Shank’s Spiel: Ubisoft’s Contempt For PC Gamers

June 26th, 2014 Posted by Shank's Spiel 3 comments

Editor’s Note: The following piece contains language some may find objectionable. Reader discretion is advised.

I knew it.

The instant Sony’s E3 presser closed out a day full of conferences, I called Brian and told him how The Division demo this year looked noticeably downgraded from its reveal last year. I specifically called out how the reflections looked significantly pared back, particles looked lower in quality, and the smoke looked altered and didn’t appear volumetric.

If a certain rumor  is to be believed, my suspicions and frustrations are founded.

A lot has happened in the seven days since my last Spiel. Ubisoft is crossing a major line here. They came out and “justified” – if you can label their insulting, pitiful, condescending bullsh** as justification – their reasons why the final PC version of Watch Dogs isn’t as graphically beautiful as it was during its E3 reveal.

In the same week, Ubisoft’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing produced another bullsh** excuse as to why achieving 1080p resolution for an open world game is “incredibly difficult”.

And finally, if the source is to be believed, a developer working on The Division explains that they have already downgraded a lot of graphical features because there is a large push from the publisher (read: Ubisoft) that the PC version, “simply cannot have a big gap”.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Let’s begin with Ubisoft’s so-called “justification” on the downgraded graphics of Watch Dogs. They state,

“The dev team is completely dedicated to getting the most out of each platform, so the notion that we would actively downgrade quality is contrary to everything we’ve set out to achieve. We test and optimise our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality.”

Let’s stop right there. “Optimise our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality”?

Really?

How is it, then, that after using the mod, I experienced a smoother performance and more consistent framerate? Let’s continue. They go on to state that indeed, the game does contain “old, unused render settings” that were deactivated for various reasons such as performance. Ubisoft continues to state that the mod “subjectively” enhances the graphics “in certain situations”.

No, Ubisoft. The mod doesn’t “subjectively” enhance anything. If you have a pair of eyes and a mild observation for the workings of reality, you can see that the modded game makes the game objectively better. Why? The mod enables physically accurate features such as headlights casting shadows, and raindrops visibly reacting to light.

This isn’t a subjective improvement. This is how light and objects behave in real life. Therefore, labeling the modeling and behavior of objects and lighting after their physical real-world counterparts as subjective is complete and utter bullsh**.

Secondly, hiding behind the veil of “peformance” simply beggars belief. This is the most pitiful excuse surrounding this whole fiasco. I and many others who used this mod experienced performance gains. One guy on the internet was able to make the game look and run better than Ubisoft’s drove of developers.

Ubisoft’s response to this mod is a case of complete disregard for the consumer, nevermind the PC gamer. They assume that you, the ones with the money, are stupid, brainless cash machines.

You’re not. You are intelligent and can see past the condescending disconnected bullsh** spewed out by Ubisoft.

Let’s move on to something a bit…I was going to use the word “happier” but that’s simply not true. In an article on Gamespot, Ubisoft’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tony Key, explained why obtaining 1080p in open world games is “incredibly difficult”.

“When a team is designing a game, they have to make choices because there’s not unlimited power. Yes, the PS4 can deliver 1080p; that doesn’t mean that the game can without making sacrifices in other areas. For an open-world game, it’s incredibly difficult.”

This is in addition to reports that Assassin’s Creed Unity is targeting 1080p60 on both the PS4 and Xbox One.

Ok so…where to start on this one? Let’s attack this in reverse order. Assassin’s Creed has never been a twitch game like Call of Duty. Meaning, you don’t need to have insane reaction times to be able to play the game. This is only perpetuated by the large single-player foundation. Even though Unity will feature co-op, it’s not competitive, as you are sharing the world with three other players. There is absolutely no reason to target 60 frames per second in this open world, largely single-player action game, that too on hardware that are so inherently limited from the onset. None whatsoever.

Perhaps more incredulous is Ubisoft’s claim that creating 1080p open world games is somehow difficult. Once again, this is complete and utter bullsh** designed to distract consumers and treat them like brainless simpletons. You and I know this is simply not true.

If only there was another massive open world game releasing with incredibly beautiful vistas, insane draw distances, larger world, and more advanced graphics techniques than Assassin’s Creed to counter Ubisoft’s limp-wristed argument. Oh wait, there’s The Witcher 3.

Just recently, CD Projekt Red Executive Producer John Mamais told Eurogamer that they already have The Witcher 3 running at 1080p on the PS4 and are working to get the game running at 1080p on the Xbox One saying,

“We will hit 900p no problem. We’d like to get it up to 1080p on Xbox One…But we anticipate being able to do 1080p on PS4 a little bit easier than on the Xbox.”

If a developer with arguably less resources than Ubisoft is able to get a graphically superior and physically larger open world experience to run at 1080p on the consoles, there is absolutely no excuse that Ubisoft cannot do the same. Once again, Ubisoft is showing their true colors by talking down to consumers and treating us like second class citizens.

Conveniently, Ubisoft completely fails to mention nor recognize the PC. Nowhere in the Gamespot piece is the PC even mentioned. Nowhere does Ubisoft recognize that even a mid-range PC will easily be able to play Assassin’s Creed Unity at full 1080p. It’s as if they don’t want to recognize the overall superiority the PC offers in flexibility and scalability. It’s as if they’re deliberately trying to downplay the PC version simply by not mentioning it.

