There's always a lot of talk about the future of technology this time of year. How the PC fits into the gaming landscape has been a particularly hot topic, and Epic Games programmer Tim Sweeney addresses that question and others in an interesting interview over at Gamasutra. While Sweeney concedes that consoles can offer a good experience, he thinks the PC's role in the gaming ecosystem will increase moving forward. The convenience of digital distribution services like Steam is mentioned as one of the PC's strengths, and Sweeney also discusses what can be done with the platform's ever-increasing horsepower.
Even if we've passed the point of diminishing returns, Sweeney believes "we're still at the point where improvements in graphics technology are enabling major improvements in gameplay." He brings up dynamic lighting as an example, noting that indirect models that track light bouncing off multiple surfaces are possible only on the latest GPUs. Sweeney also notes that the low latency of solid-state storage creates new possibilities with texturing, especially when compared with reading data off an optical disc. It's unclear whether Unreal Engine 4 has been designed to exploit the faster texture streaming enabled by PC hardware, but indirect lighting seems to be on the menu—provided your GPU is up to it.
The interview goes on to discuss how mobile devices fit into the larger gaming picture, and it even touches on wearable computers. Interestingly, Sweeney points to the lack of tactile feedback for inputs as being a major limiting factor for those kinds of platforms. Virtual keyboards and joysticks are lousy, he says, and motion controllers face the same problems.
I'm with Sweeney on the input front. Tactile feedback plays a big part in making games feel right for me. (Amusingly, it's the feel of the inputs that has always made me prefer Quake over Unreal.) I hope he's right about the PC's gaming prospects, too. There's never been any debate about whether PCs are technically superior; it's just a question of whether developers like Sweeney choose to exploit the more powerful platform.