Requirements Not Met

  By Shamus   Aug 28, 2008   40 comments

I am uncharacteristically at a loss for words at the moment, but I can’t bear to send you away empty handed. So check this out: Requirements Not Met, the first of what I hope will be a series of posts that look at what games look like at the minimum visual settings.

Game companies often release screenshots that are more or less fiction. They crank up the visuals and the resolution to the point where the game would be unplayable even on high-end machines, and then they offer up these images as if they were examples of what the game will look like for the average user. It’s stupid and dishonest and everyone knows it and they do it anyway. Releasing comedic screenshots of the game at the other end of the quality spectrum is a perfectly reasonable response to this.

(And yes, I realize the absurdity of claiming to be at a loss for words at the top of a hundred and sixty five word post.)

202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)


  1. I realize the absurdity of claiming to be at a loss for words at the top of a hundred and sixty five word post.

    Don’t sweat it, I do this all the time…

    This is interesting, I’m bookmarking!

  2. ima420r says:

    That’s great. I can barely play some of the newer games, let alone with all the settings turned up. It’d be nice to see what the game will look like for me with my 3 y o PC (which is already outdated).

  3. Yikes, Weasel’s been Twenty Sided. :o

    ’twas a fun read, indeed. What I find laughable is that oftentimes new games look worse than old games when you crank the details down, then don’t play well on top of that. I can’t remember exactly what game it was, but I remember seeing a friend of mine play a newer game on his aging system that looked far worse and played far choppily than most of his older ones.

  4. ThaneofFife says:

    For those that didn’t read the comments on RMN, they’re somewhat amusing. Apparently Shamus has become a mafia-style figure to some… ;-D

  5. cliffski says:

    One company I worked for demoed their game at E3 using an overclocked brand new top spec PC with the case open and a large desk fan blasting at it to stop it overheating and melting.
    Bit sad that people writing about the game didn’t comment on that in the previews…

  6. asterismW says:

    I echo Anonymous’ comment on RNM (I’d post this over there, but I can’t from work): I’d like to see side-by-side comparisons of screenshots from the publisher and “real life” screenshots. That would make far more of a statement than just “these suck.” I’m not a gamer, so I don’t know how wicked cool the graphics are supposed to be. Honestly, besides the odd artifacts, I didn’t think the screenshots looked that bad.

  7. Kevin says:

    Makes me wish I wrote games just so I could more intelligently belittle them! LOL!

    However, I gotta get me one of them god-supplied graphics cards!

    Seriously though… I think it would be awesome if a collection of gamers started a website where they showed movies of new games on settings that were realistic for most people’s systems, and advertised the hell out of it. I’d run an ad for free on my site for something like that.

  8. eloj says:

    While I think the idea is good, that wasn’t a particularly good game to start the series with IMO. “Medal of Honor” was never, from what I can remember (and that’s the problem, I shouldn’t have to remember that far back), a resource hungry game to begin with, and isn’t the purpose to make fun of games with high requirements vis-a-vis realistic requirements?

    Anyhow, if anything, that game should get blasted for being too scripted which destroyed it completely [for me].

    Also, the article should state what the minimum and recommended requirements actually are. Maybe some of those high-end shots too, for comparison? Else, what are they actually making fun of? That old games that provided the option to dial down their settings look like crap eight years later? Big surprise.

    I recently installed Operation Flashpoint on my new 3GHz dual-core system with 8GiB of memory, and after having been informed by the installer that I didn’t have enough memory (because its 32 bit integer overflowed) the game looked like crap with me turning everything up all the way (and still getting 100s of frames per second).

    So while this practice of always showing the most amazing shots is transparently lame, I’m glad games provide the options, not only to dial it down to ugliness, but to dial it up far beyond what current generation technology can handle. (You should see the light maps in OPF, you just gotta laugh about it)

    Unfortunately, game designers are actually careful with providing higher-than-you-can-handle settings from within the game, because they know that there are some gamers (a vocal minority) who always expect to be able to play with all settings on EXTREME no matter what, and when they can’t they’ll loudly declare that the game was programmed by teh fags and is teh gay.

