I saw this a while back and thought what a load of rubbish.
You may of noticed as a gamer over the last 6 years that games have improved graphically, in fact over the last 10 years we finally seem to be reaching a plateau of graphics quality. If you game on consoles you will of noticed improvements with graphics here too, release titles did not push the hardware in the consoles, while new games are actively reaching the limits, much to annoyance of some console fan-boys.
The PC gamer has in some ways had a very different time over the last 5 years, many have bought expensive powerful systems, and have not needed to upgrade, enjoying better performance and graphics than their console counterparts, without the most noted negative of PC gaming – the continuous upgrades to hardware.
Most games are developed for consoles now, and if we are lucky, ported to PC. Porting a game from Console to PC can be done in different ways, and whilst many people think it is a “one-size fits all” argument, it is not. Games cannot be simply altered to run on PCs there is a little more to it than that, but the process is fairly simple. The ported games look and feel like their console brethren, and you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart, the worst ones still have an expectation of the console controller. Some ports are actually very well done, and improve on the console versions significantly, but that only applies to a handful of games.
Take 2005 (when the Xbox 360 first came out) it was priced at £200 I believe, and while highly competitive, shiny and new, it was also the start of the mass buying of games consoles, unlike anything before. However, I know of a great number of people who have bought at least 2 or 3 xbox 360s over the last 6 years, partly due to faults, or because of the need to upgrade. That comes to about £500, then add in accessories and the extra cost of a game over the PC version (£10 difference), you are looking at a cost of maybe £700 in the last 6 years, or even higher.
I do laugh when people tell me console gaming is cheap… if you actually looked at it, you’d see that you’ve been fooled.
As previously mentioned in an earlier part of this series, the new models of DLC and future games sales mean that the pre-owned game market will dwindle and die as publishers require codes to run the game, one code per user, or something similar – and so the retail games stores we currently have will also disappear. Without the pre-owned game market console game prices are almost set in stone, and pre-owned games are the only thing in my mind that makes console ownership really worthwhile.
A game is £40 at launch, and if there are poor initial sales that is it, the game is a loss, and the developers tend to ditch it and run. That game is then neglected, and there have been hundreds of those over the years, but some of those unloved, underappreciated games are still played, because they represented something new, or different – which some gamers actually love to see in the rather stagnant gaming market of today. In order to maximise those £40 per game sales, the games are made on consoles. The publishers cite that the consoles are easier to develop for, which is true all the platforms have SDKs which are simple enough, and hardware is set so you have your system limitations, but then your hands as a developer are tied. Publishers are all about profit, since they are the ones loosing money on game development, they set the rules and requirements to the game studio, and the game studio adjusts it’s original game designs to suit the publisher. This model only exists because the consoles exist.
Now developers have been openly saying that developing on the PC is hard work, or not worth it, and blame a host of reasons, from “different hardware configurations” to “Piracy”. PC development is the same as it ever was, every PC is slightly different, I think people now are more stupid though and want to blame other people when the game doesn’t work. PC gamers are usually the smarter PC users and should be able to keep their systems working properly, and should avoid ‘user created issues’, but it would appear that we too have gotten lazy.
When games are made for consoles and their development (read: Sales) is more vital, then the eventual PC release suffers, it’s not polished or tested correctly. So when you buy that game, put it in to your PC to install it (often fighting some awful steam/origin client rubbish), and then discover that it won’t load – you blame the developer, and feel cheated. Yeah, that’s fair enough – but to believe that the fault cannot be with the box in front of you? that’s just plain ignorant. Being a PC gamer is far from plain sailing, when you game on a PC you accept that, as all PC gamers have for years, that’s why we don’t buy consoles, because sometimes the challenge of getting a game going makes playing it that much better – and nowadays actually exposes ways to make the game itself a much nicer (graphically or performance enhanced). A PC is a complex thing, so blaming the game or it’s creators is not always correct. Remember, your PC is running an OS that is handling a lot of background tasks, communicating with hardware via drivers, running protection software – AV and firewalls; all of which can stop something else from working. There are many more links in the chain responsible for your game running when on a PC, than on a console – complexity caused by simply using a PC as your gaming machine. Using a PC was your choice, so remember that.
However, back to the first link of the article – that developing for a PC is hard. It is the same as before, but developers need to remember that our expectations have changed somewhat too, we want things to work when we want them too, we want games that have been tested, and had our needs in mind as well. Creating two development paths might be tough, expensive, or even too time consuming – but surely you can do things better than you do it now! The ‘multiple-configurations’ argument is pathetic, make the game as good as you like, make it so that it has ultra level details that only the highest spec systems can handle, and scale down as you see fit to lower and lower levels, it’s your choice as a developer where you set the lines. If people can’t run a game on ultra then they need to upgrade, they are PC gamers and that is their choice, and they should be accepting this!
Overall, the publishers are forcing a change on game developers, and PC gamers are getting ignored more and more, but throwing us lame excuses doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility and blame, that game you make should work on every platform you release it on, otherwise it was unfit for release and you have lied to us – AKA fraud (because we paid for it). Piracy doesn’t harm sales of games, most people pirate a game because they have no faith that they’ll be able to get it running, so they use it as a test! We don’t want to see PC gaming die, we just want to know that it works before we part with our cash. Demos are rare these days and most of the time aren’t indicative of the real game, so a pirated copy is the only true pre-purchase test we can carry out.
The PC gamer is also not devoid of responsibility, you own a gaming PC, you built it/purchased it, you should know it’s limitations and respect that. You also need to remember a PC is multi-functional, complex, and requires maintaining in order to ensure it works as intended.
Only when both sides of this silly blame-war start looking at themselves and giving decent feedback will we get back to good PC gaming times again. (which might be never )
[On piracy: Chris said to me once – “anything I pirate is because I wouldn’t of purchased it anyway, so they haven’t lost a sale, because their never would of been one!” Which is a very valid point.
There are legitimate piracy reasons, companies just don’t like it because they will never be able to control it – pfft get over yourselves!]