The Men Who Made Dark Souls Whole

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Posted by patrickklepek (2216 posts) -

Dark Souls would not be a franchise without the rabid fans that embraced and championed Demon’s Souls, and Dark Souls for PC would not be the game it's become without the same dedicated fans.

When FromSoftware finally announced a PC version of Dark Souls, the world cheered. When FromSoftware started talking about the PC version of Dark Souls, the world was not quite as happy. A newcomer to PC development, FromSoftware was unusually (and refreshingly) forthcoming about its own lowered expectations for the upcoming port, and cautioned players from getting too excited.

The PC version also includes new content that's coming to consoles separately as DLC.

"To be completely honest, we're having a tough time doing it due to our lack of experience and knowledge in terms of porting to PC,” said producer Daisuke Uchiyama in a Eurogamer interview earlier this year. “First we thought it would be a breeze, but it's turned out not to be the case.”

If nothing else, players were hoping for a more technically proficient version of Dark Souls. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions have infamous frame rate issues, but those were not addressed in the PC version, seemingly out of a fear of possibly breaking it.

The game released in August, and one big issue was a resolution restriction that wouldn’t allow the game to display higher than 720p (1280x720). Peter “Durante” Thoman made this a non-issue within 30 minutes of the game’s release, when he released a patch to nullify that, and he became a hero.

“I had made some claims in a public forum prior to the release,” said Thoman, “basically stating that it shouldn't take a single decent programmer more than a day or so to implement setting the rendering resolution for a 3D game on PC. I wanted to prove that.”

It’s not a hack he came up with 30 minutes after downloading it, though, an important detail lost in the celebratory cheers. He had been working on it for days. Thoman assumed the port would use Direct X 9, and created an “interceptor.” This would forcibly change the resolution of the game, even if the game didn't have an option for it.

The first version didn’t have many settings, and was understandably buggy, but was quickly coined “DSfix.” The modification is now at version 1.7, and includes multiple resolution options, the ability to modify the game’s depth-of-field, a screen shot toggle, and other welcomed options coming from Thoman's work and a collaboration with others.

When implemented, the difference it makes is rather staggering:

It’s hardly a surprise Thoman would target the game’s visual fidelity. His other work includes PtBi, a way of improving the visual quality of console games through a PC using post-processing. In the weeks since his name was enshrined in Dark Souls lore, he’s spent time mucking around with its code. He’s become pretty familiar with it, and I wondered whether he agreed with the popular notion that FromSoftware hadn't crafted a very good port.

“The best thing that can be said about the port is that it seems to be completely bug-free,” he said. “This is not often the case with RPGs, and needs to be recognized. Beyond that though, it is obvious that due to external or internal constraints, they went with the most easy to develop and test port possible."

The other huge problem was the game’s frame rate, which was locked at 30 frames-per-second. Clement “Nwks” Barnier became the second hero to the Dark Souls community with his own fix. Thoman was a huge Demon’s Souls fan who patiently waited for the petitioned PC version of the sequel. Barnier hadn’t touched the series before. He became interested after the petition worked, curious as to why so many people had rallied behind these games.

By nature, Barnier hates playing games at 30 frames-per-second. This bugged him about Dark Souls, but a running theory surmised FromSoftware had locked it for legitimate reasons. The idea was Dark Souls may have been designed like a fighting game, where the game logic and frame rendering are completely interwoven, and modifying the frame rate would be disastrous. As it turns out, that doesn't appear to be true.

As our consoles age, expectations for PC versions have risen. Those that aren't up to the task, like the original Borderlands, are often criticized.

“As I have some skills in assembly-language debugging,” he said, “I decided quite naturally to take a look in the guts of the game to find out if this lock was indeed justified.”

There were issues early on. If the game dropped below 60 frames-per-second, it immediately swapped to 30 frames-per-second, which is jarring. Tweaks have made this modification more usable, and is fully integrated with DSfix. There is an ethical quandary though. DSfix doesn't interfere with the code, but the frame rate fix does, which violates the terms of Games For Windows Live.

