Opting out of the whole damn thing

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davyK
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Well, the Wii and 360 are here in the UK. The PS3 is due in March for the princely sum of £425 - yes thats pounds.

The idea of Wii + 360 or PS3 will cost quite a bit and, despite the excellent presentation and content of XBL, I'm seriously considering opting out of the whole thing.

I'm of the opinion that a good custom built PC (I know the people to do it) in a nice hi-fi separate look-a-like case (with nice programmable LED to play with) sitting under the TV with a wireless keyboard, mouse and controller accessing content through some nice front-end (I could build that myself if such a thing off-the-shelf doesn't satisfy) wirelessly connected to a MAME cabinet would give me more entertainment that a modern-console combo.

I've come to the conclusion that all I'm really into is shmups, puzzlers and nice oddities such as Monkey Ball and Pilotwings. The bulk of my gaming would be available through emulation and PC versions of games - giving me slick browsing with access to music and film through one device.

Of course I've yet to cost such a project (including my own time - but I'd love to do it) which would also require a modern TV but I'm seriously thinking about it.

SO what do you think? Opt out (and maybe pickup some title I HAVE to have much later from the bargain bin) or go for Microsoft's or Sony's media centres with the Wii for alternative stuff?

mrCustard (not verified)
Hmmm, I kinda agree with

Hmmm, I kinda agree with you, Bill. It depends a bit on what you want from a home entertainment PC. If your only goal is use it as a media player, then setting up is a easy as buying a MCE PC plug it in, and turn it on. In fact, setting up MCE was a whole lot easier than setting up my PVR. And if you look the other way then the system is booting, you'd never know you were using a PC. MCE is nicely done. When you want to extend your experience beyond that however, (and that includes playing games, emulators, playing uncommon media files), you have to put in work. I suppose that is unavoidable in a way, because the different applications don't share a common background. This is something that is partly addressed in Vista, with the game explorer and the Games for Windows initiative.

Gamertag: Custardo

Bill Loguidice
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I'm the opposite of a lot of

I'm the opposite of a lot of you guys on here. I find myself on the computer all day at work, and then I may go home and check more e-mails on my desktop or work laptop, write the book on the laptop, then maybe pay bills on the desktop. After all that, I don't really want to play many games on the computer when my time allows, I just want to kind of get away from the idea of "computer" and sit on the sofa, even though consoles are nothing more than computers in disguise. And even though a lot of the configuration hassles of the past have been eliminated on the PC, it's still a high maintenance proposition that requires time. With a console, I can pretty much go in and use it without worrying about any of that, and on top of that, if anything crashes or goes wrong, I really don't lose anything important.

I have two hi-def TV's, one in my living room and one in my bedroom. The one in my bedroom has a direct VGA connection, while the one in the living room has no standard connections other than a non-standard DV interface (I have yet to find a cable for it). Since I already have my 360 (and PS2 and GameCube, eventually PS3 and Wii), I obviously use that whenever I need to show photos in the living room or want to play music or whatever (be it on the 360's hard drive or streamed from my wife's iPod). Unfortunately, I can't get streaming from my desktop computer working - there's just something about my complex mixed wired and wireless network that it doesn't like (my last resort is to open up certain ports on my router, which is the next step, but since I have multiple routers, that may not be practical).

In any case, when I have used the TV in our bedroom to show photos or whatever, or did the same thing on my parent's plasma at their house, I still don't find it particularly optimized, even with the VGA cable. On something like the 360, I know it's outputting at the best resolution I have it set to and is optimized to display on a TV (and 100% of the time for a widescreen TV at that). I'm sure it's the same on the PS3.

In summary, I just look at what's involved in getting a PC working properly all the way around in a living room environment (even with a Media PC or the proper wireless setup - I use a good wireless trackball and natural keyboard on my desktop that would probably be practical) and just don't see it making sense. It does sound like some of you crave the challenge though and have eliminated the idea of a console media center/extender, so there you have it. Myself, I'd rather keep the world's separate.

As for making a MAME cabinet project, I whole-heartedly recommend it. While most of my MAME arcade machine was pre-fab, I did a lot of customization. It's one of my most favorite investments and everyone who comes over always enjoys it. It's also makes an excellent spare jukebox since it's next to my gym.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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Matt Barton
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Thanks for all the advice,

Thanks for all the advice, mrCustard. I guess I'm probably not alone in having a "dream" of a giant plasma screen with a souped-up PC attached. I guess it would be a pain trying to use a mouse and keyboard from the couch, and I can easily see how a remote control would run into limitations, particularly with games. It really does seem like the best solution right now for the living room is a console. As far as a computer goes I'd settle for a nice widescreen monitor that would fit comfortable on my desktop.

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mrCustard (not verified)
I have been using a PC

I have been using a PC connected to my TV for emulation use for quite some time now, and for the most part it works just fine. There are some issues that prevent it from becoming a console replacement however; issues that may or may not be fixed with newer programs or hardware.

