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PC Gaming's 10 Commandments 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the thou-shalt-not-use-a-trackball dept.
An anonymous reader tips a Tech Report article laying out ten sacred conventions of PC gaming. Quoting: "VI. Keep thine configurations options exposed. PC gamers are used to being able to configure things. That comes from both necessity and whim, and while one doesn't necessarily need to cater to the latter, the former is a must. Games don't have to expose a 1000-line menu for every conceivable detail level on the torches of King Whatever's castle entrance, but we'd like at least some amount of granularity. ... X. Honor thine modders and mod communities. Not every game benefits from mod support, mind you. When they do and the tools exist, however, the result is almost invariably a much bigger and more pervasive community (especially on the multiplayer front). That, in turn, leads to a constant stream of sales. It truly is a win-win situation."
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PC Gaming's 10 Commandments

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  • Good list... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday June 15, 2011 @06:31AM (#36447800) Journal

    Good list. For once (and this doesn't happen often with these things), I don't think I disagree with a single entry. If I could add an eleventh, it would be:

    "XI: If thou art an fps and if thou art not a realistic military simulator, thou shalt stick any ideas regarding two-weapon limits quite firmly where the sun shineth not.

    Seriously, even console players seem to be getting sick of this particular convention, judging by the fact that one of the highest profile console fpses on the horizon, Resistance 3, is going back to the weapon-wheel system."

    And while it's not a commandment, one thing I would really love to see on the PC is some kind of system (perhaps implemented via Steam or something) which carries my control bindings between similar games, so far as is possible. I like my mouse inverted, and I am quite insistant that my right mouse button makes my character jump, while "use" is always assigned to the space bar. Zoom/aim lives on the middle mouse button - never the right mouse button (even if the game in question doesn't feature jumping). It would be extremely nice if, even if only between games from the same developer, those settings could be carried over automatically.

    • Re:Good list... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JosKarith (757063) on Wednesday June 15, 2011 @06:37AM (#36447838)
      User-remappable controls are a neccessity. It's less of a problem now but there's plenty of games that I never bothered with more than 1/2 hr of because of idiotic control schema.
      Oh, and if you insist on 5 minute long unskippable cutscenes followed by a hard bossfight for the love of Xenu have an autosave between them. Your beautifully rendered cutscene gets really tedious when you've heard the joke half-a-dozen times.
      • by sjwt (161428)

        I hate forced limitations on re-mappable keys,
        Damm it, I use my mouse for looking, as well as left and right click for forwards and backwards, but some games wont let you re-map the mouse to moment keys. Sure I can then remap other ways, but why not let us do what we want!

        • but some games wont let you re-map the mouse to moment keys. Sure I can then remap other ways, but why not let us do what we want!

          By "moment keys" do you mean "movement keys"? If so, say I'm developing a side-scrolling platformer vaguely similar to Mario or Sonic or Mega Man series. How would you recommend that I map the motion of the player's character to a mouse? The closest thing I've ever seen to a mouse-controlled platformer was Kirby Canvas Curse for the DS, where the player drew extra platforms with a stylus.

        • by kchayer (161217)

          ...I use my mouse for looking, as well as left and right click for forwards and backwards...

          I'm glad I'm not the only one who uses my mouse that way, right/left click for movement, not shooting. My mouse is for moving and looking around / aiming, and my other hand is on the keyboard for shooting, weapons selection, using items, jumping/crouching/strafing.

    • Meh. This could work sometimes and not at others.

      In Valve's Day of Defeat right-click is for iron sights. In Valve's Left 4 Dead right-click is for melee and this makes sense - L4Ds melee attack is used about as much as the primary attack as you have to beat off the zombies (no, not like that) while you reload. In DoD your melee attack is a separate weapon so you don't need a dedicated button for it.

      Might not be the best example but you get the picture.

      Maybe keeping them between L4D1 and L4D2 I could agree

      • In Valve's Day of Defeat right-click is for iron sights. In Valve's Left 4 Dead right-click is for melee and this makes sense

        Point well made, and I know it makes sense, and yet it doesn't stop me melee-ing fresh-air every 2 minutes.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Don't have time to read the WHOLE list, but I wanted to comment on the summary:

      - I prefer plug'n'play over mucking with configuration settings like "What's the IRQ on your sound card?" or "Crucial DOS command missing. Reverting to 640x480 mode." I grew-up in an era when computers had fixed settings (Atari 800, Commodore 64, and Amiga) so everything worked straight out of the box. Keep it as simple as possible.