At first, Thoman was wary about the potential consequences.

“The ‘potential consequences’ I'm talking about are mostly players being banned from GFWL,” he said. “Of course, sadly, there are already very direct ways to cheat out there, so I'm not sure if holding back on releasing the fix helps. Releasing it including source would also mean that MS could very easily break it if they wanted to.”

Rumors of users being banned for using the hack have been floated, but it doesn't appear to have become a huge problem. Thoman eventually relented, and the frame rate fix is now integrated into DSfix with a disclaimer.

Both Thoman and Barnier continue to iterate on their respective tweaks to FromSoftware’s release. Both cautioned that it’s unlikely Dark Souls will become a haven for mods, ala Grand Theft Auto IV. The prospect of creating new levels for the game from users, for example, seems radically difficult, and therefore pretty unlikely.

(Then again, who would have suspected Just Cause 2 would be modded to have 1000 players at once?)

Like Thoman, Barnier can appreciate what FromSoftware did accomplish with the port, lacking as it may be.

“The context of this port is very special: it was made in answer to a petition and, furthermore, by a company with no experience in PC games,” he said. “I suspect that it would not have been done without the similarities between the Xbox360 and PCs, including the common network architecture for XBL and GFWL. The fact that it even exists, all things considered, makes it a ‘good’ port for me.”

If you're looking to install these modifications and follow their development, Nexus has you covered.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (2216 posts) -

Dark Souls would not be a franchise without the rabid fans that embraced and championed Demon’s Souls, and Dark Souls for PC would not be the game it's become without the same dedicated fans.

When FromSoftware finally announced a PC version of Dark Souls, the world cheered. When FromSoftware started talking about the PC version of Dark Souls, the world was not quite as happy. A newcomer to PC development, FromSoftware was unusually (and refreshingly) forthcoming about its own lowered expectations for the upcoming port, and cautioned players from getting too excited.

The PC version also includes new content that's coming to consoles separately as DLC.

"To be completely honest, we're having a tough time doing it due to our lack of experience and knowledge in terms of porting to PC,” said producer Daisuke Uchiyama in a Eurogamer interview earlier this year. “First we thought it would be a breeze, but it's turned out not to be the case.”

If nothing else, players were hoping for a more technically proficient version of Dark Souls. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions have infamous frame rate issues, but those were not addressed in the PC version, seemingly out of a fear of possibly breaking it.

The game released in August, and one big issue was a resolution restriction that wouldn’t allow the game to display higher than 720p (1280x720). Peter “Durante” Thoman made this a non-issue within 30 minutes of the game’s release, when he released a patch to nullify that, and he became a hero.

“I had made some claims in a public forum prior to the release,” said Thoman, “basically stating that it shouldn't take a single decent programmer more than a day or so to implement setting the rendering resolution for a 3D game on PC. I wanted to prove that.”

It’s not a hack he came up with 30 minutes after downloading it, though, an important detail lost in the celebratory cheers. He had been working on it for days. Thoman assumed the port would use Direct X 9, and created an “interceptor.” This would forcibly change the resolution of the game, even if the game didn't have an option for it.

The first version didn’t have many settings, and was understandably buggy, but was quickly coined “DSfix.” The modification is now at version 1.7, and includes multiple resolution options, the ability to modify the game’s depth-of-field, a screen shot toggle, and other welcomed options coming from Thoman's work and a collaboration with others.

When implemented, the difference it makes is rather staggering:

It’s hardly a surprise Thoman would target the game’s visual fidelity. His other work includes PtBi, a way of improving the visual quality of console games through a PC using post-processing. In the weeks since his name was enshrined in Dark Souls lore, he’s spent time mucking around with its code. He’s become pretty familiar with it, and I wondered whether he agreed with the popular notion that FromSoftware hadn't crafted a very good port.

“The best thing that can be said about the port is that it seems to be completely bug-free,” he said. “This is not often the case with RPGs, and needs to be recognized. Beyond that though, it is obvious that due to external or internal constraints, they went with the most easy to develop and test port possible."

