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All change – why it’s not just about laziness

Many people, including myself, prefer using consoles to PCs for their gaming simply for the ease of use.  You know when you buy a video game that the games that come out for it will work . At least that’s the theory as Microsoft changed that with the shoddy build of their 360s meaning that for a large number of people once their old 360 got older, newer games were harder and harder to play.  Ignoring that minor blip, and Kinect/Move/Look like an idiot aside, when you turn on your 360 the idea is that you’re in for a bit of relaxation, sat on your couch, immersed in another world, be that as your favourite sports person; a soldier of the past, present or future; or just your average superstar rocker.

However, as games have progressed, so has the amount of content that needs to be sent out in those little boxes they come in.  For the bigger games, one disc is no longer big enough.  Now before the PS3 fan boys pipe up with their “PS3 is better because the discs hold more,” this is happening on PS3 too.  Video games these days can come out with 2 or even 3 discs.  Their might be some with more than that but I’m not personally aware of them.  Now of course, this is not something new in the world of gaming.  PC Gamers have been getting games with a whole bunch of discs for years.  I seem to recall a number of older PC games coming out with over 5 discs, and having to sit there whilst the whole thing installed, and prompted you to change when one disc was done.  For the most part I’ll be talking about the 360 here as I do not own a PS3.

Obviously the more discs the more (or better) content in that particular game, so you will not hear of any gamers complaining that this should stop.  I’m all in favour of the end consumer getting the best product possible and if current technology means that I have to receive 2 discs instead of 3 then so be it.  However, the issue comes during game play, when you suddenly find yourself having to do a disc swap.

As some may have read in my earlier post, the Mass Effect game apparently requires the gamer to change the disc frequently.  The problem from what I see is in the actual design of the game.  LA Noire had 3 discs, but with that game being a bit more linear (you did one department’s missions then you moved onto the next) that meant that the disc swap happened once you got to a certain stage, then you had a large number of hours to play before the next disc change.  BF3 also had 2 discs, and originally they had said the second disc was for the High Definition graphics that you could install to your HDD.  It turns out that one disc is primarily for multiplayer and the other is for single player.  Again that works well, if you’re in the mode for single player, you plonk in the relevant disc and turn on your 360.  What about SKyrim, I hear you ask.  That game was massive, with a vast open world, so how many discs did that have?  Well it had one, but then Mass Effect has a whole bunch more cut scenes, and it has a whole bunch of of acted dialogue that Skyrim never had.

Now this complaint has resulted in a number of people insulting the video gamers saying that they’re all a bunch of overweight lazy nerds who need to get out more.  That little trip to the console to change discs every 10 hours is good for you; and surely you have to get up for food and to use the toilet anyway (or do you starve and soil yourself).   However, I personally think that this is not just about laziness.  Sure, a small part of it is, but there is something more here.

Firstly, there is no need for it for the majority of modern day gamers.  These days the 360 comes with a fairly sizeable HDD, and you have the option to install the game to HDD.  This actually brings me to another pet peeve I have on the 360.  When you get a multi disc game on the PC you have to install it, but it does all the disc prompts for you (“Insert disc two and press enter when you’re ok”).

On the 360, you have to insert the first disc, go to game options and hit the right button to install.  Then, when that’s 100% done, you have to insert the second disc, and again go to disc options and then again hit the install button.  The first time I did this was actually for LA Noire after my old 360 died.  I didn’t know the procedure at that stage and I was somewhat surprised when it didn’t ask me to stick disc two in.  I went online and found out I had to manually have it install all 3 discs.  That to me is somewhat pointless.

Battlefield 3 was even more of a chore.  That came with 2 discs, so I installed the first disc, then I installed the second disc and I thought right that’s done, let’s load up the game.  When I loaded it up it then asked me if I wanted to install the higher definition graphics.  I’m sat there thinking what the hell is this, I installed both discs already, but obviously I clicked yes.  Insert disc 2 it said… so in went disc two and another long wait for it to install.  Now insert disc 1, restart your 360, juggling 3 flaming chainsaws, whilst wearing high heels (or was the high heels just me?).  This, people, is not about laziness.  I rarely play more than say 2 hours at a time in any one given session.  With a baby you just can’t sit there thinking right I’m down for the long haul.  This is just about stupidly designed games. Why not have a series of questions at the start of the installation process (Do you want to install the MP, do you want to install the high definition, etc) and then install everything required off each disc once they are already in the machine.  Whilst you’re there ask if they also want to download the available updates.

So given the whole issue with the installation, why would you then also need more disc changes in the game.  I just installed everything onto my 360, why would you again ask me to change the disc?  Surely all the material is now onto my 360?  Some people will argue that this is to do with copyrights, if you have 2 discs, you could technically install it onto your 360, then lend the game to a friend to play the first disc, and then sell them discs 2 and 3 whilst you just play with disc 1.  It seems like a lot of effort to me just to get around buying the game.  You could get around this by having a random disc request at the start of the game.  Start it up, and it asks you for one of the possible discs.  You won’t know which disc it might ask for so you’re going to have to make sure you have all of them there.

