Another Turn of the Screw
May 30, 2008 13:15:38

screw
"If you want a game to be massive, you can't have massive system specs." - Brent at Virginworlds.com

There are many ways that some game developers, whether console or P.C. put pressure on the average gamer to "up the ante", as it were, when it comes to the hardware that drives the software. The console gaming end of the industry often sees this when a popular game is only released for a particular console in the first nine months of its release. In this case there is no doubt at all of the intent and that is to boost sales of a particular gaming console. At first consideration it sometimes seems that software is written for the p.c. gaming market with massive system specs because some developers are getting kickbacks from companies like "Intel". In a recent post by Darren over at Common Sense Gamer he had the following reaction to the amount of drive space required by "Age of Conan"
"Holy suffering catfish!!! 30GB drive space!?" - Darren, Common Sense Gamer

It would be interesting to poll game developers across the industry and ask game developers why some games have such massive system requirements; or to put it another way, why games have graphics that require such system specs. I dare say those developers that stick system requirements in their games that fall just short of a Cray Supercomputer would use catch phrases like "Next Generation Graphics" and "the future of video gaming."

Set aside for the moment the simple issue that if a game has system requirements that damn few computers will match, it will have just as few players. A video game that is all about "next generation graphics" can easily follow the route of a movie that is all about the special effects yet has a script that reads as if it were a prize in a box of Cracker Jack. Games that are all about "next generation graphics" can rapidly become like a dating a beautiful woman with no brains - she may be beautiful to look at, but it won't take long for things to get too boring for words.

All this makes me ask whether or not developers who "up the ante" of system requirements are really listening to the market at all, let alone the idea of being able to clearly see where the gaming market is going. In a recent interview over at Gamesindustry.biz, John Smedley cited a quote from Henry Ford: "If I'd asked my customers what they would have wanted, they'd have said 'A faster horse.'"

One line of thought would say that ten million customers, like the proverbial 50,000 Frenchmen, can't be wrong. Yet the last time I logged on to World of Warcraft I found that I was so sick of the Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery settings that I could just vomit on my shoes. Now I won't suggest anything as ludicrous as claiming I represent all gamers. Still, fortunately for people of a like mind, people like John Smedley are looking in different directions in the development of their products. Here is what he had to say in the same interview at Gamesindustry.biz:
"You have to think a few steps ahead, and I think one of the things that World of Warcraft did really well was take a game like Everquest, which really pioneered the space, and they really polished it up. Now it's time for us to lead in new directions, and work on games in different genres. With The Agency we're working on the spy genre, with the DC Comics we're working on the heroes genre, we're making sure that we're thinking ahead of where the market it. " - John Smedley

Despite the recent ads for Age of Conan that claim "you never forget your first decapitation", perhaps it is time to expand gaming in different directions and change the way games are played rather than the way they look.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on May 30, 2008 13:15:38 CST (comments: 6)


Comments:


'lookee' by Brent
Submitted on 2008-05-30 13:16:24 CST
I was quoted! There's a first.

:)



'Yay!' by Sinaea
Submitted on 2008-05-31 17:43:11 CST
Gogo Brent and Darren!

New games that require better and better system specs make me sad. I'm always a year (or often more) behind everyone else.



'I agree….to a point' by RogueSlayer
Submitted on 2008-06-02 18:46:33 CST
While I myself am almost always behind (and am frustrated by it) a bit in the computer hardware area for new games, I can in some ways defend their thoughts/needs in the way a developer approaches system specs for a MMORPG.

Most of the bigger games that come out, have been in development for three to four years. There in lies the issue. If they start out with the idea that the highest settings are going to be with the technology available to the masses today, when the game comes out, it may already look “oldâ€.

So, they need to look down the road and guess at what many of us will have in 3 to 5 years. That said, the mid/balanced specs of a game that comes out 3 to 5 years from now should still look good if we play it on today’s technology. If it does not, then they have failed in every aspect of this topic.