The other huge problem was the game’s frame rate, which was locked at 30 frames-per-second. Clement “Nwks” Barnier became the second hero to the Dark Souls community with his own fix. Thoman was a huge Demon’s Souls fan who patiently waited for the petitioned PC version of the sequel. Barnier hadn’t touched the series before. He became interested after the petition worked, curious as to why so many people had rallied behind these games.

By nature, Barnier hates playing games at 30 frames-per-second. This bugged him about Dark Souls, but a running theory surmised FromSoftware had locked it for legitimate reasons. The idea was Dark Souls may have been designed like a fighting game, where the game logic and frame rendering are completely interwoven, and modifying the frame rate would be disastrous. As it turns out, that doesn't appear to be true.

As our consoles age, expectations for PC versions have risen. Those that aren't up to the task, like the original Borderlands, are often criticized.

“As I have some skills in assembly-language debugging,” he said, “I decided quite naturally to take a look in the guts of the game to find out if this lock was indeed justified.”

There were issues early on. If the game dropped below 60 frames-per-second, it immediately swapped to 30 frames-per-second, which is jarring. Tweaks have made this modification more usable, and is fully integrated with DSfix. There is an ethical quandary though. DSfix doesn't interfere with the code, but the frame rate fix does, which violates the terms of Games For Windows Live.

At first, Thoman was wary about the potential consequences.

“The ‘potential consequences’ I'm talking about are mostly players being banned from GFWL,” he said. “Of course, sadly, there are already very direct ways to cheat out there, so I'm not sure if holding back on releasing the fix helps. Releasing it including source would also mean that MS could very easily break it if they wanted to.”

Rumors of users being banned for using the hack have been floated, but it doesn't appear to have become a huge problem. Thoman eventually relented, and the frame rate fix is now integrated into DSfix with a disclaimer.

Both Thoman and Barnier continue to iterate on their respective tweaks to FromSoftware’s release. Both cautioned that it’s unlikely Dark Souls will become a haven for mods, ala Grand Theft Auto IV. The prospect of creating new levels for the game from users, for example, seems radically difficult, and therefore pretty unlikely.

(Then again, who would have suspected Just Cause 2 would be modded to have 1000 players at once?)

Like Thoman, Barnier can appreciate what FromSoftware did accomplish with the port, lacking as it may be.

“The context of this port is very special: it was made in answer to a petition and, furthermore, by a company with no experience in PC games,” he said. “I suspect that it would not have been done without the similarities between the Xbox360 and PCs, including the common network architecture for XBL and GFWL. The fact that it even exists, all things considered, makes it a ‘good’ port for me.”

If you're looking to install these modifications and follow their development, Nexus has you covered.

#2 Edited by CptBedlam (4460 posts) -

A Dark Souls article on GB? What is this craziness?

I'd be interesting to know what the guys at Namco/From think about all this and whether they plan to release their own patch some day.

#3 Posted by Heti (54 posts) -

awesome, I was hoping someone would talk to those guys.

#4 Posted by TekZero (2692 posts) -

I love the love that Dark Souls keeps getting.

LOVE.

#5 Posted by adamfedoruk (223 posts) -

I love souls

#6 Edited by KaneRobot (1861 posts) -

@CptBedlam said:

A Dark Souls article on GB? What is this crazyness?

...you know Dark & Demon Souls were a frequent topic on the podcast, right?

I guess not, or you wouldn't be asking.

#7 Posted by mak_wikus (563 posts) -

The last screenshot is from Borderlands 2. Is that a mistake?

#8 Posted by Smithers (46 posts) -

Its a shame the netcode of this game isn't up to scratch. Being able to summon people and be summoned reliably and quickly would make this an amazing port. Still, this is probably my Best 2011 Game Of 2012.

#9 Posted by CptBedlam (4460 posts) -

@KaneRobot: Not really that frequent. There are maybe two or three bombcasts on which they talk about it for a few minutes.

