Friday Lunchtime Read: 25/04/08

Every Friday we’ll be running a nice, lengthy article based on the news of the week, specially designed to fill your otherwise boring lunch hour. Unless you’re like us and spend it in the pub, of course, in which case it’ll still be there when you get back, stinking of cheap lager.

This week’s theme is obviously the whole Metal Gear Online shambles, and is lovingly titled: MGO Beta, a revelation.

I have seen the light, by what chance I do not know, but I have managed to get a peek at god’s divine plan. Blinding and illuminating as it were, I instinctively closed my eyes upon happening upon it, an instinctive reaction to a mirage so overwhelming, so beyond the intellect of mere mortals that if I had not closed my eyes that very moment then my mind might have been crushed under the weight of its magnificence.


I only got the briefest most fleeting of glimpses, I only saw the tiniest part, but that was enough, enough to leave me at awe over its majesty. For eons man has puzzled over the great questions of life, ever has the primitive intellect of humans been in never ending battle with a logic so much grander than him that there never was any hope of conquering it. Ever has man asked himself things like, “If god is benevolent then why does evil exist?”. “Why would a being of absolute omnipotence suffer grievances such as war, famine and pestilence to exist?” Ever has the answer to such questions eluded us and ever have we had to fall back on the old limerick, “his is most mysterious of ways”.

Well, no more brethren, by pure chance I have happened upon one answer out of the millions, finally we shall put to rest this one conundrum and say here lies the greatest triumph of our race, we have slain one of the million beasts halting our advance towards true universe transcending illumination.

Let us not dwell on the trivial, forget cancer, disease and suffering, let us concentrate on real issues, let us grab hold of what plague truly haunts our kin. Let us ask ourselves why, if god is so good and pure, why then do whiny Internet tossers exist?

You know the kind, they hang around any gaming forum in a black horde stretching as far as the eye can see, an army of spoiled wailing babies, ever demanding ever clamouring, ever expecting more than they got. A black hole of concentrated greed, its hunger for more, more and more can never be satisfied, if left to its own devices it will consume the universe and ask the remaining nothingness for seconds. Like the Borg resisting them is futile, they are resourceful and once their black locust eyes are cast upon thee then abandon all hope, they will charge you in the millions, you will give in to their demands or you will be devoured nibble by nibble by their tiny mandibles.

Having got a peek of the divine plan I now know why these dark existences plague the once proud fields of the Internet. They exist so that they can swarm Konami and tear them to pieces, little by little, so that any resistance they might offer becomes porous and collapses. They exist so that Konami might come to their senses and scrap their evil plan of sabotaging the simplicity of PSN online gaming. They exist so that when the ugly MGO beta larva metamorphoses into its final form, it will emerge from its cocoon a most beautiful butterfly instead of a most hideous moth, which is what Konami apparently wants it to become.

You know, I don’t even blame Konami, sure it is not their first time bollocking these online things up, ask anyone how much they are enjoying PES online. No, I don’t blame Konami because they don’t know any better, blaming them is like blaming the retarded kid for bumping into you as he freely flails around, hitting his head on walls and other blunt objects while running. It is not the retarded kids fault, the blame lies with his parents, they should have known better than to take their little shit out into civil society without a leash. I say let us not beat the living life out of that retarded kid, or if we do let us savour our strongest blows for his parents who are the real culprits.

Shame on you SONY, for shame! Put on the pointy hat and go stay in the corner to think about what you have done, I man really think. This new generation has provided developers with a lot of exciting new and powerful opportunities, but just like a bag of razor blades gifted to a class of kindergartners these newfangled powers bear within them equal opportunity for disaster. This means that their overseer has to keep an extra sharp eye out for trouble lest pandemonium unleashes in the class. Well, take good look around SONY, pandemonium has come to visit, and he brought his friends disaster and catastrophe.

