It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s the first setting you change in any game?
I always immediately turn down the mouse sensitivity in any game I play. I’m weird about my mouse — higher sensitivity seems to be considered better, but it always feels wrong to me. I want the mouse to move as fast as my hand moves, performance be damned. I have this heavy old MMO mouse that has weights in it; it’s clunky and ridiculous, but I never want to give it up. The starting sensitivity in most games is too fast for me, so right away I crank it down.
If we’re not including the brightness setting, which the games always force you to set (and I always defy to make slightly brighter than it wants, because I like to be able to see stuff), then — as a primarily PC player — it would be v-sync. I don’t understand how graphics work, having lost track of what all the options actually mean around the 3dfx era. But I do know that having v-sync off makes the screen tear something horrid, so I’m always bemused that most games set it to off by default.
The first setting I change is turning on subtitles. I can hear just fine, but it makes it so much easier for me to understand what’s going on and what’s being said if I can read along as well. Subtitles also help in situations in which voice actors have accents. My comprehension of what’s going on in Bloodborne improves dramatically with subtitles. I used to be an insufferable subs > dubs pedant and would, for any Japanese game, turn on Japanese voice acting, but I’m too old for that shit nowadays. English audio, English subtitles, those are the first changes I make.
For a long time one of the first settings I would change when playing games was the volume for in-game music and voices. This was because so many games had loud, bombastic music and quiet, hard-to-hear dialogue. But things have gotten better in recent years.
Now my first setting to change is anything related to graphics and performance. If a game lets me up the framerate I do it. If a game has a super-cool 120 fps mode, that’s the first thing I flip on. If a game doesn’t have any of those settings then I usually up the FOV pretty high. If a game has both, I’m very happy.
Before I start any game, I’ll make sure the subtitles are on. I suspect I’m not alone in that. Subtitles are nice: They help you pick up on bits of dialogue you may have missed, and can help keep you focused on the story if, say, you live in a packed, tiny apartment that generates constant cacophony. And plenty of games have subtitles on by default anyway, so it’s not like I have to do much.
But here’s where it gets weird. Unlike colleagues — both former and current — I prefer my video game text as small as possible. Whenever I get the option, I’ll make the subtitle text as small as possible. It’s not like I have good vision or something. (In fact, my eyes are so bad I need to spring for high-index lenses, so definitely not that.) Smaller text gets the job done but is less obtrusive, and allows me to focus on what matters most: the game.
I’ll also turn down the volume for sound effects, because that bloop-bloop-bloop you hear in JRPG equipment menus is not for me.
This goes beyond any single setting, as I have a sickness: I cannot start a video game before thoroughly scouring any and all exposed (and sometimes third-party) options in an attempt to ensure I get the game running just so, ostensibly ensuring maximum enjoyment. In fact, I get downright judgy when other people just slap in a cartridge and press that start button, neglecting to peruse a game’s most blessed, enjoyment-enhancing screen. What the eff, friend.
(“Just because they call it ‘options’ doesn’t make it optional,” is the working tagline for a D.A.R.E.-like program I’m developing for high-schoolers.)
Whatever, it’s fine, right? No. This really bites me in the arse with PC games, which not only tend to go rogue in a rich variety of ways, but dangle the maddening possibility of being fixable, if the user only takes the correct steps. Case in point, I have zero tolerance for the very common problem of stutter. If a game regularly micro-hitches in any but the most minor way I am inconsolable, and hurl myself at whatever means are available to kill the stutters (or screen tearing, or audio dropouts, or…) and make the game run smoothly.
On PC this often translates to spending 30 unhappy minutes, an hour, or even two hours repetitively restarting the game, testing the latest fix attempt, and exiting in disgust slash despair to try something else. This wearying cycle drains my conviction that good exists in the world and makes me question what I’m doing with my one wild and precious life. More than usual, I mean.
This affliction can strike over any tech or presentation problem, it’s just that it’s most often micro/stutter or v-sync, as was the case most recently with Spiritfarer. As I sat there trying to make the scrolling not look like flaming-hot trash I thought, “Most other people would be two hours into the goddamn game by now…” But I couldn’t bail out or alter course: Something needed fixing.
Special shout-outs to old console FPSes that used to invert the view controls (you dang weirdos) and to my Steam Controller, which cannot help but take hours to config and usually results in me spending all my would-be game time fiddling with gyros and shit instead of playing.
How About You?
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what game options do you beeline for? (Or are you a heathen who just accepts all defaults yet somehow feel good about yourself?) Have your say! We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!