Available: May 2004
Technology: DISCover PC Game Consoles
Manufacturer: Apex Digital / Alienware

Interview by: Thomas Cap

Please introduce yourself!

What’s up Gamers Hell readers? I’m Curtis Kaiser, Director of Marketing for DISCover PC Game Consoles. Until working with DISCover, I had primarily been a console gamer (I’m not much of a computer wizard) – mostly sports titles (I’m pretty bad at FPS games) with an occasional round of Sim City or a sports sim on the PC thrown in. I enjoy marketing the DISCover concept because it’s pretty simple – take the power of the PC game library and make it easy enough for people like me to play on a console on a big tv in the living room - no more squinting at the 17” monitor (unless you want to), and no more hassling with installation or patching...

In fifty words or less – what is the DISCover?

Imagine dropping a PC game into a console and just playing it. Many always considered it an impossible dream, but DISCover has a patented technology to make it happen. DISC’s technology allows a gamer to drop in an unmodified PC game, have the system immediately recognize the game, then start playing the game just like a game console.

Thousands of PC games then act in a similar fashion to the original concept of media dating back to the phonograph. Insert a game into a DISCover PC game console and it plays – simple as that...The game is recognized and automatically installed the first time optimized to the system. Every time from there on out, a gamer can simply “Drop and Play” much like an Xbox or Playstation.

A console based on PC components... sounds familiar. We don’t want to ask you what you personally think of the “Phantom” – anyway most of our readers likely already have made up their minds about your... ”elusive” competitor – but why is the DISCover not comparable to it at all anyway?

Here are a few differences:

* It starts with a monthly subscription, ours is free.
* It requires game publishers to modify their games to allow downloading, DISCover uses standard PC games on CD-Roms.
* It requires a high-speed connection. Though we have plans for on-line gaming, for which a high-speed line would be advantageous, the system only needs a phone line to allow the updates to DISCover’s game registry on a regular basis.

Time for some specs I would say. Yet I heard there will be different versions of the DISCover. What will the different versions have in common and what not? What price tags can we except?

The first manufacturer of a DISCover console will be Apex Digital, whose ApeXtreme will retail for $399. Though there were rumors that hardware had already been set, in fact a hardware announcement isn’t expected until next week. The 256MB of memory and the 40GB disk drive remain the same. As for other versions, there are a number of companies that want to build DISCover consoles for various target audiences, but as yet the exact configurations of those systems is not finalized. Alienware is planning to make a media center PC incorporating a “virtual” version of the DISCover console. The fact that the DISCover is PC-based means there is virtually a limitless number of functions that could be built into a more advanced model: Ultra-high performance graphics is a given, along with mass quantities of memory, but PVR and wireless connectivity are easy to imagine, along with DVD-writing, and that sort of thing.

ApeXtreme Console by Apex Digital

Is the DISCover upgradable? Can I e.g. replace the built-in HardDrive for more space?

The ApeXtreme is not upgradable, but other versions of the DISCover console, such as Alienware’s version, will be upgradeable. As for hard drive, the DISCover automatically monitors the available space and, as the disk fills up, it will remove the oldest, least played title, but keep the game data. If you decide to play that game again, you drop the CD in, and it will automatically re-install, restoring your original game settings.

How will players know if a certain game is compatible with THEIR DISCover? Since there are different versions, won’t there be games in the near future that are compatible with one DISCover but not with another?

The “ApeXtreme” will provide a typical gamer with a platform he or she will enjoy for some time, but we have considered an algorithm ranking system for games. This would reflect the possibility that a future title’s system needs for adequate play may only be met by a more advanced platform. Therefore, consider the initial Apex unit as being “DISCover 1,” the next generation, “DISCover 2,” etc. This is not cast in stone, but that’s the current thinking.

You are using a custom WindowsXP build. Can I surf the net or work on my Office documents with the DISCover?

The main reason for “enclosing” the system in an XP Embedded environment was to make it secure and stable. Our concern is to provide a piece of consumer electronics equipment as opposed to a PC. So that means (as our President and inventor of the DISCover technology, Avi Dorel, likes to say,) “The consumer expects it to work...every time. The ‘Blue screen of death’ is not an option.” That’s a long way to say it, but we will only allow “certified’ activities to be accessed from the system. We will of course have Internet connectivity, and will even have a “DISCover Online Arcade,” but there won’t be webbrowsing or spreadsheet functionality on the ApeXtreme. As I mentioned before though, some manufacturers will include full PC-functionality on their DISCover consoles – ApeXtreme is for entertainment only though.

What launch date(s) are you currently aiming at?

Apex expects first deliveries for the US and Canada around the time of E3. At this point I am not certain there is a target for international versions, though we should be able to make it available by the holidays.

Are any Game or Controller Bundles planned for launch?

Apex is still in discussions regarding the exact launch package. I know there is a lot of interest from the game software and gaming peripheral community in this product, so there are a lot of options. Regardless, the fact that the system has 6 USB ports means that any off-the-shelf wired or wireless peripherals (with a USB ‘dongle’) will work.

There will be people outside the US that perhaps can’t wait – will a US DISCover work for them?

There are people INSIDE the U.S that can’t wait! You should read the forums! Seriously though, as I said, we hope to be able to provide international versions very soon after the initial launch. For the real enthusiast I’m sure a voltage converter will not keep them from enjoying the DISCover system. And I understand from some of my European friends (yes, who want to be first on the list!) that there are many TV sets, or at least VCRs with “Auxilliary” inputs, that have a PAL/NTSC switch. Localization of the screens should not be too involved, but we’ll be in a better position to give specifics on that after our North American launch.

Is an internet connection required to use the DISCover at all?

As I mentioned earlier, a key part of our technology is the game scripts. Whatever the initial number is (and we’re planning to help launch the ApeXtreme with 2004 games), there will be the need to add scripts for both older and newer games. We expect this to be done normally through either a dial-up or an ethernet connection. We understand that there may be situations where that is not feasible. We are considering a “back-up” plan involving the distribution of the latest scripts via CDs at the checkout counters upon purchase and with regular updates available at those locations thereafter as well.

What if there isn’t a configuration script available for a certain game? Will it still work? Can players write their own scripts for unsupported games and perhaps even submit them?

On the Alienware system, for example, which is a fully-functional PC, all PC games will play (non-scripted games will just have to be installed and run like on a regular PC). On the ApeXtreme, a closed-off console, games will only play if they are scripted. We will have a ton of games (thousands) ready at launch for Drop and Play with DISCover consoles. A list of DISCover games will be continually updated on the DISCover website. DISCover gamers will have the ability to submit older or obscure games they would like to play for addition to the DISCover games list.

Can players develop their own software? Will custom-code run? Will there be some sort of SDK?

Again, on an Alienware, fully-functional PC featuring a virtual DISCover console, there would be no limitations on running standard PC software. On an ApeXtreme closed-off type unit, you could think of it as a television or any other consumer electronics product -- it’s meant to behave just the way it was shipped from the factory.

Thanks for the good questions Thomas, and hope to see you at E3!