Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bioshock: Menus for Soviets

I borrowed it from my friend’s rack of aw’some PC games. He was well aware of my manoeuvre, though, so I guess he tolerated the move.
It also was a trip, back in time, to the dark ages of menu design.

I slammed the disc into the drive, stirred it up, installed the game, and ran it.

First Shock.

An acclaimed game, yet the menu’s appearance is just horrible. I may be alone here, but I think a menu tells a lot about a game, and this one is shit, even at full details, and was obviously meant to be displayed on a small black and white TV screen with interlaced lines, which is of course the most used video apparatus by PC owners.

Second Shock.

Whoever validated the controls menu’s system during development should go take a fucking three years course at the Common Sense university!

It’s simply inexcusable that with the time, budget and deafening buzz that went in and around such a product, the menu could be so impractical and non intuitive.
It’s not without a precedent though, as I recall a similar mediocre experience, either with one of the Battlefield games, or Operation Flash Point, or maybe both in fact.

I went to the first tab, about moves. Easy, I love FPSes, so I instinctively knew what to do. Click on the box, enter the new key, get to the next one, and ritualistically repeat the pattern, until all boxes would be filled as suited.

But the excitement soon faded when time came to define which key I’d use to move backward.

I decided it would be H. Rather simple.

Safe that it didn’t work. Just… why, pray tell?

I got a message about how the key in question was already used. Okay, fine… there’s a conflict of some sort. And what about you tell me which function this corresponds to, stupid program?!
You know, just in case I’d like to find said function and get a temporary key in there, as a place holder.

Oh but noooo… It would be way too easy!
So be it. Just stamp my H and F off, I’ll deal with the rectification myself.

But how foolish of me to ever hope that in this great moment of dumbfounding surprise and so quickly growing irritation, I could, at least, be offered to brute force my big H into that slot.
Epitaph of laziness, the goddamn system wouldn’t even allow a miserable key swap, nor automatically erase whatever function H was formerly assigned to!
It didn’t even throw the most basic option to force the key, where from I’d still have to manually find the H duplicate and switch it with another key, which would have still been bad, but at least manageable.

See, there had to be a way around that idiocy. My plan was to assign a free and temporary key to the backward move, then go find which function H key was used by, put another free and temporary one there, return to the moves tab, put the H for backward, and continue. Voila.

Like if it couldn’t get any worse, as I was looking for random free keys, picking them from different regions of my keyboard, I was getting the same elusive message worth of a thousand gunshots in the scalp.
So I sat there for a moment, and did a bit of a short term projection.
There were four tabs, each of them containing an average of ten functions, more or less. Just thinking about the torture awaiting me, I just ran away.
I merely decided that this was pathetically ridiculous.

That was it. No way I’d waste my time going through such an amateurish menu.

I know the game’s probably very good, engrossing, beautiful, with good game mechanics and a nice plot blah blah blah. But let’s be honest here, there are other games to try out there.
Yes, I’ve come to a point where logic-impaired menus put me off that fast.
Eventually I’ll give it a go on someone’s three sixty (and thus suffer because of totally inappropriate console controllers).
Or maybe I’ll pay a depressive tramp to set my config up according to a few notes I’d leave on the table.

I installed and ran Bioshock because I wanted to enjoy a game which got so many perfect scores that it would either mean it is that excellent, or just extremely well sold to most websites.
As far as it went for me, I thought the game would carry me through a marvellous world of gorgeous retro-futuristic design, good mechanics and, maybe, a nice plot if we’re lucky.

I certainly didn’t expect having to solve a new mental variant of Rubik’s Cube to get something as mundane as primary controls right, even before getting a chance to play the game!

Look, I’d rather play Quake III Arena than waste my time in a fucking menu. Forward, Backward, Left, Right, Crouch, Shoot, weapon 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, here we go!

In very, very rare cases, paperwork is gratifying. Most of the time, it’s just one more hell on Earth.

Like soviet bureaucracy.

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