Have You Tried to Play a Game on a PC That Clearly Couldn't Handle It?

Rare is trying to see how 'Sea of Thieves' can run on the crappiest computers possible. That's good!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a33qkz/have-you-tried-to-play-a-game-on-a-pc-that-clearly-couldnt-handle-it

I know a guy who beat the entirety of GTA 4 on a PC that could barely run GTA 3. He would play it at 640x480, 3-5 FPS, with half the textures missing, in 30 minute bursts, because the poor thing would overheat and shut down. Obviously, the more difficult fights were unplayable with that setup, so he used cheat codes to just tank his way through things that would have normally killed him or fly over cutscene triggers. I am amazed to this day.


Crysis was the game that couldn’t run on my computer until my new computer I made 2 years ago. So many T poses.

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Eh? “How come”? Doesn’t the title answer the question?

I used the same laptop through part of college, all of grad school, and a year or two after that before I bought a more powerful desktop computer – and that was only because the laptop was having mysterious shutdowns and I was afraid it was about to die. I was getting 20 fps in GW2 while standing stock-still in apparently deserted maps on the lowest in-game graphical settings available. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to play the game and that was the machine I had.

And of course, I still had it better than some – at least I had an internet connection that wasn’t, like, dial-up levels of bad. (Apparently some people in the US are still on dial-up or equally slow connections like that simply because the infrastructure isn’t in place for anything better.)

I’ve definitely played my share of games that really couldn’t be called fluid by today’s standards. Lots of the older 3D stuff was only just able to make it to 25fps (PAL) and sometimes dropped way below. But even the games that did quite well would often drop to an update every other frame (so under 13fps) and we just put up with it because there wasn’t any alternative.

Star Fighter 3000 was great fun but I don’t think the Acorn Archimedes we played it on were quite what the developers had hoped for. Did Wing Commander even have a mode where the 3D stuff all updated at a high framerate? My memory is once you gave it more than a 33MHz CPU then you just got an unplayable fast mess because the game measured progression in frames so it couldn’t be run to look smooth because everything happened too fast (as was not uncommon at the time - slowdown in the game meant you got more thinking time as it didn’t skip frames but simply took longer to show them - the in-game world became slower as the framerate dropped and you effectively became Neo).

I remember playing Descent over a null modem cable (networking over a serial port before network cards were ubiquitous) and we only really had one PC that could play that game properly. Player two was fighting at a severe disadvantage and not just because of lower visual quality. It was the price paid.

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Wow. I would have loved to have seen that lol.

My current rig is overdue for an update and I ran Dishonored 2 at probably 30 FPS with a lot of the graphics settings off or low. Thankfully, the art style made it actually still look quite good and the game didn’t slow down much at that one particular level that is quite visually tricky.

I didn’t have an “up-to-date” PC until last year when I got a machine with an i7 and a GTX 980. Before that, it was a long history of playing and trying to play games on weak PCs. Here’s a highlights list:

About the year 2000: Trying to play Age of Empires 2 on a PC that had 48MB of RAM. The min specs needed only 32MB but I still crashed a lot.

Fast forward to 2003 and I’m trying to install WarCraft 3 on this same machine. You can guess what happened.

2006: Tried to play Star Wars Battlefront II on a newer PC, but one that didn’t have dedicated graphics. Completely unsupported, though at least that PC let me play Jedi Academy and WarCraft 3, my first foray into online gaming.

2008: I got a dedicated graphics card for that PC, albeit an outdated one (Radeon 9600XT). Surprisingly, it could run Crysis (just the demo) at 640x480 res, minimum settings, at about 20-25FPS. Still playing a lot of Jedi Academy, finally enjoying Battlefront II, and hey, Brood War runs well.

2010: StarCraft 2’s beta was released, and I’m still on the Radeon 9600XT. It struggled at the lowest settings similar to Crysis. My family bought a new (basic) PC this year and I can now play StarCraft 2 smoothly, but still on the lowest settings. I would later buy a budget graphics card (Radeon HD6670) for this PC and can run most games fairly smoothly on medium settings.

