Cross game chat and why it's currently MIA.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 2:48 PM
I promised you all an update on Cross-Game chat, so here it is.
And you're not going to like it.
As I told you before, Cross-game voice chat has been in the works for a while now. I mentioned last time that it was on target for 3.0 providing that we didn't hit any snags. Well guess what, we hit a snag! An all too familiar snag.
Time for a history lesson.
How many of you remember what it was like before FW 2.4? That's right - no in-game XMB. No custom soundtracks. In-game XMB was the most heavily requested feature at the time and we worked tirelessly in order to get it in (By "we", I mean Sony Japan - as I said before, FW isn't my department). It very nearly didn't happen, you have no idea how difficult it is to backport a feature like that onto a system (the game) that doesn't even know its there, but somehow we managed it. Well, for most titles. There are still the odd few titles out there that don't support in-game XMB ("black" titles).
Custom soundtracks was another one we had working in nearly every title. Obviously it was never going to work in black titles, but about 95% of the titles that worked well with the in-game XMB, had custom sountracks working as well.
So what happened? Why is it that titles HAVE to be developed specifically with custom soundtrack support when it was working more or less just fine?
Is it because Microsoft owns the patent on custom soundtracks in games?
This is something that makes me laugh every time I see one of the less educated ones spouting it off. That's an absolute fabrication. Patents don't matter, Sony as a while infringes upon thousands of patents through the whole company, both hardware and software. If you infringe a patent, you pay royalties to the owner or find a different way of doing the same thing that doesn't infringe. That's it. Microsoft infringes upon all kinds of patents we own but that's up to legal to sort out.
No, the reason we had to drop Custom soundtrack support like that has nothing to do with Microsoft. It does, however, involve a different company. A rather large company.
You see, one of their games happened to fall into the 5% that didn't support in-game custom soundtracks. And they did not like this.
When they found out that a new firmware update was going to suddenly make one of their games look inferior to just about every other game released, they protested. A lot.
They threatened everything, from legal action to dropping support for the PS3 all together.
What could we do? There was almost no way of getting it to work correctly due to the way their game was made (i.e. Poorly) and we certainly couldn't leave a broken implementation in there. That's when the hard decision was made to remove all support for older titles and instead adopt the "opt-in" approach that, to this day, most developers simply ignore. I have to hand this to Microsoft - they did their system right from the beginning and by completely separating it from the developers, they have universal support. Its very unlikely that you'll ever see mandatory support for custom soundtracks in games on our system, I'm afraid.
So yeah, lets nail this on the head: The next time someone starts blaming Microsoft for something the PS3 doesn't have, tell them they're an idiot, they don't know what they're talking about. Are we clear on this? This is a pet peeve of mine because while everyone's happy to go around blaming Microsoft, the real culprits are getting off scott-free. Of course, I can't actually name them directly or, should I get caught, I might even get done for slander (you can never be too careful), but you can figure it out - it's not Activision and they have a poor history with the PS3.
So what has this got to do with Cross-game voice chat?
I warned you that we might hit a snag and we did. We've found a couple of titles that just don't like it. Similar to the custom soundtrack fiasco, it can cause lag, crashes, desyncronisation (very very bad when this happens), you name it. It can't be used in these games and it just so happens that some of these games are owned by the same company I've been talking about above.
So we're in a predicament: Cross-game chat is useless if only certain games support it. It's not too bad if its just the odd one that doesn't like it, but at this rate we'd have to drop support for the ENTIRE back catalogue, which would (As I said) make the whole thing useless.
Furthermore, we can't rely on developers to implement direct support for it. It didn't work with Custom Soundtracks, so why would it work here?
So right now, we're trying every little trick in the book to find a solution that works for everyone, but don't hold your breath on this one, so far it looks like the best you're going to get is a gimped implementation of it that only works with a handful of new games.
Now as I said, FW isn't actually my department and even I'm not supposed to know some of this stuff, but this is actually where we are right now. It sucks majorly, but there you have it. Depending on the end result, it could come in FW 3.1 or it could come in FW 4.0, hell it might not even come at all but rest assured they are working very hard on it. And if it doesn't come, you know who to blame.