Oswald Rant: In with the Mod Crowd

For those who pick up or receive a copy of PC Gamer each month, you are quite familiar with the Opinions Section, where individual contributors give their opinions on a wide range of subjects from modifications and 3D action gaming to sports, RPGs, war games and simulators. While my attention is usually focused on the columns titled Extended Play and The Killing Box, dealing with mods and 3D action gaming, I was caught a bit by surprise at the sports opinion this week in The Point After dubbed Specification Shock.

What draws most gamers to any game or mod released? Usually it is the astounding graphics. Hell, we saw a 30 second clip of Doom3 and people think it is going to be the best game ever from id Software. It might will be. When it comes to gamers, “a sizable percentage of the PC’s in people’s homes aren’t capable of playing many of today’s games” says Rob Smolka, contributor to The Extra Point and this article. We really don’t care much about this group of gamers, since their systems are “old school” Pentiums which run Word and can access the Internet and when feeling very wild a game of Solitaire or Mine Sweeper.

The next group “shelled out $2000-$3000 for a brand-new system and think it’s preposterous that they should have to spend even more money just to keep up with the time.” This is obvious are large groups and most fall under this group when it comes to gaming. Their systems are modest machines running a 300MHz processor and a low end graphics card. Gaming is possible, but without many of the details which games like Quake III were design with. Target audience? A larger group, whom are interested in gaming, some of whom might make the jump to the next group.

Finally you have the hard core gamer, “the demographic what makes up the actual market for PC games.” Most of these gamers are up with technology, while they may not have a top end system, the can run a vast majority of the software titles without any problem. “Many people in this group aren’t afraid to spend a little money to improve their system” says Rob. This statement could not be more to the point and is driven by Moore’s Law. Nowhere is this more evident than in the graphics industry, where it is tenfold!

If this is our intended “target audience” why do we bother with such low system requirements? The system requirements for Quake III are extremely low; Pentium 233MHz, Pentium II 266MHz or AMD 350MHz K6-2, 3D hardware video card with OpenGL, 64MB RAM, 25MB hard disk space and a quad speed CD-ROM drive. Are you kidding me? Mods should look much higher then just the minimum system requirements. Can development teams afford to do that?

Rob says, “If you give us a good reason to upgrade our systems, we’ll be happy to do it [talking about sports gamers].” But I feel this applies to any computer gaming genre, including first person shooters, like Quake III and Unreal Tournament. If the developers or mod teams create a quality product, gamers would be more willing to accept and support it. Usually that means a hardware upgrade or in terms of mods, purchasing a game like Quake III to play many of the amateur developed mods such as Rocket Arena 3 and Urban Terror.

Silicon Ice Development has been working from the development point of making Urban Terror playable for anyone with Quake III. We have heard many comments like, “I bought Quake III just for Urban Terror” or “Your mod made me dust off my copy of Quake III.” This is a good thing, more people are aware mods are there and free for the taking. Once they see the level of quality, they will think about increasing their system specs. “Think of the incredible games that could be made with a minimal system requirement of a PIII 600 with 128MB RAM and a GeForce-level video card.” That is what I am talking about, like it or not that is the direction gaming is heading.

With new software on the horizon using the most advanced hardware on the market. Even now with the newly released Tribes 2 as an example we are seeing, Low End, Recommended and High End system requirements. 1GHz processor, Voodoo4/5 or GeForce 2 GTS. How’s that for “high end specs?” Get used to seeing these type of requirements when you go to buy your next game. This will mean mod development teams will have their work cut out for them. But that should increase the overall quality of the game, which in the end is the best result.

Thanks to TheSorus for bring this article in PCGamer to my attention and Rob Smolka for giving some good information. It all makes sense.

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