Geek Ink Thinks: The day I almost gave up PC gaming…

I am a big fan of GTA: San Andreas. It managed to make me feel gangsta, which was quite an accomplishment. I had grown up in the Indian equivalent of The Hood, but I spent all my time inside my house, and I went to school in a different suburb, so I definitely didn’t have a gangsta bone in my body. Having played GTA: SA to death, I was quite excited for the PC release of GTA 4 in December 2008. GTA 4 placed you in the shoes of Niko Bellic, an illegal European immigrant with a very mysterious past, who’s come to America to make it big.  It was looking good on consoles, and with the extra development time I knew it was going to be awesome on PC.

You know how the say don’t count your chickens before they hatch?

I bought GTA 4 for PC on it’s launch day. My machine was, on average, above the minimum spec, which meant I would have to play it on medium or low settings, or so I thought. Clearly someone at Rockstar Toronto was lying, because I installed the game and tried to play it.

The game was an abortion.

I don’t understand Niko… my computer is faster than an Xbox!

I looked online to see fans of the game up in arms over the PC version. Most players were having major problems, with the minority of players actually being able to run it (don’t know if they were enjoying it much). Pretty much everyone who bought the game agreed that GTA 4 on the PC was a colossal fuck up. Rockstar responded within a few days, saying a patch was on the way. Almost everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

A few naysayers looked at the game and said there is no way in hell that a simple patch could fix this game. It had far too many problems. If PCs were struggling to run it, and even at this point PCs had the performance edge, there was no way a patch would fix it. The only thing to do was to accept that we were second class consumers in the eyes of Rockstar, and bend over and be prepared to take it. I preferred to remain positive, and looked forward to enjoying Grand Theft Auto in the next few weeks.

I wish I had been right. The patch didn’t fix anything. Rockstar said another patch was on the way, but most people knew the truth. This game was a piss poor console port, which Rockstar had rushed out the door. They had hoped to hide it’s poor performance issues by using the extra oomph that most PCs had under the bonnet, but clearly the monkeys they had working on this game couldn’t even manage that much.

But why did I almost give up gaming on my PC? This was just one game after all?

Unfortunately at the time, the launch of GTA 4 on PC was only a small part of an alarming trend. Game developers were focusing on consoles which were just getting into their stride, and threw rotting scraps to the gamers who preferred to play games on PC. Quite a lot of people saw this as the last days of PC gaming, and how consoles would move to replace them. Why did I almost quit gaming on PC? Part of me thought this dark vision of the future might just be true.

I’m glad I didn’t though, since quite the opposite has occurred a few years later. The indie scene has exploded on PC, with Notch, the creator of Minecraft, leading the way. Social network games on Facebook are stepping up to the capture the hearts, time, and money of casual gamers. Battlefield 3 was released in the last quarter of last year, showcasing just how far PCs have come. Developers are taking the time to ensure that PC users don’t get the short end of the stick, with releases such as The Witcher 2, by CD Projekt.

I’m also quite happy to say I am finally able to enjoy GTA 4. I got a CPU/RAM/motherboard upgrade last year, but despite this, the game still barely ran (I could play Battlefield 3 on low with the same specs). It wasn’t until I got my new graphics card today, that I was able to actually play GTA 4 on medium settings (I can now play Battlefield 3 on medium to high settings). Rockstar would probably tell someone like me, “GTA 4 on the PC was ahead of it’s time”. Yeah, right. If it was so ahead of it’s time, how’d you get it to run on a 7 year old Xbox? Oh well, at least I get to play it, just over three years after I bought it.

I am very excited for Rockstar’s upcoming PC release of Max Payne 3. I’m a big fan of the Max Payne character, and loved the way the story was told in the first two games. I was thinking of getting it on console, but I’ve played the previous two games on PC and want to play the third one of my PC as well. But the first two games were created by Remedy and published by Rockstar. The third game is being handled by one of Rockstar’s in house studios. Like the same in house studio that ported GTA 4? Quite frankly, Rockstar can go fuck themselves. I’m waiting a month to see what other people say before I even think about picking this up. If the performance is good, they can have my money. If not, I won’t even buy it for PS3. Fool me once Rockstar, shame on me. Fool me twice…

And yes, I do have a PS3, but my gaming heart will always belong to my trusty computer.


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