Amid the constant flurry of PlayStation exclusive ports to PC, there’s one web-head that always seems to avoid making the jump – until now, that is. Spider-Man Remastered for PC is fast approaching its launch on August 12th, sporting all new PC-specific features and a content-complete experience for a whole new audience to sink their teeth into.
Ahead of launch on Friday, we got to sit down with core technology director at Insomniac Games, Mike Fitzgerald, and founder & senior director at Nixxes, Jurjen Katsman. We got to chat about what they hope to achieve with the port, working with new hardware, and expanding to a new audience. Here’s what they had to say.
What Were Some of the Immediate Improvements and Opportunities You Saw When Porting Spider-Man to PC?
Mike Fitzgerald (Insomniac Games) – Our main goal was to reach a whole new audience of players that hasn’t had the opportunity to play the game. Also to embrace the PC gaming environment and fundamentals that people are expecting and hoping for. Of course, that’s where Nixxes came in with all their expertise there. But from controls to configurability to high end graphics features and things like that, we wanted to make sure we were delivering what people would expect on PC.
Jurjen Katsman (Nixxes) – I think for me, what is really important on PC is lots of little things, right? There’s a lot of different players on PC with their own special interests and needs. We feel it’s really important to try to cater to all of those on the low end, and on the high end. Sometimes in the past, people might have asked me the question: “what percentage of player has that monitor?” Well, maybe that’s something like 5%, and these other things also might only be 5%, but it’s important that we please all those groups, right? That’s why they’re playing on PC and make use of their special hardware. I think it’s important to try to meet as many of those needs as possible.
The console environment is very closed in in terms of specs. What are some of the different challenges that come with developing a game on PC where there’s tons of different potential specs or monitors in comparison?
J.K – I think it’s an interesting comparison because we’ve done console development in the past and we currently have some console projects underway as well. With consoles, you can really just focus on the one experience. On PC, though we have developers on different kinds of machines, and focusing on particular features that are important for a subset. We have QA across a wide range of machines, and we leverage external groups to test an even wider ranges of systems and make sure that things perform and run well on those. It certainly makes it a little harder to stay focused. There’s all these little avenues to explore, but that’s also kind of the fun of PC development. To be able to go down these different directions, and try to make things work well. And then sort of retreat back from that and explore some other direction.
When you move away from knowing that you’re working with a PS4 or PS5, and you the power of a 3090 or 3080, what does that instantly open up in terms of things that you either couldn’t do before and were you cutting it very fine on console architecture?
M.F – You have these trade offs in other places when you can beef up the GPU, but it doesn’t share the same memory as this or that, you know. All these little things fit together in bad ways. Even thinking of the future when a new graphics card comes out and is more powerful, like what’s going to happen to our game when someone’s using that? Can we make it so open-ended and so configurable that there’s room for it to even do more in future? That’s really exciting to think about.
One of the major differences between playing on even the PS5 and PC is DLSS, which I think is one of the biggest tech advancements in years in terms of frame rates and being able to play in 4k. How hard is it to implement in a game that already exists? What are some of the benefits that it can add to a console exclusive game?
J.K – It certainly varies from game to game. There’s some technical requirements to be able to implement it properly, especially for a lot of the things on screen. We need to provide motion factors to indicate how things are moving. Depending on the engine, that can be more or less difficult. I think in this case, Insomniac does a lot of temporal things themselves. So they have pretty good motion factors already. That helps, but we also have quite a lot of effects, like ray-traced reflections, for example, that, by nature, don’t have motion vectors. Then it’s more difficult for the algorithm to deal with. It requires more tuning and special casing.
I do fully agree with you that technologies like DLSS and the concept of dynamically up-sampling from a certain resolution to your output resolution is a concept that is incredibly powerful and something that we do use on PS5. We really like what that gets us. Instead of specifically having to say, I want ultra performance, performance or quality mode you can set it to automatically adjust, depending on how fast the game is running. That’s the fun of PC. You do whatever you like, it’s all there.
Spider-Man is a little unique compared to other games in the sense that one second you’re fighting in a very controlled environment and then swinging through New York at a hundred miles an hour the next. Does that make getting a stable performance harder?
J.K – I think one thing we have certainly found is that it just means frame rates. If you unlock them, they’re more variable, right? Yeah. You can be in this tiny indoor environment and it’s at 200 FPS and then you start swinging through the city again and you’re at 80. So, that could be an extra reason to lock down to your preferred frame rate. Do you activate dynamic FPS to hit that more consistently? Maybe you’re fighting in an indoor environment with 200 FPS which feels really responsive.
M.F – The open world in this game is a fairly technically unique challenge. Not only can you move through it super fast, but you can also be at ground level and then you can be at the tops of buildings within a few seconds. When you’re at the top of the building, you can see the whole entire city out in front of you, which for a lot of games that take place at ground level, isn’t really a challenge that they have even in an open world. There’s all these strategies for getting the right detail level of texture in front of you and making sure the buildings still look good, but having them in memory and ready to go. It’s awesome that it’s been able to come to PC and we have lots of little weird hardware hacks and tricks that make it work.
What improvements can we expect to see from ray tracing in comparison to the PS5 version of the game?
J.K – There’s two things that stand out most there. If you have a lot of GPU horsepower, we can have a higher resolution of rays that we cast into the world and really get your GPU going. You get more detailed image. The other thing that maybe is even more interesting to me, is that we have a mode where the high detail buildings are being ray traced into, there are full detail models for the reflections, at least for all the ones near you. They can make a massive difference to the view of the buildings. If you’re on top of a glass roof, or maybe hanging off a building, just seeing all those other buildings in their full detail, sitting there and reflecting, It looks really glorious. I found it looked great on the PS5, but now putting this on PC next to it and all the details shine through. I really feel that that gives my graphic card something meaningful to do.