      The one thing I do like is the so-called "trainer" mode where you can give yourself infinite l

      • The one thing I do like is the so-called "trainer" mode where you can give yourself infinite lives, or slower enemies, or just skip whole levels completely. That seems to be lacking in modern games.

        Cheat codes wouldn't be compatible with the practice of reporting the player's achievements to a central server, which became common in 2006 after the Xbox 360 was released. Perhaps the game could just disable achievements on a save file once the player has used a cheat.

    • Re:Good list... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday June 15, 2011 @08:36AM (#36448704) Homepage Journal

      "XI: If thou art an fps and if thou art not a realistic military simulator, thou shalt stick any ideas regarding two-weapon limits quite firmly where the sun shineth not.

      While you're a lot more knowledgeable about games than I am, RogueyWon, I think the good thing about this list is that it avoided making "commandments" about issues regarding the actual play of the game. Every commandment is about technical issues, like interface conventions, key bindings and modding communities.

      I think when you start talking about how many guns you can carry, it becomes trickier to force any commandments. Military sims aren't the only games where you might want to place some arbitrary limit on the player's ability.

      But I understand where your frustration comes from. I played Duke Nukem Forever too (at least I started it - I doubt I'll finish it). When you have a game that revels in over-the-top silliness, having a limit on weapons is kind of pointless (as you have pointed out in your excellent journal review of the game).

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      I'd add "Thou shall NOT consider MP as a substitute for shittastic AI" and "Thou shall NOT build entire level out of nothing but chest high walls" as those two really bug the ever living crap out of me.

      Have to agree on the list though, especially when it comes to modding. A game like Freelancer frankly was okay by itself but the mods have really gave that game life. on the flip side a game with really shitty weapons like RF: Guerrilla can be almost saved by a decent weapons mod (the explosive pistol mod in

      • thanks to the consoles being from the stone age a $200 PC with a $60 GPU plays most games at 1600x900 or higher at decent framerates

        But how many players can play at once? Cracked made another list of seven commandments [cracked.com], and the first was not providing a shared-screen mode for owners of home theater PCs. Not all households have the money for a separate gaming PC and separate copy of each game for each resident, or they have laptops that don't take GPU upgrades.

    • For example the anti-aliasing thing. That is often not in a game because of technical limitations. If the developers choose to use a deferred lighting , which many do these days, then regular anti-aliasing doesn't work. You turn it on, nothing will happen.

      To overcome that limitation you have two real choices:

      1) Make your engine DirectX 10 or newer. There the GPU supports what is needed to so FSAA with a deferred lighting renderer. This is what we'll start seeing since Windows XP has dropped off in a big way

    • by Hatta (162192)

      "XI: If thou art an fps and if thou art not a realistic military simulator, thou shalt stick any ideas regarding two-weapon limits quite firmly where the sun shineth not.

      If an FPS doesn't have a weapon for every numeral on the keyboard, it's not worth playing.

  • having context sensitive buttons reduces complexity where complexity may not need to exist. Having one button to interact with the environment beats having one for interacting with buttons, switches, etc, and one to jump off the wall, another for...

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      Except it tends to fail way too often and is primarily around in the console world because console gamers don't have as many buttons to map things to as PC gamers.

      Hitting "use/reload" to disarm the bomb just to waste your last ammo and then get hurt when the bomb blows up? Not fun, I'd rather take the "complexity" of having separate "use" and "reload" keys.

    • by Spad (470073)

      Which is great up to the point that you leap over the cover into oncoming fire instead of interacting with the thing 3 pixels to the left of your crosshair...

    • Bad Company 2, trust me on this one. I really don't need "reload" and "use" actions bound to the same key. I absolutely love trying to disarm a bomb only to keep switching guns with the dead guy on the floor like I'm some clothes-switching fetishist.

      I agree with the sentiment in regards to BC2 but he is slightly wrong...

