ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Off the Chart —

So back in November I got a Nintendo Wii. Actually, I grabbed a latte (which I don’t often do), and drove around like an idiot on November 19th, Wii Day, to try and get a Wii from the stores. The first one had 140 people waiting for 120 Wiis. The next had 15 people waiting for 4 Wiis. I then found a place that had 15 people waiting for 40 Wiis.

Why put myself through that? I just like momentary madness like that. I also go shopping on December 24th and occasionally run towards and not away from danger. I’m sure this will catch up with me but not quite yet.

I will not bore you with tales of using the Wii and what the Wii does. The Internet is currently between 67% and 81% full of current-generation console discussion, no need for me to retread that part.

On the Wii, in the 5-in-1 sports pack, is a bunch of games of golf, baseball, bowling and so on. And tennis. For whatever reason, me and Tennis got off to a good start, and we started hanging out a lot, and I was entirely into Tennis for a while.

In Tennis, you get a “rating”, which has almost no meaning but which I think relates to how many times you’re scored against by the computer and how quickly you win, and so on. It climbs bizzarely, like awarding you “+3” for a game you might have really been into and “+109” for a game set that wasn’t so bad.

There was a line on the chart, at 1000. Nothing explained in the game itself what this line was useful for. So I started playing the game, a lot, and eventually got to 1000.

In the “Wii Inbox”, which is a sort of mail inbox the Wii has to make you feel like you have friends, it then announced that I had achieved 1000, and I was now a “Pro”. It then put a little “Pro” after my name, and I guess at this point I was supposed to jump up and down, were I not laid flat from playing Tennis.

So, the little line is halfway up the chart, and I decide to keep playing.

The game starts throwing harder and harder opponents at me until I meet “Elisa”, who is rated at “2000”. I beat Elisa, because at this point I’m like a lab rat with a cocaine switch. I’m an unbeatable pseudo-tennis machine. This gave me another mail in my Wii mailbox, explaining that I had successfully beaten Elisa, a 2000-rated player. My own rating, however, was 1700. So I decided to see what happened next.

Now, after a while it was like Zeno’s paradox. If I won it gave me a couple points, and if I lost it took out tens of points. What a jerk! Tennis and I were in danger of breaking up.

But you know, I kept at it, and in a few games that could be considered “epic” if you didn’t know what “epic” means, I broke the chart. Literally.

So mostly, I guess, I’m confused. If the game had enough thought into it to have all this stuff of sending letters to tell me how cool I am, and to tell me how cool it is I broke a 2000-rated player, why does it appear it is completely catching this game off guard to have me become a 2000-rated player myself? It’s nice and all that I’ve made it look like it does, but isn’t this a shame?

I think what I’m trying to get across is that if your game makes all these implications that something is the unstoppable Mantle of Greatness, and you award a person with a mail and a rating for achieving 0.5 Mantles of Greatness, consider putting something at the end to deal with the maniac who achieves 1.0 Mantles. I expect this sort of short-sightedness with Pac-Man arcade games crashing at level 255, not a Nintendo Wii in 2007.

There. Now I’m a whiny geek on a weblog talking about his video games. I assume it’s the late hour. Maybe I’m a Were-gamer.

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  1. Andy Baio says:

    So *that’s* where my $100 went.

  2. mgroves says:

    Maybe the “off the chart” is not a bug but a feature. After all, how awesome is it to tell all your friends that you are so good at tennis that you are “off the chart”, meanwhile spreading free advertising around.

  3. DJetson says:

    So when you say literally broke the chart, and then make reference to what happens after level 255 in Pac-Man, I’m left wondering if you mean that the game crashed? Because if that’s the case, it’s really nothing short of appalling. If the case is that it just didn’t provide any chart data beyond the 2000 mark, that’s just lazy thoughtless design, which shouldn’t happen, but is by no means unforgivable. Either way, I’d be a little disappointed too.

    Also, I’m wondering if mgroves is a game designer, only because he makes reference to the thin line between when a thing is a genuine bug, and when it can be considered a feature, and in my personal experience I’ve only ever heard other game designers say that, sort of like it’s an inside joke on the consumer.

  4. fuzz says:

    I’ve heard many people selling all kinds of software trying to convince their listeners that a particular bad thingumy is actually a good and worthwhile thingumy, but you usually only hear the phrase “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” from the person on the receiving end.

    See sense 6:

  5. Lazlo Nibble says:

    What does this literate breakage entail? Does the speaker on the Wiimote start reciting passages from James Joyce every time you clobber your opponent’s service game?

  6. G13 says:

    Elisa? “So, tell me how you feel about tennis.” I guess that is Eliza though.

    What you are failing to realize is that the next person who achieves Pro rank in tennis now gets to play against “Sketch”. That would be good.

  7. Stephen says:

    What a great read 🙂