Arkham Knight PC Game Arrives Just In Time To Demonstrate Why Steam Needed Refunds

from the port-density dept

When Steam announced its new refund policy, the timing was, perhaps, unfortunate in terms of gauging the response to the new policy. See, the new refund program came on the heels of a similarly new attempt by Steam to offer a platform for modders to charge for mods, which caused a nearly universal backlash from the gamer customers. With that fresh in everyone’s mind, it was disheartening to watch some game developers, particularly those on the indie side, criticize and worry over Steam having an actual refund policy for digital games. Not that every last bit of the concern was unwarranted, mind you, it’s just that the idea of Steam having essentially zero refund policy was one of those things that sounded like it couldn’t even be true, so any adoption of refunds was going to be a win for consumers. Still, the focus of gaming companies appeared to be on how horrible it all was for them, rather than understanding the legitimate reasons why a customer might seek a refund.

Here to helpfully demonstrate the why is Warner Bros. and its PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight, which is beginning to look like it was designed to be a very prominent middle finger to PC gamers. In case you haven’t kept up on what a complete mess the PC version of the game is, all you need to know is that WB’s own instructions on how to play it and what’s required for minimal settings will have you blinking in surprise. Here’s how WB says you should run the game on a minimum system:

Resolution: 1280×720
V-Sync: Off
Anti-Aliasing: Off
Texture Resolution: Low
Shadow Quality: Low
Level of Detail: Low
Interactive Smoke/Fog: Off
Interactive Paper Debris: Off
Enhanced Rain: Off
Enhanced Light Shafts: Off

So, 720p and everything off or low on the details. Okay, that’s how you’d typically go about reducing the load on a minimum machine, fine. So what’s the now-recommended minimum from WB?

OS: Win 7 SP1, Win 8.1 (64-bit Operating System Required)
Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom II X4 965, 3.4 GHz
Memory: 6 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 (2 GB Memory Minimum) | AMD Radeon HD 7950 (3 GB Memory Minimum)
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection required
Hard Drive: 45 GB available space

Look, I don’t want to get into some war with the community over what a modern day gaming machine should look like, but that isn’t a minimum system by any standard. Not that this is the first game that doesn’t run on a decent modern machine (screw you, NBA2K15), but none of this was expected by gamers or WB, which is why they’ve been promising a patch ever since the port hit the market and everyone started freaking out. But there’s no timeline on that patch, of course, and in the meantime the company is essentially suggesting that you better have a better-than-average rig to even run this game at the minimum specs. But even then…

With these settings on Min Spec AMD GPU’s, users can expect some minor texture pops, occasional loading symbols during fast-paced scenarios, and some hitches & stuttering when gliding or driving the Batmobile. With these settings on Rec Spec AMD GPUs, users can expect some minor texture pops, occasional loading symbols during fast-paced scenarios, and some hitches & stuttering when gliding or driving the Batmobile. To help alleviate this, AMD users using Rec Spec GPU’s should turn Texture Resolution, Shadow Quality, and Level of Detail to Low. We continue to work closely with AMD to resolve these issues as soon as possible; make sure you have the most current drivers and check back here for updates on when the next driver version is available.

Meaning that depending on which GPU manufacturer your machine is using, a min-spec machine and all the settings turned low or off will get you to the point where your game almost works. Woo-hoo! And yet this is where Warner Bros., and Steam, deserve some recognition, because the company is pointing directly to Steam’s refund page on the community site to show customers where they can get refunds.

If you purchased your copy of the game through Steam and are not satisfied with your experience, you can request a refund at help.steampowered.com (Steam refund policies can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds).

And that’s why Steam needed a refund policy. The PC gaming community is very loyal to PC games, but that doesn’t change the fact that PC gaming includes variables where consoles do not. Performance and machine specs are the chief amongst them. If for no reason beyond that, the refund policy was overdue, rather than something for developers to freak out about.

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Companies: warner bros.

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Comments on “Arkham Knight PC Game Arrives Just In Time To Demonstrate Why Steam Needed Refunds”

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58 Comments
That One Guysays:

So about those caps...

