The Division is another game in recent memory to have a downgrade controversy. This is nothing new, especially for publisher Ubisoft who has gone through this for the past few years thanks to the apparent downgrade of Watch Dogs compared to its E3 2012 footage. However, while downgrades are unfortunately a part of the business with publishers showcasing footage early on. However, it’s not normally admitted when a single version of the game has been essentially scaled back in order to be on par, visually, with the other versions.
Well, one of the developers of The Division has admitted just that.
In a video interview with YouTube channel Team Epiphany, the YouTube channel had access to a post-beta version of The Division, which also included access to an interview with a developer. After spending about 12 minutes or so talking about The Divisions’ use of Massive Entertainment’s “Snowdrop” engine, the YouTube channel went a bit off topic and asked specifically about possible restrictions that developing for console might have had on The Division.
When talking about the “potential” of the game’s engine, the developer admits that Massive has always seen the PC version of The Division as a separate version of the game. Typically in game development, many studios simply port a console version of their game to the PC, which leads sometimes to some very bad ports (such as Batman: Arkham Knight). However, Massive Entertainment has a history of doing some great PC work, such as Ground Control and the World in Conflict series. So the answer from the developer and his subsequent follow-up is surprising and disconcerting, especially for PC players.
“We do have to kind of keep it in check with consoles because it would kind of be unfair just to push it so far away from them,” says the developer in the video.
It’s important to note this goes in direct contrast to the quote Massive and Ubisoft made two years ago about The Division, via Techspot. The game’s developer said they would be creating the “best game” regardless of what platform you play on. By deliberately holding back on version, this seems to go against the original sentiment.
This is something that is constantly argued in the gaming industry – whether consoles hold back the industry. Crysis developer Crytek has stated as such, per Kotaku. For those in the camp that they do, this is certainly a quote in favor of this idea that consoles hold everything back. Essentially what this developer is admitting is that the PC version could be better, yet in order to make it “fair” to everyone, they had to scale back what the PC version could do in order to keep The Division on par with all versions.
Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry analysis hinted at this when they found that much of the PC assets on ultra were on par with the PlayStation 4 version of The Division.
The Division could look like those early renders we saw at E3 2013; however, instead of unlocking the full potential – and scaleability – of PC hardware, The Division’s artistic vision suffers across the board. Instead of having a version that shows the pinnacle of what the developers are able to achieve, there is now the talk of “downgrade.” Additionally, the argument that by doing so makes it fair to console players of The Division, Massive is then ignoring the PC players who invest their money in powerful rigs in order to achieve fidelity such as what they saw with the original Snowdrop engine demo. By doing this, Massive has effectively rendered their investment fruitless.
Some on the flipside can argue that Ubisoft is beholden to all of The Division players, so this is likely just a move to ensure that no one is made upset about the quality of their experience. But unfortunately for Ubisoft, The Division fans on PC are now upset. So while the aim was to ensure that all players receive a similar version, PC players of The Division are now playing a version that has been admitted isn’t the best experience it could be on the platform.
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[Image via Ubisoft]