And if it’s not a 3D game, chances are your older system will meet the requirements, anyway.
I wouldn’t mind knowing what system a reviewer played on in case he does mention performance issues. That’s good enough for me.
I fully agree with Sean. There was a time when system specs meant more but baseline PC’s are now capable of running any current game out there (HP’s low end systems start with a 2.4 GHz Celeron) and even if you go back a couple of years you’re still looking at PC’s with processors running at 1.5 GHz or thereabouts, still more than enough. People with sub-1 GHz PC’s can still run most shooters provided they turn down the detail and realize they are not going to get 60 FPS, so the requirements just don’t mean what they used to.
I mean, my friend had a 486-66 and I had a 486-40 and he could run Crusader: No Remorse better than I could. It mattered then. In 1996. :)
You seem to be satisfied with the hardware requirements as CGM used to list them, back before the layout redesign.
You also acknowledge that box requirements are “meaningless.”
I’m curious: did you realize that all we ever listed was the box requirements? Does that posthumously change your affection for that dead feature of the reviews?
Anyway, I don’t work at CGM anymore, but when we were there, we were very cognizant of the fact that not everyone has a killer machine and that it’s important to let people know how games run. I think it’s still pretty much the policy that the text of the review should give you a clear indication whether or not a game has steep hardware demands or not.
That said, I don’t see why CGM can’t list the publisher’s hardware specs. Seems a bit silly not too, even if the publisher’s specs aren’t always accurate.
My argument, when I was there and we were debating whether to cut the system requirements or not, was that it was silly TO list them. I mean, it’s totally redundant if we’re just going to parrot the box (which is what we did before). After all, it’ll be there before you buy it, it’s listed on the major online retail sites if you’re thinking of ordering it online, etc. If you’re reading a review and you want to buy a game, but you’re thinking “but if only I knew what the system requirements on the box were!” then gee, you really aren’t looking very hard, seeing as how the game has probably been out for a month by the time the magazine hits shelves. :)
Well yeah, it’s called “work”… but as I repeatedly said you’re not supposed to do it anyway. Sure, it would occupy an employee for a day or two per month. Considering that magazines already have a number of full-time employees I fail to see why that’s such a big deal.
You know, I never understood this argument - not just about system requirements, but about anything. Chris, even if it did take an employee “a day or two per month,” what should they NOT do instead? Which of the other great many tasks that occupy these people on a daily basis should they axe in favor of the system requirements checking? I’m reminded of Emperor Joseph II’s remark that Mozart’s opera had “too many notes”, to which Mozart handed him the score and asked which ones he should cut.
(not that an issue of CGM compares to Die Entführung aus dem Serail)
The usual suspects are previews and news. Yeah, previews are known to be popular and the popularity of such hardware tables is unknown, but maybe the readers could be asked about that in a poll? Also, you might be able to reduce overall costs by farming out the work to a hardware site, as Mark suggested.
Anyway, what you say applies to anything a magazine could conceivably offer in excess of its current contents. If you’re saying that magazines can’t add any new features due to economic limitations that’s okay, but that’s a different issue than discussing the feature itself.
You seem to be satisfied with the hardware requirements as CGM used to list them, back before the layout redesign.
You also acknowledge that box requirements are “meaningless.”
I’m curious: did you realize that all we ever listed was the box requirements? Does that posthumously change your affection for that dead feature of the reviews? [/quote]
Yes, I realized that. I never said that I was satisfied with how it was done before, I said I was dissatisfied with how it’s done now. I think hardware should have been part of the format / content change.
But I guess that yes, putting the box specs is better than putting nothing at all. Perhaps the more relevant, and easy to implement, choice would be to list the reviewer’s specs. That would get me 90% of the way to pure satisfaction. :D Ideally, the magazine would just take the chance of “guessing” an adequate rig given that, of all the humans on the planet, the people who work for a computer games magazine are uniquely experienced to make that judgement. So what if their version of “adequate performace” doesn’t match that of some people? The magazine’s version of “excellent gameplay” doesn’t always match mine. They’ll never make everyone happy. And Jason, I know I can find the specs on my own - - but my view is why should I have to? Why can’t CGM be my “at-a-glance” view of everything I need to know about a game? Why doesn’t it want to be?
