Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Tricks of the Trade
A few days ago, Hanah loaded up her most recent save, launched the Prince towards a distant ledge, and proceeded to watch him fall into a bottomless pit. For some reason, Elika refused to provide him a helping hand when she pressed the triangle button. For those that haven't played Prince of Persia, you should know that the triangle button is integral to the game's functioning. Among other things, It allows for a double jump necessary to clear large gaps, controls magic attacks, and allows for fast travel between zones.
With a dead triangle button, the prince was stuck on a single platform. The Prince couldn't make the jump to the next platform on his own, and fast travelling to another zone was out of the question. What started out as a quest to collect more light seeds had turned into a game of technology troubleshooting.
I suggested the age-old tech solution of "turning it off and then on again." Turning off the controller and then turning it back on solved nothing. We escalated the technique and turned the entire system off and on again; still nothing. I was tempted to curse Sony's hardware, but then we tried a second controller and found that its triangle button wasn't working either. This seemed like too much of a coincidence, so I decided to back out to the XMB and test the button by doing some menu functions. Much to our (and our bank account's) relief, all the buttons worked fine outside of the game.
Our relief was short-lived, as it soon became clear that the problem was with the actual game and that this software glitch had the potential to put an ignominious end to the story. Thankfully, Prince of Persia keeps an auto-save file alongside any manual save file made by the player. As a last ditch effort, I suggested loading from the auto save. We would lose progress, but at least we could get some more information about how far this meta-corruption had spread. In a pleasant-yet-baffling turn of events, the triangle button worked perfectly fine. For some reason, one particular button had stopped working on one particular save.
The whole situation illustrated why, when a game gives me the option, I always have two separate saves going just in case something weird happens. It's not necessarily a natural impulse: most people don't keep two bookmarks in a book in case one "fails," nor do most DVD players have two separate pause features. However, years of playing games and dealing with their quirks has taught me some lessons that transcend any particular title.
When it comes to actually getting games to function, this example is on the simplistic side. Anyone who has waded into config files on a PC or tangled with their home firewall knows that dealing with the practical realities of the medium requires another layer of literacy on top of learning how to navigate a game's systems. In addition to vanquishing a game's villain, players often must tame a game's technology.
And now, let me open the floor to you all: What are your favorite tricks to ensure a smooth gaming experience? How many of them have you learned the hard way? Your hard luck story could save someone from a similar fate.