Experienced Points #83 and Stolen Pixels #225

By Shamus
on Sep 10, 2010
Filed under:
Column

We’ve hardly had time for my comics this week, what with all the crazy PAX stuff and such. But the Old Traditions must be upheld, so here are the links to my stuff at the Escapist.

Stolen Pixels #225: Public Service Announcement – Breen has An Important Message for gamers everywhere. He might make some off-color remarks, but he means well.

Experienced Points: What’s Wrong with Xbox LIVE? – Nothing really earth shattering. Just outlining that the disadvantages of Microsoft’s hermetically sealed experience are not the price, but the omission of freedoms which can be taken for granted elsewhere.

Shamus Plays Champions Online, Part 8 – I’m still re-running this series over there, in case you’re in the mood to read it again.

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201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Drexer says:

    “He might make some off-color remarks, but he means well.”

    Dear Shamus, that psychologically hurt. Please do it again.

  2. Jarenth says:

    It’s kind of a sad thought that while ‘consoles copying PCs’ would probably make the online world a little better, and make game developers some more money in the process, the truth of the matter seems to be that ‘PCs copying consoles’ is the way the world is going nowadays.

  3. winter says:

    Basically your complaint is “consoles are a wasteland because they’re run like centralized luxury resorts, except there are no guards, whereas PCs are like owning your own house”.

    Yeah.

    Or to put it another way, “consoles are run so that they take features away rather than granting new ones”. With all this centralized control you’d think we’d get something out of it. That’s the Apple model, right? Centralize, but make it worth people’s while? Well consoles just centralize and then take things away.

    Which is why i am still and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to be a PC gamer first and foremost.

  4. Kdansky says:

    I nearly bit my tongue off so I could choke myself when I read that pun.

    But solid point. Reality isn’t actually brown at all. I live in a city center in a red house, and the one I can see through my window is blue, and there are green trees between them. Diablo 3 gets it right, despite the lunatic community, claiming that D2 was brown/gray (which it totally wasn’t).

  5. toasty_mow says:

    @Experienced Points:

    It is indeed said that M$ is really so silly about these things. Its also (for me, at least) a very good reason to stick to the PC and League of Legends/Starcraft II for my competitive Gaming scene, instead of, say, MW II (great single play btw, just far too short. Still one of the most entertaining Single Player games I’ve played, just doesn’t have the staying power of some RPGs) or Halo 3 (I dont like Halo anyways)

  6. Zukhramm says:

    Why exactly can server for consoles not be run by players the way they can be for PC games?

    • winter says:

      Console makers refuse to give out the server code, as more and more PC developers are also doing.

      They could do it, but they’d have to stop and think for five minutes and they’re not going to do that.

      (Edit)

      A less sarcastic answer goes something like this:

      Although dedicated/player run servers are great, there are problems. You have to find one, for instance, and it might not be 100% reliable. It might go down and there might not be a persistent way to track friends/etc in the game itself. (A problem that is, effectively, solved with Steam.)

      So developers were all like “okay we’re going to go to a centralized server model because we can offer an integrated, reliable experience to all our players blah blah blah”, and they were going to add a bunch of features and stuff.

      What they discovered was that stuff costs money, so they just took features away and called it a day.

      (Maybe that wasn’t less sarcastic after all.)

      • Zukhramm says:

        I much prefer your first answer.

        It’s jsut., letting the players do it really seems optimal. The amount of servers will regulate itself, popular games will have a lot of them, games with no players won’t have servers run in vain.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Filthy, filthy lucre. There’s no money in it for the Xbox Hegemony.

  7. Friend of Dragons says:

    Here seems as good a place to comment on my most recent bit of rage at xbox live as any:
    I subscribe to it, and purchased a year’s subscription about 11 months ago. In the intervening time, I have changed my standard system of payment of such things, so I want to turn off automatic renewal of my subscription, so I can update my methods when it comes time to pay for it again. Ok, here we go:
    The method for turning it off is blatantly designed to confuse people into leaving it on. To initiate the process, there are no obvious places to click to turn it off. Eventually I discovered that the little thing that said “auto-payment: on” was actually a hyperlink. the ON was underlined, but was in a utterly nondescript olive color (you know, the same color as everything else there), and nothing suggested it was a hyperlink until I moused over it. The next screen I came to said effectively “Thank you for deciding to activate your auto-renewal! here are some featuers you will enjoy!:” I clicked my way through several (well, a few anyway) pages of ads for features and upcaming games and yada, yada, yada, until I finally get to the page that lets me click it off(while in the upcoming pages doing its best to mislead me.). grr……..
    I’d like anyone who is currently subscribed try going through the process. You don’t have to finalize it, i’d just like your take on it and see if I’m blowing it way out of porportion or not.

