The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

For the last couple of weeks, I've seen growing fan anger around the hotly anticipated video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Turns out, the finished game doesn't look as good as the early versions shown off in trailers. It's not the first game to leave gamers feeling misled, and it won't be the last.

The whole thing comes down to a matter of promises, preorders and the video game industry's unrelenting focus on the future at the expense of its present.

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

Witcher fans have been closely following Wild Hunt since it was announced in February of 2013. The first promotional screenshots of the game looked amazing. As with most games, the PC version of The Witcher 3 was expected to be the best-looking version -- sharper, smoother, higher-fidelity than the PS4 and Xbox One versions. That's doubly true considering the PC-centric pedigree of the game's developer, CD Projekt Red.

Today, if you browse the forums at the developer's website you'll find threads dedicated to the game's visual downgrade on PC. Look at threads on Steam and NeoGAF and you'll see something similar. People aren't just casually talking about this stuff; they're angry.

Two things are inarguable. For one, the PC version isn't appreciably different from the PS4 version, other than running at a higher frame-rate. You can see a comparison between the two versions here:

Second, the game doesn't look like it did when it was announced. That's perhaps best broken down in this exhaustive imgur post from two weeks ago, or as seen in this video:

It's clear that, yes, The Witcher 3 looks different than it did when it was first shown a couple years ago. There's less detail, and the textures are muddier. The foliage isn't as sharp. The lighting effects and shadows aren't the same.

I've been asking CD Projekt Red for some sort of statement for the last couple of days, but they have not given me a substantive response. I don't really need them to confirm anything -- the changes are obvious to anyone who's seen the final game. Nevertheless, I was curious about what they make of the controversy, particularly given that the studio is generally very open and communicative with their fans.

A developer from CD Projekt actually has talked about the game's apparent downgrade, though you could easily have missed it. In a recent interview with German YouTuber Docm77, CD Projekt Red visual effects artist José Teixeira discussed the controversy.

"We didn't downgrade it," Teixeira said. "It's impossible to downgrade a game that didn't exist before or wasn't playable before. There are two things people have to separate: downgrade and optimisation. Optimisation is necessary to make the game run. Downgrade is if you deliberately make the game worse for whatever reason, to make the game run… that's totally not what happened."

Whether Teixeira wants to call it a "downgrade" or an "optimization" -- and as far as I can tell, his definitions for the two things are basically the same -- the fact remains that The Witcher 3 looks different now than it did a couple years ago.

Trailers, Teixeira pointed out, aren't actually games, though he predictably downplayed the expectations that so many people still place on them. "It's very unfair to compare trailers and gameplay demos," he said. "A trailer is a beautiful shot, right. A trailer is prepared, you take one location, you put the perfect lights, and the perfect camera angle, and it looks absolutely beautiful, and it's captured at super high-definition, and then you post-process it and everything… it's a trailer. You pick beautiful shots. But gameplay demos, that's when you see the real game. That's when you see what the real game looks like." Teixeira was then sure to point out that even gameplay demos change over time.

So here we are. The story has a beginning, middle, and end:

  1. Games change over the course of development, and are often unveiled to the public with best-case-scenario graphics.

  2. The final version of The Witcher 3 doesn't look as sharp as what was shown two years ago.
  3. The Witcher 3 clearly changed over the course of its development. QED.

But still there's this anger over it. What's that anger about?

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

My initial playthrough of The Witcher 3 was on an early "debug" version of the game running on a special testkit PS4 loaned to me by Sony (those units don't boost the performance of games, in case you're wondering). That's what I used as the basis for my review. Despite some frame-rate issues, I thought the game looked marvellous. I've played ten or so hours of the retail PC version, and I'd say it looks like the PS4 version only running at a smoother frame-rate. Regardless of platform, it's easily one of the prettiest games I've ever played, and it's really fun, to boot.

Here we have a game that's very good, a game that lots of people are almost sure to love. If you showed it to someone who didn't follow games closely, they'd be blown away by how beautiful it looks. But people are still upset, because the fact remains that The Witcher 3 of 2015 looks different from The Witcher 3 of 2013. Let's break this down.

Point one: A game's visuals and graphics technology do matter. They may not matter to you, but they matter to a lot of people. Those of us who invest in powerful PC gaming rigs live for this kind of stuff; games like The Witcher 3 are why we boot up our PCs in the morning. If you invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in building a beautiful machine capable of cranking out unprecedented visual splendor, it's understandable that you'd hope for some software to really put it to the test.


Point one: A game's visuals and graphics technology do matter.


Point two: It's unreasonable for anyone to expect a game not to change while in development. A finished video game will not look the same in 2015 as it did back in 2013 when it was in the thick of development. That's doubly true for The Witcher 3, given that the consoles for which it was being developed hadn't even been revealed when it was first announced. Things change in production; it's the nature of the creative process.

The Witcher 3 situation ties into an ongoing narrative established in the past by games like Dark Souls 2 and Watch Dogs. Both of those games came under fire for releasing final versions that didn't look as good as pre-release demos. Dark Souls 2 had markedly flatter lighting technology, which killed some of the oppressive atmosphere present in pre-release footage. Watch Dogs looked noticeably less impressive than its original demonstration video, which felt like a bigger deal than Dark Souls 2, given how that initial graphical "wow" factor had so many people (us included) treating Watch Dogs as the harbinger of a new generation of gaming tech.

We've actually been highlighting this kind of pre/post-release discrepancy more often at Kotaku, just as we've shifted our coverage away from pre-release demos and trailers and more to games that actually exist in the real world. Take the weird UI in the E3 demo of The Last of Us, or the many ways the PAX demo of Dragon Age: Inquisition didn't line up with the final game. Look at how the award-winning E3 demo of BioShock Infinite showed incredible action sequences and levels that weren't in the final game. See how last year's Assassin's Creed Unity demo showed a mission that wasn't in the final game, with several features that also didn't make the cut.

Or, hell, check out the menus from the 2014 E3 demo of The Witcher 3, shown during Microsoft's Xbox press conference (via GameSpot):

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

Compare that with what the final menus look like:

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

I dislike the menus in the finished game, but I can't say whether the interface in that E3 video would have been better. It looks interesting, anyway! Point is: Games change. If they're showing you a game that's still in development, they're probably showing something that won't look quite the same once it's finished and you can actually play it.