2016: I buy my sister’s boyfriend’s PC with an i7 and GTX 980, and can finally play modern games on max settings. Medium graphics for most modern games look very good at this point anyway. PUBG runs poorly even on this machine :stuck_out_tongue:

Oh I need to add: holiday period of 2016; I’m at my parents’ place and I’ve just bought a new laptop for school purposes since my other laptop was on its last legs with overheating issues. It’s a basic laptop with no dedicated graphics, but all my friends were still playing Overwatch and I wanted to join them too. I installed OW on this laptop, and played it at everything set to the lowest possible, including 50% resolution scaling, at about 25-30fps :smiley: I don’t think my friends noticed any reduction in my skill level during this period.

Oh, so many times it’s embarrassing. First great example was Wing Commander 4. Couldn’t stream the movies from the 5 CD’s fast enough or load enough into RAM, so my brother setup a floppy disk as swap, turned the video settings to half lines (because interlaced, because 90’s), half res, black and white. Suddenly, it’s space noir and it’s great, even with the potato quality 3d bits.

Repeated this genius move with KOTOR on my G4 MacBook. FPS in the teens and draw distance around 15 feet. It was gloriously bad.


I don’t know if this counts, but back in college I used WINE to let me run windows games on OSX. My pride and joy was getting lego racers and that old hot mode 7 hot wheels game running!

One time I tried to run this strategy game on my PC. It immediately crashed and for some reason all the colors on my desktop got reversed, which I’ve never been able to recreate.

I have vivid memories of playing through both campaigns on Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun on an old 100mz processor. The only computer we owned at the time. I knew the game had a reputation for being “slow” so I figured it was fine. In retrospect, not really that fine actually.

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Limbo. Back in college I had a small pre-built desktop that just could not handle the lighting for that game. Luckily it wasn’t the most action-intense game and I was able to make do with the input and visual delay.

Bioshock Infinite on a desktop that would overheat after about 90 minutes of play. I started a timer every time I began play to know when to stop…

Then Gone Home on a…netbook. It was really about 15fps. At least most of the game is stationary reading.

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Whenever I want to play a new strategy game on mac I have to go through the grueling process of seeing how well it runs on my 2012 MacBook Pro. It’s usually bad. I’m playing XCOM 2 right now (not the expansion yet!) and it’s like pulling teeth. Missions take about an hour. Loading times are at least five minutes. It has serious problems loading in the voice over dialogues, so on missions I may be sitting there unable to do anything until the voiceover loads in and starts playing. On the campaign map often going to my base means going in and out for each different thing I want to do, because it can’t figure out how to translate me to the correct menu screen for different areas or, again, it’s sitting at a particular screen waiting for a talking head to load. It’s a serious chore. But I love xcom. I have a problem.

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Oh wait, EVEN BETTER. The very first game I probably ever played on a computer that wasn’t up to specs was Lost: Via Domus of all things. I can’t remember if I actually finished the game that way or later came back to it on a computer that could run it, but looking back that game was probably not worth the effort. xD

My first hundred hours or so of WoW was at about 8 fps. :upside_down_face:


I used to have a laptop which had sporadic trouble running Valve games, especially Team Fortress 2. I played on lowest setting and still had huge problems. I would experience a unique kind of slowdown through my CPU. Unlike graphical slowdown where the framerate dips and the game freezes up, I would essentially go into slow motion in-game. My movements were insanely slow and everything about my character would happen maybe half the speed it was supposed to. The world would flick by in frames like I was falling into a black hole. Then it would end and I would go back to normal play. As I was a huntsman Sniper most of the time (don’t @ me) it meant I would nock an arrow sloooowly, fire, it would hang in the air about an inch out from the bow, wait half a second, and then shoot out to strike the wall my target had been standing in front of seconds ago. Gravity effects were also slower to work on me. Jumps took twice as long to land, which allowed for certain collision shenanigans with the enemy team.

The processor slowdown actually worked to my advantage one time in Left 4 Dead 2. A jockey hopped onto me, but my lappy would have none of it. Instead of dragging me into a nearby puddle of spitter goo, I stood completely still until the Jockey’s grab ran out. The player, a friend of mine, cursed me and my terrible computer over voice chat.

I used to play Guns of Icarus on my 2011 macbook and it mostly ran ok, except for the fact that the skybox textures would sometimes be replaced with gitched versions of whatever happened to be on my desktop when I started the game. Still had loads of fun, just occasionally had my steam friends list plastered across the sky :stuck_out_tongue:

For a while I did play Oblivion using the Old Oblivion mod, which was made to make the game run in older pcs, therefore, it also downgrade the graphics a lot. Still, until I could change my graphic card, that allowed me to enjoy the game.