DESIGNING TECH FOR GAMERS
Joining Daniel Wilks, Editor of PCPP and Hyper were Joe Olmsted, director for Alienware and Dell Gaming, Lenard Swain, community team lead for Alienware, Vince La Duca, Global Product Manager for Linksys, Matthew Letts, Senior Technical Marketing Engineer, Intel
DANIEL WILKS: It would be really good to figure out what gaming hardware is because if you believe the ads, you believe the things they say in print magazines or on splash pages on websites, gaming technology just means there’s more RGBs on it. That’s obviously not true. To my left I have some people who actually designed and know far more about gaming, designing gaming technology and what actually it is. They might be able to guide us through what it means. I’ll get them to introduce themselves and then we’ll kick it off.
JOE OLMSTED: Sure. Given that I’m in the pole position right here. Joe Olmsted, I’m the director for Alienware and Dell Gaming worldwide so all products with an Alienware badge come through my team and we do design all the hardware and we had the RGBs first.
LENARD SWAIN: How you guys doing? I’m Lenard Swain and I work at Alienware as well and I lead our community teams. Our global community organization. Things like Alienware Arena our community site, our Alienware TV, our Twitch channel, Youtube, social media, and Reddit, Discord. Anything that involves Alienware directly reaching out to gamers. Myself and my team lead those.
VINCE LA DUCA: Hi my name is Vince La Duca. I am the Global Product Manager for Linksys Corporation responsible for the WRT Line, one of the longest running CE brands that’s been out there for at least 15 years. MATTHEW LETTS: I’m Matthew Letts. I work in Intel’s gaming eSports and VR group. I’m responsible for technical marketing which is supporting all of our hardware and software partners with their gaming line of products as well as supporting our country teams all over the
world like in Australia, on delivering great gaming experiences for you guys. DANIEL: I should have said I’m Daniel Wilks. I’m the editor of PC PowerPlay. Just to start off and to keep things nice and general and broad and simple, I might get my panellists to actually define what they think a gaming product is. JOE: RGBs. [laughter]
MATTHEW: As many antennas as you could put in a product.
JOE: I’ve been with the Alienware brand now for 13 years. We don’t try to be different than a mainstream product but all the little touch points that you have as an individual, we want to be gaming focused. So we use different networking cards, we use different audio chips, our ports are laid out in a way that you don’t have an HDMI port just smack dab where you’d want to hold your mouse.
We don’t have 8 or 9 or 10 inch touchpads because you’re not really using the touchpads unless you’re in Word or Chrome. We don’t focus at all on chasing some of these mainstream touch points because we know you don’t want something in the way of your mouse or you don’t want that big honking power cord to be somehow interfering with what you’re at.
That’s how we focus it. It’s not necessarily what’s inside because we can all make something with a 1060 in an i7. It’s all the other things that we focus on when we think of gaming versus mainstream and we put on a lot of RGBs. [laughter]
LENARD: For me, I’ve been at Dell for 17 years and Alienware for 11 years now. It’s really about the passion we have for gamers and the immersion in gaming. We know that people play games and they buy games. They don’t necessarily buy the hardware. They buy the hardware to play the games. Whatever we can do from a hardware standpoint that allows you to get in to the game quicker and have a premium experience from whether it’s a frame rate standpoint or being able to turn on all the bells and whistles. That’s really what we look for with an Alienware design.
VINCE: For us at Linksys we have what we call a gaming router versus a normal, consumer based router. With the importance of online gameplay that’s what we’re focused on in making sure that the online gameplay is the top priority. Not in the consumer sense where it’s more of a matter of either video streaming or just general activities on the home. That’s what we set up to do.
In a gaming router we want to make sure that online gameplay is the top priority no matter what is going on in that home because what we found out in research when it’s time to go online and go do your online gameplay typical in the past you had to run around and tell everybody to get the hell off the network. Now with the technology that we’re putting forth in our gaming router, it’s all about online gameplay as number one.
MATTHEW: I think for us it comes down to making the experience as good as possible for you guys. Having a noticeable difference in experience from perhaps a mainstream product to a gaming product. Adding in features or whether it’s just straight performance or other features or there’s a lot of work that goes into the software side of things as well that makes that experience for a gamer that much better on a gaming specific product.
