The 200th Column - You Asked For This

Shamus Young

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The 200th Column - You Asked For This

Shamus uses his 200th column to answer questions from readers. Read on for the inspiration nuggets of knowledge he imparts.

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Kenjitsuka

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Brian: My university switched to Java from C++ the year I enrolled (2000).
It's a framework and it's easy to start off and learn all kinds of high level things (like polymorphism).
Performance is generally crap though. Studying why also tells you why C is so fast etc. etc. ;)

The last two: Just watch this great recent video and you'll get an idea:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coCsLWqT3v0
 

The_Great_Galendo

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Is Visual Studio Community better than Visual Studio 2010 Express? I've been using the latter, and I'm pretty satisfied with it and would recommend it to pretty much anyone. But maybe the latter is better?
 

ZZoMBiE13

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Congrats on the 200 column milestone Shamus! I hope you're around for 200 more. :)
 

Xeorm

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The_Great_Galendo said:
Is Visual Studio Community better than Visual Studio 2010 Express? I've been using the latter, and I'm pretty satisfied with it and would recommend it to pretty much anyone. But maybe the latter is better?
Visual studio community is basically the new non-express version, but free instead of sold like the old version. It comes with some more stuff over the express version, and the 2013 version is better than the 2010 version I think. But they're both fundamentally the same thing.
 

Callate

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Regarding Joakim's question, I wish Valve- or the developers- would do something. I have an increasingly long list of games that claim Windows 7 among their "minimum" requirements, but run just fine on Vista 64. (Transistor, Double Dragon Neon, Wolfenstein: The New Order...) (These games have worked for me, no assurance they will work for you, please don't sue me.)

One of these days I'm going to get a game that turns out to actually require Windows 7, and then I'm going to be a sad panda.

Hopefully not before I build a new computer and actually start running Windows 7 or 10.
 

RicoADF

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Callate said:
Regarding Joakim's question, I wish Valve- or the developers- would do something. I have an increasingly long list of games that claim Windows 7 among their "minimum" requirements, but run just fine on Vista 64. (Transistor, Double Dragon Neon, Wolfenstein: The New Order...) (These games have worked for me, no assurance they will work for you, please don't sue me.)

One of these days I'm going to get a game that turns out to actually require Windows 7, and then I'm going to be a sad panda.

Hopefully not before I build a new computer and actually start running Windows 7 or 10.
I think that's more a case of people forgetting Vista exists. After all we heard all about XP's end of support and debates on when 7's support will end but I've never heard of Vista's, it's like people have removed it from their memory.
 

Hartland

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On the third question Shaemus answers from a FPS perspecive only. How about games that actually includes and encourages third-person view, such as Fall Out 3 or Skyrim or their ilk? The model and the level of detail is already there. What then? Why u no make mirrors, game?
 

wswordsmen

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I think you are wrong about steam and system requirements. They could avoid that bad PR by just reversing their recommendations. Instead of "Steam says you can run this game" when it thinks you can have it say "The computer you are on probably won't be able to run this game" when it can't. That solves every problem you brought up.
 

Callate

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RicoADF said:
Callate said:
Regarding Joakim's question, I wish Valve- or the developers- would do something. I have an increasingly long list of games that claim Windows 7 among their "minimum" requirements, but run just fine on Vista 64. (Transistor, Double Dragon Neon, Wolfenstein: The New Order...) (These games have worked for me, no assurance they will work for you, please don't sue me.)

One of these days I'm going to get a game that turns out to actually require Windows 7, and then I'm going to be a sad panda.

Hopefully not before I build a new computer and actually start running Windows 7 or 10.
I think that's more a case of people forgetting Vista exists. After all we heard all about XP's end of support and debates on when 7's support will end but I've never heard of Vista's, it's like people have removed it from their memory.
Which is, perhaps, understandable; Vista is only about 2% of Steam's user base according to the latest hardware survey across both 32- and 64-bit versions.

Then again, at this point, XP is only a little over 4%.

I just wish someone would take the time. As Vista supports DX11, there aren't nearly the reasons for 7-compatible games not to.
 

