Dealbreaker

I’ve been trying to get back to playing The Division again. 😻 is super into it, and has been playing it with other buddies. She wants me to play it as well, only it’s been mostly frustrating.

It took me a while to pin down why I’m hating it. I like New York City as depicted in The Division. I like the weather and all the nooks and sewers and subways and abandoned apartments that are there to be explored. I like the interface, and how it aligns with the world rather than with the player’s display, and I like the tactical cover system which makes the maneuvers of the soldiers seem authentic.

There’s also stuff I dislike about The Division:

Any enemy that’s not a common low-level mook is a bullet sponge capable of soaking up more damage than a rhinoceros or a light tank. In the later game, there are no common low-level mooks.

Bad-guys side-gripping a handgun are more accurate than a player with a sniper. It’s impossible for players to get range advantage. Also I also discovered that a sniper rifle doesn’t have the range of two blocks. Bullets fired outside of a short range are just forgotten.

There’s the countless places where I should be able to jump from one place to another but can’t because jumping is all contextual, and not all the spots were contexted.

I have over a dozen such nitpicks, and they bother me a lot. But these aren’t dealbreakers. They make what could have been a great game into a just-okay game, but they wouldn’t stop me from playing it on their own. Especially, when I’m playing it with 😻.

Dealbreakers

Dealbreakers are found regarding all things involving a decision, from toothpaste to college to elected officials. But usually, the term is used in relationship parlance, often because we need to be reminded that they exist regarding relationships.

Alice is hot for Bob. Bob thinks Alice is his soul mate. But Bob is adamant women should submit to traditional gender roles (homemaker, mother) while Alice is a determined childfree career woman. That’s called a dealbreaker, a specific thing that would rule out a relationship. Carol needs personal contact every day, which precludes long-term relationships. David needs lots of alone time, which precludes someone who likes to do everything together. Ellen gets dissatisfied outside a sexually open relationship, where Francis insists on sexual exclusivity. That’s not going to work.

We all have dealbreakers. Ideally, we each get to know our own well enough to put words to them. We express them early, so that we detect incompatible matches early. Which means we spend more time finding a good match than pursuing one that’s nearly assured to run afoul.

Technical Difficulties

Dealbreakers exist with games, too. For me most of them are technical. I play first- and third-person games with the mouse-Y reversed (which is to say for me I pull back to look up and push forward to look down, like the pitch of an airplane). An FPS that doesn’t let me reverse the Y-axis is a dealbreaker. I just can’t play it the other way, or rather, I can, but I don’t find it fun. I also play left-handed, which means that any keys I can’t reassign I will try to reassign by an external key-mapping client. If that doesn’t work either, it’s probably a dealbreaker. Thus, the more flexible the keyboard mapping of a game (even if I have to edit some configuration file somewhere) the better I’ll get along with it.

A common nightmare scenario for me is when a game I adore is rendered unplayable (by me) due to some technical problem. I love the game Subnautica, but as I played the May 2017 build (it’s in early-access) its framerate got super slow. Worse than that, the game would stall (freeze, momentarily) super often, more than once every ten seconds. The cheats that used to help didn’t help this time, and eventually the game became too frustrating to play.

It was a super-sad moment, because I was afraid it might be a hardware incompatibility. Sometimes games are released that run on most computers and most graphics cards. When yours is one of the systems that doesn’t run it, that just sucks. The June build was better, but still got too stuttery when I advanced too far. July’s build of Subnautica had faster framerate overall. It stalls too, but it gets most of its stalling done early in a play session. As it is, I’m reaching the point where it’s becoming unplayable, but at least this time I can rest assured the developers are trying to fix it.

This is a known occurrence: A specific favorite game has technical problems. It’s a common problem with old games: I finally get a system fast enough to make a game fly and run glassy smooth, but then it is incompatible with the newer operating systems, and doesn’t work right. For popular games, there are online user communities that provide mods and patches to get it going with the present hardware, drivers and OS. GOG’s whole business model started by providing old well-loved games pre-tweaked to work with current systems, and I’ve repurchased several games on the GOG service to take advantage of that very aspect.

Digital Greed

The Division has technical problems too. Playing the game requires connecting to the Uplay server, but at the moment, the game is underserved. Recent updates bolstered its popularity, but the server can’t handle everyone. There’s considerable lag. When I shoot a target, it more often than not takes a moment or two (sometimes a full five seconds) before that hit registers. And if that means a rushing goon is invulnerable long enough to reach me and smack me dead, well then I’m dead, thanks to all the lag, all the time.

But worse, this persistent connection is unnecessary. The game uses the Uplay network for single-player, and for multiplayer co-op, both of which should be playable locally (by LAN) or using a listen server. In this case, Uplay tries to make The Division look like an MMO even though most players aren’t using the MMO features of the game.

This isn’t done because it’s what the game needs. It’s being done as a device to prevent piracy. By requiring the game log onto the Uplay proprietary server, only authorized accounts can play the game, but it makes the game frustrating. All the lag is a reminder that Ubisoft has little respect for the end user. It makes all my nitpicks above seem that much larger. It justifies my rage for companies that resort to DRM or access control methods that affect the play experience. By being afraid of allowing a game to be accessible to illicit users, they’ve made the game so I don’t want to play it at all.

It’s a dealbreaker.

Now I just have to tell 😻.

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