PC or Console? 2021 Edition

Sun 20 Jun 2021, 00:23

Years ago I wrote a post called Should I get this game for PC or Console?

I went back and read it now and I think the flowchart is still OK. If I were to update it for 2021 it would be something like this though:


I prefer playing games on the PS5 a lot. It's just so nice! And now with this generation, we finally got SSD speeds. I always missed that when playing PS4. And so far, all games on PS5 seem to be going for 60 FPS too (and some even 120 FPS!). Though, I wouldn't be surprised if they suddenly start doing 30 again. The "1.0" of Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is just available in 30 FPS, which really concerned me -- that they were this early on planing on just doing 30 FPS. Fortunately, the day one patch added a very fantastic Performance RT mode.

Anyway, we're not here to discuss framerates and unnoticeable resolution changes.

Let me tell you some reasons why I think it's nicer to play on PS5 instead of PC (same arguments would likely apply if I were to use an Xbox Series X):

It Just Works

I have a nice, soft, comfy armchair, nice 55" OLED TV and a footstool. I just sit down, kick back and go "ahh" and enjoy the game. Much nicer than sitting hunched over by my desk and looking at my terrible not-OLED computer monitors.

And yes! I am aware I can hook my PC to my TV using a simple HDMI cable. Let me tell you some reasons why I don't like that:

You know how I said I go "ahh" when I sit down to play PS5? Yeah it's pretty fucking far from "ahh" when I have to get up to connect my TV to my PC and disable the monitors and wait for screens to stop blinking so I can hit Win+P a couple of times, instead of just grabbing a PS5 controller and turning it on (which turns on the PS5) and turning on the TV.

Oh, and speaking of controllers - that's another thing! Connecting a controller to the PC and having it work in every game can be trouble. Most, if not all, games nowadays support Xinput, but if they don't? Yikes.

And that's just the game support bit of it. Getting the controller connected and consistently getting it to re-connect is another thing. Using a cable always works, but who wants that crawling around your floor? The Xbox Receiver I have for my Xbox One controller usually works... but sometimes it just randomly does not and I have to fiddle with the pairing buttons.

On console, every game supports the controller and getting one connected and getting it to re-connect never fails.

I can just sit down and go "ahh."

Much Less to Tinker With

You know I like Cyberpunk right? I got a RTX 3070 just to play it on PC properly and all that? I got a whopping 100 hours of playtime for it on Steam.

But do you know how many hours my in-game save file has?

About 60.

Where did those other 40 hours go?

Oh, I don't know... could it be:

I know I probably have undiagnosed ADHD, but Cyberpunk on PC was me going into the Settings screen and tweaking options every 3 minutes. As soon as I got a little dip: "oh! gotta go drop a setting."

As soon as it looked a little ugly: "oh! gotta go increase the render resolution!"

As soon as I drived through the city and noticed my GPU usage wasn't at 100%: "oh! gotta go drop crowd density!"

Getting the 3070 mitigated most of the issues. I could just run the game at high settings and just put DLSS at Balanced and be done with it, and it looked great. But that was kind of a expensive solution.

And that's just speaking of in-game settings. I haven't even mentioned driver updates, config file tweaks, CPU overclocking, GPU overclocking and game mods.

On console there isn't that much to tinker with. Yeah, most PS5 games does have Quality or Performance toggle nowadays but that's it, and it's usually a very easy choice for me. Some PS5 games have a quirk with the 120 Hz modes and HDR where you need to disable it or HDR because it screws up the colors if your TV doesn't properly support it, but that is easy and quick to fix.

Would of course be nicer if Sony fixed it, but I'm not holding my breath. Their system software team is still on vacation it seems (M.2 SSD expansion any day now, right?)

Always Recording, Easy Screenshots, Easy to Share

I've gotten really hooked on taking lots of screenshots and video when playing games, and I love the PS5 for that and it's a lot of fun that it's always recording my microphone so if something funny happens you get my genuine reaction! And it's automatic.

Sure, on PC you can do the same! You can use:

And probably many others I'm not aware of, but it's always a pain in the ass to set up.

To use Shadowplay you got to install Nvidia Geforce Experience or whatever they call it and log into that. And you have to be sure to enable the always recording feature, and make sure you have enough RAM or disk space (or both), and remember what hotkey they use.

OBS is probably the easiest and most reliable to set up, but you need to make sure it sees your game feed and that it hasn't lost track of it the next time you launch the game (or OBS), and you need to remember to run it and make sure Replay buffer is enabled and remember whatever hotkey you set up.

Windows Game Bar is pretty nice. I really liked it. I even remembered what key combination it uses (Win+Shift+G I think). And it's on by default. And the one time I got a really nice long distance sniper headshot in Battlefield V, it wasn't recording, so I lost all trust in it and could never use it anymore.