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

At this point, I hope that all savvy gamers -- members of the press included -- have learned to take every moment of pre-release footage they watch with a tablespoon of salt. Let yourself get excited -- it's ok! Video games are exciting! -- but remember that whatever you're seeing will almost certainly be changed in the final version. It can be hard to ignore the crass clarion call of the pre-order incentive, but if you want to buy the game and not the dream version of the game that its publishers are more than happy to sell to you in advance, wait until the actual game exists.

As far as I can tell, anger over The Witcher 3 (and Dark Souls 2, and Watch Dogs, and the others) centres mainly on two notions. First, that anyone who bought the game in advance was promised one thing, but got something different. Second, that people who play games on PC believe that the ideal version of the game -- as evidenced in that good-looking early footage -- was hobbled by the need to get the game running on less-powerful consoles. Both of those reactions share something in common: The gaming public was sold something -- an idea -- that didn't actually exist, and some people (somewhat understandably) feel let down by reality.


Point two: It's unreasonable for anyone to expect a game not to change while in development.


The moral isn't really "They are lying to you." Rather, it's "This whole system of promises, primped previews and preorders is broken and stupid; it benefits the people who sell games, not the people who make and play them." It's stupid to make game developers crunch ridiculous hours to crank out a promotional demo that couldn't hope to be reflective of the final game. It's stupid to push gamers to buy games in advance, fuelling their bile and anger when the thing they bought is different from the thing they were promised. It's stupid to set up a situation that derails the discussion of a worthy work of artistry with such predictability that you'd think everyone involved would have figured out by now how to keep it from happening.

There's this feeling among gamers that we're constantly being screwed over, lied to, taken advantage of, ripped off. I'm increasingly convinced that this mentality is largely a byproduct of what my colleagues and I have come to call Preorder Culture. Preorder Culture isn't just defined by preorders -- it's defined by hype, by the way that AAA video game publishers promote their games months or even years in advance.

This hype-centric, pre-release culture encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the mainstream video game industry, so much of what is aggravating and toxic and dull about how we talk about and consume video games. It's why so many of the most charged conversations in gaming center around controversial trailers, or just-announced collector's edition tchotchkes, or box art. (Box art! For fuck's sake.) I don't mean to say that those conversations aren't worth having, but the fact that they so often revolve around games that don't actually exist yet says a lot.

The cause for this future-obsessed mindset is larger than the video game industry and includes most aspects of consumer culture as a whole. But the games industry is surely displaying some of the most visible symptoms.

The Witcher 3 Downgrade Controversy Sucks

This is only compounded by publishers' fixation on preorders, on selling games before they're out or even finished. It's the same thing every time: Check this game out, here's what it looks like, here's the date it's coming out, now buy it buy it buy it buy oh my god please buy it now!

I'm not the first person to say it, but I'll be the latest: Preorders suck. If you think that preorders serve anyone but the people selling you the game, you're kidding yourself. Exclusive tie-ins, convenient pre-loads, even discounted preorder prices, all are in the service of giving a critical mass of gamers just enough incentive to buy a game as early as possible.

When you preorder a game, you don't actually buy a thing; you buy a promise. But it is a promise. It's a promise that the game will come out. It's a promise that it will work. It's a promise that it will live up to whatever excitement or expectation it was that encouraged you to commit to buying it, a promise that the tiny but potent rush of anticipation you felt when you clicked the "pre-order" button on Steam was only the beginning. You committed to something, and it's understandable to expect the thing to which you committed to live up to its end of the bargain.

Many of the people who are upset about The Witcher 3 probably didn't preorder the game. But those people bought a promise, too. I saw those same trailers and pored over those same screenshots. I, too, pondered whether my existing graphics card would be able to handle the game. In our own ways and to varying extents, we each bought the same promise. This game is going to be the most amazing-looking PC game you've ever played. This game is going to change everything. We promise.

As we've seen time and again, those promises are faulty from the moment they're made. The game will always change, and the promise will always be broken. Maybe it will be just a little broken. Maybe it's snapped in two. Maybe you didn't care about the thing that changed, or maybe that one thing was the primary reason you were excited about the game to begin with.

Video game publishers are so determined to make a profit that they start selling before their developers are done creating. The video game press, Kotaku included, still doesn't do a good enough job of reminding the public that most of what they're seeing isn't finished, and will likely change. This industry manufactures and inspires so much genuine wonder, but it can't stop selling promises it could never hope to fully keep.

The problem of video games' hype-addled preorder culture is systemic; it's so widespread and complex that it will likely never go away. The promises will keep being broken, and the anger over those broken promises will linger. Therefore, the only real solution must be personal: Stop buying promises. Buy video games, instead.


Comments

    No, No more excuses, you show us a trailer, we want whats in that trailer, this isnt advertising a burger only to get something different at checkout, its something they have complete control of at all times.

      I hope you aren't a fan of Battlefront.

        Have you played a Frostbite 3 game on PS4? They do tend to look pretty much like that teaser that was show at SWC Anaheim (even if it was just in-engine). I think people are just a bit too comfortable in not believing what they see anymore.

        It should also be noted that graphics are simply not the most important part of the video game experience anymore.

        Last edited 21/05/15 12:26 pm

      That's a weird analogy, since the burger you get never looks as good as the one on the menu.

        I think that's their point though. Trying to get a burger looking consistently like the picture just isn't possible due to the many variables involved. This is more like showing a LEGO model on the front of the box and then the actual model looking considerably less like it despite the fact that LEGO is relatively atomic.

          Surely it takes less effort to make a burger look good, than to coordinate a large team of developers over many years on a game?

          I don't have a box for The Witcher, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that any screenshots on there ARE representative of the final game.

          And I'm fairly certain it's standard practice for early video game trailers to have the disclaimer "not representative of final product".

            Surely it takes less effort to make a burger look good, than to coordinate a large team of developers over many years on a game?

