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Holy Framerate Batman! Some Lessons From Arkham Knight


Batman is so depressed in this screenshot that he's even dragging the framerate down.

Steam’s refund system will be put to the test today. Arkham Knight, by most accounts (65% of accounts going by Steam reviews at the time of writing) is a piece of ill-optimised garbage. Now, I don’t own the game – I’m not a big fan of the Arkham games and, above all else, thou shalt not pre-order. I did not, and I am very happy for it, but I just had to write something about this not least because I now have one of my friends being very angry, for a variety of reasons related to the game.

Rock Paper Shotgun’s Adam Smith details the problems, including video evidence here. This is not good by any stretch of the imagination. Some people seem to find it ok, and such people should share their magical powers.

The problems are very simple and caused by one thing: the game was not optimised. According to most reports, having a view more than a block in length causes the framerate to dip to single digits. Cutscenes cause framerate dips, down to about 20fps on GTX 980 Titans – the best card on the market and into single digits for anything less than a GTX 970. Why am I talking about Nvidia cards only? Heh, about that.

The game won’t run on AMD. It crashes.

[Edit: AMD has released new drivers for Knight, with mixed effect]

Let’s take a look at the fallout:

On the Steam Reviews side, things are civilized-ish. There is understandable outrage, combine this with some shifty behavior and the actions of Warner Bros/Rocksteady become unacceptable. Here are some of the more confusing problems, confusing in the sense of ‘what in Batman’s balls were you thinking!?’ kind of confusing.

-30fps lock (in 2015 on PC, seriously?)

-AMD crashes (how did you miss this?)

-Single digit framerates on any rig (indicative of no testing whatsoever)

-Holding out on information on the Harley Quinn DLC for Nvidia GTX customers


That last one is worth a little bit of discussion. People who bought an Nvidia GTX card in the leadup to release got a free copy of Arkham Knight. It was asked repeatedly if that came with the Harley Quinn DLC – nobody ever responded to such a request, which sucked, and is poor form even for a AAA company. But at least in that case it was free.

There were also no review codes for the PC (at least Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer, the two biggest PC gaming sites, did not receive any) which was cause for alarm, and an instant loss of a purchase from yours truly. Never, ever pre-order a game that has either a review embargo that lasts until at least launch or that does not give review codes – you are almost certainly going to regret it.

It is also worth pointing out that the base game is £35, not £40 or even £50 (which is $80 – yes that is what some companies have started charging in the UK now), which makes the whole thing marginally better. That is the silver lining: at least it didn’t cost as much as Unity, even if it plays as badly.

 So keep this in mind:

 Thou shalt not pre-order

Thou shalt not purchase without reading reviews

Thou shalt not trust pretty screenshots

Thou shalt watch for review embargos

Thou shalt not pre-order

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About James Internet Egoone of us since 2:56 PM on 04.21.2015

Howdy! Welcome to the little corner of the internet that a part of me calls home. Here's some stuff about me.

Occupation: Student

Hobbies: Videogames, Chess, Philosophy

Interests: Law, Philosophy, Gaming

Chores: PC maintenance, Uni prep

Current Thought: Damn you Witcher 3! Damn you Crones to hell!

Favorite Game: KotOR 2 for reasons, but Witcher 3 is now joint first, bloody marvelous game.

Current Game: The Witcher 3

I am a fan of the written word as well as the spoken variety, so you'll find me doing a lot of written stuff. Every couple of days hopefully.

Here is a nifty list of what I think is my best stuff.

Destructoid C-Blogs
How Cities: Skylines Almost Screwed Up My Exam
Why the PR Man Can Lie
On Mods and Money
How Mass Effect Made Me Like Music
Questing For Immersion
An Afternoon With the SWG Emulator
How to Buy a game in 2015
Some Upbeat Thoughts on Bioware
The Pain of Playing Old Games
Why Citybuilders Are Not ABout Building Cities
On Valve's Inability to Follow The Law
Band of Bloggers: KotOR

Some Written Word on Game Design
Ambivalence and Not Caring

Front Paged Things
Bloggers Wanted: KotOR 2

Kotaku UK
The Best Zombie Game Out There

That covers the bio, right?

Oh, right - name. I'm James, in case you couldn't guess.