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BioShock: Upgrade Fatigue

By Shamus
on Tuesday Jul 10, 2007
Filed under:
Video Games


I’ve been waiting for this game since I first heard about it, way back in February of 2006. At long last, they have released the minimum system requirements. Let’s have a look:

Operating Systems:

Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) or Windows Vista
Minimum System Requirements:

CPU: Pentium 4 2.4GHz Single Core processor

System RAM: 1GB

Video Card: Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600 or better/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550).

Sound Card: 100% direct X 9.0c compatible sound card

Hard disc space: 8GB free space

Important Note: Game requires Internet connection for activation.

I’ve been expecting this, but it still came as a disappointment when I saw it. My graphics card (NVIDIA 6200) is below the minimum requirements. Looks like the game requires a $120 graphics card just to run. I’m sure for $120 the game will be choppy and look worse than games that came out four years ago. If you want a good play experience, and if you want the game to look anything like the preview movies they’ve been cranking out, you will most likely need to spend about $350. Meh. I don’t even care anymore. Even if $350 fell into my lap right now, I just don’t have the desire to keep going on this stupid graphics card treadmill.

The rhetorical question: Is there some law that says we have to crank up the system specs each and every year? My computer can run Doom3 without a hitch, and the game still looks fantastic. So why do we need eight times more computing power? I’ve seen the preview movies, and while Bioshock does indeed have charm, I can’t say it looks eight times better. Game developers: Give it a rest already. Just perfect the technology you’ve got in front of you. Bring the load times down. Keep the framerate smooth. Minimize how much screwing around the user will have to do under “video settings”. Squash the bugs. Stop trying to re-invent the wheel. Nobody cares about your Trifiltering Bling-Maps and your Derasterizing Shine Buffers.

Even more troublesome is the last item on the list. I haven’t forgotten the time I picked up Half-Life 2 on release day, and spent two hours jumping though Steam’s hoops. I’m not eager to repeat that process. For a while I wondered if it wouldn’t make more sense to buy a game, leave it unopened, and get the hassle-free warez version online. Then I realized that would just be a different sort of hassle.

Days are short, my gaming dollars are limited, and I have better things to do than beta-test buggy, unfinished games while performing their useless anti-piracy calisthenics. I don’t care about the game’s lineage, or the design team, or the fact that it’s the “spiritual successor” to my all-time favorite PC game. PC games have been getting more expensive, more troublesome, more buggy, and less fun for about the last seven years.

Once in a while I hear people crying about the death of PC games. They talk about casual gaming, aging fans, and shrinking shelf space. But nothing is “killing” PC games. PC games are committing suicide.

(Also, I know lots of people are going to suggest “get an XBox 360”. That’s pretty tempting, and I may do that at some point, but I can’t bear the thought of playing an FPS on a console. I’ve tried it. It’s like trying to dig a trench with a spear: You can probably do it if you really want, but the whole time you’ll wish you had the right tool for the job.)

On the upside, I discovered a battered and overlooked copy of Rise of Nations (2003) for $5 in the bargain bin and I’ve been having a blast with that. I’ve also been playing a lot of Playstation 2 games. They’re hit-or-miss, but I have to give them credit for being free of bugs and anti-piracy hassle. Recently I had a great time with Jade Empire, but of course that was a port of a succesful two year old XBox title.

Comments (76)

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  1. malfunction84 says:

    I never played the game myself, but I had two friends running Half-life 2 on drastically different machines when it first came out. Sure, the guy with the GeForce 4 couldn’t turn on HDR lighting and all the other magic, but both were able to play the game just fine. ask yourself, how often does the play experience REALLY depend on bells and whistles like shadows, reflections, HDR, etc?

    I don’t really mind upgrading my machine every year or two because I enjoy seeing the distinct performance jumps, but I completely see your point, Shamus, and I have to agree.

    With HL2, UT2004, and others, we’re talking about games that run on graphics hardware two or three generations behind the stuff on the market at the time of their release. Can’t the size of that window be increased? I find it difficult to believe that it’s not worth the effort for developers to make games that scale better.

  2. Dave says:

    Come back to NWN1 .. check out the d20modern hak .. make some content.. enjoy!

  3. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Madjack Says:

    “Oh, my friend, we would like nothing better. That's why you see a lot of sequels out there, you know? The first game is done, the bulk of the tech work is finished, now we can concentrate on polishing everything to a gleaming supershine. Why didn't you polish the original game, you say? Because the publisher said we had to ship it by X date.”

    If it only were true for the majority of games.But countles times have I witnessed the sequel not polishing the original,but actually cutting out what made the original good in the first place(EE2,NWN2,RA2,HoMMV,….).I guess that the cancer of EA spreads out everywhere.

    Madjack Says:

    “Any studio that willingly steps away from the cutting edge, that says “We're not going to keep racing up the tech tree, we're going to plant our flag here and make awesome games” becomes an anachronism before the words finish leaving their mouths.”

    What about blizzard?They did exactly that with SC2.Actually,when I think about it,all of their games were top notch,yet they didnt require you to upgrade your computer by extra 300$ of hardware in order to play them.They always maka a game playable on a large number of different configurations,from top to bottom.I didnt have a top of the line computer when WCIII came out,yet it ran fine.Sure,I noticed the difference later when I upgraded the computer,but I didnt enjoy it any less with the old computer.

  4. I’ve done pretty well over the past few years with having a mediocre core system (motherboard and CPU), CRAPLOADS of memory (well over double the recommendations) and a good video card, but it’s getting to the point where I can only barely play Oblivion and NwN 2. I can’t play Gothic III at all, so I’m thinking an upgrade may be in order.

