As I sit typing, I’m waiting to re-download Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. I’ve got another 11 minutes to go. You’ll notice that I’m RE-downloading KotOR from Steam.
Earlier this weekend, I finished another Mass Effect playthrough on Xbox 360 and decided that I should go back through my game library to play something else before attempting another Mass Effect run. I chose KotOR because of the acclaim and the fact that Drew Karpyshyn seemingly can do no wrong.
I’d bought KotOR for original Xbox eons ago and I, literally, dusted off the disk to see if it would even play on Xbox 360 years and years after the original backwards compatibility for the game was announced. Though the game doesn’t play in Widescreen, I began exploring Taris and was having some fun getting into the game until I died and decided to take a break.
The smaller screen was getting on my nerves, and it’s usually within that first game death that I find myself “taking breaks” in games, not to return for another five years. After research advised that there was no way to “stretch” the image on KotOR for Xbox, I recalled that I’d purchased the game on Steam during either a Steam sale or a Humble Bundle. Whichever it was, the fact that I had a physical copy of the game was not enough to combat some minimal price tag for PC (I have the game on iOS as well, but that’s for another post). I imagined that I could get the game to play in widescreen and play a lot better and also easier through Steam than through playing on Xbox. This is where troubles of epic gaming proportions began.
After 20 minutes of downloading the game through Steam, I started up the game with my Xbox for PC controller and tried to see what the game looked like. Not only did the game not appear in widescreen, it was instead a tiny box in the middle of my 1920×1200 resolution. If that was not bad enough, the game would not run. No matter what I did, none of the options would select, even though I could see the mouse moving.
I unplugged my Xbox controller, restarted my laptop, and tried again under the tried and true troubleshooting method of “turn it off and try again”. I restarted the game sans controller, and still nothing; tiny screen and nothing would click.
I think most people would have probably quit at this point and just returned to the game on the Xbox, but I refused to be daunted. Whether I spent $2 or $10 on the game through Steam, there was no way I’d have a game that I couldn’t play. Many, many, MANY searches later, I learned that the game would only run and register the mouse clicks by turning off Steam overlays and still running directly from the executable. To get the image to display at widescreen, I had to download Flawless Widescreen and then I still needed to finagle with the .ini file settings to make sure the mouse pointed correctly. I haven’t attempted to run the Xbox for PC controller yet, but that, too, requires Pinnacle Profiler, which I’d purchased years earlier for an equally irritating PC gaming adventure. About 72 hours after first sitting down with the intention to play the game, I think I’ve finally got the game moderately running the way I’d like.
With the Xbox One X coming in just a few months, I’ve been contemplating where my next steps with gaming will go. I’ve got 250 games in Steam (about 5 of those are probably games that are just Steam shortcuts), yet out of all those titles, I’ve only played 6% of those and even out of that 6%, the majority of the time in Steam has been spent in either Civilization 5 or Banished. It makes more sense for me to continue pursuing PC gaming as you can always do more with PC games than you ever could with console games (modding, textures, etc.), and I’ve also got 250 games waiting to be played. The massive library notwithstanding, the new Xbox is calling me for the simple fact that it is highly unlikely that I’ll need to go through all the above steps just to get a game to run.
With Xbox specifically offering backwards compatibility for Xbox, 360, and One games, my last major rationale for staying with PC gaming is slowly failing. With consoles, you put in the disc, download whatever is necessary, and off you go. With PC games, it’s a matter of ensuring both OS and graphics card updates haven’t disrupted the game, working all kinds of magic to make a console controller on the PC, and then using every digital gymnastics trick in the book to make the visuals what they ought to be.
I should have gone into PC gaming with a little better understanding. I’ve been playing The Sims 2 since 2004 and a fair bit of the “fun” of the game is troubleshooting why the game isn’t working. Obviously these problems are less likely to exist with newer games, but my gaming preferences keep pushing me towards consoles.
Outside of games like Civ 5 that are specifically made for PCs, I really prefer a console controller to trying to use a keyboard. WSAD is never going to connect in my mind; even my Minecraft controls are switched to FVDC instead of WSAD and that’s just not conducive to more complex gaming.
I’m also a “patient gamer” in that I like playing older games more than brand new games. Part of this is because most games these days are all about microtransactions and multiplayer, which is a completely different rant in itself, but with older games, the same problems I’ve experienced with KotOR, I’ll likely see in other older games as well. This is going to be ongoing problem as OSes and graphics cards get sporadic updates. Then…that Xbox One X starts to beckon me more and more.
I’ve got a decent 360 library that will all be playable on the One X and, though I’ve repurchased a fair amount of those games for Steam, I’m a little apprehensive about repeating my same KotOR experience.
The game has now downloaded and I’m ready to try again with KotOR for PC, but I still worry that there’s a good chance that I’ll slowly abandon all 250+ Steam games in favor of a system that just lets me sit down and play.
Addendum: I can’t decide on key bindings that fit my hands best. After keeping up the keyboard controls on another PC screen to reference as I play for several minutes, I’ve decided to give up and return to KotOR on Xbox…