Hard Drive: 45 GB available space

In addition to showing why a refund system is nice, this little tidbit also shows why even ‘generous’ monthly caps can be anything but. When a single game is likely to blow way past any capped limit imposed on a customer, imagine how much overage charges someone could easily rack up without even thinking about it.

The idea that caps aren’t that big of a deal because no-one would ever hit them in day-to-day life goes right out the window with examples like this, and the problem is only going to get worse as time goes on.

PaulTsays:

Re: So about those caps...

To be fair, that’s available space required on the drive, not the size of the download. The actual download is most likely compressed to a much smaller size – around 17Gb by the look of a quick search. Your point stands though – hard caps are bad idea no matter what, but they have to expand to allow for realistic usage.

Megahurtzsays:

Re: Re: So about those caps...

I downloaded it. It was about 35 gigs for the game according to Steam’s download manager. However, the game’s manifest was not configured properly, so if you tried to verify the integrity of your files in Steam, every single one would fail and Steam would start redownloading the entire game. Early on after the release, there were some strange rumors that WB had pushed an outdated version for those who preloaded, so one suggestion users came up with the explain the horrible performance was that you needed to verify files to ensure you had the correct ones. Except that all of them failed, so everything was downloaded again. Some users downloaded this 3 times before they gave up on that answer.

35 gigs is actually small for the current generation of games. I’d say the average now is between 40-60 gigs. Master Chief Collection was 40-ish gigs on disc and another mandatory 20 gig day one patch.

WB also had a messed up PC port of Mortal Kombat X a month or so ago. The game was about 40 gigs, had a 16 gig patch, another 16 gig patch to roll back the previous patch, then a proper 15 gig patch. Oh, and if you played the game before they rolled the patch back, it deleted your save. And if you preloaded the 40 gigs before launch, it deleted that and redownloaded everything. Somewhere in there, when attempting to apply a patch, it would delete your entire game and start downloading it from scratch, over and over. If Steam’s refund policy had been around a month earlier, MKX would have been a strong contender for being pulled. What a streak WB is on!

I probably burned through 150 gigs of my “non-enforced” Comcast cap just from downloading MKX alone.

For those suffering from ISP caps, I would LOVE to see their marketing material change from describing their caps as capable of “sending 6 million emails!” to “you can download 6 games from Steam/PSN/Xbox Live”.

Anonymoussays:

Re: So about those caps...

Not to mention you often have no idea just how much data a lot of your programs are eating up, both when they run in the background, and when you’re using them.

Data caps are like shopping at a store without prices on anything, where you have to bring it all to the counter to buy it to learn what you’ll be paying.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

After being delayed twice, no less.

Vote with your wallets, and boycott WB games if you’re a PC user. Point to this debacle as to why we don’t want shitty ports. Because Arkham Origins shipped in a similar state.

Moreover, compare this with CDPR and their release of The Witcher 3. Which was delayed to get more of the worst bugs out. Yes, I had problems with the game prior to release, but the game itself is brilliant.

Megahurtzsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No complaining here! In addition to Steam’s own DRM, I’ve read plenty of rumors that AK also uses Denuvo DRM (son of Sony’s SecuROM). This is partially being blamed for the poor performance of the game on beefy hardware. Lords of the Fallen and Dragon Age: Inquisition both used Denuvo on the PC and both suffered from performance issues.

Issues pirates won’t have to deal with when the game is eventually cracked a few weeks after release.

There has been some grumbling that Denuvo was not adequately disclosed by WB on AK’s store page. I’ve read that Denuvo calls itself “anti-tampering” software as opposed to DRM though to get around that.

Anonymoussays:

Re: average experience

Jim Sterling has talked about his rig, and it’s monstrously powerful, with two top of the line cards and everything was just top tier.