    Okay, tangent. Carry on.

  9. Kel'Thuzad says:

    It sounds like quite a fine idea.

    My school blocks the pictures, so I’ll examine it in-depth once I get home.

  10. Martin says:

    Oh come on now, those particles coming out of that 15″ monitor are ACE!

  11. FhnuZoag says:

    I can’t quite remember which, but there’s an UK magazine that does this. Not for everything, but they did for, e.g. Crysis. Might be PC Zone, or PC Gamer. Something like that.

  12. Shamus says:

    Wow. Just read the comments over there. I have apparently become so dangerous that the mere existence of a link to my site will upset the fanboys. Awesome.

    I agree: A good side-by side of min/mix shots, along with min/max requirements, will put it into perspective. (Although, it’s also more work.)

    I agree with Kevin: A site that shows what the game will REALLY look like would be really useful. The screenshots on the average box are like beer goggles: We see all these sexy images, and only later do we realize we’ve brought home another hideous beast.

  13. Carra says:

    Of course you’re gonna show screenshots of the game looking the best it can. What kind of marketeer would you be if you wouldn’t? And if the game does look hideous, take some screenshots of the cinematics.

    I suppose everyone know that their game won’t look as great as in the magazines… It’s common knowledge. Worse then not looking as good is being unplayable. I remember having the minimum requirements for age of kings. Sure, it ran… Except that a multiplayer game with 2 guys would down my framerate to 5 fps. In multiplayer games each player could have 200 little fellas, in single player 75. So yeah, while the single player did work, the multiplayer was horrible. And you could play with up to 8 players, you can imagine how that works on the min requirements. No notice on the box though.

    I did think of the same idea as Kevin, create a site that shows pictures or movies of games on lesser systems. At least then you’d know just what you’d see on your own, mortal pc.

  14. Strangeite says:

    Hey Don. So what is the name of our “family”?

  15. wildweasel says:

    I am taking this feedback into consideration; leaving out the actual system requirements was an oversight on my part as I did actually intend on putting them in the post somewhere. For future articles, there actually will be comparison screenshots between low and max detail levels. And I will not just be covering any random game for the series, I’m going to focus specifically on the games whose playability or immersion is seriously damaged by the loss of detail (common suggestions in the RNM comments thread have been Crysis and Oblivion).

    Thanks to Shamus for linking me, and thanks to everybody else for being a good sport about it (aside from “hardeware minded” who is evidently mistaking you for Vito Corleone).

  16. empty_other says:

    Even better than min and max… Min, max AND developer settings; the screenshots “leaked onto the net” to get the crowd going insane pre-release. Seriously, some of those games even on max settings on max and the best machine running it, never reaces up to what they show in the magazines. An example: Age of Conan.
    But then again, AoC screenshots was done using DX10 for the developers, while the realesed AoC didnt support DX10.

  17. Rubes says:

    I agree with elog…nice idea, implementation could have been a little better.

  18. Steve C says:

    I wonder if releasing screenshots that are not possible with the shipped game is deceptive marketing, aka bait and switch. If it is, it’s illegal.

    Not like it matters to me, I’ve long since given up on PC gaming entirely because of the issues raised by Requirements Not Met. The only game I play that was released this millennium is World of Warcraft. I was burned so hard on the original Baldur’s Gate being laggy and crashing repeatedly that I never bought another game.

  19. eloj says:

    Me a bit sad that you gave up on one of the seminal CRPGs because your hardware/drivers sucked.

    BG had and has its share of problems (most of them related to restrictions/bugs due to the horrible monster that is BGScript), but it isn’t an inherently unstable game, in fact, considering the thousands who have spent literally hundreds of hours playing it (me included), I’ll rate it as extremely stable. And it continues to play well on modern machines (though I guess networking can be a bit broken because it built on DirectPlay which was kind of… abandoned since)

    Most issues with BG were with buggy sound drivers (also known as ‘please reduce acceleration in directx control panel) and some buggy graphics drivers (mouse pointer leaving trails).

