Bad Console Ports for PCs: Is this the end of PC Gaming?

I love playing games on the PC. With console games, the controller has always gotten in the way for me.  A keyboard in the left and and a mouse in the right is the most natural way for me to play games.  The last few games I have played have been sad disappointments.

The latest was the super hyped Watch Dogs which released a PC version the same day the console versions came out.  If you bought a console version, you are probably not reading this, you are probably enjoying the game.  If you got the PC version you are probably mad as hell, like me. Reddit, the Ubisoft Forums, the Steam forums are filled with complaint after complaint about how unplayable Watch Dogs is for the PC.  Like the others, I’m seriously questioning Ubisoft’s quality control with the PC version.

The most common complaints, besides crashes and graphic glitches, which is the norm for most PC games these days, is controlling your character. The controls are non standard, you have to edit an .ini file to get the mouse to work, and the camera gets in the way of controlling your character with a mouse.  Worse, driving a vehicle is seriously broken, as it does not use the mouse at all.

I get the feeling that Ubisoft could care less about PC gamers. I will assume that many of these issues will be patched in the future, but these issues are so bad I wonder why they were not caught in beta testing?

This is not my first bad experience with an “A” title game on a PC, in fact the last 3 or 4 games I purchased have had playability problems.  The commonality in all the titles is they were all ported from console games.

This seems to be a very clear pattern for me. I tend to enjoy games designed specifically for PCs, and tend to not enjoy so much games designed for consoles that are ported to the PC.

My biggest complaint is the use of menus for everything.  This is a relic of consoles where there are not enough buttons on controllers. On PC designed games, you usually have a tool bar on the bottom of the screen which you can click on for easy access, and even bind stuff to keypresses for even easier access.  Consoles have you open a menu which pauses the game, breaking game immersion, cycle through a menu looking for what you want, select it, then leave the menu.  This menu interface basically killed Skyrim and Dragon Age 2 for me, as I found the menus way too annoying.

Less annoying was Bioshock Infinite which was also menu driven, but you did not have to access it every time you got some new inventory or faced a new enemy.  I actually made it through to the end on that one, but have never felt the desire to play through it again.

Games designed specifically for PC are some of my favorite games of all time. The biggest category of PC only games is MMORPGs, which is why I play them the most. Dragon Age: Origins, which unlike its sequel was designed for the PC then ported to consoles, is still in my opinion the best non-online RPG for the PC.  Most of the other PC designed games I enjoy are older games from when PC was king of the game industry, but they often have poor graphics compared to today.

Games designed specifically for PC are few and far between. For game companies the money is in tablets and consoles. The monetary investment to make an ambitious game like Watch Dogs is so high that they have to focus on console play, and only put minimal investment in the PC port.

That is the future of PC gaming: bad console port after bad console port.

11 thoughts on “Bad Console Ports for PCs: Is this the end of PC Gaming?

  1. Damien (@Morteus) May 30, 2014 / 7:43 am

    I don’t t think you will ever see the end of PC gaming, evidenced by the amount of revenue still being thrown at it. The are genre’s that only appeal to a certain platform market, and these are often defined by the platform itself – mmo’s in particular. People tend to own both platforms these days and think nothing unusual about it. So while they do have shoddy ports between the two, I don’t think as yet that one will threaten the existence of the other. BTW, you played Wildstar yet?

  2. Marc Timon May 30, 2014 / 9:42 am

    “so bad I wonder why they were not caught in beta testing?”

    That’s funny! When recently playing Assassin’s Creed 3 (PS3), it became painfully obvious to me that Ubi-soft has abandoned beta testing. It appears to be easier to :
    1) make the game
    2) rape players of 60 to 70 bucks
    3) issue a patch to fix “some” of the problems &
    4) screw (again) the the one’s (like me) who don’t have internet connected to the device.

    Marc

  3. crazy_alan1988 May 30, 2014 / 5:29 pm

    Last I heard, PC gaming was actually starting to become stronger than consoles, which is making these bad ports become less and less understandable. Sometimes they will introduce a patch that makes things worse, and then ignore it afterward.

  4. arianeb June 1, 2014 / 5:31 am

    After tinkering around with it, about the only way to play Watch Dogs on the PC is to use an XBOX360 (or XInput compliant controller) for when you drive, and keyboard/mouse when you are in walking mode.

    The fact that these two modes don’t work the same is a major design flaw of the game. Ubisoft actually took the “driving” code from a completely different game and inserted into this one instead of writing something more closely compatible. (I’m not guessing, Ubisoft actually admitted it).

    The difference in the two modes is also evident in the console versions, but most evident in the PC version. If you try to “walk” with a controller, the camera won’t stay still (like many console games in 3rd person), which is why I prefer keyboard/mouse for walking.

    Ubisoft is already working on a patch for the PC version mostly to address graphics issues, but I would hope it would address controller/keyboard/mouse issues as well. The game is playable with this setup, but just barely, and even in “easy” mode it is a struggle.

  5. Gunslinger June 1, 2014 / 5:10 pm

    In related news, id software apparantly learned their lesson from RAGE (or in the very least MachineGames swore not to make the same mistake), because the PC port of Wolfenstein: The New Order runs well, looks great and is properly ported to PC. No stupid legacy console button prompts!

  6. Saw June 2, 2014 / 2:55 pm

    Consoles ‘make more money’ cause you’d actually have to buy the games. PC games get cracked instantly. Until a made for PC game comes along i am not paying to play.

    Driving in WatchDoge is BS, the accelerator is just on/off with the W key. Bikes get you around so much faster (til you need to chase someone) cause you could just stay in the middle of two lanes and next minute you’ve arrived.

  7. Akaiji June 2, 2014 / 4:59 pm

    I´m surprised that you wrote off Skyrim merely because of the (admittedly less-than-optimal) inventory.
    While I agree that it was cumbersome since it was created with the limited buttons available on consoles in mind, I did not consider it that much of a dealbreaker, especially considering that pretty much all other features were ported well and the fact that, thanks to outstanding mod support, even the community could (and did) improve on every aspect of the game.
    Not to mention the fact that you can’t avoid inventory mechanics in a game with hundreds of objects that you can pick up, a category that includes almost every RPG including Skyrim.

    • Gunslinger June 4, 2014 / 7:52 am

      That said the lack of hotkeys for inventory items bugged me the ENTIRE way through that game, because it was hard to make a habit of dipping into your inventory and chugging a couple health potions halfway through a fight. Instead I just enchanted a bunch of high power health regeneration items, and buried most of my potions in chests.

      • Akaiji June 5, 2014 / 8:00 am

        I rarely used potions, so I can’t really say how bad that was.^^

        Anyways, what I wanted to say is that Skyrim is one of the few multi-platform games that actually did it right for the most part (it was by no means perfect, but it sure as hell wasn’t a bug-ridden trainwreck, either), meaning using it as an exhibit for a bad port is counterproductive.

      • arianeb June 9, 2014 / 5:44 am

        I have a lot of friends who enjoyed Skyrim. I could never get into it. I think it was the slow combat or the wandering around aspect.

  8. jealco August 27, 2014 / 4:51 am

    Could have been worse. When Ubisoft released their port of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the mouse and keyboard LITERALLY didn’t work for a huge chunk of the playerbase. It took them several weeks to fix it, too.

    Saying Ubisoft doesn’t care about the PC community is an understatement. Someone once mentioned to me that Ubi basically considers all PC gamers pirates. Never did verify it, though that does seem to be their mentality these days.

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