Drathnoxis

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wswordsmen said:
I think you are wrong about steam and system requirements. They could avoid that bad PR by just reversing their recommendations. Instead of "Steam says you can run this game" when it thinks you can have it say "The computer you are on probably won't be able to run this game" when it can't. That solves every problem you brought up.
But that's still the same problem with the words switched around. Instead of being angry that the game won't run when steam said it could, people will instead be angry that the game wouldn't run and steam never told them it wouldn't. By having some games state that they won't run on a machine it is implying that the rest of the games will run.
 

Eridani74

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Callate said:
Regarding Joakim's question, I wish Valve- or the developers- would do something. I have an increasingly long list of games that claim Windows 7 among their "minimum" requirements, but run just fine on Vista 64. (Transistor, Double Dragon Neon, Wolfenstein: The New Order...) (These games have worked for me, no assurance they will work for you, please don't sue me.)

One of these days I'm going to get a game that turns out to actually require Windows 7, and then I'm going to be a sad panda.

Hopefully not before I build a new computer and actually start running Windows 7 or 10.
The minimum requirements are often just "the lowest spec we bothered to test at". Thus the absence of Vista or even XP in some recommendations is explained as "We didn't have a machine with Vista/XP installed to test the game on and thus we have no idea if there is some OS quirk that'll stop it from working. If it works, it works, be happy. If it doesn't, we don't support it, so don't call us about it.".
Notably in 2012 Dishonored didn't list XP as a supported OS despite being a DX9 game. Following a minor outrage Bethesda Softworks' community manager said that that was solely because they hadn't tested it on XP but that he'd been in contact with one of the developers that in his spare time had booted the game on an XP rig and reported that it worked. Because it wasn't an official test its results couldn't be included in the official recommendations.

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As for Steam or someone doing something: that would involve a lot of testing of various hardware combinations, the results of which might become invalid in the future.
For example Mass Effect 1 is technically only compatible with a specific subset of AMD CPUs that was released between 1998 and 2010 that contained a special ISA extension called 3DNow!. On later Bulldozer and derivative chips the game doesn't find these instructions and in certain parts of the game the alternative code fails to load leading to severe graphical glitching.
Besides, how do you define the minimum requirements? Are they the requirements for the game to start up and display graphics and no more? Or do you have further validation, such as that the game actually is able to save and load correctly on the relevant OS, that the framerate doesn't tank in random places on certain configurations, that the game doesn't suddenly crash or lock-up when it wants to invoke an external codec to display an FMV, etc, etc.

As a lot of things in the industry it comes down to "we didn't bother, we thought it was too expensive/complicated/time-consuming/etc".
 

Robyrt

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Another reason that 3rd person movement is weird with a keyboard is that 3rd person games are generally developed with a controller's analog precision in mind, which the keyboard doesn't give.
 

moosemaimer

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Eridani74 said:
Or do you have further validation, such as that the game actually is able to save and load correctly on the relevant OS, that the framerate doesn't tank in random places on certain configurations, that the game doesn't suddenly crash or lock-up when it wants to invoke an external codec to display an FMV, etc, etc.
Trying to get the original Myst to run on a modern machine is effectively impossible due to it requiring a specific version of Quicktime; anything newer and it won't run properly. I suppose you could find an older Windows image, run it in a virtual machine and load the original software.
 

rofltehcat

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They could make the hardware detection based on the Steam client detecting the hardware of all users who don't opt out of the system. So for example you go to a game's page and click the "Hardware comparison" button. You then get a small window that tells you "people who have played this game: >10000 with your OS (green); >1000 with your amount of RAM (green); >200 with your GPU (yellowish green); >100 with your CPU (greenish yellow)."
It could also contain hotlinks to "show reviews of this game by these people". That way you could look what the 15 people who have the same laptop GPU as you have written about the game. Or provide "average time played" for these players. Chances are that if the game doesn't work well the average time played will be low. Steam could also track the average FPS for people with comparable rigs for the first hour or so of gameplay.

Yes there are many possible combinations of hardware but with the large number of users there is bound to be someone with comparable specs.
 

