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Win 95 a serious games contender?

Gaming may be one reason people buy PCs, but it's also the main reason they unplug them in frustration. According to Microsoft, the days of having problems with unsupported sound cards and sub-VGA resolutions may soon be over.

Gaming may be the reason many people buy PCs, but it's also a major reason why they unplug them in frustration. According to Microsoft, Windows 95 changes that once and for all, and the Wild West atmosphere of proprietary boot diskettes, unsupported sound cards, and sub-VGA resolutions is truly about to become a thing of the past.

Of course, that's what Microsoft said last October when it launched a multimillion-dollar event expressly for the games development community. The same thing was heard when the long-awaited and oft-delayed Gaming SDK (software development kit) was released to the development community. But it hasn't been a reality until now. Why? Doom is coming out for Windows 95.

Say what you will about the gory shoot-'em-up, but Doom, from id software, is the make-or-break application in the Windows-as-gaming-platform debate, and it looks as though Microsoft is in for some clear sailing. Not only does performance improve with the Windows 95 version, but even Doom diehards will blink twice at the stunning 640-by-480 resolution possible in this new release.

For the technically inclined, Doom 95 also means that the DirectX API is finally here. "We were instrumental to the success of DirectX," claimed id business manager, Jay Wilbur. "Microsoft worked hard with us to make sure Doom would run, and we're pleased with the results." The DirectX API promises an end to games written for specific graphics and sounds cards since the developer writes to an application layer within Windows 95 instead. By isolating the game from the hardware, just as new Windows software knows where to print once you set up a printer, the DirectX gaming API will speak to your gaming hardware without a lengthy custom setup for each game.

Doom for Windows 95 will be available in March. Hexen, from Raven software, is also preparing a Windows 95 launch this quarter, and that, as they say, is only the beginning. Stop by the CNET gamecenter for more information on the latest games and downloads.