Don’t overdo the quality

The concept of quality is somewhat twisted among modern consumers and manufacturers. Not because there are not high quality products or the like, but because there is a certain kind of veil that goes between product quality. Granted, this veil does exist for a reason, as the consumer shouldn’t have a need to see behind the curtains in which the his product are made of. Then again, it would be better if companies would be far more transparent in everything they do rather than protect less than favourable practices.

Companies must keep the quality of their product at a certain level. While advertisement and promotional speeches often tell you that they’re aiming for the best possible quality, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve discussed the subject of things being good enough in the past, and this is the core of if all; Quality, Time and Resources are tied to each other, and extending one of them extends the other. While there are numerous versions of this triangle, I’ll present here the simplest one out there.

Tri-Angle.png

You can pick only two, and depending on the product you may only have a chance to hit one spot.

If you go for a product that’s done quick and with as little resources as possible, you’ll end up with a product with low quality. If you go for a product with fast production time and of high quality, your resources will go out of hands. Most often this just means you need to put a whole lot more money into it. If you want something with as little resource expending as possible but still maintain high quality, the time the product will be made under will increase and in the end, it’s probably a very low priority product then.

Everyone would wish to balance these three in their daily lives, be it at home or at work. We all make decision if we want to, for example, put the time and effort into washing our dishes properly, when there are other things to consider as well.

This becomes a whole lot more complex when you must consider multiple projects and expenses. Any corporation that wishes to provide products for consumption have to juggle multiple triangles, or multiple elements of each triangle. To use translation in video game industry as an example, it often ends up in the Resources-Time section, where quality is not emphasised in favour of allocating that into other sections of the production.

NIS America is an example of a company that has managed to ignore Quality most of the time and have introduced questionable translations, additional bugs that did not exist in Japanese versions of the game and removal content. An example of this would be in Ar Tonelico II; Melody of Metafalica, where a mandatory boss battle locks the game up at a certain point.

As such, a company policy towards the public often states how their quality are the highest possible quality where in reality the product is balanced between the aforementioned elements in order to have a product on the shelves making money faster. This also means that the worker must adhere to the level of quality they’ve set. This sounds counter-intuitive, especially in the craftsmanship industries, but it is a necessary level. It is far too easy to get sucked into your own work and begin to burn your own self, and surrounding resources, for the sake of quality that goes wasted.

A product that has gained its quality by burning its creator, time and resources may serve the consumer to some time, but that level can’t be maintained without sacrificing something elsewhere. To use translation as an example again, a translator can’t sit on a translation until it has become what he considers perfect. A product that sits on the production line excess time due to some element, be it translation or whatever else, costs money each day. This is where having an acceptable level of quality steps in; it protects both the worker and the company.

What about the consumer then? For the consumer this is something he rarely thinks about. A literary work like a book or a visual novel that has thousands upon thousands of sentences in it is allowed to have certain amount if typos, misspells and textual errors. Content and information errors are of different things. The consumer does spot these errors more often than not, be an extra e in a word, lacking some alphabet or sentence starting with a lower case letter. Nevertheless, they are acceptable in overall terms. The worker hates the errors and would rather have them straightened out, and the corporation might recognise that this would raise the bar higher, but in the end the effort that is needed to achieve a certain kind of perfection of quality costs the damnest amount of money. Unless you can just issue a small, simple patch on your website without extra costs.

To use an analogy of this, achieving perfect emulation of a game console is rather hard. Most people who use emulators don’t care that the games they are playing on these emulators are not running the same way as they were intended on a real console, but care little because the quality of the emulation is good enough. As long as its playable, they’re satisfied.

In order to achieve perfect emulation of a more complex machine, the requirements stack up the closer you get 100% emulation accuracy. The last few percentages towards cycle-perfect emulation square from each other, and for modern systems it is currently simply impossible due to emulation requiring many times faster CPU than the original console’s.

Similarly, achieving perfect quality towards requires increasingly high amounts of resources and time. A steel product that needs to have a mirror shine to it takes its shape in a very short time, and the bulk of the work is spend in sanding and then buffing the surface in order to get that wanted finish. Of course you could just throw some reflective coating on top, or anodise the surface, but the end result wouldn’t be the same.

There are times when we just cut the cord and be done with things. This applies to every work. Still, the best thing is, in the future we’ll have more experience and better technology to increase that quality without putting any more resources or spending more time with it.

