Tag: Xbox

Excellent Games with Lazy, Halfassed Interface Design

So Arkham City was on sale on Steam last weekend. Between that and the recent removal of GFWL and SecuROM, and my Xbox (and my copy of the game) being recently stolen, I went ahead and bought it.

Compared to the Xbox version of the game, well, it's got all the same benefits and drawbacks as every PC game does compared to the console version.

Including controller support.

It recognized my outdated Cordless Rumblepad 2 just fine -- I'm not sure if that's internal to the game itself or due to the compatibility layer Steam's added in Big Picture -- but either way, well, it recognized the controller but didn't actually work right with it.

All the button pairs were switched. A and B, X and Y, the bumpers and the triggers.

All of which I suppose I could have eventually reprogrammed my muscle memory to work around (hell, the Xbox's button layout is already backwards for a kid who grew up with a SNES). But the fact that the Y-axis was backwards on the left stick? Not so much. Try playing a game where up is literally down and see how far it gets you.

And here's my gripe:

There's no menu to reconfigure your controller in the game.

There could have been. There's a menu option to look at the controls. You just can't modify them in any way. (Well, you can invert the axes on camera and flight, I suppose. But not on regular movement, the thing where I actually needed to invert an axis. And no button remapping whatsoever.)

There's a configuration utility -- outside the game -- which lets you remap controls...for keyboard and mouse. If there's a way to change the button layout on a gamepad, I sure didn't see it.

Now, the good news about this being 2013 is I could type "arkham city" inverted controls into a search engine and find a trivial fix -- as it turns out, there's a config file in BmGame\Config\DefaultInput.ini that has straightforward, cleartext entries with names like XboxTypeS_LeftY and XboxTypeS_A. Simply swap the names of the axes and buttons, and that's all it takes.

Which is great!

But the bad news about this being 2013 is I can't help asking why the fuck I had to look this up on the Internet and edit a fucking text file instead of just configuring my controls from a menu.

The last time I had a problem like this, with The Walking Dead, I found a forum post by a Telltale staffer who had this to say:

Unfortunately we do not have access to all the various versions of controllers that logitech and other companies make.

Which sounds perfectly sensible, and also completely misses the fucking point.

Now, in Batman's case, there are a couple simple reasons that's a bad argument: first, this issue occurs with the authentic Xbox controllers that the game is specifically designed for. Second, this is not a new bug -- see the link to the fix a few paragraphs up? Take a closer look at the URL -- it's for Arkham Asylum, not City. This is a bug from the original game that was not fixed in the sequel.

But even leaving aside those two points (which is only fair, of course, given that I'm quoting a guy from a different company talking about a completely different game), the central issue remains: this is the twenty-first goddamn century and people are making games -- PC games! -- where they don't give you the option to remap your buttons.

Yes, I know that hardware inconsistency is the single most difficult thing about PC development. No, I don't expect you to design your game to work with every single controller ever made.

But I do goddamn-well expect you to let me map my fucking buttons however I want.

Mega Man X did that shit twenty years ago. What the fuck is your excuse?

Obfuscation

Continuing from Friday's post about a Microsoft employee's total disdain for Microsoft customers' concern about the next Xbox's rumored always-on requirement:

I want my game console to only be playable online, said no one ever.
Image via Quickmeme.
My Internet connection went down while I was trying to find it. I'm not kidding.

That's the crux of it, isn't it?

From a consumer standpoint, there is no benefit to an always-on requirement.

Now, people may try to obfuscate this point. They may list off all the benefits of an always-on option. And there are some! Cloud saves are pretty cool! So's online multiplayer! Having those things as options is great!

Making them mandatory, for all games, is not. And therein lies the disingenuousness of the argument.

EA COO Peter Moore recently shared this gem:

Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It's not. People still want to argue about it. We can't be any clearer -- it's not. Period.

As difficult as it is to argue with the unassailable logic that is "It's not. Period.", there are two problems here:

  1. It's clearly DRM.
  2. Even if it weren't DRM, it would still be legitimately terrible game design.

This is one more case where a company representative is deliberately obfuscating the difference between a nice option and a good requirement.

The idea of an entire world of SimCities interacting with one another? That does sound pretty great! It's really a neat idea!

Is it integral to the gameplay?

Well, Peter Moore will tell you it is. Because Peter Moore is paid to tell you it is.

