Friday, January 7, 2011

Brown and Bloom and Consoles

First off, what is consolization? The idea is simple really, the standards for PC games are somewhat higher than the standards for console games, consolization is when game standards are lowered on the PC platform to accommodate a one size fits all multi-platform release.
But it's just a made up word right? Well yes but it's already becoming recognized which shows that the problem itself is actually common enough to warrant a label.
The first major example I remember is with the Thief series of games. In 1998 Looking Glass Studios released the first game in the series Thief: The Dark Project as a PC exclusive, it was a niche game which had unusual and unique game play elements which primarily only appealed to a narrow group of gamers. But for those gamers who enjoyed the stealth mechanic it was a fantastic game, it had some problems but was a highly enjoyable game that provided an experience you simply couldn't get anywhere else.
Thief II: The Metal age was released in 2000 as another PC exclusive and addressed practically all the fan complaints in the original game, this further improved the game and the fans loved it. I still to this day consider Thief II to be one of my all time favourite games.
Thief: Deadly shadows hit our shelves in 2004, however this time it was built as a multi-platform title for the PC and Xbox360; it's here we see consolization rear its ugly head. The game suffered in many ways, it inherited many technical constraints of the Xbox, for example the game levels were segmented into smaller pieces rather than being large seamless levels, it wasn't even done in a subtle way; it used huge swirling portals of smoke.
The game also suffered many game play tweaks in order to simplify the game for the console crowd; really subtle light grey highlights in the original became hideous bright neon blue, loot had glints added so finding expensive loot was no longer a challenge, the always tricky rope arrows were remove and replaced with climbing gloves and probably most insulting of all a 3rd person view was added.
Even Yahtzee a famously hard to please game reviewer retrospectively reviewed the series because it's one of the few games he has something good to say about. He sings praise of the first 2 but trashes the 3rd.
It didn't take long for this to spread; the same development studio worked on Deus Ex 2, the original was a PC only title which the fans were crazy for (metacritic user score of 9.5), the sequel suffered the same fate as Thief: Deadly shadows (metacritic user score of 6.0)
It wasn't long before it started affecting mainstream games; the Call of Duty series suffered some memorable hits, the once immersive CoD resulted in multiplatform sequels with regenerating health and grenade icons all over the screen.
More recently we've seen even hardcore PC developers like Epic and Valve jump ship for the consoles, UT3 was the first game in a long series of Unreal based games to be multiplatform and was the first one to flop. Valve released TF2 with a lot of the more competitive elements removed, no more grenades, no more concussion jumping. With the release of Left 4 Dead we've suffered the death of proper server browsers, now we have to put up with broken matchmaking. We can't even see our ping in the scoreboard anymore we have to accept a basic red/amber/green set of bars like we're checking our mobile phone signal or something.
Sadly we're now almost used to this trend, the high quality PC games we used to play years ago are now having their quality traded for more simplistic and generic game play which results in sub par PC games. Many of the problems this website addresses such as bad widescreen, mouse acceleration, missing AA and AF controls, are often issues directly caused by multiplatform development.
Have we seen the end of old school PC gaming era? Do you think we will ever see that special PC quality injected back in our games? Let me know what you think in my brand new comments section.


  1. I hope we will see new good PC games.

  2. I completely agreed with the article except for the part concerning TF2. I've only ever heard about hardcore fans of TFC bashing it for the lack of concussion jumping, something a very small demographic of the actual players could do (effectively). I'm against casualization, but there are certain things that should be sacrificed for the game direction the game was going in. I feel the same way about SSB Melee and Brawl.

    The game still has a high skill limit to whether or not you are effective in your team, but a very low difficulty curve.

  3. Yeah, I think PC games are becoming extinct, and it's a sad thing to witness :(

  4. I agree to a point. Though there are still many devs out there that haven't fell prey to the console, they're just not 'out there'. Look for them though and you'll find 'em, soon enough.

  5. I think to a degree, platform games to seem to be taking over