Consumer given rights

With modern consoles, be it digital or not, you’re not only buying into an access to the library of games, but also to all the services it offers. It doesn’t matter if you use them or create an account for them, they’re there for you from the get go and are an integral part of the offered system. Both SONY and Microsoft have a high level of access to the machines that are online. I don’t know about Wii U, I haven’t looked into how tightly they want to keep an eye on their customers.

With the recent news of Microsoft banning all the suspected accounts related to the Gears of War remake leaks shouldn’t come with any surprises. It’s a dick move with a very gray zone, but it’s a the every single Xbone user signs up to with the purchase.

On one hand the consumer should have every right to do whatever they want with their consoles, with the purchased product they rightfully and legally own. On the other hand, leaking information on a product you are testing is a dick move too, a highly unprofessional and more often than not absolutely against the signed contract.

With Xbone being a console that relies on pretty much all of its functions on online connectivity, the leaker or leakers have willingly played their chances and lost all those functionalities. I’m not sure how much functions an offline Xbone has, but there are games that require online functionality, like Destiny. Those already had some problems running due to connection errors and problems with servers, and will become completely unplayable when the servers are taken down, unless they patch a proper offline functionality to them.

We can discuss whether or not Microsoft has the right to do this sort of banning. In all seriousness, they have. While EULA doesn’t stand a chance if taken to court, it is the guidelines Microsoft has used since the beginning to encourage and enforce good and proper behaviour with their products and other people online. We can always argue to what extent they’ve succeeded, as we all have seen and heard stories how people are abusing each other online in various ways, or just acting generally like bunch of dicks.

As with any other company that essentially has an EULA that states Whatever we deem as misconduct will bring the banhammer down, like Valve’s Steam, will employ it whenever they see it fit. The consumers know this, if you’re going to do something that would violate the EULA, you better be sure you can’t be traced.

This is a sort of result of video game consoles turning into dumbed down PCs and the whole mess that has brought in. While it is true that the online functionality in the early consoles generations were highly limited with Famicom having a modem for few functions and SEGA delivering SEGA Channel, the mindset was different from those in comparison to modern consoles. While PC gaming and console gaming being different coins altogether, the multiplayer function and how they use online functions have become more or less the same. However, the sensibilities of console games have been lost with the PC-fication of consoles.

PC has a long record with online gaming in the form we take granted nowadays. With consoles it has always been more limited, with Nintendo’s Satellaview offering products that we don’t really see nowadays anymore. Then again, timed playing in certain time of the day and voice acting can be seen as an element that has lost its place in modern world with everyone wanting to do their entertainment at whatever time they wish and voice acting being a standard in modern gaming. With consoles more or less being multimedia entertainment terminals than boxes to play games, the companies had to broaden their control over what the consumer can do. Well up to sixth generation you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to your console and still be able to do online.

Online is not the end of all things on consoles. They should always be able to be their standalone products, allowing the consumer to play the games however they want to. With the multimedia nature in there, both Microsoft and SONY have put emphasize on these functionalities that are irrelevant to console gaming. This is of course far more apparent with the Xbone, especially so if we are to take John Riccitello’s words as true.

Riccitiello claims that Microsoft tried to compete with Apple’s products with the Xbone, that Microsoft didn’t feel that games would be big enough for whatever reason. This is, of course, absolutely asinine. It takes a large leap in logic to say that a home console would be in competition with Apple’s pads and Macs. That’s like taking part in a horserace with a motorbike; they both get you from point A to point B, but are different in their very nature. Smartphones and tablets have made screens available everywhere. Most people have one in their pockets right now, and some may read this post on one. If you’re going to compete in the field of multimedia streaming with a game console is absolutely stupid. If game industry is not big enough for your competition, you might as well drop the games from the equation and concentrate on producing multimedia terminals only. Would be cheaper too. Games have become far too expensive to produce nowadays, and one could argue that the inflation in game development costs has dropped the variety in games as well as dropped their value as games.

To end that tangent and returning to the main issue. As long as consumers are willingly giving all these controls to the companies, things won’t change. On the other hand, as long as there are those who would intentionally break the consoles for their own ends, certain level of control needs to be kept in the hands of the companies.

There’s no real discussion whether or not Microsoft had the right to ban these accounts. The discussion should be aimed at what nature of service necessitates near total control over the consumers’ machines.

Region free 3DS?

