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Longhorn's Secret Modder Surprises
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Old 11th July 2005, 19:34   #1
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Default Longhorn's Secret Modder Surprises

With the Beta 1 release of Longhorn now just weeks away, it is time to start talking about two little-known features that will particularly appeal to modders and power gamers. These are good signs that Microsoft is getting serious about these audiences; they demonstrate the broad positive impact of actually having game developers on Microsoft's staff.

WinSat: Getting The Most For Your Buck

The first and most comprehensive of the two features is a tool called the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSat). This is essentially a benchmarking tool designed into Windows, which generates scores based on system performance. It will analyze the graphics subsystem, the processor, the memory, the hard drive and other critical components of the system and calculate a total score. This score can be used to compare your system performance to that of any other Longhorn system.

The system also retains individual and incredibly granular scores on each and every subsystem, and will instruct software components to activate, modify their own settings, or turn themselves off in order to optimize the software for the hardware. This means that, unlike any previous operating system, Longhorn will attempt to adjust its own parameters automatically, to make the most of the performance potential of your hardware.

WinSat will set up two configurations: one for general productivity applications, and one for games. As long as the game developers make the right software call, the system will optimize itself into a generic game configuration so you can approach the most optimized performance possible.

In addition, game developers can make calls to WinSat to trigger both optimization and evaluation events. For optimization, games can automatically turn off features you don't need during game play. They can also call up a screen that points out where your system bottleneck is, and suggest hardware upgrades that will correct system performance issues. The end result is that not only will advanced games play better on a wider variety of configurations, if there is a problem, the system will tell you what the problem is and what you need to do - or more generally, to buy - in order to correct it.

And what if you buy or install a new piece of critical hardware, such as a faster drive, a better video card, faster memory, or anything else that effects system performance? You can run this tool again to automatically reconfigure your system to optimize it for the new hardware you have installed, once again getting the biggest bang for your buck. In addition, parts makers can build a WinSat trigger into the driver load, making this all happen automatically, so even novice users can gain benefits from the tool.

You can also get access to the detailed scores that WinSat generates, and use them to manually optimize your system. While the automatic method uses a fixed set of parameters based on the average user, we all know that you are above average and have special needs and skills. Just as you can overclock your processor, you will be able to modify your system parameters to best optimize the score for how you work or play, and see what the individual and overall impact of those changes actually is. This last feature will definitely separate the men from the boys!

The initial, limited view of this feature will show up in Beta One; it will be command line only until later in the Beta cycle. It will be updated and improved throughout the beta cycle and should be feature complete by Beta 3, which hopefully is due in the first half of next year.

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