Set Our Video Games Free
You know way back in the days of DOS we did not have drivers in the sense we have them now. Each program had to bring with it the tools to work with specific pieces of hardware. Programs as simple as a word processor had to carry printer drivers within it and use emulation modes in hopes of reaching a broader range. The result was that often when you went to choose hardware for your computer you needed to first look at what software you had so you could decide what hardware you needed to make use of it.
Enter the era of Windows and joy of joy this ended. Windows introduced a standardized driver set that made buying a printer about what the printer offered, not what programs you had. No longer did a program dictate to us our choices of the hardware we choose to run.
Today in the PC gaming world it seems we have begun to take steps backwards. All to often it seems you will see a game on a shelf that carries a sticker for a specific video chip manufacturer. In the rush to develop new software and make use of new hardware the chip makers for GPUs have stepped outside the arena of designing chips and entered the game creation market. Through the use of every from simple promotional help, game development assistance all the way to being offered money the chip makers have made their move to maker sure that when a game releases it is in someway optimized to work better with their technology than the other guys.
While these methods on the surface might seem like a good idea the repercussion they have to the consumer is something being felt more it seems each year.
You see the by product of these methods is that the standardization that was created by Direct X begins to go by the wayside in an effort to use short cuts and optimizations specifically designed to work with one companies technology.
I started my investigation into this a few weeks ago when the drama surrounding the H.A.W.X. 2 benchmark came to light. I began calling my contacts in various gaming companies and tried to get information from the two big GPU makers. While the GPUY makers where all but silent the gaming companies where willing to speak provided I did not name companies or names. This request from them alone is a sad testament to the things going on in this industry.
In the case of H.A.W.X. 2, by Ubisoft, I was able to learn that nVidia did in fact “suggest”, a polite way to say pressure, the company to release the benchmark early. This move was done for one reason to push out the benchmark in time for the competition to not be able to make driver corrections to work around optimizations put into the game.
This was not however a one sided affair. On the other end of the spectrum we see Codemasters putting out the game F1. AMD provided a lot of help with the game and at release nVidia was just getting a copy of the code finally to work around optimizations put into the game for the other side.
These are not isolated incidents and in fact have sadly become the way this industry is working. When I asked one game company about a flaw in their game that only effected AMD based cards I was told the issue was AMD did not use the same “tricks” nVidia had given the company. Why do game creators need tricks when there is a standardized method of using all the major features for graphics rendering that would work with anyone’s product well?
What this means for the consumer is that buying a video card based on just important critera such as price to performance, power consumption, heat and noise levels as well as hardware specific feature sets is not enough. We also it seems need to take into account what games and perhaps even what game makers we want to deal with. This is WRONG!
Reading the above it would be easy to be mad at the GPU makers about this but your anger would be misguided. The real culprit in this is the game makers. They have standardized tools that they can use to create the same games they put out now, why are they not using them and instead relying on the GPU makers for so much help and incentives?
Should we allow this to continue? Should we not do something to make the industry provide us products that do the job they are supposed to without us having to look at other products by brand to enjoy the first product? We could but I doubt it will happen. If we all refused to buy games optimized for one side or the other than we could make a chance take place but the simple truth it’s the game makers know they have us over a barrel and do not really care what we, the consumers would like.
Should the GPU companies spend more time making better GPUs than trying to work in game development? Well of course they should but they won’t. These moves earn them a lot of free press that they will not let go easily. The truth is we the consumers are stuck.
So the next time you go to play a game and have issues making run as good as you think it should you might want to spend less time being mad at the maker of the GPU and talking about how much it sucks and instead know that the ones that suck are the game makers that sold out of making a game truly for everyone and instead have decided to pick sides by choice or bribe in the hardware world.