      Reload and use aren't bound to the same key. "Reload" is R, "use" is E. (Maybe they're the same on consoles but he's supposedly talking about PC games.) The problem comes when there are two things to "use" - like, as he says, disarming a bomb and switching weapon kits. I see your point about context and there is definitely a time and a place for that. However, in his example, if enough people die next to the bomb in BC2 it becomes almo

    • Having a button to interact with things, with the nature of the interaction being context-sensitive, is one thing; making the function itself dependent on context is quite another, especially when the functions conflict and the contexts are similar. A good example of this is Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. They did a good job overall of giving you the ability to perform a broad range of activities with onle a handlful of keys, but they overdid it with having one button for both functions of the dagger: rew

  • I. Thou shalt win

  • Fallout 3 modding community comes to mind. those people have really made games out of the game with their mods. there is even a mod that lets you found your own post-apocalyptic village, build it up, trade and whatnot. i noticed that even tho fallout - new vegas was out just for a short while, the mod community already put out 12,000 files in mods for nv.

    exhilarating, really. how much mods can do.
    • by syousef (465911)

      Fallout 3 modding community comes to mind. those people have really made games out of the game with their mods.

      The Microsoft Flight Simulator kicks the shit out of any other modding community. Entire companies set up to provide aircraft, scenery, utils and airports. Literally tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of free addons. Whole boards full of dedicated content.

      Pity the idiotic management at Microsoft decided to bastardise it with FSX and then kill it off altogether. Oh but there's apparently a new Windows Live "Microsoft Flight" game coming out "any time soon" with screenshots appearing every 2-3 months.

    • by Carewolf (581105)

      Fallout 3 was a playable game even before the mods. Oblivion is a much stronger case, without the mods, it would be generally reviled as the worst RPG ever made, which is was unmodded.

      • by unity100 (970058)
        point is not whether originals were playable or not, point is, how much the mods can expand the game. in fallout 3, they made it into numerous new games.
        • by Carewolf (581105)

          That is a good point.

          I read your comment wrong then, I assumed you meant Fallout 3 was bad, because the case of expanding the original game was exemplified in the article by Half-life + Counter-strike.. Still Fallout 3 is another good example, Civilization IV + Fall from Heaven is probably my own favourite of a good game expanded and made even better.

          In other news: Mods are awesome!

      • It's not just about playability the first time, though, IMHO.

        1. Mods also add replay value.

        E.g., putting a silencer on more weapons than the 10mm pistol (and I can take pride in being the first guy on the Nexus who put a silencer on a different weapon than the 10mm pistol, and before there even was a GECK as that) opened up a whole new possibility: to play a ranged stealth character from start to finish. In the normal game that 10mm pistol would get woefully underpowered by the end, so basically eventually

        • Mods also add replay value.

          Replay value is a tricky thing to balance. Adding replay value might cut sales of the sequel, as players will hold on to the first game or buy it from the bargain bin and then install mods. Adding mod support also increases the possibility that your game might make the news in a bad way if it gets modded into something that offends the Moral Guardians [google.com]. But on console platforms, adding replay value encourages people to hold on to the first game rather than resell it to a used game store, driving more sales o

          • Replay value is a tricky thing to balance. Adding replay value might cut sales of the sequel, as players will hold on to the first game or buy it from the bargain bin and then install mods.

            Well, there is of course that possibility, but it doesn't seem to have hurt either Bethesda or EA. I mean, Bethesda still sold FO:NV _and_ a metric buttload (about two thirds of an imperial arseload;) of DLC expansions for both FO3 and NV. And EA sold The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, and a butt-load of expansions and item packs

        • by Machtyn (759119)
          The problem with the Modding aspect is that some companies are actively against it. Take, for example, the Need for Speed series. At least with Underground 2, I saw a huge potential where the maps could have been expanded, new tracks inserted, better AI, and more cars/paint/graphics, etc. All I've found was a music extractor. I think that EA, and others like it, will not allow modding so that they will force the gamer to buy New Game 2011 That Adds a Few New Things, when they've tired of Old Game 2010.
  • XI. Though shalt not maketh Duke Nukem Forever, ever.
  • "IX: Thou shalt not worship false gaming services"
    Steam is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the realm of online game services. Other than sheer weight, there are actually pretty good reasons why it's so successful. One of them is that, for the most part, it stays out of our way—unlike you, GFWL. When all I want is to play Street Fighter IV, you insist on making me create a profile. Without that profile, my unlocked characters won't be saved. Just brilliant. Did I mention the GFWL log-in screen als

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KiloByte (825081)

      Wait, what? You _want_ intrusive DRM and think this is a "good" thing?

