Gaming is an expensive hobby. Unlike music, films, TV, and books, the fancy hardware is a requirement. Wherever in the world gamers live, the cost of keeping up with the industry is high and the reason why there’s so much argument regarding whether or not this or that triple-A title is worth its premium price. A select few don’t have to think carefully before purchasing a new system or game and for a small portion of those, gaming is so serious that how others experience it influences how much fun they have.
There are many reasons why a person chooses one console over the other, or why they settle with a computer instead. Each individual weighs a number of factors to make such decisions and oftentimes, they may result in a second-hand console or a computer that’s not as powerful as the recommended system requirements for that game everyone is talking about. Some gamers even settle for laptops because they present more use for them than a desktop.
For the elite, having fun on a weak machine is unacceptable. When it comes to computer gaming, questions regarding a game’s performance have a high chance to attract responses such as “your setup is trash because your GPU is trash, so get something else or give up on gaming.” No matter how much the person with the weaker computer argues, the one with the most powerful GPU (which, as a trophy, is always a pivotal part of the argument) is always trying to debunk them
While it’s easy to determine why a game doesn’t run properly on a console, the same can’t be said for computers. There are countless possible setups mixing both old and new pieces which can make a huge difference in performance. Although important, GPUs are not the only piece of hardware gamers have to thank for when it comes to gaming.
Gamers in a low-budget have to be aware of how capable their computers are. After that, they have to make a choice of either dealing with unbearable performance due to how pretty the game looks or “cripple” the graphics to optimize performance. In the first case, the elite is covered in reason when they say low-budget gamers should upgrade or give up–although the choice of word is questionable. In the second, however, the conclusion that X game shouldn’t even boot up is naive.
The majority of PC games these days have a plethora of customization options that allow for performance optimization should the user desire to achieve that. Resident Evil 7 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, for instance, both have an option that scales down the resolution. The lower the value, the more pixelated the image looks, but the game also runs considerably faster. Other options commonly found in games are shadow calibration, ambient occlusion, anti-aliasing, motion blur, depth of field, vertical synchronization (V-sync), motion blur, and a few developers go as far as letting players lock the framerate to set values between 30 and 120 or higher. Aligned with a basic knowledge of tweaking tools such as RadeonPro and Nvidia Inspector, these options can allow recent games to run smoothly between 25 and 30 FPS on an older machine.
Another aspect that comes into play is the game’s engine. Some engines, such as Square Enix’s Crystal Tools (FINAL FANTASY XIII/XIII-2/Lightning Returns and FINAL FANTASY XIV), are terribly optimized for computers. FINAL FANTASY XIV was known for having severe performance issues and Lightning Returns freezes for a moment when players transition between sections, both on PC and consoles. Not even the developers were capable of fixing most of these issues because of how the engine was built and what they were attempting with these specific games. FFXIII-2 still presents shameful performance on PC regardless of hardware, all thanks to its framerate pacer.
There are many engines that put Crystal Tools to shame, such as the Fox Engine (powers Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), the Hedgehog Engine (PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2), and more recently, the RE Engine (Resident Evil 7). The Hedgehog Engine presented some problems in the 2008 title Sonic Unleashed, but its use in PSO2 makes the online game perfect for weaker machines. It allows users to either completely turn off relevant graphic features and thus greatly increase performance, or enhance graphic quality. The simplicity of the models used are part of the performance boost, but the updated graphics developed for the PlayStation 4 prove that the engine can power beautiful designs whilst maintaining a consistent framerate.
30 FPS is not the same as 60 FPS
60 FPS and above can be demanding to weaker setups. It heats up the GPU and makes the overall framerate inconsistent. However, 30 FPS is much more forgiving. Some games will still cause weaker GPUs to heat even at 30 FPS, but since the hardware is attempting to reach a much lower limit, its consistency depends on how realistic the player is regarding their machine and how well optimized the game engine is.
That’s not to say every game will run just fine at 30 FPS should the user keep the graphics options at the lowest possible. As mentioned, users have to be realistic regarding their own setups and rely on an engine’s optimization.
“You’re a liar and this video proves it”
Some people will go as far as seeking videos of the game the discussion is about running on a GPU that’s inferior to theirs, no matter if it’s superior or inferior to the one the low-budget user is dealing with. Again, the point of this argument is the GPU, however, there are other aspects gamers have to thank for when running games. CPU and RAM memory also play an important part in running and keeping a game stable, otherwise, they wouldn’t be featured in system requirements.
The performance of a game relies on the power of the CPU, the GPU, the RAM memory, and in many cases, how much free space there is on the hard drive. Programs running in the background can also determine how well a computer runs. For example, an anti-virus running a check can have an impact on performance due to the resources the process requires. Windows Update and automatic maintenance are also guilty of that, as are scheduled defragmentations.
It’s rather simple to boost the performance of a weaker computer by turning off programs that aren’t being used or deactivating automated checks and updates. There’s even a program that takes care of temporarily shutting off unnecessary processes whilst games are running, the Razer Cortex.
How to be helpful
Some elite users who don’t come off as rude will often agree with people who say the low-budget gamer is a liar, sometimes even claiming they are trying to help despite their choice of word. However, people who try to help don’t call the needy ones liars and tell them to either “suck up” their economy and work as hard as they can to afford a better computer.
The real helpers will suggest that the computer in question isn’t powerful enough and that there are some things the user can try to improve performance, although they may not guarantee 60 FPS with the highest graphics settings. Being realistic is the first step. Next, comes lowering options and locking the game’s framerate to a lower limit. Checking for programs that could cripple performance is a must, or perhaps even run scans for malware. Later, third party programs such as RadeonPro, Nvidia Inspector, and Razer Cortex: Boost can be of help.
Although computers aren’t miracles, how they perform is not a precise science. There are many factors to be considered regarding a computer’s performance, especially when they’re weak compared to the recommended requirements of recent games. Depending on how realistic the user is and how well they optimize their machine and the game, it’s perfectly possible to have fun on a budget.
People don’t deserve to be called liars because they can’t afford the newest technologies, nor to be refused help because people insist in forgetting that a GPU is not the only piece of hardware responsible for running games. Those who care about helping should stop trying to convince low-budget gamers that they’re wrong and instead explain why they might have problems, present possible solutions, and stress out that an upgrade is something they should consider.