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The Problems With Porting Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-don't-have-that-button dept.

Games 330

mr_sifter writes "There's a large lexicon of monosyllabic, four-letter words for describing something you don't like — but only PC gamers use the word 'port' with such a fervent degree of repulsion. Common complaints about console ports include meager graphics options, dodgy third-person camera angles, poorly-thought-out controls and sparsely distributed save points. In this feature, Bit-tech talks to developers of games such as Dead Space, Red Faction and Tales of Monkey Island to find out why porting games between the three major consoles and the PC is so difficult. Radically different CPU, graphics and memory architectures play their part, as do the differences in control methods and the rules Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo set about how games should work on their systems."

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330 comments

Obligatory (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105715)

Well I'm a PC gamer and PC's are the far superior platform, as any real gamer like me knows. Anyone who doesn't use a mouse and keyboard is clearly inferior to me and lacks my intelligence and superior taste in gaming. If you want to know more on the subject, just come to the videogame store where I work sometime. I regularly spend hours there snobbishly berating console game buying customers and informing them of my superiority.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play the pompous villain in an 80's teen flick. Ferrari is the ONLY car to drive, you know.

Re:Obligatory (2, Insightful)

narfman0 (979017) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105763)

Troll? Really?

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29105831)

Yes.... And Flamebait. OP's comment reeks of douche.

Posted Anon as to not take away MY flamebait rating for him.

Cultural Differences (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106175)

Yeah, it seems the mod's the past week have had some serious culturally challenges, namely people missing the joke entirely. I'm very disapointed at the slashdot mods, especially considering some posts were modded "off topic" or "troll" when they are clearly very hilarious or were pertinent and accepted points in a slashdot discussion the previous week.

I'd guess there are "special interest" groups trying to influence slashdot through moderation, and their attempts to fit it show them drowning to the rest of us. Noob moderators tend to stand out, I'm just saying. (Warning: do not mod if you even think you might be missing something about it.)

Tyrone the gaming nigger speaks: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29105821)

Wut?! Fuck u punk-ass muthafucka rich-ass white boy. Let's see u play Madden witta keyboard and mouse. U be laughed at if u be tryin' dat shit in my hood and I know at least one of u Poindexter muthafuckas do it for the fucc of it.

Dat why yo white women goin' to us. Dey want a real man of action not some cracka-ass chump who rather muh-dikk his computer instead.

-- Ty

Re:Obligatory (2, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106317)

The mouse is a superior controller for anything that involves aiming (FPS) or pointing (RTS). The PC can have superior graphics to any console (at the price of a $300 GPU). That said, PC gamers still aren't justified in claiming the overall superiority of their platform because certain types of controllers aren't really there for PC gaming yet.

If one of the major game publishers (EA or Valve?) were to start selling Bluetooth-enabled motion sensor style controllers, and supporting them on multiple titles, we really could see PC gaming become superior to console gaming in all categories (except price, of course).

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106429)

and boot time

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106451)

The mouse is a superior controller for anything that involves aiming (FPS) or pointing (RTS)...p>

Agreed. I was playing RE4 on my Wii the other day, and I couldn't get a hang of the aiming system at ALL! It was just completely counter-intuitive, if only I'd had a mouse instead.

Re:Obligatory (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106673)

The mouse is a superior controller for anything that involves aiming (FPS) or pointing (RTS).

I don't think the mouse is superior to the light gun for aiming/pointing. It's just too bad the light gun isn't very common except for with coin-ops.

How would Wii Remote support be worth it? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107045)

I don't think the mouse is superior to the light gun for aiming/pointing.

But how many PC gamers are going to buy a Bluetooth adapter, a Wii Remote (the only widely available light gun that works with LCD monitors), and a wireless sensor bar? And given that figure, would it be worthwhile for major label video game developers to spend the time==money to support them? I'm not too optimistic.

Besides, how do you use a light gun to turn your character from side to side in order to shoot off-screen targets?

Re:How would Wii Remote support be worth it? (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107249)

I suppose the light gun is better for FPS games with controlled movement along a path.. and not so much for games with full freedom of movement.

Re:Obligatory (0, Troll)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107011)

If one of the major game publishers (EA or Valve?) were to start selling Bluetooth-enabled motion sensor style controllers, and supporting them on multiple titles, we really could see PC gaming become superior to console gaming in all categories (except price, of course).

Here are some other things that would have to happen before PC gaming can cut the console makers out of the equation:

  • Video game publishers start porting their local multiplayer games from consoles to PCs. Remember that not all shared-screen is split-screen: for example, see Super Smash Bros. series.
  • PC game manuals start coming with instructions to connect a PC to a television set or other sufficiently large monitor. At minimum, they would have to explain VGA to VGA, DVI-D to HDMI, HDMI to HDMI, S-Video to composite, S-Video to S-Video, where to buy a VGA to S-Video adapter [sewelldirect.com], and various audio connections.

Re:Obligatory (2, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107229)

The big flaw in all this is an assumption that any video game publisher wants consoles to be killed.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106341)

you forgot the part about the opposable thumb!

