Subpar PC Ports Hurt Everyone

Published: October 21, 2014 11:00 AM /


FFXIII editorial image 1

Square Enix’s announcement of the ‘Lightning Trilogy’[Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2 and Lightning Returns] coming to Steam a few months ago was cloaked in speculation and rumor until the first title in the trilogy dropped onto consumers’ laps on October 9th. Final Fantasy XIII is a grossly unoptimized port that manages to clock in at a whooping 60GB with a locked 720p resolution because of what seems to be a lazy port from the Playstation 3. For quick comparison, I took a screenshot of the Steam port and compared it to a screenshot of the same point in the PS3 version. Can you tell the difference?

FFXIII editorial PS3 shot

FFXII editorial PC shot

The second shot was from the Steam version from the game and I can’t blame you for not seeing a difference. The 60 fps performance in game, with a few hiccups, is nice, but it should be a standard for a port of a game from 2010. This lead back into the inherent issue of the lock at 720p: the looming standard of 4K. Square Enix went out of their way to show how accessible this port was to low-end consumers still with GeForce 8-Series cards and Core 2-Duo CPUs, yet they ignored future resolutions entirely? The stock game looks incredibly zoomed in full-screen mode on my 1440p monitor and the problem becomes worse on even higher resolution screens. No official patch or indication from Square Enix has come to suggest that they will address the fan concerns about the port anytime soon.

Have no fear! The PC Modding Community is here! Durante, the Dark Souls PC port modder, brought out Final Fantasy XIII compatibility in GeDoSaT up to 4K resolution within 36 hours of the game releasing onto Steam. The mod allows for dynamic resolutions, anti-aliasing and other cosmetic options unavailable in the stock version. For the purposes of my review in the coming days, I will disclose now that I used the mod from the second chapter onward. My intention with the review will be to spread awareness about the effectiveness of the mod in an effort to improve the experience of PC users playing the game both now and into the future.

Let’s take a look at all the difference the mods make:

FFXIII editorial mod image

It’s amazing what difference anti-aliasing, shadow scaling and resolution can make on a game. Granted, the mod is still in beta and these visual improvements can only do so much to mask blemishes that Final Fantasy XIII has tried its best to hide since it originally released in Japan back in 2009. Unfortunately, no amount of modding can tackle the glut of prerendered cutscenes that inflate the game’s hard drive space demands to such ridiculous levels. As it stands, the game is the first part of a trilogy and its release, as imperfect as it may be, is out of obligation. The question is whether the future holds any possibility for improvement or if another pair of lazy ports is inevitable.

The good news is that the other ‘Lightning Trilogy’ games render the cutscenes with the in-game engine to reduce production cost and, consequently, necessary data for a title. Both of these additional titles were able to fit onto a standard 360 disc, so it is pretty reasonable to project that the Steam ports of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns will be in the 12 – 15GB range. This also means that the quality of many cutscenes would drastically improve if another set of mods is rendered necessary due to an absence of PC options. Here’s the real bad news about the other games: they have a lot of DLC. For example, the true ending of XIII-2 was a $2.49 epilogue episode. Will the PC releases be treated as ‘Game of the Year’ versions with all of the DLC, apart from the cross-licensed outfits, included?

Square Enix doesn’t have to be the bad guy here. In fact, they still have more than enough time to recant indirectly for the errors of the XIII release. It is entirely within their power to approach Durante to natively mod the remaining games prior to release sometime before Spring of 2015. Alternately, they could have someone from the team responsible for the 2013 Tomb Raider PC version create the options if they want the developer from inside of the company. They have many options that will address the issue without losing face or needing to attract more attention than necessary.

All of this rambling leads into one question: who suffers the most from subpar PC ports? Everyone in the industry eventually suffers. Gamers are left with an inferior version of a game while the publishers may see high yields at first based on name only to have it dwindle due to negative word of mouth and infamy. There was the Saints Rows II port job so awful that even the modding community couldn’t fix it. Inversely, amazing ports such as Devil May Cry IV and Alan Wake are favorites of Steam sales to this day thanks to their reputation. Given their age and Capcom’s failed reboot of the former title, it is pretty reasonable to argue that a strong PC port can endure the test of time better than a hackneyed cash-grab based on the title alone.

Rumors broke out on Reddit last night concerning one Ubisoft engineer’s statements regarding company policies towards PC as a platform. Discussing what has been alleged before solid evidence is presented to confirm the situation would not be reasonable. Rather, it would be more effective to regale my experience with the game Watch_Dogs. Who could forget that initial 2012 reveal trailer? That game became the poster boy of the next generation of games in the blink of an eye. I purchased my current graphics card just as Watch_Dogs was being cycled into the Nvidia game promotion, which gave me the opportunity to see if my card could come anywhere near the E3 presentation. Nope. TheWorse mod unlocks advanced rain and other environmental features that bring the game closer to what was originally shown. It just begs so many questions since the majority of the mod’s fixes simply revealed content hidden in the game.

Someone shopping for PC parts gets the impression that Ubisoft is trying to play both sides of the fence at the risk of looking like a ninny. My motherboard came with an Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag code for some reason; now, a few months later, ‘parity’ has people wondering if Unity on the PC will be stuck at 900p/30fps. A company can’t act in a way to appease the crowd that is obsessed with hardware one month and then claim to have the capacity to make Far Cry 4 run the equivalent of PC ‘Ultra High spec’ on the PS4 and Xbox One without looking suspicious. They attempt to catch everyone with the same net unable to see the imperfections developing over time in this strategy.

I invite Square Enix and Ubisoft to contact me via the administrator if they wish to offer a counterpoint.

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I'm a contributor to the tech and gaming sections here on TechRaptor. I hold a B.A in English from University of California at Davis.

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