Shank’s Spiel: Consolification Of PC Ports

June 19th, 2014 Posted by Shank's Spiel 1 comment

First, an apology. I will be the first to admit that I was wrong…at least partially. In my Watch Dogs First Impressions piece, I spoke about how the final game wasn’t downgraded on PC and in fact, looks better than its first showing at E3 2012. I specifically called out how HBAO+ wasn’t available in 2012 in time for the demo, citing one of the ways the final game looked superior to the E3 demo. While this one piece is true, I was wrong about everything else.

Watch Dogs most definitely was downgraded in visual quality from its E3 2012 demo. This is an absolute travesty and shame. However, this latest blow to the most powerful platform on the planet, the PC, only serves to showcase a systemic corruption that is completely poisoning the triple-A market today. And Ubisoft is leading the charge.

There is an absolutely toxic consolification of PC ports which perpetuates into this current console generation. I honestly thought that because these new consoles are x86 in nature, and therefore share architecture with the PC, that PC versions of cross platform games would finally, finally get their due and look and perform far superior to their console counterparts.

Leave it to the triple-A market to grab that glimmer of hope and twist, corrupt, poison, and eviscerate it beyond the point of recognition, only to return it lying smashed and ruined at the feet of PC gamers.

It’s not as if Ubisoft didn’t have the means or resources to make the game as pretty as you see here. This mod, created by modder TheWorse, simply enables effects that were used during the E3 2012 demo. Meaning, at no point did he inject any new additional effects. These features and effects already existed, deliberately locked away by Ubisoft in the bowels of Watch Dogs’ system files.

For your convenience, and to convey the ridiculous number of features Ubisoft disabled, this mod brings with it changes to the default fog values, Bokeh DoF for the main cameras, stuttering improvements, E3 2012 bloom, performance improvements, enabled headlight shadows, LOD changes, reflection changes, three additional new cameras to the game (closer, normal, further), rain changes (high quality rain drops, properly reacting to light, etc), lens flares, lighting changes, and civilian density changes.

The sheer gravity of insult this plays to PC gamers is inconceivable. I can draw a few conclusions from this fiasco. Either Ubisoft shut off those features, without knowledge that the PC community would tear into the file structure and do what they do best, or, perhaps more realistically and worryingly, Ubisoft deliberately and knowingly crippled the PC version simply to put the final build closer to the PS4.

Now, the first scenario is rather obvious and is almost the easy answer. Given their past history with PC ports, I highly doubt Ubisoft knew what they were doing in giving PC gamers the absolute premium experience they deserve. So, to suggest that they simply didn’t optimize the game is rather straightforward.

However, I believe the second scenario to be far more likely. You see, I simply don’t trust these large triple-A publishers anymore. Dumbing down PC versions of cross platform games is the worst insult they can throw at PC gamers. I am not one to believe that all versions of a cross platform game should be the same – at least on a technical level. Content-wise, yes, there should be parity. But when it comes to visuals and performance, do not dare insult us with your compromised versions of the PC version and sell it to us as such.

If I have a Ferarri, I deserve to drive it at 200 mph. Don’t force me to drive it everywhere at 30 mph, simply because you don’t want to make other drivers in their family sedans feel bad. I’m sorry. Your twisted concept of visual parity has absolutely no place in the industry, and is certainly not welcomed to the table of PC gamers.

I’m fully aware that not every single console player is like this, but I don’t care if console players complain and feel bad if their version of a cross platform game looks and performs worse than the PC version. It is unrealistic and ludicrous for console players to expect the same experience from their static, middle-of-the-road box as a PC that is literally 3.5x more powerful.

I’m sorry, but you don’t get to jealously complain just because your machine is woefully underpowered to play modern games at full 1080p resolution with full effects. You don’t get to dictate and cripple my experience simply so you can point to the PC version and say, “it doesn’t look any better than my PS4.”

You gave up that right the instant you decided to ignorantly claim that PC gaming is dead and cling to the misguided belief that consoles offer the best experience.

As a PC gamer, and as someone who actually owns the Xbox One and PS4, I am thoroughly incensed every time I see half-assed PC ports. My PC is 3.5x more powerful than my PS4. I deserve visuals and performance that reflects this. My PC is simply better. And for this, for having the gall to save money, to patiently build a machine because I want the best, I am punished.

Many of you reading know exactly what I am talking about. If you are a PC gamer, you understand and share my frustration over this consolification of PC ports. You deserve better. You deserve developers and publishers who give a damn about their PC audience because guess what? If you, Ubisoft, actually gave a damn and built competent PC games, then perhaps, just perhaps, you wouldn’t be so thoroughly paranoid that we PC gamers are pirating your games. It’s because of your complete ineptitude and incompetence that your games are pirated. You shouldn’t be rewarded with our money for peddling your utterly horrid ports, filled to the brim with broken DRM, only to pass them off as a competent PC game.

No.

Not every PC gamer has a juggernaut of brute horsepower, but that absolutely does not give developers and publishers the right to deliberately compromise PC versions of games. I don’t care what excuse the likes of Ubisoft come up with. They’re wrong. PC gamers should not have to put up with it. We have the scalable, faster, and more powerful platform. We are completely in the right to expect and deserve better.

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One comment

BroScottcho says:

Great job Shank! I really cannot think of the reason developers are doing this. Could it be some under the table agreement with the console makers? Why wouldn’t the developer want it to look and be the best it can be on each platform!?

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