DANIEL: From what you are saying, the general consensus seems to be there’s the convenience factor, there’s performance factor, and there’s speed factor that seem to be important in gaming hardware. The convenience of not having things in the wrong place or extra stuff that isn’t needed or layers that will get in the way of the actual experience. The actual power to bring up all the bells and whistles and the speed of getting into a game faster than with mainstream product.
When designing a new product say with Alienware a new laptop or a new small form factor PC, when you’re coming up with a new product, do you first look at where in the market you wanted to go? Or is it, “We have an idea for a new product. We think we can find a market for”? Or is it based around new technology that you’ve got? What’s the first step in designing a new product?
JOE: The first thing we do is, because right now my team is focused on what we’re going to do in 2019 and 2020. We think about what besides just a firstperson-shooter you’re going to be doing. Especially now with VR and MR and what those requirements are going to be. What kind of CPU-GPU combo we’re going to need. What kind of networking combo we’re going to need.
We try to figure out exactly what’s that going to be. We work with Intel, we work with Nvidia, AMD. We also work with our audio company. We work with Killer Networks for all of our Alienware products to make certain that they will be able to prioritise that content. Then we figure out what it’s going to look like and how much it’s going to weigh and how thick it’s going to be. How many lights are we going to have?
Right now, we’re spending as much time with HTC and Oculus to figure out what their headset requirements are going to be for 2019 and 2020 more so than a lot of the other technology guys. Because right now there always so many ports on the back and do we emphasise more USB-C ports or Thunderbolt ports or Mini DisplayPorts. Then you have to figure out if G-sync’s still going to be delivered over Mini DisplayPort or if they’re going to move to HDMI.
We spent just a ridiculous amount of time, nine months to probably a year, just trying to figure out how you’re going to connect into the base platform. Then we try to make it thin and light and we do have the thinnest 180W 17-inch notebook. Although, I don’t think anyone here would consider it thin but then we try to do that.
For desktop, again it’s about is Nvidia going to go back to three SLI, or four SLI, or they’re going to stay with two SLI and that would really define how big the box is going to be. And really it’s just collecting all of this intel from our partners and what we’re going to be doing and then figuring out how to make it comfortable for the average gamer and affordable.
DANIEL: With gaming products and I think this applies across the board. How important is a unique aesthetic when you’re bringing out a product? Is there something that as far as looks go that defines gaming apart from RGBs?
JOE: Yes, I mean I think that if you look at a Macintosh, they have a very very distinct look and it appeals to very distinct set of people. I think we find and I know Vince you define your products this way as well. We want a product that allows you to stand out and it’s not just with lighting. We could all make just a simple square or rectangle, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
We do spend a lot of time with focus groups, we also listen to our community. I get as much pleasant and wonderful feedback from our community as I do from anyone else. When we go to do a brand new design, we also want it to be a departure from where we’re at versus just a slight iteration. Because the current design of notebooks we have right now we’ve launched here in 2013 and so we’re working on what that next design might look so what we do meet with several focus groups in several countries. They don’t know it’s us, but we do that as well.
VINCE: For us the research component is pretty important. First of all, we’re trying more so to solve problems but ideas are a really important thing. There are some that take that idea in the routers a little too far. It’s really more of just making sure that it’s doing the right thing at the right times. For us, it’s more of what’s under the hood. We’re taking a little more of a subdued, more stealth look with the new WRT that we’ve put out that works really well with your guys’ stuff.
We’re also using some of the Killer Networking technology on there, which has really been an amazing thing to make that online gameplay good. Ideas are that part that actually gets it home, then once you get it home you really got to have it performing under the hood as well. We did put blue LEDs on this one.
Gaming hardware certainly has a distinctive design aesthetic
DANIEL: That question of aesthetics is especially interesting. I think when it comes to things like modems and routers because when they’re working you should essentially forget you have them. The only time we should notice them really is when they stop working and like you go and reset it. If you look at some of the gaming routers they aren’t subtle. Hugely powerful, very expensive, look like a giant alien spider.
VINCE: Would you want that in your home? [laughter] DANIEL: Where do you draw the line from pointing out that this is a gaming device before it looks above the top and outlandish than a functional product?
VINCE: I think it’s about it performing and doing its thing without you having to worry about it. In our research, gamers are not network engineers they just want it to work and they want to make sure that gameplay is number one on top of everything. When we do our research we find out what they are paying points are, that’s what we want to address not the aesthetics are really more so.