It’s not “decent”, it’s a beast of a rig. Basically if he’s experiencing poor performance, it’s not his rig, it’s the GAME experiencing colossal failures.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re: average experience

Reminds me a while back when Elder Scrolls was the standard when you thought about games that are resource intensive. It took a while till people could run it on its full quality glory because the hardware wasn’t quite there yet. Still you could get playable quality for most standard rigs at the time, it was scalable. I think they simply decided not to scale for the lower end of the machines nowadays and invest in the long run. Or I could just be naive.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: average experience

It’s not “decent”, it’s a beast of a rig. Basically if he’s experiencing poor performance, it’s not his rig, it’s the GAME experiencing colossal failures.

Not necessarily. Sometimes, having too much of a resource can confuse a program. The oldest example I know of is games which crashed on PCs which were too fast. Remember the Turbo button, which was used to slow down a PC in these cases? Another example from the same era was programs which crashed if there was too much free conventional memory.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: average experience

True, but both of those examples are from the distant past, and were caused by issues regarding older OS paradigms and hardware that no longer exist. Both examples, in fact, were an underlying problem that game developers would have no control over, hence the regularity with which they were seen. Those kinds of problems were actually why things like DirectX and other frameworks were developed, to free developers from having to address these kinds of issues directly.

Here, the problems experienced on this single game do not appear to be replicated on other games running on the same OS/hardware. What’s more likely – that Rocksteady’s series has such a fantastically well-equipped fanbase that they’ve uncovered issues of a type not often seen since the days of 386 processors and 640k base memory and not seen by contemporary competing titles? Or that their product is badly manufactured and faulty on this platform?

Anonymoussays:

Stoked to see there Steam’s new refund functionality providing benefits for vendor and purchasers alike.

Games are always pitched at some kind of machine specs. Crysis for example was well known to be “challenging” admittedly when attempting to run it with all the bells and whistles.

It seems the publishers got an incorrect read on the minimum specs for the market for the launch window they aimed at. Not great, but I could see how that could happen. That will change over time, it did with Crysis.

What I wonder is – given the spec of machine required, are gamers getting a good ‘return’ or is it comparatively inefficient?

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Capped 30 fps is trash to begin with.

TotalBiscuit did a video for it and he’s got a top tier rig, and can run it at full settings without stutter or lag. But “full settings” also means several cut graphic options (like ambient occlusion, no high textures, lack of water effects) that are present on the console version.

People with machines that are equal to, or a bit better than, the PS4 are getting terrible lag and have to crank settings way down.

So basically you need the best machine money can buy to run it at enforced gimped settings.

Lurker Keithsays:

Re: Re: Re:

TotalBiscuit questioned that possibility when he saw the DualShock 4 was the default for controllers, rather than the, apparently, industry standard XBox 360 controller, when he was complaining about the abysmal deficiency of the settings.

But I thought the PS4 & XB1 both used PC architecture, specifically so ports would be easy & work?

naschsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But I thought the PS4 & XB1 both used PC architecture, specifically so ports would be easy & work?

Both run on x86 architecture, and the XBox One runs a version of Windows 8, so supposedly porting isn’t even necessary per se. “The PlayStation 4’s operating system is called “Orbis OS”, based upon a customized FreeBSD 9.0.” So whether that makes a port to Windows easy because it’s on the same type of hardware I don’t know.

Megahurtzsays:

Re:

It didn’t help that WB increased the minimum system requirements 24 hours before the game launched. You can’t tell me they A) didn’t know about the PC issues and B) couldn’t estimate the correct min requirements until 24 hours before the game launched.

They put out a physical version of this on PC, so the game must have been “finished” 4-8 weeks ago to account for replication, packaging, and distribution.

Crysis was intentionally designed to be somewhat future-proof, and incapable of running maxed out on then-current hardware when it was released. Arkham Knight struggles to maintain parity with consoles on hardware multiples times more powerful.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

No true Scotsman. Charming. I know plenty of “real” indie devs with valid concerns.

For one thing, Steam’s return policy hurts the market for short games. Lots of indie games can be completed in less than two hours, and now they can be played for free.

