By Jay Jenkins
Microsoft is planning to overhaul PC usability with the release of their new operating system, Windows Vista. Hitting the consumer market in January 2007, Vista will offer a fistful of new features targeted at the business sector, multimedia enthusiasts, and casual home PC users. But we gamers also have something to get excited about as Microsoft has built Vista from the ground up with gamers in mind.
Since Vista packs in innovation for everything imaginable, improvements for gamers can get lost in the jumble. Also, the OS usually plays a background role in PC gaming, one that most gamers rarely think about. Microsoft aims to make gaming a visible role for operating systems of the future. So, let’s see what we are getting.
When consumers go to the shelves for Vista they will find five different versions. Two are geared for business applications, so we won’t be covering them here. Gamers will most likely pick from the remaining three.
Windows Vista Home Basic: This is the bare bones OS. Good for those that email and surf the web exclusively. Not much here specifically for gamers.
o Retail: $199.00 Upgrade: $99.95
Windows Vista Home Premium: This is the package gamers will snap up. It houses all the multimedia extras that will push the gaming lifestyle forward.
o Retail: $239.00 Upgrade: $159.00
Windows Vista Ultimate: This one has all the features of Home Premium, plus all the business features. For those who need to write their TPS reports, but want to frag their buddies on the side.
o Retail: $399.00 Upgrade: $259.00
Organization and Control
Built-in parental controls seem to be a standard for next-generation consoles. The next-generation OS is no different. Parents will be able to decide what games their children play based on ESRB ratings or regional equivalent. Parents can adjust the length of time, and even time of day, their children can use the computer.
Gamers will also be able to clean up the dozens of game icons cluttering those desktops. Vista will have a place for the easy organization of PC games, the Game Explorer. Players will be able to find and access all of their games from one place.
Integrate Your Microsoft Gaming Life
Microsoft has muscled its way into the console market, and carved out its share of fans. The Xbox 360 is a versatile gaming and multimedia machine. Vista will connect your Xbox 360 and your PC in some very cool ways.
Vista will include Universal Controller Support. Which means that the standard wireless Xbox 360 controllers can be used for a Vista PC as well. Those that prefer analog sticks to a keyboard and mouse will have a ready made wireless controller for their PC.
Online gamers will have access to the power of Xbox Live from their PC with Live Anywhere. This will allow for cross-platform play between Xbox 360 players and Vista PC gamers. The first example of this will be the Vista launch title Shadowrun. Users will also be able to use their Xbox Live Gamertag on Live Anywhere; so even on a PC other players will know just who has laid the smackdown.
Xbox 360 owners may have noticed the little green button on the bottom of their included remote. This allows the Xbox 360 to use its media center functionality. Vista will include Windows Media Center, which contains a bunch of media functions: the ability to record TV shows; better organization for photos, home movies, and music; an easily navigable interface for all the digital media on the PC. Windows Media Center also allows for all the media on a Vista PC to be accessed on up to five different TVs throughout the home using Media Center Extenders. The Xbox 360 is already one of these extenders. Gamers will be able to access all their music, photos, and videos stored on their PC from anywhere in the home using their Xbox 360.
Perhaps the most exciting addition for PC gaming will be DirectX 10. It is also going to be a big selling point for Vista. DirectX 10 will only be available on Vista. Gamers will not be able to upgrade to or purchase it for their XP based PCs. This fact may force serious PC gamers to switch to Vista.
DirectX 10 features heavily advanced 3D rendering abilities powered by what Windows call Universal Architecture. Graphics capabilities will be streamlined allowing for faster rendering and the ability to put more detail on the screen. This will also help to usher in the next-generation of GPUs by allowing them to run more efficiently, and do more with that efficiency. If you are up on your geek-speak check out a more in-depth look at DirectX 10 from HardOCP.
Speaking of GPUs, gamers will need a DirectX 10 video card to take advantage of the advancements, and remember that DirectX 10 is only available on Vista. But having Vista and a DirectX 10 video card is not enough. You need games developed to use DirectX 10. Lucky for us there will be a handful of titles ready for Vista’s launch in January.
Several high-profile titles will be Vista exclusives.
Halo 2: The PC version of Halo 2 will only be available for Vista users. Halo 2 will not take advantage of Live Anywhere, so players will only be able to play against other Vista users.
Shadowrun: Will be an MMORPG-FPS hybrid headed for both Vista PCs and the Xbox 360. Gamers will be able to go head to head on both platforms through the first big game on Live Anywhere.
A handful of other publishers are releasing titles that will be optimized for DiretX 10, but will not be exclusive.
Company of Heros: A unique take on the WWII genre from THQ. It will be a WWII RTS that boasts FPS quality graphics.
Hellgate: London: A futuristic RPG from the creators of Diablo.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventure: A barbaric MMORPG from Funcom.
Vista offers PC games some exciting advancements, especially the innovation of DirectX 10. But gamers will have to be prepared to drop some dough not only on the new OS, but on DirectX 10 hardware and DirectX 10 games. As enticing as these advancements are, Vista will most likely need a larger stable of high-profile games to attract PC gamers. Especially casual gamers will have a hard time justifying the upgrade. But for serious gamers Vista may just usher in the next-generation of PC gaming.