View From the Road

A View From the Road: Unreasonably Dedicated

John Funk | 9 Nov 2009 17:00
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I'm going to take a short break from just writing about MMOGs to talk about PC gaming as a whole, so bear with me for this week's column, all right?

As a youth way back in the early '90s, my very first games were on the PC - educational titles like Ancient Empires and Operation Neptune. When I was a bit older, I played Myst and Rebel Assault, Warcraft II, and Silent Death Online. Though I also played on consoles, I still kept on returning to my mouse and keyboard, and these days still spend more time gaming on my built-from-scratch computer than on either my 360 or my PS3. There's no ambiguity about it: I consider myself a PC gamer.

So I'd just like you to keep that in mind when I say this: PC gamers need to ditch the attitude and sense of entitlement. We need to get over ourselves.

You may surmise that this comes in reaction to the furor surrounding the revelation that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would not be supporting dedicated servers for PC multiplayer, as well as the similar (though less fervent) backlash when PC auteur John Carmack announced that id's upcoming Rage wouldn't, either. If you are, then congratulations, give yourself a gold star, because you're completely correct.

I suppose I ought to qualify that statement, shouldn't I? Don't get me wrong, I do understand why some PC gamers are upset over the lack of dedicated server support. There are some very valid arguments as to why dedicated servers are superior to a peer-to-peer connection, and I think that presenting those arguments to Infinity Ward reasonably and politely is certainly something that the PC community should be doing. To be disappointed over the removal of features from a game is natural, and I certainly don't begrudge anybody that.

What I don't understand - and what frankly has made me increasingly ashamed to call myself a PC gamer over the last few weeks - is the attitude. There is what seems to be a strong current of entitlement beneath it all, and the message from many of the protesters is clear: We deserve something above and beyond the call of duty (har har har) because we are PC gamers, and our platform of choice is special. In other words, "You owe us, Infinity Ward."

The attitude and sense of entitlement was neatly summed up in the anger surrounding the response to a question asked in a developer chat hosted by Best Buy. When asked if MW2 for the PC was a direct port of the console version, Infinity Ward's Mackey McCandlish responded that it wasn't, since the PC version would have things not supported by the PS3 and Xbox 360 games: graphics customization, text chat, and mouse & keyboard control. Is that the barest of bare-bones upgrades? Sure it is. Does it give the game flexibility that consoles lack and (arguable) superiority over its console brethren? You bet your ass it does.

That's what really gets me. If I were to pick up MW2 for the PC instead of for either of my consoles, I would probably be getting the best version - or at least, the version tailored to my specific preferences. I would be controlling it with a gaming mouse and keyboard (keys bound just the way I like them, of course), which has always felt to me more natural than a gamepad FPS. I would be running it at a gorgeous high resolution with graphics cranked to maximum. I would have a powerful gaming headset and microphone that are much better than the dinky little thing that comes with the 360.

The first Modern Warfare sold well on the PC, but it sold better on consoles - and didn't have piracy levels that IW community rep Robert Bowling said "[blew] me away" - so what possible reason would the developers ever have to give their console audience a clearly inferior MW2?

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