Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Partially Irrelevant Ranting

Non-Doomers often ask us why we still love this game that's quite nearly two decades old. It doesn't even contain 3D models!

Today I was reminded of one such reason.

The few of you who read the blog here regularly also know of my minor works, mainly companion system add-on characters, for the Gamebryo games by Bethesda such as Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Today I was following the comments thread for the NCCS companion system and the course of one player's attempt to get the mod (and apparently the rest of his game) working properly. As I kept tabs on that situation several bits of information I have learned over the past couple of years suddenly coalesced to become an epiphany of sorts and urged me to write this post, to voice my agreement with a suspicion that my friend and fellow modder Nos has been voicing for quite some time now.

Why the hell must new games be so damned difficult to get running properly? Do the developers do this intentionally, perhaps for job security since they will need to produce several updates to fix the bugs that they've left in the initial releases of their games? This wouldn't be so suspicious except that it seems to apply to every PC video game released over the past decade, thus making the conspiracy quite obvious to me.

Furthermore, what the hell is up with Windows 7 and Vista? I have yet to come across a new game that is totally compatible with what I am led to believe are the most popular and most commonly used operating systems for home computers. New games must be installed to subversive alternate HD locations other than where their installers would like to automatically put them so they can not only hopefully stay hidden from UAC and whatever other ridiculously anal security programs are automatically viewing the game as a threat, but also to retain the ability to successfully utilize even the simplest of mods. Most of the time the covert operations involved in getting games to run on Windows 7 are more complex and time-consuming than the games themselves.

And don't even get me started on DRM and fucking Steam...

So I ask you, my dear readers and fellow gamers and modders, what ever happened to the good ol' days of Windows XP and the Doom Collector's Edition, the days when I could drop the CD into the drive and in just a minute or two the entire game would be installed, after which a single click of an icon would launch my favorite game and I could play it for hours or even days without a single crash or any other ridiculous issue to hinder my enjoyment of it?

At some point I must've blinked or something, because now everything is different. Now games are a major pain in the ass more often than they are actually enjoyable.

My point quite simply is this: even when using an advanced OpenGL sourceport like GZDoom, the classic Doom games are still among the few on my computer that will run with but a click of an icon, load immediately and run indefinitely until I choose to exit the program. No need for a degree in computer programming to install it, no need to spend the next two years downloading updates that are supposed to make it work properly.

But its simplicity and reliable stability are just two of the reasons why I still love this enduring classic...

...but I'll save the others for other posts...


  1. One reason is they're trying to kill the second hand market for games. Hence all the shenanigans (been waiting ages to use that word) with DRM and so on.

    Another is that source ports and other engine replacements are done by fans who aren't going to put up with game breaking or crashing bugs in their code.

    BTW, it's amazing how many source ports there are, I'm impressed by the devs who make it possible.

  2. Short answer? Modern developers market shitty, half-finished titles for the same reason a dog licks himself: they can. People will still buy it.

    Longer answer? In the days of antiquity when games like DOOM ruled the wilds of the computer gaming landscape, you couldn't get away with selling a half-done game. The community was small, and made up of people who knew what they were doing with a computer -- remember, kids at home: in the pre-Windows gaming days, you had to know your computer to play a game. If you wanted sound? Tell the game the IRQ, DMA, and Hex address of your sound card. Game port for a joystick? Better know that IRQ, too. "Plug and play" was called the NES, and they didn't have anything so cool as an FPS where you got to shoot demons in the face with a shotgun. Because of the small, specialized market; game companies had to make something that worked, or they'd get roasted in the BBS's and sales would tank.

    As well, this was also pre-internet, so patching required mailing out disks (yes, with a K, and not a C -- I'm sure the Smithsonian has some on display if anyone is that curious). Since mailing disks took money and time, it was not a popular option.

    And to play Devil's Advocate for a second: things were simpler then in hardware, too. What were there, four PC manufacturers in 1994? IBM, Packard Hell, Acer... and I can't think of a fourth. Less than a half dozen capable video chipsets, one version of Windows to support at a time, and a fairly narrow range of specs.

    I mean, look at video cards alone, now. Yeah, there's only two chipset manufacturers... but they each have more than a dozen specific chipsets; hundreds of incremental versions of drivers; how many different, shoddily-constructed DirectX environments, now?

    Hey, I'm not defending game devs -- I think they suck most of the time, too -- but it's a pretty rough world to make a "works out of the box" program in.

    Plus, you have to remember the publisher. Devs may want to make it work (I personally doubt this, but they claim they do...) but if they've got a representative of the multinational corporation who owns their studio standing on a desk cracking a whip and demanding the game be done in time for [inset gift buying holiday here!] or your asses are all fired and you can kiss your benefits goodbye! Well, corners is gonna get cut someplace.

    I think most of the problems with new games and programs can be traced to the worship of the almighty buck; and artificially speeding up production or dumbing down specs to "appeal to a wider audience".

  3. As far as the Doom community has come, recording demos in PrBoom-Plus remains as archaic a procedure as ever. That said, as a consequence of playtesting with FDAs I've memorized the command line variable for that sort of thing. I still have to run some of the more archaic WAD install programs in DOSbox regardless, since 64-bit is too cool to run them.

  4. Well yes, greed and laziness are also major factors but I was in a good mood and didn't want to start ranting :)

  5. The more complex the system, the more easily it fucks up.

  6. "The more complex the system, the more easily it fucks up."


    "Another is that source ports and other engine replacements are done by fans who aren't going to put up with game breaking or crashing bugs in their code."

    ^and THIS.

    I totally agree.

  7. Oh, fine. Everyone take the high road, I see how it is.

  8. "Do the developers do this intentionally, perhaps for job security since they will need to produce several updates to fix the bugs that they've left in the initial releases of their games?"

    ^That was me agreeing with you as well, Good Sir.

  9. @Nos: As I said, greed and laziness are major factors too, I just wasn't in the mood to give that the rant it deserved :)