Port Report: Dead Island Riptide

DIR1

Port Reports are a new series of quick first impressions of the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Dillonator. For an up to date account of Dead Island: Riptide′s fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

Dead in the water.

Oh boy, have I been looking forward to the near inevitable terrible-ness of Dead Island: Riptide. If you remember Dead Island’s release, it was riddled with bugs, issues and plain nastiness for absolutely every platform. I bought it on Xbox but I did see the absolutely brilliant effort they didn’t make on PC. The game wasn’t totally ruined on Xbox and was quite enjoyable with a minor issue here and there that could be fixed with a restart. A year and a half later and the departure from the humming, occasionally huffing, white blob of the 360 to a big harmonic PC, now I get to be on the receiving end of some of the worst quality pieces of 4-30GB downloadable hatred. Queue Riptide, eh?

A little bit of reading material

Techland_logo

On an intrepid journey to research the game’s developer (which consisted of looking at Wikipedia for 5 minutes, so I can say I did research and come up with a quick summary of their production quality accompanied with a snarky comment or six) I came across a few interesting things. Techland is a 22 year old software company whose every single title has come out on Windows. Admittedly, nothing of theirs is really worth phoning home about but it’s just the idea of it. For 13 years, Techland have been making video games (for the 9 years beforehand they probably twiddled thumbs and made endless “Hello World” scripts in Python). 13 years. If you came to me to me saying a well experienced games developer would like to make a game which on paper should combine some great aspects of great games and they just need some money, I’d be scrambling for my cheque book. If you interrupted me to say that the developer was Techland, I would voluntarily induce vomiting. Even worse is that Techland has had their own, in-house engine in development for the past 9 bloody years! What were they doing, twiddling their thumbs and making endless “Hello World” scripts in Python?

After this amount of time with their own virtual foundations, I would assume that the development part of the process should just step out of the way, similar to Valve. Where games aren’t bound to what’s possible within the game engine, it simply happens and gameplay aspects become the main focus of creation. What I’m trying to get across in this now-a-tad-too-long and off on a tangent paragraph is realistic expectation. If I download a free indie game made by an amateur developer in their spare time, I can understand if it breaks every half an hour. When people buy a game professionally made by a company who have employees with children legally old enough to buy their M rated games, I expect a reasonable amount of quality.

Performance

Before we get into the sticky mess of Riptide, I’d like to talk about the performance of the game. Now, most of you will be able to pull 60FPS quite easily, you just have to pray that the mighty gods see pity on you and don’t strike you with micro-stutter or frame drops. I’d like to quickly touch on micro-stutter for the benefit of everyone, as it seems to be a taboo subject and everyone is all too fast to blame the player’s computer. Stuttering is an indication of an issue deeper within the engine, a good example is the 64Hz bug found in Fallout 3/NV and Elder Scrolls 4/5. The 64Hz bug is where the game engine runs at 64Hz, which is a massive issue if you have a 60Hz monitor, as you will skip 4 frames every second. Like with most stuttering issues, it remains undocumented but here a Steam user had the same bug in his own software and was able to fix it (full thread here).

Of course, the fix for other games might not be as simple as the one Bethesda is refusing to do but just a heads up, if you see a post talking about micro-stutter in a game and you don’t have it, just keep scrolling. Too many times threads have been derailed into “well I don’t have it therefore it’s your fault” and not actually fixing it. I fixed my micro-stuttering by using a controller, the game turned into a mess whenever I used the mouse, so that’s a solution you can consider if you’re having issues.

Audio and general settings

DeadIslandGame_x86_rwdi_2013_04_26_20_00_55_270

I don’t know why these two were lumped together in the game menu but hey-ho. The volume has basic sliders, nothing really to report there (I’d recommend turning music off, makes the world a lot creepier). The rest of the settings are as you would expect. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

Video settings

DeadIslandGame_x86_rwdi_2013_04_26_20_01_14_958

The video settings are just downright frustrating. It totally ignores anti aliasing and anisotropic filtering (two very apparent visual flaws throughout the game), it doesn’t tell me what “FX quality” means and you have to restart to make changes to texture and shadow quality. If you buy this game, you absolutely need Dead Island Helper, a fan-made utility which helps to tweak settings. Using that, disable bloom, blur (both the motion and distance blur), turn on SMAA, disable weapon refraction and the desaturation effect. Maybe turn up the shadow resolution if you’re computer is powerful enough. Boom, the game is considerably nicer to look at and all it took was a tool that released within a few days of the game (if that).

You can also turn up the FOV using Dead Island Helper. I’m looking into Riptide’s interpretation of FOV – the game doesn’t look like the reported 62.5° at default, nor does it really look like what I set it as. I was getting fisheye at 85°, which shouldn’t happen.  Do take note, this may come with the side effect of affecting the gun physics, although I didn’t get such an issue. As with many things in PC gaming YMMV.

Control remapping

DeadIslandGame_x86_rwdi_2013_04_26_20_01_37_222

Mouse settings are barebones with no filtering options (such as acceleration/deceleration) but does have a nice sized sensitivity slider. The key rebindings are okay but fall into a trap of forcing you to use one key for several contextual actions and you have to choice in splitting them up. Also, it won’t let me bind a key to my side front mouse button (the one used to go forward in a browser) but it will let me bind to the side back button. Probably just a bug. On the subject of control, the game handles fairly well. Riptide renders your full body so you do actually feel like a heavy, tired person and at no point do you think that the game’s control make it difficult to navigate the world (just a bit awkward at points).

Conclusion

Riptide is essentially an “expandalone,” one Techland screwed up and missed an opportunity to really instill confidence within consumers about Dead Island 2 (or alternative upcoming titles). They could have used Riptide to show off their ability to create a fun and lengthy game as smoothly as possible. But no, not only did they release a sloppy mess, it’s also a huge slap to the face. The laziness is unbelievable, Riptide does nothing new and there is no justification to all these bugs, glitches and issues popping up. Not only that but they totally ignore issues with the previous game, like the FOV and vague settings.

How on earth can an experienced game developer who have had their own engine for the past 9 years still struggle with these basic things? Why can all of them be fixed with a third party tool from a hobbyist modder? When did someone decide “let’s not spend time polishing our product and instead laugh at people’s posts complaining about our game”? I sound like a bloody children’s show going through the five Ws.

The game’s zombies are a great metaphor for Riptide, it may be kinda fun and energetic but you can break their legs with little effort.

For an up to date account of Dead Island: Riptide′s fixes and improvements, please visit its respective Dead Island: Riptide article.

Tags: ,