My first gaming memories were of playing Elite and Dig Dug at a friends place.  I got my first real chance to experiment on a PC back in primary school and got my own when I was in grade 7 back in 1993.  This wonderful machine just blew my mind.  It was an AMD 386 with a turbo boost speed of 40 Megahertz, and 4mb of RAM running Dos 6.2 and Windows 3.1.  There was no doubt that this was a serious PC that cost serious money back in the day.  This is where I discovered my love of gaming and PC Gaming in general.  I bought magazines which had 3.5 inch floppies to try shareware games and demo’s.  Just saying the names Commander Keen, Hugo’s House of Horrors and Micropose Formula 1 Grand Prix evoke powerful memories within me.  As I grew older, technology progressed and so did the PC I was using.

My next PC was a Pentium 200 MMX.  This machine was awesome and with the addition of a first generation 3DFX add-on graphics card I was able to enjoy a new generation of gaming.  I believe that the games released around this time (1997-2000) represent the pinnacle of PC gaming and that the platform has been in decline ever since.  My highlights during this time included X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, Ultima Online, Diablo, Starcraft, Total Annihilation, Grand Theft Auto, Age of Empires, Wing Commander: Prophecy, Half-Life, BattleZone and 2 Jedi Knight games, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight and Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast.  While my crappy dial-up connection limited my multiplayer gaming somewhat, it didn’t stop me from hopping on to the Microsoft Gaming Zone and lagging my way through epic contests!  Or joining dedicated gaming clubs for a genre of games such as Star Wars.

Ever since then, PC Gaming has been in decline.  Sure, there have still been massive hits such as The Sims, World of Warcraft and the like, but for every awesome game, there are a hundred Console Ports of games that make a mockery of what PC Gaming is all about by firing out a quick succession of expansion packs marketed as new games.  Activision, I’m looking at you here.  Call of Duty was one of the stand out PC Shooters and the only real challenge to EA’s Medal of Honor series and has been destroyed as we are bombarded with a succession of crap in the Modern Warfare and Black Ops series.  Oh and let’s not forget how they flogged Guitar Hero until people wised up to it.

PC Gaming has always been about innovation.  This is because PC Gaming allowed the developer to be more creative.  They did not have to fit in a console’s framework or adhere to the graphical capabilities of a console.  I know some people like being able to buy a console and not have to upgrade it, but for all the advantages, it is also a massive crutch.  The current generation of consoles are now 7 years old and in that time gaming has barely moved.  Publishers don’t see there being money in PC Gaming any more.  They develop for closed systems like consoles or phone app stores and then port them to PC as an after thought.  I remember when it was the other way around and it wasn’t that long ago!  The newest and most hard core games could barely run on current systems and would not run at their best for most people until the next generation.  Now, the video card I bought 2 years ago can still run Battlefield 3 at pretty good settings and my new 7970 will keep me basking in high resolution, Ultra Settings, for a good few years.

And when they do release a decent PC game, it is typically buggy, unfinished and crippled by DRM.  Yes Ubisoft, that one was for you.  Ubisoft is a company that is still dedicated to making great PC games, but the DRM associated with them has really hurt them.  They did it in the name of preventing piracy, but did it work?  Unlikely.  All it did was piss off the legitimate consumer and force them under ground.  This is evidenced by the recent decision by Ubisoft to drop its Always-On style of DRM.  A move that should see more money from game sales (I for one will start buying their games again) and will hopefully act as a lesson to Publishers and Developers that PC gamers won’t be treated like naughty children.

Even Blizzard, who I consider the pinnacle of a PC Developer, cannot help but fall victim to this wave of stupidity by requiring always active Internet connections for Diablo III.  While their justification makes sense and is legitimate, it is still just an excuse for draconian DRM.

There is a small glimmer of hope on the horizon however.  Chris Roberts, known for the Wing Commander series as well as Freelancer has begun development of a new game called Star Citizen.  It is being crowd funded (But separate from Kickstarter) but has the hope of being what PC gaming has been missing for a long time.  Not only has space sims been neglected for many years now (Excluding the excellent Sins of a Solar Empire series), but it will also bring back the idea of the sandbox game where the player can choose what they do and how they do it!  I just hope that they not only follow through if they reach their development goals, but can also avoid the trap that EVE Online fell into by making a game so open that the learning curve drives people away.

The game will feature a persistent galaxy making it a psuedo-MMO, but will also allow an offline server which is wonderful news, especially if the game is moddable.  It won’t be long before talented mod developers start creating Star Wars, Star Trek, BSG, etc. mods based on the games engine which will be simply fantastic and a source of immense excitement for me.  While I am dubious of crowd funding, I did donate $40 to get the game going. Chris Roberts has a lot of street cred with not only PC Gaming but creating this style of game (Freelancer and the Wing Commander series are fantastic games) and if anyone can do it, then maybe it is him.

His mantra that PC gaming is not dead is refreshing and required.  This game is refreshing and required because if it can become a commercial success, it might make the Publishers and Developers remember what made the PC such an important and innovative gaming platform in the first place.  So far in its first six days it has raised just over $800,000 in funding with a goal of $2,000,000.  I hope that it can get there and we get the game we deserve.