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Beta Gone Bad

And so 04/21/08 had finally arrived; the day that the almighty Metal Gear Online beta was SUPPOSED to launch worldwide. After all the issues and problems up until this point, Konami has the brass to decide their servers “can’t handle” a worldwide beta, and so the entire thing outside of Japan has been delayed. Let’s explore what the process was to even getting into the damn thing, let alone acquiring the beta itself.

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Back a few weeks ago, Konami announced a beta test for the title for anyone who pre-ordered the game in the US, which would include codes to allow people to download the file when it was put up on the PSN. The Japanese beta include similar codes, but they were to be gotten from Konami’s site for anyone who registered for an account with legitimate information, which is the route I had to take being in Japan. The European beta was open to anyone within a country that was supported by the PSN Store, and so Europeans weren’t going to have to worry about needing a code. Everything was going as normal, and anyone who wanted a code could get them via pre-orders or the Konami site in the case of gamers in Japan.

The beta finally went up on April 17th for Japan and the US. Again, everything was fine until some people began to realize something odd about their codes. Many of the codes were INCOMPLETE! On top of that, while the first day was fine for downloading the beta, after that it became incredibly slow for most people. All the while, Konami decided to also make the whole ordeal even more complicated and require the use of Konami ID’s for the game, which meant you didn’t just use your PSN ID, but also a Konami ID and Konami Game ID as well.

To alleviate the code issues, gamers were asked to send in their incomplete codes for new ones that worked. Konami’s site was getting hammered and breaking for a number of days while people tried (unsuccessfully in most cases) to register for the extra account to play online. The sheer amount of access on the site caused it to slow down and just not work. So right now, you have a beta being distributed at a snail’s pace, a site with broken registration, and incomplete codes that won’t even let a number of people get the beta itself.

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And somehow Konami made the whole thing even worse. It was decided that the beta needed to be postponed for all areas outside of Japan, with an extra week being tacked on to the end date as an extension, and the beta itself scheduled to start five days later than originally intended, if at all. This is the biggest disappointment to grace the PSN yet, and it doesn’t bode well for Japanese game developers trying to make online games, as games like GT5P and Tekken 5: DR only prove that studios in Japan are incapable of creating a cohesive online experience like Warhawk or Resistance. These problems are obviously not just on the PS3 alone. The worst offender is Nintendo’s prized console. If you look at the entire online setup of the Wii, it’s almost hard to not laugh and pass it off as one of the most archaic things to ever grace gamers in this modern era.

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Why are we using Friends Codes? It works on the DS, but not the Wii. The Wii is a home console, and as such I shouldn’t have to go through all of these hoops to just enjoy a game with a friend. Nintendo was forced to attempt online this generation of consoles, and using the DS as a basis for their home products is ridiculous. The PS3 may have its fair share of issues online, it may lack a lot of the extra functionality of Xbox Live, but at least it somewhat resembles playing online with the PC and 360; the Wii is like a rogue concept that was designed by overly sensitive and worrisome parents who are afraid to let their children have full access to the internet. Sure, it’s free. But that doesn’t make up for the annoying process of adding a different code for each friend for each game. Out of MS, Sony, and Nintendo, ONLY the American company was able to create something that wasn’t entirely a mess on a technical level, community notwithstanding. I have a lot of problems with how Live works on a monetary and social level, but on a technical level it is easily the best of the three, and it seems like Sony will be attempting to rectify itself by adding similar components to the PSN, starting with the new PSN Store and HOME.

Alas, it seems HOME has been be delayed until the Fall, where anyone should be able to participate in the open beta. This means PS3 owners looking to get a shot at the new service will have to wait, or hope that they get selected for the next closed beta, which is in the Summer. This is a big disappointment for many simply because Sony has been holding HOME over our heads for over a year now, and yet nothing has come of it. Will it ever come out? I have to wonder what state the service is even in if they keep delaying it. After a whole year of waiting, I just feel like Sony should have just did a more blatant and simple copy of the achievements et al from Xbox Live, since that’s all most people want. Achievements for PSX/PS2 games would be awesome, and there are other things Sony could add or change to make PSN different. HOME itself is an interesting concept that takes PSN in a much more original direction than the other two consoles, but it’s hard to say how many people will even utilize its features, or even use it at all.

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MGO’s beta is the first overly huge disaster on the PSN, and hopefully it will be the last. Japanese developers need to look to this whole ordeal as an example of what not to do, and hopefully they would look at doing a lot more testing earlier in the game should the game be online. A mere two months before launch and the servers are already incapacitated the day the beta was going to start. Something like this just seems too ridiculous to be real, but it unfortunately is. As we look to the future, we can only hope developers learn and don’t repeat these same mistakes.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2008.

Gentle persuasion

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