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APB - Restraining Order

JCXanirus's Blog; Jul. 18, 2010; By Jenner David Cauton
Type: Thoughts
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This can be the icing of the cake for many; the game's atrocious performance restraints. You can have a system that just destroys the game's recommended system requirements, but if you have a 32-bit Windows, the game will look like somebody pissed all over your hardware. If the game detects that you are running a 32-bit operating system, the game will activate files that purposely degrades many of the games textures, even if you raise the settings to max in-game. The in-game video settings is just a single slider from low, to high, and that's it. No individual boxes to check off settings like bloom or set the individual levels of other graphical things like shadows.

"OS: Windows Vista / Windows 7 (We recommend a 64-bit operating system for the best experience)"

This is what it says on the system requirements. What does that mean? Best experience? To me that means to run all the graphical settings without any slowdown. It's obvious that better hardware means a smoother gaming experience, not visual. Don't fix what ain't broke. If 32-bit runs fine for many other games, why should you change it? This warning is pretty vague. There is no other warning on the box before you purchase the game, and you are only warned just exactly what it means AFTER the fact in the in-game video "options." Other than DirectX compatibility, never in my life, let alone an MMO that you a required to pay for monthly, have I seen a game that deliberately downgrades your graphics just because you lack the hardware that someone deems too weak. I consider it a very large insult that someone does not think their own consumers are smart enough to know what their computer can handle, or at the very least, if they really don't know, respect them enough to leave it to them to tone it down themselves if they're experiencing problems. If their computer's hardware somehow affects other people's performance, then fine. But this is not the case. I find it extremely unprofessional to deny someone the full product just because their system isn't up to par to meet certain standards. If a consumer wants to upgrade their system in order to better support what has been given to them that they paid in full for, it should be their decision, not anyone else's.

The thing is, due to the ludicrous way 32-bit Vista handles RAM, the game apparently has trouble rendering certain textures, as well as downloading and loading all the hundreds of decals and designs of the people you run into. Despite me having a 1024 MB video card and 4 GB of RAM, (the game recommends a 512GB card and 4 GB RAM) the RAM will never get that high. If your hardware is up to speed, and all that's stopping you is the OS, the environment textures like walls and streets all really look fine, the difference doesn't seem to be noticeable compared to people with a 64-bit OS. (At least, not in the fix that I will mention later.) The game has different levels of restraints depending on your system. But if there's one graphical aspect the game decides to degrade purely based on your OS to a HUGE noticeable degree, why on earth did it have to be your own character and vehicles? That's right, the game's main selling point, the one thing that differs it from other games like it, being able to customize your own image, is degraded if you run a 32-bit system. The only time it looks great is in the game's editors, but the minute it actually loads in-game, you are treated to a muddy, blurry, pixelated mess. The textures look slightly worse than a PS2. If you're decal has words on it, good luck having anyone running a 32-bit trying to read it, as the fonts don't even represent letters.

There is a workaround for this, however, but I wouldn't recommened. It mostly works, but not without consequences. Some people found out that removing the files and then just running the games executable instead of the launcher (the launcher will just redownload the files if it detects that they are missing or are editing from it's original version) removes all the constraints, and the game effectively looks what a 64-bit is supposed to look. In its full glory, I don't think the graphics are that good enough to justify requiring a 64-bit system to view properly. At least I can see my decals I worked so hard to create. Of course, this workaround is not supported by RTW. This worked during beta, and actually gave an INCREASE in performance instead. It also can lead to more out of memory errors, depending on your system, but as of now, these particular game files are required to run. The only workaround that still works today is directly editing the game's .ini file that, though complicated, is the same values that a simple in-game graphic options edit much easier.

The screenshot near the end of the shown near the end of the review shows differences between using the game's original, and an edited .ini file, a risk I took at possibly damaging my own hardware from pre-longed use.  Once in a while my game did crash, but in no consistent pattern that determines if it's really my hardware, or just poor optimization for 32-bit systems. With the exception of having a 32-bit system, my system seems beefy enough to run this game on a constant 60 FPS, and this is with or without an edited .ini. Often times, if and when I did run out of memory, it's strangely wasn't during heavy combat, but while just loading a single car on the screen, staring at walls, or when accessing menus in which all the graphics in the background are blurred out anyway. It's happened both after running the game for several hours, or sometimes, just after 5 minutes.  There are many games where you can edit a game's .ini file to tweak the graphics, but this is the first game that has such an .ini file that is said to prevent hardware to one's system, at least, that's what is said.  Is this really the case?  I don't know, but it's besides the point.

Even though 64-bit systems have been out for a while, when they first started, there were been many game benchmarks with actually WORSE results than their 32-bit counterparts. Naturally this scared off many gamers, so they stuck to 32-bit systems. If your computer runs games to the fullest, why spend any more money? We are only now coming into an age that 64-bit is becoming more useful and better supported, but according to many sources like Steam (as of June 2010) who hold more accounts than World of Warcraft, 32-bit OS's are the majority.  Roughly 60% of Steam users (which this game intergrates with by the way) all use 32 bit Windows.  The 64-bit users don't even make up the other 40%, as 10% of that are Mac users.  That fact that 64-bit is better, which it probably is now, shouldn't be the case.  Unlike other games, which may or may not just simply run better with a 64-bit OS, this game actually "requires" 64-bit to enjoy one of it's main selling points.  There are many games that run perfectly fine today if you at least meet recommended system requirements, but to deny you their product in full, not cater to a broader audience, and expect many gamers to suddenly change their entire OS and possibly hardware for compatibility, for the sake of one game, is just sloppy marketing.

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