Anything else is really just perform the way that they need it to perform. They can, the gamers, like you guys out there, can just pay attention to improving your gameplay. Especially now, how it’s become such more of a competitive arena with eSports Explosion there. They don’t want to be messing with the network. Just have it work and that’s what’s great like what we’ve done with the Killer Networking technology and the kind of the connection that we’re making like the Alienware stuff where it is all happening automatically. You hook up our router to the Alienware desktops and laptops. It automatically detects it and it automatically is handling all of that bandwidth management.
DANIEL: When do you draw the line when it comes to the actual looks and with the VR headsets or any bit of tech really. Where do you draw the line? How do you draw the line from this is what our look is going to be, before it’s ostentatious?
JOE: If any of our designers from Austin are watching this, I apologise in advance for saying this. We want our products to be noticeable and we want them to be clearly identifiable. They will stand out from others. There are some people who will find that gaudy, some people who will love it and some people who will think it’s not far enough or not aggressive enough.
For every person I’ve met that loves how our products look, there are those I meet who don’t love what it looks but they all know what it is. The first thing we want to do is to have something that is absolutely identifiable with our brand and there is always a story behind it. Again, some people love it, some people hate it. Some people want red instead of silver, or black instead of gold or whatever it is.
We all send out regionally. There are some markets that like things very very different than other markets and it’s really a fine line. Because I can’t make an Alienware system for China, and one for Germany, and one for the UK and one for Australia. We want it to be absolutely something you know what you’re looking at. That tends to be a lot more aggressive than a Macbook and have multi-colored lights. DANIEL: Light up alien eyes. JOE: Yes, and they do. DANIEL: When a new technology comes out, just had the announcement of like the Ryzen mobile or the 1070 Ti going to be coming soon, things like that. Is that a kickoff point to your designing a new product in the range or is it more like a global overview of when iterations are going to come out or when the next big development step is? JOE: Yes.
MATTHEW: Intel just launched the Coffee Lake desktop processors, October 6th through 7th. Day and date we launched it in North America as well as in Australia the same day. That was a pretty major update, 6-core Intel desktop product. We did not put it in a new chassis, we just put it in our current chassis and it’s on the stand as well. The 1070 Ti, especially, the desktop graphics they come when they come.
As we all know, we all get about a month’s notice before we realize that our graphic cards going to be extinct. We might get too much notice but it’s not great. Usually, those will just shove into whatever we’re doing but we do plan our major designs around new technology. When NVIDIA came out with the 10 series graphics last year, we introduced a brand new set of notebooks around that. Because just from a development standpoint, we have to change the motherboard at the same time, might as well change the mechanics around this problem.
VINCE: When the thermals changed like their notebooks can get dramatically thinner or your cooling solutions can get different.
JOE: Yes. NVIDIA recently announced that the Max-Q technology and there were a slew of notebook vendors that try to came out with these sub 20mm 1060 notebooks.
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DANIEL: Similarly, with routers like Killer or Killer 2, is that an immediate flow and effect with a new design or new implementation of that technology or is it something that’s figured out well in advance?
VINCE: In the network space where we work with the chipset, we meet with the normal cast of characters out there supplying networking game components to find out where they’re at, where their roadmaps are at. Like when the 802.11ac technology comes out, you saw that whole pivot. To their routers they’re usually about a year ahead of where all the client WiFi and Ethernets are going.
We’re really the ones that usually have to step out there first and now lead the way as championing the new technology. I think what’s more important especially in the gaming space is making sure we’re still staying true to the mission. If we’re making a gaming router, no matter what that technology is - it could be XYZ chipset that’s coming out - but is it really focused to be able to maintain ping times no matter what’s going on.
It’s more about the need and then does the new technology fit that particular thing. We can split the lines up a little bit, maybe do explorations more in our consumer products to see how, and use that as a pilot because with WRT it’s more about performance and performance perfected. That’s what we do with WRT: wait until we know that they’re mature and in making sure that it’s actually providing that benefit.
DANIEL: It sounds like you’ve got a bit of, like you said, you’re leading the way for a lot of things that you’ve got a bit of future proofing built into designs. Does that give you more leeway to experiment with technologies?
VINCE: It’s always a risk. It’s a heavy lift because then you take on that burden of educating what the benefit is of a new technology. We’ve got AX right around the corner which is the newest WiFi technology. Making sure that it’s aligning with what’s going on with Killer, and where they’re roadmaps are, and how that’s integrating into what Joe’s put together, it’s a bit of a puzzle to put out there. We try to make sure we’re staying ahead of it and making sure that we’re doing that educational component to educate why we’re doing this and why is it going to benefit you if it does.
