April 23, 2013

My take on the "always on" situation

I was thinking about it and I decided to elaborate on the subject of "always on" which has been a big topic on the net recently.

I can't quite call it a debate as it's fairly one sided. I say this because in the end the consumer is always right and the consumers don't want to be force fed any more nonsense liked 3d, motion controls, full multimedia system replacements, or always-on consoles and games. Granted there is a time and place for most of these things. I would wager to say gamers would appreciate 3d if it were done right but they might not want it for all games, the same I would say to be true of motion controls especially for some party games but who in their right mind would want these motion controls for complex intricate systems, especially without 3d and more so without accurate response or feedback. I can't remember ever seeing a tech demo in which motion controls actually worked like they were supposed to and even when they do work with games it's never anything terribly complex. Even worse are the games that tack it on after the fact and force you to use it. Moving on as a gamer, and again only speaking for myself, I don't want my xbox or playstation ever being in control of my other multimedia services. I don't need or want it to replace my cable providers box, that of course would be if I still had cable tv... which I don't. I have my pc for all my multimedia and my consoles are certainly not about to replace my pc. I could easily be in the minority on this one though, perhaps something like steam's big picture mode when adapted to include various tv apps could be a nice addition and so I would caution that if done properly it would be an acceptable option to include so long as I have control over it. However I find it ridiculous to design or develop a gaming console around music, tv, and social media, just down right ludicrous. In that scenario I could also then see always-on to some extent but even then it just seems horribly intrusive and unnecessary. Outside of that though I don't see any other scenario that could justify always-on other than what everyone is saying it's for so far which is DRM which in all honesty infuriates me to no end.

It may be that I'm too harsh or not seeing the other side of this however if you'll continue reading I think you'll find it worth the time. I've read time and again how developers somehow think piracy = lost sales. In the case of a game like world of goo this almost seems true. The number of pirated copies was shameful and the game hadn't sold nearly as well as it would have projecting the numbers. That may have changed since the last time I read about it but at the time it was one of those things I had to seriously read because I couldn't fathom it. I've seen other cases though where piracy helped increase sales. From my experience I tend not to buy a game without having at least some kind of trial or demo of it first. Which sadly all signs point to making a demo for a game being a very bad thing, I haven't read a study in which a demo for a game didn't decrease it's sales / pre-orders etc let alone increase them. This is also part of how the misconception came to play. On my end though I'll admit to having absolutely pirated world of goo, though not until after reading the article about it's so called "losses". After having played it a little I turned right around and bought it. Had it not been for a pirated version of it I absolutely would've never bought it. More often than not if I have no other way of finding out about a game I resort to finding some other way of playing it, usually renting through a service like gamefly for example. I read reviews and find which games I still want to play after reading those reviews and then I look up vids of people playing or first impressions those sorts of things. Sometimes that's enough to convince me to buy it though often it ends up leaving me so I want to play but I'm leery about spending the money on it knowing it could turn out horribly in spite of what I've seen thus far.  In the end I tend to only end up buying great games I know for a fact I'll enjoy because I've already played them a little.

One of the big points on games for me though is that I can play them when and usually where I want within reason. I don't mind connecting once in a while for validation or something however an always-on scenario means if I'm ever without internet even for a short while it can ruin my entire experience. It might not even be that scenario it could just be that the game company is the ones having the problem. I end up being frustrated that the product I bought and paid for is somehow unavailable to me for some reason and ends up essentially being an inferior product to a pirated version. What happens then in ten years or so when the company decides to shut down those particular validation servers or re-purpose them for something else. The idea that eventually I just won't be allowed access to what I consider to be my property is preposterous. For those of you that want to argue timeframe, you're missing the bigger picture. It doesn't matter if it's 20 years, 50 years, or even a century from now. Maybe I want to pass down my game collection to my grand kids that end up wanting to play it. Right now I can break out my old nintendo and put in super mario bros and guess what, it works fine, no hassle of any kind other than maybe a little cleaning and classic jiggling to get it to load right. This will likely still be true in another 20 years just as it's also true of my old atari and pac man which actually works better than my nintendo come to think of it. Granted most games today will not endure in the same manner as even if we still have these games that far down the road it's unlikely we'll want to play them for a multitude of reasons. The point being though that at least it's an option.

It just may come to pass that if always-on becomes a standard then the new standard for me will be to find pirated copies of products I buy just so I can avoid dealing with such restrictions. As to the rumors of the next xbox being an always-on system I would say that it is probably the case simply because microsoft has not yet openly denied it to my knowledge. You would think given the backlash concerning it if it wasn't even an issue they'd have just come out by now and said that the console isn't even always-on required. Playstation on the other hand knows better. After the massive downtime they had they know that if they made the ps4 an always on system they'd be declaring bankruptcy by the end of the year if not the month. Simply put if xbox is going to be always-on required to play any games then we'd all better abandon ship because if an attack like what happened to Sony happened to the xbox you wouldn't be able to play any game at all not just being cut off from multiplayer and in that scenario I don't doubt there'd be a few offices burned to the ground.

I could probably write several additional articles on the subject, rather than doing so I'll just summarize that I don't see any scenario where always-on should be a requirement and I see a very limited few situations where it's even beneficial at all, it's a significant dentriment and should seriously be completely avoided at this point in time. That's just if you're in a country with a decent network backbone like America, Europe, Japan, etc. If you're in a country where the backbone is weak or you live in an area away from the broadband then you should be running away from always-on like your life depended on it. Granted my real concern is not with your connection rather the companies connection as Sim City clearly proved. Which I will add that EA must've been drinking the worlds largest keg of retard juice to do some of the nonsense they pulled with that game, and if you haven't gotten it yet don't bother just pick up sim city 4 it's a better game anyway. If you really want to punish EA feel free to grab anno 2077 or cities xl 2013, to my knowledge anno also uses a resource system which the new Sim City seems to have copied....

On one last side note I will say that while I don't like to speculate on consoles until I start seeing some games for them beyond launch titles I will say that I'm probably going to be sitting this round of consoles out and rather just picking up a new graphics card and some games, it'll cost about the same and I'll be better off for it. If I do pick up a console based on what I know right now it'll probably be a ps4 but even so right now it's far from selling me on it.

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