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Tuesday, April 04, 2006



PS3? Bah. Same sh*t, different company. Bring on the Revolution, I say. :)

Blake Grant

Ouch. You must have just gotten unlucky at a time when the servers were having problems or something. I've done this multiple times with no problem whatsoever.


Ouch. What's a lot easier (if it's not too late) is to create an account on Xbox.com first. Once you do that, all you have to do is remember your Passport email and password and the gamertag you came up with.

Also, don't forget that you can plug in a USB keyboard into the 360 to make typing a bit easier. Send me an email if you keep having problems and I'll see if I can help out.

scott Miller

I've got someone coming over tonight to help me get through this. The connection isn't the problem, I've got a great connection (wireless, full signal strength), so there's something else happening. But, like I said, the biggest issue is that all of the info I enter -- a painful process via a controller -- is lost each time this error pops up, rather than being saved on the hard drive for me to reuse when I attempt again. Someone at MSoft needs to be thumped on the noggin for this oversight.

I could register online, but I shouldn't need to. I'm trying to go through the intended experience, because I shouldn't need to resort to secondary methods. Things like this should be idiot- and fool-proof. Otherwise, it's the makers that look like the fools. (This is the exact approach I take in the design of our games, and I expect no less from other major players in the industry.)

Charles E. Hardwidge

This is a really interesting story, looking at the whole thing from a pure game strategy point of view. We've got expectation being frustrated, or design versus desire. The difficulty is quietly turning Scott into a monster, in a V for Vendetta sort of way. The ugliness of X-Box 360's character is, as Buddhist psychology would suggest, being transfered to Scott, and growing a rock in his mind. It's a great life example that throws everything up in the air to be examined. I think that's pretty cool.


As I understand it, you can plug a USB keyboard into the 360 if you know you're going to be doing a lot of typing.


It's not a matter of needing to or not, your main compalint is entering all that information with a joypad.

microsft has already provided two alternatives, either do it on a pc, or hook up a usb keyboard. either one would make you happier than what you are currently doing.

If you choose the third option that we know makes you unhappy, why would you then complain about it later?

I try to do things the easy way personally, but i can't speak on this experience because I already had live set up from my xbox, and moved it over with just my msn passport. If you check xbox.com at all they were recommending linking your passport for quite a while before launch specifically so you wouldn't have to go through entering all your information onto the console, but, do you.


I posted my comment before reading your update, but i really gotta wonder what rock you've been under. a "ginat friggin download"? Marketplace games aren't very large (a few megabytes at most), and if you checked, you'd note that you download the whole game, and if you decide to purchase it, it just unlocks the rest.

complaining about the length? you got three levels to demo it on, and as I recall, you can still look at the rest. If you played it and you don't want to buy it, ok then, I don't understand the anger. Oddly, I've heard people complain about the geo wars demo being too short, have you considered that maybe you purchased it because it's a very good game and you like it, not because of some deficiency in the marble madness demo?

Marble madness isn't incredibly deep, the demo levels provide you most ofthe features and challenges you will see i the game, if you don't like that, you won't like the game. If you do, you will. It's not a matter of not having enough time.

do you really need mroe than 30 seconds with robotron? c'mon. It's robotron. you've played it before right?

Scott Miller

Richard, it would be nice if the description of the demo games told you how much time, or how many levels will be available in the demo. It's the little things. As for my "giant friggin' download" comment, it was giant versus the time you go to demo, which was minimal. And you can't just say, "It's robotron. you've played it before right?" How many younger players haven't played Roboton? Probably, lots. And so a super short test play isn't enough.

Blake Grant

Marble Madness actually has more than one level per difficulty. They're just scattered between the list of locked levels. Also, there's a few multiplayer levels available. I think its a pretty decent demo actually.

Yet another person who thinks Geometry Wars rocks. I just don't get it! I recommend trying out Mutant Storm Reloaded. Its like Geometry Wars, but much better IMO :)

And I completely agree on the point discounting. I found it very odd that each increment costs the same. Why would anybody every buy more than the bare minimum they needed for a game?

Scott Miller

Ah, I wish I had known that there were more levels to test out per difficulty level. Again, had this been mentioned in the description area, it might have generated a sale, since I would have spent more time getting to know the game. But, alas, I've already deleted it from my hard drive. As Get Smart used to say, "Missed it by THAT much." No sell.


Actually, the Oblivion pack is generating some controversy because pre-release screenshots showed some of that armor on horses, implying that it would be in the game from the start... The argument being that Bethesda is trying to yank another couple of bucks out of your wallet for content that should have been in the game in the first place.

