In modern computing, the key to success in the realm of the software comes down to two key factors: simplicity and accessibility. In recent times, it has been Apple who has placed these ideals at the forefront of their operating systems, gaining the most ground in the battle of the OS. Yet it is Microsoft looking to appeal to the masses with the upcoming Windows 8 and its new Metro Style user interface, which accompanies the old desktop Windows fans have gotten used to over the years.
But the biggest change to occur come the release of Win-8 will be that the operating system itself will be universal - the same Metro Style UI will be present across Microsoft’s range of devices, including desktops, notebooks, tablets and phones. Obviously, slight adjustments will need to be made to ensure full optimisation of the operating system across the range of hardware configurations, but the system itself will remain the same at its core.
For many, the initial question will be, “How will the new operating system affect PC gaming?” However, the issue is a little more complex than that. The Xbox 360 boasts a similar hardware configuration to a Windows PC, and so the OS of both systems are already similar. Similarities with gaming on the two platforms are already evident, but imagine if both were to make use of the same OS. The distinction between consoles and personal computers could be blurred altogether, and so a better question than that posed above is “What could Windows 8 mean for Gaming?” Let’s take a look at a few of the major implications this operating system could bring with it.
The new start screen allows easy use of applications of any type!
Cross-platform multiplayer - The industry has been attempting to bridge the gap between console and PC gaming for a while now. While previously conducted tests showed that balancing issues with control pad versus keyboard and mouse would prevent online FPS battles from being fair, there’s no reason online multiplayer couldn’t work well in other genres. At the very least, online co-op play between the two platforms could be achieved, as shown by Valve’s effort with Portal 2.
Is this possible? Very. The launch of Microsoft’s next home console is currently expected to hit around late 2012 - 2013, around the same time many predict the retail release of Windows 8 will occur. Should this be a matter of more than mere coincidence, it’s quite likely we’ll see interaction between gaming platforms, including cross-platform multiplayer, or online leaderboards and profiles which stretch across the two gaming alternatives.
Disintegration of home consoles - This is completely opposite to the above point, yet very possible nonetheless. If Microsoft were to attempt the elusive all-in-one device this generation, things could get very interesting. To begin with, the Xbox (or the Windows PC) may be no more, with just the one piece of Microsoft hardware to power all computing needs within the average home.
Windows 8's new Task Manager makes essential hardware statistics easy to access.
An effective comparison to make is the life of the iPod. The original simply played music, but today’s model acts as an e-reader, reminds you of important upcoming events, and through the vision of outlandish developers, can regulate sprinkling systems, or even control helicopters! We have reason to get giddy at the prospects of an all-in-one computing solution ten to fifteen years in the future, especially given what gaming consoles can already do. But given the universal status of Windows 8, who’s to say this can’t happen in the next three to five years?
Possible? Definitely. However, the likelihood of this happening is a completely different story. One would argue that Microsoft would not take such a huge risk, especially due to the success the Xbox has brought. However, at some point, a risky move is going to have to be made by someone, and the public shouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft have to revolutionise an industry for a second time.
Futuristic gaming solutions - Fifteen years ago, most people would think the innovators and techies at Nintendo were crazy if they heard the company planned to release accurate motion sensing as a primary means of controlling video games. Today, it doesn’t seem so strange, but there’s always room for improvement. Voice control needs to improve so that the long-winded conversations with robotic personalities we see in today’s advertising schemes may actually be a little bit more than bad acting with poor voiceovers.
The Windows 8 Desktop sports a similar look to Windows 7 with a little more simplicity.
Should this come true, interaction with characters in-game could see virtual relationships formed where protagonists and antagonists from our favourite games treat us based on the way we physically speak with them. Whether this is a healthy concept to look forward to is up for debate, however. But to the idea that our own personalities and responses to different situations could shape our experience in a game is incredibly exciting, and could easily be achieved with some fine-tuning of the controls we have begun to toy with this gaming generation.
This is incredibly likely now given that the PC community - arguably the strongest when it comes to setting a goal and then working until success has been achieved - have access to Kinect development kits for PC, which will no doubt include Windows 8 in the near future. This means head-tracking, voice recognition and motion sensing all have potential to become a fundamental part of gaming and the virtual adventures we as gamers will embark on.
The future! - There’s an unlimited number of possibilities when it comes to the changes to gaming which Windows 8 will bring. If Microsoft so wished, they could go down the Google-path and implement a single operating system used to operate our entire households. Maybe not this generation, but you never know what a bit of change might bring. Imagine playing real-life Cooking Mama on your Win Oven 8 in order to prepare Sunday night’s dinner. Gaming itself could be a skill required to get by on a day to day basis!
The exciting thing about the future is that nobody can know for sure what it will bring, but given some of the technological innovations of the last decade, there’s no reason anything in this article, or anything you could conjure up in that whacky mind of yours, wouldn’t be achievable on a universal Windows 8 platform.
By Harry Hughes
Share some of your whacky ideas for Windows 8 below!