One of the earliest stories I wrote for Waypoint, back when it was VICE Gaming, was a profile of LowSpecGamer, a YouTube creator who specifically makes videos to help people run games on low-end hardware. The channel was born from humble origins: at college, he had a crappy laptop and wanted to play modern games, so he found tricks that let him play games he wasn't "supposed" to.
It's why I was encouraged by an article on PC Gamer yesterday, where Rare said it was trying to engineer their social-focused pirate game, Sea of Thieves, to run on objectively bad hardware. They're even supporting a mode where the game will lock at 15 frames-per-second or run at sub-high definition resolutions like 540p.
"We're trying to go as low as possible," said executive producer Joe Neat. "We have an idea of what the minimum specs are but aren't quite ready to reveal them. We've actually been inviting people below our current plan for minimum specs into the technical alpha so we can test a number things on the performance side."
Some of the comments were predictable. We're talking about a website called PC Gamer, where the readers likely take maintaining PCs very seriously.
"No man who enjoys his games at 15 FPS will ever be my friend."
Then again, others understood the audience for a feature they might not use:
"I beat Age of Mythology thinking that the game was supposed to run like a slideshow. This was years ago. When the HD re-make came out I booted it up and realized each mission was not supposed to last about an hour and a half. So I can say I used to be one of those people."
"Back when I was a kid and owned my first PC I used to play games like Medal of Honor, Hitman 2 and GTA 3 below 30 fps and didn't give a damn. I played the games for what they were."
No one is going to argue 540p and 15 frames-per-second is the ideal way to play any game, let alone Sea of Thieves. But it's also true that many people are stuck playing on machines they would have upgraded long ago, if they had the money. Maybe there are technical (or artistic) reasons other games wouldn't go to the same lengths as Rare, but Rare's decision reflects the reality of how people often play games in non-ideal conditions. It would behoove more developers to consider this.
Are you someone who's played a game at a crappy frame rate? How come?