Video Games

Experts Explain Why So Many Games Are Launching Broken on PC

The PC release has been under scrutiny recently. Compared to the console version, PC games often have everything from gigantic graphics glitches to game-breaking bugs, regardless of a person’s particular build. And with many high-end devices costing over a few thousand dollars, the question often arises as to why so many titles launch unplayable.

These days, games like The Last of Us Part 1 Remake, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Redfall, and even Final Fantasy 7 Remake require major post-launch fixes. Affected by the transplant. In an interview with IGN, three of his experts familiar with porting games to PC discussed the challenges of porting, the complexity behind changing control methods, and the studio’s efforts to potentially eliminate rough launches. talk about how it can be tackled.

Challenge to PC port

For the average player, it can be confusing when a PC game released at the same time as a console doesn’t work. If the price is the same and the game is the same overall, regardless of platform, why is there such a big difference in performance? One of the main problems with the game may be its customizable system, which is the biggest selling point of PC games.

“One of the biggest hurdles is the variety of hardware configurations available. Consoles are a fixed platform, but PCs are broad and open,” Linnemann says. “Everyone can have a PC built from different parts and running different operating systems with different drivers. , performance may be subpar for some users.There are a limited number of permutations a developer can test when building a game, so day one buyers will have to patch it after release. It’s very likely that you’ll find a problem quickly.”

Developers are limited in the combinations they can test while building their game.

Beyond the PC build, the game’s overall design and its particular engine may not be compatible with PC at first. The porting process is not the result of simple operations such as direct file transfers or program copy-and-paste. Linnemann points out that the engines of Jedi: Survivor and TLOU Part 1 Remake are notorious for his PC-related issues, which will require additional time and resources to fix. . And as people continue to build very different rigs, developers have to consider each new scenario that comes with hardware and software.

“[Star Wars] Jedi: Survivor, for example, is an Unreal Engine 4 title that demonstrates some of the common pitfalls of games built in Unreal. Just-in-time PSO stuttering, poor CPU threads, and traversal stuttering are just three of the issues we see in this game. The Last of Us Part 1 has a similar problem, but the cause of the problem is different. I think this is because the underlying technology is very different. No Unreal Engine was used and the original version was made specifically for his one console. Unreal is built specifically for multi-platform development, but until last year Naughty Dog didn’t release its latest game on his PC. “

Regardless of the problem, each PC port requires careful and specific attention. Simultaneous launches are possible, but Rinnemann explained that studios should test games regularly to be aware of potential bugs and glitches. Without dedicated resources, the PC port will continue to struggle to release.

Jon Lawitts, head of design and engineering at Redstart Interactive, said smaller studios may only support single-platform development due to time and resource constraints. Larger studios typically have larger teams and are used to releasing on multiple platforms simultaneously, but budgets, deadlines and other issues can affect any game.

“Smaller studios, and sometimes even larger studios, release their games on a single, well-tested platform to generate some revenue,” says Lowitz. “Then we plan to release it on additional platforms once we see some traction on the first release.”

Customizing controls

Most PC launchers and systems include controller functionality, but ports can sometimes cause problems due to improper control schemes and inadequate mouse support. Lawitts is investigating the cause of the problem, noting that the problem is much more complicated than expected.

“The ergonomic feel when using a mouse and keyboard is very different from a controller, and often means a major redesign of all the game’s controls,” Lowitz said. “With a controller, the player can move the joystick by variable amounts to change speed or movement. position is relative.”

These differences between inputs affect every aspect of the game. From combat to crossing, the mechanics change drastically depending on the type of controller. Even critical actions such as accessing menus can feel bogged down or not work without proper support. For example, his PC version of Gotham Knights prohibited mouse movement and major customizations in certain scenarios, such as investigating the Commission of Inquiry and driving the Batcycle at startup.

A patch was eventually added to fix these issues for Gotham Knights, but the early gameplay experience had a negative impact on many players, especially those with disabilities. And it’s not the only game with this problem. Lawitts explains that a seamless mouse and keyboard experience is essential to a successful port.

Sequences and movement combinations that feel seamless on a controller can feel dramatically different on a keyboard and mouse.

“Differences in input design also mean that tutorials, menus, and other UI elements will change for PC players,” Lawitts said. “Sequences and combinations of movements that players find seamless and accessible on a controller can feel dramatically different on a keyboard and mouse. I need to find it.”