But it's turned out to be trivial to modify the game for offline play, and quite a lot of people have noted that the game plays just fine that way. The interaction with other players and cities is a nice option -- but it's not required to enjoy the game.

Indeed, it proved a pretty fucking considerable detriment to customers enjoying the game.

So beware this argument tactic -- "[X] is a good requirement to have, because of [features that could be implemented without making it a requirement]."

And its close cousin, "DRM is a benefit to the end user, because of [features that could be implemented without using DRM]."

DRM is never a benefit to the end user. No end user has ever said, "You know, this game is great, but it would be better if it had DRM."

Similarly, as the image above so succinctly notes, nobody has ever said "You know, offline games are great, but I sure wish they were as unreliable as online games."

Microsoft Doesn't Want My Business. That Can Be Arranged.

So in case you haven't been keeping score, apparently the next version of the Xbox will require an always-on Internet connection, even for single-player games.

As you might expect, some people are unhappy about this.

Microsoft's Adam Orth knows just how to treat concerned customers: by insulting and mocking them with disingenuous analogies.

Image: Adam Orth's Twitter feed, insulting his customers' intelligence and his own

Now, one of three things is true:

  1. Adam Orth is stupid.
  2. Adam Orth thinks you're stupid.
  3. Both.

I shouldn't even have to fucking explain this, but here goes anyway:

A video game console that doesn't work without an Internet connection is not analogous to a vacuum cleaner that doesn't work without electricity or a cellular telephone that doesn't work without cellular service.

Because, you see, a vacuum cleaner, by its nature, requires electricity to function. (Technically some vacuum cleaners get that electricity from batteries, but keep in mind, Orth's analogy is very very stupid.)

A cellular telephone requires cellular service to function.

You see where I'm going with this?

A video game console does not require an Internet connection to function.

Now, some games might. Complaining that, say, World of Warcraft requires an Internet connection would indeed be comparable to complaining that a vacuum requires a current and a cellular telephone requires cellular telephone service.

But -- fun fact! -- many video games are single-player.

Refusing to buy a video game console that requires an always-on Internet connection is not analogous to refusing to buy a vacuum cleaner that requires an electrical current.

Refusing to buy a video game console that requires an always-on Internet connection is analogous to refusing to buy a vacuum cleaner that requires an always-on Internet connection.

Artificial Stupidity

I really do love Red Dead Redemption. But for all that it's a big open-world sandbox game, the actual story events have very little room for player choice.

See that guy running away from the creepy, slavering weirdo in the middle of the desert? Better lasso him and take him back! Otherwise you fail the mission.

Or what about the guy beating up that woman? If you attack him, you fail the mission. Instead you have to buy her freedom and then take her away, so she can go back to him and get murdered and you end up killing him anyway.

Or how about the guy who told you where to find Javier Escuella, only to lead you into an ambush and try to kill you? Looks like you've got him in your grasp, and he's telling you where Javier Escuella is, really for real this time! So before you ride off, you have the choice of either (1) killing him or (2) letting some other guys kill him. There is no option (3) consider the possibility that the guy who already lied to you and lured you into a deathtrap may be lying to you and luring you into a deathtrap. (Spoiler alert: he is lying to you and luring you into a deathtrap.)

I mean, John Marston is depicted as a pretty simple guy -- a self-described "half-literate farmer and hired gun" --, but he's not a blithering goddamn moron. He's just, you know, a character in a video game who is occasionally forced to behave like one in order to move the narrative forward to the next event.

Ze Germans

Not sure if I'll stick with OpenSUSE for the long haul or not.

I quite like YAST but it doesn't have the level of package support that any given apt-based distro does.

And it's slow. I heard OpenSUSE was faster than other KDE-based desktops, but that hasn't been my experience, even switching from HDD to SSD. Firefox routinely pegs the CPU. So does Xorg (which I think is down to my keeping LibreOffice open most of the time). RSSOwl -- which does not have an OpenSUSE package and was a straight-up bitch to set up -- is frequently slow and unresponsive (good ol' Java).

So why RSSOwl, anyway? Well, I like to keep my RSS feeds synced across my desktop, my laptop, my phone -- wherever. At the moment I'm using Google Reader for that.

I used to use Akregator, but it doesn't sync with Google Reader.

