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Tweaking

PC games and the tweaks required to get them working well on your machine are bad news.

No I don't mean shooting meth...

One of the major complaints PC gamers have (or ought to have) is the sheer amount of effort required to optimize a game for performance, beauty, or the desired mix in between. The number of graphical (and other options) is often staggering. Given the developers’ task of getting their game to run on every crazy configuration under the sun this isn’t surprising. The main problem is lack of information as to what every console (or config) variable is and does for performance as well as lack of access to every one of these variables except by config tweaking. If I want the game to run faster and tweaking the grass draw distance alone can save me 10 frames per second that’s what the game should sacrifice first (Oblivion). Not merely showing me a fixed set of detail sliders and resolutions. Just give me a check box that says TWEAK (even put a disclaimer on it saying for advanced users only) which opens up all possible (or all useful options). No messing with configs, no waiting for some guy on the internet to figure it out for me, etc. Maybe that requires budgeting some QA time to figure these things out that devs don’t have time for. But it’d be nice if we could expect at least polished products to go all the way in making things easier for the PC market.

Issues with tweaking also crop up in multiplayer games. Unless your at a LAN party/tournament and on the exact same machines, there’s going to be an imbalance in terms of what each player sees (not to mention ping, server registry, etc.)  and how they interact. Competitive Counter-strike players tend to play at 640×480 with all models except one for each team disabled. You can lower smoke sprites to see through smoke more easily, use Powerstrip to tweak gamma to see better in the dark, and interp or tweak your rates to hit shots more easily. Scripts allow anything from one button bunnyhopping to automatic reloading (although sometimes they arguably improve gameplay) and impact play hugely (see CS 1.6 silent run scripts that now abound). Quake players are notorious for using fullbright models whose neon colors made them easy to spot and thus gib. Ironically, those with higher end graphics cards often take the competitive hit. Though not an issue to the average player, tweaking causes quite a bit of controversy in competitive arenas. It’s likely however, that the subtle changes most don’t notice make a big difference in effectiveness over the long term. A solution to this is requiring certain graphics settings to be enforced server side or allowing servers to rewrite (temporarily) certain commands and variables in the clients configuration (this functionality would also be useful for auto-adjusting rates).

Ideally all these mechanical issues would just disappear, but given that most “next generation” (who thought this term up?) games are increasing in complexity it’s likely they’ll just get worse. Once the industry’s technology fully matures (will it ever? ), however, I’ll expect PC games to be as simple as downloading a single file and running it.

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