PC gaming is pretty much the best. You get the prettiest, cheapest, most flexible versions of almost every game, along with hundreds of games that aren’t available anywhere else. But despite all that, some of the people who make video games don’t treat PC gamers all that well.
This piece originally appeared 12/12/14.
We’ve returned to the top of Video Game Mountain in search of answers, and have come down with ten rules that all PC game developers should obey. You could even call them... commandments.
For lo, it is a well-understood fact that no two PC gamers shall agree on the single best control scheme for a game, be it with the mouse and the keyboard, with the controller, or with some sort of weird head-tracking motion thing. Therefore, thou shalt let us choose our own controls, and customize those controls to our liking. If thou hast made both a PlayStation and Xbox version of thine game, thou shalt give us the option to display either Xbox or PS4 on-screen prompts. Thou shalt allow us to freely switch between input options, to easily remap controls, and to use more than one input-type at once. If we desireth to play with a controller but access the map with the “M” key, thou shalt make this possible.
There already existeth a separate list of Commandments for menus, and thou shalt obey those commandments or be judged. In particular, thou shalt allow us to quit to desktop without first quitting to the main menu, and to skip through introductory splash screens, for we art frequently restarting PC games to test new graphics options and do not care to be reminded that we art playing this game The Way It’s Meant To Be Played™.
For it is known that PC gamers love to tweak options, and so thou shalt give us options to tweak. Thou shalt at the very least give us a variety of settings for anti-aliasing, tessellation, texture detail, texture filtering, meshes, draw distance, foliage and plants, shadows, motion blur, ambient occlusion, world geometry, and the like. Thou shalt allow us to adjust the HUD and the FOV. If thou includeth a weird-ass setting like “trees relief,” thou shalt explain what the heck “trees relief” is. Thou shalt include a benchmark tool that actually provideth a sense of how the game runneth. These options shall be available to us without the need to edit .ini files in order to get the game looking how we like.
For while we understandeth that some things, like higher-res textures, cannot be loaded mid-game, thou shalt strive to keep from forcing us to restart as often as possible. (Though provided thou art following commandment nine, restarting shall be a relatively painless process.) Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, require a restart for simple tweaks like AO or shadow detail. Yes, we art looking at you, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Looketh. We understand that thou art running a business here. And we get why thou mighteth want to implement some kind of copy protection to keep people from stealing thine product. And yet all the same: Smite the DRM. Learn from the example of companies like CD Projekt Red, who doth release successful PC games with no DRM. Follow their example. The People shall love you for it, and thine games shall live for ever and ever, never rendered unplayable by outdated, non-functional DRM. And let us be real: Thou wilt never come up with a form of DRM that dedicated gamers won’t crack almost immediately anyway.
For while we agreeth that unique graphical enhancements like TXAA and TressFX are neat, we art much more interested in playing video games at a stable frame-rate, regardless of who manufactured our PC’s graphics processing unit. If thou art making special deals with Nvidia or AMD to use their tech for nifty custom graphics, thou shalt treat those options as a bonus, and make thine first priority getting the game to run well on any card, regardless of brand.
For there are some things that PC gamers should be able to take for granted, and the ability to quicksave at any point is one of them. This, too, is known.
If thou art launching a multiplayer-only or multiplayer-centric game, thou shalt test the damned thing first. PC gamers covet betas and are more than happy to freely test out thine game ahead of launch. Thou shalt take advantage of this fact, and while it is understandable that any online launch may hit some snags for a day or two, thou shalt do everything possible to test thine servers ahead of launch and make sure the people who gave you their money ahead of time are able to play the game on the day it cometh out.
For The Modders are good, and wise, and benevolent, and they shall make thine game much more interesting and cooler, if thou wouldst only get out of their way. Thou shalt respect The Modders. Better, thou shalt go out of the way to encourage The Modders, to develop games with them in mind, to work with them to let them tweak and change thine code in any way they please. If thou doeth this, thine game shall remain interesting and relevant for much longer, and thou shalt win the love and respect of the PC gaming community.
For there is a special place in Hell for those who release unfinished, buggy, and broken games, and yet that doth not appear to frighten publishers as it should. Thou shalt not release PC games that crash immediately after launch. Thou shalt not release PC games that hitch and stutter even on powerful PCs. Thou shalt not release PC games that require gamers to trawl forum threads in search of arcane workarounds to improve performance. Thou shalt not release PC games with busted controls, or missing graphics options, or broken DRM, or non-functional online play.
The solution to these problems is simple: Thou shalt dedicate more people to testing and optimizing thine games before launch. Thou shalt invest more heavily in QA, and in PC-specific testers. In other words, thou shalt take this shit seriously, for thine paying customers are not thine quality assurance department. And really, thou shalt apply this approach to games on every platform, PC and otherwise.
If thou art to fail in any of the above regards, thou shalt be appropriately contrite, and shalt not rest until the game works properly. And if a user requesteth a refund for a game they preordered, lo, thou shalt grant the refund, apologize, and ask no further questions.
Yes, we art aware that this is an eleventh commandment. Surely that is some sort of PC gaming blasphemy. No matter: It is also the most important commandment, and the one that encompasses most of the preceding ten. Above all else, thou shalt give us options. PC gamers love to tinker and customize: We love to build, to modify, to go under the hood and make things just so.
Let us do that with our games, and we shall love you for it. Attempt to lock us out, and we shall work tirelessly until we find a way in. Work with us. Let us tweak. Let us customize. Let us decide how we want to play our games. It’s how we operate, and it’s all we know.
By obeying these commandments, game developers shall make PC gaming a happier, more user-friendly, and more enjoyable experience for all of humankind.
So it has been written, so it shall be. One day. Hopefully.