Anyway, at the end of the day I just think that a magazine dedicated to such a focused, niche topic as PC gaming should not avoid talking about how PCs affect the games. CGM and several of you obviously disagree. That’s fine.
As an aside, I was reading this month’s CGM and had to laugh about some past comments on this thread about how listing hardware requirements can make the hobby look too geeky. There’s 2 or 3 pages in here on modified cases, including some guy who made his computer look like a casket. I don’t think anything that’s said about what level of computer you need to run a game is going to make us look any stranger to the non-PC crowd than we already do.
At the risk of being accused of self-promotion, I’ll point out that we’ve been listing our PC reviewers’ machine specs in our reviews for over a year. ;)
I agree with a lot of what’s been said on both sides of this thread. Because of the time issues, it’s really hard to test multiple configurations, especially for freelance writers who don’t have a LAN in their house. And minimum specs mean nothing these days, because no one wants to play a game that just barely runs – you want it to look as good as all the previews you’ve read about it. So I can understand why a print mag like CGM would want to use that space for something else. But because of the nature of the games, I think you have to say something about hardware and performance in any PC game review.
Generally, I have two rigs that I test on and try to tell people how the game ran. It’s hardly scientific analysis, but it does provide a point of reference for readers to latch on to. From the feedback mail I get, readers seem to find it useful.
If you don’t say anything about something in a review, I think the reader can easily grasp that it’s not an issue. Unless you subscribe to the idea that every review must list each thing separately and describe them…graphics, sound, gameplay, etc…then a good reviewer is going to tell you the things that matter and just skip the things that don’t providing the reader with an actual REVIEW of the product instead of a yea or nay checklist ala AVault, home of the multi-million page review.
I’d love to see a CGM for console games too. The approach they take isn’t followed by any of the current mags in console land. Next Generation was sort of right with their approach, but gave reviews so little space and were so high and mighty that it eventually killed the mag.
Generally, I’d rather make it clear for the reader than have them make assumptions on their own. It could just be a half a sentence in a section about graphics and presentation, but at least it’s there on the page, and it’s one less question they have to answer.
I don’t think system requirements are the issue they used to be. It’s not “will the game run” its “how fast will it run.”
Back in the day you had to check and see if your sound card was supported (I had a Pro Audio Spectrum), was it a CDROM, 3.5", 5.25" etc. What version of DOS. RAM and Hard Drive Space were actually issues (I knew people who had hard drives that had less total space than Ultima 7’s 20 meg install). Then there was a brief time of "is a 3D accelerator required, and will my Savage/Voodoo/Rendition card work.
Things are so standardized now this just isn’t that important anymore.
Almost every review I’ve read for Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead mentions at least two of those three properties (usually number of pages and font size.)
It galls me that a reviewer would ignore pertinent information for a potential consumer, and it makes me glad that I stopped reading computer gaming magazines since, as policy, they refuse to give that information. Regardless of how standardized modern computers are, there is a vast range of setups. If console reviews can comment that you should think about devoting a single memory card to one game, certainly a PC review can say that despite publishers claims that PIII 800Mhz will run a game, you should have at least a P4 2.3Ghz.
There’s also an investigative journalism aspect to including minimum specs in a review. It is almost a given that the published minimums are a joke. Yet there those same specs are in all of the promotional material. They’re on the box, they’re on the web site, they’re in the ads. Yet they’re meaningless. Maybe if publishers were called to the mat on this, we’d get a little more meaning to those specs.