PC ports with ineffective mouse and keyboard implementations add unnecessary barriers in addition to bugs and glitches for players with disabilities who cannot use alternative methods. While this is an accessibility issue that primarily affects people with disabilities, the lack of mouse and keyboard controls is a problem for everyone. From able-bodied people to those with temporary disabilities like broken arms or fingers, poor control can ruin the experience.

It’s another matter if the PC port has tons of bugs and glitches. However, a combination of game-breaking events and unusable control schemes will prevent players from playing the latest release. And it’s ultimately up to developers to ensure the launch is as smooth and accessible as possible.

developer support

No studio or developer wants to release an unfinished or broken game. Countless hours and resources go into the final product, and when a PC port arrives imperfect, both developers and consumers feel the effects. This does not mean that a sophisticated PC port is impossible, just that it requires special care to provide an enjoyable experience. His modder Peter Thoman, creator of DSfix and co-founder of PH3 Games, encourages studios to invest aggressively in supporting his PC port in place. As hardware and software continue to advance, the studio needs to consider as many of his PC building scenarios as possible.

“As early as possible, test with different hardware and software configurations, different settings,” Toman says. “If you’re a large publisher and it’s easy to do this in-house, do so. But even if you’re not, you can do things like closed external beta testing. Relatively common. We never have to rely on bug reports from customers to get first test results on any generic OS, GPU or CPU architecture.”

During the test, Toman emphasizes the importance of software design. Issues like “frame rate, resolution, aspect ratio, specific input, etc. at which the game is running” are relatively easy to consider from the beginning. Toman points out that the longer it takes for the studio to address these issues, the more it will cost. But more importantly, I wish developers would stop restricting players to specific hardware and software scenarios. The customizability of the PC prevents studios from focusing on a small number of build possibilities.

People appreciate the flexibility, even if not all option combinations are rigorously tested throughout the game.

“Give us as many options as possible in terms of gameplay, input, output, scaling graphics and performance,” says Thoman. “You can’t know exactly what devices people want or need to use in your game, or what scenarios they’ll play in. All combinations of all options. People appreciate the flexibility, even if it hasn’t been rigorously tested throughout the game, and even if you fix obscure issues with certain combinations of options post-launch, nobody would be so upset there is no.”

Besides explaining the unique and personal nature of PCs, Thoman advises developers to avoid using uncommon APIs and libraries. Bugs and glitches occur more often when choosing these tools as they place more emphasis on the player’s system. In other words, the mainstream is the way to go.

“Minimize reliance on lesser-known Windows APIs and non-standard libraries,” says Thoman. “One specific example of this is using Windows Media Foundation to access audio/video codecs for playback. Relying on external components on top means exposing you to bugs in those components, and with great patent-free open source options available these days, shipping your own codec is much better I have.”

When considering the topic of port optimization, Thoman acknowledged that certain APIs actually hurt quality. PCs are generally getting more powerful, so an API that wasn’t designed for better graphics can cause many of the problems seen in games like The Last of Us Part 1 Remake. there is.

“But when it comes to optimizing that port and delivering a high-quality experience for PC use cases, I don’t think things have gotten that easy,” says Thoman. “In fact, the graphics lower-level APIs place a heavy burden on game developers to ensure good performance, and complex middleware layers make diagnosing and fixing basic engine performance problems more difficult. Some might argue that it can be difficult, just look at the numerous AAA Unreal Engine games that ship with similar stuttering issues.”

PC ports are a strange topic. From graphical glitches to game-wrecking glitches to controls that create unintentional barriers, it’s frustrating when AAA games are severely hampered on PC. But as technology advances, developers and studios can invest resources into making a port that’s as smooth as the console version. Deadlines and budgets can impact development across all platforms and studio sizes, ultimately impacting port quality. And with each troubled release, Toman hopes the studio will open up about its woes. Not only does transparency benefit everyone, he believes the PC community can help developers if needed. Also, ports are complex, so more help is always welcome.

“Keep everything as open as possible and communicate with your audience,” Toman said. “There are a lot of savvy people in the PC audience. The community can actually be a huge asset if you communicate, and ideally if you’re as open as possible within the software regarding file formats, encryption, etc.”

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