Re:Obligatory (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106387)

Well I'm a PC gamer and PC's are the far superior platform, as any real gamer like me knows. Anyone who doesn't use a mouse and keyboard is clearly inferior to me and lacks my intelligence and superior taste in gaming.

The Wii can use a mouse and keyboard (for surfing the net ...) as well as Wiimotes - guess that makes the Wii the uber-superior platform. (Not really - but when the next version comes out with hi-def video and a faster cpu ...)

Rob Lang speaks the truth... (4, Insightful)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105723)

Since the vast majority of developers can achieve the vast majority of technical feats with enough time and effort. The problem is the fact time and effort costs money. The Guitar Hero 3 port was crap because no-one put any real money behind it, simply because chances are, no-one would buy it. That only makes sense.

I understand a lot of what the devs are saying, but if I'm going to be really negative about this I couldn't help get an uneasy feeling reading about Dead Space. So, essentially he's saying "don't blame the consoles for the restrictive PC experience, blame us, we chose to make it restrictive!" Surely saying they designed it explicitly for consoles, so natrually it wouldn't work well on the PC, is the epitome of consolification? If I designed a game that only worked "as intended" on my Nokia 3210, and thus doesn't work well on anything else, claiming no-one can complain because it was originally designed for a phone is not an excuse. It's still just poor design choices.

Re:Rob Lang speaks the truth... (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106211)

Well, some developers do not need technical feats as they franchise ability to sell is based on non-technical grounds. Does Mario or Sonic need a radiosity-like shaded environments? Nope. Or look at PopCap games and their offerings.

Re:Rob Lang speaks the truth... (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106303)

Yes, it's really fucking hard to have redefinable keyboard layouts. I don't know much about console programming, but if there's an event loop capable of calling a buttonpressed routine, you have no excuse.

Don't forget Bowlderizing (0, Troll)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105771)

A hardcore, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners storyline on a 360 or PS3 console would have a hard time making it past the nintendo comitees unscathed. See the Expurgation of Maniac Mansion for a famous case of this self-censorship that nobody really asked for: http://www.crockford.com/wrrrld/maniac.html [crockford.com]

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105841)

Maniac Mansion was more than two decades ago! These days Nintendo doesn't care anymore with games like MadWorld coming out uncensored.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (2, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106169)

You wouldn't believe how uncensored they are. I was in Japan back in March and one evening saw the weirdest Wii game ever. It was a bukake simulator. Imagine 3 drunk japanese businessmen and pasty white guy shaking their wiimotes at a virtual girl. There was some sort of scoring system I didn't understand, but you did shoot a load on her (and theyr replayed the money shot in slow-mo) As the game progressed, she removed more and more clothes (I only played a few rounds).

Anyhow, the box and disc looked like a legitimate, licensed wii game not some homebrew game.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (2, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105895)

Hey man, let's use a more relevant example, like no blood in Mortal Kombat on the SNES while Genesis had the blood code!

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106207)

Hey man, let's use a more relevant example, like no blood in Mortal Kombat on the SNES while Genesis had the blood code!

Amusing example. Nintendo listened to the complaints when that game was launched. MKII came along, full blood on the SNES.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29105965)

A hardcore, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners storyline on a 360 or PS3 console would have a hard time making it past the nintendo comitees unscathed.

It doesn't exist on the PS3 or 360 so the Wii is really no worse off.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (sic) (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106011)

I believe you mean ``bowdlerizing''....

spelling aside, Nintendo has eased the reins a bit, and one can find ``mature'' titles for the Wii now, even including WiiWare (though I'd be inclined to describe ``Sexy Poker'' as immature, puerile drivel).

A quick search reveals quite a few M-rated games:

Alone In The Dark
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Call of Duty: World at War
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence
Dead Rising: Chop Til You Drop
Driver: Parallel Lines
Escape from Bug Island
MadWorld
Manhut 2
Mortal Kombatâ: Armageddon
No More Heroes
Obscure: The Aftermath
Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Target Terror
Tenchu: Shadow Assassins
The Godfather: Blackhand Edition
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agentâ
&c.

William

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (sic) (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106421)

Dude. You forgot "House of the Dead: Overkill". Every other motherfucking word is motherfucker, gore out the wazoo, explicit sexual talk... it's an awesome game. It aims for "bad B-Movie video game" and hits it dead-on.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106015)

You mean like the plot of MGS? Or the Resident Evil series? Or Manhunt? Nintendo's not the same company it was in the SNES days.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106241)

Woah, you had to pick an example of Nintendo censorship from over 20 years ago that hasn't applied since 1994? you know, when the ESRB ratings became standard? Please mod parent down, this isn't relevant anymore. I don't know what the other moderators were thinking, but this definitely is deserving of 'overrated'.

Re:Don't forget Bowlderizing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106535)

thanks for your 20 years old anecdote.

Punchline: (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105775)

All the stuff about CPU architectures and rendering pipelines and things falls into the "Hard; but we have smart people who can do that, if EA gives them enough time" pile.

Making an interface that actually works properly on both Mouse+keyboard and gamepad(never mind wii stick) falls into the "squaring the circle with world peace" pile.