Which does imply, if nothing else, that if these type of content sales become more prevalent, developers and publishers are going to have to be more careful about what the include and how they pitch them to people.

Charles E. Hardwidge

I’m not sure I like the line about encouraging people to spend more. Yes, volume discounts aren’t a bad thing, as there’s cost and planning benefits for company and customer, but when it tilts towards being a means to actively encourage spending, it becomes exploitation. I’ve long argued that games design should routinely be considered part of a bigger context. To some degree, buying additional items comes into this. The problem arises when a fair game can be trumped by an unfair bigger game. Money buying advancement creates a two-tier system.

I’ve never been a big fan of games or movies that are gratuitous, as much as I’m not a fan of politicians point scoring. It’s getting ahead by exploiting immaturity, doesn’t set a good example, and encourages more bad outcomes. Similarly, game design and marketing is a moral issue. Interestingly, it looks like my theory on the parallels between design and character has been picked up by the mainstream press. I'm glad the qualitative aspects games and game development have been carried forward.

The Observer

Particle Blog's Comment

Going back to your own frustrations. I'm not too good at handling stupid or contrary systems or people myself. Getting angry and throwing my rattle out of the pram is fine, but a limited strategy. People and companies of all shapes and sizes, including ourselves, make mistakes. How we deal with this is important. Aspirations, goals, and implementation can miss the target. Developing personal and corporate character isn’t just a fluffy bolt-on. It has a real impact on time, delivery, and long-term revenue.


Charles: Isn't the idea of producing an attractive game to get people to purchase it? It's why companies make games seem as 'attractive' or 'desirable' as possible. Likewise, an expansion is simply another means for a company to get the consumer to give them more money. I see no difference between that, and offering a customer a quantity discount for spending more (yet another means for a corporation to fill their inevitable goal- to earn profit). I would also mention that I think if the customer considered spending money on a quantity discount then chances are they planned on spending it anyways- so why not do your best to make sure it's your company who gets it. It's the point of business, or at least Microsoft's business.

As far as your comment on two-tier systems. The only issue I have seen when it comes to having purchasable content in video gaming is with multiplayer games. I see this as an issue because it causes an imbalance, unless you create, as you said, a two tier system where players who have purchased the extra content are in a category and players who have not purchased the extra content are in a category. However, that in itself creates a separation within the community, which is yet another downside to additional content (for MP games).


In the previous Elder Scrolls installment, Morrowind, Bethesda released a couple of plug-ins for free.
A nice gesture and it helps build the fanbase.

However, creating plug-ins or other extra content costs money and should be rewarder if the player wants to use the extra content. Most important thing is that the player is not forced to buy it. It should stay an option.

This is exactly the stuff that you pay for monthly with an MMO-game but in that case everybody thinks it's normal.

Blake Grant

On the Oblivion issue, the way I see it:

1) I'm very much enjoying Oblivion
2) I don't give a rats ass about new textures for horses
3) If Bethesda can manage to sell these textures for $1.99/$2.50 (PC/XBOX) a pop, more power to them
4) If you think $1.99/$2.50 is a ripoff, don't buy it. Don't feel like you're obligated to have these horse textures. They aren't necessary to play the game, and they don't even add anything to it other than a minor aesthetic tweak

Charles E. Hardwidge

Good question, Nathan. What I'm saying, here, is how you sell and who you sell it to is important. Most people haven't got the filters to protect themselves against bad design and marketing, and children are in an even weaker position. The consequences of fear and greed, or desire, are transferred by designers and marketers to customers and wider society. This has consequences for brain development, character development, and public policy formation. Ideally, both sides will be equally informed and adept, but we know that isn't so. And that's why a discussion based on fundamental not market values is important.

There’s nothing new in what I’m saying, here. It was old when the Toa was young, and is thoroughly documented by any scientific, religious, and political branch of thought you care to throw a rock at. Not only that, since raising the issue of common strategic roots to game design, marketing, and character development, it seems both sides of this particular discussion have moved to a similar position. I’m a bit out of the loop on this, but have been tracking some of the more easily obtainable commentary on brain research, products and marketing. Oddly, neither side seems to have, yet, discovered its circular nature.

I’m really big on Daoism, Buddhism, and martial arts. One teaches you about the game, the other teaches you how to deal with the game, and the last helps you practice the game. They’re all just different perspective on the same thing, like science, religion, and politics. Game design, marketing, and people are no different. The heroes journey is another possible view. Whether you’re developing or playing, the objective is to turn the wheel and achieve enlightenment. Some games, like films or books, may do this by concluding with a happy ending. Others may be a stepping stone in a wider context, and end in a more challenging way.