            Making burgers that look exactly the same so you can advertise them is hard. Even when you do it they only look at way for a minute. Making games look exactly like the finished product that you'll get in your hand is so easy you have to go out of your way not to. You don't have to resort to an idealised version to advertise (well, for the graphics at least, tons of games mechanics that don't look right on film but are fun to play, so they hide them with camera tricks).
            I wouldn't have used the burger example because it's a bit of a mess and there's quite a lot of debate as to whether or not it's an acceptable practice, but the bigger point is that the game can be straight forward in it's advertising. They might be harder to make but it's all right there. It's a product that's displayed on a screen which can easily be captured and rebroadcast. It's not going to suddenly feature a much ugly main character and a lower polygon count because you left it in the car over night or the guy at JB Hi-Fi wasn't paying attention when he sold it to you.

            To me the problem is that they rush to show off how good their games look so far in advance that they feel they have no choice but to fluff the footage. They all do it but some are better judges or more cautious (releasing 'not representative footage' in a way that means it should look better, not worse). For instance Watch Dogs' problem was that they thought they were going to be able to make the world that detailed, so they got ahead of themselves and promoted the game hard with mock ups of what they planned to make. It blew up in their face when they realised that the engine could handle that detail but the people actually making the assets couldn't handle the workload required to build an entire city that way.

            It doesn't just create a situation where gamers get tricked by fancy graphics and pre-rendered footage, it uses smoke and mirrors to hide how games are actually made which leaves gamers with no idea what is and isn't reasonable to expect. Most gamers see the stuff they play as being developed more like cartoons are animated than a house being built.
            They think DLC is something you can completely ignore until launch, then pump out on a monthly basis. They think one person makes the game. They think adding a new gun can only be done at the expense of fixing bugs. They think unsolved complex bugs with simple symptoms are just the developers being lazy and hating their fans. It isn't that harmful but it causes a lot of unnecessary conflict between the people making/publishing games and the people paying lots of money for those games.

              If you're talking about the early trailer videos like this article is, then it isn't really that simple: the end product that you'll buy doesn't yet exist.

              It's not as if the Witcher developers finished creating the game in 2013, made a trailer and then spent a couple of years downgrading the graphics.

              So, basically if I can sum up your response in three words: "everyone is stupid"?

              Developers are stupid for creating unrealistic mockups, and gamers are stupid for not realising that the game wasn't finished 2 years ago.

              Solid argument.

              EDIT: I know that probably sounded really sarcastic, but I pretty much agree that everyone is stupid. I don't think either side (devs or gamers) is necessarily "wrong", but neither one is without fault either.

              Last edited 22/05/15 12:10 am

          Quite the opposite - there are a hell of a lot of variables at play in a large software development project like a video game (way more than any number of hamburgers), even more so when it's an open world sort of a game like this where you can't be sure exactly where a player will go or what they will do at any given moment. And even more in the case of PC where they need to allow for a whole variety of hardware setups.

          It also needs to be kept in mind that CDPR aren't a huge publisher like EA or Ubisoft who can throw tens of millions of dollars at a game - they may have had to make a call on whether it was worth the expense of producing the vast number of assets a game of this size needs at a level of quality that only a very small subset of customers will actually get to see. They may have decided to focus their resources on making something that will look as good as possible for the majority of people, rather than the 10% at the top with massive specs.

            Then they shouldn't have produced the trailer depicting gameplay at such ridiculous graphic levels. If you produce a trailer depicting the game as being capable of running at thsoe levels, they ought to be held accountable to produce those levels instead of simply being able to shrug it off and saying "oh well, shit happens".

          A closer analogy would be deciding to buy a building based on an architect's drawing only to find the end result didn't look identical to that drawing (perhaps the original design wasn't structurally sound, or needed to be altered to meet some building regulations). That doesn't necessarily mean that the architect lied to you.

            Maybe, but the project manager should have told you about the architect's changes well before you paid the final payment and walked in the door as the new owner...

              Sounds like a good argument not to pre-order then.

      One day you should work out how much you actually know vs what you assume.

      I think it's fine to show off in engine footage that looks different to the end product. It may suck, but it's always been that way, since as long as I can remember. What I don't like is when they show 'gameplay' that turns out to be over polished, as if that's what to expect.

      If the wither 3, Assassins Creed unity, watchdogs, etc gameplay trailers were not running on 'target specced hardware' / were over polished, it would have been pretty obvious to the developers that it wouldn't release like that. At that point, I think it crosses the line. They are knowingly raising your expectations with what they already know will never make it into the final game. They 'can' still do it, but then, IMO, they don't really have an excuse when people get upset.

      Take the Witcher, or Assassins Creed Uniy/ Watchdogs. They all had 'in-game' (not just in-engine) 'gameplay' trailers that looked much better than the final product. Even though the studios knew, even at the time, that the games would not look like that on release. That's just misleading IMO.

      whaaaa whaaa whaaaa. maybe instead of complaining about the difference from that trailer how about you focus on all the things they have improved since that trailer. The final game looks incredble compared to that original thing, even if yes some things had to change.

      It is YOUR fault for believing advertising from two years ago and not the more recent advertising from a month ago. There were many many many videos out there. but no you just wnat to whaaaa whaaa about something two years old.

      here is a hint: you didnt have to buy the game at launch. There i said it you didnt have to believe the advertising, that is on YOU. advertising is there to entice and rope in gullible people. It doesnt matter whether it is for a car, game, movie, clothes. ALL advertising is never representative of truth. The same can be said for hundred of years. especially when its two years old in an industry that is changing monthly.

      Last edited 21/05/15 1:27 pm

        And that is just it. It is misleading advertising, a criminal act here in Australia under the Australian Consumer Law. And it is THEIR fault for producing such advertising.

          good grief, its not like they promised us a RPG and gave us a FPS. ALL advertising is misleading in certain degrees. Honestly after playing like 7 glorious hours of this game I have even less respect for these downgraders than I did before the game came out. It is massively amazing from a graphics point of view. People are harping on the things they changed but not for one second looking at all the ways the gameplay looks better than it did in those videos. so please excuse if I dotn care about what they have to say

          You mean the way EA advertised SimCity as a game that actually worked? I doubt there's much of a case if the graphics aren't exactly the same. Go for a refund if it bothers you that much.

          Last edited 22/05/15 10:14 am

      Yea I don't know why people are talking about the intricacies behind burger making but... it's not like there isn't an AAA company out there that actually delivers on its trailers. Nintendo!