Re:Punchline: (3, Interesting)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105837)

Making an interface that actually works properly on both Mouse+keyboard and gamepad(never mind wii stick) falls into the "squaring the circle with world peace" pile.

Sigh. See, now this is exactly the nonsense that pisses me and millions of other PC owners off. You don't hear Ferrari execs saying that they will start making sensible 4-door saloons with 80bhp because 99% of the roads in the world won't even allow you to go over 120km/h.

I have no objection to some studios producing games for mainstream (afterall, we do need Kias and Volkswagens), but the problem is that nobody is making a Ferrari anymore. The last one was Crysis, released in november 2007. Game developers have the advantage over car manufacturers that they can produce a Ferrari for the same price a Volkswagen would cost, yet they keep being held back by investors that seem to be hellbent on mainstream. If there is nothing at all to be starry-eyed over, the mainstream will lose it's appeal too.

As far as games go, the performance crown is still held by Crysis, which was released almost two years ago. On the hardware front, we were just marveling at our q9400's and eagerly awaiting the new g92 cards from nVidia at that time, look how far we've progressed! Meanwhile, on the software front nothing has happened to be starry-eyed about.

We want a game that doesn't run again, like Crysis did the first time we subjected our poor socket 939 rigs to it. I don't understand that nobody is doing this at all, and i havent heard of any plans in the pipeline either, which basically means that Crysis will at least be able to celebrate its 30th month on the throne before it is replaced.
The saddest bit of gamenews for me was when i read about CryEngine 3, that isn't built to finally step forwards again, but to be able to run on Xbox and PS3.

MAJOR FAIL MONSIEUR FUNGUS. :(

BUT: Direct X 11 is coming. A grand total of 6 (six) games have announced that they will be using it. Only one of these games is PC-exclusive, and that is a BattForge, a game that's been out for a while that will receive a graphical refresh. If I understand the article correctly, this means that all the others are watered-down for consoles. Cheers.

Re:Punchline: (2, Funny)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106105)

We want a game that doesn't run again, like Crysis did the first time we subjected our poor socket 939 rigs to it.

I think you're pretty much alone on that one.

Re:Punchline: (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106269)

Smidge, Crysis was mainstream. It was an uninspired tech demo performing for performance's own sake.

You want flashy? How about a game kinda like American McGee's Alice with psychedelic graphics which change with the drugs the characters are using? An actual plot with bizarre absurdities and twists that transcend the tired old "space marines and alien zombies" bullshit.

How about a bonanza of psychedelic drug use, David Lynch movies, film noir, graphic sex, offensive language, gratuitous violence, midgets, and the supernatural? A game with the freedom and sprawling map like in the GTA series but with a plot like Lost that will make you wet yourself in anticipation while stringing you along for more!

If I wanted to play the same old shit day after day I'd just play Duke Nukem 3D or become addicted to WoW.

Re:Punchline: (3, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106283)

I'm not sure whether to take this straight or as satire. Does the "performance crown" in PC games really mean the game that runs the slowest?

Re:Punchline: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29107003)

Project Offset looks as if it will be stressing you video quite a bit. I've been following them for quite a while, and its shiiiney.

Re:Punchline: (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106315)

Making an interface that actually works properly on both Mouse+keyboard and gamepad(never mind wii stick) falls into the "squaring the circle with world peace" pile.

Personally, since I bought the Xbox 360 Controller, I don't mind playing ports which skimp on Mouse+keyboard :).

The Prince of Persia: Sands of Times trilogy (haven't played the new PoP game) was awesome with the gamepad on the PC. In fact I'd say that a dual analog stick gamepad is by far the best method of control for these types of games, just like mouse+keyboard is by far the best for first person shooters. So when you port the Halo series games, you better make damn sure they work as well with mouse+keyboard as any PC-only FPS does. But for third person platform/melee combat games, don't worry to much about it. Make sure it's somewhat playable, but it doesn't need to be a transcendent gaming experience (think of a serious flight-sim with mouse+keyboard).

4 letter words I don't like (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29105839)

...RTFA?

Link is missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29105899)

I am afraid something went wrong with the href to this 'large lexicon of monosyllabic, four-letter words'. And I was finally tempted to read the article!

Dead space no remappable keys (5, Insightful)

zaibazu (976612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105915)

Having trouble making a good conversion from pad to keyboard is one thing, but not being able to remap the keys is just stupid.

I'd be Rich (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105923)

If I had a nickel for every time someone purchased a terrible port...

Oh wait, someone IS making that... and making alot of Nickels...

The Cavestory wiiware port looks promising, though (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105973)

Oh course, I suppose having the entire original PC dev team involved along with some Wiiware developers helps.

disappointing article ... (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105983)

There's a large lexicon of monosyllabic, four-letter words for describing something you don't like ...

i glanced at 1st sentence of the summary, and got all excited to read the article ... only to be disappointed because it is lacking heavily in four-letter words for describing something you don't like. now that would make a great article.