The biggest problem I have found is that a television is not a computer monitor. Whether you connect to the TV by the TV-out, DVI,VGA or even Component , you will run into issues with some or all video modes. Modern video drivers offer functionality to alleviate some of those problems, but there's always a program that uses some weird videomode the TV can't properly display. Another common problem that because of overscan issues some menus or buttons can fall of the edged of the screen, as overscan controls only work for certain resolutions. Also TVs can have picture optimization that works great for regular sources, but degrade the quality of the pixel perfect image offered by a PC.

Another snag is that there are surprisingly few decent wireless media keyboards available that are suitable for home entertainment use. Most of those are unsuitable for games as well, because they only allow one or two keys to be pressed simultaneously. You can of course use a remote control instead of a keyboard, and while some programs run flawlessly with it (Windows Media Center, Zoom Player), for others you need extra software and quite a bit of tweaking. Getting different applications to work consistently together under remote control is a challenge.

Luckily, you can buy a wireless XBOX360 controller now with a USB dongle and some software (like mame32) support joysticks for navigation as well. A large number of PC games, however, only support joysticks during gameplay, but still need the keyboard or mouse during navigation of the menus.

Despite all this, a PC is a great addition to a home entertainment system, because of the flexibility as both a games and media machine. A Home Entertainment PC also rewarding as a hobby project, because it's pretty satisfying to get seemingly mismatched pieces of hard- and software working together.

Gamertag: Custardo

davyK
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I'm looking for convergence.

I'm looking for convergence. I'm fed up with the plethora of controllers, power adaptors and cables. Being a bit of a console magpie its inevitable. Space isn't the issue - its ease of use.

I've got 2 DCs - one spare; and I have a fair old collection of DC games - around 40. So far I've also used the DC for NES emulation which is so good that it removes the need for the original hardware. My PS2 removes the need for the PS1, and if I get a Wii that will replace the GC.

Its just I'm not buzzing about modern games as much any more and emulating older games on PC will be more than enough for me.

Matt Barton
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Yes, we've definitely come a

Yes, we've definitely come a long way from the days when the choice between a souped up PC and a console was an obvious one. At least to my eye, games on the 360 and PS3 (and even the Wii) look and play just as smoothly as anything on the PC if not better (since they don't have to bother with such a bloated OS). On the other hand, I've been using Vista now for about 24 hours and am impressed with it. It looks and feels noticeably better than XP, and I'm running it at 2 ghz. Unfortunately, Microsoft is almost in a conflict of interest concerning its game support, since what they really want is for people to buy the 360.

On the other hand, it's not like back in the old days when you were "stuck" with one particular lineup. All the current systems have intriguing online options that really set them apart from older systems like the SNES or even the Dreamcast. Furthermore, they're really pushing the "media center" aspect and focusing on that "living room" experience (i.e., the plasma screen viewed from the couch). Still, I don't see any reason why you can't just do the same for a PC; it'd just cost more and, as Bill suggested, there'd always be little annoyances since most programs assume you're close enough to the monitor to see small text.

On the other hand, if all you're worried about is MAME and the like, I'd consider buying a used Dreamcast and downloading some of homebrew MAME products for it. My unit turned to be one of the best ways I've ever spent $20. It also has lots of fun multiplayer games available for parties and family gatherings.

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davyK
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All good points Bill and

All good points Bill and food for thought. Thanks.

Any PC to TV adventure would only be undertaken after much research into the available screens and graphic cards / cables etc. Its something I'm only starting to think about.

Sometimes I sway toward a 360 because of the online "homebrew" element but it has no "main" games I have any interest in - though its early days for that. My main beef is that the Wii and PS3 don't have anything I have a strong desire to have either. Again it's early days.

I'll be sitting tight and doing a lot of reading! A MAME cabinet is the only definite project I'll be undertaking.

Bill Loguidice
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I don't know. I know here

I don't know. I know here in the US, the PC games aisles can be fairly depressing and hard to sort through these days. It seems like if it's not casual product, it's deluxe editions of software for the PC. Myself, I see just as much value in having a console as I do a PC, simply because once you buy your console and maybe an extra controller - which admittedly is a big outlay of money these days - said console is good as-is for nearly 100% of the games released for it for the next four or five years - you just buy more games. Of course there are now X-Factors like hard drives and flash memory, but in theory, with good resource management, even the standard capacities should last the life of the system and beyond.

There's nothing wrong with putting a PC on a TV, but unless it's a hi-def TV with the PC hooked up to in the highest quality way possible, the display leaves much to be desired. The reality is, PC's were NOT made with televisions in mind, they were made with monitors in mind that you view close up.

With all that said, certainly if you had the choice of only one system, you MUST choose the PC simply for its ultimate versatility. It truly can be and do just about anything. Unfortunately, just because it can do so much more than anything else, doesn't mean it's the best answer for one's "living room" gaming needs. Frankly for that, I would go either for a 360 or PS3 and Wii combo. It's not like you still wouldn't have a good PC in another room hooked to a monitor, no?

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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