Scott’s experience is illustrative of all of this, and one many of us share. In one way, the challenge of a poorly designed system was a bad thing, as it unnecessarily frustrated desire. On the other hand, it provided an opportunity for reflection, change, and trying it again. Scott’s eagerness and narrow perspective, like his leaping on a pocket picking idea to make money, wasn’t the fault of the system, but a consequence of how he handled it. Poor logical and emotional reasoning, and the ingrained habits that lay behind them, created a hurt that cascaded and caused him to mirror the hurt inflicted on him.

Taking a closer look at games themselves, it’s interesting to compare experiences across FPS, RPG, and hybrid genres. Here, we see a play between national characters, the market, and how individual games are received. In here, we see how games like Doom et al have distorted the market, and games like Eco aren’t as well received as they, perhaps, should be. Digging deeper into the actual playing experience, it’s interesting to note how a game and player interact on a discrete level. Knowledge, skill, and attitude all play their part when you succeed or fail. On a crude level, people might just simplistically be running for points. Others might see it as an opportunity to improve. Same game, different perspectives.

I’ve seen a bit of chat around the place. The FPS and thinly disguised derivates of that look like they’re beginning to peak. The easy point scoring for developers and gamers is exhausting the well of creativity and appreciation. Like films, its main constituency seems to be the young, who’re easily pleased with novelty in a demand led market. The more gameplay and culturally satisfying variants, like NOLF and Deus Ex, seem to have more stick to them, though they’re not mega-sellers. I’m not against FPS and the like. Everything has it’s place. What I do want to see is developers and gamers grow an alternative. Done well, I see no reason why truly great games, like great films, can’t be compelling and have more to offer for all.

I floated some of this past David Jaffe, of God of War fame. While he didn’t quite get it, it’s taken me a while to process his question that games development might be an ego driven affair. Thinking about the recent meta-marketing discussion, which I touched on in the opening paragraphs, I’m beginning to see how a love of, or “passion” for games is a driving force but, like marketing based on hoodwinking customers into having a love of or passion for products, a limiting and futile affair. The game developer, like the customer, has too see beyond their limited desires and frustrations, like Scott’s earlier experience, and see how games design, marketing, and they fit into a bigger picture. The reason for this is simple. Too much effort on too narrow a focus limits what is possible and is intrinsically selfish. This is not learning, and it certainly isn’t loving.

My take on this is the best developers, like the best of anything, really need structure and balance in their lives. Whether it starts within them, their home, or work environment doesn’t matter. Sensible hours in a challenging environment is better than shifting schedules, and a too heavy or light work output. Having other interests is great, as it develops intellectual and emotional foundations, and gives you a zing for life and increased sociability. This important of you’re to keep a grip on yourself and have something to draw on when you create. All of these measures help improve quality of output and reduce anxiety. Result: better games and happier customers. And who can argue against that? Fear and greed never work in the long-haul. Letting go of these is a start.

You can wake up, now. :p

Stewart Quade


Ubisoft's doing an exclusive game for the Revolution. This is the kind of thing I commented on earlier in your blog Scott.


"and if you checked, you'd note that you download the whole game, and if you decide to purchase it, it just unlocks the rest."
So, if the Xbox harddrive is a normal harddrive(I'd bet it is), then it won't be long until someone writes a program that lets you plug it into your computer and unlock the demos that you downloaded? They could sell it pretty easily too(not considering getting sued or anything). (Which would be pretty bad for Microsoft) (doesn't really have much to do with the topic)

Is it 30 seconds and then you go back to the menu and can play for 30 seconds again, or 30 seconds and it won't work anymore? It'd be too short either way. The latter might make people be pissed off at the company and not buy it(it would to me).

If Oblivion is an offline game(I think it is), being able to pay money for a feature that's already installed would piss me off(but if it's just a texture or something then I wouldn't care). If it's online, I wouldn't mind(might if there's also a monthly fee) or buy whatever it was(latter also applies to former condition). Expansion packs are alright thought, since they usually add lots of stuff(and you're mostly buying textures, models, levels, ect, instead of the ability to use something). I'd personally pay 50 cents to have armor on horses, if it did something.

Koen Linders

Though it ain't a part of the main topic here, the prob with Oblivion (Elder Scrolls 4) is Bethesda didn't add a texture exporter/importer yet for the construction set. I enjoyed Morrowind (Elder Scrolls 3) because of the many aspects it had to offer and all the mods that were created with the easy to use editor. They may be adding it later, as they did for Morrowind, but if they don't, they actually "destroy" the most interesting part of the mod community.

