Why New Games Are Always Garbage On PCs

Why New Games Are Always Garbage On PCs

On Friday the very hotly anticipated No Man’s Sky was finally made available for PC gamers, a full four days after console gamers got it. Reportedly this was because the developers wanted to “make it right”. Unfortunately it was still a rush job and game stores like Steam and GoG have pages and pages of angry customers complaints about the unplayability of the title. 57 per cent of the nearly 40,000 reviews on Steam are negative, and while many are just bored with the game, many are actively hating on the PC port.

Nucleo was displeased.

Nucleo was displeased.

StugeGG just calling it like they see it.

StugeGG just calling it like they see it.

RegularMixture is not ok with the glitches.

RegularMixture is not OK with the glitches.

It’s hardly the first time a PC game has gotten off to a very rocky start. Last year people were pumped for Batman: Arkham Knight. It was the conclusion of an informal trilogy of Batman games that managed to make the worst lay in comics into a kind of cool hero. Yet the PC variant was so plagued with bugs that it ultimately had to be removed from the Steam store. This year another Batman title, this time from Telltale, also had issues. Not severe enough to get it pulled from sale, but terrible enough that I know more than one person who threw up their hands, got a refund and bought it for a console instead.

So how does this keep happening? These games are hugely expensive to make and major part of the plans publishers have for profits. They want and need them to sell well. So why are they releasing buggy titles that feel more like closed betas instead of gold games?

The biggest issue is the difference between consoles and PC. There’s very little fragmentation in the console market. A developer producing a game for the PS4 and Xbox One has exactly three devices they need to consider while developing. Meanwhile a PC developer has to consider what version of Windows the gamer has, a long list of possible video cards and processors. There are thousands — millions — of variations and it’s really, really hard to account for them all. “There is no complete way of testing for every variation of PC, even with a proper QA setup. It’s a bit like making a game for Android, but worse,” noted indie developer Rami Ismail told Gizmodo. Ismail has been very vocal about No Man’s Sky’s PC release issues.

Ismail said his primary focus is on PC games, so he has to make the time to account for all those variations and get out the cleanest game code possible. But a AAA developer releasing across multiple platforms might not. “You start with the most limited platform and work your way up,” Ismail said. “In that regard, launching a PC game remains terrifying. You know your game is not going to work everywhere, and the uncertainty isn’t whether it’s perfect, but exactly how many computers are going to suffer from problems big enough to need to fix.”

The only bright spot of these botched PC game releases is that its usually pretty simple to patch them. PC game patches don’t have the rigorous timelines and protocols console patches do. A developer can push it the same day the game launches (No Man’s Sky did this to middling success) or days later. And devs can keep patching and patching until they get it right, as Hello Games, No Man’s Sky’s developer, promises to do. Unfortunately, this often takes longer than many fans are willing to wait.

It’s something to keep in mind when you’re choosing what platform to play the next big game on. If it’s an indie game you may be OK, but if its a AAA game the PC version might just be a quick and dirty cash-in that won’t work on launch day.

Originally posted on Gizmodo.


    • Yeah, this article contains no information really. “PC is hard because there’s lots of different PC configs”, like no shit sherlock. Still, proper QA and beta testing can and does minimise these issues, especially because these bugs are occurring on the most common PC setups. Like, if you didn’t test the game on a GTX970 what configs did you test?

  • So you’ve told us why it’s harder to optimise a PC game, but you didn’t tell us why devs allow poorly optimised games to be released. Please change your clickbait headline.

  • My original post over on Gizmodo:

    MIsleading article title is misleading. Should be changed to:

    “Why pc ports of console games are always garbage”

    Because games made FOR pc are rarely ever garbage when released, for instance Homeworld : Deserts of Kharak is an utter delight to play, a pc exclusive RTS. All this article reads to me of, is lazy development. PC developers have been pushing out games for 30+ years, they’re just complaining now? Fragmentation has always been an issue, however older, limited hardware that retards true progression and advancement is a major inhibitor as well to game progress.

