December 21, 2005

"What Were They Thinking?"

by peterb

To make any consumer product, thousands of decisions must be made. Inevitably, no one can get all of those decisions right. Even the best-designed gadget or toy will still have some mistakes in design or execution.

Despite this, there are certain moves some companies make that go beyond bad, into the realm of the bewildering.

If I was feeling snarky — and let's face it, when am I not? — I might use this space to take some cheap shots. For instance, I might opine that having Civilization IV — a turn-based strategy game played, largely, by old, slow people— require the latest, cutting-edge 3D video cards, was one such decision.

But there are better targets for my ire tonight. Because tonight, I screwed up. I tried to watch a DVD.

Over a year ago, psu wrote convincingly in this space about the stupidity of DVD menus. And that's all still true: film companies still spend tens of thousands of dollars producing fancy animated DVD menus that nobody, anywhere in the entire world, since the very beginning of time, has ever wanted. The animated menus serve one and only one purpose, and that is to make me want to fly to Los Angeles so I can strangle whoever designed them.

But the people who come up with the animated menus might as well be saints compared to whoever designs the parts that come before the menu.

Look. I'm a fair-minded man. I am a capitalist. You want to put an advertisement before the main menu? Fine. You want to put two ads before the main menu? Be my guest. You want to put sixty-two ads before the main menu? Knock yourself out.

But if you disable the buttons on my DVD controller while you're playing those ads, then it's all over. The terrorists have already won. Don't come crying to me when people all across the world are bittorrenting your movies. You deserve it. I hope they steal your stuff. I hope you don't make any money at all. I hope you starve to death.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a DVD I need to take back to Best Buy.

Posted by peterb at December 21, 2005 09:56 PM | Bookmark This

Odd coincidence, I was bitching about the same thing earlier. Grab any random DVD released each year from 2000 through now, and it's all too apparenty how the lawyers and movie studies have made it worse over time.

Take an old dvd, get to the menu, select "play movie", and the movie starts.

Take one from 2005, get to the menu, select "play movie", and then see the MPAA rating, an FBI copyright warning, Interpol warning, Interpol warning in another language, some CYA screen about how the commentaries don't represent the views of the studio, the CYA screen in another language, ad for the soundtrack, and then maybe the movie starts. I can't wait until Blu-Ray gets here, and we have extra screens telling us that the movie is a work of fiction, not to attempt any stunts at home, any damage to the player or tv is not their fault, and not to stick a fork in the power outlet.

On the bright side, soon the amount of crap before the movie will take about the same amount of time as a bag of microwave popcorn.

Posted by Adam Rixey at December 21, 2005 11:07 PM

You could not of said it any better. I agree with every single thing you just said! One thing: I don't see ANYTHING on the packaging of these DVD movies which indicates that I have to watch commercials. That being said, I think it's high time that we all start returning these movies and claim them as defective, thus getting our money back. I am willing to even bring my laptop and go through every single movie they'll offer me based on their "if it's open exchange only" rules. Wouldn't that be a hoot? :)

Posted by Braden at December 21, 2005 11:31 PM

I hate the DVD thing, but I've got to say, you're wrong again about Civ. Not that old men don't play Civ, but it's not hard at all to find someone who says that Civ or Civ II or Civ III gave them lots of bleary eyed days at college.

I would bet you money that the average age of a Civ fan doesn't skew that much higher than the average gamer's age overall. So, well...I know you think gameplay trumps graphics, and you're right, but not to the degree I think you believe it does. When it comes down to it, the most important part of a AAA game is EVERYTHING.

Posted by Matthew Gallant at December 22, 2005 12:55 AM

How much money are you willing to bet? Not that Firaxis is going to give us access to the marketing requirements documents, but if this is a chance for me to get rich quick, I should at least make a token effort.

Anyway, further wanking about Civ IV is tangential to the issue. I think we've driven all the arguments about it into the ground by this point.

Posted by peterb at December 22, 2005 08:28 AM

Sounds like you needa Kaleidescape,

Its a legal dvd ripping system and one feature is that you can skip all the crap before a movie. Its a bit pricey though.

Posted by bforsyth at December 22, 2005 01:06 PM

In the future, we'll have tangible hologram movies where the STARS THEMSELVES come out to steal our wallets and take money out of them for VALUABLE GOODS AND SERVICES.

Posted by Eric Tilton at December 22, 2005 04:18 PM

I get that you're a capitalist, but why're you buying DVDs? I find the purchase of these things in themselves to be rather odd -- Unless, say, you're a screenwriter and "studying dialogue," or a parent trying to keep kids occupied by playing Aladdin over and over again.

Though I kinda want my own copy of La Dolce Vita --

Posted by green LA girl at December 28, 2005 07:29 PM

I buy DVDs because sometimes I like the extras, I'm too lazy to go to Blockbuster, and renting from Netflix is not immediate enough for those times when you just need to watch the Fifth Element.

It's also better than broadcast TV for showing kids stuff.

Posted by psu at December 28, 2005 08:18 PM

I didn't know if they ever actually released a region 1 DVD for La Dolce Vita -- did they? I eventually gave up waiting and bought a region 2 disk from mediaset. But you need a hacked DVD player to watch it.

Ah, I just checked Amazon. They did indeed eventually release it. Bastards, for making me wait so long.

Posted by peterb at December 28, 2005 10:09 PM

Speaking of kid's DVDs I forgot the following awesome piece of evil that is embedded there.

You fire up the Disney DVD, and it proclaims "This disk has FAST PLAY, just sit tight and the DVD will just play while bypassing the main menu!"

So you think "great!". The disk plays... and you get 15 trailers for stale Disney direct to disk crap.

So what they mean by "fast play" is ... "slow play". It is always faster to go right to the menu.

Posted by psu at December 29, 2005 08:02 AM

Oh my christ, YES. I hate, hate, HATE those mandatory ads, scoldings, and disclaimers before each movie I watch. There is something ironic and infuriating about the fact that only the people who have paid for and are legally watching this movie see all the crap, including the accusations that we are all thieves and support terrorists.

Some good DVD news for you, though. I recently bought nine (!) seasons of MASH on DVD. Not only are the menus silent, static and well-designed but they give you the option of turning off the laugh-track. Sweet hallelujah, you have no idea how happy that made me.

Posted by jeff at January 6, 2006 01:55 PM

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