As for the crys that “We could never have that many systems configs!” Get real. You don’t have to keep every single speed step to be able to comment on the minimum specs. And you don’t need to test every game on 100 possible configs. Let the reviewer use his/her mainline system for the review, then load it on a system that supposedly should run it. I doubt anyone would fuss if you tested on a 400Mhz P2 when the minimum listed was a 350Mhz P2 or even a 266Mhz P2. But when the minumim listed is a 700Mhz P3, and you’re running an overclocked 2.6Ghz P4, you’re doing your readers a disservice by not checking it out on a lower end system.
And that’s the crux of my complaint. I read magazines (when I read them) for information. If you’re going to specifically ignore important information, that just ensures I won’t start reading magazines again. While minimum spec info doesn’t matter to you if you have a high-end rig, it matters a lot to those of us with more marginal systems.
So let me get this straight: you don’t read game magazines because CGM doesn’t list hardware requirements, even though other magazines like CGW specifically do list them? You must have some actual reason for not reading game magazines, because this one is simply incoherent.
No one said that information, when appropriate is ommitted. I mentioned poor performance for Halo on high-end systems; do I need to say that its requirements are an 800MHz machine?
I think the whole “the minimum system requirements are a joke” is overstated. Gamers, as a whole, can’t quite understand that not everyone thinks games can/should run at 60FPS at 1024x768 with FSAA enabled. For some people, running at 640x480, or whatever a game defaults to, is fine. Minimum detail is fine. So for them, that minimum spec is also fine.
Seriously, have all of the people bitching about minimum requirements ever run a game on a minimum spec system? I was doing it for a while when I had a Pentium 500 and a decent videocard, and I just cranked down detail and/or resolution until the game was playable. (Or until I upgraded.) I survived.
I think when you’re talking about this board, most of the people currently complaining probably spend more on their computer in a year than you or I do to eat in that same year. So it’s highly unlikely they’ve ever played on a minimum required system or would be caught dead with anything less than a $300 video card and the highest end processor in their computer.
Anyway, let the publisher tell you the minimum requirements. Reviewers are here to provide an evaluation of the game’s significant merits or lack thereof. If it runs like crap on a high end system, we’ll tell you about it. But wouldn’t you rather we use all the words we can to tell you if a game is worth playing than waste space on something the publisher provides you for free right on the box?
No kidding. Nobody’s arguing that. I said that this sort of thing should always be included in the body of the review, if appropriate. I always mention high and low system demands, bugs, or other system quirkiness. I don’t know why you’re coming off so argumentative when everyone is already in agreement on this, but hey, thanks for playing.
Yeah, let’s wage a holy war on the publishers. We’ll turn all reviews into “investigative” pieces delving into the hidden mysteries of how companies determine system requirements. Instead of, y’know, actually playing the games, we’ll just tech-spec 'em. Sheesh. You’re asking for the same approach given to video-card reviews. It’s overkill. It’s insane. And maybe one person in a thousand would care.
Again, this is a lot of added work to compile information that doesn’t interest the vast majority of readers. And it’s simply not feasible to expect every reviewer to have two or three machines sitting at home for this sort of benchmarking. Or for the mags to devote entire rooms and staff members simply for the purpose of running these spec tests. This entire concept is just ludicrous. What’s next? Demanding that Ebert and Roeper watch movies in at least three theatres? Making book reviewers read both the hardcover and paperback editions?
Information which, as I think we’ve all agreed, is laughably inaccurate. Which is why reviewers should give some sort of indication what kind of system they feel is needed to run the game adequately. Take this for instance:
Somehow, a bunch of amateur internet hacks were able to tell me that this game would run like a dog on my 1.4Ghz Athlon.
You don’t have that straight, but I wasn’t entirely clear on this matter. My bad. I stopped reading computer gaming magazines because all I had was a 166Mhz laptop until 2001. When I upgraded to my current 1.4Ghz Athlon, I still didn’t read magazines because I had a huge backlog of games to play (most of which, I still haven’t played). I am glad I haven’t started reading them again because of crap like this. So my actual reasons for not reading computer gaming magazines are that they aren’t relevant to me because they don’t cover games that I can play on my system today and that I can get whatever information they provide elsewhere.