#10 Posted by ManiacMaysin (375 posts) -

Great article! Thanks!

Online
#11 Edited by fRAWRst (238 posts) -

edit : whoops

#12 Posted by Rasgueado (719 posts) -

I played Dark Souls on the 360, but then just because I figured *someone* would do something like is I also got it for the PC. I've been using the fixes for awhile and they seem to work pretty well.

#13 Posted by pa21ris (150 posts) -

Awesome article Patrick. Now if they would drop the price to $20 I will probably pick it up.

#14 Edited by EvilKatarn (466 posts) -

No, Patrick, neither Durante nor that other guy made Dark Souls "whole."

I'm pretty sure neither of them wants anyone to think that.

He made the graphics better, that is all. This is the first time I've seen Giant Bomb put emphasis like this on graphics, even more that we're talking about small graphics fixes here, not massive overhauls.

All this jargon is also implying that the console versions of the game were garbage.

If anything, Dark Souls was made whole by the team at From Software who made all the new amazing content.

#15 Posted by King9999 (615 posts) -

Thanks Patrick for the article!

#16 Posted by Humanity (10142 posts) -

@mak_wikus said:

The last screenshot is from Borderlands 2. Is that a mistake?

I assumed it was meant to illustrate how Borderlands 2 looks good on PC's but the problems with the original stemmed from archaic menu and network design so not quite sure.

Online
#17 Posted by WMWA (1162 posts) -

Whoa. Talk about way out of left field. Good to see DS getting some more love

#18 Posted by infestedandy (266 posts) -

While the game may be locked at 30 FPS, the horrible Blighttown frame-rate drop is in fact gone from the Prepare to Die Edition. So while FromSoftware may never have said that they officially fixed the problem, it somehow turned out to be the case.

#19 Posted by groin (860 posts) -

I had no frame rate issues with this game. My IBM compatible machine has 2 year old hardware which handled Blight Town flawlessly. The 60 FPS mod also introduces some weird bugs into the game when you slide down inclined surfaces (before the Bed of Chaos).

Online
#20 Edited by MrKlorox (11209 posts) -

said:

The game released in August, and one big issue was a resolution restriction that wouldn’t allow the game to display higher than 720p (1280x720).

This is a common misconception. The actual internal framebuffer was stuck at 1024x720 instead of 1280x720 (only 4/5 the size of proper 720p), making it lower resolution than most games even on console. Most people just look at the vertical resolution and incorrectly slap a p onto it, and that's probably how the confusion started.

Also you called Thoman "Thomas" a couple times as well.

#21 Posted by Branwulf (410 posts) -

@mak_wikus:

Did you even read the text under it?

#22 Posted by CptBedlam (4460 posts) -

@infestedandy said:

While the game may be locked at 30 FPS, the horrible Blighttown frame-rate drop is in fact gone from the Prepare to Die Edition. So while FromSoftware may never have said that they officially fixed the problem, it somehow turned out to be the case.

Well, depends on your machine. I have a pretty ancient graphics card and Blighttown is practically the same as on console for me (but at least in higher resolution).

#23 Posted by Smithers (46 posts) -

Where did Vinny get to in Dark Souls? The last I remember them talking about it he was trying to decide between Tomb of Giants and New Londo Ruins. Meaning choosing between a pitch black tomb and invincible ghosts. Kinda understandable if he lost enthusiasm at that point.

#24 Posted by therepublicanguy (87 posts) -

That's a picture of borderlands 2...

#25 Posted by emem (1974 posts) -

I didn't expect to see another article on here either, very nice. 
 
That game... people who played it on a console before and didn't enjoy it because of its difficulty or looks should give it another go (if they own a decent gaming rig that is), it is definitely easier with 60 FPS and the visuals are pretty amazing, too.

#26 Posted by Potter9156 (944 posts) -

@Smithers said:

Where did Vinny get to in Dark Souls? The last I remember them talking about it he was trying to decide between Tomb of Giants and New Londo Ruins. Meaning choosing between a pitch black tomb and invincible ghosts. Kinda understandable if he lost enthusiasm at that point.

