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The Outsider: Queuing in The Division

The Outsider is a weekly column written by an author looking at the games industry from the outside. The views of The Outsider do not necessarily represent those of the GamesRadar+ team

One of the truly heavenly aspects of today’s digital life is that you can pay full price for half a product that will be fixed later on.

Consequently, the whole stupid problem with having to queue in The Division to talk to vital NPCs – the thing I’m about to pass judgement on – has already been patched out.

So hooray for that.

In case you’re new to all this, an NPC is a game-controlled AI character. NPC stands for Not Particularly Convincing.

Meanwhile, AI stands for ‘Awfully Intelligent,’ and is one of only two popular phrases known to employ weapons-grade sarcasm to imply the opposite idea. The other is military intelligence.

Back in The Division, online players keen to shoot everybody else right in the goolies recently found themselves instead crowded around a table like a pack of sixth formers trying to read their exam results. Either that, or politely queuing around a dingy room, as if to buy tickets to the Harry Styles Touch My Hair Experience that was finally coming to a proper town not too far from the empty broken carbuncle where you live.

You see, I’ve made it sound silly.

Obviously, a lot of players had a problem with this queueing (opens in new tab). Their adventures as a surly, stubbly and gun-laden ‘operative’ were being reduced to sharing an office with hundreds of other surly, stubbly and gun-laden ‘operatives’ who were all awaiting the appropriate clearance.

Those goddam penpushers at HQ, don’t they know we’re running out of time?! It’s all so… realistic.

And imagine the smell.

The whole queueing thing lead to a mess of clipping issues, but you can judge the realism (or otherwise) of packs of surly, stubbly and gun-laden ‘operatives’ slipping in and out of each other over a gloomy desk for yourselves.

In case you’re still new to this, ‘clipping’ is when one object goes right through another, such as when a large publisher smashes its golden Hummer through a development studio and knocks a part-finished game hundreds of feet to market.

Obviously I’m not saying Ubisoft are anything like this, because lawyers. Or that The Division is especially bad, because it’s not, and also lawyers. I’m just saying that oh god I don’t even know any more.

Is any game released finished these days? Does it even matter? Hitman, for instance, is currently taking the whole ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ argument under its murder-wing by deliberately appearing, like one of its victims, piece by piece.

With The Division’s queueing problem, everybody complained and they fixed it, which is how it usually goes. Loud whine = quick fix.

Of course hundreds of other small annoyances remain: such as how people who stand in doorways seem unaffected by clipping, and consequently block an entire war from carrying on in the correct fashion like some sort of pacifist bouncer on the doors of unreality.

Or such as the game’s ‘client side data handling,’ which creates minor issues like other players becoming invisible and immortal, gaining unlimited ammo and gear, and being able to actually shop in that burning supermarket and get some really great deals on deodorants.

If you’re still new to this, ‘client side data handling’ is a fancy way of saying that you’re doing the hard work.

You might think I mean your console is doing the hard work, crunching the numbers – and lag is then causing the above problems – but no. Of course I’m not. Look inside yourself: you’re doing the maths, right now, for your digital overlords. RIGHT NOW. And you’re not very good at maths.

What kind of maths?


I’m not saying that such brainjacking is how the robot uprising starts or that Ubisoft is responsible, because lawyers, but it is and they are.

So anyway, my wise and unimpeachable judgement on the true scale of the issue of queuing in The Division is somewhat undercut by its non-existence.

That aside, I would argue that it's actually quite realistic (opens in new tab). Spending ages waiting for no good reason, and being prevented from doing your job by seemingly inept superiors, and then suffering the consequences personally (and later being blamed for them) is a huge part of being an adult.

There’s no reason to think it’s any different in the military, and I can say that with total confidence because a) I’ve played a lot of games where I’m a badass soldier and b) I once bought some camo trousers from an Army Surplus and the owner didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

Oh, and I’m totally in the SAS, so deal with it.

And that, my friends, is that.