are gained by not having stupid antivirus software running all of the time.

I'm running Xubuntu and Steam. Game play is smooth and I don't ever have to deal with nagware or other annoyances. Steam games are cheap and the ones ported to Linux run great. It really is the best gaming platform.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Crysis flopped a little bit due to its seriously high requirements so I guess they need to get the balance right.

I don't know if I would say that Crysis 'flopped'. A game made purely for the PC is going to have a certain market, even now (although since then they have made Crysis available on a console). At mid settings during release it was quite playable on my Phenom II 720 X3 pushing CrossfireX 5770's. To this day I don't think many average gamers realize how fun and surprisingly good the single player campaign was for the original Crysis.

From a requirements and software/drivers standpoint, the coding for the game also took some blame as well and now with the many tuneups since its release, if you have the latest version of Crysis and latest drivers you would never know that this game once was a benchmark for PC's.

1 person liked this | Ultraman1966 said:

I think it's more to do with the Xbox and PS3 outstaying their welcome; so many games are made for those consoles first and then ported to the PC when they can be bothered. That's where the restrictions have been...

MilwaukeeMike said:

A few days ago there was a thread on techspot about the Xbox 720 and how it won't be backwards compatible with old games. People were calling developers lazy and pointing out that their PCs can run old games, why shouldn't our consoles be able to.

This is a little different... the 720 is a new system that can't run old games, not an old system that's trying to run new games (like a Win XP PC). But we can still see how these old standards hold back progress.

Catering to the old restricts the new.

Win7Dev said:

DX11 has been available for quite some time as have 64-bit systems with powerful processors and graphics cards. Why do we still ask if we can play Crysis on a new powerful computer? The gaming industry has simply fallen behind on computer games. This has nothing to do with hardware or software limitations. It is the fact that there aren't many people willing to pay $60 for a game that is quickly redesigned to work on PCs and that development companies aren't making much money off computer games anymore, but it's now starting to become more profitable again, so they are focusing on PC games more.

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

32 bit windows xp master race reporting in.

but seriously, its not directx or windows xp holding gaming back, its developers who are too lazy/unskilled to use opengl like everyone else.

I like how Direct X seems to be the only option for game developers. Whatever happened to using OpenGL? It's not OS limited like Direct X is.

Also developers need to grow balls and make 64-bit a requirement. Make it so people have to be using 64-bit version of Windows to use your game. It's not like developers didn't have to do this in the past with games.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

According to my professor C++ does not support multiple cores. Maybe that is also a problem.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't know if I would say that Crysis 'flopped'. A game made purely for the PC is going to have a certain market, even now (although since then they have made Crysis available on a console). At mid settings during release it was quite playable on my Phenom II X3 pushing CrossfireX 5770's. To this day I don't think many average gamers realize how fun and surprisingly good the single player campaign was for the original Crysis.

From a requirements and software/drivers standpoint, the coding for the game also took some blame as well and now with the many tuneups since its release, if you have the latest version of Crysis and latest drivers you would never know that this game once was a benchmark for PC's.

No I absolutely agree, I was able to run it on medium to low at the time on a 7600GT but I read an article a year or two ago, I was frantically trying to dig it up to show you but it was an interview with some of the guys at Crytek and the gist of it was that they didn't want to push to much in Crysis 2 as they found a lot of people pirated Crysis 1 or simply didn't purchase down to its reputation of being impossible to run, even though it did a pretty good job at scaling, that's not what it was made popular for. So they were essentially blaming its high requirements as a negative to how many copies they sold. Its a shame because I personally don't think that was the reason, I think the reason was it was not advertised much, Crysis 2 was and Crysis 3 wasn't, or at least, that's how I've felt.

ddg4005 ddg4005 said:

I think part of the problem has also been the focus on consoles instead of PCs. As limiting as 32-bit Windows has been many developers opted to write games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 instead of primarily for Windows-based boxes. Consoles, by their very nature, have limited hardware resources and could not be upgraded to DirectX 10 or 11 nor could any of the hardware be upgraded (except the hard drive on the 360). That, combined with the aforementioned reasons, resulted in games being stuck in a 32-bit world.

The real question is do developers have the chops to make good and compelling games that practically exploit the powerful hardware of modern PCs as well as 64-bit Windows? Only time will tell.

danhodge danhodge said:

Linux has been 64 bit since the start of 64 bit. I'm sorry that people are just so use to Windows that they can't step out and support Linux but as a gaming platform, it has the biggest advantages. It can be packaged with a game FREE. It can be optimised much much more than Windows. Frame rates are said to be higher in Linux in cross-platform games. Virus in Linux is much less likely so resources are gained by not having stupid antivirus software running all of the time.

I'm running Xubuntu and Steam. Game play is smooth and I don't ever have to deal with nagware or other annoyances. Steam games are cheap and the ones ported to Linux run great. It really is the best gaming platform.

Okay, I moved over to Linux (actually, for the second time) and I was on Mint. Now, before I start disagreeing with you - let me just say that I loved it. Despite what people told me, I never had any crashing/bug issues (more than what I can say for Vista which I was on before that, and am on again now), it ran great, and the boot time was awesome.

However, the problem that is still very prevalent, and will be until more developers port their games to Linux Steam, is the lack of games (I would say software, but there are always alternatives) supported on the OS.