For another, it enables review bombing — the internet is full of crazy people who post negative game reviews based on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the actual game. Indie game devs have a particular problem with this. In the past, Steam was somewhat insulated from this because it required you to own a copy of the game before you could post a review. That insulation is gone now.

Nobody’s surprised when WB screws up a PC release, and nobody’s particularly upset that they have to give the money back. That also has nothing to do with indie developers, nor with their concerns.

InterestedInHowsays:

Re: Re:

“For another, it enables review bombing — the internet is full of crazy people who post negative game reviews based on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the actual game. Indie game devs have a particular problem with this. In the past, Steam was somewhat insulated from this because it required you to own a copy of the game before you could post a review. That insulation is gone now.”

In what way is “that insulation ” gone now? you still need to buy the game first, how many times will someone buy the same game and return it just to leave a bad review? Why would anyone think that would work?

The thought process that gets you there must be interesting though… /s

And as you note, nobody should be surprised that Warner Bros managed to release an incomplete product.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re:

“the internet is full of crazy people who post negative game reviews based on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the actual game”

If the reviews are based on the company, then I still appreciate that. When I make purchasing decisions, the behavior of the company is as important as the quality of the product.

Jakesays:

Further to Tim’s comments about the system requirements, the usually-reliable “TotalBiscuit” (who’s totally in denial about being a Proper Gaming Journalist I might add) claims to be getting “reasonable” performance. This is a man whose primary gaming rig, by his own admission, cost six thousand US dollars; I forget the exact specs, but if you want hardware with more junk in the trunk than that then you’re into commercial-grade 3D rendering setups.

If he’s getting performance that’s merely “reasonable”, someone has screwed up bigtime.

This is a full “Port Report” video examining the performance issues in detail. (Fair warning: I haven’t seen it myself yet, but I will be amazed if it doesn’t contain some strong language.)

mike marionsays:

Steam -- World of Subways 4

Thank you for this information. I was burned by Steam when I purchased World of Subways 4 (the 7 line). I have a “gaming” Lenovo lap top. It features 8Gig of RAM and an AMD Radeon video card. It also has a 2500mhz i7 processor.

Only after I purchased the game did I find out in a forum that video cards in laptops won’t provide adequate performance with this game. I can get it to work….very slowly…but only at the lowest video settings. What’s more, it requires a num pad to handle the commands. What laptop has that? These warnings should have been posted both on the game artwork and the Steam website. I will be asking for my refund.

Thanks

naschsays:

Re:

Sorry Tim but a 6 year old cpu has never been considered part of a modern system.

I’m not a PC gamer but I’ve noticed per-core performance has not been increasing like it used to. Is that really all that outdated? And how well do modern games take advantage of multiple cores? Very well I hope but I don’t know.

The fact that it even runs on hardware released on 2009 is pretty impressive.

Do most new games not run on that chip?

BigKeithOsays:

Re: Re:

Some games take advantage of multiple threads, most use 2 at most. Today’s games are not very CPU intensive, they are GPU bound. An old CPU with a new GPU will run most everything with the settings cranked.

Keep in mind 95% of these AAA games are targeted at consoles. The specs on consoles are poor compared to a modern PC. So when the game is ported to PC you get some extra graphical bells and whistles (GPU) but your old CPU will handle it just fine. The exception to this rule seems to be RTS and strategy games, AI works your CPU.

PRMansays:

Re:

I have a 2009 machine and with a $200 graphics card play most games at HD resolution with almost everything turned on. 16GB of RAM and an SSD help a lot but CPU really isn’t needed much by most games–Shadow of Mordor and Arkham Knight being the big exceptions that I’ve seen lately–but I got smooth performance on Shadow of Mordor at Medium settings just by overclocking my CPU to the minimum of 3.4 GHz.

Rekrulsays:

So a just-released game performs poorly on systems that meet the minimum requirements? Hasn’t this been going on since the beginning of Intel-based games?

I recall reading numerous reviews of games where they stated that the game barely worked on the minimum system. In particular I seem to recall that the Windows port of Crazy Taxi was said to run poorly even on the recommended system, and also Spider-Man 3 was said to run equally bad no matter how powerful the system was.