Yeah, looks like he stopped after getting the Lordvessel. Weird, I remember him saying he had finished it.

#27 Posted by CptBedlam (4460 posts) -

@Potter9156: He said he finished Demon's Souls.

#28 Posted by Skanker (254 posts) -

@MrKlorox said:

said:

The game released in August, and one big issue was a resolution restriction that wouldn’t allow the game to display higher than 720p (1280x720).

This is a common misconception. The actual internal framebuffer was stuck at 1024x720 instead of 1280x720 (only 4/5 the size of proper 720p), making it lower resolution than most games even on console. Most people just look at the vertical resolution and incorrectly slap a p onto it, and that's probably how the confusion started.

Also you called Thoman "Thomas" a couple times as well.

Well it rendered at 1024x720 on console as well. A lot of console games don't render at 1280x720, either.

#29 Posted by mordukai (7185 posts) -

@KaneRobot said:

@CptBedlam said:

A Dark Souls article on GB? What is this crazyness?

...you know Dark & Demon Souls were a frequent topic on the podcast, right?

I guess not, or you wouldn't be asking.

Too bad only very few played Demon's Souls so every time they did end up talking about it the only person with a valid opinion was Vinny. Every Demon's Souls "discussion" mostly revolved around Jeff calling it a bad game, Ryan half agreeing with him, and Brad spacing out only to come down once in a while to put his 2 cents. Too bad Dave, the one person I thought would really get the game, never even tried it.

#30 Posted by Ett (218 posts) -

Too bad Patrick didn't get too talk to From software or namco for this. Would love to read how they feel about the pc version, the mod and the sales.

#31 Posted by mak_wikus (563 posts) -

@Humanity said:

@mak_wikus said:

The last screenshot is from Borderlands 2. Is that a mistake?

I assumed it was meant to illustrate how Borderlands 2 looks good on PC's but the problems with the original stemmed from archaic menu and network design so not quite sure.

I thought so too, but it seemed weird to me that the text is about B1, while the image shows B2.

@Branwulf said:

@mak_wikus:

Did you even read the text under it?

I did. The text, which is about Borderlands 1, describes an image of Borderlands 2. That's why I wondered if Patrick used a proper image.

#32 Posted by TheBioLover (68 posts) -

When does the DLC drop for consoles again?

#33 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3134 posts) -

I like that the community managed to help out and do the things that From Software admitted they weren't proficient enough to handle. The wording in that headline sounds immensely disrespectful to me, though.

Online
#34 Posted by Vexxan (4614 posts) -

I was expecting Scoops to have talked with the guys from FromSoftware but this is good too I guess.

#35 Posted by Astromarine (77 posts) -

PLAY THIS GAME PATRICK

#36 Posted by golguin (4064 posts) -

I'm currently playing through a new character to take into the DLC and despite having played the game for over 350 hours there were still a few tough boss fights here and there since I got used to having maximum mobility and my uchigatana. It was all lwo level and default pyro gear until I took a detour from Sen's Fortress to the forest to buy my uchi, get havel's ring, get some decent armor, and finally pick up the flip ring.

I really hope GB tries to do a quicklook of the DLC since Vinny does have a file capable of accessing it fairly quickly.

#37 Posted by chiablo (1000 posts) -

Nothing new here, but it's good to give Durante more recognition for single-handedly making Dark Souls on the PC worth playing.

I would have loved to see you get an interview with a representative from FromSoftware to get any kind of statement regarding the botched PC release.

#38 Posted by probablytuna (3832 posts) -

Still have yet to go back into Dark Souls. Only played around 8 hours of it.

#39 Posted by KlUMZeE (319 posts) -

Good on him

#40 Edited by Slaegar (740 posts) -
@EvilKatarn said:

No, Patrick, neither Durante nor that other guy made Dark Souls "whole."

I'm pretty sure neither of them wants anyone to think that.

He made the graphics better, that is all. This is the first time I've seen Giant Bomb put emphasis like this on graphics, even more that we're talking about small graphics fixes here, not massive overhauls.