Two generations ago region circumvention was enough. Very few games supported any sort of patching on the sixth generation of video game consoles. Nowadays the story is different with each platforms from this and previous generation supporting large scale updating and patching.
Simple region circumvention isn’t cutting it anymore as the online functionality comes into way. For Pokémon it’s easy to see; people without certain patches won’t be able to trade or fight online. Second one would be Monster Hunter, where multiplayer patches could be highly important.
Secondly, there’s the problem of the consumer inability to access the possible DLC. While I’m not a huge fan of DLC myself, I know that there are those who wish to purchase so-called complete game every bit of colour variations and alternative outfits.

As such, regionthree for the 3DS is one limited little thing.
regionthree has been hailed as the loader that defeated the 3DS’ region locking. This, of course, is not the case. Wii’s region locking was defeated and humiliated harshly with sofmods, 3DS’ locking still applies. Be it the paranoid attitude of the 3DS hacking and homebrew scene towards piracy, or the fact that GateWay holds extremely harsh monopoly over both scenes, the 3DS users don’t benefit all too much from this launcher.
There exists a handful of games that regionthree allows to shine at their fullest potential. These games are single player and have seen no updates or DLC. One could argue that certain games that have more or less useless DLC belong to this category too with games that have something one wouldn’t purchase anyway. For example, Super Robot Wars UX is a complete game on itself and DLC stages only offer what one could call puzzle stages. These stand alone stages don’t add anything to the main game, but could be a nice extra if they had a cheaper price.
In order to defeat the current region locking 3DS now has would mean similar set of tools that a softmodded Wii has. I would argue that SONY’s take on the whole region locking has been rather good in comparison. There are problems that need to be faced before one can access the other region stores, but patches and other similarities are completely universal, independent from the region the system is in when it comes to physical games.

regionthree also requires you to be online during start up due to it using GateWay’s site. While I don’t have any problems with this, this is extremely bad design. There is an Android application to circumvent this problem, but otherwise the whole deal is just pretty damn bad. Even for a flashcard product this is something unforgivable and I have no idea why anyone would spent their money on a product that could brick both the console and the flashcard.

It’s like intentionally being an ass to the customer.

regionthree also raised a good question; what games are actually worthwhile importing from other regions? As this only applies to physical games, all the digital content is thrown out the window without any remorse. A lot of games are still being localised and I doubt most 3DS’ users have enough language skills to play something like New Love+. Speaking of New Love+, I’m divided if I should just throw my social life away and get one.

There are numerous games I would like purchase from local stores, but seeing how limited the launcher ultimately is there’s no way in hell I’d purchase a game I know I wouldn’t be able to take full potential out of. Then again, now people can get that 3D Sega compilation on cartridge rather than purchase them all separately from the eShop.
Anyways, regionthree shows that there really isn’t anything worth importing across regions that is not extremely niche, localised or getting a localisation. At least this is better than with PSVita, which has barely any original games. I’m extremely surprised that there is no sequel for Gravity Rush on the system already. I remember it being one of the most advertised games for the system, but now there is no advertisement for the system. It’s PSVita’s failing miserably or something. The system had promise and looked interesting, but nobody was actually making any good games for it. I can’t even collect those minimum of seven original games for the system to warrant a purchase. The list consists exactly one PSVita original game and even that is the aforementioned Gravity Rush. The rest are ports, sequels or remakes.

In that sense the PSVita shows a prevailing problem in the industry at large. Not only same stuff is recycled into new boxers, but there’s no chances taken. Of course I can’t deny that there is a very damn good reason to keep repeating the same thing over and over again, but an industry needs to renew itself at times in order to keep itself fresh. I guess the jump to 3D is a good example, despite 3D Mario historically having lower sales than 2D ones.

Perhaps people just want more 2D than 3D.

Back to 3DS and its region locking. I doubt Nintendo can just free it. This is because they most likely have a certain legal grounds that prevents them from just flipping the flag from 1 to 0 and allow the region freedom. This wouldn’t be enough. As with regionthree, the player would be unable to access any of the functions that would require different region eShop. I highly doubt that Nintendo would be willing to change their eShop system to support any kind of region freedom. It is more or less integrated to how the console functions. It would take somewhat massive reconstruction how their online store model would work. There would be a need to implement similar system that Sony already has. It just ain’t happening, but I hope I’m wrong.

I could see Nintendo releasing the region coding so that the eShop in itself, the application on the console, would still be regionally locked, but any and all physical games could fetch update and patch datas. Games that rely purchasing DLC via eShop would be screwed, but that’s something that could be slightly gotten around by patching the DLC functionality directly into the games.

I really hope I didn’t ramble too much, I was slightly under influence of brewed drink. For that, music time!