With great processing power comes a great responsibility on the part of developers.
By Tim Colwill on August 14, 2012 at 9:00 am
I loved Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64. I must have sunk hundreds of hours into that game, replaying the single player, doing the co-op, sharing a couch with three mates well into the small hours of the school holidays. But there was this section — in Area 51 Infiltration, to be exact — where the frame rate would just die when you exploded a sentry bot. The game could not handle smoke from explosions at all. Walking through it caused the console to become a slideshow.
They shipped the game anyway and, hell, I had a good time. But when the game was re-mastered for the Xbox 360 and re-released on Xbox LIVE, those frame-rate problems were gone. The games’ ugly models were cleaned up. The textures were crisp and sharp.
Imagine if they weren’t? Imagine if Rare and Microsoft just released the game exactly as it was the first time around. Imagine how hilariously redundant that would be, using the power of your new Xbox 360 to run a game that barely needed it. Why, I imagine that if that happened, anybody who shelled out for the re-release would be pretty mad.
It’s not exactly rocket science
Dark Souls is coming to PC, following a successful petition by gamers everywhere to bring it over from console. Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that it will be locked to 30FPS and a 720p resolution. The news has upset more than a few PC gamers, but it’s also caused a lot of people to claim that those upset gamers are being unreasonable.
Well, no. They’re not. You see, if you spend more money, you expect a better result. This is how capitalism works.
If you shell out for a home theatre system, you expect to get better picture quality. If you go all out on a nice pair of Sennheisers, you expect the sound to be fantastic.
If you drop a couple thousand dollars on a top-of-the-line gaming computer, you expect a top-of-the-line gaming experience, that makes the best use of your new hardware. Right? Because this is how capitalism works.
Wasted money, wasted potential
Conversely, if I purchase a blu-ray disc only to find that it’s locked to standard definition and thus looks like crap on my new home theatre, I’ll be pissed. If I grab a new album from my favourite band only to find that the CD has been encoded at a bitrate no better than I’d get if somebody played it to me down the phone, I’d be furious.
And who would gainsay me? Nobody. Nobody would think twice: you’d be well within your rights to be upset about a total failure to utilise the potential of a media platform, especially since you shelled out all of that money to set it up.
But for some reason, if you get frustrated that a game developer releases a PC game with a locked FPS and resolution, you’re being completely unreasonable, and probably a PC elitist to boot. Right?
Well, bollocks to that.
I just spent a lot of money on a new computer. Intel i7 3820, GeForce 670, 16 GB RAM, SSD, the works. I’m pretty happy with it, thanks for asking. It spits out Hitman at a silky-smooth 65 FPS, and I’m sure Square Enix won’t mind me telling you that Sleeping Dogs looks amazing with HD textures cranked on and world density set to maximum, streaming out to my loungeroom TV at full 1080p. It runs Crysis like it was Pac-Man.
This is why I buy the things I buy: because I expect — quite reasonably — that games will look better if I spend the money to give them an environment in which to do so.
It’s not okay to say we should “just be happy that it’s coming to PC”. Implicit in the request for developers to bring their game to PC is the understanding that they’ll try their best to take advantage of the power of the PC platform because that power is what the platform is all about. It is somewhat naive to think PC gamers, who by their very nature are more financially invested than their console counterparts, won’t be annoyed when it’s revealed that their money is going to waste.
If you petitioned a movie studio to bring an old 1980′s movie to blu-ray and, when they finally did, you found that it was actually just an upscaled version of the original rather than being remastered to HD, you’d be mad, right? You wouldn’t say “Oh well, at least I got it in blu-ray! I’m thankful for that.” You’d say “Uhhh, okay. Why would I even buy it on blu-ray? I’ll just buy the original.”
That’s exactly what’s on offer here. No, it’s not unreasonable to be annoyed about this. And writing it off as “PC elitism” is not cool, either.
But there’s no need to be a dick about it
It’s great that Namco Bandai are bringing the game to PC, and it’s great that it’s being exposed to a new audience, especially one that likes to paint itself as the hardest of core. It’s also highly commendable of From Software to be so upfront about their problems bringing the game over. Many developers fail to mention it completely, and you only find out later when outraged forum posts start flooding the internet.
If you’re the sort of person whose purchase hinges around this, then you now have that information. You should be thankful that you knew before, and not after you’d just dropped $70 on it. That’s great, too.
It’s not great to start flinging names around and acting as if Namco Bandai personally came to your house and pooped in your letterbox. So if you could just stop doing that, I’d appreciate it. You make us all look bad.
Seriously, stop it.
It’s not the end of the world. Dark Souls will still be playable, still fun, and — as countless Game of the Year awards will attest — still an amazing game. It’s even had some of those cripplingly bad lag problems tidied up, if this Eurogamer preview is anything to go by.
In fact, I would suggest you think about buying the game anyway. I know that we’re getting massively and inexplicably price-gouged, but maybe it’s worth it.
Take one for the team
PC gamers, we are a secondary market. It’s sad, but it’s true. Consoles are the target platform now, and they’re probably going to be that way for a while to come. Many publishers are already abandoning the PC as a platform, citing concerns with piracy, or development costs. From Software have — in what is a highly commendable step — taken the time to bring this game to PC, purely because of consumer demand. Make no mistake: other publishers are watching this. They’re looking at this to see how it goes down.
This is why, if you support PC gaming, and especially if you’re one of the people who actually signed the petition, you should do the right thing and buy the game. If the game sells well, it’ll encourage other publishers to think about doing the same. It might convince more publishers to take their games to our favourite platform, and, hopefully, they’ll take the time to properly optimise them.
If it sells badly, it’s just yet another nail in the coffin of publisher confidence in the platform. And that’s the last thing we need.
Before you argue that supporting a straight, unoptimised port is just encouraging poor games, stop for a second and consider: there’s no nuance here. There’s no room for qualification. Don’t think that publishers will see poor sales figures and think “Well, that’s what happens when we don’t optimise our games for PC! Maybe we’ll optimise next time.” You’re kidding yourself. Poor sales figures on PC are poor sales figures on PC, end of story. They could very well have repercussions that make it even harder than it is to be a PC gamer.
This is a tipping point. We owe it to ourselves as PC gamers to be supportive, mature, and calm the face of belittling comments about our optimisation concerns.