MATTHEW: One of the things that we are looking at is, and all the PAX people here will know, is that gamers are very interested in sharing their gaming moment. There’s live streaming now and features being added into the hardware that will let you share your moments with your friends or your social media following. I’m sure Leonard has his community that try and share also and I imagine that some of the features that we’re looking to put into our hardware will make live streaming on Twitch better, all those kinds of enhancements. I say that directly relates to the network as well because you need to have that high-speed network with no latency.
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DANIEL: Last year we talked about the HDR, things like that. Do these new emerging technologies change the way you think about developing new products? That would not just be connectivity but you have the power to run things. Also, weight if you wanted to do room scale or backpack size stuff. HDR with streaming takes more bandwidth than regular. Do these emerging other technologies play a part in how you design?
JOE: I think the hardest, the most contentious question we have with our design team and our engineering team is battery life. No one buys a gaming notebook so they can have an eight-hour battery life in Excel or Chrome. We can’t sell a notebook with a small battery because everyone demands incredibly strong battery life but yet you never play off of the battery.
When you travel all of our notebooks have 180-Watt AC adapter now so you can’t even plug them into an airplane. For someone like me flying around way too long, that flight is just a killer to get down here from Texas. I don’t even bother to take my notebook out because I can’t plug it in because the first thing I’ll do is shut the outlet off. To me, when we’re designing our notebooks, certainly less so our desktops, everyone wants this incredibly long battery life but they can’t use it when they’re gaming.
To me, our next generation of notebooks we’re trying to solve gaming on a battery at the level you would want and expect from an Alienware brand. All the other things, our OLED screens on a 13inch notebook is the most beautiful screen I’ve ever seen in a notebook. Obviously, the phone vendors are all moving to OLED. We have it in our notebook but it is a battery hog. That notebook does not get a great battery life and, ironically, we get dinged on it in the press but yet it’s this incredibly beautiful OLED screen. To me, the hardest part about these new technologies is maintaining the expectation of battery life for these customers or for everyone including me because I still like to use my notebook when I travel and play games when I travel.
DANIEL: Does that mean that when the fuel cell batteries and stuff come out you’ll be looking at that? [laughter]
JOE: I will be absolutely the first with the fuel cell battery, you bet. DANIEL: Does that play into design? LENARD: For us, we’re working with a lot of the VR vendors and trying to optimise software stack and make sure the latencies there and somewhat defining standards on what a good VR experience is and how you can measure it. Then help the software developer as well as the hardware vendors similar to the way traditional games are. You buy a game and they set their minimum and the recommended specs. Then you can know what hardware you need to play that game. None of that really exists for VR right now. I think Oculus and Vive have their main hardware specs. There’s some good VR, high-end VR titles out there that will struggle at that min spec.
JOE: I think VR’s finally given us a reason to be cautious because it’s the one gaming technology out there right now that’ll make you throw up if it’s bad. Battery life is great, no doubt about it, but if you start puking because the system can’t really handle it or you get dizzy and you fall down, it’s immediately noticeable. I think we’ve all struggled with that - even me running VR at my house I put my daughter in VR and she loved it then the second the frames got a little skippy then she was not happy. She didn’t throw up but it wasn’t a great day.
MATTHEW: You can ride out dips in your FPS when you’re playing Overwatch or Counter-Strike but when you’re playing a VR game and you’re sick and then suddenly it’ll dip, your world will go for a spin.
JOE: I think that’s absolutely something we’re all sure going within the hardware industry now around VR is everyone wants a great VR experience. It’s a very high-end PC that you need to do it. Then not everyone can afford to buy and replace their new PC. Watching a movie in VR is very different than playing the latest Triple-A title in VR. You’re right the ports are easy but if we can’t supply a steady stream of frame rates it gets bad and it gets bad quick for those of us who have seen it. MATTHEW: It’s interesting it’s like a full system workload. You need a good CPU, a good GPU and all the latency everywhere and the whole system goes into delivering that experience. We’re all working together to figure out the best way to do that for you guys.
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DANIEL: Do you think the solution to that is the approach that Microsoft has taken with the Mixed Reality headsets? There’s actually a baseline technology that every vendor that does one has to hit. Do you think that will solve this problem of a minimum requirement or is it just a catch-all?