      Kotaku, please give Nintendo a few pats on the back for doing it better than the rest of these dumb companies

      I am a happy Witcher 3 owner and I will honestly tell you that complaints do not really bother me. Yes they are sure to burn much of good will that CDPR have presented to the gaming community, after all any relationship is a two way street. And they sound like some people were expecting tech demo and not an actual game… that might have changed during further 2 years of development. In the end, people are entitled to their opinion (though I would very much prefer if it was an informed one).

      What really bothers me are double standards, inconsistency and hypocrisy.

      Take the above post as an example… (the one at the top, made by over30yearsofsharing). I can only assume this guy never gets out of the house to see a movie or eat at a restaurant.
      Furthermore, I guess he does not watch TV shows at home either… because let’s face it, all of the above look different than the trailers/advertisements for them do. I mean these days you have movies that feature scenes in trailers that actually never make it to the movie… With the above in mind I can certainly say, that people posting similar comments are big hypocrites…

      I will make you a deal, you apply same comments and level of persistence to all other products you partake in... and I will stand by your side when you are complaining…

      Last edited 22/05/15 7:17 am

        If i see a movie trailer, then see the movie, the scenes in the trailer are exactly the same - if they cut some of the footage from the movie, its fine, this does not affect the visual clarity at all, if i watch an add for tv, then watch the tv show, then i expect the show to be the same quality as the add, if i see an ad for a video game, that has a little disclaimer saying 'actual in-game footage' then i expect the game to actually contain the same 'in-game footage'

        you can spin it how you like, but its unacceptable to blatantly lie about how your game looks and runs, when you know damn well that you arent going to deliver on it

          Hey listen I am not going to be a jerk and tell you to learn to read or something like that I am sure you have the skill already. And given the depth of your reply I am sure it is safe to assume you possess some decent comprehension skills.

          So at what point did "work in progress, final product may change" was in any way not clear to you? Further more at what point were you not able to benefit from 30 days return policy as offered by GOG if you were unhappy with your purchase?

          I get it, you are unhappy with the end result. The thing is that CDPR were making a game they wanted or could make and not the game you wanted them to make. You too can spin your point of view any way you want at this point. The end result is that they made a very good game that a vast majority of people are happy with and if you are unhappy with their work feel free to return it for a refund.

          Past that there is nothing else you can possibly demand from them because in the end they do not work for you and given your attitude, you are probably not the type of person they would want to work for or write games for in the future...

          Last edited 22/05/15 11:27 pm

    The visual downgrade doesn't bother me. The terrible frame rate on the Xbone, however, does.

    The worst thing is that I have a download code for a free version on GOG, but can't run it without about $500-$600 worth of PC upgrades. Ugh.

      Do you mean the cut scene stuttering? It seems to do that on all platforms at times.

        That too, but the actual gameplay frame rate seems pretty choppy. Though I've been playing older games on PC that run silky smooth lately, so maybe I'm just used to that?

          PS4 player here, the game gets pretty choppy at certain points, not a deal breaker as its pretty and the gameplay is great but it does throw me off a bit especially during combat.
          Does the console version have tresFX? I dont need pretty hair and I heard the Pc can lose a fair bit of framerate over it. Give me an option to take it off and I'm happy.

            No version of the game has TresFX.

            The PC version has HairWorks, nVidia's hair simulation. Hairworks, at default, can halve the framerate indoors/ when the camera is close to hair. I have a 970 running ultra settings and see performance go from 60FPS to 24-45 when I enable Hairworks.

            You can edit the games settings files to lower the MSAA on Hairworks down from the default 8xMSAA and at 2x it doesn't effect performance as badly at all, but the hair is awfully aliased to the point where, IMO, the game looks better without HairWorks.

            If you turn off HairWorks, it'll look just like the PS4/Xbox one version. The hair on console/ without hairworks still has some form of cloth simulation and looks very good in comparison to most games when it comes to hair.

            Hope that helps.

              Ahh again was just vaguely recalling something I read. May even have been here! Like I said though while the framerate stutters in some scenes it hasnt turned me away from the game and is still quite playable.

              Thanks for the clarification.

      I'll take that code off your hands if it's paining you too much ;)

    This has only happened with every game released in the last 10-15 years (exaggerated hyperbole but you get my drift).

      True, Alien Colonial Marines anyone? Far worse "downgrade" then this. At least with the PC version there will be mods and hi-res textures in time. Everyone just needs to learn to take early trailers with a grain of salt.

        One of the key differences in my opinion between the graphical downgrade of The Witcher 3, and AC:M, is the fact that under the graphical downgrade of Witcher 3 is still a thoroughly enjoyable game with great mechanics... AC:M had none of that.

      I reckon it's probably pretty accurate. Penny Arcade coined the term "bullshot" back in September 2005.
      But people are idiots, and they never learn.

      I've actually had several discussions with people about Battlefront in the last few weeks, and when I express skepticism about the game actually ending up looking that good, they insist that it's going to look just like the trailer.

        Time to place some cash bets with these people otherwise they will never learn.

          Big ones , like more than 1000€, so they'll remember next time! :)

    It definitely doesn't look as pretty as I expected. Character models and animations in particular.

    Still a damn fine RPG as is, though. Really enjoying it! I went on a media blackout, so never really saw much pre-release!

    My opinion (though no one asked for it):
    Minor graphical downgrades do not affect game play - get the hell over it.
    Graphics aren't everything.
    Sure it would have looked a little prettier, but is it seriously that big of a deal.

    Nerd rage - can it.

      Except it's not minor. It looks completely different.

      You're missing the point of the issue. The fact of the matter is that Publishers create trailers that are not indicative of what the final product will look like, and they are fully aware of this. They do it purely to push early sales. It is deliberately misleading consumers to increase profits.

      If you don't see anything wrong with that then you might as well just keep throwing your money at this corrupt industry. If what you say is true, and that "graphics aren't everything" why then do Publishers insist on making games look beautiful in pre-release footage? Because they do matter to some people.

        I think insinuating that they do it on purpose is a tad unfair.
        You will find that during the development of any game that there are concessions that need to be made to fit content in and provide a fluid experience.
        People need to remember that the early footage wouldn't have had the same demandson the engine as the game still didn't have most of the content.
        There is no point in releasing a game if only people with the highest-end PC's can play it.

