Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Pirates!

After a good few months of playing Pro Evolution Soccer and only Pro Evolution Soccer on my Xbox, I finally went out and bought a new game I was looking forward to for more than a year.
Back in my high school days, one of my favourite video games on the XT at the time was Sid Meier's Pirates. The game featured you as a pirate in control of a pirate ship roaming the Caribbean, sacking ships, plundering towns, and searching for treasures using maps where X marks the spot. You had to combine politics, too, otherwise you will not be able to see you loot and enjoy the spoils.
About a year ago a brand new game was released for the PC, Sid Meier's Pirates!
The game was released way later than first anticipated, and when it was eventually released you had to download huge patches if you wanted it to actually work. A few months ago, after long delays again, it was released for the Xbox.
So, what a difference does an exclamation mark make? Not much, really. Obviously, graphics and finishing are much better, but the game is pretty much the same as before. It features boat to boat gun battles, sword duels, trading and politics, and secret buried treasures – most of which looking and feeling pretty much the same as it did on the XT.
There are some additions, though. You can now develop romance with governors' daughters by dancing with them, and when you attack a city you go into this turn based strategy game which I really like.
But overall, it's the same game as before. And there's nothing wrong with that: Since I got it from eBay I can't stop playing it for hours at a time. Even Jo doesn't really mind, because it's not a game where you need fast fingers and despite the swashbuckling themes it is not a violent game either.
I really like it, which to me proves that a good game is a good game regardless of the technology behind it. Or, to put it an a trendy anti consumerism way, I don't need an Xbox 360 or a PS3 to make me happy, just give me a good game. Mind you, I am fully conscious of the fact that as quality entertainment goes, video games are one of the more inferior forms of entertainment available in a ranking where books reign on very high.

Alas, as nice as the game is, all is not well in the kingdoms of the Caribbean.
The Pirates! game has this unique features, or, in a more plain language, it has bugs. Get to a certain point in the game – the fight against the evil lord who threw your family into slavery – and the Xbox would simply freeze.
While it would be quite naïve of me to expect any piece of software to be totally devoid of the occasional bug, this particular bug is not just your easily avoidable problem: you have to beat this evil lord if you want to successfully finish your career as a pirate. Therefore I can only assume by the existence of this bug that the game was never fully tested (in the sense of someone actually playing the game from start to finish) prior to its release.
Or, to put it more clearly, we have a clear case of a greedy software company releasing a flawed product to the market while fully knowing about it (they would have to be terribly stupid not to know about it).
No industry other than the software industry would be able to get away with that. You will not find a house with no roof for sale, nor will you find a new car with a motor that doesn't really work on the market; the car manufacturer will know better than that.
Yet software companies are using, or rather abusing, the fact that their product is rather intangible to sell us a flawed product, while at the same time complaining against software piracy by claiming that the fact their product is intangible is in no way an excuse for software piracy and that theft is theft, period.
Software piracy is obviously wrong. However, with cases such as Pirates!, software companies lose the legitimacy of their arguments against it. For who is the real pirate, the one trying to play a video game or the company trying to make quick profit?

1 comment:

Avi said...

Have you seen the latest news about Microsoft and Fiat get cars going mobile, based on he "Windows Mobile for Automotive"
Combine Italian electronics with Microsoft software. Hmm. Will you trust this car when it's dark, and raining,
and you're lost? I don't think so.