Semi on and off topic here…I must say I get weary when a game (MMORPG) is said to becoming out and has been in development less than three years.

RogueSlayer



'Here is what I mean...' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-06-04 13:18:47 CST
Case in point: the recent release of Age of Conan.

I have high hopes for this game, and if it were not fun I would not have continued to play it up to level 13 so far.

However...

Even if they have sold 400,000 copies so far (and the game is far from being a failure obviously) the game tends to run quite poorly on the average computer. Even when the computer it is played on EXCEEDS the RECOMMENDED system requirements (my computer does) it still runs at only 20 fps most days and lower. For one brief shining moment I was able to get it up to 37 fps but that lasted all of about 5 minutes. Here lety me state I am aware of the whole "it runs better on high settings than low settings and I am talking that into account". To me there is no excuse for releasing a game that doesn't run well at the system requirements on the side of the box. That is simply false advertising bordering on fraud.

There is an old adage that says "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Don't get me wrong. The game is a GOOD game. But unless the poor performance issue is solved within the first month or two it may end up being another Vanguard.

It would be different if it were an isolated gamer that claimed to have these problems...only people here and there. But the forums and chat channels are filled with people with the same problem. Yes, the game is playable but it is like pushing an elephant across the rug on it's nose at present.

If this game was produced by SOE and John Smedley was at the head of the ship I would trust them to get it fixed, but this is funcom. So far it seems to be turning out that funcom deals with this issue the same way Flagship Studios deals with their technical problems - simply throw up their hands and say "what problem?"

Even if they are able to ride the waves of "latest game" craze when Warhammer Online hits they will have some serious competition.

Then when the 800 pound Blizzard gorilla walks into the room with the "wrath of the lich king" expansion...

well at that point if this issue isn't fixed then to me it will be a case of "can you spell Vanguard?"

I truly hope that Funcom starts paying attention to issues like this and gets over it's "let me tell the players what kind of computer you will buy to play our game" attitude.

Julie



'hardware problems :)' by angel
Submitted on 2008-07-01 09:34:25 CST
Not that I think you can’t evaluate hardware Julie, but I know that some (not as geeky as me) thinks a recommended system requirement for e.g. AoC “graphics card NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB or equivalent†means that an e.g. NVIDIA GeForce 8500 or 8600 series would do the job, just because the model number is numeric higher than the recommended system requirement. This could also make sense for common people, but this is not the fact.
To match a NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB you should at least have a NVIDIA GF 8800 GT(S) to satisfy the Memory bus width and bandwidth like the 7900 GTX. Yes some of the lower cards have higher memory clocks, but a lower bandwidth reference, which gives lag on higher texture resolutions. All this is just guide lines, some boarder cases can of cause prove otherwise.
BTW: I also like to play some casual AoC, and yes I play with performance a graphic card ;) I hear what you say about the growing HW specs in games Julie and I must say that I think the industry lacks the implementation of good scalability when we talk about performance. But on the other hand, I also know how hard it is to implement scalability in graphic engines to get the min. specs really low without rendering garbage. So all I’m trying to say is that much of the graphical performance issues could be solved by designing the game world better. This could be done by designing the game world in a way so highly detailed objects do not occur together in an in-game view (depending on render tech), or by implementing more aggressive dynamic LOD range. The last technique could be used only on moving objects like avatars and npcs/mobs to perform better in crowded areas like cities. I know many similar techniques are implemented, but I don’t think many games take it serious enough and that they are more than willing to prioritize nice rendered than smooth rendered frames. I would like to have the choice myself in more games.



'30 GB AoC...' by angel
Submitted on 2008-07-01 09:40:54 CST
Just some info, most of the 30 GB in the AoC installation is actually the audio dialog which, as far as I know, only loads when needed. And yeah, I like audio dialogs rather than old school text if it does not compromise the game play of cause.



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