Monday, 11 August 2014

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, And Basic Standards on PC

Some time ago I purchased Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I have been meaning to do so for some time, and Steam Summer Sale proved to be a perfect opportunity, considering I bought it with the money I earned from selling all those silly cards I would never have any use for myself. I call it my way of being prudent. Now, I could be writing hymns to the greatness of the game, singing praises to the idea of telling the story through the game's mechanics, but instead I will use Brothers as a cautionary tale about what should be considered a basic standard on PC.

Unlike some other people, I do not demand perfection, I do not seek excellence if the game was designed with a controller in mind and then ported to PC. I understand that if you bring an old locomotive to the new tracks, that will not make the old locomotive go any faster. I do expect of the locomotive to pull its weight when the tracks fit. What I demand of the game on PC is that if it supports the keyboard, and that it functions with that said keyboard as intended. I know, mindblowing. I will not tolerate a broken game, and I will not be forgiving when I encounter a game that is unplayable because somebody did not bother to check all the controls twice.

Now, I have given developers of the game enough time to fix it, a year has passed since the game was released on PC. I even went and asked on twitter if they intend to fix this anytime soon. And their only answer was silence. That is not good enough.

The game is great, mechanics amazing, but if you do not have a controller it is a waste of time. It is a waste of time because it is impossible to finish the game with just keyboard, because the keys are not responding. And what is more, you cannot rebind the controls of at least one of the brothers to the mouse, to mimic the stick on gamepad, it is difficult to manoeuvre at times. That is until the moment you need to interact with both brothers at the same time and move to the right. Then it is impossible to progress. Because for some reason, younger brother is incapable of moving to the right while the elder brother is still interacting. And if ending the interaction means falling to certain death, than that is certainly a gamebreaking flaw that should not exist, not even if you play with keyboard.

I am not complaining over the plot. I think their approach to telling the story through mechanics is commendable. What is not commendable is how they treat the keyboard. The game does not differentiate between Left Shift and Right Shift, Left Control and Right Control. When the game is technical, and all its focus solely on mechanics of the game, there is nothing else to focus on. And rebinding the keys does not work. It is the very action of moving to the right while the elder brother is still interacting that is made impossible by the game itself. It must be hard-coded somewhere deep in the intestines of the game.

If we use an analogy, we could compare it with an old television and HD broadcast of the football game. While we all agree that if you have newer TV, the picture will be better, that does not mean that on your old television you should only capture part of the picture because the rest does not fit in. I think we would all demand that picture of the football game adapts, and squeezes on the small screen. The experience will not be the same, but it will still remain watchable unlike the first case, where we would see some random green squares that mean nothing to us.

Another great example would be if you imagined you are driving a car at night. You are alone on the road, and having high beam lights on is a non-issue. But once you get to a populated area, where other cars are coming your way, that high beam becomes a nuisance. You need to adapt in order not to blind the drivers from the opposite lane. You have to switch to low beam lights. You personal preference does not matter. You have to switch to low beam in order to ensure the safety of yourself and others. You will still see the road in front of you, while you managed not to endanger everyone else who happens to drive on the same road as you.

What these two examples clearly show, is that the game needs to adapt to the format, instead of using excuses. I do not demand of the game to give me the same experience as one who uses controller would have. I understand what I am missing by sticking with keyboard. But they should understand as well, that making their game downright unplayable is the same as breaking your low beam lights because you prefer high beam, or forcing the football fan to watch large green cubes instead of a clear picture because the provider decided to change the format of its signal.

The fact that the game is a port, does not make it exempt of the basic standards when it comes to PC. The basic standard being that game should be playable instead of downright broken. I do not expect it to be optimal, but I do expect of it to be playable. What is even worse, is the fact that game is on PC since the September of 2013, almost a full year already, and they still haven't fixed that problem. If I cannot move to the right with the younger brother holding the kite, because the elder brother has to hold to the same kite in order not to fall to certain death, and I crash into a wall and fall to death, then that is broken, and needs to be fixed.

I am not asking for a miracle here. I am asking for controls to actually function. Can you imagine not being able to shoot in the newest Call of Duty with a mouse, because the game was first released on consoles?

#Brothers #BasicPCdemands #Unplayable


  1. Most keyboards have a limitation of 3 simultaneous key presses, and ignore any other beyond that. If the game is asking you to do 4 simultaneous actions (older right / older interact / younger right / younger interact) it's simply impossible to complete due to limitations on your keyboard.

    Gaming keyboards allow for a few more keys pressed at the same time and may allow to complete that sequence as written, otherwise the devs need to rewrite the whole sequence (and any further one that requires more than 3 presses) to allow most people to get past it.

    1. If that was the problem I would be happy to admit my mistake. Unfortunately it is not. For example 4 simultaneous actions work just well in the other direction (elder interact / elder left / younger interact / younger left). Thus I can safely say the problem is not in the hardware. The problem is in that specific set of actions that is incapable of being realised due to their oversight at best, laziness at worst.

  2. That's interesting, I managed to play through the whole game on PC keyboard just fine. I actually have a dislike for controllers. What part did you get stuck on?

    1. The glider section. I can't get past it since the canyon is a corridor that demands left and right turns. And since it's impossible to turn right, I always end up crashing into the mountainside.

    2. Your keyboard doesn't respond to having both brothers move right and left? I don't remember if you needed to keep the interact button held down at that point - didn't think so, but it's been too long.

      If you make it through the cave, you need to weave left around the small column thingy and aim for the larger castle mountain that it looks like you have no hope of reaching. Also, I think both brothers "weigh" the same which is a bit weird but might help your navigation.

    3. I wouldn't say my keyboard. I would say that game doesn't register when I want to move right with both brothers while interacting. The glider section demands synchronous movement while still interacting with the glider. If you let go of the interaction button they release the glider and fall into the chasm. I can get past the first left turn, but then it is impossible to turn right.

      I had the same problem before, basically through the whole game. I discovered it very early, but at that point it wasn't bothersome, I just had to be patient and move one brother after the other. The first time it became troublesome was during one of the climbing sections in the mines. But again, after I figured how to move one brother to the safe spot with the second one still staying in my field of view the problem was solved. Then the mountain goat section. That one was sheer luck, as I was able to just push forward and move on. If there was one serious turn demanding to turn right, it would be the end right there for me.

      Unlike those cases, I can't practise patience with the glider. I can't just move one brother, and then come back for the other. It is this specific combination of actions that is making the game impossible. I can do any other action that could require even five or six buttons at the same time without any problem. Just turning right with the little brother, while elder brother is in middle if interaction is impossible.