    Wait, this means you never played PS:T? Holy. Crap.

  20. Dihydrogen says:

    I’d agree with the oblivion suggestion wildweasel, as someone who had to play that game on minimum and could not see anything more than ten feet away. Crysis on minimum would be hard to screenshot as the biggest loss is the lack of physics. All you would see is the HUD is in desperate need for anti-aliasing and that there is no lighting. Although, I own both games and I could take some pictures for you if you want.

  21. Nixorbo says:

    First comment in the aforementioned link:

    Please don’t link to Shamus’s site again, post your game bashin at gamespot or some such place where the young folk can lol at it or whatever they do now.

    Lol.

  22. Poet says:

    Wow. I’ve heard of people being pissed at links to their own blogs or webpages, but never someone flipping at what really has nothing to do with them at all. That’s humerous on many levels.
    Also: Good find. I’d never even noticed the option to kill hand/arm rendering before, that makes the game almost spooky.

  23. hardware minded says:

    Well now. Glad to be a source of enjoyment over here. I was simply pointing out that he was a little presumptuous to advertise his post in a comment section that had nothing to do with what Shamus was posting. For the most part Shamus has a site/blog here that is very upstanding and rather professional and free of the normal mad web of links and screaming drama whores that most of the blogging scene contains.

    I would like to add that I also discussed his subject matter and wish him luck. Even he admitted that he should have sent this to Shamus to advertise if he wished.

    Sorry for my defense of a corner of the web that is highly enjoyable to read and relatively free of immature scribblings.

  24. Strangeite says:

    hardware minded: I also appreciate the oasis that is twentysidedtale; but, allow me to offer you a little piece of advice. When trying to protect the things you love, it is best not to become the very thing you are fighting against.

  25. Viktor says:

    That’s very Zen of you. I, personally, find it more fun to go to the havens of immature squabbling, and become so much worse than them that even the idiots take notice. It rarely works, but there is something satisfying in living under a bridge used by trolls on their way to the bridge. ;)

  26. capital L says:

    “Wow. Just read the comments over there. I have apparently become so dangerous that the mere existence of a link to my site will upset the fanboys. Awesome.”

    I think you misinterpreted the situation: it seemed that it was Shamus fanboys who were giving the blogger grief for having the sheer temerity to link to his blog in a comment on your blog. Not really as awesome, but still pretty funny. I’m glad you linked back to his post, which pretty much drops a train of STFU on such silly complaints.

  27. hardware minded says:

    Capital L

    Actually it was just me, no grief was had, and I gave him Shamus’s email to contact him about getting a legitimate bump instead of advertising in a comment.

    We actually went on and discussed his future projects and ways of achieving the goals. I believe that is far from grief. My opening post was a lil’ on the snarky side because I thought he was just shamefully trying to steal hits and I apologized for the harshness of my opener.

    By an by, my opening statement had only 2 sentences that had anything to do with his linking, the entirety of the rest was discussing what he was attempting.

  28. GAZZA says:

    While I understand the sentiment, Shamus is a big boy. 37, in fact, I believe…

  29. strangeite says:

    Viktor: Thank you. I laughed out loud at the visual image of a couple of trolls on their way to work complaining about the damn human as they approach the bridge.

  30. Shamus says:

    Bah. This thread has way too much angst. Bring on more of the horrific videogame screenshots!

  31. qrter says:

    Apparently you are the one making the internet a bit angsty, Don Shamus.. ;)

  32. RichardB says:

    We’re not alone: Stardock and Gas Powered Games have just published the Gamer’s Bill of Rights in Edge Online.

