An Error Has Occurred in the Following Launch

An error has occurred in the following application.

Battlefield 4 TM
Reporting this error to Sony Computer Entertainment helps improve PS4 hardware, software, and services. This report might include personal information.
To send the report, carefully read the [About Error Report], and then select [Accept and Report].

Please explain the problem (optional)

After a pre-dawn, hour-and-a-half wait outside Target in the freezing cold, I have a Playstation 4. (Bizarrely, Target was sold out of games, so my early morning saga of finding a Playstation 4 without having pre-ordered wasn’t over yet).

I had thought I’d be writing a critical review of Battlefield 4 for the Playstation 4. I had expected to say something about how EA should have used the lean mechanic from Medal of Honor: Warfighter instead of a near carbon copy of the mechanic used in Call of Duty: Ghosts. I had wanted to argue that the first series of games on the next gen Playstation 4 don’t use the new controller and that it means the new controller hasn’t happened.

Sony, my problem is that I can’t do that. Instead, this error message ends every playtime I’ve had with Battlefield 4. My problem is different from your problem; it’s different from the problem.

So, I’ve been working with RPI students in software documentation the last 3 weeks, and I’ve been watching two out of three branches of government (and the 4th estate) struggle to understand modern software development with

I can’t play because sometime during the development of Battlefield 4, probably somewhere between the EA team and the Sony OS team, some group of coders left an error. But, errors happen. Errors are normal. In 1975, Frederick Brooks (The Mythical Man-Month) pointed out that software has a tendency to produce errors in the process of change, e.g., correcting errors. That’s Nineteen Seventy-Five. 1 – 9 – 7 – 5. Today, almost all software development uses an iterative development cycle, which means change is a constant part of the development cycle.

I’m not surprised that I’m getting an error message. I’m surprised that you’re having trouble fixing it. But, by trouble, I don’t mean that it’s taking too long. By trouble, I mean that you and EA had a public disagreement over whose error it is. I remember that when the Playstation 3 came out, we had this discussion that the Playstation 3 was hard to develop for. Now, we’re seeing these reviews about how the Playstation 4 is better than the Playstation 3. But, everyone readily admits that the launch games aren’t great, and some say wait to buy it.

And we’re now seeing reviews, like Totilo’s, taking on an iterative development look. We’re seeing apologies for the competition between time pressure and risk and acknowledgement of the early adopter audience who’ll buy it, ready or not. But, these excuses and the readiness of some videogame journalism outlets to write iterative coverage mask your problem.

Your problem is your marketing department because it’s the marketing department that isn’t using the same frame of iterative and incremental development that your developers and other companies’ AAA game developers are using. Your marketing department is still setting up the expectation that launch is an event, an event with a bounded time when all of the functionality will be available. But it’s not.

Still, that’s your problem.

The problem is communication. It was a problem for Playstation 3, and it still is for Playstation 4. (The good news is it sounds like it’s the same problem that Xbox One is having [start around 48:50 into the podcast])

Time pressure is a problem only if software development teams aren’t synced in with the Sony OS and hardware development team. Iterative and incremental development with object-oriented design means multiple teams can work on multiple and disparate parts concurrently.

When EA posts something “in error”—Haha, irony—it makes the problem clear. Sony, you’re not communicating well with EA, and EA isn’t communicating well with you. But, worse, neither company is communicating well internally. And when someone at EA responds to stories about connection issues by passing the blame to you, that’s the kind of behavior that negatively affects the overworked, underappreciated coders at both companies who are actually fixing my problem.

The thing with iterative and incremental software development is that communication is key. More people and more time don’t make software or fixes faster, but communication does. That’s the great development in software design that’s happened since Brooks broke down the Time/People fallacy in 1975. That’s why Agile and UP design methodologies, probably the most prominent styles of iterative and incremental software design processes in videogames, focus so heavily on communication.

But right now, you’re not communicating with me, the customer (four days of reporting this error, and no “thank you, we’re working on this one”). Apparently, you’re not communicating well with EA, or they with you. And, apparently, your software development teams, who doubtlessly knew that not all features would be functional on launch day or that all games would work seamlessly, are somewhere below the marketing department in the hierarchy of Sony, so marketing is still plugging launch day as the amazing and exciting event it was back when I bought a N64.

Oh wait, maybe I need a little more perspective. It’s hard to remember how launches used work (partly because our games journalism then isn’t what it is now), but it used to be that the Japanese had to deal with launch day. Playstation, Sega Genesis, and N64—these consoles that I loved and for which I was an early adopter—came out in Japan anywhere from three months to over a year before their North American launch. If you check the comments on the EA error, you’ll find some comments from gamers remembering a glorious time when launch day consoles worked. They point to a time before the XBOX when launch technology worked perfectly—when America wasn’t the first release.

Ok, so really, it’s the communication that hasn’t changed. Can you fix that for me?

Thank you for your cooperation.


About Gaines Hubbell

Gaines Hubbell is a lecturer of English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. His dissertation tracks the history of topoi and loci of invention in twentieth-century rhetorical theory, pedagogy, and criticism. His research focuses on the historical and contemporary development of rhetorical theory and its adaptation for newer media environments.
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