MSI Afterburner is nice. It's a really powerful tool that can do all sorts of things for you. It's probably my favorite way of taking screenshots for PC games. But it is far from my favorite tool to use for recording. Frankly, I don't know if I've ever gotten the replay buffer to work in it. I just get that spinner going in the corner of my screen, then I try to hit the hotkey (another one to remember, again) and it doesn't get saved. I blame myself for this one, but it is really overcomplicated for what it's intended to do.

I neglect to mention the performance hit of always recording gameplay on PC also, but that is mostly because we can use hardware encoders like NVENC nowadays, which are really good and usually doesn't reduce performance.

Now then, what will you do with your little game capture there? You want to upload it to Twitter?

Alright, well, Twitter is the pickiest little bitch when it comes to uploading video from a computer. If the format isn't just right, it will reject it with a very generic error message. And what if you wanna trim the video? Are you gonna throw it into your video editor and edit it to just be the part you want it to be?

Fortunately for me, this part isn't really an issue because I am very good at ffmpeg. I can do obscure ffmpeg commands in my sleep.

On the consoles you have a super simple way to trim video right there. And guess what? Twitter never rejects its uploads because it's already compatible. The only little snag is if you are playing in HDR: PS5 videos captured with HDR enabled does some very weird tonemapping sometimes, but it seems that when you upload to Twitter straight from the PS5 it tonemaps it automatically for you so it looks good.

That's the video side of things --- then we have screenshots.

If your game is in Steam and you use the Steam overlay, you just hit F12 and there you go. You got a screenshot, and even a nice little popup telling you about it.

So, how about if your game isn't in Steam and isn't using the Steam overlay?

Well, some launchers have their own separate hotkey for it. Some don't.

Well, that's ok. I'll just use the good ol' Print Screen key then! Well, alright, but if you have multiple monitors you will also get that in your screenshot, and if you don't use something like ShareX, you'll have to ALT-TAB into MS Paint and paste it in there.

Well, fine! I'll set up MSI Afterburner then. Great idea, that's what I did too! What hotkey are you gonna use? Are you gonna use F12 again because you're used to it from Steam? Alright, great, problem solved!

...until you go play a game on Steam again, forget to quit Afterburner (or maybe you just want it running to see GPU usage % and stuff), and now when you take a screenshot you get both Steam and Afterburner to take screenshots at the same time.

Well, so what? It's not like screenshots take up that much space. And that is true, they don't.

But lets pretend you've taken screenshots with Steam (without Afterburner running), and some screenshots with Afterburner running. Now you want to put all of these screenshots in a folder to see which ones are your favorites for your blog post. Guess who's filtering out the duplicates?

You are!

But really, the main point here is that the screenshot button is not always the same. It will be for as long as you remember to manage it. On consoles, you don't have to manage it.

Oh, and don't forget you might get your FPS counter in the corner of your screenshots there. It might annoy you, or it might not (I kinda like it actually).

Backing Up Save Files

Back in the days, 2005 or 2006 - somewhere around there - I was playing Max Payne on the original Xbox. And I got pretty far in it. I'm guessing I had completed maybe 80% of it. My friend comes over and wants to play it too. And before I knew it, he had somehow overwritten my save file and I never saw the end of the game, and I could never go back to playing it again. Not that it's a bad game, but it wasn't that good that I could replay it immediately.

So, do you know what I like about consoles nowadays? They backup your save files automatically --- err, well, as long as you're paying for PS+ anyway, but that aside --- I am very relieved to know I could put my PS5 on fire, throw it into the ocean, pay a scalper a ridiculous amount of money to get a new PS5 and I wouldn't have lost anything. I could continue playing Mass Effect 3 right where I left off.

I could even just not get a new PS5 and continue playing Mass Effect 3 on my old PS4 with the same save file because it can download the same save file too. And then when I eventually get another PS5 I could download my PS5 save files.

And I hear you. I hear what you're screaming right now: STEAM CLOUD!

Yes, there is Steam Cloud. Most new games support it. But some don't. GTA San Andreas does not use Steam Cloud for example.

So what do we do?

Do we pay for a backup service like Crashplan to backup our computer automagically to solve this problem? Sure, I've done that. But I eventually stopped because I didn't like them.

Do we set up our own Rsync or Robocopy script that backs up save files to our Dropbox? Sure, I've done that, but I hated that solution because I needed to remember to add new games to it (needed to specify folders to backup). And some save files are huge for some reason, taking up valuable space of my Dropbox.

Do we use Syncthing to sync between our devices and automagically have the same save files on all our devices? Sure, that's what I'm doing right now, and it makes for a really cool demo.

Do we just do none of this and manually manage it? Remembering to make a backup of your San Andreas save files folder before you reinstall Windows? Well, I did that for a while, and then I stopped playing San Andreas for a while and completely forgot about it when I re-installed Windows a couple of months later.

(To be fair, I don't mind re-playing GTA San Andreas, but it's the first game I thought of that doesn't use Steam Cloud.)

(And by the way, I don't use Dropbox anymore, and haven't for a really long time, but it's just easier to say Dropbox than explaining whatever the hell it is I use.)

