HOW TO MINIMIZE FRUSTRATIONS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
How publishers rate the success or failure
of a video game is often determined by its first day sales, which can reach into the millions of copies. Many people want that game the second it's released. However, this is also the peak time for bugs and glitches to abound and some of them may be out of your control. Servers can get overwhelmed with millions of people trying to download the game on day one. If you have confidence in the developers quickly releasing patches, you may want to take the chance, but you can save yourself some grief by waiting for that first flush of user reviews. From these you will find out whether the problems are minor or much more serious. There's nothing worse than getting all hyped up to play on your day off only to find out that your game won't load or is unplayable in its current state. The last few years have been bad for Triple AAA games being released before they are truly polished and it seems to be trending with developers and publishers to either put gag orders on game journalists or not issue previews for review before release. That's a big, red warning flag you should be paying attention to. Critic pre-reviews can also be done on free copies distributed to them by the publishers and often these are not the same as the final release to the public. In addition, many of them are reviewed on console versions and not on PC versions, which can vastly differ in performance.
Make sure your operating system,
memory and graphics card are all sufficient to handle the game. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many people buy blind. This can also work in reverse as depending on the age of the game, it may have its own set of problems concerning compatibilty to newer technology. If you plan to make PC gaming a hobby, you can resign yourself to the fact that hardware upgrades may eventually become necessary to play the latest releases. Newer PC games can take up huge amounts of hard drive space and require the latest drivers to run properly. You will also have to become comfortable tinkering around in config files and graphic card management programs. Check out TechTalk for an easy lesson in the components of game system requirements
and where to find the information about your own machine. Even if you have done your homework, you may still run into the occasional dud that will just not work for you, but if the requirements have been met, it's rare not to find some way around the problem. Check Features for a list of PC game reviews
which include issues and possible fixes.
Although this is not so much of an issue anymore,
except perhaps for older games and older systems, do you have a CD drive or a DVD drive or both? Due to compatibility issues, some people keep their old machines just to play older games. This is that tray that you open and put the disc in to install the game. If you're a bargain bin shopper, check the game label to make sure you're not buying a DVD if you only have a CD player or vice versa. Many older games are CD technology. This is only significant if you want a hard copy and many machines do not even have CD drives any more.
Check the game modes
as some games "are" only multiplayer, or mostly multiplayer, so make sure there is also a decent single-player campaign if that is your interest. Also, the reviews might be quite different for each mode. Left 4 Dead is an example of this. Although online play will keep you interested much longer, the single-player portion is short and nothing to write home about. I knew this by reading reviews and only purchased it when I could get it Left 4 Deadcheap - LOL! Much later, however, I learned about all the add-on community single-player mods, which then gave the game much greater value. So, do some research first before you buy.
Again, through research,
find out how well the game plays using the keyboard and mouse and whether the keys can be re-mapped. With so many games being ported to PC from the console, the developer's proficiency at doing this can range from good to inept. For example, you cannot re-map the keys in Dead Space 1 without a third-party mod. Also, at one time using the arrow keys for movement was standard, but now it seems to lean toward WASD. Some games have not allowed for the choice, which can be a problem for arrow users, southpaws or people with disabilities. Sleeping Dogs is a prime example of this. There are also ported games that really need to be played with a controller and are basically unplayable without one. Reading reviews should give you the heads up, but often do not, so be specific in your search queries or ask in the forums. Many Indie games do not include a key rebinding function.
If you are purchasing
a used game, make sure it either does not require a CD key or if it does that it's included in the game. A CD key is an identification number of a legally purchased game and is required to install it. Steam accounts, games purchased through Steam, and games that require Steamworks to play cannot be resold period, even with a key, so watch out for people trying to resell these. If purchasing new games online, always buy from trusted sources. Do not buy CD keys from shady sites. Keys that have been registered to specific clients cannot be re-used. Millions of people play games and unfortunately this attracts scam artists, so be sure to purchase or trade for these through legitimate and safe means as you will have no recourse otherwise. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Everyday on the Steam Community forum, you will see new threads titled "I've Been Scammed." Use the power of Internet search to get feedback from users. You can check the section called GameClients for info on the most well-known and trusted sites for buying games.
If you are going to download games,
patches, mods or any kind of software whether free or otherwise, if a dialog box comes up asking whether to save or run the file, ALWAYS SAVE. Set up file folders for any software programs, updates, patches or save game files you download. Once downloaded, it will ask if you want to open the folder. Say yes and then right click on the file and from the drop down menu scan it with your anti-virus program. If it is safe, then double left click on the .exe file to install it on your computer. The last thing you need is a virus. The exception to this is when you download games from trusted and well known sites that automatically install the game.
One of the things
you should check before purchasing is whether the game needs patches. If it does, once the game is installed, also download the patch and install it - keeping in mind to save first and check for viruses. Most games will need patches and they can be found either on the official game site or on many other sites. Find a site you like and trust and use it for patches for all your games. Also be aware that there may be different patches required for a hard copy or a digital copy and will not work if you mix them up. Games that use clients to launch, such as Steam and Uplay, are usually automatically patched with any official patches, but may still need user patches. Fortunately, there are many talented people who do these mods for free.
Older games that are still readily available on distribution sites may already be officially patched to whatever the last-supported version was.
Shop around for the best prices.
Games constantly go through sale cycles and if you are patient, the game you want will come on sale through one distributor or another. As a savvy consumer, you shouldn't confine yourself to one single source when there are many other perfectly safe choices. If you prefer using Steam for its features, most of them offer Steam keys that can be added to the client.