It makes sense... (1)

LitelySalted (1348425) | more than 4 years ago | (#29105999)

Unfortunately, porting games these days is almost necessary considering the recent economy and downward spiral of the gaming environment.

That being said, it makes sense that some of the ports are poorly done â" a company is only going to put effort into a product they expect to do well. For example, an ultraviolent game would not, or should not expect to do particularly well in the Wii environment given the restrictions of the console (lower graphics) and the demographics of the people who use the said console.

Thus, I would expect the total effort on the developer and QA side would be focused on the platform where it WILL perform well and is why we have disparagements between platforms.

Split across six pages (0, Redundant)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106005)

It's split across six pages for no good reason. (and no printer friendly version)

/. should have better standards for posted articles.

Re:Split across six pages (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106119)

It's tough porting articles from the back of a napkin into HTML, clearly.

I disagree with the first paragraph! (4, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106043)

"...only PC gamers use the word 'port' with such a fervent degree of repulsion"??

How about Mac OS X users!!?

Every time they give us a "port" these days, it's just someone repackaging the PC game code around the Cider engine, tweaking some of Cider's parameters until it appears to "basically run ok" and then they turn around and charge full retail price for it, AFTER it's been out at least 3 months for the PC already!

Never-mind the PC version might ALREADY have just been ported from a console.....

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (2, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106301)

But I thought that once software was exposed to the healing rays of Steve it would "Just Work".

How can anything that runs on The Holy Mac be bad?

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106329)

yet another reason to not buy a Mac

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (1)

brandonman (1617657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106367)

Quick question: Why in the hell is a "PC" only considered to be a Windows Based computer after those retarded Mac-PC ads? I would imagine Macs are also a Personally used Computer, thus a PC. Damn you Steve and your reconstruction of acronyms, damn you!!!

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29107081)

Wow, first time I feel old due to a whippersnapper like yourself not knowing history.

A short description that glosses over many finer points and is probably a bit loose with terminology:
in the 80's IBM came out with the IBM-PC (Personal Computer). This took off like a rocket, especially for business users. Unlike Apple, IBM allowed other companies to make computers based on their architecture- these were known as IBM-PC compatible, or "PC Compatible" for short. This was in contrast, to your Amiga, Mac, and several other incompatible systems that were available at the time. You could also not run "PC" software on Macs or any of the other systems, and vice versa, aside from emulation software that didn't work very well.

You have an interesting point- that Macs are pretty much PC's these days, but its only partly anything to do with the OS, its roots are meant to distinguish between different hardware/software architectures and what software you can run on them (back in ye olde days, there were several vendors offering a DOS, or Disk Operating System). Since Apple now uses the same hardware as "PC's" and bootcamp put an end to any real barriers to turning your Mac into a PC, there really is no difference anymore.

However, any reasonably experienced computer person will probably always call a machine made by Apple a Mac, until one can buy OS X and just put it on any old PC they have laying around without jumping through hoops.

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106375)

Absolutely true. The last of these "ports" to OS X that I tried was Spore. Be it a port or not, in any case it never worked on my OS X and crashed immediately to the Finder. EA Support ignored my mails entirely and instead replied with automated responses. For a short time I was considering to sue them, but then just decided to install it on Windows XP using Bootcamp. Needless to say that it was crap anyway and I stopped playing after a short time....

To summarize, I'd say that OS X is pretty much dead as a gaming platform.

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106605)

OS X is pretty much dead as a gaming platform.

Isn't Mac OS X based on BSD?

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106697)

Absolutely true. The last of these "ports" to OS X that I tried was Spore. Be it a port or not, in any case it never worked on my OS X and crashed immediately to the Finder. EA Support ignored my mails entirely and instead replied with automated responses. For a short time I was considering to sue them, but then just decided to install it on Windows XP using Bootcamp. Needless to say that it was crap anyway and I stopped playing after a short time....

To summarize, I'd say that OS X is pretty much dead as a gaming platform.

Horseshit. Macs don't crash. Or have any other problems. Steve told me so.

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106619)

You forgot that they also change just enough of the networking code to make it completely unusable with the "real" PC versions. Rainbow Six 3, I'm looking at you.

Re:I disagree with the first paragraph! (1)

Gryle (933382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106765)

Linux users are in the same boat. While there are some good original games written for Linux, if you want to play something originally written for Windows, you're limited to Cedega or WINE. The latter's been a crap-shoot for me for the last few years.

The usual argument against ports I hear is that it's too much work for too small a market. Apparently Linux pirates are way more damaging to the industry that Windows pirates.

PC = Personal Computer (0, Offtopic)

I'm not really here (1304615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106795)

PC = Personal Computer.

It does not, nor has it ever meant "Personal Computer with Microsoft Windows Operating System installed".

In fact, Atari and others had created many personal computers before Windows even existed. IBM also had put out personal computers prior to this. The Apple I actually was released in 1976, fully 5 years before IBM and Bill Gates got together to discuss creating an operating system for the IBM PC.

The first paragraph wasn't about Windows ports... it was about PC ports, many of which just happen to be Windows ports.