        Also, saying that it's "completely" different is an exaggeration. Completely different would be replacing the enemies with french fries and making the protagonist Johnny Bravo and making in a "bullet hell" style.

        but most places that have orders allow you to cancel at any time, and indeed only charge you when its time for delivery.

        As a gamer for many decades one thing has always been clear right back to Atari days, dont believe what is on the box and in this generation dont believe what you see years out in videos. that is as fundamental as breathing. IT WILL ALWAYS CHANGE. If you arent willing to embrance that simple concept why bother people a gamer. Technology changes and adapts almost monthly these days. Two years ago is a huge amount of time. I dont believe anything I see until a few months out from launch. At which time I make the choice to preorder or not. I am the one who makes that decision.

        YOU choose when to order the game, not the publishes.

        what the guy above was talking about is that these 'downgraders' are so stuck on their hate they never end up talking about the game they got only the superficial graphics. Thats why I have no respect for them because in some ways the game play looks worse, but in many other ways they have improved it. but according to them its all crap. yawn. 200 people spent years crafting this and thats the thanks they get?

      This is not a 'minor' graphical downgrade.

      http://i.imgur.com/b4TnCh2.gif

        Wait... wait... give me a minute... I need to find my tiny violin.

          Check your arse, it's probably right there with your head.

            Careful with that razor sharp wit, you may cut yourself.

              Careful giving him such a tongue lashing...
              He probably doesn't taste nice.

              You just responded to him basically disagreeing with the basis of your argument, the idea that it was a "minor" downgrade, by saying the equivalent of "cry more". You call that wit?

          If that's the difference between what they advertised the game would look like and the final product, then I think it's entirely reasonable for gamers to feel somewhat shortchanged/annoyed. That is one hell of a difference.

        whaaaa whaaa, i would rather have a working game NOW and then wait for mods and the enhanced version. Than have that game and have it completely unplayable

          You think the enhanced version is going to magically put all of that back in there? Righto. I'd rather a game be finished and polished before its released, but that's just me.

          Last edited 21/05/15 5:08 pm

            The game is finished and polished. If you can't play because of what you saw 2 years ago you're only hindering yourself.

      Having done my first 3D gaming in the days of double-digit poly counts and single-digit FPS I agree that graphics fidelity is something that can be placed in the "nice, but not essential" category. (Anyone else remember playing ArcticFox or MidWinter?)

      However, I can still sympathise with those who fork out thousands of dollars to get really great image quality on their PCs and find that they actually wind up with something with the level of quality of a $500 PS4 or XBox One.

      ... although I also think that pinning expectations of final graphical quality on a build made two years before final release is probably a tad unrealistic.

        I still remember MidWinder as one of the most immersive games of my youth. I had a look back at it recently and, wow, did my imagination do a lot of the heavy lifting!

    And this is why I never fall for hype. Reviews I read but with a grain of salt. Trailers I watch but never bank my house on. For me,

    No expectations = less disappointment if it turns out to be a bunk.

    A friend showed me this comparison so I can understand why people aren't happy about the quality going from something that looks like it could be from Bloodborne to something that looks like a last gen game. I've been watching people play the game though and the gameplay and systems are very much current gen so I think people (especially publishers) need to stop thinking graphics determine how good a game is.

    Last edited 21/05/15 10:33 am

    I didn't really follow the development much apart from a few different posts on this site. I saw a couple of screenshots and a trailer. I didn't pre-order the game (bout it about 2-3 days before release).
    I think the thing that bothered me most was when all those exclusive pre-order bonuses happened. Especially the ones that were platform specific. Exclusives like that really piss me off.

    That being said, it must have been long enough ago that It didn't bother me when I saw a good price and bought the game.

    I've only just finished installing it last night so haven't played it yet, but I'll be disappointed if it looks no better than the Witcher2. I know my computer is getting on the old side so I'm not expecting graphics nirvana. I just hope the gameplay makes up for it. I loved the previous games, but for some reason I could never really get through them...

    What a load of bollocks. The game is good end of discussion

    Playing it on xbone and it looks beautiful, it might be the worst platform but seriously people need to also appreciate what they're given. Cd project did an amazing job and worked their asses off doing so, congratulations to them and anyone else who isn't a spoiled brat complaining about bee dick sized issues. Move on and pre orders are for fedora m'ladies.

    I really don't agree that 'Downgrade' and 'Optimization' are the same thing.

    You are going to try and make a game look as good as possible. You have all different teams (artists, designers, programmers) working on it at the same time. You get all the art in looking fantastic but as more and more systems come online and added to the game, the extra power has to come from somewhere.

    It would be weird for developers to preemptively make their game look worse to leave some computing power free.

    People really do have to understand that early trailers are best case scenario not because developers are evil liars but the game did look like that at some point when the engine was under a lot less stress.

    Also, I think it looks pretty great.

    Last edited 21/05/15 10:45 am

    Ah the path of a sleeper PC hit series. Game 1 comes out on PC, is popular enough to get a second one. Game 2 comes out, does pretty well and a console port happens, everybody wins. Game 3 is a PC port of a console game with all the shoddy controls and crap optimization that goes with it, pissing off the original fan base.

    *edit* Oh and aussies, don't forget CDProjekt own GoG, who were one of the first european key distributors to start whacking on the australia tax to their own store to 'appease local retailers'. Way before green man gaming.

    Last edited 21/05/15 10:57 am

      I think that this is because console game development for AAA is usually high-risk high-reward. Taking an established hit and putting a sequel on console is essentially a no-brainer, because it diminishes the risk quite substantially. PC development gives more flexibility, but there is less money to be made generally. There's also more scope to fix up a PC game on the fly after launch without paying big bucks to certify patches through Sony/MS, so less pressure to have a polished product when the game goes gold, especially as review copies will mostly be on console.

        Yes yes excuses abound, doesn't change the fact that PC players get to build a series only to get dumped for more cash as soon as the option presents itself. These same companies then go on about loyalty and community, which is emotional blackmail.

        *If* the PC community is lucky the devs will patch the PC version till it looks like we were sold on in some cases before they move onto the next one, promising the PC will be the lead platform next time, until it comes out it's not.