    EDIT: The REAL kicker is I managed to get NMS actually running at around 90+ fps on my 1070 card the last day or two. Then the new ‘optimised’ nvidia patch dropped. It runs at a whopping 40fps and has massive jerking problems every few seconds now. It’s literally become unplayable for me. Refund city, here I come.

    • Wait this is a Gizmodo article?

      Is there anyway to filter out crossposted stuff, you know in case Gizmodo staff have made us literally want to boycott their entire section of the site for example.

      • Well there is the little “originally posted on gizmodo” bit at the bottom there, but nothing you could see from the front page.

    • Even then they are not “always” garbage. They are often bad, yes, but definitely not “always” garbage. There are many developers out there that are doing the PC ports right.

    • Wait up there, games made for PC are rarely garbage?
      I get what you mean, but the world of PC only gaming is an ocean of buggy garbage, with a few gems thrown in.
      (Thankfully we rarely have to wade through it all these days)

      I don’t disagree with you, but there is always more to it and the subject of advancement is so huge and messy, it’s easy to focus on a single point.
      At least in this case it is pretty clear, No Mans Sky was a console exclusive from and indie, that encapsulated the world and was rushed in to a Multiplatform release.

      There is no secret recipe, a company who releases Deserts of Kharak (or NMS) might be laying off people tomorrow or be absorbed etc

      Anyway, just saying the evil console can’t take all the blame, the issues like a constantly diversifying platform and the ability to advance faster than current industry standards can cope with, are real and all PC.

      • The company that released Deserts of Kharak also released Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines. Just sayin’.

        • And? They published it, but Blackbird Interactive *made* the game. Two entirely different things.

          Just sayin’.

    • Even considering console to pc ports only, it’s still far from being true(the article title). MGS 5 was one of the strongest ports I’ve seen, and in general I can’t think of that many games with any major problems.

      Batman is about the only truly undeniable bad port, but somehow the author is trying to extrapolate this to every port, based on the issues of what is essentially an indie game, albeit a very ambitious one, which had a simultaneous cross-platform release to boot.

      If anything, it’s the goal of a concurrent release date over all platforms causing the problems. GTA5 was released months later on pc to avoid this issue, which it succeeded in.

    • When releasing on consoles as well, I thinks it’s less laziness, and more time constraints. Time constraints that are usually unrealistic. Nobody wants to release a year or so later on PC than console.

  • You know, I can understand this reason for why games are unoptomized, or don’t work on certain hardware. But for general shitty bugs? It doesn’t hold up. The very first steam review post featured here is about corrupted saves. Can it be that hard to do integrity checks on save games? Or, hell, use a local version management system similar to git to manage your save versions, so that you can detect a corrupted save, and just roll back to the last good one?

    But let’s take a look at the problem with shitty ports. They generally seem to come down to three main issues:

    A) Shitty UI. Don’t couple your logic so closely to the UI. If you’ve got clean, maintainable code, you should be able to slap a new Menu/Inventory system on without that much hassle. Work, sure, but it should be doable. If not, maybe you should consider writing your code in a more domain driven approach. But this is the least of the three issues

    B) A lack of options for framerate, resolution and so on. This isn’t a case of “There’s so much hardware to support!” but more “We developed for consoles, and didn’t feel like putting in the work for PC’s”. Because unless you’re running obscure hardware that you don’t expect support for any way, these are standardized options across all systems, all hardware and all OS’. How you handle the changes of these options may differ on system, but the options themselves are universal to the “PC” platform.

    C) Diverse Hardware. This, honestly, I don’t know much about. It’s the biggest problem, but also the one with the most valid excuse. That being said, there are so many developers who manage to do this right, and so much work going in to cross platform standard API that I don’t see how this could be too much of an issue with good code. I mean, there are developers who manage to get their game running well not only on different hardware, but on a multitude of different operation systems too. That being said, this is the problem where the excuse may be the most valid.

    I’m not saying all of the above applies to No Mans Sky, I haven’t played it. I’m just saying that pointing to PC Fragmentation doesn’t make an excuse for any and all elements of a shitty port.