Many games I see come out in Windows, Mac, and Linux all at the same time (PC games, that is). Some even come out on a console at the same time as on various PC operating systems.

Games ported from game consoles, on the other hand, work from highest market share to lowest. Windows is the highest market share, so the most money is made from porting to this OS. Some companies find that there is a sufficiently large market in the Mac portion of PCs to port their game to that, and make some additional money. Linux generally gets the shaft because of it's very small market share in the PC gaming industry. It's simple economics. It costs money to rewrite the game so that it works on other hardware - why spend that unless you will get a good return on profits from that market?

Re:PC = Personal Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106995)

Words mean what people use them to mean. Definitions of words aren't really definitions. They're descriptive, not prescriptive.

Doc, it hurts when I port! (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106065)

Isn't a poor port evidence of a poorly engineered original software product? There ought to be a separation of the game logic layers from the actual hardware implementation of the details.

I'm not in that industry, but, I've come across hearsay that game development these days is pretty shoddy for the average title since all the money is poured into asset development (sound and visuals) and the software part of it is an afterthought.

Re:Doc, it hurts when I port! (2, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106231)

Actually these days middleware and the use of thirdparty engines is becoming hugely important. Thus the software part isn't an afterthought so much as outsourced to someone more competent. The biggest problem in porting tends to be when someone tries to bring a game developed for consoles to the PC, or vice versa. Essentially the console is dramatically underpowered versus contemporary PCs. So console games are developed "close to the metal" to gain as much power as possible from coding tricks, and therefore don't code well. PC games find themselves on a platform without the horsepower to run properly with a serious rewrite to add those sorts of tricks. Again, middleware can eliminate this sort of issue by dealing with the resource-squeezing in advance.

Re:Doc, it hurts when I port! (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106427)

Essentially the console is dramatically underpowered versus contemporary PCs.

A tri-core 3.2ghz PowerPC powered Xbox360 is underpowered? Yeah, maybe compared to PCs that cost 10 times as much, but it's far more powerful than most desktops people are buying even today.

Re:Doc, it hurts when I port! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106923)

The CPU's pretty nippy, still, but RAM is comparatively limited and the graphics card's showing its age. It's just the tradeoff you get for the benefits of a fixed platform.

Re:Doc, it hurts when I port! (2, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106545)

Actually these days middleware and the use of thirdparty engines is becoming hugely important. Thus the software part isn't an afterthought so much as outsourced to someone more competent. The biggest problem in porting tends to be when someone tries to bring a game developed for consoles to the PC, or vice versa. Essentially the console is dramatically underpowered versus contemporary PCs. So console games are developed "close to the metal" to gain as much power as possible from coding tricks, and therefore don't code well. PC games find themselves on a platform without the horsepower to run properly with a serious rewrite to add those sorts of tricks. Again, middleware can eliminate this sort of issue by dealing with the resource-squeezing in advance.

Not so much on current-gen consoles, where you have multiple GHz level CPUs and somewhat copious amounts of RAM (I'm excluding the Wii for the moment). The Xbox360 has three 3GHz PowerPC cores and 512MB of shared memory (CPU-GPU), while the PS3 has 2 3GHz PowerPC cores, 7 DSP cores, and 256MB of system RAM plus 256MB of VRAM for the GPU. This is enough so that they actually run an OS. The original Xbox ran everything in kernel mode, but the Xbox360 is powerful enough that the kernel-user mode switching isn't a big deal. Heck, it's probably multiprocess capable too, though you probably only have your game application, and the OS shell application (the one that handles the Guide button when you press it). I would expect the PS3 to have a similar architecture as well - an OS ("GameOS") that runs the games but is effectively a multitasking OS and the game runs in usermode.

Heck, horsepower wise, these consoles don't hold a lick to a gaming PC, but are probably fairly competitive to the usual sub-$500 PCs bought today, or more powerful.

Which may be why PC gaming is as bad as it is right now - it's hard writing a game to run on a $300 netbook with Intel graphics. Or a budget $500 PC, again with Intel level graphics. You pretty much have to step up to a $700+ PC if you want the hint of ATI or nVidia graphics. That and the quality of drivers most of these computers have.

The Wii is a special case - it's console design is similar to previous generations - software developers have full access to hardware, and its firmware basically is just hardware device drivers. It's why software updates are kinda wierd on the Wii - every game library release (IOS) isn't binary compatible, so when you start a game, it's gotta load the right version for each game, and your Wii has copies of every version up to that point. Honestly, I'm not sure why Nintendo doesn't just have the developer ship the IOS library with the game to save storage space in the flash.

Re:Doc, it hurts when I port! (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106515)

The structure of the engine itself might vary considerably - consider the situation of the PS3 vs the PC.

With the PS3, you know every user has around 6 free cores, each of which is somewhat less powerful than one core of a C2D for certain kinds of data. So if you want a high end product that performs well, you parallelize. Massively.

Now consider the PC, where you can't even guarantee the user's got 2 cores, and even if you do, they might have 2-4, you've got a division of labor problem. You could spawn tons of threads, but cross-thread communication has its gotchas on every platform as well.