SONY, how dare you allow Konami to ignore the PSN ID and require separate registration of no less than two separate unique IDs before allowing someone to play an online game? I mean, how the hell did something like that happen in the first place? The only explanation by Konami is that the ID allows for services and benefits without elaborating on what that entails. I am going to guess that those services and benefits are only to the benefit of Konami and how they might make an extra farthing peddling their wears to unknowing gamers.

The only precedence, the only remote semblance of an excuse that Konami could possibly have for breaking the entire unified PSN structure, to undermine you, SONY, to bugger the hell out of us, and generally just lowering the bar for online gaming on the PS3, can be one thing and one thing only. That is that these newly hatched Konami IDs somehow enable something so incredibly, unbelievably meteoric that gamers around the world would be willing to sacrifice their left nut just to be able to get a glimpse of it. But you know what SONY? I am right now going to put on my pointy wizard hat, the blue one with the stars on it, and I am going to go ahead and make a bold prediction. I prophesise that whatever Konami is going to do with that nefarious separate system is something somewhat below what I just described, just a smidgen, just a few million light years removed from it actually.

This is inexcusable, and what more this is just where the torture begins. The first thing, the very, very first thing you are required to do once you’ve just, seconds before, downloaded and installed the MGO beta is to update it, and how. Update via HTTP didn’t work so the second option, the one which is recommended, was nothing other than torrent. The mind boggles, SONY, torrent? Torrent? TORRENT? And a badly implemented one at that, it took no less than 5, count them, 5 hours for the update to finish downloading.

You know, SONY, the PS3 isn’t exactly a green device. I mean, that first generation PS3, the one I have, uses, what, somewhere between 3-400 watts? Leaving something that sucks so much power on for 5 hours for a stupid update is not exactly going to help Mr. Polar bear survive the coming decades, now is it? You know what, screw Mr. Polar bear, I don’t want my PS3 needlessly staying on for that long, huh, how about that?

SONY, developers are only allowed to bollocks things up this badly because you let them. You are like that laid back rich friend that is nice to everyone so everyone takes advantage of him and then badmouths him behind his back. SONY, you lovable buffoon, it is time to tighten that noose and I mean really tighten it. MGO serves just as an example, a crystallised perfect specimen of how freedom combined with the guarantee of a hard drive and network capabilities has sunk the expected quality on consoles to the darkest depths of Hades.

Won’t someone think of little Jimmy?

On the PS2, games were not shipped riddled with bugs because everyone got what the disc shipped with, no more and no less. Ah, so blissfully simple it all was. Once you bought your PS2 you connected that baby to a TV, put in the disc and you were playing that game in 5 seconds flat, but not so today. Toda
y when little Jimmy gets a new game and rushes home to play it on his PS3 then the first thing that usually happens is, look, a new firmware? The PS3 has to be “updated” before the games will play? “But I just updated it last month”, thinks little Jimmy, “and the month before that, what is going on here? Mommy, I am scared”.

Then, having no choice but to accept, the update screen says that the console will update and restart automatically. This of course is a big fat filthy lie, the kind grownups always tell little kids, so better get used to it little Jimmy. Because once Jimmy presses “X” and passes the screen feigning the existence of a choice, he immediately has more button pushing to do. Yes, the amazing and always fun to look at “Accept this agreement, or else” page. There is one in MGO as well and just like MGO you seemingly have to accept the god-damn-and-send-it-to-the-darkest-dung-pit-in-hell thing every single god damned time. Why, god, why?

So, I see what you did there SONY, you took a one button process and threw in an additional button press in there just to satisfy those scaly skin lawyers haunting your legal cavern. But what about us, SONY, what about we who pay your bills, do we not deserve some consideration? Do we not deserve to be spared having to constantly agree to something that we have not the luxury of disagreeing with, that is, if we could be bothered to read the unholy legal language in which it is penned? Why, SONY, why do you hate little Jimmy so much? He just wants to play some games for pities sake.