You can tell me 'Wine' all you want, but that is a pain in the ass to use, and makes it much less convenient to run games.

So, to conclude, I will agree with you when there is a decent list of games on the Linux version of Steam

MrBungle said:

A few days ago there was a thread on techspot about the Xbox 720 and how it won't be backwards compatible with old games. People were calling developers lazy and pointing out that their PCs can run old games, why shouldn't our consoles be able to.

This is a little different... the 720 is a new system that can't run old games, not an old system that's trying to run new games (like a Win XP PC). But we can still see how these old standards hold back progress.

Catering to the old restricts the new.

Its probably because they changed CPU architectures... The 360 is PowerPC based where the 720 will be x86... It probably wouldn't take much to get Xbox 1 games to work with the 720 though.

MrBungle said:

developers need to grow balls and make 64-bit a requirement. Make it so people have to be using 64-bit version of Windows to use your game. It's not like developers didn't have to do this in the past with games.

No doubt! No one running a 32bit OS in 2013 is a serious gamer, those systems are going to be low-end bargain boxes or business systems that for compatibility reasons HAVE TO use a 32bit OS so the only games that crowd is likely to attempt to play are casual flash games or simple puzzle type games... They need to stop catering to this crowd when making things like shooters, RTS, RPGs, MMOs etc..

EEatGDL said:

Ehm.... no. A new good gameplay in any genre doesn't care about graphics or technical issues. A game can have great gameplay and poor graphics or amazing graphics but poor gameplay; DX has nothing to do with gameplay.

Of course it's great when you find a game with nice graphics and nice gameplay; but ultimately when a game only has good graphics it ends up as a tech demo or benchmark tool.

EEatGDL said:

According to my professor C++ does not support multiple cores. Maybe that is also a problem.

Natively it doesn't; but you can use APIs like pthread (POSIX thread) to add that functionality, it works in Windows too. Many game developers find their own way to sort it out when programming for multi-core and in C++; even they may create their own headers to do the job.

Java implements multi-thread easily but... just look at Minecraft's graphics. There are always ways -may be very hard- to sort out several problems no matter the programming language, as low level as you want to go. Microsoft does some optimizations to new versions of Office programs by disassembling some parts of source code and improve by either modifying that assembler section or adding new assembly instructions that are not yet supported by the current compiler but that will come on a brand new processor.

Guest said:

You need to step back and look at reality. Steam reports that combined 64-bit users are around 65%. So how many developers are going to eliminate approximately half of their potential customers just so you can have more toons on the screen? almost none. The situation will change as the number of gamers running 64-bit grows.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

People seem to be missing the point that you can't really scale down some things. You can just scale down the number of enemies you have to kill, it's a completely different difficulty and game.

veLa veLa said:

developers need to grow balls and make 64-bit a requirement. Make it so people have to be using 64-bit version of Windows to use your game. It's not like developers didn't have to do this in the past with games.

No doubt! No one running a 32bit OS in 2013 is a serious gamer, those systems are going to be low-end bargain boxes or business systems that for compatibility reasons HAVE TO use a 32bit OS so the only games that crowd is likely to attempt to play are casual flash games or simple puzzle type games... They need to stop catering to this crowd when making things like shooters, RTS, RPGs, MMOs etc..

Actually a lot of serious gamers were running 32-bit versions of windows because it was easier to cheat in leagues.

Guest said:

"Next time you're playing an RPG in first person with no party you can refer to DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory as a big reason for that."

Nope. The reason I play RPGs in first person with no party is because those are my favorite games. Even if I can have a party, I prefer to go solo (Oblivion, Fallout 3 / NV, Bioshock).

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Too bad poisonous bad language and immorality just keep getting worse. There is no reason at all some of these game makers couldn't put and option in their games to filter such content.

1 person liked this | GeforcerFX GeforcerFX said:

I look more at the game anymore then the Graphics, mainly since I am done dropping $3k on my system every 2-3 years (laptop gamer here) to be able to play latest and greatest on high. I just want good gameplay something only 3-4 games over the last 4-5 years have truly offered me. But as some of you have said games that Push PC's sell hardware Crysis was one of the firsts and BF3 was prob the most recent a lot of people upgraded since they needed something DX11 capable to play BF3 properly (since BC2 can go down to DX9 and become much graphically lighter), If the trend keeps up I wouldn't be surprised to see Hardware manufacturers supporting devs in development to help get high standards out of games, kinda like what nvidia already does but more involvement and cash.

Rig said:

I don't mind them taking advantage of more RAM on 64bit as it's (relatively) cheap these days. What is more annoying though is that within a few months I upgraded to a GTX 660Ti and yet Metro Last Light will still not run "optimally" unless I have a GTX 690 or TITAN. Isn't that resource requirement taking it too far in terms of what most gamer's can afford?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I look more at the game anymore then the Graphics, mainly since I am done dropping $3k on my system every 2-3 years (laptop gamer here) to be able to play latest and greatest on high. I just want good gameplay something only 3-4 games over the last 4-5 years have truly offered me.
You said it! The newest graphical offering, I believe is TressFX. TressFX looks truly amazing but if game-play is lacking, why would anyone buy into it.

Guest said:

My body is ready

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