You're actually spot on here, and as people speculate that there's nothing much to offer in the next generation, this sort of description of the console vs. PC gaming experience proves them wrong.
Absolutely. What I wrote may sound ridiculous to you ronuds, but on a PC you can schedule your patches and updates for a convenient time, or run them in the background while you game. On console, you have to sit and wait. System patch? Zzz. Game patch? Zzzz. As someone else said, turning on your console to play a game should be a case of 1. Turn on console, then 2. Play game. Not all this download & install update->load interface->enjoy product placement->start game->download & install patch crap. On top of that, I can close my laptop lid and it 'sleeps'. You cannot do that on PS3 or 360. Even the friggin' Wii is better sorted in that regard! I shouldn't be surprised really - Nintendo seem to remember that console gaming should be a simple experience.
I can open my laptop lid, and start playing a game off Steam far faster than I can on a 360 or PS3. That just shouldn't be the case. Hence my original post. (Admittedly, an SSD speeds things up nicely, but I'll guess that even with a normal laptop HDD it'd be faster than a console)
I'm another person who wants to press a button and be gaming within seconds, like I could do both when visiting an Arcade in the 80s/90s, or when turning on a Mega Drive. The key to this, is in well designed operating systems, sufficient RAM and flash memory caches to supplement any large hard drives, and adequate patching RULES such as the 360's patch size limit. The PS3 is the obvious console offender here, as Sony have typically fallen on their faces in terms of software and OS. One only needs to own and use a PS3 without being an apologist in order to understand what a mess they've made with patching, installing, downloading and updating anything on the console. There's no good reason why the next consoles can't improve here massively. They need to have a decent sized, upgradeable flash cache that's at least twice as large as the main memory, and as fast as is affordable. The idea would be that the most frequently & recently loaded files from the most frequently and recently loaded games (and apps) would sit in the cache after their first time being loaded, and would download directly to the cache for quick launching once completed.
Transfers between RAM, cache and HDD/optical disc should be masked as far as possible, and we'd end up with a situation akin to running a fast laptop with an SSD.
Whilst playing a game, if the game can specify that it wants a runtime cache of (for example) 8GB, then it can preload data from the DVD/BD or HDD to the cache, and stream/page data back and forth very quickly during gameplay to mask or eliminate loading times. Certain files would behave similarly to the PS3s HDD installs, and would remain sat on the flash cache for as long as there is room to spare, meaning that if the same game is loaded up again, then much of it would be accessed directly from the flash storage/memory. Most of us only play 1-3 games at a time, with the same game data being loaded from optical media and HDDs time and time again, wearing them both out, and resulting in loading delays. This hardware config would give a 'cartridge-like' experience, despite retaining the cost/capacity benefits of optical media and large, cheap, OPTIONAL or premium-model only HDDs. In addition, the background downloading of patches, pre-fetching of popular updates and DLC by the OS (it 'knows' that you own a game, as you're loading it up regularly and it'd be sat in the cache), would improve the user experience, and return the 'immediacy' of console gaming.
In addition, MS have only just delivered a 'rich' interface for browsing our collection of HDD-based games. This has taken much too long, and there's still a way to go in refining this experience. I think they've taken a step back in that we can't filter them to only show XBLA, demos, recent disc based games, remove XBLA trials, etc.
I'd also like to see the ability to view the number of people playing the games' online modes, and to jump straight from the dash into an online lobby, or even create/host a lobby from the dash, and play another game (or the single player mode ala SFIV) while waiting for interested players to turn up. For example, I could request an online session (host a lobby) for my niche game of choice as soon as I boot the console, specifying that I'm after a minimum of 'x' players. I can check if there are other players online (quality players in connection terms) without having to load the game up and search for / host games. I then proceed to do whatever I want to with the console, such as play another game, browse the store, watch TV, play music, chat to friends etc, and I get a notification when my game and its players are ready, or someone makes a request that matches my own. Due to the nature of my recent behaviour on the 'dashboard', the console OS has already pre-cached my game in flash, or even pre-loaded much of it into RAM (as I'd wish for 8GB RAM in the next gen of consoles - much more than is needed for most non AAA gaming activities). It's a little like what 'beacons' is trying to do on the 360, except that beacons is obviously unfinished and looks broken to and useless to me. Nice gesture though.
The next features involve sleep, suspend and resume. The console should be able to sleep/hibernate at any point while in use (like a PSP), and allow us to stop playing without any menu faff involving save slots and checkpoints. Resuming from sleep should take 1 second, unless it's been left so long that power saving settings have pushed the data into flash (and / or HDD) and powered everything down. Even so, resuming to the exact same spot should be possible regardless of time spent in sleep mode, or power being disconnected. This should be possible when switching games. I should be able to suspend a game at any point (unless I'm playing an online session, obviously), and switch to (or resume) another game. Again, the use of a flash cache, and an HDD if I have it installed, will mean that this can take place quickly, and that data can be moved back and forward from RAM to flash to HDD without me having to know or think about it.
I'd love these features, as it'd mean that I could request an online session on a quick, arcadey driving game, and have quick blasts on it in between playing a long epic action-adventure or RPG game. It could be the same for TV series, etc. I can watch a season marathon session on a Sunday, but with occasional interruptions while I have fighting game matches, or driving races with very specific restrictions or options set, without having to leave the console sat on an empty lobby screen.
This, plus 1080p/60fps with AA - cheers.
Edited by Ryze at 17:29:50 14-03-2012