Monday, January 23, 2012

Some thoughts on Street Pass

Is it, I wondered, as I went for the third successive day without walking anywhere remotely near to anybody else in Newcastle with a 3DS, me that has it wrong? Perhaps this feature is naught but a stupid little gimmick, a theory borne out by the evidence in front of me that no bastard except me ever uses it. I mean, considering how many units are now out there, surely the odds would favour better results than these?

In the 6 months I have had my console, with Street Pass being on for the vast majority of my days in the city, I sit at 28 hits. One of them is a repeat hit, as well. And I do look forward to hit #3, as my custom message to her (which is something you only get to do once you pass someone for a 2nd time) was "We should do it!" Most of my hits have actually come, as well, when I have left the city itself and gone to the rather vast shopping mall known as The Metro Centre.

In all this time, with all this effort ... SURELY there should be more?

Street Pass is, potentially, a system seller in and of itself. The idea that merely walking past somebody can lead to such instantaneous connections, sharing of in-game items, or best of all ghost data, is simply genius. Potentially, there is an almost inexhaustible supply of opponents for races in Mario Kart. Well, I don't really know why I thought that, because the evidence from Ridge Racer is that NO BASTARD EVER USES IT. Ah, but then, this is Mario Kart we are talking about. The Wii version has now sold somewhere in the region of 30 million copies, which basically means that there are a LOT of fans out there. I can't be the only one in the North East, can I?

It turns out, quite magnificently, that I am not. Today, I switched on the 3DS, with the plan of clearing my Mario Kart notification. See, pretty much every time I go out, I pass public wifi that has Spot Pass data. These are generally staff ghosts for Time Trials, and generally on tracks I don't really care to race, and thus the little blue spot might remain on my screen for several days.

Today, though, something was different. That blue spot? It was also occasionally green.

WHAT MAGIC IS THIS? I was excited, and I went in to check. And there, on the notification screen in the Mario Kart Channel, was a Mii. A FREAKIN' MII! Not just yet more ghosts to race on that bloody annoying Wuhu Island track, AN ACTUAL SODDING PERSON TO RACE AGAINST. I near burst my boxers...

As it turns out, my excitement was a tad misplaced. What I thought I was going to get was the Time Trial ghost of some random street player. And, given the propensity for NO BASTARD TO EVER USE STREET PASS, then I had rather built up this moment, assuming that whoever I got to put myself up against could only be some kind of hardcore gaming demigod. I expected challenge, I expected stress, and I expected to be on the edge of my seat.

What I got, instead, was a GP. The 'Deepdark GP' against somebody named Deepdark. Now, I have to assume that the tracks chosen were ones he chose, being as the GP was named after him, but I honestly don't know for sure. What I do know, is that the affair itself was somewhat anticlimactic.

Really? You're THAT bad?

I won, and not only was it a comfortable victory; I honestly don't think it was in doubt for anything more than the first turn of lap 1 of race 1.

Questions rise up at this point. His ratings suggest he is nothing more or less than someone who has played the game once. His ghost data, or I guess AI data would be more accurate, suggests he is a bit of a rubbish player. So, should there be more done to avoid matching players like he and I together? Am I a better AI player on his cart? Has he even raced me? What were the results on his copy? I really would love to know.

Deepdark, if you (or anybody who knows you) happen to read this, please don't take to heart what I am saying here. From my side of our communal fence, you are not worth my time to race. But, know this; in another way I FUCKING LOVE YOU, MAN. You hold a special place, in that you are my first ever Street Pass opponent. I would be saying the same things right now even if you had beaten me into the furthest reaches of oblivion.

I still think that Street Pass is the single best thing about the 3DS console. And, I still dearly wish that it could be made use of in more titles. But, I think that we in the West have a lot to learn from the Japanese about making games more social, and more of a thing for everybody. Why is there no option to add Deepdark as a friend, to communicate with him and perhaps even allow him the chance for revenge? I guess I just need to hope to pass him again, and then I can custom message this blog URL to him.

Street Pass, then, remains a frustrating enigma. It could, and should, be an actual game-changer. Potentially enriching, but ultimately useless, at least here in the UK. Why useless? That's easy to answer.