Tag Archives: stalker

Games Are Better Without Consoles

The topic of consoles versus PCs is something which comes to mind for me rather often. I see the subject surface in strange little ways across a myriad of discussions, and once in a while in a big way. It is regularly debated in practically every place it can be, but it is always from the angle of the gamer, rather than the game. My issue with consoles isn’t one of value (though I do find them to not be a good value), but rather that when you develop for a console, it comes at the cost of the game. The hardware restraints, the common user setup, available input devices, and the garden wall structure all impose costs on the design and development itself. I don’t want console games on PC, I want the best games that can be designed and developed, and that won’t happen when a console is being considered.

Performance

The dedicated hardware of a console was for a very long time, the advantage of a console. Where PC gamers had to run a game on top of an operating system, consoles were comparably leaner, and the game had more resources at their disposal. The trick there was the different architectures between the consoles, so even if a developer had the freedom to release on the leading platforms, they rarely had the fiscal freedom to do so. Consoles were faster, but inflexible, and PCs were growing in both strength and selective standardization.

quake_n64

With the Xbox 360 and PS3 we saw more defined operating systems, and thus some actual overhead to the games, while at the same time PCs were immensely powerful. Sure the 360 and PS3 had some muscle behind them on launch, but that muscle was fixed. Over time, developers learned the systems and the games looked better and better. Competition naturally set in, and more of that processing power went toward the environments and effects. Games streamlined toward gated stories as we see in things like The Last of Us, where it is easy to control what a player can currently possibly see. As expectations of detail levels increased, larger and more open (in terms of choices and exploration) environments decreased. With the fixed hardware, the two could not coincide. Meanwhile on PCs, you simply need to raise the minimum specs some, or advise the user disable a more costly effect. The design wasn’t encumbered. When a game is being ported to PC from console, I expect more limited environments, and being forced down certain areas with no ability to backtrack. Continue reading

Spoiler Warning – Game Journalism is Really Terrible

Recently there has been much ado about a Doom mod called Total Chaos – Overgrowth, thanks largely to the teaser video, which you can watch below:

It is a pretty good teaser, and the mod looks like it has potential. I enjoy the mood, the visuals, and the cited inspiration of STALKER.

What concerns me is the coverage of it. Kotaku titled it as such:

Doom “Mod” Makes The Game Look Very 21st Century

Rock Paper Shotgun titled it:

Astoundingly, Total Chaos Is A Doom II Mod

There seems to be doubt as to the term mod or the fact that it is Doom 2. The visuals, the result of artwork and post-processing, are incompatible in the minds of major game writers. Doom is a specific resolution and a specific setting. Surely this isn’t Doom. Yet it is. Yes it is using GZDoom for true mouselook (an actually major change considering how Doom fills a frame of data by not caring about vertical spaces beyond the current view) and many other features. But the project is still using WAD files (“Where’s All the Data”), the world is still composed of linedefs, sidedefs, and sectors. It is still a two-dimensional scene displayed with perspective and data tracked with a third dimension. Despite this, Kotaku doubted the use of the term mod (a Total Conversion is a more appropriate term, at least once they remove the player fall grunt) and Rock Paper Shotgun remarked on it as being astounding.

It looks great, it does. But it is a mod, and it isn’t astounding. It is a well scoped project playing to its strengths. Now if these were random internet comments, I could get past it a little. But these people are gatekeepers of information in gaming, and they might even call themselves journalist. Yet they haven’t the foggiest as to the basics of game development, or game technology. They don’t even understand what makes for game technology. They see pretty pictures and blurring, and suddenly it is advanced. Heaven forbid these people write for a car magazine, or they would give top ratings to everything with a flame paint job and a spoiler. Before you write about something, try to take five minutes to make sure you have some basic grasp of it. Read the wiki article on the Doom engine, it doesn’t take long and provides a great overview. Understand the differences between higher resolution textures, different rendering methods for that texture, and different types of world construction. If you don’t know even the basic fundamentals of how a game works beyond clicking PLAY in Steam or on your favorite console, if you aren’t comfortable with installing mods (not even making them) without using a self-unpacking installer, then perhaps you aren’t the best person to be writing about technical achievements in a release. Continue reading

Battlefield 4 is Ugly

I really don’t get why people think this looks so nice, at any given moment 20% of the screen is hidden by an over the top post-processing effect. The world surfaces have low resolution textures that turn things into a blurry Nintendo 64 mess whenever the character gets close and the surfaces themselves are of low complexity. Yeah the cloth physics are present, but in a very standard way. The water seems to have trouble with its reflections at the edges, and uses general noise to give the impression of texture where it doesn’t match. Frankly, I see better water in most every other game, and have since Morrowind.

Every scene appears to be lit with a single point light (the sun) casting a single shadowmap, the shadowmap is still a markedly lower resolution texture than the environment it is casting upon, it has frequent errors of positioning, and the world as a whole is minlit so anything that isn’t in the sunlight itself looks drab and flat. Characters within shadow appear to have ambient occlusion, but it is confused as to where they are in the scene, so they randomly have auras of ink blots rather than subtle shading. The “destruction” appears to be the same, pre-segmented and only for set pieces. It looks like yet another world of heightmaps, a nice skybox, and imported meshes with triggers applied to them. It doesn’t feel unified, and it doesn’t look unified.

Is this next gen? It looks like a previous one. It looks like a more scripted S.T.A.L.K.E.R., or a more outdoor Metro 2033. The Metro: Last Light trailer, the actual user footage of Crysis 3 on PC, and everything we’ve seen from Unreal Engine 4 looks better than this. The worlds seem much more composed, the lighting more robust. Honestly, I would overlook most of the issues I brought up above, if people wouldn’t stop singing the praises of something that is already behind as being advanced. It isn’t a step forward, it is a lateral shuffle. Visuals are supposed to be the shallow side of games, can’t we at least do better on that?