    I saw a super model wearing underwear then I put them on and I looked totally different!!!

    I went to McDonalds and bought a big mac and it didn't even look near as advertised

    I ate subway for a year and gained weight

    I used Links deodorant.. lo and behold I didn't have woman lining up to bang me!

    THEY NEED TO ADVERTISE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IT'S AN AMAZING GAME GIVE THEM A BREAK!

      But I demand to be OUTRAGED!

      Last edited 21/05/15 8:25 pm

    I started the game last night and have to say the environments, lighting, and story are all amazing.. I did however notice that the character models are very rough and the animations are pretty horrible.. Would have loved for some mo-cap, but like others say, these issues don't really matter if the gameplay is tight, so far I am a little underwhelmed in this regard too though..

    In the 00s, the disclaimer, "Development footage: does not represent completed product," meant:
    "Please don't judge us on this, it will be better when it's finished."

    In the 10s, the disclaimer, "Development footage: does not represent completed product," means:
    "The demo footage looks fucking amazeballs to sell pre-orders; the actual game won't be as good, so don't whine about it because we're warning you right now."

    I don't think this is a good development.

    Last edited 21/05/15 11:23 am

      In most cases developers have every intention of the game looking as good as it does in preview shots, but changes have to be made to hit performance targets as the engine becomes more loaded with functionality. No, it's not a great development, but in most cases it's not something to be attributed to deception and preorder bait and switch either.

        Dangit, reasonable analysis keeps getting in the way of my disappointed and resentful hyperbole and exaggeration.

        All the same… I think we can still run with this.

        Look, as tenuous as you think it may be, and maybe it’s an issue of social ineptitude rather than malice (as the old saying goes, “never attribute to malice what you can attribute to incompetence”), the fact is when you show people things, you set expectations. And if you have even the vaguest idea that what you’re showing is not going to be the finished product, you kind of have an obligation to make sure that’s known. “Doesn’t reflect the finished product,” isn’t cutting it for the exact reason I mentioned before. That’s meant to mean that the finished product will be BETTER than the half-baked product.

        But that’s if you actually believe the desire to impress and attract wasn’t intentional, wasn’t a higher priority than the desire to merely inform with greater accuracy.

        After all, it’s difficult to believe that they could go to the trouble of producing gameplay trailers in a build that doesn’t have graphics options which would allow them to scale down to the likeliest results, knowing that the optimisation pass would rule out certain window-dressing.

        And you can’t tell me these guys don’t have a marketing or PR department staffed by individuals whose job it is to anticipate, influence, and manage consumer reactions. That’s pretty much what marketing and PR IS.
        I can just about guarantee that anyone who has paper qualifications for that job is aware of presentation’s influence on consumer psychology all the way down to the emotions associated with colours. That is no shit what they teach, I’ve done some of it.

        And you can bet there’s an awareness of the impact of these videos, there.

        Because if there isn’t, then who the hell was in the game PR business and couldn’t successfully identify the primary consumer complaint about Colonial Marines? You know, the whole complaint that actually saw courts get involved and hand down reprimands?
        Seems kind of like the sort of industry-affecting precedent that game PR folks might have paid at least a modicum of attention to. Unless everyone’s PR group suddenly got specific localized amnesia.

        The people responsible for showing us what we saw? They know. They well know the impact of gorgeous trailers. Do a search for ‘Witcher 3 trailer’, click any random link, and tell me what percentage of the resultant article’s positive adjectives relate to story and which relate to graphics.

        Just because ‘everyone does it’ doesn’t make it OK. ‘Buyer beware – make an informed decision’ is fine until you start appending, “…As long as that information is only post-release and nothing you were told before it.”

          I don't think there's any question that good trailers make good impressions, but that doesn't mean the trailer wasn't genuine and within everyone's expectations of what the final product would be like at the time it was made.

          It's easy to be cynical about marketing as one big scam machine, and companies like EA that deliberately and deceptively exploit people to sell products don't make it any easier, but we're talking about a particular company here that has always been pretty honest with us, done things right by gamers as a whole and seems to have a general ethos of honesty. I think they deserve the benefit of doubt here. Realistically, everyone should be given the benefit of doubt unless there's clear evidence that manipulation took place (eg. Colonial Marines).

          You can't take anything about in-development software projects as bible. A lot of people do, but they shouldn't. Things are always subject to change, and if companies were bound to only show finalised features that were guaranteed not to be changed or removed, there would literally never be any material shown more than four weeks out from launch, and everyone would be up in arms because they didn't give any teasers or information, and there would be conspiracy theories about how all the information is being kept secret because "the dev knows the game is going to suck". The best you can do as a developer is show what you've got, and make sure everyone knows that it's subject to change. Which is exactly what they've done here.

            Especially two years out, you would as a developer be expecting that new graphics hardware will be out that could perceivably make the game look even better than what you are showing in your trailer. It doesn't always pan out that way, the AI and other features end up eating more processing than you expect, etc etc. and you end up with a game not looking as nice.
            Now, they could release a new trailer 3 months out that is more in line with how the game will look.

              Here's the thing, if I were selling my car in an online listing and used Photoshop to remove the cracks in the windows, clean the mud off, put new hub caps on, repair the seat, you'd think I have that all backwards. You'd tell me to do all that stuff for real, then take the photos and list the car. I can plan on doing all that, but if I list it and someone comes to look I can't just turn around and say 'oh yeah, I was busy last week so it doesn't actually look like that'. Someone might choose to buy the car anyway but it's unfair to bring people out there with faked pictures. I might not be trying to rip anyone off but I'm wasting their time.
              The only difference with games doing that regardless of their intent they're hoping you're so excited about buying a car that you either don't notice or don't care about the difference.

              I understand how hard it is to make a game work on a technical level - but that's what makes faking the footage to look better so dishonest. It's unpredictable. It's complicated. It's just outright time consuming. The people working on this stuff are well aware that there's a serious chance it won't look as good as the footage they're making.
              I'm happy to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they had the best of intentions until life got in the way, but at best it's a flawed technique they know is flawed and use anyway.

