When Steam announced its new refund policy, the timing was, perhaps, unfortunate in terms of gauging the response to the new policy. See, the new refund program came on the heels of a similarly new attempt by Steam to offer a platform for modders to charge for mods, which caused a nearly universal backlash from the gamer customers. With that fresh in everyone’s mind, it was disheartening to watch some game developers, particularly those on the indie side, criticize and worry over Steam having an actual refund policy for digital games. Not that every last bit of the concern was unwarranted, mind you, it’s just that the idea of Steam having essentially zero refund policy was one of those things that sounded like it couldn’t even be true, so any adoption of refunds was going to be a win for consumers. Still, the focus of gaming companies appeared to be on how horrible it all was for them, rather than understanding the legitimate reasons why a customer might seek a refund.
Here to helpfully demonstrate the why is Warner Bros. and its PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight, which is beginning to look like it was designed to be a very prominent middle finger to PC gamers. In case you haven’t kept up on what a complete mess the PC version of the game is, all you need to know is that WB’s own instructions on how to play it and what’s required for minimal settings will have you blinking in surprise. Here’s how WB says you should run the game on a minimum system:
Texture Resolution: Low
Shadow Quality: Low
Level of Detail: Low
Interactive Smoke/Fog: Off
Interactive Paper Debris: Off
Enhanced Rain: Off
Enhanced Light Shafts: Off
So, 720p and everything off or low on the details. Okay, that’s how you’d typically go about reducing the load on a minimum machine, fine. So what’s the now-recommended minimum from WB?
OS: Win 7 SP1, Win 8.1 (64-bit Operating System Required)
Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom II X4 965, 3.4 GHz
Memory: 6 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 (2 GB Memory Minimum) | AMD Radeon HD 7950 (3 GB Memory Minimum)
DirectX: Version 11
Network: Broadband Internet connection required
Hard Drive: 45 GB available space
Look, I don’t want to get into some war with the community over what a modern day gaming machine should look like, but that isn’t a minimum system by any standard. Not that this is the first game that doesn’t run on a decent modern machine (screw you, NBA2K15), but none of this was expected by gamers or WB, which is why they’ve been promising a patch ever since the port hit the market and everyone started freaking out. But there’s no timeline on that patch, of course, and in the meantime the company is essentially suggesting that you better have a better-than-average rig to even run this game at the minimum specs. But even then…
With these settings on Min Spec AMD GPU’s, users can expect some minor texture pops, occasional loading symbols during fast-paced scenarios, and some hitches & stuttering when gliding or driving the Batmobile. With these settings on Rec Spec AMD GPUs, users can expect some minor texture pops, occasional loading symbols during fast-paced scenarios, and some hitches & stuttering when gliding or driving the Batmobile. To help alleviate this, AMD users using Rec Spec GPU’s should turn Texture Resolution, Shadow Quality, and Level of Detail to Low. We continue to work closely with AMD to resolve these issues as soon as possible; make sure you have the most current drivers and check back here for updates on when the next driver version is available.
Meaning that depending on which GPU manufacturer your machine is using, a min-spec machine and all the settings turned low or off will get you to the point where your game almost works. Woo-hoo! And yet this is where Warner Bros., and Steam, deserve some recognition, because the company is pointing directly to Steam’s refund page on the community site to show customers where they can get refunds.
If you purchased your copy of the game through Steam and are not satisfied with your experience, you can request a refund at help.steampowered.com (Steam refund policies can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds).
And that’s why Steam needed a refund policy. The PC gaming community is very loyal to PC games, but that doesn’t change the fact that PC gaming includes variables where consoles do not. Performance and machine specs are the chief amongst them. If for no reason beyond that, the refund policy was overdue, rather than something for developers to freak out about.