The PC master race phrase was first coined, as far as I can tell, by the famously vitriolic host of Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee Crowshaw as a dig at PC gaming. Since then the phrase has gained popularity as a form of insult, joking self-reference or a form of smug self-congratulation. All of this, however, has caused me to muse on what makes the system so much more interesting to me than my PS3 as time has gone on. It’s basically everything else besides my vita in what I game on, and in this blog I would like to examine why the system has become so useful to me. Make no mistake, this is not a PC MASTER RACE LOLZ sort of blog wherein I wonder what anyone could possibly see in consoles. Fanboyism is not a console exclusive if comments sections are any indication, but the point of this blog in particular is to create something of a personal examination of the system and its benefits/warts.
Bugs, quirks, and software
A PC is a wonderful thing, and when everything goes right it’s wonderful-hell as I will argue later, to me it’s one of the best gaming experiences you can have.
Unfortunately due to the nature of PC being so fragmented and fraught with variation, bugs and issues are inevitable. Because the PC is a computer-shocking I know-you’ve got to deal with all the standard issues that are inherent in computers even when not designed for gaming. This means dealing with viruses, malware, and even the computer just not running as well due to reasons you will never figure out-leading to a reboot and possible loss of information. You’ll also have to navigate to find files if your PC decides to put the files somewhere random, or if it decides to randomly split the locations where it keeps some files and keeps others, which varies from game to game.
That variation also means that bugs in games can be rampant, and if you haven’t updated all of your drivers recently then you might be in for a bad time-or, paradoxically you might be in for a bad time if you stay current. I recall one instance where no matter what game I played, the system would return to the home screen randomly. From Shovel Knight to random other games, this issue plagued me-until I installed an older version of my current driver, which fixed the issue immediately. Add in day one drivers being needed as well as patches and it can create a tightrope of getting the best performance if you don’t pay attention to a certain aspect of your rigs software.
Other random effects can mess up otherwise good ports, like how a certain tessellation effect in Tomb Raider 2013 caused horrible graphics fuck ups until I turned it off-because for some reason the game left it on by default…even after a year or so. And speaking of ports, actually….
Shitty PC ports and Disrespect
As time goes on and with the rise of Steam Refunds one can only hope this drops in frequency, but somehow I sincerely doubt it. Its telling that Capcom was pleasantly surprised at their recent Dragons Dogma PC port-a port that was praised for how well put together it was, and how it improved on the game significantly-selling so well. Good ports generally tend to sell well, as Durante noticed in a recent PC gamer article yet some companies still seem to think lazily shitting out a PC port with almost no work put into it is a good idea.
Last year saw the release of a new Mortal Kombat game that by a decent amount of accounts, had lots of issues going on with it and was eventually dropped from being supported on the PC. WB also graced the PC market with Batman Arkham Knight, a game so broken and flawed that it’s literally impossible to fix, and that WB actually took down for a few months to try and repair the damage. They then put it back up…..and admitted it was unfixable, and some people noticed the game had barely been changed at all, which backed up that statement.
Even this year, Namco Bandai released a port that was panned as bare bones and minimum effort-probably didn’t help that it was a port of a port of an inferior version of the GameCube version of the game-which is why it was especially damning on Namco Bandai that it took less than three hours for Durante to fix some of the games issues, and 14 minutes to fix its resolution lock. Poor PC ports are nothing new, and while bad ports are not exclusive to PC-hello Payday 2 and Firewatch-it happens frequently enough on PC to make one take notice. So much so that a popular PC gaming channel, Totalbiscuit, has an entire series called port report, seeing if games are good or bad ports.
But I think that the bad porting also comes from a place of contempt that companies have openly stated they possess for PC from time to time. Ubisoft is notorious for its poor quality PC ports, and open disdain for the PC platform-even though it makes up a large part of their revenue. They’ve dropped the graphical fidelity of games like Watch_Dogs and The Division to keep parity, bitched about how PC gamers are mostly pirates, and so on. Add in their shitty DRM service, UPlay, that is made completely redundant by steam existing and them now adding in EVEN MORE DRM to their games-ala Far Cry Primal installing Denuvo, and then leaving it on your computer even if you uninstall Primal-and it’s hard to believe they’ve warmed up to the system very much.