MATTHEW: I think we’ll always try to have better experiences. We do it in regular gaming now, the graphics continue to get better and some gameplay gets better. I think we’ll demand that from the VR developers as well.
LENARD: I think that it was Microsoft looking out an opportunity. If you haven’t experienced VR, definitely, while you guys are at the show, experience it. There is VR everywhere. We have it in the Alienware stand. If you haven’t experienced VR it is truly immersive. It is a truly great experience and as it’s been mentioned on this panel that experience right now from an Oculus or from an HTC is quite an investment.
The opportunity is how do we get VR to gamers in a quicker, lower price point fashion? Microsoft saw that opportunity. We have a Dell HMD Visor that supports the Microsoft VR initiative. They have the ability with their Microsoft store to provide games to the community and all of that as an opportunity. At the end of the day it’s Microsoft taking advantage of an opportunity for a gaming technology and gaming interaction that is quite an awesome experience.
You know in my role specifically and I kind of tie that into community, a lot of what we do from a in-house design standpoint or future opportunities for Joe and his team to look at, product development and things like that, comes directly from the community. Not just being at events. Events is a great opportunity that get the local feedback but we’re online 24/7 listening to gamers whether it’s Alienware Arena which is our community site.
We’re constantly getting pinged on Twitter, Facebook, Discord. We have a Discord community in the Alienware subreddit. We’re constantly hearing from the community about how they like our products, how they use our products, and all that information gets fed back into the design process.
DANIEL: With the community aspect, when designing, is the community the first kind of port of call for anyone when you’re looking at, like, this is the VR product niche we need to fill or this is the kind of spec the people are looking for, or do you look outside what could be considered beyond essentially an echo chamber?
JOE: The gaming audience certainly does not lack in providing feedback.
LENARD: Not at all. [laughter]
JOE: I would say a few years ago, probably, five years ago we weren’t listening. We had an event after launch and we handled it very poorly. Frankly, we were telling people online that we had a manufacturing excursion which is another word for the factory did something wrong but the product wasn’t broken. We didn’t listen to the community. We really suffered for it and it really caused us to rethink everything we do. Now, Lenard and his team has been involved in every part of our defining of new products since 2014?
LENARD: Yes. JOE: 2014. We make certain that the mistakes we’ve made with the community in the past, we have some very specific testing now to make certain we don’t repeat those very specific things. Because again, the worst thing I think we can do is to make the same mistake twice because you as a gaming audience will remind us that we have made that mistake twice.
It’s always quite embarrassing. I know when I speak to my leadership that we did that again. The community for us, at least, it’s the most valuable tool that we have and it may not seem like we listen because the outcome may not match what someone said but we are listening nonetheless.
VINCE: For us, when Linksys was acquired by Belkin, that was one of the things that we saw that Cisco didn’t do very well with those Linksys customers is really listen. Belkin as a parent of Linksys now really pays attention to people and how they use products. I’m afforded an amazing user experience team that was carved out of the Belkin team to really listen to the community and find out what are those needs.
Making sure that we’re paying attention to those needs and wants of the online gaming community because it being so important nowadays. It’s all about UX and research for us even before even single line of code is written, even a single PCB is scribbled out. We’re paying attention to what’s going on out there and listening to figure out where those play points are. Again, you guys should certainly let us know.
DANIEL: How do you come back from that mistake? When you talk out and the community lets you know, how do you come back from that? How do you deal with it?
JOE: I think five years ago we would have just ignored it but now we actually admit it and we apologise.
LENARD: It’s all about constant feedback, right? Acknowledging that you hear the concern and providing information back on a very routine basis. The fact that it’s the internet, we’re out there, my team, we’re all personalities. We put our names out there. We are known Alienware employees. If we go into a gaming forum, if we’re on Reddit, if we’re in Discord, like I’m Lenard.
When the work day ends I’m still Lenard on the internet and I’m still Lenard the Alienware guy. My team has taken our personal channels, whether it’s our Twitch channel, our YouTube channels, our names on Discord, our Twitter accounts, all our social media accounts. I get pinged day in and day out at all times. I tell everybody, I do it daily and at night you can ask me anything and everything and I’m going to be 100% truthful and honest.
Sometimes, the answer is going to be “I can’t answer that right now” but if there is an issue that you have we will personally hand carry that into the company whether it’s on service support, whether it goes in design, whether it goes in marketing or PR, we will hand carry those things and we’ll provide an update. We can’t hide because we do this every single day of our life and on the internet everybody expects to be able to reach out to you and ping you. A 24-hour period doesn’t go by where we’re not updating our community.
