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Gothic 3 - the community made it happen


2006 was a good year for RPG fans. First, the forth installment of the critically acclaimed Elder Scrolls series set new standards for the fantasy - themed RPG genre. Oblivion was a truly magnificent game, even though it fell a bit short compared to its direct predecessor, the award winning Morrowind of 2002. Fans criticized some of the game mechanics, and indeed, it was a very strange design decision that made the world scale with the player level. Put that aside, Oblivion offered an enormous amount of content and did that with outstanding and stunning visuals - if you had the hardware that could handle it back then. The fact that it was moddable to almost any extent quickly encouraged the community to fix the things that many fans didn't like and make it an even better game. Eight years after its release, Oblivion is still played by lots of TES fans around the world, mostly because there are so many modifications that it would probably take years to see everything the community has to offer.

Gothic 3 in High Quality
Gothic 3 in highest quality

Later in 2006, another highly anticipated RPG title was released: Gothic 3. Its direct predecessor, the highly rated Gothic 2 has set the bar at a high level for the third title in the series. Gothic 2 Gold (which was basically Gothic 2 + its expansion pack Night of The Raven) is one of the games on my personal all-time favorites list and I remember playing it extensively before Oblivion came out in 2006.

Unfortunately, the release of G3 in an unfinished and abysmally buggy state killed all the expectations. Add the major performance and engine problems and you might be able to understand why many fans of the Gothic series were seriously pissed by the sorry state of G3's release. I was one of them. I tried to play it, tried to like it, tried to see the good things hidden in the mess of bugs and other issues, I accepted single digit frame rates (which made any battle almost impossible to win), but ultimately I gave up. Too high was the level of frustration - after all, games should offer fun and entertainment not frustration because nothing works as it should.

I quickly forgot G3 and moved on. Now, eight years later, I'm trying again to enjoy it. Lots of things happened meanwhile, the original publisher (JoWood) went bankrupt and the original development team was laid off long before they even had the chance to fix the game. In 2007, the then still existing JoWood staff decided to start a project that would eventually bring the game into a playable state. Volunteers from the community started to work on something that today is known as the Community Patch or Enhanced Edition. Under NDA, these Volunteers got access to the full game's source code so they were able to fix almost any breakage that plagued the game at its release.

With the most recent community patch, G3 is finally play- and enjoyable. Given the advancements in hardware power over the last 8 years, performance issues are no longer real issues. In fact, any halfway decent system of 2014 can run the game on maximum quality without getting into troubles. The only thing that still remains is the stuttering  that sometimes occurs when the engine loads new resources - something that has been common in games with "open worlds" where no level transition and loading times exist. I remember that Oblivion had similar issues, but with today's hardware they are almost no longer noticeable.