One of the most dreaded words in PC gaming…PORT. Port, a reference to a game whose target platform and design basis were meant for the console and then ‘transported’ over to the PC. A game whose graphical, processing and control scheme were designed for the limited abilities of the console and then package into a version for play on the computer. Port, a game that does not fully take advantage of the graphical, processing and advance control abilities of even the average computer gaming rig.
The underlying and most hurtful reason this term is so frightening to a computer gamer is because some of the greatest franchises of computer gaming past have eventually become a CPU port rather than CPU focused. Franchises that were developed on the computer, played, moded and improved by the computer gaming community changed focus and dumb themselves down for the consoles.
A topical franchise that has gone through this transition is Bethesda’s (originally a CPU focused developer) The Elder Scrolls series. Prior to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion this game series started and grew out of the computer gaming community. From its first iteration The Elder Scrolls: Arena, in 1994, up to The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon and its expansions, The Elder Scrolls series was about freedom of choice and exploration. It was also about listening to the gaming community and incorporating mods into new games in the series, a virtual evolution. The focus on the computer gaming community changed with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when Bethesda focused on tapping into the console money pot and putting those who got it there (PC gamers) on the armored horses backside.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had to dumb down its graphics and AI, lower the onscreen animations and later, gouge its players for extras that should have been included in its original release (see above). Needless to say it left a bitter taste in the CPU players’ mouths, like they had just eaten a mud crab they found by the lake – bland, brown and lifeless.
The newest game to this franchise is scheduled to release on a marketer’s day of delight, 11/11/11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was looking pretty and hopes were high that Bethesda was looking to come back to its roots of the PC. The developer was even talking about improvements made that were moded into Oblivion (i.e. improved archery, improved NPC AI). Then there was E3, then there was Skyrim’s lead producer Craig Lafferty, then there was this interview…
Rich McCormick’s comments below the video on www.pcgamer.com makes some solid points that still gives me hope for a good game but perhaps doesn’t quite squash my port concerns.
“Skyrim’s still looking really good, and will take as long to finish as the PC RPG classics of yore. And, as Lafferty says in the interview, Bethesda are ‘still really big on the ‘go where you want’, play how you want from the very beginning’.”
Hopefully Bethesda hears our ‘Dragon Shouts’ and pays heed to its CPU roots while still tapping into the console’s dragon hoard.