Just let me play, would you kindly?

January 19, 2009

BioShock is a great game from that has an intuitive, polished UI. Radial menus, artistic but functional UI widgets, and an intelligent gameplay hint system all complement the game and story. It’s clear the developers at 2K Boston/Australia really understand immersion.

Because of this, Sony’s meddling in the PS3 title is more annoying than usual. Two PlayStation-specific problems stick out with BioShock.

The first is the Trophies. When you accomplish certain things, the Playstation will play a futuristic tone and overlay what trophy you just won. The tone, the look, and even the information conveyed can hurt the immersion. The OS notified me that I had beaten the game before the cutscene conveyed it!

The second is much more grievous. When you start the game, you’re immediately stopped by a dialog. “This game saves data automatically at certain points. Please do not switch off the power when the hard disk access indicator is flashing.” You must confirm this every single time you play the game. Actually, you must confirm this every single time you play almost any game - Sony requires it for all games that autosave.

Listen up, Sony. Here are a few ways to mitigate the danger of players interrupting a save operation, in order of decreasing value to the player:

  • Atomic saving, so it’s not a problem

  • Making the PS3’s soft power-off wait for the save to complete, so it can’t happen

  • Trying to handle save files that may be partially written or corrupted, so it’s rarely a problem

Adding a player prompt to every damn game, every time you play it? Is that really the best you could come up with? Do any users actually check the HDD indicator when they shut the system down? I know I use the PS3 menu to do it anyway, so I wouldn’t notice if the thing was flashing.

Thankfully, these are the sorts of things they can fix in a firmware update. Maybe really polished games like BioShock will make the PS3 developers notice these things more. Maybe developers like 2K will push back on these intrusions. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll ignore me and I’ll continue to whine about unnecessary dialogs in video games.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.