This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Phil Savage: Petty sessions

Files were found within a recent Steam beta release that may hint at an overhaul. It's still not clear whether this is an in-house mock up by Valve, or something more benign. But it does highlight a long standing annoyance of mine: Steam is kinda ugly.

It's improved over the years—I still shudder at the putrid green of the 2000s era—and the Storefront receives more regular updates. But the current library design has been in place since around 2010, and it's just a bit shabby. It would be nice to get some more attractive profile options, a more fully featured and streamlined detail panel, some better, more efficient ways to organise games. Skins help, but they're just covering up the cracks—the problems go deeper. I'd be well up for a new design. And so yes, by all means worry about the fact that Western civilisation is tearing itself apart. But don't deny me the right to be mildly annoyed by a thing that could look a bit better. 

James Davenport: Conan the branch-picker-upper

Minecraft was a mistake. The trailer for Conan Exiles was a huge sell for me. There’s still time to deliver on the fantastic adventure it promises, but instead of battling gargantuan fantasy creatures, I spent the majority of my first four hours picking up sticks, chopping down trees, and smashing boulders. Chris, our resident Survival Guy, wrote about his experience at length, and I completely agree. Conan Exiles is a typical survival game, to an almost baffling degree. Is there really no other way to kick off a player’s experience besides drowning them in the same mundane chores we’ve all seen in so many other games? 

At the start of Conan, the only distinction between it and every other survival game from here to Minecraft is a lovely crafted dong physics system. My hope is that the team doesn’t just iterate on the mechanics in place, but isn’t afraid to uproot them entirely in favor of getting players to what makes their game unique. I’ll keep my eye on Conan, sure, but it’ll need to dangle something else in front of me to find enough reason to come back.  

Samuel Roberts: No more teasing

I recently finished FFXV on consoles, and while it has a lacklustre second half, it's also one of my favourite open world games in years. That's why it's mildly annoying that Square Enix is talking publicly about a PC version of the game that doesn't actually exist yet—just hurry up and announce the damned thing! Talking about mod support before the game has actually been announced seems like the wrong way around, to me. I'm sure they have their reasons, though. Just making that game from scratch after the previous version was scrapped no doubt made for a tricky development process.

So at least they're speaking about it, which probably indicates that Square Enix will do it eventually. But hey, why not now, as the series celebrates its 30th anniversary? 

Joe Donnelly: Head candy

To be honest, I've spent too much time hiding behind the couch while playing Resident Evil 7 this week to notice an appropriate low in PC gaming. I did pop my head up on Wednesday to catch the aforementioned NSFW song animation and music person Weebl made for Chris in light of his dong-slider antics in Conan Exiles. I too still have the song lodged in my brain—something which has inadvertently made my Resi sessions even more terrifying. 

That aside, while I'm yet to give Exiles a go myself, I was pretty disappointed Chris—a tried and tested survival games aficionado—wasn’t impressed by it. Having just entered Early Access, it’s certainly early days for Funcom's open-world survival-a-thon, so I hope it’s able to improve with time.       

Jarred Walton: Game Mode beta blues

Last week, Microsoft announced a new feature rolling out in the preview build of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Game Mode. It sounds like a good idea, optimizing OS services and other applications to prioritize games when they’re running, and it fell to me to do some live testing of Game Mode. Color me underwhelmed, at least for now.

My fear going into this was that Game Mode won’t do much if you’re using relatively fast hardware, and maybe even if you’re not using very fast hardware. After running benchmarks over the past few days—plus enduring the pain of moving one of my PCs onto the Windows Insider Fast Ring—my fears proved true. The best result I’ve seen so far was a three percent improvement in performance, using a Core i3 processor paired with a GTX 1080. With slower GPUs and/or faster CPUs, Game Mode mostly delivered equal or slightly slower performance.

This is obviously beta software, and I’m hopeful Microsoft can improve the feature and tune it over the coming months. Ideally, when the Creators Update goes into full public release it will be something we can all use and know that at worst, it won’t hurt performance. For now, it’s an interesting idea that hasn’t shown much benefit, albeit only with limited testing.

Chris Livingston: Reneging on our rivals

A few years ago, while freelancing for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I played DayZ with the caveat that if I died while playing, I wouldn’t play again for the rest of my life. It was an experiment in perma-permadeath, an extraordinarily dumb one, and I died almost immediately in the stupidest way possible.

Well, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve broken my promise to never play DayZ again. While gathering footage for my Very Important Article about how much I hate chopping down trees in survival games, I went back into DayZ for a bit to chop down a tree. So, take note for the future: when I make a promise I honor it, but only for about two years. 

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