I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Whiny End User


There seems to be a plague out there in the world, a horrible affliction which once contracted is terminal for the host. A pitiful, ignominious fate for those so unlucky to contract it.

I am speaking, of course, of affiliation with Microsoft.

But first, this side note.

Software development is a curious beast. A company gets an idea to make a product: people decide what the user wants from this product, other people write meticulous documents which are revised and re-revised that describe all aspects of the functionality of the product, yet further people create the product, another team tests the product, and all the while, someone who may or may not have their head up their ass is overseeing the whole project.

Often what happens along the way in this process is that the developers and testers- the very first people to ever use the product- come up with additions and elaborations to the product which are very useful. What ends up happening to these good ideas is that the product ships without any of them.

So, because they weren't in the original budget, and it would cost too much to pay for them to be officially added to the software...

spec writers add the new bits to the spec,
coders make sure they're coded to spec,
testers test them to make sure they do what the spec says,
tech writers write up the section for them in the manual and online help,
ad people add the new bit to the advertisements and box label,
et cetera

And all despite the fact that in a lot of cases the developers add them anyway for their own benefit, so they are already IN the product, just unofficially.

The very system 'designed' by the comapny to generate the product can end up being the enemy of a "very useful end result".

And it appears that as a software company grows larger, there is simply more and more of this nonsense, such that at some point the products the company generates have no discernible positive traits.

...and now back to Microsoft.

Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto 4 are colossal, complex games which, had they been entirely Microsoft's responsibility, would never have made it to store shelves.

Apparently, though, at some point in their path from idea to end result, these two already spectacularly popular products fell on such hard times that they needed to be paired up with Mircosoft's sucky content delivery system, a tiresome hunk of garbage that allows the game player to buy crap to expand the game. Without getting too deep into the mechanics of it all, it's a bit like putting a garage-door opener in your bathroom to put the toilet seat up for you.

What makes me so angry about this? Well, I'd love to play the add-on for Fallout 3, but it's only available via Microsoft's customer annoyance system. And GTA 4? It's so fantastically buggy I think I am going to uninstall it. The last four times I have played it (out of about seven times, total) I have spent around 30 minutes starting the game, killing it in task manager, restarting the game, restarting the PC, just to try to get the game to start. And 30 minutes is no exaggeration at all.

There have been frustrating aspects of Microsoft products for years now, but in most cases it was manageable suffering we endured. When MS takes an already flourishing game franchise and so thoroughly mangles it like this, well, it's really very sad.


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