I tried Liferea, but...well, it's coded by a guy like me. A power-user who wanted specific network functionality and isn't very good at UI design. It's missing such basic functionality as being able to rename a feed (a necessity when it chokes on as simple a thing as an apostrophe -- my feed list contains "Kurt Busiek's Formspring answers" followed by "Neil Gaiman's Journal"), and its syncing with Google Reader is spotty as well.

Also its name resembles "diarrhea".

So I tried RSSOwl.

Under Ubuntu, it was simple enough to set up RSSOwl -- had to add an external repo, but that was it.

There's no repo for OpenSUSE. There's a binary download, but here's the rub: it doesn't work out of the box. It requires xulrunner 1.x -- 2.x does not work. And OpenSUSE 12.2 doesn't have a package for xulrunner 1.x.

It took me ages to find, but I found a good RPM package of xulrunner 1.9. It's for Scientific Linux, but it installed fine under OpenSUSE, and worked once I symlinked libhunspell-1.3.so.0 to libhunspell-1.2.so.0 . It throws the occasional warning when I run updates, but I've been able to navigate those just fine.

And that's another thing about OpenSUSE: YAST's options, when it runs across a version conflict on a dependency, are pretty opaque and incomprehensible (and it frequently lists the same option multiple times), but at least it gives you options. Ubuntu's package management, in my experience, just throws an error and quits when it runs across that kind of conflict. So score one for OpenSUSE there. Sort of.

Still and all, for all I like about its configuration center/package management system, I'm having a hard time seeing OpenSUSE as Worth It. Maybe when I've got some time to do yet another damn reinstall, I'll give Mint a shot, or something.


Playing: Got in some good Arkham City and Mass Effect 2 time today -- after my job interview. Working my way down that list...

ParaNorman

It was a busy weekend! I had a friend in from out of town, then had my cousins over for cartoons and games, then had more friends out of town and went drinkin' with them.

Caught a couple movies, too, including ParaNorman at the cheap theater. I liked it!

First of all: it's a kids' movie that does shit you're not supposed to do in a kids' movie. My favorite gag involved the rather gruesome image of the ghost of a dog who had been hit by a car. It's funnier than it sounds.

The flick does some fun things with genre conventions, has the usual kids' movie message that it's okay to be different, adds the rather more complex message that bullying is caused by fear and begets more bullying -- but mostly it's just a damn pretty, weird, creepy, funny, unconventional kids' horror movie, from a couple of directors whose resumés include Flushed Away, Coraline, and Corpse Bride.


Playing: Oh so very many things. This weekend we threw down on Scott Pilgrim, Gears of War, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (purchased used -- my boycott remains unbroken), and most recently Batman: Arkham City, which my cousin loaned me. I was going to buy the PC version to use with my sweet PC graphics card, but on finding out it had SecuROM I decided not to pay for it and just borrow the Xbox version instead -- you listening, Square Enix? Of course you're not.

Another Migraine

Welp, stayed home with a migraine again today.

Hate that this happens right as my job's up in the air. Not so much because I'm worried that my bosses will think I've got a chronic condition that interferes with my work (I only miss a day every couple months, and they've always been pretty understanding, especially since I haul ass when I'm there), but because I don't get sick pay and every day I miss is a cockpunch right in the wallet.

(Look, my wallet has a cock. I don't really want to talk about it.)

Good news is that I pretty solidly whomped the headache with a full dose of codeine first thing this morning followed by going back to bed for six and a half hours. But that left me pretty weak and dizzy. Beats a migraine but still leaves me pretty much no good for a whole day.


Playing: Red Dead Redemption.

Old Habits

Today my fiancée bought a Kinect at Fallout Games, our local independent gameseller.

I tested out the Rally Ball game on Kinect Adventures. The main takeaway: it doesn't really play like any kind of real ball game at all.

Most notably, in this game, bouncing the ball off my face or crotch is okay!

Monument to Consumerism

Took Little Nephew to the mall this evening so he wouldn't go stir-crazy. Cliché as it is, it's true -- by the end of the evening we were tired and he wasn't.

Made for a decent enough shopping trip, too. I found a copy of Crackdown for $3. And then I decided to check an Arizona souvenir shop for hot sauce -- my cousin invited me to breakfast this coming Sunday. It's the anniversary of her father's passing, and he loved to have people over for Sunday breakfast.

I saw a wasabi and habanero sauce and thought, yeah, that says Uncle Jim to me.

I miss the old fella.

Out with my nephew, thinking of my uncle. I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands o' time until -- aww, look at me, I'm ramblin' again.