Inside Pulse 12

Digital Tabletop: Concerning PC Gamers

So lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time playing on my PC. I have a nice gaming laptop that can run pretty much anything I throw at it with all the settings cranked and still put out nice enough frame rates that I don’t have to adjust much. I do have a PS3 and a Wii, but the Wii is usually gathering dust, and while I do play quite a bit on the PS3, most of my preferred games, read RPGs and MMOs, are on my laptop. That coupled with Steam having had some amazing deals in the last few months led to me raiding their store for games as well.

The last few recent games I’ve played I’ve noticed have alarming issues with the PC versions. Rage on PC was virtually unplayable by half the people who bought it, Jurassic Park: The Game had serious control issues when it came to using the keyboard and mouse to play, and the biggest culprit I’ve been playing is Skyrim. I’m mentioning Jurassic Park, because to finish the game I had to use a friend’s Xbox 360 controller to actually get past certain points. I had originally borrowed it for another game however, a certain RPG set in Nord controlled lands.

Skyrim on PC has an atrocious user interface. You get into it and instantly tell it was designed from the ground up for a console and very little was done to make it easy to use on a PC. All sense of logic when scrolling through menus is out the window, as certain sections of the menu you have to use the keyboard, other portions the mouse wheel, and yet another portion you have to use the actual mouse pointer itself. This is coupled with the fact that the menu and the game itself only responds to about two-thirds of the key presses you’re throwing at it, so if you’re in combat, say, and open up your favorites to change spells, you could end up healing your companion instead of yourself because you hit the wrong spell even though you know you hit the right amount of keystrokes to get there. That is, of course, if your spell goes off in the first place. It’s not just me and my variety of keyboards I’ve tried. My wife, my son and two of my other friends that have it on PC are noticing this as well. On top of that, assigning actions to your mouse can be an exercise in patience as half the time the game thinks I’ve assigned something to the opposite mouse button than I wanted. That makes combat even more exciting when you’re doing that on the fly.

All that changes when I plug in that 360 controller. Sure I lose that nifty zoom in and out option and am either in a standard third person or first person view, and aiming with arrows is a chore, but the menu responds properly, and you can tell just by using the controller that they designed the menu system to use a controller first and must have added keyboard and mouse support later and did it extremely sloppily. Outside the menu the game plays relatively the same, but response times seem faster with the controller, every button I press has the immediate action I told it to do, and changing out spells or weapons to the button I want works every time, unlike the mouse.

We’ve heard from developers time and again that they develop for the console first and we can infer that as PC gamers, we should be grateful we get anything at all. Pirates you see, and difficulty developing for the PC platform. Take Transformers War For Cybertron as an example here. High Moon did a fantastic job on this game on console. Knowing I would have a bunch of friends to play this with on PS3 I picked it up for the console, and being active in the Transformers community I got to hear about all the nightmares with the PC version, bugs, control issues, etc. Then Activision and High Moon announced DLC maps and characters for the consoles. PC gamers were basically told that they wouldn’t be getting that DLC because it would be too hard to distribute it. Last time I checked, EA and Bioware had a pretty good system for getting DLC to PC users for Dragon Age and Mass Effect. You’re telling me a company that’s partnered with Blizzard, the company that makes primarily PC games, can’t find a way to get DLC to PC players? They could have sold the DLC on a disc, or put it up on Steam, any number of things. No, they chose instead to ignore a portion of their customer base instead. A customer base that will shrink with the next release in the series because of the poor treatment they received on the last title.

Now these same companies who dropped the ball on their PC titles wonder where their PC game sales have gone. No support, half-assed ports to the PC, no DLC when the consoles are getting it, insane DRM; there’s a reason people have left the PC market and it’s not all hardware requirements on new games. There are those of us who are still here and like playing on a computer or laptop. Valve understands this. EA is starting to get it as well as they’ve made their own download service to sell to us. Personally I think they should have stuck with Steam, but I’m just a PC playing grunt who likes to keep things simple, what do I know?

It’s gotten to the point where I actually have to make hard decisions about what platform I get my games on anymore. Mass Effect 3 is a no-brainer as I had gotten the first two games on my PC, even with the Origin requirement I don’t see myself picking up the PS3 version when I’ve got two games worth of saves to import. On top of that, registered disc copies can download off of Origin, which came in handy when my disc copies were stolen along with my laptop during the break-in this summer. So it has its uses. The only reason I got Deus Ex on PS3 was the sale price on Black Friday was cheaper than the PC version and my wife is awesome. My wife is a PC gamer at heart. She loves to play games on her laptop. She barely touches the PS3 as most of her RPGs and games are on her laptop. The Wii kicks on when she wants to goof off with Tennis, or one of the other Carnival style games she’s got, but those are also on her phone in some fashion, so that one sits dormant most of the time unless we have a group of people over and want to goof off with the Wii. My son is also mostly a PC gamer and he uses Steam almost more than I do.

