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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 13 October 2011

Battlefield 3: Desktop PC Gaming Platform Recharged

As one of the most highly anticipated video game sequels of all time, Battlefield 3 will soon be released to gamers worldwide on 25 October 2011. BF3 is the third installment to the popular series by Electronic Arts and DICE, with seven previous Battlefield-themed titles offered for the PC platform (not counting just as many expansion packs and three browser-based online versions). Originally developed for PC gamers and their powerful enthusiast-level desktop computers, the Battlefield franchise has since diversified its platform portfolio to gaming consoles in a successful pursuit for increased revenue. While the Battlefield series is a solid income-earning product for the developers, it has also become one of the last few remaining hopes for PC gamers to restore their diminishing ranks.

First Person Shooter-styled video games can be played on any platform, but competitive gamers tend to agree that the keyboard/mouse combination offers more precision than a gamepad controller ever could. Battlefield 3, featuring the latest available DirectX 11 graphics technology from its Frostbite 2 game engine, is a FPS game built specifically to take advantage of visual effects only available to the modern PC platform. Making certain not to neglect the profitable game console platforms, EA offers a reduced-quality version of Battlefield 3 available for PlayStation3 and XBOX360, yet in many ways Battlefield 3 has become the game that Crysis 2 failed to be: a good reason to own powerful desktop computer hardware.

The profitability of game consoles have forced developers to design software suitable for the aging hardware technology inside the existing PS3 and XBOX360 consoles. For those familiar with the Crysis franchise, you'll recall that the original Crysis and Crysis Warhead titles were launched as PC-only video games. When Crysis 2 was developed primarily for the console platform, NVIDIA made a generous $2-million investment into a PC-based DirectX-11 Crysis 2 project. Unfortunately that project delayed the update until months after initial launch, causing Crysis 2 to become one of the most-anticipated flops of 2011 alongside Duke Nukem Forever. Then there's RAGE, a popular video game that automatically adjusts video graphics quality based on real-time performance capability of the GPU. Both of these game titles failed to emphasize any need for higher-end hardware components, which changes with Battlefield 3.

Beyond hardware sales, several companies are taking advantage of this revenue-building opportunity by releasing Battlefield 3-themed peripherals and computer components, similar to products that jumped onto the Call of Duty: Black Ops bandwagon. Of course, if there's money involved you can expect game consoles to invent reasons to earn their share, a la Calibur11 BF3 console vaults. But it's not just game-connected sales that will make the Battlefield 3 launch a truly important event, it's that desktop PCs have been growing less important for so long now that component manufacturers are desperately looking for profitable reasons to continue producing enthusiast hardware products. In my best Field of Dreams voice: "Make it hardware dependent, and they will buy".

Which brings us to a growing trend present in today's computer software: increased hardware dependence. Without drifting into an entirely different topic, I'll relegate this portion of my op-ed to quickly point out that software has steadily grown dependent on more memory and storage space, as well as more powerful central and graphics processors. In our own tests with the Battlefield 3 Beta, we noted how BF3 (in public beta form) consumed nearly 2GB of system memory while demanding up to 50% usage across all eight processor cores... Even despite using the most powerful video card currently available. This same trend has been seen elsewhere across the spectrum: from the latest Microsoft Windows Operating System to the everyday applications we install atop the O/S. Regardless of its classification as a video game, which tends to promote GPU dependence more than anything else, BF3 is software that places demand on every hardware component inside the computer case.

Ultimately, this means that performance-oriented computer hardware will once again be in demand, and those hardcore gamers wanting to experience Battlefield 3 with highest-quality video settings will be required to upgrade system components. It also means that desktop computer hardware, suffering diminished sales in the age of highly-capable mobile phone and game consoles, will stay relevant for just a while longer. The video card has always been the driving force in graphics quality performance, and now the CPU and RAM have become equally important at delivering the top-end experience. True performance enthusiasts refuse to wait, which also means that now SSDs could be the storage drive of choice to help speed-up game and map loading. Of course, you can't have the fastest video card, processor, and system memory, without also having the latest motherboard platform. It all comes together, and means big potential sales for the hardware industry.