    • You forgot about the ability to change all of the key binds since these kind of games always come with absolute crap layouts.

      For them using batman as an example they missed out the part where they lied about the videos where they sped them up to make it looks like it was running at a faster frame rate.

    • Well argued, Garethp. I think your argument can be boiled down to laziness (or, perhaps, unreasonable deadlines).

      • I don’t think many Devs can be called lazy. No Man’s Sky had 15 people in their team, to get the best out of 15 people to cover all aspects of development will come at a cost that a small company like Hello Games would not be able to afford. Its more like unreasonable deadlines that cause games to be released buggy, not optimised etc etc etc.

  • I find it difficult to feel much sympathy for people who rush in to buying games (or any other software for that matter) as soon as it’s released. Are they so desperate to be one of the first users that they can’t wait for a few weeks to see what bugs show up? More fool them, if so.

  • I have a PC and a PS4 (for exclusives mostly), but if the game works well on the PS and not on the PC then I don’t buy it on either. Being a AAA studio is not an excuse for releasing a buggy-ass game on PC, it’s the complete opposite!

    Also Batman: Arkham Knight is a terrible example to raise on your part. They farmed the PC port out to a lesser studio and people with all kinds of rigs had issues in trying to play it.

    • Further, Kotaku themselves went to efforts to report that WB instructed their people to ignore buggy PC code and focus on getting the console versions into working order up to a YEAR before the release of the game.

  • It’s obviously easier to build a game for a platform than it is for a pseudo-platform, where no two machines are alike.

    • Yes it is. You are using a fixed spec platform. Watch as the new Xbox machines and PlayStation machines flip this idea on its head and and watch console players start to bitch about poor optimisation for the higher spec consoles.

      The day that happens I will be here to feed on the salty tears.

      • But nobody is concerned about that when they’re just playing the game on the system it’s engineered for.

    • It’s a lot harder to keep a master happy than a servant…

      Anyway, basic problem here is that developing a game for PC rather than console is all sorts of more complicated – more varied hardware, more varied input options, less certainty about system resources, and an expectation that the game will be distinctly superior on better hardware. Unfortunately the devs just don’t make enough allowance for this in advance – NMS was probably scheduled for when the PS4 version was to be ready, with the PC version a distinct afterthought.

      Personally I’ve been playing it on PS4 and while it is a beautiful game (with few discernible bugs on that platform), the gameplay seems to be very one-dimensional so far. There are a lot of PS4 players who would disagree with me, but IMO you aren’t missing out on all that much.

      • For the reason that you mentioned, you’d think it would be wiser to develop a game on PC first, moving toward high-end hardware as the original goal for optimization and including gamepad controller options in the original design alongside conventional keyboard and mouse, as pairing a controller with a PC is becoming more common. Then, porting the game to console would be less of a problem because the devs essentially be able to dumb down or distill it for console use by, for the most part, dialing down the specs to meet the given console’s standards.

        • If they’re making most of their money on the PS4, then it’s probably more sensible to use that as the primary development target. If that is the case, then a bug on PS4 will cost them more than a bug on PC – and it’s much easier to ship a bug fix on PC.

          Unfortunately it’s not just a technical decision, but also a commercial one. You want your most successful platform to be your most stable platform. It’s probably worth real dollars to Sony to be able to pitch the PS4 as the best place to play an A-list title, even if the reason for it being true is that Sony pushed the developers’ timetable and biased development decisions in favour of PS4.

  • I thought with the architecture convergence between PS XB and PC that surely things have gotten easier and cheaper to do cross platform. Besides are these games not built on PC?

    As for no mans sky, I’ll pick. It up in a year or two.

    • From PC to console should now be trivial; you’re basically taking the PC port and nailing down the configuration to a very specific combination of hardware. That makes debugging much easier.

      From console to PC is taking your very targeted software and vastly increasing the options that it has to deal with. Suddenly you have to deal with systems that have less than eight cores, or with video cards with not enough grunt – and contrariwise, you need to allow for improved capabilities and scale up smoothly, and allow for control setups where certain analogue inputs must be mapped to a digital keyboard.