I expect a reviewer to tell me if the publisher’s specs are worthless.
Again, this is a lot of added work to compile information that doesn’t interest the vast majority of readers. And it’s simply not feasible to expect every reviewer to have two or three machines sitting at home for this sort of benchmarking. Or for the mags to devote entire rooms and staff members simply for the purpose of running these spec tests. This entire concept is just ludicrous. What’s next? Demanding that Ebert and Roeper watch movies in at least three theatres? Making book reviewers read both the hardcover and paperback editions?[/quote]
I have a 1.4G, reviewer has a 3.2G, publisher says a 500M will run the game. With such a wide gap, my gaming experience is likely to be different than that of the reviewer. With minimum specs so untrustworthy, I really have no idea if my system will play the game. A “lot of added work”? Boy, you guys really set the bar low, how to you manage to dress yourself in the mornings? Grab one near-spec system, play it for 5 minutes, and tell me how much of a dog it runs like. No one is demanding that you maintain every possible configuration, but nice straw man anyway. If Ebert is reviewing his films in his luxurious fortress of solitude and his review is all about the frills the screening room offers, then yes, maybe he should try seeing the film in a real theater. If the book reviewer recommends the book because the hardback makes a great flyswatter, then maybe he should try the paperback. And yes, if the game reviewer tells us all to buy a game because it runs so silky smooth on his 10Thz whizz-bang rack-mounted Cray, then maybe he should try it out on something a little less robust.
But then again, most of your readers aren’t me and no one who games on their systems would dream of trying to run anything less than a 2.5Ghz w/ a $500 graphics blender, so I’m just talking out of my ass.
Geez, guy, a 1.4 GHz Athlon should be able to run EVERY game out there. There is nothing that will not run on that CPU. Will it run at 60 FPS or 30 FPS? Play the demo to find out. If there’s no demo, you’ll have to do a little guesswork yourself unless you want to tell us how many test systems are acceptable. Should a magazine test on machines running at 500, 733, 1.0 GHz, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.2 or what? Which ones to leave out? Which ones to leave in? Should they test with every generation of GeForce cards? How about every Radeon from the 7000 to 9800XT and maybe a Rage Fury MAXX for the one guy still using that? And of course, you’ll need to swap out ram so you can test with 128MB, 256, 512 and 1 gig. And don’t forget the difference speed can have, so best to compare and contrast DDR vs. Rambus, too.
Christ, all I want to know if whether a game will run reasonably on my system, and I’m the fucking bad guy. Right. Sure Halo will run on my system, but it’ll be a 5fps slideshow. Whee.
On a console, I’ve got an expectation that a game will run at least ok, maybe that’s why I’ve spent $800 on console games in the last year, $50 on computer games, and $0 on computer game magazines. But, whatever, I’m the only person who hasn’t upgraded his computer in 2 years, so what do I know?
They do, in the body of the review, but they only do it if it’s something they can accurately report. This isn’t something they should guess at. This argument is about CGM no longer printing the publishers system reqs on reviews, not them throwing all performance criticism out the window. Reviewers still talk about performance, but again, unless the reviewer has your computer, or has the minimum system req system handy, I don’t see how any magazine (or Internet) review can guarantee that the publishers system reqs are 100% accurate. Your mileage will always vary. And that’s true of consoles too because KOTOR worked fine on my Xbox.
Tell me about it. I found out the hard way that the Model 30001 version of the PS2 is unfortunately notorious for developing problems reading discs over a period of time. I eventually gave up on mine after a year of putting up with occasional Disc Read Errors (that “occasional” eventually turned into “constant”) and got a Model 50001, and the change is very noticable. Silent, faster load times, no Disc Read Errors… it’s remarkable. And it makes me glad that I never paid $300 for a PS2 when it was first released.
That does sort of fly in the face of the argument that consoles are problem-free. Granted, they’re nowhere near as instable as computer games as a whole, but problems certainly exist. I’m going to do a great deal more homework on the technical side of things before making future console purchases.