But will BF3 deliver enough boost to business to sustain the desktop platform, or will this become yet another historically short period when software demands more hardware instead of vice versa? I can still remember a few graphics card reviews back in 2009 ending with the complaint they were grossly overpowering the video games available at the time. Now, after suffering three years with a depressed global economy, it seems that hardware manufacturers have managed to stall progress just long enough for software to finally catch up. With the made-for-console sequel Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 releasing just two weeks later, it should be interesting to see what happens to the segment next, and for how long the desktop PC platform maintains its importance.

Will you be upgrading hardware to play Battlefield 3? Submit your comment below...

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# very nice readcube 2011-10-13 21:26
I personally will not be upgrading any of my hardware because Software is now made to cater Consoles and there is no way in hell anyone will justify spending money on a Video Card that cost now twice as much as the consoles to get the same video quality or less.

I understand this game is supposed to look better on the PC, but come on, when you bring down your settings to almost nothing, you are able to see the opposite team much better. They cant hid in shadows or use the Camouflage to their advantage.

I just really hate games that come out on consoles and PC. PC has been getting the short end of the stick for a while now.
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# RE: very nice readOlin Coles 2011-10-13 21:31
It's funny you mention that, because when I played in a professional gaming league for BF2 we intentionally reduced all video quality settings to better expose enemy. As a by-product, we also got faster frame rates.
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# RE: Battlefield 3: Desktop PC Platform Rechargedchook 2011-10-13 22:03
From the article "EA offers a reduced-quality version of Battlefield 3 available for PlayStation3 and XBOX360"
So playing on a console will not only give you less quality, but less precision. Still don't want to update your video card? You?re not a diehard gamer (but keep reading)

What annoys me with the way games are trending is the Ranking System.
However I agree there is a requirement for it. I don?t like the idea of (for example) A kid saves their monies to upgrade the video card, then finally purchase the game (6 months) In that time people who are better financial off than the kid have gained a Rank of 100+ !! Such a high Rank allows then more powerful weapons, quicker character advantages, etc, etc.. They have so much more advantages that the poor n00b who has just purchased the game constantly being raped by those more powerful weapons!
So what does the n00b have to do? S/he spends hours on end playing the game every day and night to improve their rank. In the process of that, they begin to pee their pants, skip eating proper meals, skip school and whatever else their normal lives used to consist of. The n00b now becomes a mushroom and latter in life develops illnesses from such game playing.
The only thought I can think of developing a fair ranking system is dedicated servers for ranking levels?

Happy Fraging
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# hardware upgrade for BF3Bruce 2011-10-14 07:59
Yes I already have upgraded GPU from GTX 460 to GTX 560 Ti which prodeced a noticable difference to the eye as well as by testing with Fraps
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# RE: Battlefield 3: Desktop PC Platform RechargedRaw Grizzzman 2011-10-14 09:09
Enjoyed write up. Been ready. Already run sr2 with 2x zeon 5680's, 5970 ati gpu. I think part of the PC decline is console gamers don't know what there missing. How great a gaming pc runs and out performs consoles. Or the fear of using a mouse and keyboard. To me it's like the old ATARI. Some peole might still like it but until you see your first gaming pc you have no idea how much better it is. Right down to admining servers keeping smacktards out or kicking and banning hackers. One day they'll grow up and play with the real gamers! Lol
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# RE: Battlefield 3: Desktop PC Platform Rechargedrich 2011-10-14 12:16
Consoles have become entertainment centers. I use my Xbox 360 for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Zune and for watching media center from my pc. I do gaming on the xbox far less but I think the advantage consoles have with regards to gaming us co-op games. I would live to play some of these games on the pc but it cannot be done unless using a network and it isn't the same thing.

In terms of upgrading.. I am not going to spend $500 on a video card that will cost $150 in a year.