I don't mind if they ask money for the addons, though it pissed me off first.

Since it is a SP game, it doesn't matter if you buy it or not. Though i would really mind if they don't add the texture prog later on. In my opinion, they will if the addons don't sell as good as expected...

I don't know if any of you rememember Total Annihilation (RTS). Cavedog doesn't exist anymore, but a follow up (Supreme Commander) is announced after 8-9 years. They added new units (and maps) on their site, and such support always make me feel like the developpers really care about the people who bought and are enjoying their game and not only about the cash flow they got when releasing the game. Same thing with Bethesda. The free addons they made for Morrowind, new sounds, an extra quest Isle/Castle,... also added a lot of value for me considering wether or not to buy Oblivion.

Though it didn't take long for me to buy Oblivion, they already lost some of my sympathy with this move of buyable content. And i will take this in consideration, when reading a review about their next game.


i'm not sure i agree with the whole selling addon's to games like Oblivion, and like Koen stated "Bethesda didn't add a texture exporter/importer yet for the construction set". while on the one hand you have the option of purchasing the addon and it doesn't exactly alter the game, it does seem a tad shady since they did have a pretty big show about the horse armor etc. i think having free addons and maybe expanding the modding community around it would be the better way and more proffitable in the long run, take CS and the Sims for example, and look how that turned out.

if this turns into a trend, how long will it be before someone is selling patches for their games? it seems more like a short term quick cash vision then the longer term more polished IP building solution.

plus if a lot more companies start doing this they might just take a short-cut and release a less polished game that is quicker to make and less costly for the company, and just release addons that should have been there in the first place and then charging for it?

just a couple of thoughts on the matter.

Scott Miller

-- "if this turns into a trend, how long will it be before someone is selling patches for their games?"

Cleric, I think this is a false fear. No one would stand for the selling of patches, and any company that tried would be instantly villain-ized.


well, yes, selling patches for a game is of course a little exagerated. :)

Alan Dennis

A lot of people were turned away from the "buying horse armor" bit, but according to Bethesda, it's gone over even better than they had imagined. I have to guess that many people are turned off by it since Bethesda gave away Morrowind mods for free. For some, it appears to be a precedent. Also, I've spoken to many gamers that are instantly turned away from the "paying twice" idea.

Something tells me that it's merely a matter of them offering content that is actually worthy of the $2.50 that they are demanding. I have to admit, I bought the horse armor and I'm less than enthused with the result. Sure, my horse is armored... eh. However, if they added further questlines that really expanded on the lore of the game, or basically expanded the actual world in some meaningful way, all these folks that are screaming foul might start singing praises instead.

All in all, I think the "micro-expansions" are a fantastic idea. We see it all the time with MMO's, except at least with these expansions for Oblivion, I get to pick when I pay for new content, rather than paying every month. (At least, that's how I rationalize spending those intangible "Microsoft Points" that craftily obfuscate how much I'm actually spending...)

Charles E. Hardwidge

Any funny money is, essentially, manipulative. The marketing men should hang their heads in shame. I guess, like drug companies advertising their products to doctors, it's something they could argue their way out of. Reality check: both actions are calculated to the nearest percentage. If they don't know the effects of their actions, they can't call themselves professionals. If they do know, they're knowingly putting a quick and selfish buck first. That’s the rant done.

In the same way the gimmick of today is the mistake of tomorrow, I’d like to see a bit more clarity on what’s offered, and a real and tangible benefit. In exchange for our money, anyone selling gear by subscription has got to get a grip on this beyond filling the infrastructure with something for the sake of it. In the same way too many games lack polish at the design to implementation stage, a random widget of no gameplay significance is no different.

Long-term, this challenge is going to be met, but there’s some interesting DRM and cost issues I’d like to see get on the agenda. To some degree France has tackled this floating legal P2P with an all you can eat approach. My personal view is all content should be free at the point of service, with ISP’s acting as revenue collectors for broadcast television, films, and games. The technical, legislative, and treaty framework to deliver this globally is emerging.

Free games, advertising free, and developers get to eat. Where’s the downside?

Mirik Smit

Scott, now that you mention villainized. Isn't Electronic Arts villainized by the hardcore still, or do you feel that trend is passing?

