Tray and Play -- the future of PC gaming?

This blog update about the otherwise-meh Halo 2 port (I just can’t get excited about a PC port of a game I didn’t like too much on Xbox) details the new “Tray and Play” system they’ve included. It essentially allows you to put the game in your DVD drive and start playing almost immediately, while the game installs in the background. I don’t know about everyone else, but this seems like one of those steps PC gaming needed to make in order to compete with console games. Thoughts?

It’s a nice idea, but I really don’t think installation is an impediment to the success of PC game software. Compatibility is a bigger concern IMO, and always will be.

That’s especially true now that pubs are shifting to DVD from CD. One DVD installs are perfectly acceptable.

Yeah, I agree that it’s not the biggest concern for PC gaming… just that installation is a pain in the ass. Having the ability to pop the disc in the drive and start playing, I think, is a great step forward for the platform. Now if compatibility is addressed, we’re just that much closer to PCs being a more approachable platform…

Immediately being able to play the game sort of assumes a silver bullet for compatibility issues too, doesn’t it?

Sounds OK but I guess it’s kinda worthless if you import a save-game that is further on in the game and hasn’t installed yet.

Didn’t Valve already do this idea with Steam distributed HL2?

I saw this a few days ago. It seems like a nice way to showcase the technology, but in the end it doesn’t really sound all the useful. Installation of games, provided it’s from DVD media and not from tons of CDs, is a pretty quick process.

Patching up to the latest version and configuring the game’s settings appropriately for the hardware for a good “out of the box” experience are a lot more important, in my opinion, than letting the consumer play a couple of minutes sooner.

Far more interesting in that blog post was the mention of a product activation scheme to be used with the PC version of Halo 2. I’m really interested in this-product activation has never been a hassle for me, and it seems a good way to curb piracy somewhat for a least the first few weeks or so of the product. On the other hand, if it was too restrictive (sort of like the Vista OEM scheme), it could be a real pain the butt.

Agreed. I was so happy when they switched to DVD for most games. I really hated the 45 minute disc swapping tango some games called an install process.

P.S. - It sucks that MS has abandoned PC gaming like this.

Agreed. CD versions to me are as outdated as the floppy.

It sounds like it doesn’t matter how far along the background install is – it just fetches the file it wants to read from the DVD instead of the hard drive if it’s not installed yet.

The article mentions how this was easier for Halo 2 since the data was already structured to be used straight from the DVD, whereas most PC games want to unpack the data from a compressed container first.

And as far as I know, HL2 had to be fully downloaded before you could play it.

I still don’t have a DVD drive, my vote cancels out y’all’s!

Lowering the barrier to entry is always a good thing, in my opinion. Installation is always a hurdle. Sometimes a small one, sometimes a big one, but definitely a delay between you and the entertainment. When you’re competing with television and the Internet, I think it’s important to make your chosen medium as accessible as possible.

Uh. So it plays the game directly off the DVD? That sounds super duper slow. Part of the appeal of the PC is preinstalling to the HD to minimize load times since optical reads are incredibly slow in comparison to HD burst throughput.

This seems like the key feature here, as it would be the most compelling reason to continue using physical media. The tricky part would be reconciling this with content updates and patches; I’ve only played a handful of games that didn’t require at least one patch to correct obvious errors in the release version.

  • Alan

They say that you don’t have the option of always running it from the disc, so it’s just a temporary stage until it’s fully installed on the hard drive, and then patches could be applied to it.

Though there would still be games where you need to apply the patch first before you’re even compatible with current MP servers, so I guess only single player would actually be playable until it finishes the install.

I’m filing this under W.

For “Who fuckin’ cares?”

In all seriousness, I think the number one “problem” with PC gaming right now is that there are too many MMORPGs. As long as I don’t have to switch six CDs while I’m installing something, I really don’t give a good god-damn about the install process. I just pick my directory, select a start menu location (which will be IGNORED by the installer, most likely), and then go make something to eat. Works for me.

This is wrong. I could play within about 15 minutes when I reinstalled steam recently.

No, you start playing right away while the rest of the game installs in the background.

its a nice idea, but I think it misses the main downside of PC gaming now, which is compatibility issues, as Stroker already mentioned. If I could buy a PC game and know for certain I wasn’t going to have mess around searching/downloading/installing new drivers then that would be the silver bullet for me to come back to PC gaming. Installation time is something I’ll happily tolerate since its a one-off wait, with a little progress bar to tell me that things are happening. A progress bar for finding/installing new drivers could be infinitely long.

Incompability is the price we all pay for flexibility. If you could swap out XBox360 CPUs, video chips etc., you’d end up with a fancy looking PC that has all the same compatibility inconsistencies we’ve all dealt with forever. :D

So either we all decide as gamers that we all want one PC with all the exact same components in it so there’s never a question of compatibility at all – which would mean PCs would become consoles – or we just keep dealing with the same crap we have since, well, probably since the first PC game rose up out of the proverbial lava and some caveman upgraded it. :D I imagine most would want to keep things as they are.

There are probably 25 million different configurations, including 10 zillion video cards (sometimes I actually long for the day where a 3DFX or a Monster 3-D video card would run every 3-D game OK cause there was nothing else to choose from or to mess up compatibility). There’s no realistic way for even the largest QA testing team to know what kind of system every PC gamer is using. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck (esp. when a reviewer can knock down a game for crashing and not running on His system, yet it might run fine on the next 9 systems somene tried it on), I just don’t know how anyone can remedy compatibility problems in a PC world where no PC is identical to the next one.

How do disc-based console games get around this without being ‘super duper slow’? Honestly curious here.