22 July 2023

Let's Talk about System Requirements...

Everyone and their mother, cousin, friend, associate, partner, and long-lost relation has had strong opinions on System Requirements.. Hell, I'm right there with them! We all want detailed listings of settings combined with PC hardware... However, as a group, I think we are a bit too happy when developers give us more than nothing to work with.

So, I want to set the record straight on what are good system requirements for games... and I hope that some developers see this and take the advice on board.

Oh, Fantasy free me...

Let's get this out of the way - the Ratchet and Clank system requirements "sheet" is pretty much one of the best styles of sheets that we have historically seen in the industry. That's already above and beyond what is considered acceptable due to the relative rarity of such a detailed indication from the developers and publishers on their game.

We need these tiered listings: Minimum, Recommended, High and... ugh, "Amazing"(?) Ray tracing, and "Ultimate" Ray tracing...(?)

Okay, maybe the last two are a bit much. Personally, I think the Dying Light 2 system requirements were a better shout:

Simple: RT off and RT on - minimum and recommended...

You can't get more simple than that - What is required for the minimum acceptable experience with and without raytracing enabled. The contrast between this and other requirements also highlights the subjective nature of the system requirements provided by many developers:
What IS high? What IS ultra? Aside from the play on words (because Spider-man); What IS Amazing?!
People were happy with the Ratchet system requirements above but they are just as subjective as any other, considerably worse, requirements given out by development houses in prior years. The only thing it has going for it is that it outlines its biases.

So, after all this barely literate criticism, what would be good system requirements (IMHO, of course)...

Spaced out on Sensation...

Let's face it. There are two reasons you even bother checking out any game's system requirements listings:
  1. You're curious about what it takes to run the game in comparison to other games.
  2. You're not sure how the game will run on your PC system.
That's it! That's all that there is to know about people who are looking at these things: are you morbidly, slightly obsessively curious... or are you wanting to play this game but thinking that you can't?

Seriosuly, that's why Steam just has minimum and recommended requirements - that's all it takes! 

So, all these multi-layered fancy-pancy requirement listings are just hardware masturbation. Yep, that's all they are - it's an exercise in performing auto-fallatio as a consumer to see whether you meet whatever standard you present yourself as associating with.

Quite frankly, that's not really that valuable to the community.

So, let me tell you what actually good requirements would look like:
  1. Resolution-based
  2. Quality setting-based
  3. Er, oh, that's it. Quite simple wasn't it!
But somehow no one appears to be able to handle this! Even the much-vaunted Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Minimum is at 720p with low settings, Recommended is at 1080p with medium settings, High is at 1440p high settings... I... how is this useful? It's easy to scale hardware performance between the same resolution at different quality settings. Many humans do this all the time. Similarly, it't easy to scale the expected performance of differing resolutions at the same quality setting.. but to scale both at the same time? It leaves the consumer without a static axis - there are too many variables to take into account in the equation!!

Here's my CRAZY idea: What if we ditched qualitative reasoning in presenting these system requirements?

This is what that would look like:

  • Minimum Requirements: Hardware to run the game at a resolution, low settings, at a specific fps. (This was already fine!)
  • 1080p Medium: Hardware to run the game at 1080p medium, at a specific fps.
  • 1440p Medium: Hardware to run the game at 1440p medium, at a specific fps.
  • 4K Medium: Hardware to run the game at 4K medium, at a specific fps.
  • Max Requirements: Hardware to run the game maxed-out!, at a specific fps.

This is all we need! Sure, throw in advice about upscaling tech, etc. The important thing is that we know what it takes to run the game at minimum and maxed-out. Then, we know what it takes for the a quality setting that is constant between the various resolutions. We, as consumers, can extrapolate from that information! Where my specific hardware might fall...

Returnal's System Requirements were much the same... though maybe slightly better.

Voyeuristic Intention...

I really have the feeling that even these "improved" requirements we've been seeing as essentially useless for consumers. We don't need subjective adjectives like 'Epic' or 'Amazing', we need defined variables like resolution and expected frames per second. Unfortunately, most people in the critical part of the industry have only been calling for more description, instead of standardisation and I believe that the latter is what we actually require...

1 comment:

fybyfyby said...

It depends. Now when there are several valid resolutions (1080p, 1440p, 4K or 2180p) two groups of fps vs quality preference (max fps with lower quality / res, at least 30 fps with highest quality possible) and even option to turn on RT + variations with dlss and fsr, which not all people use.....
Its so hard to recommend spec for game.

Now much more people hunt for fps. But also lot of people need quality....