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I read some reviews about Crysis 2 and some people complain that it's not a great PC game because it's a console port. I'm trying to figure out (without success) what console port means. Of course I know that most games nowadays are targeted for as many platforms as possible and consoles are far away from being the best platform for FPS games (it's difficult to beat the accuracy of the mouse).

So, I can't see Crysis 2 being very different from any old "PC" only FPS such as Quake 2 or Medal of Honor 1 & 2, which had a linear story and were just FPS games.

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All great answers, I would like just to add something specifically releated to Crysys 2. Usually a porting (for pc or console doesn't matter) is a "technical" thing: I do not touch the gameplay I just rewrite the same game to run on another platform. In this case, referring to Crysys 2, it means that developers designed the game (so the main focus is gameplay here) to adhere to the console paradigm. So it's not a real port because Crysys 2 is native to pc AND console, but it's like saying this game is crap because they designed it for a console and I'm using a mouse. –  dierre Apr 28 '11 at 15:08
    
Even if technically native, the gameplay was ported. It was developed with one platform in mind/heavy focus, and no adaption or similar priority was made for PC. Close to definition, yes, it was not ported. But its included when ppl nowadays talk of porting, because in the end, it was developed with consoles in focus and then moved/ported over, even when that was done in parallel. –  Kissaki Jun 15 '11 at 19:56
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up vote 31 down vote accepted

I think there's a difference between the dry definition of a port and the thing that people complain about.

The term "a port of a game" means a game was developed for one set of platforms, and it was later released for other platforms. Technically, a game released for multiple platforms from the get-go - such as Crysis 2 you have mentioned - shouldn't be called a port.

But that's not what people complain about. A game can be a port from its version on another platform, and still be a great game which was carefully ported. What people really complain about are games that exhibit elements not appropriate for the platform they are running on; unfortunately, this is a common occurrence with ports, hence the connection.

The problem isn't really exclusive to ports - a port may be a good port (modified to fit the new platform perfectly), while a non-ported game released on many platforms may simply work better on one platform vs another. The truth is, though, that many game today are designed with consoles in mind, and unfortunately their PC version (whether a port or a simultaneously-released version) is inferior because they are not properly adapted.

Common examples of things not properly adapted are UI elements - e.g. where mouse navigation is lacking while keyboard navigation is fine; aiming - where in consoles FPS often have auto-aiming mechanisms that should not appear on the PC; driving - where the accurate gamepad control does not have a parallel in a PC keyboard; etc. One of the biggest ones is something a little less obvious, and that's performance - a poor "port" might have poor performance on the platforms it was not originally designed to work with.

EDIT I've recently found this nice piece listing problems or missing features that plague PC releases of console-oriented games nowadays. Although it specifically bashes some select titles, it does mention problems that I've seen in many recent games, and I thought it's worthy to include the link here.

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@Oak, I closed Blake answer but you explanation is also very good. Thanks! –  Augusto Apr 28 '11 at 11:06
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Hell, I like Oak's answer better. –  Doozer Blake Apr 28 '11 at 12:02
    
Yeah... Play Halo on the XBox... then play Halo on the PC. Just doesn't feel right. Halo was made for a console THEN ported to the PC. –  WernerCD Apr 28 '11 at 12:44
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Ok, ok, I can feel the pressure :). Thanks a lot Oak, Blake and Ragnar for your answers! I can understand a bit better now what some people mean by "console port" (in a negative connotation) and how it's abused :). –  Augusto Apr 28 '11 at 13:36
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Also seeing Console icons in the PC is such a shame. Sometimes you see the XBox green A, red B etc. –  RvdK May 4 '11 at 11:25
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From Wikipedia

"Console Port" is a term specifically used to describe a game that was originally made for a console (such as PS3 or Xbox 360) before an identical version is created which can be played on a personal computer. This term has been widely used by the gaming community, primarily in a negative way due to the higher levels of performance that computers had during that generation of gaming.

The negative connotations also sometimes focus around things like:

  • Lack of support for customizations
  • Lack of support for mods
  • Lack of a console (to perform commands in game)
  • Lack of dedicated servers for multi-player

The games aren't always specifically created for a single console, but people can often perceive it to be that way. It's quite likely the developers are trying to keep their code-base as consistent as possible to require less work to maintain multiple versions.

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other negative connotations are: - lack of advanced [graphics] options; in game text referncing a console (eg. while saving); in game text referencing console controls (eg. while playing the tutorial) –  Xantec Apr 28 '11 at 13:13
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It can also be a general half-baked job of porting. Bugs, missing features, etc. –  Matthew Read Apr 28 '11 at 13:34
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It means that the game was ported from a console. It was first developed for a console, the code was initially written in such a way that the game runs on a certain console (PS3, Xbox360, Wii etc.) and then they took that code and modified it so that it will run on a PC (usually, under Windows).

The same code or the compiler that runs or makes the game run on a PS3 does not run on an XBox, it needs to be modified first. This is what is called "a port", as far as I know. I might be entirely incorrect about the specifics, I only know about the concept as a whole.

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That's what I don't understand (please keep reading) Crysis 2 was release for PS3, Xbox and PC at the same time. And CryEngine 3 is a multiplatform engine, so there's no (or little) code modification. –  Augusto Apr 28 '11 at 10:41
    
The same code that runs on a PS3 does not run on an XBox, it needs to be modified first. This is what is called "a port" - That's not true, it has to be recompiled for the platform, but there are no code changes. That's what makes something multiplatform. Take Firefox as an example, you have the same code and then it's compiled for linux, windows, mac and any other platform. –  Augusto Apr 28 '11 at 10:44
    
I'm no gaming professional (even though I worked in gaming QA for a few months), but from what I understood about the porting process, as it relates to "console ports", is that the game was conceived from the get-go as being for a specific console primarily; every other version of the game is a port in that, while they may have the same functionality or whatever, they are derived from the "main" branch... I hope this makes sense, I dunno, maybe I'm not explaining it correctly. –  Ragnar Apr 28 '11 at 10:48
    
@Augusto - That's not true, it has to be recompiled for the platform, but there are no code changes Sure, it was my bad, I don't know that much about coding, what I meant was that modifications must be performed in order for the game to work on a different hardware. –  Ragnar Apr 28 '11 at 10:51
    
@Augusto: There may be code changes, of course. Take for example graphics. On the XBOX and PC, they use DirectX code. But they can't on the PS3! They have to rewrite the lowest level graphics core. The engine itself might be compilable without changes, though. –  sinni800 Jun 16 '11 at 11:21
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