The Unreal Future

At first I was reticent about writing a post on games. However, I see my friend Dan has a good post about some E3 announcements, so I thought, “What the heck. Dan’s cool, and he did it. I can do it too.” Because this is going to be a very nerdy post, I’ll keep it off the main page. Click to follow through, and you can thank me later.

Unreal Tournament 2007 is coming out later this year. One glance at a screenie and you can instantly see that this game should totally rock my socks. I thought it would and eagerly devoured each bit of news and every pixel of every screenshot. If any game could wrest me from the adamantine clutches of WoW, it would be this. At heart, I’m a fragger not a silly RPGer. Unreal Tournament 2k7, coupled with a beefy gaming machine, would take me back my roots as a gamer who grew up on Dark Forces, the Marathon Trilogy, and the original Unreal Tournament. Interesting side note, a few years ago, when I was considerably more stupid than I am now, I would make the claim I was good at only two things: skiing and Unreal Tournament. I rocked that game. This is all a very long way of saying that I had high hopes for UT2k7, and by now you’ve all noticed I’m using the past tense. This is why.

Consoles (Xbox, Gamecube, Playstation, etc.) are and will always be inferior gaming platforms than computers. I consider this statement to be unassailable. There are many reasons for this, but there are two chief reasons. First, consoles will always have inferior graphics due to the limitations of the consoles themselves and TV resolutions. Even the best TVs out there are only now catching up to where computer monitor resolutions were 5 years ago. Second, consoles will always have inferior input devices (gamepads) to computers (keyboard and mouse). The keyboard supplies the gamer with more buttons accessible by a single hand than the gamepad makes available for two hands. The mouse is a vastly superior pointing device than any analog stick on a gamepad. Only in flight sims and racing games is the mouse a less than ideal gaming instrument. Because of the sophistication of controls available to the gamer, computer games will always allow for a more easily navigable gaming world, a more robust gaming world, and a significantly freer gaming experience for the gamer. I do find the controls for the upcoming Nintendo Wii to be interesting and may possibly be revolutionary, but I think the classic keyboad and mouse will still provide a better gaming interface over all. There are other minor reasons for the superiority of the computer platform (e.g. ready availability of player made mods), but I don’t need to go into detail about those.

How does this relate to UT2k7? Because UT2k7 is going to be made with the PS3 in mind, the developers are purposely dumbing down the game so that it gives console gamers a better gaming experience. The result is computer gamers have to live with a crippled game. This is like taking the loops out of a rollercoaster because some people can’t handle the loops. You’ll still have a rollercoaster, but it will be much lamer than what it could be. I’m positive the game developers are aware of this and had difficulty with coming up the best defensive PR line. Of course, they can’t come out and say, “Yeah, we have to make the game easier to play and less challenging because consolers won’t be able to play it otherwise.” So, instead they just spout lies that are only believable to people who don’t pay attention:

Jeff Morris: And I would add that vehicles are something that we’re thinking about emphasizing for the console versions. Steering with wassed on the PC is something that works but it’s not as ideal as…

Mark Rein: Wassed? [laughs]

Jeff Morris: Yeah, yeah, WASD [i.e. keyboard based controlling]… as ideal as it is on an analog stick. I general we feel that vehicles really match with the input device of a console better. So perhaps that means more of an emphasis on vehicle focused game types. There will be differences between the PC and PS3 versions, no doubt, but we just not 100% certain what they’re going to be.

Incorrect. Mouselook combined with WASD based steering is freer, easier, and more accurate than analog sticks. These guys are either idiots or just don’t care that they tell bald-faced lies.

And then there’s this laugher:

IGN: How about what we’ve heard about UT 2007 coming back to the very quick style of the original UT? Is that actually going to create any problems with a controller that’s a little slower than a mouse and keyboard?

Mark Rein: Nah actually what we’re doing is simply de-emphasizing some of the crazy jumping around stuff that you could only really justify doing if you could turn 180 degrees almost instantly like you can with a mouse. So yeah, we’re removing a little bit of the crazy mobility that got added with 2003 and 2004 and going back to the core of the original UT which we think will actually mesh better with controllers.

We actually consider it an improvement because in 2004 you could all of these crazy things like wall jumps which really scream for immediate control and it’s very tough to do with the controller without adding more buttons to it. We think that we’re actually going to end up with something that plays a little smoother on the controller.

Here we have a developer himself saying that console controls are more limited than the keyboard and mouse, and he thinks it’s an “improvement” that the game has to be slowed down and limited so that console players aren’t overwhelmed. Haha! Right. I’ll admit a skilled player could pull some amazingly insane stunts in UT2k4, but that’s one of the things that made it enjoyable. It made it more challenging. Now, I’m guessing we’ll be lucky to have dodging, something I’d consider to be an essential part of the UT gameplay. Gone are the days of the wall jumps, double jumps, quad jumps, and hammer jumps.