Then, no sooner than Jimmy has passed this needless misery, in comes the next, once again adding an additional unnecessary step to the update process like an infected hypodermic needle being stabbed into Jimmy’s eye. Only, this time it is something a little more useful, a screen telling him what is new. But, you see, SONY, this screen too is not necessary and adds a needless stupid extra step in the one button update process. Hence the update description should be an optional thing little Jimmy can read only if he chooses to.

Lastly, to add insult to injury, SONY, you once again kick Jimmy in the face with your golf shoes, and while he is down too. Once the way too long update download process has finished, taking the lie of updating and restarting automatically to new absurd heights, Jimmy’s PS3 actually loses the connection to his joypad, so he now has to push the PS button before he can once again mindlessly press “X” to trudge trough the next, fifth and final needless button press in the update process. This basically means that with all these needless interruptions requiring little Jimmy’s interaction he cannot just choose to update, leave his PS3 alone and come back to it when it is good and updated, no, he has to sit there and hold its hand through every single bleeding unnecessary step like a little baby.

Then, finally, finally, finally little Jimmy, driven to within an inch of his sanity by all the bad human interface design choices in the update process, navigates over to the game he just bought on the XMB and launches it, but hold on there, what the deuce is this? Now the god damned game — Jimmy has started swearing by now — wants to update as well, why? Why? WHY?!? It just came out last week, how is this even possible? Little Jimmy, now shaking all over his body and with a twitching eye once again trudges through having to wait for the game update to download, install and wait for the obligatory game restart.

Then he can play, yes, that thing he should have been doing for the last 3 hours instead of going to hell and back, complete with the tour of misery lane and a visit to the gift shop of eternal damnation, just even to get to that point. The pain starts to wear off as he immerses himself into the game world, when suddenly it comes back stronger than ever as reality cracks a 2×4 across his head. “Why is that master Assassin hanging motionless in the air? Is this part of the game?” he thinks. Jimmy can still hear the background noises of the game city so it must be, right? No, little Jimmy, the game has just crashed. I know you always used to play PS2 games so you don’t know about game crashes, but get used to it, because you are going to see this happen a lot on the newer consoles.

Jimmy is just about ready to take a crowbar to the PS3 when his friend calls him up and tells him to calm down so they can play some co-op in this new co-op focused game they both have. Jimmy calms down and takes his friend up on his offer, they are in the game, shooting some terrorists, the boogieman of the 21st century, when his buddy’s character is shot and asks for help. Jimmy rushes over to him to carry him to some corner and heal him when, hold on, there was no mention of being able to fall through the floor in the game manual, this looks pretty freaky. Hold on a tick, this wouldn’t be one of those bugs daddy always yells about on his PC, would it?

Hey, little Jimmy, what are you doing there lad? Why are you dancing in that manic frantic way, careful kid, you are toppling everything. No, no don’t throw that PS3 out the window Jimmy, old boy, why do you keep dancing and hammering your head into the wall? Oh, no, you don’t think… You don’t think that SONY has finally driven little Jimmy round the bend, do you?

Well, why don’t you just pull a gun and shoot little Jimmy in the head SONY? Because you just managed to make that sound like more fun than playing a new game on your game machine. You just managed to suck all the joy and fun out of that innocent pastime, congratulations, you just robbed little Jimmy of his innocence, you are a monster SONY, a monster.

Now, I want you to just imagine what kind of trauma you are going to scar Jimmy with if he ever discovers the MGO beta, just think about it, ok.

Of the carrot and the stick:

SONY, if parents took your current model for guardianship to heart then all their kids would end up becoming heroin addicts. It is time to try out some new form of parenting. It’s time to take off the belt, the one with the big heavy metal part, and deal out some much needed discipline. Look, you’ve sold how many consoles by now, 10 Million? That is enough; you’ve sold enough to no longer be irrelevant. You no longer have to play nice; I say you go back to being a sod to developers, like you were last generation. It’s time developers saw a little of the old SONY again. They might protest, bicker and bitch but fret not, at least back then they could create games that didn’t crash, were riddled with bugs or had to have constant 300 megabyte updates to stay somewhat functional.

