PC Gamer Console Hater?

Dark Souls

It’s always the way – PC Gamers demand their games to be better than console games in some capacity, if only to justify the often obscene expense of their hardware purchases. Dark Souls is the latest in the “PC Gamer Console Hater” repertoire – but shouldn’t we be supportive that they’re even doing it at all?

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For the record, I do think the PC port of Dark Souls could and perhaps should have been better.

But this is the problem sometimes in the industry – when something is a surprise success and made on a tight and tiny budget, the publishers can often expect miracles to be performed by the team. In FROM Software’s case, they made a game specifically for consoles. That’s their job, console gaming, and they do it mostly quite well. Dark Souls became a smash surprise hit for them, and Namco Bandai, the publishers, noted that PC Gamers were also demanding the game. 100,000+ signatures were petitioned forward to Namco Bandai, who then clearly demanded FROM Software handle the port. This was stupid for two reasons; the first, FROM Software had no real experience or knowledge of PC Optimisation. And the second, they weren’t really given much extra funding for the task, meaning they couldn’t really bring anyone in to guide their hands, as it were.

That said, the “Prepare to Die Edition” of Dark Souls -is- prettier than the 360 version, is locked at 30fps and has addressed many of the areas in which framerate and lag would otherwise have been spotted. It loads with exceptional speed, transitions beautifully when you die from death to loading screen to back up in a fraction of the time it would have taken a 360 to do the same thing and the graphics are cleaner, crisper and sharper. Running this side by side with the 360 version you definitely see the marked improvement – even if it is only officially pegged at a 1280×720 resolution, it still looks better and faster.

And I know Gamespy disagrees with the loading and the visuals out of the box but they are lying, alright?

The sound is better – a LOT better – and the extra additions and content months before console gamers get their shot at partaking in it should have been enough to ensure that even with the small budget and relative technical inexperience, that yes, they are trying to do right and trying to do something. The call for months has been – we’re trying, it won’t be super right at the start perhaps but we’ll all get there. Bear with us, support us and we’ll make sure it’s all good at the end of it all.

Sounds like a perfectly reasonable call, right? But then, this is being asked of the PC Gaming community, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is they genuinely believe they deserve far, far better – even when with such an attitude you’d tell them quite matter of factly they don’t.

The uproar I’ve seen and watched unfold today surprises the hell out of me, with death threats and angry petitions and even calls for class-action lawsuits and refunds. The revulsion on the very first day – in the first few hours – of its official release is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. PC Gamers keep saying they expected better, but for the past nine months FROM Software has been trying to temper down those expectations. They’ve said they are inexperienced and struggling and that they would hope for understanding – understanding that PC Gamers are completely unwilling and incapable of giving, it transpires. A lot of us are quite enjoying it because we’ve actually played the previous 360 or PS3 version (in some cases, to breaking point!) and to us, the improvements are noticeable and quite starkly so, and we simply don’t know what the PC Gaming crowd really expected.

What they are getting is, admittedly, a fairly rudimentary (but not underbaked) console port that comes with some notable engine improvements and twenty to thirty hours more content than the console crowd will get for now – and when they do, they’ll be paying for it separately, rather than having it bundled into the same package. I think the real problem is that it is just that – a console port.

It’s unusual that console ports on PC do tend to make some foam at the corners of their mouths. As if in some cases the cross-pollination of the two markets is somehow a disease that must be cured at all costs. I think Dark Souls could have been better but would still in that case have been attacked for something, anything at all. There’s a real situation that console ports don’t seem to keep the more hardened crowd happy. Dragon Age 2, tuned for a console controller, and the anger that sparked for example. Okay, Dragon Age 2 wasn’t as good a game as Dark Souls, but come on, it wasn’t inherently awful either. It can be enjoyed and played and there is something to be said for pushing the controller for some games. Controllers do in some cases bring greater simplicity and precision than a keyboard and mouse can. You shouldn’t shoehorn it in just anywhere, but if you know the game and know how best it would work, then you make it so it is based around that control system – in Dark Souls case, a controller.

The recent fix (done by a fan who seems indignant at even having to do it) isn’t universal either. It doesn’t work for some, and it’s more of a dirty hackjob than a true fix. I’m sure the modding community will in time make a few adjustments to Dark Souls – up it to 60FPS, up the graphics etc. Fans do this and will do it for the games they love – the current hack to up the visual resolution will soon be obsolete, or abandoned as the person behind it seems incensed at having to do it, rather than having been prepared for it for nine whole months and doing it because they actually love the game, not because they somehow want to bring FROM Software into disrepute.

The real issue here though is with such a violent reaction, why the hell would ANY successful console game in future see a PC release? PC Gamers may expect better, but the intolerance and sheer ignorance on display from them effectively helps to sign the porting worlds own death warrant; no-one will dare if the PC Crowd is so demanding, so picky and – it must be said – so silly that they couldn’t grasp that for the past nine months, FROM has been practically pleading for help and/or understanding from the PC Crowd. It’s not been something you could just ignore. Some developers do make games better for certain systems or certain hardware – Skyrim, as we know, has been a pain for PS3 owners. RAGE was not so hot for PC owners, and Darksiders wasn’t brilliant on the 360.

