PC gamers recoiled in horror when Jean-François Dugas, director of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, announced in an interview with Shacknews that Eidos Montreal is outsourcing the PC version of the classic PC game to a joint in the Netherlands called Nixxes.
Dugas told Shacknews that the job both was and wasn't being done in-house, and then clarified that the job is a "partnership" with the Dutch studio. It's bracing news, especially for a game that's a cornerstone in the foundation of PC gaming. But while there's good reason to be concerned, there's also evidence that the decision might be a net positive for PC gamers and Deus Ex fans.
The PC isn't the lead platform
For two consecutive years we've named the original Deus Ex as the PC's best game ever . DE is a pinnacle of player agency, unscripted design and a heap of other traits that value what our platform can do. And while we've shrugged off some of the recent forum-bred vitriol about franchises like Crysis becoming "consolized," it's heartbreaking to think that DE:HR may not be being built from the ground up with basics like high-end graphics settings or mouse and keyboard movement in mind. Knowing DE: HR is being developed for consoles first is comparable being a lifelong Packer fan and having to watch Brett Favre play for the Vikings.
It's not the same development team
Aside from that emotional attachment to Deus Ex staying true to its design ideals, there are logistics that make us tug at our unpopped collars. Montreal and the Netherlands are separated by an ocean and six time zones--Nixxes can't exactly jog up to Canada if they have a question about 7.1 surround sound support or quicksaving. Lacking that intimate access would put any creative team at a disadvantage--not having Eidos' designers on hand to provide feedback is a handicap. While we wouldn't doubt Nixxes work ethic, we'd be more comfortable if the people responsible for the fundamental design of Human Revolution were within reach.
The PC version will get dedicated, full-time attention
Being a parent is hard, right? I wouldn't want to try nurturing three children with varied needs, personalities and hard drive space at the same time--very few adults could give all three the same attention.
If Eidos hadn't outsourced the PC version to another company, it would have had to juggle development of the 360, PS3 and PC versions of the game simultaneously. By getting help from an outside company, it's possible small-but-important aspects like user interface, key bindings, graphics settings will get more proper, dedicated attention than they would if Eidos Montreal was simply producing one generalized, compromised template for all three platforms. That extra attention should also assure that the PC version of DE:HR won't hit months after its console counterparts, as Ubisoft and other publishers have developed a bad habit of doing.
Forums and comment threads may treat it like one, but "port" isn't a universally dirty word. We've seen that companies can be successful in bringing games to the PC when a genuine effort is made: the original Mass Effect, Resident Evil 5, Street Fighter IV, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Mirror's Edge all hit our hard drives in full stride--some were noticeably improved over the console version. Nixxes Software has more than a decade of history of porting games to the PC. The company has been in the business since the late '90s, converting games from the Legend of Kain series, Tomb Raider: Legend, Underworld and Anniversary, and most recently Kain and Lynch 2: Dog Days. As these contracting studios go, they're one of the most experienced.
Two reasons for concern, and two reasons to not sweat it. Maybe we should all just chill out and wait for PC Gamer's hands-on preview.
UPDATE: Changed "Resident Evil 4" to "Resident Evil 5" as indeed, the RE4 port sucked.