You see, developers, SONY, they are not that much different from wild beasts, under strict discipline they might be trained to perform the most amazing of tricks that dazzle your audience. But if you lax that discipline just the tiniest little bit then you have scores of vicious animals maiming and dismembering that very same audience, and that is bad for business.

SONY, I have earlier heard you take pride in how much freedom you give your developers and each time I have heard you proudly proclaim that daft remark I have shaken my head in disbelief as a tear escaped my eye. Developers should never, ever be given any freedom, it is just the type of people they are, they need structure, they need order, they need guidelines and rules, if they don’t get it then things like MGO happen.

Just ask any efficient dictator, like say, Stalin. Ask him, “Comrade Stalin, which is the better motivator, love or cold blinding fear?” Ask him how he managed to survive the full might of the German Wehrmacht when it was at its prime, not when it had already been beaten to a bloody pulp which was when those other lads joined in, landed the finishing blow and took credit for winning the whole thing. Was the secret to Stalin’s success a personal perfumed letter of love to each of his fellow soldiers, thanking them for fighting for the motherland? Or perchan
ce was it the fact that Stalin ordered them to shoot dead any of their retreating comrades, so soldiers in the red army had to choose between dying while advancing or dying while escaping like a coward. Though, I think you already know the answer to that, SONY, so no need to break into the Kremlin mausoleum and risk having your brains eaten by zombie Stalin.

See, developers are simple creatures; the whole scope of their behaviour can be mapped out with little trouble. The type of people they are renders them immune to the effects of the proverbial carrot, nay, only the cane is in order when dealing with that race of people. Just look at how developers love your competitor, those demonic entities and their soul crushing empire. Is it because their tools and programming environments are better? No, they of course stink. The real reason is a little thing called Stockholm syndrome; take a whiff, their love reeks of it.

Fix it, or else:

It is time, SONY, to show the developers a good close look at the backside of your hand. It is time for you, SONY, to sit down like a good overseer and set in stone some mandatory guidelines for how games should act on the PS3. Your competitor has done it and it has only worked to their advantage while your strategy has done nothing but have you, and us, taken advantage of. From now on games should not ship until they are good and ready and if after launch the game is found to be buggy then heavy fines, guillotines and crucifixions should be dealt out generously to the guilty parties. Future copies of games that have, god forbid, been updated should ship with all the updates and patches already applied, and this goes doubly for downloadable games.

All future online games must support voice chat and must include a mute-that-annoying-git-right-bleeding-now functionality at all times under the penalty of death by torture, and I am not talking wussie tortures like water boarding, I am talking about things involving car batteries and people’s private areas.

All future online games must support your PSN game ID and services connected to it and nothing else separate or independent there of, so help us all the gaming gods. Take that you-can-support-anything-you-want mentality and give it a swift kick in the jewels because it just invites trouble. If anything like MGO ever comes even close to happening again then heads will roll, and we are talking more heads than there were colourful balls in that BRAVIA commercial.

Fix your update procedure so that it truly becomes a single button press fully automatic affair and thereby set an example for how it should be done for all brave developers who would dare have their games updated. I don’t trust you fully understand what a single button press process entails, so let me draw you a simple diagram in crayons lest you bollocks it up again. First of all, implement some sort of automatic background downloading of the update file so one should not have to stare at a progress bar for hours unless one chooses to. Something like Nintendo has, where the update is automatically detected and downloaded in the background as you play games in blissful ignorance.