      You also need to allow for systems which are more capable in one dimension but less capable in another – how do you handle a system which, compared to a console, has fewer cores (but more MIPS), a faster graphics card but is driving two monitors, and 4GB DRAM rather than the PS4’s 8GB of GDDR5 memory?

      And you have to be able to do that for every combination of faster/slower/better/worse that you can think of.

      But if you’re expecting to make 90% of your money on consoles, it probably makes more sense to develop on the console as your primary target. Where the wallet leads, the heart follows… many devs are likely treating PC sales more as a nice extra than a primary platform – as debacles such as Batman: Arkham Knight illustrated.

  • The article title is VERY misleading, and flat out incorrect.

    While there’s the obvious group of games that were pc games first before going multiplatform (the witcher 3 for example) that had awesome pc versions, there’s also plenty of great ‘console to pc’ ports around too. MGS 5 immediately springs to mind for being justifiably well praised for this. It ran flawlessly and looked amazing.

    Then there’s the games which weren’t aiming for a simultaneous release that had pc versions released later, such as gta5, which also ran great.

    In fact the author here has cherry-picked the only strong example of a botched release (batman) then tried to extrapolate that to *every* game based on a recent ‘simultaneous multiplatform release’ indie game having some issues on pc.

    Overall a very poorly constructed article. Really scrapping the bottom of the barrel for yet another NMS piece. I have never complained about click bait here but this is simply inexcusable and should be taken down, revised, and re-posted in 9 months ala batman.

    (Apologies for my poorly written post. The long, unconcise sentences are headache inducing, but this article isn’t worth the effort of fixing it. Am writing on a mobile which makes rants tedious to fix.)

  • Welcome to closed source software, where deadlines and cost cutting leads to quality issues. The only companies making quality games are the companies that can afford to bake and bake and bake games. Or just iteratively patch the shit out of them like Blizzard does.

  • So basically some people underestimated the specifications of the released game? Or is it optimization problems people are more pissed at? Because didn’t something like this happen when Crysis dropped, and people were pissed it didn’t run properly on their machines?

  • Why New Games Are Always Garbage On PCs.. are you for real?.
    Three reasons why:

    IN MY OPINION <(see that Alex)
    Sheer volume of choice, people will make crap just for the sake of money, in most cases with little
    skill and shovel it out to you in a pretty package hoping that the money they make somehow further thier creativity for thier next endevour, steam greenlight/early access is great for this.
    Its up to you to not be so dumb as to fall for it.

    Which brings me to the next money/funding or especially funding of new ideas into games, who know what will be the next hit, will it succeed? will it fail? im pretty sure youl be there like an angry tween to write about it and say why its garbage like readers have no opinion.

    Finally the main reason, when PC games conform in some way to brand new obsolete consoles or simply people dont want upgrade thier shitty PC its ALWAYS a problem, what do you think devs need to take your toaster into acount next time too when running thier game.

    I came to this site to read about new games and peoples opinions on them as such, not to be TOLD by some uninformed moron thats writing that is more suited to a the empty space on a Hungry Jacks toilet wall, that Games Are Always Garbage On PC.
    This is the Kotaku|PC section right?

    I dont think Games Are Always Garbage On PCs… just that money talks, sometimes its too little and you get a shit result.
    Lets never forget what all games and other media formats are made on PC.

    • Hey, I’m not going to take it personally or anything. We’re always going to have a wide range of opinions on the site, authors and commenters included.

      My own views are different to the above, but I like the fact that everyone has come in, disagreed, and put their two cents forward in a civil way. That’s cool. And I think the crux of what you said at the end is pretty on point. People chase a big market. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but there’s a tendency to focus on the big names that fail rather than the volume of things that work fine.

  • Misleading article. It should be, why do people buy sucky games for PC when there are awesome games out there.: Arma: awesome on PC sux on console. Star citizen Wicked game even though only in alpha but will never come to class. (Xbox)

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