Finally, turning to online multiplayer, we find the developers acknowledging reality:

More to the point, we have to consider how much fun a game is going to be if there’s forty guys in a game and you have a controller in your hand instead of a mouse and keyboard. It’s just the gameplay considerations we have to think about. Some games are at their best with four players and some are at their best with forty players. It’s hard to say where we’d end up but it probably won’t end up being a hundred person game because it’s just too fast.

Precisely. Hopefully they’ll have enough brains to ensure this limitation does not affect computer gamers. Leave the weak sauce 16-man Onslaught games to the consolers. I’ll take the epic 64-man battle royales.

With all this being said, UT2k7 does have something going for it regardless of the crippled movement and watered down design. The UT series has always had awesome weapons, amazing map designs, and UT2k4 introduced some killer vehicles. I’m expecting all of this will improve in UT2k7. I’m especially looking forward to the weapons they will give me. I have always been a fan of the shock bombs, which are the hallmarks of a truly talented fragger. If they take away the dual-fire mode of the weapons because of console considerations, I swear I’ll blow a gasket.

9 thoughts on “The Unreal Future”

  1. Developers seem to be thinking about where the money is. Will large numbers of computer gamers still buy games like UT2k7 even if some of the higher end techniques have been removed? Most assuredly they will because of improvements to graphics and to physics engines and things of that nature. But also, by making a game more accessible to large numbers of console gamers, by making it possible for them to pick up a controller for the first time and be relatively competitive as long as they have a basic familiarity with FPS games, the manufacturer assures that the game will be an attractive purchase for a greater proportion of the gaming population. Sucks for high-end computer gamers, but makes economic sense it seems to me.

  2. Sure, but they can also be an economic success without nerfing the game. They just may not make as much money. I think the ideal situation would be to have two distinct versions: UT2k7 and UT2k7 lite. I have yet to see an FPS game get ported to the console that hasn’t been a shadow of what the PC game is like, and FPSes that are console-centric (e.g. Halo) are clearly limited and unsophisticated.

  3. True, but given a choice between much money on one hand, and much more money on the other, I can see someone going for much more money even if I wouldn’t make the same decision. And all you say about consoles is quite correct. Which is part of why I don’t own a console.

  4. The only comment I disagree with there steve-o, is vehicle steering.

    Using a control stick gives you much more responsive controls than WASD would, and I dont recall using a mouse in any of the few racing games I’ve played on the computer.

    I think the video game market would indicate this is true. Just look at the titles that garner buzz on consoles and pcs. I can think of several popular console racing titles for consoles which haven’t been ported to PC: Burnout Series, GT Series, Project Gotham Racing. Can you name one pc racing game which has received a lot of attention? Can you name one PC racing game? If WASD is such a perfect interface for vehicles wouldn’t we see more racing titles on the PC?

  5. Bob, agreed, and I will still say the games are nerfed and subpar.

    Matt, my comments about vehicle steering is strictly limited to vehicle usage in UT which involves much more than just steering a car and holding down the accelerator button. There’s steering, looking around, aiming, and firing weapons. I do agree with you that the mouse and WASD steering probably are not optimal for a typical Gran Tourismo or Burnout game though. But then again, those games you just stomp the gas and steer. In UT, you’re steering for your life, seeking out enemies, targeting enemies, attacking enemies, and hopefully annihilating enemies.

  6. When Halo was released for the PC well after it came out for the XBOX, I was instantly better at it on the PC then playing it on the console. The WASD + mouse combo just works way better for a more natural feel of what you want to do in the game. One of the reasons I’m so excited for the Wii is that it tries to take that a step further (thanks for the link btw Steve). It seems that the closer we get to naturally interacting with a game, the more fun they become!

  7. Steve, I couldn’t agree with you about PCs being a better gaming system in most regards (FPS’s especially and also RTS’s), but I think that racing games (Mario Kart for one), sports games (Madden series and numerous others), and classic RPGs a la Final Fantasy work better on the console.

    Console games will always be more simplistic than PC games which can be advantageous if you just want some cheap thrills.

    I think the biggest advantage of PC games that you didn’t mention is patches. The fact that the game can be changed after release is a big deal when all the millions of people playing it figure something out.

    For instance, I played some game called Champions of Norath. It was a simplified rip-off of Diablo 2, but it was pretty fun, and looked cool. Only problem with it was you could dupe things SO easily. I mean, it wasn’t even hard. The game loses something when you can start out with the best possible gear and just run the gauntlet… It could’ve easily been fixed on PC, but with the game on console, no patchy = no fun = game dies.

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