Consider also that any optimizations you do for data storage and speed of loading could suffer from endianness problems on various platforms, so you need to document very carefully every single time you use optimizations like that (or might be using one) or have some code which assumes endianness in information coming from some middleware.

You've got storage constraints - the XBox 360 is limited to a couple of DVDs whereas you've got the vast storage of Blu-ray on the PS3 and the unlimited patience for multi-disc installs for PC and Mac users. Also if you want multiplayer, you've got to worry about the differences in PSN, XBL, and whatever platform you decide to go for on PC and Mac.

Consider texture size restraints, shader characteristics, differences in hardware across PC which make it MUCH harder to target the PC or Mac as a platform (even Macs vary widely in the capabilities of their video hardware) and you're getting into nightmare territory

Adding Linux into the mix just complicates matters - binary distributions of closed-source software (due to licensing restrictions resulting from) relying on binaries for closed-source middleware that you don't even have the source for.... Eesh.

The software side of things in the games industry is very much not an afterthought, but the average multimillion dollar title is fast approaching the complexity of what entire operating systems were ten years ago - and these guys put these out on a 1-2 year development cycle. Your hearsay may be right about how shoddy things are, but it's not from lack of consideration but a simple mismatch between time constraints and the complexity of the product.

Depends on the category, depends on the dev (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106089)

If done right, almost any FPS should be portable from console to PC, and be FAR better on PC. (Mouse + keyboard is a superior control mechanism for FPS games.)

Most RPGs aren't too bad either, especially if you plug in a joypad to the PC.

Of course, frequently ports are NOT done right - the PC port of Final Fantasy VII is a notorious example of a port being done so lazily as to break compatibility very rapidly within about a generation of hardware releases. Nowadays it's often easier to get the PSX version running in an emulator than to get the PC port working.

Re:Depends on the category, depends on the dev (3, Informative)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106319)

If done right, almost any FPS should be portable from console to PC, and be FAR better on PC. (Mouse + keyboard is a superior control mechanism for FPS games.)

Most RPGs aren't too bad either, especially if you plug in a joypad to the PC.

Of course, frequently ports are NOT done right - the PC port of Final Fantasy VII is a notorious example of a port being done so lazily as to break compatibility very rapidly within about a generation of hardware releases. Nowadays it's often easier to get the PSX version running in an emulator than to get the PC port working.

Even after you just use these game types you still end up with far too many good games that you can't change the controls. The most recent example of this is the pc version of Arkham Asylum (batman game). A standard usb analog stick logitech pad messes up and has the up be down, down be up. And there is no way to fix it. Every pc game should either have customizable controls or tested well enough so they know that all devices are going to work with it. Sigh...

RE4 (4, Informative)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106217)

The PC port of RE4 did not even contain a option to exit the game and even though it was a FPS did not allow mouse control.

it's only a port because it plays like one... (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106295)

If a game is released on PC, Xbox, and PS3, and you can't tell which platform it was developed on, because all three are so well implemented... then only a pedant would think of it as a port.

If it feels like it should be on a console, then one is likely to consider it a port, even if the development was done primarily on a PC, for a PC.

In other words, whilst not being particularly technically accurate, 'port' is a word that gets thrown around precisely because it is obvious that not all the pieces fit.

Re:it's only a port because it plays like one... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107063)

Correct.

The common usage of the term "Port" in gaming implies that few, if any, changes were made for the intended new platform. If you "Port" something in the gamine world, it means you are taking it largely as it is, recompiling it, slapping a few changes in to make it run on the new hardware maybe, and putting a sticker on the packaging that says "THIS VERSION IS FOR (name your platform here)".

It's not a correct usage of the term, the disparaging term should be "hacked" or "reworked" as opposed to "ported", since "ported" is supposed to mean that the game was originally designed to be moved from one platform to another "portable", and if a game is not "portable" then you can't "port" it.

But you just gotta love vernacular, in which words rarely mean what the dictionary says the words SHOULD mean. (grin)

"This word, inconceivable, I do not think it means what you think it means."

Valve and EA (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106343)

If you want to see porting done wrong, you should look no further than Valve's partnership with EA. I don't think anyone can argue that Valve makes some very good games. Half life 2, L4D, TF2, Portal, etc... are all excellent games. But their console versions are a crying shame. They range from passably mediocre (Orange box for 360) to downright awful unsupported shovelware (Orange Box for PS3). The only product that actually can be called good is L4D on the 360, and even that is a pale imitator to the PC version.
  Much of this can be laid at EA's feet. They focus on hitting the maximum market spectrum and don't really care much about "after purchase support" Something that Valve (the L4D2 debacle notïwithstanding) is usually very good at. However you have to give some of the blame to Valve for licensing their product to a publisher who has a well known reputation for the slap-dash "screw the customer" business approach.

DX? (2, Insightful)

msormune (808119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106379)

How can DirectX games be hard to port between PC and XBox as they use DirectX for pretty much everything?