Gaming companies, in general, are missing the boat when it comes to PC players, and honestly, I can’t blame people for swapping to console when all we seem to get is disappointing port after disappointing port. Some companies do actually take the time to optimize for PC, and my hats off to them. I like being able to tweak my graphics options and have my keyboard and mouse actually make things happen on the screen. They are a pretty basic way of inputting information into a computer and have been the standard in home computing for awhile now. Programming a game to use them properly should not be hard at this point. While I like having the option to use a controller, it shouldn’t be the better way to play a game on PC, it should be an option, like turning off anti-aliasing or cranking the textures and shadows all the way up.

I think as long as there are MMOs being made and the consoles keep making it difficult to run MMOs on them, there will still be a PC market. How well that market stays afloat really depends on the support the game companies give their PC titles. Piracy isn’t the big problem with games on PC, at least in my extensive gaming circle of friends. The companies short-changing their customers, offering lackluster product support and getting disgusted by bugs, DRM and how poorly the games work that are driving them away.

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  • Anonymous

    Well not that I want to take the developers sides but when the design a game for a console they can focus on that particular hardware and make things work. But when confronted with adapting an already existing game made for a particular console then the problems begins. Dealing with to many bugs and trying to solve them is so costly I can understand why they want to focus solely on consoles although I am the first to suffer from it because I too prefer using my computer for gaming.

    http://best-gaming-computer.info

  • Anonymous

    Oh I don’t mind them doing that but not even checking to make sure your game works with a keyboard and mouse is not excusable. Mass Effect 2 started off for 360 I’m sure but it was so optimized it doesn’t even have the option to use a 360 controller in it. I expect things like performance issues and so on, but getting it to work properly with a PC users main form of input should be first thing you do as a developer. If someone can’t play it very well with those, tweak it until they can. And unless they are all using identical PCs to test this out on, which would still show some issues as even identical hardware and software can have quirks, controls not responding properly should have showed up.

    If you’re going to take the time to put out a PC version of a game, at least try to optimize it. And if your first patch that goes out is just to try and curb piracy instead of trying to fix problems for your paying customers, you’re doing it wrong.

    It’s been especially prevalent in this generation of gaming with the 360 and PS3 and I think developers aren’t just not testing, but I think they’re getting a bit lazy and sloppy with the ports. The past two years have been especially bad for PC versions of console games. I’m probably going to get even more vocal about it since most companies have started charging the same price as the console version and PC users are getting even less support and access to DLC.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you and just as frustrated about this but looking at the big picture what I see is a money issue mainly. Say Microsoft had waited for windows to work flawlessly which it never will well I wouldn’t be talking to you using a ms win platform but someone else’s.I figure since there’s so many different pc hardwares to test plus today’s games are so much more complicated, time consuming and costly to develop, they just can’t afford to spend that much testing them all on every different pc and so they make it work on one particular pc to their satisfaction and then just let the game out, issue patches and mostly make money to cover their developing cost and make some profit.
    And maybe, it’s a conspiracy to lure away gamers from pc to consoles by annoying them…

    http://best-gaming-computer.info

  • wow, you suck!!

    console games look like absolute trash, they run in sub-hd, they are smothered in jaggies, they run at 10-30 frames per second and are a RIP_OFF in price, plus all the annoying dlc devs constantly try to cram down your throat.

    PC gaming is 2 full generations beyond consoles, Crysis 1 from 2007, titan quest from 2006, far cry 2, so many old ass games look twice the fidelity of any dirty console game.

    i played uncharted 3 and wanted to barf, the graphics were puke inducing, the jaggies, the awful character models, the terrible low-res objects.

    anyone who thinks uncharted 3/killzone 3/halo reach look good, i feel sorry for, get a gaming pc, save money and game in this decade.

    consoles are stuck in 2005 and always will be, until another outdated gen drops, and still i doubt it will do 1600p like my rig does, consoles are outdated years before they come out. you will be lucky if they even make another gen of consoles, between steam, facebook, WoW, League of Legends, and all the other free to play, download and indie games, the ps3/360 are fighting over a measly 33% market, 90% of the games don’t even sell a million copies.

    Consoles are DEAD!!!

  • See but then I get games that are developed specifically for the PC and I have ZERO problems with them. No crashes to desktop, no extremely long load times, and these are just as involved as any console title.

    Really the argument can go round and round, I’m more concerned that in the last 5 years these ports have suffered a severe lack of quality control when running on PC, and it only seems to be getting worse. As a consumer and a reviewer that speaks volumes to me about where I sit in a companies mind.

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