Batman: Arkham Knight And The Art Of A Good PC Port

Batman: Arkham Knight And The Art Of A Good PC Port

Prevailing wisdom says that if you delay the PC version of a major game, PC gamers get mad. Really mad.

Funny thing about prevailing wisdom, though: it's often wrong. Or, to be more precise, it's rarely unanimously right.

I can understand why Warner and Rocksteady might've felt like they needed to have Batman: Arkham Knight on PC at the same time it (ker-pow, thwack, biff) hit consoles, despite the fact that it was a total mess. For one, Steam is arguably the largest current game platform on Earth, what with its userbase of 125 million. That's a lot of wallets drunk with cash, just waiting to spew money in your general direction before falling asleep in a gutter somewhere. For two, delaying PC versions has become kind of a no-no in recent times -- a PR gaffe sure to summon a horde of pitchforks and torches.

Case in point: the dreaded Ubidelay, which saw Ubisoft push the PC versions of its biggest series for years, often for no discernible reason. PC gamers still haven't forgiven them for that nasty little habit, and it left a mark, a legacy. PC delays tend to be viewed as pointless, illegitimate, even when developers might have good reasons for them.

The only thing worse? A bad PC port. In short, I'm saying Warner and Rocksteady should have delayed Arkham Knight's PC version in the first place, rather than selling us a busted up junker in the same lot they were handing console players the keys to pristine Batmobiles.

Batman: Arkham Knight And The Art Of A Good PC Port

In an ideal universe, the PC version of a game would get just as much development focus as its console counterparts. But in the cases where that's not an option -- say, due to a lack of resources or an "exclusive" deal with somebody (booooo) or incontrovertible proof that it was a PC who killed your parents, thrusting you into a life of vigilante justice -- there are ways to turn that negative into a positive. A delayed PC version does not have to be a bad thing. It can even bring the unruly PC mobs under your banner, if you play your cards right.

It's about going the extra mile. Take Grand Theft Auto V, for example. While the announcement that it would be the last version out the gate initially pissed off PC players, Rockstar ensured that the version they got was unarguably the best. It's a technical marvel, the Rockstar Editor has proven to be extremely fertile ground for machinima makers, and mods -- after an initial period of confusion about what was and wasn't allowed -- are starting to come into their own. Yes, Rockstar could've added in proper modding tools, but still: they gave PC players an experience tailored to their wants and needs. They made it worth the wait.

I'm definitely not advocating for more delays of PC games (fuck that, give me all the games now), but if it's an absolute necessity, do it with style. Go the extra mile; add every graphical option under the sun, a bonus gameplay mode or two, customisable everything, mod support. Don't just throw people a superficial apology bone. Give them features that count. Mod tools especially -- while not easy to create -- manage a one-two punch of making it obvious a developer cares and (potentially) keeping a game alive and relevant for years to come.

Because here's the thing about PC gamers: if you give them some actual consideration -- treat their platform of choice as a thing bursting with potential instead of a stepchild you'd rather forget about -- their support can be just as strong as their ire. Grand Theft Auto V is the most successful non-Valve game on Steam ever. Admittedly, it's Grand Theft Fucking Auto, but still, people really dug it. Because what they got wasn't just a new GTA. It was a PC game.

Batman: Arkham Knight And The Art Of A Good PC Port

I'm glad Warner and Rocksteady yanked Arkham Knight's PC version from Steam. I think cutting the disaster watch short was the right call. I hope that when the game returns to Steam, it does so as a proper PC game -- not just with baseline functionality, but with tools and features that get PC players excited.

But I don't think it should take a disaster for big developers and publishers to make PC more of a priority, or even just to make a PC version work properly. If it's always about appeasement rather than a genuine desire to make a good PC game, then this kind of thing will keep happening. So developers, by all means, delay away if you have to. But if you do, use that extra time to consider what makes a good PC game in this day and age. Study other games, ask PC players what they want, optimise until you get 60 FPS on an Etch-A-Sketch. Do it right. That way, everybody wins.


Comments

    Steam is arguably the largest current game platform on Earth, what with its userbase of 125 million. That’s a lot of wallets drunk with cash, just waiting to spew money in your general direction before falling asleep in a gutter somewhere

    I reckon a good percentage of those wallets are probably just waiting to toss a bit of loose change in your direction during a Steam sale, and that's about it. That's certainly all my wallet does on Steam!

      If that these days. With the exchange rate and all Steams prices are,dare I say it, not as competitive as they were.

    Money. PC is a better platform to play games on (imho. Even with my potato) but its all about money. More consoles in the wild than medium to high end rigs.

      I think it goes beyond that too, many times developers are looking to lessen the financial cost of creating a game, that's were Sony and Microsoft come in. They provide funding for the developer to provide a better experience, not at the cost of others in a malicious way but when delegating time of course you would favor one over the other.

      This also happens in PC gaming with Nvidia and AMD to a lesser extent. Both companies help developers when the chance arises making sure they work as hard as possible on their hardware and technology such as gameworks. This also trickles down to brick and mortar stores that offer the developers money for exclusive items.

      One solution people see for the PC is Steamos, with that Valve will be able to entice developers much like Sony and Microsoft. They will be able to serve as a voice, and even bid for exclusives. Which I think is adding to the problem rather then fixing it, sure certain games will be better on PC but at the cost of what consoles get.

