A Great Port Is Always Worth the Wait

A Great Port Is Always Worth the Wait

Whatever time it takes to make a game feel just right on a new system is well-spent.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will be barely more than a year old when its PC port is released, which isn't too bad of a wait given Rockstar's previous track record. Grand Theft Auto 5 took about nineteen months to make it to PC, and GTA 4 and San Andreas both made the leap in about eight. The original Red Dead Redemption never made it to PC at all.

Of course, what's really driving the sentiment behind headlines (including ours) that say Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally receiving its port is that we're accustomed to popular games being available on any platform we want. On PC, more games are making the transition from consoles than ever, often day-and-date or with quick turnaround times. On consoles, particularly the Switch, every week's digital store update brings ports of games new and old. Save for first-party titles, I frequently find myself taking the mental shortcut of considering which system a game isn't available on.

More ports than ever means more options for where to play, which is generally a good thing, but also raises the standards we should hold ports to. A great port of a game shouldn't just run well and meet a bare minimum of functionality-it should justify its presence on the system and truly feel at home there. By extension, whatever amount of time it takes for a port to get to that point of feeling well-suited for the platform is justified.

The much-maligned PC version of Chrono Trigger from last year may have warranted a placement on a "worst ports of all time" list at launch, but it was also an object lesson in how a port could be changed to better suit its platform. When Square Enix launched the Chrono Trigger port on Steam in February 2018, fans quickly pointed out that it was a rather careless port of the mobile version. Instead of taking the hit and moving on, Square Enix spent the next few months releasing multiple patches that fixed graphical errors, made the controls and UI better-suited to the PC, and even added a few bonus features.

Chrono Trigger's PC version got its last major patch about six months after it launched, which raises the question: why weren't such glaringly obvious issues caught and fixed before launch? While those patches may have been funded in part by the initial sales of the subpar version, there's no good reason for an impatient, rushed release of a classic when another few months development time wouldn't lessen anybody's interest in buying it.

The same logic applies to the original Red Dead Redemption, which was still garnering significant interest in a PC port by the time its sequel was announced. Rockstar never gave an official confirmation as to why Red Dead Redemption never came to PC, but the developer did say "that whenever [a PC port] is viable (technically, developmentally and business-wise)" it "usually" follows through. If even a subpar port of the game was a relatively straightforward matter, then choosing to not make a version of the first Red Dead Redemption for PC would've been like leaving money on the table. Still, a port never came.

It's hard not to wonder if ports like Chrono Trigger's mobile-to-PC mess, the recent classic Doom ports that needed patching, or Asypr's ports of Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast that lacked inverted control options result from rushed turnarounds for the sake of making money fast. By extension, we might assume that praiseworthy ports were given all the time they needed. But we rarely have a good idea of how much work was poured into a given port; we just see the end result and have to judge it based on what was delivered, not what could've been.

If Jedi Outcast felt good on the Switch, I'd have already finished it. | Aspyr

The best ports are always those that, regardless of the time spent on development, make the system they're on feel like the one they were built for. It amazes me that Destiny 2's shooting feels good on mouse and keyboard and that a game like Wolfenstein 2 can feel built for the Switch even when it makes compromises for performance. In contrast, playing Jedi Outcast with either Switch's stubby analog sticks or the floaty motion controls constantly forcse me to reflect on what it felt like playing on the PC in 2002. A good port doesn't leave you thinking about the experience you could be having on another platform-it contents you with the experience you are having.

When Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out for PC, there'll still be a contingent of fans talking "could've beens" since a port of the first game never materialized. Ultimately, though, it's probably for the best that we didn't receive a PC version of Red Dead Redemption and that it took an extra year for the sequel's PC port to come out. If the port of Red Dead Redemption 2 is great, hopefully people won't fall in the trap of thinking it took an extra year for "the best" version of the game. Just think of it as the result of a necessary year for a version that feels "right" on the PC.

Major Game Releases: October 7 to October 11

Here are the major releases for the week of October 7 to October 11. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.

  • Indivisible [October 8, PS4, Xbox One, PC]: Lab Zero's follow-up to Skullgirls is finally here: Indivisible! It's not a fighting game though; it's an RPG in the vein of Valkyrie Profile. With its distinct Southeast Asian flavor and incredible animation, Indivisible is sure to leave a mark. In Nadia's review, she writes that its "unique blend of platforming and action-heavy monster fights will take some getting used to, but everything feels good once it clicks into place."
  • Concrete Genie [October 8, PS4]: Concrete Genie is a new action-adventure from PixelOpus, one of Sony Interactive Entertainment's Worldwide Studios. It's one of Sony's double-A fare, but its painting mechanics look charming. Stay tuned for our review from Hirun later this week.
  • John Wick Hex [October 8, PC, Mac]: John Wick Hex, one of our favorite games we played at E3 2019, is out this week too. It's set before the movies, following John on another quest for vengeance. It takes an unexpected structure too, as it acts as a strategy game that utilizes the time it takes to do an attack, rather than how many actions you can do in a single move. Our resident John Wick experts Caty and Mike were preoccupied unfortunately, so Kat is becoming the Boogeyman in their absence. Her review is coming this week.
  • Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair [October 8, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC]: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is going in impossible new directions for the Banjo-Kazooie inspired throwback series. Instead of taking cues from the Nintendo 64 era of 3D platformers, it's now going in a sort of side-scrolling Donkey Kong Country direction. It has an overworld now too. Oh yeah, and yes, Grant Kirkhope is still doing music for it, thankfully.
  • Killer Queen Black [October 11, Switch, PC, Mac]: If you've been to a barcade, you've probably seen Killer Queen Black, and a cluster of craft beer drinking folks swarming it. Killer Queen Black quickly became a staple in modern day arcades, and Killer Queen Black marks the series' first outing on home platforms. It'll be interesting to see how the 8-player game translates to the living room, and if it will be just as much of a multiplayer favorite.

This Week's News and Notes

  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint launched on Friday, and the critical and fan response to it has been mixed. You can look forward to a review from Mike later this week.
  • Destiny 2: Shadowkeep officially launched last week, and on Saturday, got its first big addition: a new raid and co-op mode called Vex Offensive. Caty's chasing the traces of Vex on the moon, but she's nearly raid-ready now. Stay tuned for her review this week.
  • Apple Arcade surprise launched four games over the weekend, including new titles from the developers of Neko Atsume and Machinarium. Thanks Apple Arcade, for continuing to make our backlogs worse.
  • Months after we confirmed that Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel) will be appearing in Marvel's Avengers, at New York Comic-Con it was announced that she'll be a playable hero⁠—and a pretty important one, from the sounds of it.
  • The Randy Pitchford legal drama with Gearbox's former legal counsel reached a quiet conclusion late last week.
  • If you played World of Warcraft back in the day, then chances are you read Joana's Leveling Guides. Our contributor Luke Winkie interviewed the speedrunner behind the favorite guides, and how with WoW Classic they're getting some renewed popularity too.
  • Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 has a schedule now, and features some pretty peculiar highlights like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Destiny 2's The Last Wish raid.
  • Axe of the Blood God: We're almost finished the 16-bit era in our Console RPG Quest, but first we have to talk about some of the lesser-known consoles of the period. We take a shotgun approach in this episode, covering the RPG histories of the 3DO, Jaguar, NeoGeo, and CDi. (They exist!) Also, we say a few words about AlphaDream as it files for bankruptcy, and talk more about portable RPGs. Tune in and subscribe here!

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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