MATTHEW: Yes, you cannot go radio silent anymore. LENARD: Yes, you can’t [laughs]. Once you put your name out there and you’ve answered one person, you got to give everybody that same level of respect. MATTHEW: We actually, in a sense, we owe it. You guys are the ones that are basically writing our checks. We owe that to you guys.
DANIEL: In a couple of minutes we’ll be trying an open forum for you guys to answer some questions of these guys but I think a point to end on from our panelists would be, potentially, the most controversial one. It’s that gaming products usually seem to have a higher premium when it comes to a price tag than a mainstream counterpart. Why is that?
JOE: They’re also heavier. [laughter]
JOE: As cheeky as it sounds they cost more because they weigh more and they weigh more because we put more stuff in them. As weird as that sounds we put in our notebook nearly a pound of magnesium because a gamer can get emotional during gaming and the last thing we want is for a bad kill to have someone pound their notebook and crack it. That’s one of the reasons it costs more.
Another reason is we have to pack into our 17-inch notebook 260-odd watts of thermals and that’s all done with copper heat pipes and the fans are bigger. All of that stuff is bigger. All weighs more. The average Ultrabook is running at about like 20 watts between the CPU and memory and I shift 330W adapters. My adapter weighs more than some of our notebooks, some of the Dell Notebooks, the Ultrabook Notebooks. That’s the primary driver is I got more stuff in the notebook and the more it weighs, the sturdier it is, the heavier it is, all that stuff costs money and it costs more money to put it together.
DANIEL: More money to ship? JOE: Yes. Especially to here. [laughter]
JOE: I don’t know how many stops those boats take but it takes a while to get things down here. I don’t even need to tell you guys that.
DANIEL: We’re refer to that as the Australia tax. JOE: Yes. Yes. I hear that often. [laughs]
VINCE: I see. In the routers with WRT we’re using it at enterprise grade chips is in there so there’s that added cost, higher level layer of PCBs we have to use because we want to make sure we ensure that performance.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Have you ever considered external or modular power supply battery packs for laptops?
JOE: We have, actually. The primary issue with that for us is the discharge rate that you have to get through the battery pack. If you think about a power drill you get an incredibly – you know how the battery will last an hour but you get really high torque out of it. That’s how fast it discharges. There are rules about how many of those batteries you can put on a plane. And so I can’t make a battery pack that discharges that fast and hit most federal requirements. We do have a power companion that’ll charge your notebook when you’re not plugged in. But it won’t give you a plugged-in gaming experience. So it has to do with discharge.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: My current one requires its own sort of plug because it’s got around a 700-watt power supply.
JOE: Which one does? AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: I’ve got a top-of
the-line – JOE: Oh, one of those. AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Yes, an SLI one. JOE: Yes. No, that’s the one that can do it but I can’t put that – I can’t ship that in an airplane. VINCE: So, it’s interesting how regulatory really kind of drives some of the things to – I mean globally wouldn’t be –
JOE: Every government has their own little rules, that’s for sure.
DANIEL: And we have all of them. JOE: We have very specific power supplies just for this country this I’ll let you know. Go recommend.
DANIEL: Anything over a certain size is a bomb. VINCE: [laughs] Yes, exactly.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: Hi. I’m wondering what regulates and pushes into monitor design. In fact seven years ago, when buying a desktop monitor, I could go 24-inch 1920x1200 resolution monitor and then within a couple years, the home mainstream was everything had to be HD which actually downsizes the size of your monitor to 1920x1080. And to try to get a second monitor to match my screen is impossible now because it’s a – even though it’s a better monitor for gaming because it gives you more vertical real estate, you can’t get any more. And how – now I’m seeing RGB. But at least RGB doesn’t diminish your gaming experience.
But how do you as designers deal with the mix between, “Oh, this is the current social standard right now at 4K TV so it has the same aspect ratio, but it doesn’t give you the best gaming experience. Well, maybe it doesn’t. I haven’t run the tests with social groups. But it doesn’t give you the best gaming experience on what actually would make a better gaming PC.
JOE: From an LCD perspective, it’s the one industry we have to deal with that is entirely driven by factory efficiency. When they build a – and I don’t know how it’s done, but when they build a machine that makes LCDs, the width is determined by cost and they cut those screens into how many they can get side-by-side. And so every single one of those transitions: the 4:3 to 16:10, the 16:10 to 16:9. Now we see 3x4, and 4x3 – And two by something is coming?
