My Love/Hate Relationship With PC Gaming
I love playing games on my PC, I really do. But at the same time, I find myself completely frustrated with it on a regular basis. I’m sure I’m not alone on this, but here’s some of the main issues I have with PC gaming…
It seems no matter what you put in your case or how much cash you drop on it – you never reach that stage where you can simply fire up any game you feel like playing and get the best experience possible out of it. There’s always tweaking to be done and settings to be changed. Especially the first time you play a new game. Generally, I find the first 15-20 minutes are spent tweaking settings and trying to find the best configuration for my system. Meanwhile, I’ve had to endure a dozen or so loading screens and butchered the opening sequence of the game.
There are ways this can be avoided, of course. But it takes extra work that developers apparently don’t feel is worth their time to invest in. I’m talking about auto-configuration after testing your system’s hardware. I’ve only seen a handful of games that actually include an auto-detect for visual settings, but of those games, only 2 come to mind that really worked. Half-Life 2 was the first. After waiting close to 45 minutes for it to install and verify, I thought I was in for another 30 minutes of tweaking, but that wasn’t the case. The video settings were auto-detected and had been set to the recommended values for my system. Not only that, but I didn’t have to go back once to change anything. F.E.A.R. took this a step further and actually runs a quick benchmark on your system and gives you an average, high and low framerate report before you play. Again, never went back to change anything. On the other end of the spectrum – among those games that do have an auto-detect but simply don’t work. The Call of Duty franchise is the worst culprit I’ve experienced. Even now, when I select ‘optimal settings’ it sets the resolution to 640×480 and most details on medium when my system is over 4 times more powerful than the minimum required setup. I wish I could say this was improved in Call of Duty 2 – or better yet, the United Offensive expansion pack, but this is not the case.
Why in the fuck am I still opening games to find 5 miserable CDs instead of a single DVD? Have DVDs not been around long enough to make the switch? Are DVD drives not cheap enough yet? I’m completely floored by this! Gamers are expected to spend $800 on a videocard, but not $30 on a DVD drive. Maybe it’s production cost? I realize CDs are cheaper than DVDs – but when you factor in printing, it has to work out to be at least close to the same if not cheaper to burn and print a single DVD over 5 CDs.
“Please insert the disc labeled ‘CD 1’ to play”
To make matters worse – after sitting there swapping CD after CD while installing, you’re expected to insert a CD every time you want to play the game. This used to be easy to get around with no-CD patches, but with the inclusion of the god awful anti-piracy software they’ve been using lately (Starforce, I’m looking in your direction), this is no longer possible. Well it is, if you’re willing to jump through hoops for an hour or so to get it to run – usually includes manually unplugging your optical drive(s) each time you want to play. And if this wasn’t enough of an inconvenience, there’s still games being packaged with 5 CDs and no case for them – paper sleeves instead. What do people do that don’t like to hang onto the boxes do with those and how do you access them easily?
A few games have got around the mandatory ‘insert CD’, which I’m happy to see. But there is a price. Half-Life 2 runs through Steam, which checks with their server and verifies your game each time you want to play. Wouldn’t be a problem, if it didn’t take a minimum of 5 minutes from the time you click the icon in your start menu until you’re actually playing the game. City of Heroes is the only game I’ve personally seen do this well. I guess since it’s an online-only game, they verify you when you login.
Controls and Shortcuts
Can this be standardized – PLEASE? If not the controls, at least shortcuts to common functions like quicksave and quickload, and even screenshot. Nothing worse than playing a game for an hour only to find out when you were hitting F5 to save, it wasn’t doing shit cause they decided to move quicksave to another key.
I go through this every few months – where I’m almost ready to give up PC gaming. Then Half-Life 2 comes out… then Battlefield 2, then F.E.A.R…. PC as a platform will always have those games that tower above the rest and lead the pack. That’s about the only thing that keeps me hanging on to this expensive and frustrating hobby of mine. Consoles never seem to have those titles that just blow you away and are so far ahead of the curve – whether it be from a graphical standpoint or technology. Even now, the Xbox 360 is almost upon us and the reviews that have been rolling out are very promising. Call of Duty 2 received the same score from GameSpot on PC and Xbox 360 which is almost unheard of. But let’s put that into perspective – Xbox 360 is at about the same level as PC is now. What’s the life span of a console? 3 to 4 years? Think of how far the PC will have progressed in that time. Or better yet, compare a current PC to an Xbox.
I really wish I could just let it go – pick up an Xbox 360 and never look back. But I just, can’t, do it! I’ve tried so many times and failed each and every time. If anyone has some advice for breaking the habit, so to speak – I’d love to hear it! And since we’re on the topic – anyone planning on picking up a 360 next week?