Even the wretched PC port of Arkham Knight used Denuvo as well, a DRM that has been accused from hurting performance to allegedly causing damage to certain PC components, though keep in mind those are just allegations. Denuvo is also DRM that comes to us courtesy of the former SECUROM team-one of the most hated DRM systems of the olden times. Hell, it’s in lots of other games too that weren’t highly publicized, if Wikipedia is telling it true. FIFA 15, Lords of the Fallen, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield Hardline, MGS V, Mad Max, FIFA 16, Star Wars Battlefront, Just Cause 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider are all listed as using the program. And this is despite the fact that not only does steam exist for all but a few of these games, but that the games got cracked anyway, even if it took longer.
And while I won’t say that I don’t understand DRM-piracy is an issue and one that certainly can be costly to a company-using so much of it and punishing paying consumers with a program alleged to cause issues is irritating to the extreme. Especially when it’s not going to stop pirates anyway, with even Denuvo telling Eurogamer "Every protected game eventually gets cracked," even if it is taking longer. As others have argued, some people will pirate no matter what you do-punishing people willing to pay and never pirate isn’t going to do much for your reputation-especially if the DRM is shit, like UPLAY.
Hardware and cost
PC rigs are expensive, depending on the time you buy components and what components you decide to add. My rig can still run games full settings, was built in 2012 and has ended up costing me around 1000 dollars total. With consoles sitting around 400 dollars, that’s an expensive jump in price point-and one that requires more work in the user’s part, as I’ll explain below, should they want the potentially best price to power ratio.
My first PC was pre-built by a friend, and my second PC was built for me by a friend with my active input. This means I have never had to assemble a PC before, so when two of my fans went busto I had to roll up my sleeves and try to get past my anxiety to fix em. And fix them I did, while also learning that the PC wasn’t quite as intimidating as it first appeared-but this occurred after several years of owning the rig.
Some PC gamers who do mess with the guts and whatnot might scoff, but to someone completely unfamiliar with building a PC, they can be quite intimidating. Yes, there are pre-built rigs but a decent amount of PC gamers consider building to be the ideal way to go about it. It’s also cheaper in most cases, and allows you to go more modular/have a better upgrade and customization factor. Alienware computers look kind of nice, but they’re really expensive products that have a worse price to power ratio and ones that will most likely come with bloatware, as opposed to a fresh install. Steam machines fall into a similar category, seeming pretty expensive, running an OS that might actually degrade performance to some degree, and potentially having far less modularity. Though comparing the two companies, I find Steam machines to be a worse deal than Alienware seems to be because I don’t live in mirror universe where having a gaming desktop in the living room or hooked up to a TV is heretical.
There are better resources for doing this than ever, but it’s damn intimidating to snap together all those wires and parts when they cost so much and when you don’t know much about PC components. It’s also a lot of work and research to put into a machine, as compared to a simple little system you go and buy premade-and one that requires less troubleshooting on the consumers part if something fucks up. If your PS4 fucks up, you can go to Sony. If your PC fucks up, it can be a variety of issues causing the issue with your computer and you’re basically on your own to figure it out unless you take it to a computer shop, but there’s not really official support due to the custom nature of the rig. If something goes wrong, you’re generally going to have to do the troubleshooting and research-as I did when a fresh reboot of my OS made me have to dig out my motherboard CD and reinstall my network driver.
Another downside to PC is size and portability factors being worse than consoles. If you’re limited on space, a big ol PC rig is not going to eat up a small amount of space-especially if it’s a larger size case like mine. A console is more compact and lighter, and takes up relatively less space-my PS3 takes up a shelf in a low cabinet, while my PC is taller than the cabinet. And then there’s the portability of the system to be concerned. Because the PC is large, heavy, and expensive, moving it is a nervewracking and cumbersome affair. Consoles aren’t exactly balls of down feathers, but there’s less stuff to unplug, less weight to worry about and thus they’re easier to take to different places. One might wonder why that matters, but speaking as someone who lived in a dorm for a bit and then had to bring the PC home it can be pretty cumbersome.
And there’s part one, going through all of the issues I have with the PC. In our discord chat we talked about some marketplace issues, but I think I’ll save that for a later comprehensive blog on that topic. As with previous blogs I have far more to say than I thought I did, but such is the nature of the beast. Feel free to join me for my next blog, wherein I talk about things I like about the PC platform, and share your reasonable opinions down below!