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Checkpoint: Turning PC into Console Edition

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There was once a time when using a controller to play PC games meant using a joystick for a flight sim. You didn’t play first person shooters with a controller; it was taboo. Nowadays, thanks in to the popularity of consoles, big HDTV screens and boom home theater systems, it can be viewed as the preferred method.

Burnout: Paradise was the first game I installed and I immediately sought how to hook up my Xbox 360 controller to that game and get it running.

I did.

And the result was glorious. 1080p @ 60 FPS Burnout: Paradise on my 52″ Sony HDTV. All the settings were set to high (except for SSAO). I liked what I got myself into so the next game I tried was Borderlands. This also supported the Xbox 360 controller and it ran well enough on my 20″ monitor @ 1680 x 1050. I think I’ll need to tweak some settings to enable a 60 FPS experience when running at 1080p, but the most important thing was that it worked.

But now now I have a problem. Will I need to lug my PC back and forth between monitor and HDTV?

Yes, I love gaming on couch, but there are certain games (or work) that you just need a comfy desk with. Fortunately for me, my computer desk and the HDTV are not that far apart which means I can run a 25 FT HDMI cable and 33 FT USB cable (with repeater) from my desk to the HDTV.

The PC will remain at the desk, but the USB cable and HDMI cable will be fed to HDTV. I will then be able to hook both my monitor and the HDTV to the Radeon HD 5770 via HDMI cable and DVI cable. Then I should — in theory — be able to toggle between the two displays.

But why the long USB cable then? Well, I did purchase a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse for the PS3 and Xbox 360. I do use it from time to time since it’s a nice alternative to key in text  I would like to keep that arrangement, so I would like to have a USB port to the PC near the consoles. And that’s when that USB extension cable comes in.

Outstanding Issues

I addressed a major hurdle already, but there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed in order to make the “gaming PC on couch” aspect more appealing.

GUI Interface Issues

Interfacing with Windows 7 (or any OS) from the couch isn’t ideal with a keyboard or mouse — that’s why we have media center front-ends like Microsoft’s, MediaPortal or XBMC. I haven’t decided on which I will use for when I’m on the couch yet.

Control Issues

Then there is the matter of control. Ideally I should be using a Media Center Remote or at least a receiver which is recognized as such, but since my PC isn’t in front of me while I’m on the couch, it’s going to be tough. I am considering using my Xbox 360 controller as a means of control. By default, it isn’t ready for prime time, but if I pair it with this awesome Pinnacle Game Profiler software, then we’re getting somewhere. I’ve tried it and it works very well, but I don’t know if it’s the right solution as of yet.

I could get a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, but those are costly and I already have a wireless keyboard and mouse solution.

Communication Issues

Some games require communication. So what can I do? I’m thinking Bluetooth headset — specifically — my PlayStation Bluetooth headset. All I need to do is by a $2 BlueTooth dongle from DealExtreme and I should be good to go. We’ll see how well that works for $2.

It’s a Summer Project

I guess that’s what this has become. It’s been a long time since I’ve played with PC hardware, so it’s been quite the experience trying to integrate this to my home theater set up.

With the BlueTooth, I may be able to get into crazier projects such as Wiimote on PC, but for now, it’s just trying to sort out this initial project.

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