Here’s a tip, PC Crowd – not everyone is Bethesda or BioWare. Some people have worked their whole lives on console hardware. Their whole job is pushing that console hardware. When given the near limitless scope of what PCs can do and/or handle, sometimes it’s just too much for them. So rather than make the game engine infinitely scale-able (some engines can’t or won’t or are very complicated to make that happen!), they have instead given you content. Meaningful, additional content for no extra charge. This was the trade-off they decided on. Extra content in exchange for super-charged graphics.

Sounds like a perfectly sound trade-off to me. And to many others, it would seem, as the in-game world is still vastly populated. But a vocal portion of PC Gamers are not happy, and won’t be happy unless they are pushing their hardware to its limits every single time they buy a new game. These people want visuals over gameplay, framerates over entertainment, and I for one feel sorry for them. I feel deeply sorry for anyone who can’t see through their own haze of demands and get down to the core of a game like Dark Souls, which is rewarding, deep and now comes with content not currently available anywhere else. Whole new stories and areas and enemies waiting for them. New characters, new weapons, new gear. Okay, so it’s not running at 1080p at 60FPS, but that might happen eventually. Either because FROM do it off their own backs, or because a fan lovingly tinkers with the engine in their own spare time and shares it with the world to help them make a great game even better, and won’t come across as somehow ungrateful for the games release in the first place.

If PC Gamers want Dark Souls to be better, then ask politely and support FROM Software in this endeavour. Wait and watch as passionate people find ways to supercharge the PC version, and come up with tweaks and tuning tools to make it run smoother, faster, sharper, cleaner than usual. People expect all of this to happen immediately – it doesn’t, it doesn’t, it just doesn’t. Enjoy the game and enjoy the content and enjoy yourself if you can’t make it better yourself. Someone will come along in the coming weeks with stuff that improves on the default.

True, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this. But I wish the criticisms were passionate and polite, rather than vulgar and obscene and rather missing the point. If Namco-Bandai had given more aid to FROM Software, knowing they had been telling the worlds media that they were worried about their own ability to do a decent port, we may not be here. That on this tiny budget and in less than a year they’ve added all this new content and still managed to port it in spite of their inexperience is, frankly, astonishing in every way and I doff my cap to FROM Software as it would have brought down many a larger studio. If only they had more money, or more talent, or someone could have intervened and assisted for the love of it rather than the money…

What-ifs won’t change what we have now. Which is still one of the finest games of the last year, if not one of the finest games ever made. And they won’t change a large portion of the gaming community who have been hanging on every word, drooling over every screenshot and still somehow didn’t realise that was going to be how it looked in the end. PC Gamer’s of this type like to believe they are smarter and/or better than console gamers and on today’s evidence, I’d suggest that may very well have just been a disproven reality.

This could easily be flipped for any fanboy really, but it’s this PC breed that surprises me. Because PC Gamers do seem to carry this sensation that they demand and deserve better than everyone else. That they’re purchase of expensive equipment entitles them to something far greater than others can manage. Is that really the best image to give FROM Software? In future, on the basis of this, they and others may well tell future petitions and requests for PC versions where to get off, because it’s not worth their time to please a small group of entitled people who wouldn’t be happy if a naked woman crawled out of their screen for a private party.

And I’d agree. If you love PC Games and want PC Ports, do it right. Death threats, demands for refunds and general shouty-sweary behaviour will only ensure that in future, your cause is ignored. And it’ll be a future you are the architects of, a scenario PC Gamers themselves will have brought about. You reap what you sow, and if we sow anger and death threats for a not-so-hot port, then they and others may not even consider the notion for the future.

And besides, this is the PC. A world where FROM Software can fix things and not have to pay Sony and Microsoft fees for patching the game up. This is a nice place for them to be. This is a place we should WANT them to be, and be welcoming them with open arms and showing them the error of their ways. This is a place for them to explore and get better and improve themselves and their own technical repertoire, for them to make what is one of the finest console RPGs for some time even better with the help and feedback of knowledgeable, passionate fans who want to see this not only succeed but thrive. In every sense, this should be where ANY studio wants to end up. Where anyone wants to take their product.

Except, it is the PC crowd making it hard for this to happen. And that makes me really sad, because it must hurt FROM Software. They’ve done a pretty bloody good job in not very long with arguably not much money. They must feel like they are on Cloud Nine right now, they took on a challenge for themselves and managed to finish it.

Except the bullies in the end are more happy to smash down their achievement. And those kinds of people will never be happy unless they’re making someone else feel bad.

It’s a shame so many hide in the PC Gaming crowd, where such attitudes are accepted and encouraged…

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