Re:DX? (1)

Quarters (18322) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107251)

DirectX doesn't handle the streaming of data from the disc. DirectX doesn't handle threading, DirectX doesn't handle physics, DirectX doesn't handle file I/O, DirectX doesn't handle (etc...). Outside of audio (which most devs forgo for other solutions), graphics, and controller input DirectX does nothing to help you develop a game.

PORT to Linux!! (3, Informative)

notanatheist (581086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106383)

Am I the only one here wanting that? Seriously!! It's not like linux doesn't run great on high end hardware or anything. So, don't worry about the poor little consoles for a moment and PORT to Linux!!

Re:PORT to Linux!! (0)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106761)

Game companies are not charities.

Re:PORT to Linux!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106977)

Game companies are not charities.

Okay, I'll grant that the GP does not grasp the business reality that a Linux port means only a marginal increase in sales compared to consoles, but you're a flat-out dick.

It depends on where you start (4, Interesting)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106393)

It's very important to point out that the porting task has everything to do with where you start. The PC is simply not the best development environment anymore, the Xbox 360 is-- and even Carmack would agree with me, here. You can get a game going really fast on 360, then it's a bit less difficult to go to PC. We can call this the best case scenario. Rapid time to market with superior development tools on 360 with familiar API's for cross-platform development on PC, along with similar TCR requirements between GFW and 360.

Let's say you started on the PS3, though. Maybe you took the time to learn the architecture and really take advantage of the cell architecture, so your game is basically hardcoded around the flexible pipeline and mass pararllelization, now it does things that even PC games cannot. Porting it to the 360 might not be so bad, but going to the PC is going to be a rough letdown. It feels like a dog when porting a console game.

So maybe your game started out nicely organized and clean in design, but in that last few months before release while your publisher is driving you up a wall to release, you're going to have so many hacks and messy revisions to the model to ship within your ridiculous timeframe- plus all the devs are tired and need vacations and such. Suddenly, the game is not so portable. It's the same for any platform, really- you go balls to the wall optimizing our game for the platform and you're going to spend a lot of your smooth portability.

Pay no attention to the "specs" of consoles vs. PC, it's basically meaningless. Consoles often run games almost directly, plus they have all sorts of architecture enhancements and little hardware tricks you don't find in PC's. A PC needs to have brutally more power to really match the sort of speed and power you can squeeze out of a console.

Let's say you developed on nintendo wii first... well, it's game over already, you just developed a last-gen, almost Xbox-looking game and tied it to the wiimote. Good luck porting that. That's part of why American studios don't throw big games at it, because it's too limited in power and the publishers just don't want to risk it. There are too many "hardcore" games, which need to push the envelope. The Wii is basically doomed to casual games and childrens' games because of this, because the marketing figures will always point it in that direction--and that's what really runs the game industry.

Technically speaking, you can probably see why people like the Unreal Engine or Source Engine, given the fact that all the porting work is done for you... well you still have to deal with the insane, i mean ABSOLUTELY insane requirements each console has for release... everything from trademarks to menu formats to the way control is expressed in the interface. The amount of attention to detail necessary blows away months of work. Consoles are not a free-for-all, you have to use the hardware in a very specified way.

In short.. yeah, it's rough. More difficult than most people will ever really know.

Radically different CPU[s] ? (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106415)

They are all PowerPC variants.

Some of us have to ship the same product on x86, MIPS, PowerPC and ARM from the same source base. ex: Cisco's CUE. While I admit the APIs for the graphics architectures of the different consoles are radically different, sometimes I can't help but wonder if some of the complaints from game developers are the typical exaggerations that everyone makes about how hard their job is.

we want native linux builds !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29106419)

why can't games be ported to run natively in linux ? is it / more / same / less difficult to port a game to linux than it is to port, say, PS3 to PC ?

Re:we want native linux builds !! (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106641)

why can't games be ported to run natively in linux ?

Probably because most companies see little incentive to do so because they estimate a small amount of sales that won't make them a profit for the effort. The failing of Loki Games, despite the fact that it was mostly a self-inflicted implosion on Loki's part, probably doesn't help make a case to these companies to put out any effort.

is it / more / same / less difficult to port a game to linux than it is to port, say, PS3 to PC

More difficult in many cases from the experiences I've seen. There are some frameworks developed that help ease this, but for most of these companies developing against DirectX and it's video/audio APIs is usually far easier than trying to port something to the mess of the video/audio stack on Linux systems.

Let us use a damn mouse and keyboard (4, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106563)

All three consoles now have USB ports. Let us use a mouse and keyboard with games that are appropriate for this kind of setup (FPS, RTS, etc).

You don't play MegaMan with a godamn keyboard and mouse and you don't play Starcraft with a godamn gamepad.

Re:Let us use a damn mouse and keyboard (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107083)

Or if you have a PS3, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Either way, it would be nice to see keyboard/mouse support in more games.