And it's not even just for the purposes of disaster I like save files automatically backed up. I just like that they are with me all the time. I could go back today and play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a game I haven't played since 2015 when I originally got my first PS4, and continue right where I left off because those save files have been with me all the time. Sure, you can do the same thing on PC, but if the game doesn't have Steam Cloud, I hope you have really good folder organization and backup scheme going on your computer so you didn't lose those random save files in the last 6 years.

1 Launcher

Do you know what I like about getting a new Windows install going? Logging into all my game launchers.

All the usernames/emails, all the passwords, all the 2FA codes, setting up all the Autostart settings, setting up all the Install paths. I just find it so fun downloading 5 different installers to install 5 different launchers to install 5 different games. And then I just love seeing those 5 different icons in my taskbar. And I love seeing them call home constantly in my Pi-hole logs.

No, I don't like it. I hate how there are multiple launchers on PC nowadays. And again, I know what you're saying: "What's the big deal? You got 12 cores, 24 threads, 32 GB's of RAM, just let them run."

I don't like that. I like to use as few programs as possible on my computers. Having 5 unnecessarily resource heavy apps running in the background at all times is just inelegant.

And now you're saying: "Well alright, just disable autostart and just run them when you need to."

A great idea, but there's one problem: games get huge updates all the time nowadays. Wanting to play a game, opening its launcher and seeing there's a 50 GB update it needs to download and install first sucks.

Another problem for me with multiple launchers is just remembering what games I have where. When I sit down at the computer and want to play a game but not really sure what, I open up Steam and scroll through the list until I see something I want to play. I forget that I have a bunch of other games elsewhere.

There are apps that are trying to mitigate this by combining all services into one, like GOG Galaxy and Playnite. I've tried these, and they seem great, but I have years of muscle memory for opening Steam. And apart from that: GOG Galaxy and Playnite just eventually stops working for me. Accounts get unlinked and games stop launching from there.

Consoles also have rest mode of course, which means I don't really go to launch a game that often. I just put my console in rest mode, and when I come back, it's right there where I left it! This is actually super helpful and convenient and makes it a more focused experience because I don't get distracted picking a game. I just sit down and go "oh right, I was doing this". Not to mention all the time saved of not having to watch intro movies, copyright screens, loading bars, and such. Xbox does this even better with its Quick Resume feature. It let's you have multiple games suspended. That sounds really great, although I'm afraid I would end up playing nothing because I would just jump between games all the time.

Another thing I take deadly seriously is how many hours I play a game. Back in the days I used to use Xfire which was great, it kept track of how many hours I played of any game anywhere. I was really sad when it shut down, but since most games used Steam I could use its counter.

Well, now, with all these damn launchers it's not possible anymore. Some launchers keep track (like EGS (that's atleast one thing they do right)), some don't (Battle.Net). How did I solve this? Well, I wrote my own little Python script to keep track: rip_xfire. But do you remember how I just said I don't like having unecessary stuff running in the background on my computer? Well how do you think I feel having a Python script in my taskbar checking every 5 secs what .exe files are running? It also had a bunch of other problems, like different games using the same name for their executables. It was just not practical so I've stopped using it.

(To be fair again, I have noticed the PS5 play hours counter is a bit inconsistent. The PS4 Spider-Man, a game I got the platinum trophy for, I have apparently played 0 hours. Persona 5 Royal I got 110 hours on my save file, but got 106 hours or something according to the PS5. Not really sure what's going on, but for most games it seems accurate enough.)

Then there's achievements or trophies, whatever you prefer. As silly as they are, I like them. I forget what games I've played (a big reason for why I like to make my Game Beaten-posts), so I like going back and checking my achievements/trophies and going "oh yeah, I did that". Well, with all these damn launchers (some of them not even having achievements) I can't do that in one place.

And bringing it back to screenshots, I hate how they are all separated too. Some are in my Steam folder, some are in my Afterburner folder, some are in the games own Screenshots folder, and so on, and so on...

Well, do you know what it's like on console?

It's glorious.

This generation of consoles has passed some kind of threshold where it is way past the "good enough" bar.

With the PS4 I also generally liked playing it more than PC for all the convenience factors (they were mostly the same as the PS5), but it did feel sluggish at times playing at 30 FPS and having brutal load times when I knew I could play it on PC much better and much faster, so it was worth the annoying inconvenience factors of PC gaming to play on PC instead. But with the PS5, the performance is here, and the convenience is here so I don't have to make that choice anymore.

PC does still have a lot of advantages. If I were to play a game competitively, like a Call of Duty or something, I would probably still pick PC because I am still infinetely better with a mouse and keyboard at fast paced FPS games than I am with a controller.

Speaking of that, another thing that's great nowadays is cross-play! Previous generations you would probably get a game for the platform your friends was playing it on. But nowadays you don't really need to and the players are free to pick whatever platform their heart wants.

(It should be pretty obvious what platform my heart wants.)

UPDATE 2021-06-24: Added paragraph about rest mode and Xbox Quick Resume in the 1 Launcher section