…You’ll download this Dragon Age texture pack, and it’ll just work for you and it’ll look super-spanky and that will be that. Me, I’ve wasted over three hours trying to make this collection of spit’n’polished graphics take with my own DA install, hoping to be saved from the disappointingly muddy visuals of what was otherwise one of the finest games of 2009, but I’m still only getting itermittent, glitching results. Not the fault of the mod at all, I stress – something is just wrong with my install, and I’m avoiding re-downloading 18Gb of RPG to fix it. If the mod’s screenshots (poorly represented by the compressed JPGs herein) are anything to go on, though, it’s well worth it. But: why do mods like this exist in the first place? Why don’t the developers cater for this degree of detail themselves? Well, because it would be insane.
You’ll need a lot of memory and a flawless DA install to get working, but from the screens and the odd moment it seemed to flicker into life for me, JBtexutres definitely pepped-up Dragon Age’s otherwise rather murky visuals. Obviously these enthusiastically/agressively upscaled files are absolutely no substitute for enjoying enormo-res textures in the first place, but the simple fact is the devs have only provided us with low-res versions. Which reminds me of a mutually uninformed conversation I had with a chum recently – why don’t PC games just ship with mega-texture files for those who want them? The modders will always make them, so if chaps Photoshopping in their spare time can do it, why can’t the original creators?
There’s much going on there, I suspect, and it’s all too easy for relatively tech-au-fait PC gamers (in which I include myself) to blindly grumble about perceived graphical shortcomings.
Number one, if you’re trying to get your game finished and perfected on time, the last thing you want to worry about is a fringe collection of guys with enough disposable income to afford power-rigs that dramatically exceed a game’s mainstream system requirements. Come up with something that works on everything, rather than cater to the outliers.
Number two, filesize – Dragon Age plus the Awakenings expansion is over 18 gigabytes already. This mod pack is chasing 3gb once installed. It’s best to keep things lean in this age of ADSL throttling and continued dependency on 9.7GB DVDs.
Number three – even if you have found the time and resources to create it, the technical issues of QAing yet another set of textures are immense. Sometimes this mod seemed to work, but I’d see everything from physically impossible reflections to guards who seemed to be replacing their armour every three seconds due to some rendering or caching problem (admire my technical jargon, realise how little I know). Which is perhaps basically #1 again, but it is an important point – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few with Radeon 5870s.
I admit, I do wish more PC games shipped with built-in nods to people with high-end PCs, purely and selfishly because I currently happen to have a relatively good PC myself. On the other hand, I would sacrifice all the textures in the world for there to be more games like Dragon Age at all. I’ve only been playing it (finally finishing it, in fact) this weekend because I felt I had such a pathetically small number of contemporary options if I wanted to lose myself in an RPG. I’d take ten low-tech options over one super-fidelity offering any day. The need for high-technology as well as immense amounts of dialogue and player-choice permutations is, I suspect, a major element of why Richie McRich Bioware is one of depressingly few major players in this genre. To create an acclaimed RPG in 2010 must be an incredibly frightening prospect for anyone who isn’t already incredibly successful.
Or, to link both contradictory arms of my lamentation, if my roleplaying kicks weren’t so dependent on such a tiny handful of games, I wouldn’t feel the need for third-party texture packs. I’d be confident in finding a splendid world to lose myself in, rather than having to make the only available world (that I haven’t already visited, before you proceed to name a dozen great RPGs from the last five years) as absurdly picture-perfect as I can.
I really, really wish I could get that texture pack to work, though. The number of happy customers in its comments thread reveals I’m just a victim of poor chance, of course – I have faith that, in another install or in another game, this gambit would have worked out beautifully. Morrowind, for instance, was transformed beautifully by mods when I replayed it last year. This is why I love PC gaming. An infinity of minds wanting to improve something they love – and on this platform, they have the means and opportunity to achieve it. This is why I love PC gaming.
In other Dragon Age news, I’ve had to apply a dodgy crack because EA/Bioware’s broken, paranoid, Ubiosoftian online authentication system claims I am not entitled to access the DLC I already own. God, I miss codewheels.