6 ways PC gaming can improve in 2018

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Respect our disk space

Big studios are expected to build big worlds with high resolution textures—lest their game be accused of ‘looking like a PS1 game’ regardless of whether or not it does—and hi-res cutscenes and uncompressed soundtracks and fully-voiced casts and multiplayer modes and everything else under the sun. So games are getting bigger. They’ve always been getting bigger, and there’s no stopping it. But with 1TB SSDs out of reach for most, and internet speeds not keeping up in every region—with nasty pricing schemes getting in the way as well—game sizes are a serious issue for a lot of PC gamers.

I’m sure there’s a valid reason that XCOM 2 requires 72GB of disk space, while the sprawling Assassin’s Creed Origins requires 45.4GB, and Metal Gear Solid 5 requires 29GB—but from a lay perspective, it’s a little baffling, and suggests that these three games took very different approaches to constraining their file sizes. I won’t make demands I can’t fully articulate, though, as I don’t know the precise technical conditions differentiating these games. Instead, I’ll ask for more parceling. Let us tack-on those high-res textures if we want them. Let us download only the singleplayer or only the multiplayer, or delete the singleplayer when we’re done but keep everything needed for multiplayer. Let me download compressed audio if my PC is up to the task of decompressing it on the fly, rather than packaging gigs upon gigs of raw voice files. Collaboration between game distributors and developers can give us more choice when downloading games, and if games keep trending toward a hundred gig standard, they really ought to. —Tyler Wilde

Get with the times, Microsoft

It’s not just disk space you have to worry about, and with the recent repeal of Net Neutrality things could take a serious turn for the worse. Storing 50-100GB of data is bad enough, but downloading all of that data over a capped connection is brutal. And if you have a second PC like a laptop where you also play games, it’s potentially double the punishment.

The worst offender here by far is Microsoft and its Windows Store. Steam, UPlay, GOG, Origin, and most other digital distribution services have ways to transfer files between PCs and simply import the folder, saving you the trouble of a second (or if you’re like me and you test performance on multiple systems, a third or fourth…) download. The Windows Store DRM is brutal, however, locking you out of the files and folders, with no way to transfer a game from one PC to another. This has to change.

I’m not asking for the ability to play a game on two PCs at the same time, just let me copy the files over. Give us a “backup” and “restore” feature if nothing else! Encrypt the backup as needed, and use the same DRM methods to keep things safe. But there’s no reason to force a second download of 100GB (Forza Motorsport 7) for users with multiple PCs. —Jarred Walton

Take toxicity seriously

Many of the most popular multiplayer games on PC have been slow to manage toxicity. Rainbow Six Siege patched in a “report toxic behavior” function in last month, two years after release. In November, Valve introduced a new matchmaking system to called Trust to CS:GO, now six years old, that draws on wider data from a player’s Steam profile.

I don’t think we can purge all negativity and bad behavior from online games, but it should be a basic expectation in 2018 that our multiplayer games give us a way of flagging racism, bigotry, and abusive idiots in addition to hackers. Overwatch is one of the few PC games that lets you know when a report you’ve made has led to action against a player, though it could better illuminate what the punishment was. We’ve all got to take responsibility for making gaming culture a more pleasant thing to be a part of, but we also need systems that counterbalance the anonymous, ephemeral nature of multiplayer games. Expect us to call out games that don’t include this feature in our reviews. —Evan Lahti

Enough with the peripheral software updates

I imagine I’m like many of you in that I have barely any brand loyalty to peripheral manufacturers, and my home and work PCs are connected to a bunch of devices from the likes of Razer, Corsair and Logitech. And whilst I appreciate that these are kept in working order, and sometimes even improved over time, via firmware updates, I do resent the fact that every manufacturer forces its own bespoke software suite on us. These invariably want to run forever in the background and require updating seemingly on every other log-in.

I’m okay with updating GPU drivers—though I could write a whole article about why GeForce Experience shouldn’t demand a user account—to ensure the latest releases run palatably, but I draw the line at having to restart the whole computer to fix an issue with Indonesian language support for my mouse. I suspect that part of the problem is that this stuff is being made by firms who are, generally, much better at perfecting plastic input devices than they are at engineering lightweight, unintrusive software. I hope this year sees this software withdraw into the background like a terrified Victorian child when father has been at the brandy. —Tim Clark

Cloud saves for all

If you’re making a game in 2018, and it doesn’t support cloud saves: you’re bad, and you should feel bad. You’re definitely not good. What’s good is being able to access a save file on any computer you login on, from work to home to laptop. It’s probably my favorite feature added to Steam and other PC platforms in the past five years, and enough games now support it that I mostly assume it’ll be there. Starting this year, I hope that assumption proves out every single time.

I know every game is different. Save files vary by engine. The data they contain is different. But the details for Steam cloud saves are right there to read. They’re documented. GOG has built universal cloud saves for GOG Galaxy, and started adding support for old games. If I can have cloud saves for a game made in 1997, then I’m pretty sure a new game made in 2018 can get on board. You’re making life better for everyone. —Wes Fenlon

More peaceful modes, please

Frictional introduced a ‘safe mode’ for SOMA last year that protects players from monsters, and Ubisoft is planning an ‘educational mode’ Assassin’s Creed Origins in 2018 that will allow players to explore Egypt without having to fight. I say: more of this, please. I know some gamers dislike the thought of other players being allowed to skip challenges or play on lower (or zero) difficulty, but if you’re really angry about how other people are playing games you should wonder why you’re angry about how other people are playing games.

There’s no wrong way to play a game, and if some want to just peacefully explore a game world (I sometimes do, just to take pictures or appreciate the environment), some sort of safe, non-violent mode is a great feature and could help attract a wider audience. Often there are console codes to disable enemy AI or make the player impervious to damage anyway, so why not make it official? It obviously doesn’t make sense for every game out there (or even most), but I’d love to see a few more games in 2018 ship with peaceful modes for those who want to explore, not fight.  —Chris Livingston