I love battlefield but my over clocked i7-860(4.2ghz) and over clocked Ati5700 and 8gigs if gskill memory will have to be enough even though I doubt it will. It kills me that a system that is a year old is already outdated..
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# RE: RE: Battlefield 3: Desktop PC Platform RechargedFrito 2011-10-14 23:39
my core 2 quad Q8200 oc'd to 2.9 ghz with 6 gb of ram and a gtx 560 Ti runs the BF3 beta very well at high settings. if anything you just need a better video card. GPU's are what matter with today's games CPU/ram performance has little impact on them but does matter esp in BF3 and in that area your way ahead of me.

on the game development front, it is a shame that consoles are taking priority with the major PC developers but one thing the PC platform has over them is the ability for the developers to improve their existing games via patches and updates and if the good PC dev's like ID, Valve, Crytek and dare i say DICE need to cater to consoles in order to fund advancement of the PC versions its what needs to be done. do remember that the guys working at these companies are just like us and have been PC gaming for a very long time in most cases and do want to make great PC games, its just that money and their higher ups at the publisher (EA, Bethesda etc.) push that they make the game right the first time for the console playing peons that will not accept anything less than a near perfect game in their eyes at launch. if that gets botched due to optimizing a PC version tons of money are at stake these days and its unfortunate but true.
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# 1 title to save teh PC! REALLY?Agent X 2011-10-14 20:47
You make it sound like this single title is going to be the hail mary Pc gamers have been waiting for? If memory serves all those diehard crysis players were saying teh same thing about crysis2 and then was tits up right off the bat.

If the gaming PC as we knew it is ever to be saved its because people will get pissed off enough that companies will see and respond. Not because of 1 single title that doesnt even ressemble a remnant of what the franchise used to look like.
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# RE: 1 title to save teh PC! REALLY?Olin Coles 2011-10-14 21:37
I'd like to correct two of your misconceptions: 1) Crysis 2 was expected to be made for PC gamers first, and consoles second. It wasn't, as I already explain in this very article. 2) Nobody is claiming one title will 'save' PC gaming, in fact my conclusion eludes to as much.

By the way: companies don't care how mad you get, they care how much money they can make from you. If they can make more with console games than for the PC platform, they'll continue to go in that direction.
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# UPGRADEDBarrdock 2011-10-15 06:51
AMD Phenom? II X6 1055T Processor @ 3.2MHz OC (Gigabyte Technology Co., GA-890GPA-UD3H mainboard) (RAM) 16GB Patriot Sector 5 PC3-10666 @1333mhz, (HDD) 2 1TB WD Black 64MB Cache SATA lll Raid 0 , (VGA) 2x (2GB-GDDR5) ATI Radeon 6850 CrossfireX (Monitor) HP 2509m 25inch HD @1920x1080x32Bit,60Hz, (PSU) 850Watt Antec (OS) Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate? 64Bit.
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# IT Techniciang2tegsown 2011-10-16 04:53
I am buying a completely New Machine just for BF3 ;)
(Has nothing to with the fact I have been running a Q6600 @ 3.6GHz for the last 5 years lol)
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# Mis-guided articledwg116 2011-10-19 11:38
This article would have been more accurate 1-2 years ago but things are a changing. Im seeing the PC taking a higher stance in the PC vs Consoel race. Valve and Blizzard are not hurting for moneys. I think no matter which platform you choose the game will be good. PC will give the best quality and larger maps but not everyone can or will want to drop a lot of money on the upgrade. Granted if your rig is 2years or less and has a reasonable graphics card (gts-260 or more) this game will run great and look good too! Here is a good article on currnt affairs.
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# good article, but...terracide 2011-10-23 18:29
PC gaming is alive and well, the only true futureproof platform. . I heard an interview with Carmac a few months before Rage came out and he talked about "mistakes" made by not putting the PC first, and promised to not make that mistake again, and stated that Id was "putting money into the PC platform" anyone else catch that? anyways, it looks like a swing back to Pcs is starting to happen, we are in a world where the Desktop, laptop smartphone tablet, etc all have a place in the modern world and compliment each other well.
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