  8. Ben says:

    I like the idea of user-moderated servers on Live. If they started doing that, I might reactivate my Gold membership.

    …maybe.

  9. Vipermagi says:

    What happened to the next-prev-latest bars, if I may ask?

  10. h0ncho says:

    The biggest problem here is that console players are so used to taking it up the ass that they accept anything.

    I mean, ending multiplayer support for a three year old game (halo 2) is on thing… But ending multiplayer support for a game that you pay 50 $ a year for playing AND that still has a fairly large community playing?

    I can’t see PC gamers accepting this without epic amounts of butthurt. But console gamers, including the press, didn’t even bat an eye. They accepted it without complaining.

    And THAT is the problem with Xbox live: It’s users are so apathetic and eager to be abused that they would gladly sign away their anal virginities if it was required to gather achievement points.

    • Soylent Dave says:

      PC gamers accept quite a lot of taking it up the arse without expecting it to change any time soon, too.

      The reason console gaming is succeeding (despite the good reasons you’ve just given) is probably because it’s easier.

      I can buy any Xbox game, and know that it will work on my Xbox. When I buy a PC game, I have to read through the recommended specs, I have to know what mine are – and how they compare to different graphics cards and so on – and even then the game might not work properly (because it’s just ‘incompatible’ with my exact system setup).

      PC gamers also have to deal with increasingly atrocious DRM (which, by and large, they seem to be accepting (vocal minorities or not – the games with the most egregious DRM still get purchased in massive quantities)) – adding another layer of fannying around before I can play the game I’ve just bought.

      I think, as a gamer, you just have to decide where and how hard you want to get fucked. I really only play older games on my PC now – although the occasional new game persuades me otherwise – because I’d rather be scalped on peripherals (check out the HDD prices for the xbox!) and multiplayer privileges than jump through all the hoops PC gaming keeps putting in front of me.

      Which is a shame, because I really like my PC.

  11. Swedmarine says:

    Rawr! Why did I read the Shamus Plays?! I have been trying to ignore the awesome silliness of CO since the free-time ended Wednesday. Now I am considering purchasing it and paying money, just so that I can play with Captain Punch and Mind Blast again!

    Why, oh why cruel world?! Whyyyy?!

  12. Soylent Dave says:

    I feel the need to point out that you can run private matches through xbox live, which is a bit like running a server (sort of) – in that the host gets to invite who he wants, boot out people if they start being dickish and set the rules of the game.

    It’s more limited, obviously – because you can only play with people you already know (rather than creating a server where people can just happen along), but xbox live has decent friendslist functionality as well, so you can quite quickly build up a sizeable group of players to game with away from the crowd, if you so desire.

    I know you can do that sort of thing on a PC as well, but it’s a fair bit easier to set up via xbox live, and friendslist means you’ve got a pool of players ready and available to invite at a button press.

    It’s not as open as PC gaming – but it’s not quite as limited as you set out in the article.

  13. Feb says:

    Wow, Shamus, on the XBLive thing you’re so right it kind of stings. However, I’ve gotten plenty of ‘free’ stuff. (Well, a few ‘free’ things which seemed at the time like nice perks, and which arguably run counter to things being quite as mercenary as you suggest.)

    I bought a new “VIP” copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, so every now and then I’ve received new map packs (or really, new play modes on existing maps). I also got cool weapons and camoflage.

    For Mass Effect 2, I get those groovy little “Cerberus Network” updates which are fluffy and light, but do have to count as new content, at least in the sense that they’re created by BioWare and pushed out over Micro$oft’s servers. Every. Single. Day. And if for some reason I’d waited until now to download Zaeed and his mission, you can bet I’d be able to. Maybe this just underscores how nice it must be to be EA?

    As to the quality of the servers, I agree way too much on that point as well. But someone needs to explain to me why I can play BFBC2 with friends from LA, NYC, and London on a semi-regular basis, but I can’t do the two-player co-op missions for Splinter Cell: ConViction with my buddy who lives literally two miles from me? I think it’s worth mentioning that not only is MS using the wrong approach to run these things, they’re doing what they’ve chosen to do in a weird and sometimes lousy way.

    I will of course pay my $60 a year (“the price of one new game! Five bucks a month!”) without complaint or indeed without really thinking about it. And that, I suspect, is just what they want. Thanks for shining a little sunshine on the phenomenon.

    • Soylent Dave says:

      Splinter Cell: Conviction seems to have horrendous co-op issues.

      I couldn’t play with my friend a couple of miles away (coincidentally) until I happened to upgrade my broadband (which wasn’t exactly slow before) to fibre-optic – which magically fixed all the co-op failure to connect and slowdown issues we’d been having.

      You really shouldn’t need a 40-50Mb connection to play a game.

      Splinter Cell is another game which gives you free stuff, incidentally (new guns and outfits).

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