    Does anyone know a good place to get a bare-bones system? I like to assemble the entire thing from parts I choose, but it’s hard to do that if you aren’t enough of a geek to put it together yourself. I can do minor stuff like install a new video card but I’d prefer to let a professional handle the rest.

  5. Vegedus says:

    I dunno if it’s naive, but I’m kinda hoping we’ll soon simply hit a graphical roof. That is, someday there will simply be nothing to improve upon. Games are still far away from being photo realistic, but for the most part, they look good enough. With an average resolution and a little anti-aliasing, jaggies can be erased completely. With some shadows and lightning the game begins to look alive. It seems the only thing you can do to make things look more realistic these days are adding detail and smoothe out animation, and I wonder if there will be a limit to how much we can do that. If there will one day be a game that no other game can look better than. And if you can play that game on your current hardware..

  6. Miako says:

    on a new rig…

    For cheap, your best bet is to find someone local. I’d do it, but I do -not- ship. (too much risk of parts coming loose — i will not glue parts like HP).

    For quality, go with Falcon Northwest. They’ll build you whatever you want.

    Assembling it is pretty easy — ask someone to show you how.

  7. txknight says:

    Vegedus Says: “I dunno if it's naive, but I'm kinda hoping we'll soon simply hit a graphical roof.”

    May be awhile before we get there. Scientist have been predicting for years that we are going to hit a roof for processing speed. But that roof is consistently broken and hasn’t been found yet. Similiary, it may be awhile before the various components of graphical design hit a roof.

    And then there’s always the next sci-fi leap, holographic technology… :-)

  8. Lo'oris says:

    really a great post, Shamus. I completely agree: I never understood why there is this dumb process neither why on Earth people abide to it.

  9. ZippyDSMlee says:

    RUn the numbers to keep a PC up to date enough to run a game within low to medium specs is just a bit more than a 360 or PS3,of coarse if you know what you are doing you can hobble together a new PC from old parts for under 400$

    I got a 7600 512MB PCI e card off ebay for 90$ brand new, my CPU is a 3700 and I have a XP 3000 witch is only 10-20% less efficant as it,DDR 400Mhz ram 1 GB I finally got 2GB of CL2 performance ram this year since the 64nm 360s are no where in sight I’ll put off the 360 purchase for another year I guess and tis a good thing I did with the 30% fail rate and all,I put off the 360 to start with because of the BWC issues.
    Its laughable what sony is doing with the PS3 600$ for it and they can’t settle on a revision they like and they keep playing with the price tis bad enough gettign games to work on the thing is almost a nightmare but the 600$ price tag is simply to much if the PS3 was sold at 400 they would have beaten the WII at its own game and laid a solid foundation for BR… at this rate the PS3 is dead.

    And how are consoles better when early adopters are screwed so badly?

    I wait 10-20 months before touching a console better price and games by then,when it comes to the PC I build around a solid foundation when I can (I would have jumped on a C2D 6400e a year ago if I had 500 to update my mobo/ramm and cpu) instead I got 180 in extra PC parts (fans HDDs a DVD writer) so I can manage my media since I don’t watch TV anymore and theres no cable out here and DSL is cheaper and better than sat TV.

    BTW I have a 6200OC bioshock runs ok at low/medium low settings it looks good,yes it shutters its a 6200OC it dose have the architecture to run it right because of all the advanced features (I could turn them “all” off to get better frame rate..but I have a 7600 to replaced my lost in rma 6800OC agp card LOL )

    looks like ati has made a hot fix

    Radeonâ„¢ HD2900 series
    Radeonâ„¢ HD2600 series
    Radeonâ„¢ HD2400 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1950 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1900 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1800 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1650 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1600 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1550 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1300 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X1050 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X850 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X800 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X700 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X600 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X550 series
    Radeonâ„¢ X300 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9800 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9700 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9650 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9600 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9550 series
    Radeonâ„¢ 9500 series

    D3(crappy game BTW,theme should never destroy gameplay and with D3 the theme totaled everything doom was,quake 4 has done the same with quake 2… a game should be a game not a freaking movie…) rantage aside, D3/Q4 use less textures and effects,textures are hard on a GPU add shading + effects its down right evil,I mean my 6800OC could not run Dark messiah and a couple other games right because of the “new” requirements when it was lost I got the cheapest 7600 I could fine and it turned out to be a good deal to, but I found out my 6800OC had a bit more power but its engine could not keep up with newer games I am starting to see a reason why buying a 300$ card every 2-3 years is foolish.

  10. ZippyDSMlee says:

    No doubt devs and their publisher slave drivers (publishers are the reason for 70% of bugs being left in a game eyes ubisoft >>)

    Anyway Dev/Pubs can do better with bug testing and “fully” supporting the range of cards they list on their PC ports (yes ports gaming has long since been highjacked to consoles), its bad enough theres lil polish in gameplay but my god would it kill you to make sure the damn thing runs on the specs you listed >

  11. guy says:

    I play mostly RTSs, with some turn based games and rougelikes thrown in, and I get to avoid some of this because they don’t say: ooohhh, lets make some graphics improvements that take insane power and almost no one will notice, but they still do force an upgrade treadmill, and my current rig is starting to fail me even for them. Yet, I recently got Xcom:enemy unknown, and I only mind the graphics because it is hard to find targets on some maps. Remember, however, that reviewers and even fans are demanding graphics improvements, and one game that I’m looking forward to is being panned because it has graphics a little worse than state of the art.

  12. Rachel says:

    Okay, this is somewhat tangential, but I found this review of BioShock to be very, very funny.

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