Supporting the PC: It’s okay to get upset about poor console ports, but do the right thing anyway

Dark Souls

By 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.

There’s no excuse for paying Australian Steam prices, though. Green Man Gaming has it for $39.99, which is a very reasonable amount and only slightly less than you’d pay for the console version.

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80 comments (Leave your own)
 

Completely agree with this article. Nice going.

 

I pre-ordered at my local EB as soon as I could. Having signed the petition and enjoying the game on 360 I look forward to the PC version. I am not going to cry about 720p and 30fps (woah is my PC gaming first world problem!) Yes bigger and better would have been a nice bonus, but I would rather have the game on PC to enjoy regardless.
As you mentioned Eurogamer said the areas that had bad fps on console seem to be fixed =) So a more constant 30fps, plus the new content included in what I found wasn’t a bad looking game on console already is fine by me.

 

Agree with your point, however they already know this.

the last few call of Duty’s have been badly optimized ports….and they sold terribly…..
More recently, the new Tom Clancy Ghost recon thing was a pure port. I know many people havent bought it because it DOESNT work, as they just stuck a “Made for PC” label on the box and shipped it.

I hope we continue to get these games, but “porting” works, only if (and using your analogy) the do the HD conversion. Just rebinding keys and shipping it doesnt count. You need to do more. Otherwise people will just download emulators and do it themselves (and often have better success!)

Its a shame, because games like the Tom Clancy and others could have been fantastic….I hope dark souls proves the exception rather than the rule. Personally not as worried about the 720P and 30FPS, which whilist annoying, i can support. if they dont change anything else however…..

 

No. If it bombs someone is going to ask why, why didn’t it do as well as Alan Wake (for a perfect example)? No way is it simply going to be dismissed as a loss and something they will never ever do again.
In a business that is more about making money than ever before they’re going to analyse the hell out of any failures in order to improve in the future. And what’re they going to find? Pages and pages of how shitty a port it is and exactly what could have been done to make it more palatable.
To give them money regardless of the quality is just madness, it takes away the only voice consumers have that matters (to them).

 

Why did you not mention the use of GFWL? That alone was a clear indicator that Dark Souls was going to be a bad port.

 

The Colwill,

Do you think it would have been better off not being made?

 

palzer0:
Why did you not mention the use of GFWL? That alone was a clear indicator that Dark Souls was going to be a bad port.

Because that’s not a clear indicator of a bad port. There is a number of games with it that are not bad ports at all (Looking at you, Batman).

Good article Tim!

 

pinothyj,

I reject your premise that we should just suck it up and buy crap console ports. Surely publishers have people capable of reasoning as basic as, “Game X, developed as a solid PC game, sold N hundred million copies, whereas game Y, a terrible port, sold M hundred thousand copies, maybe there’s a correlation here.”

Rewarding bad behaviour does not help anyone, surely that’s obvious? I think it’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

As to whether it shouldn’t have been made, no, it should have been made, but if they’re going to do such a half-arsed job of it, we shouldn’t spend our hard-earned money on it, it should be boycotted, then at least there’s the potential for a lesson to be learned.

I agree with the rest of the article for the most part though.

 
Toby McCasker

“Colwill’s mediated dissection of modern gaming is at once deft, bold, and undeniably required in these troubled times. An exciting young voice in contemporary vidya.”

 

Other publishers will see us lap up a crappy port, pay the bucks for it “coming to PC”, and all we’ll get is crappy ports.

 

spoidar,

Yep, the lesson learnt from a boycott will be “why bother listening to PC owners? They jump up and down demanding a release and then they don’t bother buying it when it’s eventually done. We’ll just stick to consoles and ignore any pleading PC owners in future.” Considering in this case they’ve taken a game completely developed solely for consoles and then *gasp* ported it means this was never going to be a marvelous job. However if this game is supported then perhaps the next release from From software will be jointly developed for consoles and PCs simultaneously? You know, because then there’s a demonstrated market for PCs? Stranger things have happened…

 

Ah, so THAT’S how capitalism works. I’d always wondered ;)

Nice article dude. And a good point McGondy, that certainly is a problem. It’s not like there’s a shortage of crappy ports, and supporting more crappy ports can’t be good. But, like Tim said, it’s a balance between “just be happy it’s coming to PC” and “Be pissed off they’re halfarsing it.”

 

makena,

I think you’ll find that Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are the exceptions rather than the rule. Apart from those two games, every GFWL game has generally been a bad port (some worse than others).

That’s not even counting the fact that GFWL itself is a port of Xbox Live (complete with regional restrictions).

 

The low resolution doesn’t bother me but the 30fps cap does. I literately can’t look at the screen for more then 10 minutes at a time and this is the reason why I couldn’t play L.A. Noire, Stacking & From Dust etc. on PC because of the 30fps cap.

 

Personally I’d rather be championing games like Deus Ex: HR, which treated the PC as a first class citizen and earned my $70 as a result. While I agree that being loud and obnoxious is never a good way to represent your community, I don’t think we should consider bad ports ‘good enough’ just because we’d get nothing otherwise, and I’m not into the idea of buying a game that’s not enjoyable to play because of a bad port, just on principle. That just sets a bad precedent.

If a publisher for a certain game doesn’t consider this platform sustainable, fine — if they want to port a game, great, and if it’s good I’ll buy it, but they need to do a decent job of it. If they don’t port it properly, I just won’t buy it and can’t see myself being concerned about that. There are lots of great games (and great ports) coming out for the PC, and as long as they keep coming I’ll keep buying them.

 

palzer0,

That’s not the case at all, there are a number of others.

We get it, you don’t like GFWL, neither do I for that matter, but to simply state if it has that it’s a bad port is simply incorrect.

 

I actually have to disagree with what Tim says about buying Dark Souls despite it being a bad port.

Developers should learn that they can’t just serve up a bad port just because of popular demand and expect money to just roll in. They should put in the effort to do it properly (high res textures, uncapped framerate, proper keyboard/mouse support, no GFWL, LAN play (if applicable) and so on) – even going so far as to delay it if necessary to get it to an acceptable PC standard.

A good example of this is Alan Wake – look at how quickly Remedy made back the PC development costs. That was because the port was done properly with the positive reaction spreading via word of mouth. Remedy even released a DRM free version via GOG.com (albeit a few months after initial release) just in case people didn’t want to use Steam (a decision which probably netted them even more money).

If a developer can’t even be bothered to put in the effort to make a good port to PC they shouldn’t bother wasting their (and our) time.

 

WTF. So we just gonna cop this on the chin. FUCK THAT SHIT. The main reason to get this on a pc is to experience it with SMOOOTH FPS, NO SLOW DOWN, HIGH RESOLUTION TO GET IT CRISP AND SHARP, MORE DETAIL, MORE POTENTIAL. PERSONAL THE EXPERIENCE THAT LITTLE BIT MORE.

Fuck the developers, they’re useless trash, pc elitists are elite for a reason we know what shit is good and we don’t accept shit. I got a 360 and ps3 and refuse to get this game on a console then I heard it coming out to pc. Fuck that shit, I rather get the best experience possible for my $.

 

Non native resolution is just unacceptable. If this was running at 320p on the consoles you’d be hearing just as much about it from them but us PC peeps should just sit there and pay to take it up the… no thanks.

I feel like my times been wasted, waiting for the PC port when I could of already bought the console version if I had known the PC version was going to be so poor. Infact I feel this PC port may cause more damage to the company and they should just ditch the idea.

How many people will buy the game who don’t even know this news only to launch it and think the company has released a broken product.

 
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