All this jargon is also implying that the console versions of the game were garbage.

If anything, Dark Souls was made whole by the team at From Software who made all the new amazing content.

You don't know what its like to try and play games at 30 fps after playing them at 60 fps for so long. I may as well try to play with one eye closed its so disruptive.
 
Also I've seen framerate tests for the console games. Basically any time ANYTHING happens the game dips to 20 fps. If two things happen or a big things happen it will dip to 10 fps. When the dragon breaths fire across the bridge the game dips to around 8 fps for both consoles until its over. So they game more or less breaks at every action.
#41 Posted by Fire_Of_The_Wind (172 posts) -

I was waiting for this article hoping that it would be an article about FromSoftware or an interview with some of the designers and possibly talking about the future of the developer or the series.

#42 Posted by Nicholas (416 posts) -

@mak_wikus said:

The last screenshot is from Borderlands 2. Is that a mistake?

No.

#43 Posted by patrick (563 posts) -

@EvilKatarn said:

All this jargon is also implying that the console versions of the game were garbage.

I don't think that's how implying works, no one is sitting around expecting 6 year old consoles to perform as well as current PCs. The idea that the frame buffer is locked is such a rarity, I don't think you actually comprehend what the fixes actually achieved if you're under the assumption these are minor improvements. Something like hacking in widescreen support is minor; allowing modifications of textures, readjustment of the HUD, unlocking the frame rate, adding ambient occlusion are things that people wouldn't have expected even under a 'good' port.

#44 Posted by jozzy (2035 posts) -

@Slaegar said:

@EvilKatarn said:

No, Patrick, neither Durante nor that other guy made Dark Souls "whole."

I'm pretty sure neither of them wants anyone to think that.

He made the graphics better, that is all. This is the first time I've seen Giant Bomb put emphasis like this on graphics, even more that we're talking about small graphics fixes here, not massive overhauls.

All this jargon is also implying that the console versions of the game were garbage.

If anything, Dark Souls was made whole by the team at From Software who made all the new amazing content.

You don't know what its like to try and play games at 30 fps after playing them at 60 fps for so long. I may as well try to play with one eye closed its so disruptive. Also I've seen framerate tests for the console games. Basically any time ANYTHING happens the game dips to 20 fps. If two things happen or a big things happen it will dip to 10 fps. When the dragon breaths fire across the bridge the game dips to around 8 fps for both consoles until its over. So they game more or less breaks at every action.

And still hundreds of thousands of people played the game to competition on the consoles, and many calling it one of their favorite games of all time. Guess it doesn't break the game for a lot of people.

#45 Posted by Deusx (1910 posts) -

This is incredibly old, but hey, it's about Dark Souls. That said, I do not want more coverage of the game here, GB wouldn't be able to make that game justice because they don't understand it. Vinny was the closest one to actually play it and he didn't even finish the damn game. He wasn't into the lore or why he was doing things in the first place. He was just focused on "waa this game is so haaard" when in reality it isn't. The only one who really understood why the Souls series was so amazing was Rorie.

#46 Posted by patrickklepek (2216 posts) -

Included an image of Borderlands 2 since it's the improved version from a PC port perspective, but I suppose I can see the confusion. You guys are a picky bunch. ;)

I wish I felt qualified to do an interview with the Souls folks proper. I played through the first boss, and was intrigued enough to go back sometime. Maybe if we go to Japan...

#47 Posted by jamesisaacs (221 posts) -

This article needs removing as it is totally BS.

#48 Posted by CaLe (4058 posts) -

@jamesisaacs said:

This article needs removing as it is totally BS.

How so?

#49 Posted by LiK (929 posts) -

Durante is my hero. PC version is so much prettier with his mod.

#50 Posted by Abendlaender (2889 posts) -

@jamesisaacs said:

This article needs removing as it is totally BS.

Nobody can argue with such a well verbalized criticism. Take it down Pat, this guy knows what he is talking about.

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