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Tycho / on Mon, Sep 13 2004 at 4:30 am

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Undisclosed Propensities, Part 3

The saga continues.

I’ve been thinking I needed to set aside some time to appreciate Electronic Arts here the post for biting the bullet and supporting Xbox Live.  I have been somewhat impolite when discussing the issue in the past, but I’m man enough to admit it when somebody else does right and I’m ready to say something kind if I have to.  Luckily, after playing Burnout online, I’m not obligated to do anything of the kind. 

First, a parable:  I am extremely enthusiastic about nectarines.  They’re fantastic.  Like all fruit, there is definitely something erotic in their presentation.  I bought one with the intention of eating it.

When they’re ripe enough, no cutting is required.  You can just grab both sides and twist - as you might twist a squirrel - and then eat the halves over the sink wildly while the juice runs down your arm.  That didn’t happen this time.  What happened is that though it looked fresh enough on the outside, something terrible had taken root in the core of it.  As I twisted with triumph and abandon, bringing a half close to my face, I would see that somehow about fourteen earwigs had been born in the seed, and I had twisted open their dwelling.  The fruit was black inside.  Earwigs were writhing, falling out, clinging to it.  Seeing decay and abundance so juxtaposed I dropped it began to scream as loud as I could.  It’s an image that stuck with me, and my toes are curling under my desk just thinking of it.   

If you think you are getting Xbox Live when you play an EA game on the Xbox, what you are actually getting is the veneer of Xbox Live wrapped around the black and infested core of EA’s substandard service.  It starts by connecting you to Live, yes, at which point you are shunted into EA’s sinister realm of torment. 

For the longest time, my Friends List wouldn’t come up.  If you’ve been on Live awhile, you rely on that list the same way you would the basic server browser in a PC game.  It’s that fundamental.  It’s a top level culling mechanism that lets me know at least one other person in the game I’m about to join isn’t a Goddamn reject.  Since my friends list was empty, it seemed to me that maybe EA wanted me to completely rebuild my Friends list manually, or perhaps build it out of names they had on their own service.  It seemed like a pain in the ass, but I thought that the first step - choosing a lobby specific to a global region, alien to Live - was pretty stupid too, and I acquiesced. 

Searching for Gabe, it crashed my console. 

I restarted, and this time the Friends list came up.  Good.  There’s a text mail from a friend of mine, no support for 3.0 Voice Mail, but I don’t mind typing in a little message with the controller.  It then tells me the message was not sent.  Not much I can do about it now, I guess.  I head out to the lobby and look for games.  I get another notice saying the mail was sent, which, I mean, that’s awesome I guess.  I try to join his game, and get an Unknown Host dialog.  About this time, I get an Invite from Gabe.  I try accepting it, and after eight failed attempts and no response form the UI telling me what happened I decide to join manually from the list.  The game is full, but Gabe turns them out on their ear and I manually join the next one.     

Shit like this happens every time I go in there.  You never really know if it’s going to kick you out after a match or keep you in the lobby.  If somebody does get kicked, there’s no message identifying it, and everybody just sits there for a while.   

Once you get into a game, and provided it doesn’t kick you out even if you are the host, it’s about as much fun as you can have online - and I know that’s high praise.  Aside from not being able to save and trade your best crashes (which is a tragedy of epic proportions), the only regrettable thing about Burnout 3 really is EA’s perverse multiplayer scheme.  That it is worth enduring their fragmented, nonsensical approach to player matching is a testament to its craft and precision. 

(CW)TB out.

please don’t take a picture

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