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re:

That’s exactly what I would expect. Isn’t that what’s meant by “minimum system requirements”?

Maybe that’s what the industry thinks, but I would expect that the minimum requirements are the minimum you need to enjoy the game that you just paid for. If the game barely runs on the minimum requirements, you’re not going to enjoy it and probably won’t play it. Hence making the minimum requirements useless.

What’s the point of having a minimum if the game can’t really be played? The box might as well say “This game will run on the minimum system listed, but don’t bother buying it as it will be a painful experience!”

NOTE: I don’t consider having to run a game in “only” 1280×1024 with just 10 levels of filtering rather than the normal 30+ to be “barely playable”.

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Maybe I misunderstood what you meant by “barely works”. I was thinking it will run acceptably if you turn all the graphics settings all the way down. Sounds like you meant something different.

When I hear the phrase “barely works” I imagine a game where the graphics settings are turned down to the minimum, but the game still has problems that make you not want to play it. For example, maybe it runs at a noticeably slow framerate that looks horrible. Maybe it stutters badly when you fire a weapon. Maybe large areas cause the framerate to drop into the single digits.

Back when I played Halo, I had to turn particle effects (fire, smoke, etc) off, or the game became unacceptably slow when they were visible on the screen. I also ran it in 1024×768. I wouldn’t consider that “barely working” though as the game still looked good and played well.

On the other hand, I once tried an arcade-like flying game set in WWI (I forget what it was called) and even though my system met the minimum specs, the game was too slow to be playable. I ran it in a low resolution and turned all the graphic settings down to the lowest they would go, but the game still ran at about 10FPS and stuttered badly whenever there were enemies on the screen.

I’ve never been one to demand that a game run at the highest available resolution with all the settings on max. Sure, it’s nice to be able to run a game like that, but it’s more important to me that the game not stutter or slow down at random points. I don’t want it to look like something from the mid 90s, but as long as it can run at a smooth, steady pace and not look like complete crap, I consider it playable.

Lurker Keithsays:

Re:

No, the problem is Arkham Knight runs w/ problems on just about every PC! Including monstrously over-powered ones like TotalBiscuit & Jim Sterling have.

In fact, the PC version is locked at 30 frames per second & is missing several layers of graphics the under-powered (compared to game quality PCs) PS4 & XBox1 have, yet still has performance problems.

WB/ Rocksteady changed the minimum system requirements about 24 hours before the game launched, not that even those minimums are sufficient.

The problem is so bad & widespread, the game has been pulled from Steam to be patched, w/ an estimated re-release of Fall & WB/ Rocksteady is suggesting people get refunds through Steam’s new refund policy.

There are reports that just having a mechanical hard drive, rather than a Solid State Drive, can cause problems.

Lurker Keithsays:

Re: Re:

Just watched a Machinima video saying the Arkham Knight recall isn’t restricted to Stream. Physical Copies can be returned for refunds, too.

They also said the discs were pulled from retail shelves, as well pulling them from online stores/ platforms.

They also haven’t heard the Fall re-release that Chronno S. Trigger mentioned & I blindly echoed. According to Machinima, there is no timeframe for when it will be patched & released again.

Additionally, Rocksteady’s statement points out an outside studio did the PC port (something that appears to have been kept quiet until things went south), throwing them under the bus.

PaulTsays:

Re:

“So a just-released game performs poorly on systems that meet the minimum requirements?”

The complaint appears to be that it also won’t run properly on machines that greatly exceed them, on top of the fact that the stated minimum is excessive to begin with.

“I seem to recall that the Windows port of Crazy Taxi was said to run poorly even on the recommended system, and also Spider-Man 3 was said to run equally bad no matter how powerful the system was.”

“We’ve been pulling this crap for a while” is no excuse for it happening. Besides, that’s missing the point of the article, which is that for the first time people buying digital copies have a clear path to a refund if they’re sold a faulty product, and that this is the first example of that happening as opposed people just getting refunds because they don’t like the game.

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