      Steam, Battle.net -- no deal. Local DRM like SecuROM rootkit is at least easily avoidable thanks to cracks. And no, I will never allow a rootkit to be installed on a system that's run natively, even on a throw-away partition.

      These days, it's groups like Razor and Skidrow whom you can trust...

      • Steam has the least intrusive "DRM" I've ever seen. Please explain how it is intrusive.
        • by The Moof (859402)
          It's track record is better than most, but I still occasionally have problems with Steam.

          Once in a while, Steam will decide I'm not allowed to play a game I purchased. It's easy to fix, sure (close Steam and re-launch), but it's still an annoyance that I'm told I can't play my legally purchased games.

          I've also had some issues where Steam ignored my settings and decided to do its own thing. Their support took the "it couldn't possibly be us" approach twice, until I sent them screenshots. The solution
          • by DarenN (411219)

            Actually ,that's one of the few things I'd like Valve to change - I'd like them to prominently note what other DRM is going to be used on the store page, particularly for Games For Windows Live.

      • by bhcompy (1877290)
        Steam is like a vasectomy. It's intrusive and it looks like it will hurt a ton, but in reality it's painless and not a big deal.
    • Add that a million times. I ended up going through the whole Update, exit, reboot cycle 10 times and still it wouldn't bloody work. Until I figured out that if you told it to update and kept playing it would work. Games For Windows Live must die. Now. Please.

  • Cracked.com also compiled a list [cracked.com]. Ever year or so someone goes on a rant like this, and brands it "commandments". TFA focuses heavily on UI and corporate meddling on gamers' affairs; Cracked concentrated on gameplay and plot. Interestingly, both had rants about multiplayer, though with different things in mind.

    • Interestingly, both had rants about multiplayer, though with different things in mind.

      I want to agree with the first commandment from the Cracked article: "#7: Thou shalt let us play your game with real-life friends." It then goes on to advocate for split-screen support. But how is this practical on a PC? Several Slashdot users such as CronoCloud will vouch that most people aren't willing to connect a PC to a monitor big enough for "real-life friends" to fit around. (I can provide links to past comments if you want to see their reasoning.) Often the TV is one of the one-third of SDTVs that s

  • While some things are legit, common sense UI issues, like the SF4 controller issue, most of it is latching onto conventions of the past for no other reason that they are conventions of the past. You really shouldn't need to edit the graphics settings more than like screen resolution and then "low, medium, high, ultra", at least in the game's interface. Maybe give people access to a plaintext config file if they want to do more, but there's no reason to expose more options than this through the user interfac

    • by ildon (413912)

      Multifunction button binds and weapon inventory limits are legitimate game design choices that should be considered (almost) completely independent from platform. Yes, it is a legit design choice to make the player decide between the rocket launcher and the rail gun. And just because one game had a poor or buggy implementation of a multifunction button doesn't make it an invalid design choice. I prefer games that have a more simple interface. Just because a player has 104 keys in front of them doesn't excus

    • This is about PC GAMING! There's no need to expose these options to console-tards, but PC gamers with vastly differing system specifications want/need as much control as they can get. "low, medium, high, ultra"? Bullshit. I want to be able to fiddle with shadows, anti-aliasing, model-details etc. etc. until I get my optimal frame-rate/experience available on my system. We're not asking for this for the sake of it...because we're used to it on the PC...it's because it's a good fucking idea for PC gamers. It
      • by ildon (413912)

        You are the super minority of users. Why do you think people buy iPhones instead of Androids? Limiting options actually makes most people more comfortable, not less. Do you want more people to embrace PC gaming or do you want it to become an increasingly small marketshare, to the point where companies stop bothering to port to/make games for PC at all? Shit should just work. People shouldn't have to spend 30 minutes fiddling with graphics settings before they can even load up the game. They should be able t

        • Shit should just work. People shouldn't have to spend 30 minutes fiddling with graphics settings before they can even load up the game. They should be able to click the icon on their desktop, click "start game", and go without hassle.

          Stop trolling you troll. They can. You can install a PC game like Half Life 2 and start playing immediately. It defaults to "optimum" settings for your machine. However, if you want to increase the settings at the expense of frame-rate, or decrease the settings because you don

      • by tepples (727027)

        We're not asking for this for the sake of it...because we're used to it on the PC

        What you're used to isn't necessarily usable. Please read this article [pair.com] and scroll down to "The question of preferences", and read this article by Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com].

