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Default bit-tech.net - The Problem with Porting Games

August 19th, 2009, 01:52
Bit-tech.net posts a feature article on a subject PC gamers are more and more involved in these days, cross-platform game development and its impact on the PC product. This is a techie site, so it gets down into the nuts and bolts of coding, rendering and other technical aspects of game development, but their broad conclusions are here, and generally hopeful:
An inherent problem with multi-platform game development is the inevitable tension between the fact that much of the code is ported, whereas the core game itself is always going to be geared towards one platform. Economics dictate this platform will increasingly be a console, so as PC gamers it's likely that we're always going to have to put up with issues such as limited save games and strange camera angles. However, it's often worth persevering with these if the game is good enough to shine through and you should remember that not all multi-platform games are bad. Fallout 3, Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Dead Space, Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil all appeared on consoles as well as PC, but it's still well worth playing them on the PC because fundamentally, the games are great and the developers took care to make sure the code wasn't compromised.

What's more, PC gamers are now at least being taken seriously by multi-platform developers, and we're now getting a lot more in the way of advanced graphics options. So, the next time you complain about a PC game being a “port”, think about the reasons why the game isn't quite what you expected. Are the camera angles and limited save points really a product of lazy porting, or are they essential parts of the game experience? There's a stereotype that says that PC games should have a first-person view and a fully featured save game system, but there's no reason why you can't make other styles of game work on the PC. Be open-minded – there's a whole new world of fun from all sorts of different games, even if they don't have exactly the same control system as the one you're accustomed to using.
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August 19th, 2009, 01:52
Consoles are all, what? Four years old now? Four year old computer parts are mighty cheap. I wonder how long it will take before low end PCs can do as well as consoles?
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August 19th, 2009, 02:27
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Consoles are all, what? Four years old now? Four year old computer parts are mighty cheap. I wonder how long it will take before low end PCs can do as well as consoles?
They should already be able to at the $500-600 range of ultra low enders. Any cheaper than that and its a throw away PC.
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August 19th, 2009, 03:22
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
Bit-tech.net posts a feature article on a subject PC gamers are more and more involved in these days, cross-platform game development and its impact on the PC product. This is a techie site, so it gets down into the nuts and bolts of coding, rendering and other technical aspects of game development, but their broad conclusions are here, and generally hopeful:
More information.

This is the kind of mentality that bugs me with game designers right now who port games from consoles to PC. I've played computer games since 1984 that allowed 'save anywhere' features, and now all of a sudden I have to be 'open minded' about save spots. I tried a game recently on my PC that made me write down codes so I could restore to a previous point, and even then I had to start the level from the beginning: I haven't had the pleasure of having to do that since I owned a TurboGrafx. That's completely ridiculous in 2009 and just evidence that the folks doing these ports don't give a **** about what PC users think.

Sorry game designers, it has nothing to do with being 'open minded' or whatever, on my part. It's a step backwards, and quite frankly, one of the more arrogant and annoying opinions being foisted on PC gamers nowadays. Just learn what PC gamers want and their preferences, and figure out a way to make the game do it. Make PC gamers decide if they want to enable save points before they start, how about that? Then they can play through 45 minutes of game time before being able to save if that's what they want. Having to repeat game levels over and over to get to a save point is not something PC users want to have to deal with.

Just my opinion.
Last edited by Sir Markus; August 19th, 2009 at 07:03.
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August 19th, 2009, 03:38
I agree wholeheartedly. I have taken crap and gotten into arguments with editors, but limited saves on a PC game is a *design flaw* IMO, even if it is a port.

— Mike
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August 19th, 2009, 03:59
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
but limited saves on a PC game is a *design flaw* IMO, even if it is a port.
Unfortunately, it will be an endless debate. No one will ever win it.

Whatever the side, whoever designs it to be the way they want it to be is how its supposed to be on whatever platform it shows up on.

Like it or not. Its up to the designer not anyone else.
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August 19th, 2009, 04:04
So if a console game gets ported to PC with no mouse & keyboard support, that is a 'matter of opinion'? What about a PC game ported to console with no console controller support?

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August 19th, 2009, 04:06
I agree as well. I can put up with a funky camera or limited hotkeys, but if you take away the savegame then you've lost me as a customer.

One of the most frustrating games I've ever played had this lame game design. The Thing was really fun until I got to a point where I kept dying right before a savegame area. I tried to get past that point at least 20 times and each time it took me a good 10 - 15 minutes to get back to the area that was killing me. I gave up after that and it still sits on my shelf. I don't know if The Thing was a port or not. All know is that I hate savegame areas.

On the other hand there are two games that don't let you save while your playing a certain scenerio. Dawn of War II and Mark of Chaos. Both games are strategy wargames. It doesn't bother me too much that I can't save during a battle. It makes it a little more interesting in the fact that I can't cheat.

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August 19th, 2009, 04:06
While I will give developers a little slack on save points, I dont want to have to replay more than about 2-3 minutes or especially be forced to rewatch cutscenes or some such.

