If there is a war going on among gamers themselves, it is the war of PC vs console gaming. While the two sides may not always see eye-to-eye, for the most part, we can agree that neither side deserves to be shafted, and while I personally play most of my games on console, news that Visceral Games had decided to do little more than copy-paste the upcoming Dead Space 3 onto the PC made me wince a little.
For those of you who don’t really know what I mean, this basically means that the game won’t be featuring any DirectX 11 support, will have no high-resolution texture option, and will feature no graphical enhancements, other than those that exist on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. This was rumoured to be the case last week, and now, the game’s executive producer, Stephen Papoutsis, finds himself in a position where he needs to defend his decision:
“It’s confusing to me that this question even comes up. It’s by no means any less important to us; it gets a lot of attention… but we certainly don’t target PC as something that’s going to be significantly different. We aren’t trying to create disparity in the experience that our gamers enjoy; we want to make sure everyone’s having that same experience… We want to make sure the quality of the experience is consistent across all platforms so we don’t have one userbase saying it’s better on their system.”
He went on to say that simply being able to use a mouse and keyboard will make the game feel significantly different enough that gamers will be aware that they are playing it on another platform. It’s an odd decision, and will likely leave a lot of PC gamers with a sour taste in their mouths.
On the other hand, though, to many console gamers, this will no doubt seem like a non-issue. Everyone getting the same experience? That’s only right, isn’t it? But the crux of the issue is that, in choosing to make the PC version of Dead Space 3 a straight port of the console version, the developers are not taking full advantage of the hardware at hand. Imagine that, the next time you popped a game into your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, the game you were playing looked, sounded and controlled like a high-end PlayStation 2 or Xbox title. In effect, the situation here is similar. The developers are ignoring some of the features that the PC brings to the table, and as such, is mistreating those PC gamers with high-end hardware that could take advantage of the enhancements that are being omitted.
In a manner of speaking, what the team at Visceral are doing is understandable: they are trying to create a consistent experience across all platforms, no one feels like another version of the game might be better, which is, of course, the on-going debate of PC vs console: the PC versions of most games have the potential to look better, and run much smoother due to the constant hardware enhancements that exist on the PC platform. By creating a port that doesn’t utilize these features, the PC and console audiences are getting the same game, and, in theory, would have no reason to argue which version is better.
But the PC ports of games are often lackluster, loaded with intrusive DRM, and, in many ways, inferior to their console counterparts for quite a while after their releases, which shouldn’t be the case. Couple this with the fact that, quite often, PC gamers have to wait months at a time for the PC versions of certain titles, and you have an audience that often feels ostracized and belittled by many of the big publishers, treated as an afterthought while console gamers are looked upon more favourably. When you consider the fact that we’re all gamers, your platform of choice shouldn’t dictate how you are treated by developers: each version should be optimized for the platform it is going to appear on. That’s only right.
While Visceral’s approach might be to make the game “great on all systems,” not taking advantage of the features on the PC platform will likely prove a huge misstep on the part of the company, and with a quota of 5 million copies to reach to keep the series afloat, doing anything to alienate any portion of your audience is not a good idea.
For those of you still interested, Dead Space 3 will be hitting shelves for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on February 5th in North America, and the 8th in Europe.