            The problem I have with, "There was really no way to know," is very similar to the reasons Molyneux got called out on when the Godus kickstarter budget was examined. Delays and sourcing publisher and getting extra funding were all put down to the fact that the budget didn't allow for delays. But he in the same breath acknowledged that there are ALWAYS delays and that a publisher always budgets for them, where a kickstarter wouldn't, 'because it would look bad'.

            The same's true here. If everything's perfect, your game's going to look as good as your demo... but we're at a point where shouldn't devs anticipate some sacrifices in the optimization passes? Just because you don't know for certain doesn't mean you are completely unaware that it's a good possibility... and if you're aware of that, doesn't that confer some kind of responsibility to make sure false expectations aren't being raised?

            Personally, I put it down to enthusiasm. "Look how pretty we can make this!" I'm sure they didn't want to make those sacrifices. But there's still an obligation there.

            It's a sad indictment of our culture that consumers have to be so skeptical and can't take the things we're shown at face value. Now part of that may be our responsibility if we let advertising do its job and sway us, excite us when we should know better, but that is absolutely not primarily the customer's fault. It's the person peddling the dreams who should know better.
            Who DO know better. And when someone reacts the way you would expect them to when you've sold them a dream that will never materialize, they should ALSO expect the backlash. The disappointment and resentment.

            And if developers don't like dealing with disappointment and their failure to meet expectations... then they probably should accept some responsibility for their role in setting those expectations in the first place.

            This is not something they were powerless to avoid.

      This is exactly what I've been thinking.
      Usually the pre-release stuff is meant to look worse, with placeholder graphics and whatnot. Not the other way around...

    From now on all PC games should be released well over a year after the console version, GTA V style, so that console owners can have their optimised versions designed for their particular hardware and high-end PC owners can get their whinge-free version “when it’s done”.

    The reality is that if the “I own a PC that could run Witcher 3 at rock-solid 60fps at higher than the maximum settings” market was a console market it would have such a small install base that it’d barely get a release. It almost impossible for a mid-large development studio to hit respectable performance targets for the 95% of people who own Xbones /PS4s and mid-range PC’s and still provide the kind of options that a game like GTA does without significantly increasing development time to appease the 5% (the way Rockstar did).

    Anyone who’s ever built anything knows it’s easier to aim-high and build down. The game starts life on a high-power PC and is optimised down to be closer to the mean as launch nears, that’s just the reality of it. As a part of the 95%, I’m just happy to have what will be (by all accounts) a great game that’s available now.

    *5% is just a guess. I don't know what portion of gamers own a PC capable of running at above max settings. I don't think it would be many.

    Last edited 21/05/15 11:06 am

      You seem to understand that the typical development process is to start high and optimise/compromise to meet performance targets later, so your initial suggestion seems backwards - it makes more sense and be more efficient to do the PC version first where it can spread out more in the available hardware, then spend the next 6 months figuring out what needs to be done to get it to work on the more limited console hardware.

      5% is a very unflattering guess, I think. GTA5 sold 11 million copies in its first 24 hours on last-generation consoles, and while sales figures for the PC release are hard to find, it sold around 1.5 million in the first 24 hours in Steam sales alone, not including retail or RSC sales. For a game that was on its third release cycle and came out 18 months after its initial release, that's still 14%. If the PC and initial console releases had happened simultaneously that figure would be much higher.

        The thing is that they don’t finish it and then start optimising it towards the mean, not anymore anyway. They get the basic engine going early (so that it looks amazing) and then start targeting everything down toward the majority of users, as soon as it runs on their machines they give it a slap on the ass and send it out the door.

        The most important benchmark for a financially successful cross-platform title like this one is that it runs on consoles, and by all accounts the Witcher 3 really pushes both the Xbone and the PS4 to their limits right now.

        Once they’ve met that benchmark they can either sit on the title while they add options to the game which appease whatever % of people want it to look better on their top-end PC (knowing full well that the number of people who WON’T buy the game because it only looks mid-high range PC good is almost zero), they can ship the console version and tell the PC market to wait (GTA style), or they can ship the game as is.

        Those sales for GTA V are pretty damn good I must say, but it doesn’t tell you much when the game wasn’t previously available on the PC at all. Don’t forget it’s not just the better graphics that make the PC version superior, it was known long ago that a PC version was coming, that it’d have a video maker, that people could mod it ect…. There would have been a lot of people who would hold out for GTA V for those reasons even if they didn’t care so much about graphics (or their PC couldn’t max the game anyway).

        Given the developers previous commitment that the Witcher would be the same game on all platforms in all versions, less people may have been inclined to wait for an optimised PC version.

        Last edited 21/05/15 4:39 pm

          I don't really quite understand the logic you're using here, but from my own experience in the industry (a few years ago now), performance optimisation on a cross-platform title (whether it's for weak PCs or consoles) is usually done in the last quarter of the project's life. The main development cycle is done on high end PCs to the full capabilities of the engine and hardware, then scaled down afterwards.

          It doesn't make sense to build high, scale low for console, then build high again for PC when you can just build high for PC then scale low for console. For games with simultaneous cross-platform release that don't try to maintain platform parity (*cough* Ubisoft), that's usually the order things are done in.

    What I find interesting- is that when a business makes sweeping offers like "50% of everything in store", they are offering a contract to the consumer that they're obligated to meet.
    When a game company makes a trailer that misrepresents the quality or content of a game- somehow that's ok. It doesn't make sense.

    Movie trailers from time to time have scenes in them that are not in the movie- and only on a few situations has it been a problem eg. "The Negotiator (starring Kevin Spacey and Sam L Jackson) which hinted at a completely different plot in the trailer than the movie actually had.

    Just surprised they haven't been sued.

      On what basis? Products change during development, the same happens with cars, houses and anything else. There are always disclaimers about in-development imagery. No legal basis to sue, it would be thrown out.

        If you pre-ordered a car based on its advertised trailer, then when it arrived it looked completely different- would that be a problem for you?

          I wouldn't assume that features seen during development would be guaranteed to be present in the final release, no.

            Bullshit.
            If you pre-ordered a blue car like the picture showed and they gave you a red car you'd be complaining.

              Not comparable, the colour of the car is a manufacturing detail, not a design feature. A better comparison is if a car in development hoped to include an overhead proximity view in the dashboard but development constraints meant they had to remove the feature. And no, I wouldn't be complaining, because I don't assume features seen in development are guaranteed to be present in the final release.

