A Tale of Drivers

From a comment I made at Kotaku when someone said ATI was better than nVidea.

Let me regale you of a tale of a dark and dangerous world - a world called 'drivers'. Our 'hero', if one can call him that, goes by the name of Catalyst, and no matter where he goes, he is endlessly followed by the tales of the games that were rendered unplayable due to his lack of prowess. It is a sad and unhappy tale, full of misery, woe and anger, mostly mine. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

Once upon a time, a young gamer tried to play Bioshock with his outdated PC on too many times and found that the motherboard had died. Sad and frustrated, he convinced his parents to lend him the money so he could purchase a brand new PC, one that would be capable of playing not just Bioshock, but also Crysis, should the mood take him (though it never did, sadly).

This shiny new PC came with nearly everything that PC Gamer magazine (the UK one) recommended, including a relatively new ATI Radeon HD 5850 card. And when he got the PC up and running, it was wonderful! Bioshock could run for longer then 15 minutes at a time! FEAR looked shiny and impressive! Half-Life 2 was much the same!

And when the time came to update his drivers, our gamer did so without nary a question. "New drivers", he told himself, "means better performance with games!" The gamer, if you have yet to realise, is not the smartest tool in the workshop.

Update his Radeon drivers our young gamer did, and now they proudly displayed the number 10.2 on their shield. And the gamer thought no more about it, playing the same games over and over again.

But then the young gamer, in an RPG mood, tried to play Neverwinter Nights. Denied! The game crashed before it even reached the main menu! The gamer was puzzled. The game had always run on his old machine. What had happened? Had the final patch not applied properly?

And so he went through the lengthly process of re-installing NWN and its two add-ons. Remember, the game was released back in the days before DVDs, so in total there were 5 CDs to go through. To say it was inconvenient is somewhat of an understatement. To say it was a massive pain in the arse is much more appropriate.

Yet, once he had re-installed the game and fully patched it, the problem persisted. And so, frustrated and annoyed at the wasted half an hour he had just spent, the gamer turned to the internet for help. And, eventually, he found it, in the form of other gamers complaining of the same problem while possessing similar graphics cards.

The diagnosis? "It's the Radeon 10.2 drivers", they cried! "It interferes with the Aurora engine and stops it from running!" And to the gamer's horror, this meant that any game that used the same engine, or had engines developed on top of it, would have the same problem. Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, Jade Empire, and even The Witcher! A shocking oversight!

With the 10.3 drivers, the problem was then fixed, and the gamer could enjoy running around the town of Neverwinter and becoming the greatest rat-catcher in history. But this was not the first of the gamer's run-ins with Radeon. Oh no.

After a while, Psychonauts went on sale on Steam. For 99p, no less! The gamer bought it at once and played through it again, safe in the knowledge that it would not suffer the same issues as the PS2 version he had previously acquired.

And it was glorious indeed! The resolution was wonderful - 1440 by 900! The mouse was, as always, much preferred to the joypad, and the world of Whispering Rock was more vivid and wonderful than ever.

But then came Gloria's Theatre. And the game collapsed into nothingness. The framerate, which had until then been wonderful, collapsed into single digits and never recovered, no matter where the gamer went in the game. Almost instantly, the game halted. No longer could the gamer keep playing, his saved game forever corrupted. An unavoidable tragedy.

And then the gamer did something he would do for no other game. He updated his Radeon drivers to the very latest ones (10.4 by now), and restarted the game from the very beginning. A new save game overriding the old one fixed the issue immediately, and he resolved to try again.

Two days he spent returning to his last known place in the game. And played the other levels he did, until there was nowhere left to go but Gloria's mind. And once he did so, the game did once again start coughing blood and clutching at its chest. The framerate plummeted, as did the gamer's hopes of finishing the game. He has yet to replay it, not wishing to play through the rest of the game again only to be disappointed.

And this is still not the end of the story! Yes, there is more woe to come. For as the ATI Radeon grew 'stronger', so to did its ability to break games. 10.5 caused horrific graphical glitches with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (and StarCraft 2, though it had yet to be officially released).

10.6 was particularly hard on the gamer, as it completely broke any game using the any of the Quake engines. This meant the first three Quake games, SiN, the Star Trek: Elite Force games, American McGee's Alice and Jedi the Star Wars games Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy were no longer playable. There's a possibility that this has been fixed in the recent 10.8, but even so the gamer was not able to enjoy slicing the arms off Stormtroopers as a bearded mercenary for a significant amount of time.

Radeon has his moments, but they are far, far overshadowed by his crippling failures and constant neglect from his mentor and ruler, the evil vizier AMD, nee ATI.

And sadly, this is where our tale ends. The gamer has endured much frustration with ATI Radeon and his devilish drivers, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. The fiend's lack of respect for those that support him and unwillingness to listen and respond to the criticisms they give him are his undoing.

Next time, go nVidea. Then at least the video at the beginning of Bioshock will be true.

Update: I did update to 10.8 (I had to, in order to play Sam & Max 305), and it didn't fix the Quake 3 thing. Grr.

No comments:

Post a Comment