DANIEL: 2x9. JOE: This is the most frustrating part I have to deal with in the world. And it’s completely driven by the engineering efficiency of the manufacturing process. It has nothing to do with what we want. Because we agree. We’ve loved that 16:10 aspect ratio. The 19x12. It was also 1680x1050 because you got some great Y. But the industry moved on us and went to some new aspect ratio when we were all proper... We were all changed to move into that category. AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: Thank you. JOE: Next.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: Hi. Anyway, I’m just curious since you guys are all part of the industry if you’re gamers yourself. Are there any standout examples of games or series that you like, “These guys have done it right.”? JOE: [laughs] That’s a weird question.
LENARD: Actually, it’s not weird. I get asked all the time. Yes. In the Alienware office, a vast majority are gamers. Some game less than others. I game a whole lot. A whole lot. I can at least four or five hours a day. Monday through Thursday, and then Friday through Sunday. If I’m up I’m gaming pretty much. For me, my community is probably watching this right now. League of Legends is the game that has sucked my life for the last eight years going back to the beta. Anybody that played League of Legends back in the very beginning days – It was a horrible game. [ laughs] I don’t think it was all that great when it first launched.
But what Riot did very well is that they listened to the community and they evolved the game. Now, I mean the game is so big that the community maybe doesn’t get listened to as much as possible but that’s actually probably smart of Riot at this point. But I think as a lesson from your question about who has done something right. I think Riot did really well. Because again the game wasn’t that good in the early days.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: I’m actually a big X-Plane guy. Flight simulations. So I actually started getting into that and doing some amazing things with that, with Wi-Fi, with X-plane, and iPads because of some of the avionics stuff that you can do on iPads. That actually led me into actually pursuing my pilot license. I’m actually moving back and forth between X-plane at home, on a nice 4K TV right in front of my face to do maybe some testing some flight paths and then going out and hitting the field, and actually going up in the sky and actually doing it.
It’s interesting because a lot of the iPad apps that we use in cockpit are all Wi-Fi based, and they’ll work on the sim on X-plane. I’ll take that iPad and go right into the aircraft, pop it in there and actually have all the same avionics or backup avionics that I’ve used on X-plane in the real deal. Doing that, it’s really interesting to move back and forth. What’s actually really cool is when my son is sitting with me, and he’s actually working some of the avionics in the airplane. We’ve worked out a deal to where he has to do an hour on the sim, and then he gets to play an hour of Overwatch. [laughter]
JOE: I don’t game nearly as much. My wife and Lenard’s wife don’t necessarily agree on how my free time should be spent, but
LENARD: I get to go home and say, “I’ve got to play games. I’ve got to know what my community is playing. It’s my job.”
JOE: I’m actually – I love Cities: Skylines. I’m probably over 1000 hours into it now. It’s also because I can do it after my kid goes to bed and my wife is watching whatever she is watching, and I can take a conference call with our engineering team in Taiwan and I can do both. I tried to get into Overwatch, but I couldn’t concentrate on it and anything else. PUBG, I played that, a little bit, but I got so tired of getting killed before I could even get out of the parachute.
VINCE: That’s why I put mine on Overwatch, and I put up the ping monitors and do all my testing while he’s playing away. That’s how I make it work.
JOE: Yes, I still play. Not as much as I used to, sadly. It’s really disappointing, but it’s my own problem. I’ll manage that through therapy. [laughs]
MATTHEW: I used to be a gamer in college, and then started at Intel, it kind of sucks the rest of your life from you.
[laughter] I play a lot of every – a little bit of almost every game, because we do a lot of testing and see what the games and follow the community, see what’s popular. Somehow, we have managed to get a bunch of senior engineers hooked on PUBG. Whenever they have free time, they’ll come into the lab, and we’ll play a few rounds, and have some interesting discussions on how we could do MPG technology at the hardware level and stuff like that. I don’t know how it captured their interest, if it was the genre or the game, but that is sort of inspiring these, fairly senior, Intel engineers on the “how could we reshape the industry” kind of questions. They did a pretty good job, however they did that.
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Optimising VR to deliver consistent framerates is critical for the tech’s future
New technology often influences the next generation of products
Overwatch, PUBG and Cities Skylines are on our hardware guys’ playlists