Darkness665

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Comments to questions: Brian at #2, please try Unity first. If I read your question accurately you just want to have fun making games. Your first games will be just for yourself no doubt, everyone does that. Just fooling around in Unity is massively easier than figuring out any MSFT product. And it doesn't lock you into using features that only MSFT has. Next step, but it is a doozy, would be Steam source or look into the modding scene for a game that is open to it. If you are actually looking into coding as a career than C is important, MSFT is less so and if you are looking into gaming as a career C++ is important but Unity is a solid way in to smaller shops or a good way to boot strap your own game or career.

Leslie from #4, WASD is not accurate for movement. It is *convenient* for those people that only have a KB/M. A game controller will show dramatically less of this behavior, at least that has been my experience. Think about what WASD does versus movement versus an analog input (even using a thumb). The analog stick will let you just barely move your character. WASD are either ON or OFF. There is no in between. It is the nature of the beast. A good level designer will design for that. Unfortunately for you and fortunately for me most game levels are designed assuming that a game controller is the input device. Altering the level for both is rare and very expensive in most cases. Try crouching if that is available, I just remembered several games where movement is slower if you are crouched. Worth a shot.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

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rofltehcat said:
They could make the hardware detection based on the Steam client detecting the hardware of all users who don't opt out of the system. So for example you go to a game's page and click the "Hardware comparison" button. You then get a small window that tells you "people who have played this game: >10000 with your OS (green); >1000 with your amount of RAM (green); >200 with your GPU (yellowish green); >100 with your CPU (greenish yellow)."
It could also contain hotlinks to "show reviews of this game by these people". That way you could look what the 15 people who have the same laptop GPU as you have written about the game. Or provide "average time played" for these players. Chances are that if the game doesn't work well the average time played will be low. Steam could also track the average FPS for people with comparable rigs for the first hour or so of gameplay.

Yes there are many possible combinations of hardware but with the large number of users there is bound to be someone with comparable specs.
I think there are a few issues that would prevent the system from being accurate enough to work right. There's background software, unnecessary services and bloatware... you'd be surprised at how many gamers just aren't O/S savvy enough to know how to optimize. There's also BIOS settings which can affect stability. I ran into this issue earlier this year when I installed a new motherboard and didn't realize it underclocked my RAM both in speed and voltage which actually made the system highly unstable. Some games worked just fine, some would hardlock, CTD or bluescreen. I couldn't figure out what the issue was until much later, and the previous statement of not all gamers being O/S savvy also goes with being tech savvy. I'm a professional tech by trade and even I missed that little bit.
Just those small factors alone can mean the difference between being able to run a game and not. And I am not sure that Steam could detect just why others with the same exact or comparable configurations could run said game while the current user cannot. It would be too much of a gamble, as Shamus stated, for Steam to have a system that rated your system. Better to leave it up to the user to determine personally whether or not they can run a game, let them do the research and such. I think the margin of error is too large for a system like that to work personally and if I were running a company I wouldn't implement such a thing without being able to control it somehow. Like maybe only implement said feature on a Steam certified machine running SteamOS or something like that. At least then they would have a bit more data on the hardware/software used in said certified machines.
I'm not against it I just don't think its a fair or accurate way to gauge if someone can run a game or not since unfortunately there's no way to know if a user is educated enough to be running a clean, optimized system or not.
 

Callate

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Eridani74 said:
As a lot of things in the industry it comes down to "we didn't bother, we thought it was too expensive/complicated/time-consuming/etc".
...But as a gamer, I'm duty-bound to demand things even if they're wildly impractical or only apply to an audience of me!

More seriously... Yes, I know this is true, and largely recognized it even before I made the original comment. I don't think it's impractical to keep a single Vista machine running in the back somewhere, but the maze of 32-bit and 64-bit versions, different drivers (and companies discontinuing new driver releases with particular OSs), background programs like virus-checkers and disk emulators... makes it far more complicated than that.

I sort of wonder if there's a niche to be filled here for a small, third-party company that just keeps a small lab of slightly-obsolete computers running for this purpose, but I really don't know if there would be enough of a market to keep such a company afloat.

So... grouse, grouse, fume fume.

Edit/Add: I have to confess, though, that I find it annoying how difficult it often is to even get second-hand information about this kind of thing from the player-base. Just one person saying "I'm running Vista, and I can play this just fine" would take off a lot of unease, but one can sort through hundreds of pages of Steam comments and Google pages trying to find one such comment.