Difference between revisions of "Single-screen multiplayer"

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(expand Connect a large monitor)
(Connect gamepads: USB does not stand for united states of bonerland)
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=== Connect gamepads ===
 
=== Connect gamepads ===
Most PCs have several rectangular USB ports on the front and back panels.
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Most PCs have several rectangular [[Universal Serial Bus|USB]] ports on the front and back panels.
 
You can plug a keyboard, mouse, printer, memory card reader, or game controller into each USB port.
 
You can plug a keyboard, mouse, printer, memory card reader, or game controller into each USB port.
If you have more game controllers than available ports, you can add ports to your system by plugging in a USB hub, which acts like a "splitter" or "multitap".
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If you have more game controllers than available ports, you can add ports to your system by plugging in a [[wikipedia:USB hub|USB hub]], which acts like a "splitter" or "multitap".
 
Through hubs, you can add four gamepads, just like on a console.
 
Through hubs, you can add four gamepads, just like on a console.
  
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<gallery>
 
<gallery>
 
Image:Front panel USB ports.jpg|Two USB ports (and a headphone jack)
 
Image:Front panel USB ports.jpg|Two USB ports (and a headphone jack)
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Image:USB trident icon.png|The USB trident logo, embossed on USB plugs
 
</gallery>
 
</gallery>
 
''to do: photos of USB hub, Logitech Dual Action controller, and Adaptoid N64 to USB adapter''
 
''to do: photos of USB hub, Logitech Dual Action controller, and Adaptoid N64 to USB adapter''

Revision as of 00:17, 28 September 2008

Why?

Playing a video game on a network and giving each player his own computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse is fine and dandy for some kinds of games, such as a first-person shooter. In these games, keeping your screen hidden from the other players is part of the strategy. But other games, such as fighting games, show the entire arena to all players at all times. The best way to play these is in person, on one PC, with a big screen and four gamepads.

Single-screen is a common mode of operation for console games but not for PC games. Why is that?

Why not buy four PCs and four monitors?
That's expensive. It's even more expensive if you have to buy a separate copy of each game for each PC.
Why not have each player bring a PC, monitor, and copy of the game?
Other people in the household want to use the PC.
Why not play on a game console?
Not all titles are on the consoles. Especially titles from smaller developers tend to be underrepresented on consoles due to the console makers' historic policies strongly favoring the major publishers.

How?

There are five steps to setting up a single-screen multiplayer match:

Connect a large monitor

Single-screen multiplayer needs a big screen so that all the players can fit around it without each other's heads getting in the way. You may be able to use your television as a monitor, as if your PC were a game console. Look at the back of your computer and your TV for one or more of these connectors:

  • Yellow RCA jack, carrying composite video
  • 4-pin mini-DIN jack, carrying S-video
  • 7-pin mini-DIN jack, carrying S-video
  • Blue 15-pin D-sub jack, carrying VGA video
  • White DVI jack, carrying DVI video

to do: photos of 7-pin mini-DIN, DVI, and S-video to composite adapter

Svideo.com has instructional videos on how to connect to a PC as well as a selection of cables and adapters for sale.

Here are some of the more common scenarios:

HDTV output

Almost all PC video cards since the late 1980s have a VGA output, which sends red, green, and blue (RGB) color information on three pairs of wires. Some newer video cards have a DVI output, which carries the same information on a digital link. Your desktop computer's monitor is almost certainly connected to the PC through a VGA or DVI cable.

If you have a high-definition television, you're in luck: most HDTVs can display a VGA or DVI signal. HDMI, a connector found on some TVs, is DVI plus sound in a smaller form factor.

If your PC and TV have VGA ports, buy a VGA cable and run it from your PC to the TV. If your PC and TV have DVI or HDMI ports, buy a DVI cable, HDMI cable, or DVI-to-HDMI cable (as needed) and use that.

SDTV output

Most standard-definition TVs cannot take VGA or DVI output, as the signal comes in too fast to process. There are two ways to work around this: either have your computer generate a TV signal or use a converter box. Some but not all computers can generate a TV signal: look for a composite or S-video jack on your PC close to the VGA output. If you can find it, then hooking up your PC isn't any harder than hooking up a DVD player. In a few cases, the video card might have only the S-video jack. If you lost the adapter that came with your video card, you can buy a cable that mixes S-video to composite.

The next step is to configure your to send video through the TV. Open Display Properties through the Control Panel or by right-clicking an empty area of the desktop and choosing Properties. Display Properties should contain tabs with names like Themes, Desktop, Screen Saver, Appearance, and Settings. Click Settings, and then click Advanced... at the bottom to show Advanced Display Properties. At the top should be General, Adapter, Monitor, Troubleshoot, Color Management, and some extra tabs marked Intel, NVIDIA, or ATI. One of these extra tabs should have an option to "mirror" video to a TV, or display the same thing on both the TV and the VGA port. For more information, see the printed or CD manuals that came with your computer or video card.

SDTV scan conversion

If your PC has only VGA output but your TV has only composite input, you'll need to buy a scan converter, a new video card for your PC, or a new TV. The easiest and cheapest for computer novices is a scan converter (roughly 100 USD). It takes the signal, drops parts, and sends what's left slowly enough for your SDTV.

Mac

Most recent Macintosh computers have a DVI port and come with an adapter to VGA. Apple.com sells adapters that can make recent Mac models output composite video.

Connect speakers

Most computers have a sound card with two or three 3.5 mm (1/8 inch) stereo miniplug connectors. [photo of connectors on both a sound card and integrated sound] Usually, the output jack is colored light green, and the microphone jack is pink. Use a Y-shaped 3.5 mm stereo miniplug to connect the output jack to a stereo RCA cable, and plug this into the back of your TV or stereo system. [photo]

Connect gamepads

Most PCs have several rectangular USB ports on the front and back panels. You can plug a keyboard, mouse, printer, memory card reader, or game controller into each USB port. If you have more game controllers than available ports, you can add ports to your system by plugging in a USB hub, which acts like a "splitter" or "multitap". Through hubs, you can add four gamepads, just like on a console.

Need USB game controllers? We've had good results with Logitech controllers. Others may prefer the Xbox 360 wired controller or even a classic console controller through an adapter.

to do: photos of USB hub, Logitech Dual Action controller, and Adaptoid N64 to USB adapter

Configure gamepads

Unlike controllers for consoles, each make and model of PC game controller has a different layout of buttons. So you have to tell the game which button you want to perform each function in the game; consult your game's manual. But some games are not programmed to handle game controllers, instead being hard-coded to use only the keyboard. For these, software such as JoyToKey might help.

Invite friends over

Organizing a single-screen multiplayer match should be easier than setting up a LAN party, as your friends don't have to convince others in the household to let them dismantle and borrow the PC.