        It can be hidden in an "advanced options" menu, completely obliterating any complaints about a bad or confusing UI.

        By "Advanced", do you mean something like "about:config" of Firefox, or do you mean actually testing every combination? The former is confusing; the latter increases your test matrix by one or two orders of magnitude if you attempt to support all combinations of options.

  • Cut scenes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Wednesday June 15, 2011 @08:20AM (#36448504) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget these:
    • All cut scenes shall be skippable, or else the FPSers will hunt you down and kill you.
    • All cut scenes shall be repeatable, or else the RPGers will hunt you down and kill you.

    Corrolary:

    • Thou shalt not put a five minute unskippable cut scene immediately before a boss fight. Or else everyone will hunt you down and kill you.
    • Oh my fucking god, unskippable cut scenes infuriate me.

    • Mass Effect - Krogan and Geth Snipers? at the top of the Prothean Tower. I think they even threw in an elevator ride.
    • by arth1 (260657)

      Even worse is having a five minute cut scene with a QTE at the end. You can't even go to make yourself a cuppa, because you have to be ready. Never mind that QTEs make no sense on a PC. If you feel you have to have them, at least allow mouse clicks to take the place of buttons, or you're just screaming "CONSOLE!".

      Anyhow, one thing I felt missing from this was: Drop "mouse smoothing". Kill it on PC versions, even though doing so gives PC players an advantage. PC users have a mouse, they don't need to p

  • by ledow (319597)

    I think this can all be made much simpler:

    Devs must be forced to play all ports of their game with several different PC's, controllers, players, connections, etc. be made to use every menu a hundred times, and be forced to watch other people do the same and FIX the problems.

    Which would immediately expose all those flaws straight away, and give them an incentive to fix the damn things (because AFTERWARDS they will be made to do the same again and again and again).

    In the past we used to call it play-testing.

    • by bhcompy (1877290)
      Well, when you deal with console devs it works a bit differently(sorta). They do in-house QA and such, but the games get sent to Sony/MS/Nintendo for QA prior to release. Essentially, your finished game product playtesting is being done by a 3rd party that doesn't give you that kind of feedback.
    • Devs must be forced to play all ports of their game with several different PC's, controllers, players, connections, etc.

      It'd be hard for a smaller indie studio to buy "several different PC's, controllers, players, connections, etc." with which to test. It can't afford to yet can't afford not to, so what's the best plan here?

      • by ledow (319597)

        Who says you need to BUY a PC? You only need to be able to run your game on it. You can put out a test version, an alpha, a beta, recruit a test group (mainly for free with such projects), take it round your mate's house and let his girlfriend try and break it etc.

        Indie doesn't mean you can't do the same things, just on a smaller scale. Hell, if it comes to it, RENT a PC for a couple of days, borrow a joystick of a certain type you haven't used before, try it out on all your friends computers, etc. Test

        • You can put out a test version, an alpha, a beta, recruit a test group (mainly for free with such projects)

          Are there best practices to prevent such test versions from getting leaked to the public before the release date?

          take it round your mate's house and let his girlfriend try and break it

          I've tried recruiting testers from among friends and family, but I've run into one problem. Those few people in my circle of friends and family who do play video games don't want to test a game more than once every two weeks. After they die once, they become bored and don't feel like practicing enough to test more difficult missions later in the game.

  • It's been a while since I gamed a lot, but there were a few PC games I had that didn't allow this. This one is so hardwired into my hands that any game without it is totally unplayable for me.
  • Thou shalt provide a dev console in game with real commands that will have effect on the fly.
    Thou shalt not restrict the player to only the horrific in-game server browser.

    Looking at you BFBC2(among others).
  • 11: Your PC game MUST be from the PoV of a character waving a gun in front of his face.

  • Others have pointed some of these out, but I also don't agree with everything on that list, so here we go:

    Thou shalt not shun thine player's mouse

    By the same token, don't rely exclusively on the mouse. Yes, the mouse is going to be quick for configuring stuff and for navigating an unfamiliar menu. However, any game I end up playing a lot, I find myself wishing I could use the keyboard for navigation more -- I think that comes down to:

    Remember thine user-interface conventions and keep them holy

    I'm not sure there's a good technical way to do this yet, but it'd be really nice if every game didn't reinvent th

  • XI) Thou shalt not cripple games with DRM
    XII) Thou shalt allow for co-op mode in multiplayer

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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