Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Minimum Bar Team Makes Major Progress

As promised, PCGA will continue to post noteworthy updates on our progress. The minimum bar subcommittee is making significant strides in our efforts to establish a minimum bar “Gaming System” and set of hardware and software guidelines for the industry, all with the goal of improving the PC gaming experience and user satisfaction.

As reported previously, the subcommittee formed into 5 working groups, each with a distinct deliverable to the formation of the final guideline:

1. Minimum Hardware Bar Work Group: Mission is to define a minimum Gaming System “Bag of Parts”. The preliminary bag of parts was agreed to and 10 systems were built, comprised of various configurations of graphics cards, mother boards, CPU’s, OS and memory sizes. The systems were then shipped to our validation testing partner.

2. Performance Work Group: Mission is to define gaming performance and gaming experience benchmarks. This group has finalized our “gaming performance benchmark suite”, to be used to test our theories using the 10 hardware systems described above.

3. Validation Work Group: This group put together the lab that is hosting our 10 systems. The first round of testing is complete. The testing included running the prescribed benchmarks in the performance plan and a series of usability or experience tests to validate the measurements, correlating measured benchmark data against actual game play. We also tested below this minimum bar to make sure that we had headroom on the benchmark suite we will recommending. This proved that we had a suitable buffer from the benchmark which is important because it enables the benchmark to be scalable across more games within a genre. We now believe we have a solid minimum Gaming performance bar derived from a solid set of Gaming performance benchmarks. Our next step is to update the Gaming performance suite and quickly rerun the testing to further increase our confidence level.

4. Software Guideline Group: As you know, hardware is not the full story to creating a solid PC Gaming customer experience. It has to work hand and hand with the software (OS and Games). We have completed the software guideline which is comprised of two parts. The first part supports the minimum bar while the second consists of a set of ISV Best Practices designed to further enhance customer experience. We are currently incorporating this into our spec.

5. Utility Group: This work group is evaluating the need and the cost of implementing a utility tool which would determine if a set of hardware meets PCGA’s minimum bar. More work is being done in pursuit of this part of the min bar spec.

An offshoot of the work of the min bar team has been the formation of a Logo and Certification subcommittee. This team is hard at work building a proposal that will go to the PCGA Board for approval. The purpose a logo and certification program is to allow any customer to easily identify hardware systems and games that meet the PCGA minimum bar. Basically, a game that is tagged with the PCGA logo will work on a PC that is also tagged with the PCGA logo. Of course, lots of work and discussion needs to occur here before we launch this type of logo program.

As you can see, we have been quite busy, and we are closing in on our objectives. Things are really starting to come together and we have a lot of confidence that we will make a difference for PC gaming customers when we publish our guidelines. Please stay tuned and stay engage. Send me your ideas. We need your support!

Also, the PCGA needs the full support, through membership, of all companies in the PC Gaming industry including developers, publishers, IHVs and PC OEMs. PCGA members collaborate with the leaders in the PC gaming industry, participate in shaping the development and evolution of our work, and influence our strategy and direction. If you are interested in joining, please contact John Ehrig.


Rick Carini
PCGA Chairman of the Board
PCGA Minimum Bar Subcommittee Chair