Falling back into the sysreq race
For a glorious two whole years, I was permitted to have a sneak peek at a very specific part of heaven. That part where you can just buy a PC game, without worrying about processor frequencies, number of cores, ram amounts, videocard numbers and other highly technobabble-sounding pseudononsense. See, stuff like that – being able to not worry about whether the game will run or not – that’s normally a forbidden fruit in PC gaming. Something you aspire to, but never quite reach, because every developer and their friendly neighbour copycat will work their absolute best to make their game work for the fewest reasonable number of people. The upgrade cycle is.. or was.. a vicious one. New advances in graphics blingosity. New advances in tetra-pass extremo-aliasing. Gigasampled ubertextures with anisotropic, subtropic, tropic and arctic filtering. New advances in making your desktop burst into flames. Or, you know, throw the good old “game.exe has stopped working” on install. And then things settled down. After reaching an optimum level of shininess on consoles, the PC game visuals finally levelled out.
And then Bethesda revealed the system requirements for the PC version of Dishono(u)red. Oh bugger.
Proc.: 3.0GHz dual core or better.
Memory: 4GB of system ram.
Videocard: NVIDIA GTX460 / ATI HD5850 or better, with 512MB ram.
Proc: 2.4GHz quad-core or better.
Videocard: same cards, with 768MB ram.
Yeah, this is rather ugly. The true kicker here is the excessively demanding CPU requirement. A whole three Garryhertzes of swiss clockworkers, on at least two cores. That is a lot for any somewhat modern system. That is a whole lot for most processors bought before 2011. That is insanely high for laptop processors. Moving over to quad-core, we see much of the same thing – 2.4Ghz is also quite a large number. Consider that the first commercial quadcores were sold as 1.7GHz units. If my memory does not fail me, then mobile versions of those went as low as 1.3GHz, even. Yes, the computing world has advanced since then. The standard, “average” amounts have risen higher and higher once again. Thing is, with games not really showing any increased demand for raw power lately, there’s not been a need to keep up with the world, it was enough to stick with what you had.
Now. Dishonored is a steam-powered game. That means that all copies of it, on the PC platform, will require steam. Well then, let’s head on over to steam’s own hardware survey and see if the requirements are appropriate to steam’s userbase, eh?
Let’s start with system RAM. 36.46% of all steamers have 5+ Garrys of it, and a further 22.99% have exactly 4 Garrys.
That means that the remainder – 40.55% – fail the minimum requirement, hands down. Yeah. A whole 40 percent. I am not sure how much more horrible than this it even can get.
Now, the CPU stuff. It is a very even split between the dualcores and the quadcores – 48.81% for the former, and 40.76% for the latter. Let’s save those two numbers, and look at raw power – the amount of Garryhertzes. A total of 21.8% of steam users are below the 2.3GHz mark. They can forget about Dishonored completely. A further 30.77% are between the 2.3 and 3.0GHz limits. Well, each and every one of them can start hoping that they are the lucky half (roughly) with four cores, and not the unlucky ones with just two cores – those people are screwed regardless. Assuming the 48/40 relation holds, and rounding it out so it doesn’t get too boring, we can assume that by now, 35% of people can forget about this game because of the CPU alone. Oh, and do you want to run the game on not-minimum specifications? (Let’s face it – they allow you to launch the game, and little more. As past games have shown, running on the border of minimum specs is often a very unpleasant experience.) Well then, congratulations, you are part of the ~43% with quad-cores or better. Yay! Unless, of course, you are part of the remaining ~57% with less than a proper quad. As Urdnot Wrex once said, you have to have a quad.
Well, luckily, at least things are not so dire on the vRam side (videocard’s onboard ram). The game lists a mere 512MB as minimum, which is not achieved by about only 10% of steam users. Compared to every other statistic mentioned above, this is peanuts. But, a word of caution. Videocards are absolute nightmares to make sense of. You think vRam is the only important metric? No, not at all. Far more critical factors are the card’s series and relative placing… To explain – for ATI cards, series can be thought of as the first of four numbers (so a 5850 is series 5), and NVIDIA cards have the first of three numbers as their series (so a 460 is series 4). They don’t map between the two makers, but they will tell you how your card stacks against others of the same company. Except… the relative placement matters a whole lot more. That is the second number of three/four. That says if your card is meant for gaming, light use, or spacefiller with no practical capability. This is what truly matters. If you have an NVIDIA card that is x20 or x40 (x is basically any number), it just plain won’t run games well. Looking back at the requirements, we see that they ask for series 4, relative 6 card from NVIDIA and series 5 relative 8.5 card from ATI. Best way to compare that with whatever you have is this – sum the two values up. If they are the same as the sum of the required card, you are +- good. If your sum is lower than the required, you are probably screwed. If your sum is higher than the required, then check if you don’t have more than 2 units of difference in your/their series or relative position value. (Example – they have listed a 550, and you have a 280 – let’s just assume those were real – then your card is possibly too old. Just like that.) Anyway, this is a very rough quick-check you can do. If you want proper assurances, look up various charts and comparisons explaining all this way better. This sort of stuff is super-easy to find on google.
So that’s about it, really. According to steam’s September 2012 data, we can expect that at least two fifths of all people on steam cannot even meet the minimum requirements for Dishonored. Considering the various combinations of hardware and so on, it is not too much of a stretch to say that Dishonored is too demanding for nearly half of all users on steam. Yeah. So ask yourself, do you feel lucky? Or, actually, don’t ask that, but just go and check what hardware you have. We’re being practical and sensible, after all. Not sure why, but we are, so just go with it.
BUT. Is this just Dishonored? Maybe Bethesda has simply gone loco, and the end is not actually nigh? Let’s see, briefly, what some other current/near AAA-level releases are asking you to have.
How about Assassin’s Creed 3? 2.7GHz dual-core at minimum, and 2GB of ram, and 512MB of vRam. Oh, yeah, and no Windows XP support.
How about XCOM? 2GHz dual core, and 2GB of ram, and 512MB of vRam. (See a trend?)
How about Borderlands 2? 2.4GHz dual core, 2GB of ram, 256MB of vRam. Yeah.
And so it goes. The 2/2.4GHz 2-core processor and the 2 gigs of ram has been a pretty solid staple so far, for most AAA releases. Dishonored took that trend, and shoved its head in the loo. Is this a one-off? Knowing the industry, probably not. I’d guess that this is a sign of the new winds. This is the new “standard requirement” on which we will have to look. Interesting, though: the next console generation (which will inevitably demand more powerful computers for their games’ PC ports) hasn’t even arrived, and already we might be seeing a start of a new sysreq race. Personally, I really, really, really don’t want to start this particular dance again. And yet, it seems I’ll have to. And so will you.
~X2Eliah was abducted by magical maniacal gnomes and trapped in a world of guilds and wars. Hopefully, it is over now.