Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drop it like it's hot....

I found out today from Ubisoft that I am too awesome. It's not entirely like I didn't already know that, but it was verified today. Strangely, I'm not filled with glee about it either.

To rewind a bit, Ubisoft makes the Tom Clancy series of videogames. Actually, they own "Tom Clancy," but what's important here is that they make the games. I buy all the Tom Clancy games. I don't even like Splinter Cell and I own it (why do people like that game?).

My problem today relates to Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter II for the Xbox 360. I think it's a hell of a game, and a great addition to one of my favorite videogame series. I remember playing Ghost Recon: Desert Siege the day I had my wisdom teeth removed, which was also the day the US launched the current Iraq War via the "Shock and Awe" campaign.

Anyway, what happened was that I kicked too much ass in GRAW 2, and on top of that was nice enough to purchase Ubisoft's downloadable content for the game (which costs extra money above and beyond the purchase price of the game), and by doing so I missed out on the Single Player Master achievement. So I'm pissed.

The way it works is that the DLC corrupts the game so that it only recognizes the last 50 achievements earned, out of the total of 60 achievements. To get the "Single Player Master" achievement one must obtain all the single player achievements in the game. The problem is, if any of those achievements aren't within the last 50 you've obtained, then the game won't unlock the SPM achievement. Seems pretty dumb, huh? Ubisoft has known about the problem for months, and up to this point have not indicated that there is any sort of a fix coming. To have paid money for the game, then paid more money on top of that for all the DLC, I think I have a right to be angry when the stuff doesn't work as it should.

Should I be angry? I don't know, I could see a discussion on that going either way. On one hand, achievements are a cornerstone of the Xbox 360 experience. The Xbox is the only place where you can go for achievements, and it's arguably added quite a bit to their platform. They're simple, and they should work all the time. Everything in a game should be right and should work. On the other hand, what are achievements? At best they're "geek cred." At the absolute worst they are a sordid reflection on a life wasted in front a TV playing videogames (games that I probably paid too much for). I don't really think that achievements are the latter, but certainly I would not argue that someone could not make a case that they are simple evidence of wasting time.

For the sake of this discussion, I see achievements as a great addition to what often are fun videogame experiences, and they're an addition which make up part of a complete experience. From that perspective, one can take the position that achievements should not be buggy, and should always work. Why wouldn't achievements work? The code for them should be stupid simple, "perform X, trigger Y process which pops up an achievement." Ubisoft doesn't seem to get that, and I'm really disappointed about that. I buy a lot of Ubi games, but how can I continue to do that if their stuff doesn't work right? With two new franchises starting, HAWX and EndWar, I certainly want to, but I know that the games will have problems.

The way I see it, Ubisoft owes me 150 Gamerscore points, which includes problems with more than just GRAW 2. Along with the glitched 50 points they owe me for the "Single Player Master" achievement in GRAW 2, they also owe me 40 points in Assassin's Creed for the "Personal Vendetta" achievement, 10 points in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 for achieving the "Private First Class" achievement (earned by having bought and played another Ubisoft game), and 50 points for the "Special Operations" achievement in Rainbow Six: Vegas. In all of these situations I did what I needed to do for the achievement, and I didn't get it. Strangely Ubisoft is the only publisher whose games seem to have this problem. If there are others, I am not aware of them. And all of these problems are documented in forums for their specific game, and Ubi knows about all of them.

What's Microsoft's position on this? I'd love to know. As I mentioned above, achievements are their claim to fame right now, so you'd think that they'd want publishers to put out games that worked and didn't have problems with achievements. Of the achievements I listed above, only one has a patch out to solve the problem, and that's for Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. That's a nice start, but there's no excuse for 100% of those problems being fixed. You'd hope that MS would step up and tell publishers to make sure their games work, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

And what's my take away from this? Other than the fact that I hate buggy software? Ubi is nice enough to have a staff person manning their forums, who can tell people whether or not they can get an achievement, which is I suppose some level of service. It seems to me that the appropriate level of service in this situation, and the appropriate response to this situation, would be to get some people working on a patch to fix the issue, since the issue shouldn't exist at all. This is a hot potato that Ubisoft has completely dropped.

One takeaway is that I'm not playing my Xbox. Certainly that has more to do with MGS 4 coming out than anything else, but at least a small part of that is because of being fed up with buggy games. Does that really amount to anything? No. Ubi doesn't care, since other people will be suckered into buying their DLC. MS doesn't care since there's a ton of people out there playing on XBL, when it works, and they've made their money.

So when I tell people "my better is better than your better," due to a confluence of: lazy programmers, ambivalent publishers, and disinterested console makers, I don't always have the evidence of that.

Lame. I don't have that problem on the PS3.

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