  33. GuiguiBob80 says:

    When I read a blog of one of the devlopper on Sins of a solar empire said they could have animated the turrets and added graphics for the higher end but they wanted to target the largest number of client possible (never a bad business decision)

    Every time I hear some Pc developper saying piracy is killing PC Gaming I tell myself that what is killing PC gaming is that nobody with business grade PC can play their games. The Witcher would have been greater if they had left graphics to slightly improved Aurora engine NWN level. As it was on my machine it was deep down in the bowel of the uncanny valley. That was the last game I got burned on. Now I’m only buying adventure games and strategy games for PC ergo games not available on consoles.

  34. Blackbird71 says:

    Well, I read the article, and can’t really say I’m impressed. Running an older game on a newer system with all the game’s graphics settings turned down low really doesn’t tell you anything other than “lowest graphic settings look bad,” which anyone with any computer gaming experience coudl have told you.

    What would be much more informative (and more true to the article title) would be to run newer games on systems that actually only barely meet the system requirements, and to report on what the game looks like and runs like under those circumstances. After all, these are supposed to be the minimum acceptable specs at which the game can be run, shouldn’t that mean that at or above these minimums, the game should run smoothly, and only below these levels does it have problems? If you can effectively illustrate that a game’s “minimum requirements” are not enough to actually run the game without losing more than image quality, then I think you’ve got something. Otherwise, if the articles are just going to be more of “let’s see how ugly we can make this game look,” then it’s just another amusing but pointless time-waster.

  35. Factoid says:

    Late post: But does anyone else remember when all you had to do to know if your computer could play a game was look at the box and see “Requires 386 or better to play”. That was simple. If you had a 286 you couldn’t play, and if you had a 486 you were going to get exactly the same experience as the guy with the 386.

    Of course to play that same game now you need a DOS emulator that can actually slow down your CPU cycles because your computer is TOO fast…but I’ll forgive them for not knowing how fast computers would be in 20 years.

  36. Derek K says:

    “What would be much more informative (and more true to the article title) would be to run newer games on systems that actually only barely meet the system requirements, and to report on what the game looks like and runs like under those circumstances.”

    Also my thought. The screenshots are amusing, but to me they say “When you lower everything, the game doesn’t look very good.” ;)

    I’d like to see highest rez, lowest rez, and then minimum specs (possibly recommended too). Course, that requires a lot of computers. ;)

    And what does it say about me that I didn’t really mind any of the shots? I guess I’ve gotten over caring about graphics. ;)

  37. Illiterate says:

    The way those faces look, I do have to wonder if the sheer monstrosity of them is a result of graphics modeling designed to produce expressive faces.

    You create one layer with the bare meat, and then another layer that makes eyebrows, lips, cheeks, little things that make small movements and turn a pixel into a person.

    Turning off that “extra layer” with laughable results is hardly the fault of the devs. They would have had to create a second set of models with static faces to display for people with the lower graphics, and probably have to solve different problems integrating those second models into the interface.

  38. eloj says:

    Factoid, you must have very rosy glasses on. I remember that time as a little hell, with some program needing huge amounts of ‘lower memory’ free, some wanting XMS, some not running with EMS, or needing EMS and on and on. Also, I remember not being able to run Wing Commander because my 386 was too slow! Sure, it didn’t LOOK any different from the screenshots, but it was slooooow in big battles.

  39. Sitte says:

    Agree or disagree:

    Most games can run smoothly on a system with their minimum requirements, PROVIDED that the operator has an intricate understanding of their machine and is able to allocate most of the memory and cpu to the game.

    Thoughts?

  40. Mari says:

    Couple of things. First, Factiod, you’re not wearing rosy glasses. I remember those days as well. Maybe it was a little more specific than that sometimes (for instance 386 DX, not a 386 SX) but it still wasn’t all that complicated.

    Second, the Gamer’s Bill of Rights that RichardB linked to is pretty awesome. I’m not holding my breath to see it catch on any time soon, but it’s a great idea.

    As to the discussion of reviewing games at minimum system requirements, it’s funny that should come up today. The hubs and I were just talking about throwing out about 1 metric ton of scrap metal masquerading as spare hardware because what the heck are we ever going to do with Pentium 1 parts? Maybe you guys have provided the answer.

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