      Edit: On the note of steamos, It does offer other great features that will certainly make developing for the PC easier. Currently, windows is a bit of a mess for developing. Bugs/glitches are often found and windows can be a real pain when the developer is trying to ask it or the hardware to do something, this of course has adverse effects on the game. The only current solution is to find a work around, on consoles however they would work with developers to find a solution and improve the system as a platform for future games. Steamos which is Linux-based offers that, and offers what Consoles have always had, that is a platform which is purely created for gaming. It will offer a far less complex pathway to utilizing hardware and a environment were both developers work together (os devs and game devs)

      Last edited 27/06/15 10:45 am

        Though when it comes to steamos, direct x vs opengl. I think I'd take dx.

    Speaking as primarily a PC-Gamer (Console, if the game suits) I am fairly certain that delayed PC releases often have a lot to do with preventing Piracy and skewing a company's income upon release.

    What I don't understand is why most games are designed for consoles, then ported onto PC. Surely it makes sense to optimise the more difficult platform first and then work your way onto the easier options.

    On the GTA V delays, owned it on PS3 and had every intention of re-puchasing on PC. I said all along - as long as it is well optimised, then I have no issue with Rockstar delaying it again (.. and again, and again..)
    And what happened? Near perfect port.

      That’s a really good point, I’m sure they sold a LOT of copies of GTA V on consoles that they wouldn’t have it PC/Piracy was an option.

      I do think it’s perfectly acceptable for games to be launched on consoles though, they’re less complicated (fixed hardware) and the audience demands less. People get upset for no reason other than human jealousy, but rationally it makes perfect sense for developers to focus on consoles first and then the more complicated task second.

        At the end of the day, almost every business exists to make money and in that respect, you are completely correct. I will also admit that I probably speak from a standpoint of jealousy and greed.

        I guess it just annoys me that a large portion of console gamers are casual players, rather than - and I hate to use the term - 'real' gamers. I do know that plenty of Console gamers are hardcore, but it's far more common in the PC variety.

        Last edited 26/06/15 10:55 pm

          Most of who I'd consider hard-core gamers that I know are console boys. I'm a little alone in my pc world. But yeah typically or well stereotypically hard-core gamers are pc but I don't know if that's really reality.

      Its much better to develop for consoles first, their hardware is defined. Its also a matter of doing the most efficient path business wise, you don't want to spend your time (money) first doing the hardest thing which has also the smallest potential return!

    This is why I like Rockstar's thinking. They released a last gen and current gen version, and at the same time took their time to do the PC port right the first time around. I'm more than happy to wait to purchase it if the version I'm going to get is bug free and runs smoothly.

    Other publishers need to realize, if you're going to do a PC port, delay it and give the market something that is as bug free as you can make it, and follow that up with good support post release!

    Because here’s the thing about PC gamers: if you give them some actual consideration — treat their platform of choice as a thing bursting with potential instead of a stepchild you’d rather forget about — their support can be just as strong as their ire.

    Except those stepchildren are ungrateful little shits who will cry and complain if the tiniest thing does not fit their expectations. Just look at how they've taken advantage of Steam's refund policy. Excuses are all over the place, ranging from a game that's too short to things like "it crashed once out of the 500 times I've played it".

    I hope a lot more games developers and publishers take a good hard look at the comments, attitudes and complaints that have come out of this fiasco. While it should push developers to make sure that games are shipped in working order, it should also show them how futile it is to please PC Gamers. The rush for refunds instead of waiting for a patch stinks of an arrogance and entitlement mentality that I hope makes a lot of developers turn away from PC Gaming.

    Because no matter what state a game is going to ship in, while the steam refund system allows the abuse it's copped so far, PC gamers will find ANY excuse to refund the game. That type of mentality should never be rewarded.

    Or, develop for the PC first and then strip shit until it runs on crap ass consoles. And I feel comfortable calling them crap ass as I have both an xbone and a ps4 and if you put all of their playtime combined together it still wouldn't equal a month of what time I spend on my PC.

    Last edited 26/06/15 4:22 pm

    I honestly believe the actual people doing the port, probably already told their publisher about the problems. But i bet they fell on deaf ears. To management it is just a case of "does it run?". You will be amazed at some of the stuff that gets released to the public by software companies even with a Q&A report of 100 pages of bugs and glitches. But this is life and the way things will be done in the future as companies move towards a larger top end management population in relation to the true workers at the bottom end. I don't think this will change anytime soon ever. There are exceptions though.

    Aren't they all developed on PC in the first place?

      Devkits. Its a bit simplistic to just say it that way.

    I would have hoped that with this gen's console being PC-ish in architecture we'd be seeing less dodgy ports, but it seems it is not the case!

    I can run my copy ok but can't turn the specs up without suffering.
    I won't be getting a refund because I still want the game on PC, so I will just suffer through my first playthrough, then save my NG+ until they release a fix.

    Hopefully with direct x 12 developers will have an even easier time making games for pc. I'm certainly no expert but my understanding is that the new api will allow better hardware level integration and will streamline a lot of the work.

    Because here’s the thing about PC gamers: if you give them some actual consideration — treat their platform of choice as a thing bursting with potential instead of a stepchild you’d rather forget about — their support can be just as strong as their ire.

    Reckon that's the right of it. Just ask Bethesda about the impact of mod support on their success.

    Dam shame that WB have fucked up the release. I've been fortunate enough to get it running in a playable capacity (for the most part), and I've loved the gameplay so far.

      I'm in the same boat, got it running at an acceptable level on my PC.

      The game is fantastic. Just finished the main story this morning, now wrapping up all the Riddler stuff to get the real/full ending.

      Last edited 26/06/15 9:02 pm

    No one ever said "don't play this game, it was delayed like forever".

    Gamers will eventually forgive the delays if you get it right in the end. But if you put it out broken then they won't have forgotten by the time your next game comes out.

    Last edited 27/06/15 12:55 pm

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