What does ultra-wide monitor support add to the game? I assume that was a really important feature that you wanted to add early on when you started bringing the game over to PC?
M.F – From my perspective, I think it’s one of the unique things available to us on PC that separates the platform from a console living room environment. People use PCs all sorts of ways, but it’s a unique thing to approach. So we definitely wanted to but we knew it would be challenging. I think Jurjen can speak a bit to that.
J.K – When you first boot up in wide screen, just running through the world, you’re like, oh this is works great. Spider-Man is a very cinematic game, right? There’s lots of cities, things being acted as scripted sequences. As we first started going into those none of them really worked at all in ultra-wide. You would be seeing weird things on the side of the screen. We put in a lot of effort to identify all those problems that people were having, and went in to address those, making sure there are things in view and being able to see things you’re meant to that aren’t visible. That was a process but think it’s worth it to really make it look the best on those screens. For cities I think it’s pretty unusual, but it’s something the team was really excited about. Just to not have to put up with black borders again. It’s try to stay away from those. It was very much a passion project for some members of the team.
I’m not sure if you guys can talk too much about accessibility, but I know that was made note of when the game was announced. Can you elaborate a bit of what these accessibility changes entail?
M.F – We added a lot of features from Spider-Man Remastered for the PlayStation 5. And the PS4 version, which brought over a lot of the additions from, the Miles Morales title. I think here we’re seeing is an expansion of the control formats that the PC platform supports, and being able to remap controls to other things that just gives a lot of flexibility where people might need it.
I did play the game a bit with mouse and keyboard and it worked better than I expected. For a game that’s normally played with a controller, was that tricky to get right?
J.K – I was just swinging through the city with mouse and keyboard. I love swinging through the city with that control method. I feel like I can swing around with my mouse really quickly, jumping from building to building. That part of that process was also a lot of user testing. Getting groups of consumers to come in, play the game, and give feedback. One things that is really critical to me is that the default out-of-the-box controls aren’t perfect for everyone. Sure, it would be nice if we could accomplish that and we make an effort to do that as well as possible, but there’s enough configurability there so everybody can continue just the way they like.
Some people have five buttons on their mice. Others don’t. Even just size of your hands, if your keyboard changes, what buttons work well, there’s probably a button combination that works well for larger hands, but not so much for smaller hands. So I think it’s important that whoever you are, you can go in, you can map it just the way that works for you. If a user can do that, then I feel we succeeded.
On the flip side, you can plug in a DualSense controller and that’ll work just like it does on the PS5. Is it a challenge to get that working with the PC version? And is there anything different in terms of vibration haptics, adaptive triggers or is it literally a one for one experience for what you would experience on the PS5?
J.K – It’s pretty much one for one. The largest difference is when you play in Bluetooth, because there’s some special stuff going on between the console and the DualSense when the controller isn’t plugged in. So we can’t do all those features with standard PC Bluetooth. To be able to use all the features, you do need to plug in your controller. I think we’ve really made an effort to try to support as many controllers as we reasonably could. We also have full support for Steam Input so I think if you’ve used a controller or any input device on PC successfully, then I think you should be able to use it with this game.
Mike, I assume you oversaw the process, porting the game to PS5 as well. I guess. How was the approach different when you decided to bring this game to PS5 versus PC and what did you know you wanted to achieve in early stages of development?
M.F – In regards to adapting it for the PS5, a big part of that process was creating better quality assets and focusing a lot of character rendering techniques. Ray traced reflections was something we knew was going to be possible on the PS5 and we really wanted to dig in and make sure we could leverage and do something impressive and cool with it. Luckily all that stuff really nicely applies to the PC, and it really naturally fell forward into that platform. Really, it’s just a matter of making sure all the other bells and whistles and the things the PC audience expects and wants to see are there. The flexibility of all the graphic settings, the controller support and the wide screen. Especially the “I have hardware X, please make sure you’re taxing it completely with the features in your game”.
I think one of the key differences that we’ve seen with other PlayStation games on PC, like God of War and Days Gone is the modding scene, which is something that really is unique to the PC space. Is that something you expect to happen when you’re bringing a game like this to PC and do you have an issue with it?
M.F – Yeah. I mean, I think mostly we’re fully aware that that’s a big part of the PC ecosystem and something that players like to do with the games that they have. I think we’re just excited to see to see what people do. I fully anticipate not being able to predict what we end up seeing.
It’s been confirmed that Miles Morales is also coming to PC. I know you probably don’t wanna talk to much about it, but I assume a lot of what went into Spider-Man remastered applies to that as well?
M.F – When we did the PS5 remaster work, we were doing it on the same engine base as the Miles Morales game we were developing at the time. So we expect to see, you know, a similar PC version for that.
Lastly, I have a bit of a silly question. When the original game was revealed and then released, there was a huge conjecture about puddles in the game. I would love to hear about what’s happening with puddles in the PC version. Was there any thought given to them at all or are they how they were in the PS5 version?
M.F – I don’t think we’ll ever escape the puddles. We’re just trying to make sure they don’t look worse than the PS5 version. Maybe.
Keep an eye out for Spider-Man Remastered when it launches for PC on August 12th. In the meantime, you can check out our review of the PC version here.