                An example I'd use more akin to the one we're talking about would be fuel economy.
                The car is advertised that it can do 100 kms on 6 litres of fuel. When its delivered it turns out it really burns 11 litres per 100 km. They later explain they couldnt make the 6 litre target because they needed to meet local emissions standards. (yes, this is obviously not an abstract example)

                The point is- to service our market (ie. sell their product to Australians) they must abide by both federal laws and regulations as well as state level. They cannot plead ignorance and get a 'hey- we're pragmatic- sure man- we understand. It's all good'. The ACL exists for the protection of consumers, not the sellers.

                On the contract side of things. You advertise a product as being able to do X, Y, Z, as an offer in exchange for money- and then you sell it in advance- it is a contract the second a customer buys it.
                (see a famous example Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company (1892))
                Putting a "may change during development" clause even in the contract does not waive the consumers rights. You can't sign these rights away- even if you tried.

                  Carlill vs Carbolic has nothing to do with this. It covered whether or not explicit acceptance is required to accept the terms of an offer. Similarly, consumer law covers offers and guarantees. A preview is not an offer nor a guarantee, and "may change during development" specifically dispels any potential misunderstanding that the preview is an offer or guarantee.

                  Last edited 21/05/15 1:14 pm

      This gives me an idea!
      I am going to start a retail store, and advertise "90% off everything - starting next week!"
      Then in little writing underneath it will say "discount % not indicative of final discount % when sale begins". Does that count as false advertising?

    You really only have two choices in this:

    a) These EVIL entertainment companies are using MIND CONTROL to FORCE INNOCENT CONSUMERS into a lifestyle of hyper-consumption with no consideration - and you're weak willed and spineless if you can't resist this;

    or

    b) You're a willing participant in this and your greed and selfishness is simply being served back to you by the capitalist system you support, so quit being a whining manbaby and enjoy your luxurious lifestyle where you cannot even conceive of how privileged you are.

    'BUT MUM MAKES ME TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE, I AM OPPRESSED!!!'

    I didn't pre-order because the trailers looked good, I've never pre-ordered a game in my life until The Witcher 3. I pre-ordered it to show my support for a company I believe in and trust based on past experiences with their previous products.

    It's strange in human nature, because the negative seems to always over shadow the positive. They promised us a large open world, interesting side quests, meaningful choices, absolute freedom and delivered on every single one of those. Sure, their trailers showed great graphics and unfortunately these had to be wound back a bit (but still look great) as they wanted to implement features like no loading screens, large open spaces etc. but I can fully understand that.

    The features they promised to their audience, they implemented and it's made one of the best RPGs I've ever played. Seriously people, you CAN say it's a little disappointing about the graphics but it's absolutely NOT fair to just bash on that one negative point and not give praise and acknowledgement to the other things they did which are amazing. Seriously, people are giving the game bad reviews because of the graphics and completely forgetting the game itself is fantastic!

    Why do they shoot themselves in the foot like this? I mean, people are now getting around saying Wild Hunt looks bad, which just isn't true. It's a really beautiful game, and it would still have sold like crazy with achievable gameplay trailers, but the developers handed us something *more* beautiful and then invited a direct comparison. Under-promise and over-deliver, guys.

      Yeah, over on Eurogamer they have an interview where CD almost say they regret using the original footage because they didn't know it would work or something. Also go on to say something about them patching in more graphics/ features soon to say sorry or something. That would be interesting.

    The developers can justify downgrades and optimisations all they like, but the truth is its no better than this:
    http://boingboing.net/filesroot/200809191303.jpg

    Witcher Developers: "You know what? Fuck it. Scale it back for console. Let PC gamers Skyrim the shit out of the game. Saves us doing it and makes us look like we're supporting the mod community."

      wow so you are a glass half empty type version then huh. Especially given that time they ended using to make the game play and story far more monumental. Especially given the fact they they always do an enhanced version of games after and especially given they always keep working on games for years after. Especially given unlike GTA V that doesnt especially welcome modding and bans people for some of it, this company gives everyone the tools for free to make what they will.

      So excuse me if i see it as a glass half full

        you do realize they had to spend time downgrading the game from that original level.... so in theory if they didn't have to waste so much time doing that they could have spend more time in areas like story and game play....

        I mean I can understand that theory if they had shown the current release level graphics all along and people complaining about it being bad you comment would stand definitely but the fact of the matter is it looked considerably better before and they had to spend time actually removing and changing stuff in order for it to play well on outdated hardware.

        Last edited 21/05/15 4:31 pm

          the fact of the matter is it looked considerably better before and they had to spend time actually removing and changing stuff in order for it to play well on outdated hardware.

          You're forgetting how much strain this kind of a game puts on systems. Better graphics woo, it's still looking fucking good and the gameplay AND story is top notch. Dunno what there is to complain about.

            I never said that the story and game play wasn't top notch, its an amazingly enjoyable game all I'm saying is that I'm disappointed that it doesn't look as good as it could have, I mean there was proven potential there for it to look incredible.

            graphics play a big part in setting up the atmosphere of the game with things like light sources smoke things like that, if they retained the graphics from the gameplay vids in 2013 it would have enhanced the story and overall feel of the game.

    File complaints under: precious, privileged and more material to make gamers look like whinging losers.

    This is not Aliens: Colonial Marines calibre deception. Get the hell over it...or rather, sure, make note of it and learn a god-damned lesson for future releases, perhaps?

      IDK, While I personally don't think the Witcher got downgraded that much or anything tbh, I think consumers have the right to be upset if they think they didn't quite get what they were expecting without being called whinging losers.

      If we are happy with it, that's cool. Just like it's cool for those who aren't happy.

        Agreed, however this isn't on the scale of say Destiny's lack of gameplay. TW3 still has the exact same features. Graphical Optimization had to come into play at some stage, especially as they added in more and more areas. Destiny on the other hand, had some amazing ideas cut from launch, faction wars for example.

          I agree, I even said I don't think the Witcher got it that bad, just that people can be unhappy with a product if they want to be.

    Great Article that brings a different perspective.

    I wonder if these people who are complaing about "graphics" would be willing to wait several more years for this to come out so it can live up to its "promise" because thats what it wouldve taken to do so.

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