Then, at an appropriate time notify the user that an update is available and can be invoked by selecting the option in the XMB. Once the update option on the XMB is selected the screen presents you with two options and this will be the only choice or button press you will be required to perform in the entirety of the process, or else. The screen goes something like this, “A new update vX.XX is available, download and Install?” Pressing “X” means “ok, do it”, pressing “O” means, “nah, later bro”. That is it, below these two options there is a scrollable window with the release notes which can be scrolled through by pressing up and down. The agreement thing should be a once in the lifetime of the console deal, you agree to it once and you never ever see it again. I will risk neck and limb by breaking into that vampire grotto and kidnap those lawyers of yours, SONY, and execute 3 for each additional time I am forced to accept that blasted agreement, I swear I will.

Now, let me make a request, this comes from me personally and with all the pain and suffering you’ve caused me, I think you owe me at least this much. What I humbly suggest, is that you spice up the update process with some good old fashioned wholesome smut. That is right, you heard me, instead of asking me to go grab a sandwich and become fatter while the update is going on why not plaster the screen with lovely birds with all their nudie bits showing? And why not suggest that third party developers do the same when they present us with the twosome of tantalizing choices that are staring at a screen for 20 minutes or grabbing something to eat? Just imagine how much better that Devil May Cry 4 mandatory install would have been if Capcom had just shown us a slide show of the voluptuous Devil May Cry female cast. Oh there is Trish, and there is that other girl, what’s her face, maybe they are pillow fighting in their knickers, maybe they accidentally start kissing, I don’t know, use your imagination.

On a lesser note, why do downloaded games and demos require an installation? I have gone through this in my mind a thousand times; it just doesn’t make any sense. What the hell happens during the very lengthy install process anyway? It is not unpacking things, I am certain of that much. Maybe the file is encrypted and it is being decrypted. But if so, why not do that on the fly as the file is being downloaded and written to the disk? Whatever the install process does I am pretty certain it can be gotten rid of with a little effort. Break out that whip and have your developers look into that, because installing on a console is just plain ridiculous, it is a console for god’s sake.

Lastly, and most importantly, I am going to hold you to your promise of fewer firmware updates this year. You seem to have forgotten that promise yourself because so far we’ve had 3 updates this year alone, the year in which you promised fewer. There was no valid excuse for not rolling all those 3 into one, if you absolutely have to constantly urinate us in the face with these updates then we prefer one big splash to several small squirts. You don’t seem to be able to control it yourself, so why not impose some sort of clearly defined restriction? Why not say, we are doing 4 and only 4 updates a year on a fixed schedule, or else.

I know your developers get all giddy as soon as they’ve completed their latest useless feature and come to you with puppy dog eyes asking you to make their new feature into an update. I know how adorable they look as they stand up on their hind legs begging you with their tongues hanging out panting and their tails wagging, but that is the moment you roll up that newspaper SONY, you roll that sucker up and give them the beating of their life. You beat this into them; ONLY 4 UPDATES a YEAR, no exceptions! Or else…

Things need to change because, SONY, right now, you know who you are competing against, right? No, it is not a console, you are now competing with the PC and it is a race for the bottom. I can just imagine the PS3 and PC sitting across from each other around a small table in a seedy, smoke filled room playing poker. “So PC”, the PS3 says smugly as he puffs his cigar, “I see your bugs, crashes and patches cards, and tell you what, I’ll kick it up a notch and raise you a needless and cumbersome website sign up process card. Yeah, I went there bitch, bring it on!”

Final words:

See SONY, in spite of the incredible sourness of the lemon that is this new generation I still enjoy playing games, in fact I love it. But I am scared, see. In fact I have to jab a fork into my leg just to stop myself from shaking. Because they are coming SONY, and you are looking the other way, I don’t know maybe some cute ducks got your attention. Oh, god, SONY, the shadow monsters are coming, Jaysus Christ,
stop playing with the ducks, they are right behind you, just look. Don’t look at me, I’ve dropped my stick. I can’t help you, just run, run, make an effort, for god’s sake, please.

Ah crap, Game Over.