Secondly, and quite importantly, is the fact that every disc change brings with it an additional chance to scratch it.  There have been been a number of complaints about the 360 scratching discs in the past.  Installing it onto you HDD reduces that risk, as once it starts, it then reads the data off the HDD, thus reducing the need to spin the disc around.  The problem with the 360 is that the dust that gathers inside gets into the disc  area and as it spins those particulars can result in a scratch.  Now every time you take out the disc from the machine, it’s another chance of getting it scratched, or allowing even more dirt to get inside the disc tray.   If it’s once every 10 hours, that may not seem like to bad a risk, but say you did that on a game like Skyrim with well over 100 hours of game play, with a number of disc changes each bringing the risk of a damaged game.  With video games costing so much these days nobody wants a scratched disc.

Thirdly, people say that it’s easy to make one change every 10 hours and that’s not so bad.  Maybe it doesn’t seem like that’s too bad, but then again it comes down to game design.  LA Noire had it so you swapped discs whenever you got to a certain stage in the missions.  That means that there is a natural break in the game and you only have to do more frequent changes if you rush through the game.  In Mass Effect certain missions are on one disc, whilst others are on the other.  So, whilst one gamer may well get 10 to 15 hours before their first disc change, another game may well rush through the first bit, decide to do one particular side mission and have to do a disc change.  Then they might decide that it’s time to go back to the main mission and find out that they have to do another disc change.  If there was an obvious pattern then it might make it easier for a gamer to plan, but the idea is meant to be that the gamer gets to play the games as they see fit.  Imagine if in Skyrim you had 2 discs, and 50% of the side quests were on one disc and the other 50% were on the other.  You would possibly find yourself changing discs every 30 mins or so.

Fourthly, PC gamers don’t seem to need to do this.  When they have a number of discs, they install (in one simple procedure that prompts them to change discs at the right time) and then they play.  They only have to insert disc one during play and that seems to be good enough for game developers.  So why can we not have the same scenario in video games?

Finally, yes it may well be laziness but what’s wrong with that.   A large percentage of the world’s population does not video game.  To a large majority of them, the image of a video gamer is a fat guy with glasses living in his parent’s home; surrounded by Mountain Dew and crisps (or chips to you lot over on that mass of land under the fake French people); with pale skin that has never been caressed by the warm rays of the sun.  Sure there are video gamers like that, but it constantly amazes when I play on my 360 the vast aray of people out there playing.  I’m talking about police officers, firemen, medical professionals, bankers, students, lawyers, those with kids, those with pets, guys who represented their country in sports, etc. etc.  Video gaming to a lot of people is “an out” from the daily routine. They go to their jobs, they come home they play with their kids, take their pets for a walk, do what they need to do, and then find themselves maybe too tired to do much else. To unwind they turn on their video games.

From personal experience, the best parts of my day are waking up and playing with my 4 month old son, and coming home from work and spending more time with him and my wife again.  In between that I have to go to work, and surround myself with idiots.  At the weekend I play football, and then spend time with my wife and kid.  Add to that going out with friends, socialising and a bit of kickboxing here and there and it’s one hectic life.  Watching TV, movies and playing on the 360 is what I do for relaxation at home.  When it comes down to that time I’m looking to plug in and play, sit down on the sofa and be entertained by the “other world”.  I’m not looking for my “laziness” to be “cured” with a short but annoying trip to my 360 to insert disc 2.  If I wanted that I’d go back to the office and deal with idiots who don’t know how to insert paper into the photocopy machine; or widen a column in Excel; or can’t figure out why their electrical equipment is not working without the power cable plugged in.

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2 comments on “All change – why it’s not just about laziness

  1. All this hassle could have been solved easily if Microsoft had place its chips in the BluRay basket instead of the now defunct HDVD basket.

  2. I was under the impression that they were not allowed to as it was a Sony product, and one that they wanted to use as a PS3 selling point. They only backed HD-DVD so that they could add a “next gen” movie function to their system (lesson learned from PS2 where the ability to play DVD movies was a huge selling point for the PS2).

    What they should maybe have done was to put more effort into making the HD-DVD format work. The main reason Bluray won was because Sony backed it all the way, which they kind of had to if the PS3 was to survive. With more backing they were able to get more movie houses to support Bluray and that was the end of HD-DVD.

    Microsoft though had no reason to fully back HD-DVD as their system never used bluray or HD-dvd to play games. They could always maybe look at getting bluray hardware added later to play movies on. Sony on the other hand had no choice.

    Having said that though, its not like Bluray solves everything. PS3 owners have disc changes too even with bluray.

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