Any ways, it didn't really stop them from making a lot of money though, if they were or still are. Plus, they keep on milking their franchises (FIFA; Road to the World Cup (wtf!! It's a demo, full priced demo.), FIFA: World Cup) :)

Scott Miller


Successful companies are almost always vilified. Just goes with the territory. That said, my only beef against EA, as a gamer, is that as the clear publishing leader, I wish they'd take more chances to innovate. If it weren't for Will Wright, is EA much of an innovator? Not really. They DO bat production quality out of the park, but innovative they are not.

Charles E. Hardwidge

People don't like change. Those who can get scared of losing what they've got, those who can't are also scared of losing what they've got. You've got to see this in yourself and other people and deal with it better. Myself, I think, this is a matter of education, practice, and positive engagement. In my personal and work life I've met plenty of people who get in the way or drag you down, then seize the chance like a drowning man to a life raft when it's their turn. Thus, the wheel of misery turns. We can all develop bad habits, and take people for granted. It doesn't pay in the long-haul.

How you go about being successful is important. I just read some comments about dealing with working companies with a culture of fear. Being respected is better, and being loved is better still. When things get tough, I look for the most simple perspective that's stood the test of time. As the industry rushes towards a perceived crisis, I think, how EA are restructuring is as old as the hills but laying down a solid foundation to ride through it like so much Scotch mist. Their approach is innovative relative to many companies, sets a good lead for the industry, and lays foundations for a better quality success in the future.

You've made a few interesting and overlooked comments in here. Being at the top of your game, being frustrated with the lack of creativity, and people having a natural preference for leaders. These are all true, but on a personal level, I think, they suggest ways in which you have room for improvement. Arrogance, impatience, and selfishness are a crude way of putting it, but taking a look at what these things are telling you, I'm sure, the potential for doing even better is there. As you can see, I'm not raising these points to knock you down, I'm doing it to examine whether there's any doors to doing even better in a qualitative sense.

As per the topic, how we deal with things is important.


I guess if we look at it from that perspective, it's not the companies fault alone. It's the structure of our business practices that is corrupting the creative minds in the industry to sit back and get burried under the cash.

Which is regrettable, but we that's the path that's chosen by us, the people, year upon year, I guess. As long as we sustain it, it will remain?

On another note, is anyone here experiencing a lot of 360's breaking down? It may be because I'm involved with Xboxes a lot, just curious wether or not it's something that's an issue over there.


The discussion is getting a little sidetracked I think.

Micropayments can be the most fair mechanism of funding a game. If designed right.

Rather than fart about with extra textures, why not design the game in the first place so that micropayments are the only payments. That also solves the Marble Madness problem - there is very little cost to test the game, but you can pay as much as you want to get as involved as you care.

In other areas where this is the predominant model, it provides a way for very committed players to contribute the lions share of the money (and therefore the influence) to the project.

I riff on this a bit more at: http://www.idm.me.uk/2006/04/micropayment_games.html


"Money is money, right? But seriously, I don't know if I like this or not. I think I do, as long as the purchased additions do not alter core gameplay, but merely add minor features or upgrades. In any case, I think it's going to be commonplace soon. It's hard to argue against incremental revenues."

The fear I have of this becoming commonplace is that it's a ripe area for exploitation of both consumers and developers.

My father once told me that the secret to making money off a successful product is to withhold some of the best features and then trickle them out to the consumers, at a price, to maintain interest in the product for as long as possible. It's this line of thinking that chills me to the bone, the idea of using the consumers trust as leverage for making money.

I don't have a problem with giving the public a choice of some extra doodads so they can customise their experience. However, I do hold out a fear that this will soon extend to withholding game niceties in order to artificially extend a products shelf life. As a hypothetical example, what if the map in Oblivion was originally made with the ability to be zoomed in and out as well as having user notes and bookmarks, but instead of being released with the game, it was being withheld for a later 'map-pack minimod'? The functionality wouldn't be critical to the games success, as it probably would never be stated as an omission, but the removal would detract from the games overall experience.

In the worst case, it could extend to publishers being presented with a full game, who then hold a 'snip' meeting where they go through the game and work out what elements are non-crucial to the games success and could then be released to the public later, for a price, artifically extending the revenue (And possibly shelf-life) of a product. In a way we've already seen something along these lines with The Sims 2, where many of the niceties introduced in expansion packs of the original Sims were missing, only to reappear later in other expansions.

However, this is pure conjecture on my part, as I have no actual proof that these elements were held to ransom like I've described. What makes me worry is the idea that someone will implement this, and the general public won't know any better than to suck it up. If that becomes commonplace, I can only see a future where my game is split up and sold off piece by piece, to the detriment of the consumer, all in the interests of revenue. It's like holding innovation hostage; Put out what's needed and then make the customers pay for what makes it great.

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