All of this – all of this incomprehensible ignorance and incompetence – neatly leads into this week’s pièce de résistance.

First, a major caveat. The following is unconfirmed and stands as a rumor as of this writing. However, it is my personal opinion that it’s significant enough to bear recognition and considerable discussion. Given the fact that we’re talking about Ubisoft here, it will not surprise me in the least if this rumor turns out to be true.

According to an anonymous source speaking to WhatIfGaming, there is a very real and deliberate push from Ubisoft to downgrade the PC version of The Division simply keep it closer to the console versions.

“There is definitely a lot of push coming from publishers to not make the experience so different on consoles as to alienate people into thinking that next generation is not as powerful as PC. This is probably what happened at Ubisoft Montreal [for Watch Dogs]. I think that while making stability changes is definitely important, it does not completely obliterate a lot of enhanced rendering applications.”

But wait, there’s more,

“To me it still looks good, but not as good as the original reveal. I am sure as we get closer to launch and the actual console versions of the game featuring SD (Snowdrop) that it will start to seem all too obvious to people especially those on PCs…Truth be told in regards to your question that while ‘Yes’ the lead platform is the PC, we simply cannot have such a big gap.”

Keeping in mind that this is still a rumor, it is my opinion that this will end up being true. I really do believe that the PC version of The Division will be deliberately crippled simply to bring it closer in parity to the consoles. Given the demo we witnessed at Ubisoft’s presser, which I have since poured over, this rumor only fuels my initial suspicions of a PC downgrade.

This is why PC gamers hate Ubisoft. There are so many layers here, so many reasons why I and many of you are absolutely seething with anger right now.

This goes so far beyond graphics. This is a complete lack of respect, outright contempt, and active sabotage of an entire base of consumers simply so another group of consumers won’t feel left because of their weak, limp-wristed plastic boxes.

This is a systemic, conscious decision to deliberately cripple an entire base of consumers. This is unconscionable. This completely toxic and corrosive.

Let me make myself perfectly clear.

I. Don’t. Care. If. Console. Players. Feel. Jealous.

The reality is this – consoles will never compete with PCs. Deliberately crippling the PC version simply to not “alienate people into thinking that next generation is not as powerful as PC” is totally unjustifiable. The so-called “next gen” consoles are weaker than PCs. They will never be as powerful as the PC. They will never be able to push as many pixels, light as accurately, nor physically simulate as realistically as a PC. Not today. Not ever.

I don’t care what business excuses Ubisoft comes up with. They’re wrong. There’s no argument to this. Ubisoft is just wrong. Not only are their actions an outright lie, they’re completely and utterly morally evil.

Forgive any extreme language used this week. As you all know by now, I select my words carefully. I wouldn’t be using this language if I didn’t think it was the strongest, most descriptive, and most accurate manner to describe the actions of a company that treats its consumers like, well, sh**.

To everyone watching – do not put up with Ubisoft’s actions. Voice your rightful anger. Tell them that what they’re doing is unconscionable. Tell them that what they’re doing is completely wrong. Actively sabotaging an entire base of consumers is just wrong.

Make a difference.

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3 comments

Velkerath says:

Nice job shank you post what most people I think can agree with. I think the main issue with the making of games in general has this same issue though. I also think its wrong to try to make the game look identical as possible even if it means you dumb down other platforms just for that. I think they need to focus on each platform seperetly. Push what you can to the max for each platform. I dont get why they hold back on this they could make the game look extreemly great for pc and yea its probably going to get a performance loss on consoles but you know what thats what haooens when you buy a console since it cannot be upgraded in any way. That being said tho I think many console gamers are ok with the litte bit of dumbing down on graphics in comparrison to the pc. Again great article Shank just think about Ubisoft this way…. they know the PC has a NEED FOR SPEED!!! so they dumbed down the graphics a bit 😛

Lawrence says:

As a console gamer i felt this was hard on console gaming and as a eso off the record fan i know that was not the intention. I felt you were console attacking mid way through instead of saying lines like “I. Don’t. Care. If. Console. Players. Feel. Jealous.” or “consoles will never compete with PCs” you should of pointed out that most gamers know this as part of the price we pay.(i have issues against computers due to people religiously stating the computer is the best console before the question is ever done being asked as if the flaws don’t exist and could go on about flaws i see with it as a system but that is for another time). Yet i feel that weakening one to support another is wrong not just for lowering the quality but because it assumes console gamers are stupid and computer gamers are not deserving.

Chris Hockett says:

In today’s world, when you buy an XB1 or PS4, you’re buying what constitutes as a mid-range PC by today’s standards. That’s why they can sell it to you at $400-500, whereas you’ll spend about $2K for a “top of the line” PC. You get what you pay for, it’s as simple as that. Personally, I play more on consoles because I spend most of my day at work behind a computer screen, I prefer to sit on my couch when I’m playing games at home. But understand what you’re getting. PC versions of games should have a scalable graphics engine that faster, more powerful PC hardware can take advantage of.

I agree with Shank that we’re going to hit the ceiling of what these consoles can do much quicker than the previous generation, if these consoles are planned to be used as long as the previous generation, then the industry as a whole will suffer in innovation and pushing technology forward.

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