Despite the superiority that PC has over gaming consoles, one thing which consoles will always have is well optimized games. If you’re a PC gamer like me, you’ll tend to discover so many older games from years or even decades ago that no longer work or have game breaking bugs on newer operating systems such as Windows 10. You’ll also notice usually the PC port of a triple A title that works perfectly fine on consoles is full of glitches for PC. And often times it’s usually the community that ends up modding the game to make it work rather than the lazy/greedy developers.
Of course, older games were specifically designed to run on the operating systems the developers had access to back then. Newer operating systems just didn’t exist so there was no way for them to make it compatible. However, often times the developers are able to fix it but they are simply lazy since unlike with publishing games on consoles there is no lengthy process enforced by the three major companies. On consoles the major competitors will make sure the games work with almost no bugs to ensure the consumers have peace of mind and not get pissed off.
Unfortunately such a process doesn’t exist on PC since it’s an open platform where you can install games from practically any company and website. So while PC games are released faster compared to console ports, the developers just won’t really care about optimizing it until people complain a lot. Other times developers are greedy and want to make a quick buck knowing that it can just be patched later. Since consoles have way more gamers playing them, developers will tend to focus more of their efforts to optimizing the console rather than the PC port.
Thankfully, since PC is indeed an open platform it’s not all doom and gloom. GOG is a website that distributes specifically older games from the mid ’90s to early 2000’s dedicated to being optimized for newer OS and hardware. If you’ve been on Steam, you’ll realize that lots of the older games aren’t optimized at all so head on over to GOG if you want old games that work. Oh right, if you’re playing a game that doesn’t require powerful hardware, sometimes that too can prevent you from actually playing the game without any major software issues.
Also due to poor optimization, it’s not really recommended to use a high end PC to play very low end games without tweaking it yourself first. Not all low end games are like this, but some are which may annoy the crap out of high end owners. But hey, at least PC offers universal backwards compatibility so long as you know where to find working games and fix broken ones yourself or by the community. And then there are some games that are just poorly optimized simply because of the way they were designed to be which can only be “fixed” by using better hardware.
Take Left 4 Dead 2 as a perfect example of a poorly optimized game. Despite being a game from 2009 and only requiring 256 MB of VRAM for recommended requirements, I still get very shitty framerate when there’s a huge horde. My laptop has 512 MB of VRAM so you would assume I can play at 1080p max settings and get 60-80 fps right? No it’s because the maps, weather, and zombies are not properly optimized since Valve rushed this game’s development to be released within a year only after L4D1 came out. The prequel took years to develop which resulted in better fps overall.
Maps such as Hard Rain, The Passing, Swamp Fever, and The Parish seem to have a lower framerate compared to Dead Center and Dark Carnival. Those maps tend to be very open ended, have lots of particle and weather effects, and tend to spawn so much zombies everywhere. The zombies themselves give off way more blood and gore then the prequel which actually lowers the framerate by a lot, and the fact that there is at least twice as much being spawned compared to l4d1. To be fair, certain parts of The Parish and The Passing are actually well optimized.
In the first game, it was rare to have more than 1000 zombies total in a campaign unless playing online. But in l4d2, that is now the standard offline and can reach over 2000 online which is a lot of damn zombies to kill! Plus the fact that there are always several special infected being spawned once instead of only one or two. I’ve lowered the blood/gore and played some mutations where the amount of zombies have been reduced, and when I did, holy shit did the framerate increase significantly even at much higher video settings that would’ve hindered me otherwise.
Other times the framerate is mostly consistent and I get 45-60 fps or even 60-80fps in some occasions since I disabled vertical sync. Okay, I mentioned before I am using mods and that is also to blame for overall crappy framerate, but even without them, I would still get 35-40 fps when there’s a horde instead of 25-35 fps. That’s still nothing impressive compared to the usual 45-60 range that I get. Sadly, with this and other poorly optimized games, one of the last resorts even after lowering video settings and modding the game is to get even more powerful hardware to run them.
Until there’s a lengthy but effective publication process that gets enforced by Valve, GOG, EA, Ubisoft, and Blizzard, some PC games will never be optimized properly. I still haven’t written my reviews for PC games yet as I’m still deciding to whether write and publish reviews for mobile games or to just move on straight to PC. I know back then I said I wouldn’t be writing editorials but if you’ve read my recent Then & Now article that I just updated a few days ago (which was supposed to be finished last summer) you’ll know otherwise about this and other updates I’ve planned.