On the flip-side, I love emulators for consoles on the pc like pcsx2 or epsxe. I've recently replayed a couple of my console games like Final Fantasy and Persona on these emulators. While not perfect, they provide extras like save anywhere and improved graphics even when the original game did not intend for that and thus fixing those flaws and making it a better experience for me.
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August 19th, 2009, 04:12
Originally Posted by northreign View Post
Unfortunately, it will be an endless debate. No one will ever win it.
Depends on your defintion of win. I won in the fact that I won't put up with such a lazy game design and won't have to spend money on a game that is flawed.

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August 19th, 2009, 04:18
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
So if a console game gets ported to PC with no mouse & keyboard support, that is a 'matter of opinion'? What about a PC game ported to console with no console controller support?

I have to agree. There is no excuse for a console to PC port to not have full mouse and keyboard support, and that includes the ability to remap all keys as you see fit.
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August 19th, 2009, 07:09
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I have to agree. There is no excuse for a console to PC port to not have full mouse and keyboard support, and that includes the ability to remap all keys as you see fit.
I agree.

Has anyone felt that sinking feeling, where you buy a game, do the install, and then when the splash screen comes up and you have a mouse pointer right in front of you, but your mouse pointer wont move when you roll the mouse around?

Then you realize you have to use your arrow keys to cycle through the menu. That's when I know I have a dog and have to make a decision whether or not I want to figure out some hackneyed console port game control system. And it's about the time I realize I'm not going to be able to save the game whenever I want, so about 30 seconds into the install, before I have even tried the game, I already know it sucks.

I'm officially tired of that laziness on the part of the folks doing these ports. What makes it worse is you know these guys understand PC's, so it boils down to flat-out laziness.
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August 19th, 2009, 07:52
The lack of save games is a design flaw - based on two things:

Tradition
Artificial extension of content

There it is.

Yeah, I'm an expert
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August 19th, 2009, 10:16
Soooo …. if the game is called Gothic it is praised for having a completely non-standard control scheme with a pretty high learning curve, all things considered, but for every other game it is clearly a case of lazy developers doing a crappy port.

The same goes for inventory management and large font sizes. CLEARLY an indication of console loving sell out developers … unless it is an indie RPG, then it is okay for it to look like a game from the late 80'ies and the almost unreadable text is cute and helps the immersion factor.

I'm sensing more than a little bit of bias here.

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August 19th, 2009, 10:27
Ironically Gothic's control scheme was designed for a console controller, and makes a lot more sense if one sees it that way

Cutting indie developers more slack makes sense given the difference in development budget and (more importantly to a customer) retail price. Why shouldnt we demand more of a game that costs 50 euros and had a production budget in the millions?

Regression in user friendliness due to limitations of other platforms are incredibly annoying. How much would the devs have to spend on creating one extra screen for remapping the controls, especially as this has been a standard feature of PC games at least since the mid 90s?

EDIT; Not all degradations in user friendliness should be blamed on consoles though. I've grown to hate the inability to name save games in many modern RPGs (Gothic 3, Oblivion, the Witcher). Even if it is pretty minor compared to save points this is a totally unnecessary loss of functionality.
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August 19th, 2009, 10:28
I don't recall anyone actually PRAISING Gothic's control system. What many of us might have said is that it's not THAT bad - and in fact can get quite comfortable once you get used to it.

But it was a VERY bad decision to insist on a non-traditional scheme - and I think they should have worked a lot harder on that, personally.
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August 19th, 2009, 11:21
Just a note - there is a huge difference between a 'design flaw' and a 'killer defect'.

I'll take limited saves over shallow gameplay, terrible story, no choices & consequences, and broken quests or performance any day.

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August 19th, 2009, 11:23
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Just a note - there is a huge difference between a 'design flaw' and a 'killer defect'.

I'll take limited saves over shallow gameplay, terrible story, no choices & consequences, and broken quests or performance any day.
Yeah, I'd agree with that.

There ARE games that can work well with limited saves or checkpoints - but I don't immediately recall one that couldn't work better with quick save or at the very least a save slot to use when stopping a session. To me, it's just lazy or incompetent design.

I don't see why we'd have to do without it - but naturally it's not the worst part of most games.

But, in my opinion, something like GTA4 would be perhaps 2-3 times better with a more flexible save system. This is naturally just my own position and I don't expect everyone to be as annoyed with starting over constantly as I am.
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August 19th, 2009, 11:29
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Just a note - there is a huge difference between a 'design flaw' and a 'killer defect'.

I'll take limited saves over shallow gameplay, terrible story, no choices & consequences, and broken quests or performance any day.
True, but some design flaws can make a game unusable. Nowadays I might not have the time to slog my way to the next savepoint in one sitting, which can make such a game unplayable if the savepoints are too far apart…

Not that I've had any big issue with limited saves as "my" games generally dont have them, the last game where it was a problem to me was something as ancient as GTA1
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August 19th, 2009, 11:29
Fallout 3, Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Dead Space, Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil all appeared on consoles as well as PC, but it's still well worth playing them on the PC because fundamentally, the games are great and the developers took care to make sure the code wasn't compromised

As much as I loved it, Dead Space was a pretty bad PC port. It was a perfect example of a game that wasn't optimized for keyboard+mouse. The mouse movement was very sluggish, even on max, and you couldn't even remap all the keys through the options menu.
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