Friday, 20 April 2012

Opinion: Dark Souls on PC

At the the start of the year From Software, developer of Demon's and Dark Souls, announced a PC port of the console version of Dark Souls. When news of this first broke I felt more than skeptical, even pessimistic, about the future of this project. I own both Demon's and Dark Souls on the PS3, both are very good games and I will take pleasure in reviewing them in the future. First though, I want to explain how a good PS3 or Xbox game can be turned into a pile of crap for the PC.

The history of bad PC ports is legendary with common problems such as bad user interface design (Skyrim), poor translation from controller to mouse/keyboard input (Batman:AA) and lack lustre graphical options(Bioshock). Dark Souls, I fear, is treading down the exact same path of all bad PC ports before it. Without paying attention to UI, control and graphical options From Software are going to lose the chance to create a classic PC RPG experience.

Developing a good PC game is hard. UIs need to be clean and concise and, in most cases, the less on the screen the better. The mouse and keyboard combo allows for precision control and mapping of many keys; 1:1 mapping from controller to keyboard is usually disastrous. PC's differ in computational and graphical power and PCs today are much more powerful compared to consoles. Graphical options need to be extensive to get the most out of a modern PC system. However, thorough graphical options are usually the first thing overlooked and never developed beyond the console version when games are ported.

The latest news concerning Dark Souls here does not paint a pretty picture, nor assuage my fears. Low resolution textures and frame locking is taken for granted on consoles, but it is probably the worst thing you can do to a PC game. PCs have the ability of making some games look even better (Crysis) if extensible graphical options exist.

PC ports are not a new phenomena and, since the steady march towards consoles from the mid 2000s, most PC ports have been seen as an easy cash-in for lazy developers and even worse publishers. The unfortunate truth is that unless developers plan a PC version from the beginning a straight console port will be utter garbage.

From Software are great developers, I personally love them. They have created one of the best series of hardcore games this generation. Unfortunately, if things keep going as they are, they will create the worst PC port of this generation as well. This ill-fated trip into the world of PC games looks to be a bridge too far. I can only hope they wake up in time to deliver a respectable game.

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