Objective Rating of Gaming Machines

By Deane Barker on October 20, 2004

Microsoft talks Longhorn, XNA, and Xbox 2: Microsoft’s Dean Lester expresses an interesting concept here. He envisions kind of a “certification authority” for hardware. I think it’s a good idea, so long as everyone agrees on the authority that maintains the definitions.

According to Lester, the plan is to simplify the process of selecting a good PC for games without having to be an expert on hardware. He provided a hypothetical example that compared a PC with a “level 5” designation that might have a medium processor speed, a medium amount of RAM, and a midrange video card, to a “level 7” PC that might have a faster processor, more RAM, and a higher-end video card.

As you might expect, the “level 5” PC would also be less expensive than the “level 7.” Either way, the “level” designations are not final, and they may not even be used at all. However, Microsoft is considering employing them to help newer users figure out what PCs they would need to be able to play the games they want to play.

I think the “levels” would have to keep going up as hardware got faster. It would be a nightmare to “downgrade” current designations: “Okay, processors have sped up so much that all the old ‘Level 5’ computers are now ‘Level 3’…”

You’d just have to keep going, so that in twenty years, we’d have “Level 429” computers. That would be interesting historically as well, to see how the levels progress forward over the years.

One possible problem is that computers perform differently for different applications. I know they’re just talking about gaming here, but what if they wanted to expand it to other uses? A computer that is only “Level 3” for gaming due to it’s lack of a 3D processor, may be “Level 7” for spreadsheets or something.

(Come to think of it, don’t the PC magazines have a level system already? Don’t they just publish a number for a machine — a score of some kind? So there’s precendent, we’d just have to get everyone doing the same thing off the same algorithm.)

And what if manufacturers “hack” the algorithm (not that it would be secret), and make small changes in their machines to increase the level artificially. One solution would be to have the level be based on the actual benchmark performance rather than drawing it from hardware specs.



  1. I don’t think we’d need to worry too much about other ‘Levels’ for computers. If all they did were spreadsheets, the need for faster machines may have ben left with the first Pentiums.

    The only other thing besides gaming that I worry about a machine being able to handle is editing video. Whereas gaming primarily needs powerful graphics, video editing primarily needs large, fast disks and lots of RAM.

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