From the porting cave... (5, Interesting)

tylersoze (789256) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106601)

I confess I'm a game porter, I'm deep into the bowels of finishing off a port of the original Call of Duty to Xbox 360 and PS3 at the moment. Most of the time the ports are outsourced to companies like ours rather than developed in-house by the original developers. We usually have a short development schedule and are pretty much stuck with the code as is, as excellent or crappy as it might be, and we do our best to make what we can from it. I actually find it very intellectually challenging and fun. The schedules are short, and there's always a new project to look forward to while being stuck in the muck of the current project. :) I get to look at a lot of different source code from a lot of different games and learn something new each time usually. Each project is different, sometimes it's easy (if the code is designed well or uses middleware that's available on the platform we're porting to) or a complete nightmare (very platform specific or the middleware it's using isn't available for the platform). At this point I've ported to or from just about every platform out there. Xbox -> PC, PC -> PS3,Xbox, DS -> iPhone, PC -> Mac, etc.

Re:From the porting cave... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29107035)

I'll back you on that. I worked on a port of a PC game to the DS a few years ago. Basically the budget and schedule was the minimum possible to get a successful project. For about half the project we were doing 70+ hour weeks. The lead programmer did significantly more than the rest of us. The final candidate milestone was about a week after the beta milestone. We basically got everything working in the minimum acceptable state just days before we hit the beta milestone. We had enough time for just a little bit of polish after that. We were happy with the end result, but even just another 2 weeks on the project would've made a huge difference in the final quality.

I For One (1, Flamebait)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106723)

Would as soon see 10 great pc games a year as another 100 ports with absolutely SHITTY controls. I can live with poor graphics. occasional bad camera. Controls MUST be designed well and with ALL options for a PC.

For example. I believe Devil May Cry "or a similar port" Had a GAMES FOR WINDOWS logo on it. I attempted to play it with Keyboard/mouse and it was horrid "unable to play game breaking." So I got my PS3 controller and plugged it in. The Assholes who developed it only allowed a Xbox Controller scheme not a PS3 or another Standard Game Controller. So rather than being able to at least try playing the game I was immediately turned off it.

Good thing I didn't pay for it. If you want to design for Consoles then by all means do so. Unless you have prior experience making PC games with great controls. Then please stay the fuck away.

I blame greedy publishers, and FPS's (1)

Joker1980 (891225) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106729)

When i was growing up i always had consoles, i always had PC's but i never saw them as competitors. I saw them as complimentary to each other, action/arcade style games and sports title have always been console go to's. For something with a little more depth, complexity and dare i say it maturity it was PC all the way. I would play a few games of mario or sonic on my snes/megadrive, get bored then shift over to my pc for a bit of xcom, syndicate and dune 2. They were different platforms that catered for different tastes and i enjoyed both.

Fast forward a few years and FPS become the big thing, suddenly consoles are being built around their ability to play shooters. At this point the greedy publishers step in, they think to themselves these games are popular we must make boatloads of them. From there it was a short step to design them for consoles as its more profitable, its at this point the PC became their enemy. Now we have lost the level of depth that PC games used to specialise in, and i think thats what vexes the PC crowd. There are very few true PC games made anymore they are mearly console games that get ported, and regardless of the quality of the port they lack (in their very design) that special something that used to set PC games apart (fallout3 is a prime example of this, while a good game its not truely a fallout game).

They are easier to program but ... (0)

GarryFre (886347) | more than 4 years ago | (#29106887)

The big attraction for console games is that the hard ware is so standardized. With the PC the possible combinations of hardware is probably in the thousands maybe even millions. Sure there is a standard and when everything conforms to that standard, everything "Should" work but not always. Companies writing drivers tend to rush-job it, or soup up the performance, pushing things to the limit and simple human error occurs and suddenly things don't work quite well as planned. With the console, writers for a particular console write the game, and if it works for one console, it works for them all because they are virtual clones of each-other. I have a problem with save points in games. I won't play nor buy nor even accept such games even if they gave them to me for free!! The number one biggest problem with save-points is that you are about to die and your death is saved. Sometimes it takes hours to get from one save point, to another in this one game and it would crash, or I'd get a phone call and have to interrupt the game to use my computer. After a few days of this I uninstalled and never ever bought another game from that company again and that was 14 years ago. The thing that folks who make save points don't realize is that folks do not want their computer held prisoner to one thing and that save points are not convenient. People need to be able to save the games when THEY need it saved, not when they don't want nor need it to be saved. how useless would a time machine be if the only point you could go back to was AFTER you made the mistake and never before? It would be a waste of airspace.

Feature Loss (1)

solios (53048) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107153)

One of the reasons I stopped taking the Mac even remotely seriously as a games platform - the butchered ports of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights.

BG lost multiplayer and voice sample customization, required all four CDs and swapped continually, even on fast-for-the-time hardware.

Bioware or whatever company was subcontracted to do the dirty work couldn't be bothered to port the DM toolset.

iD and Blizzard games are feature-complete between platforms. The problem is obviously on the developer (or the porting company's) end.

If you won't take the time, you're not worth my money.

Port shmort (1)

hugg (22953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29107173)

Cry me a river .. Back in the day we had to port arcade games with real sprites and dedicated sound chips to computers with 1 bit per pixel graphics and 1 bit sound (seriously). Oh, and controllers? You'd get the "key down" but not the "key up". Now get off my lawn :)

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