RPS Diktat: Death To Install Music

Yes, we really are the only PC Games site which puts up captures of Andrew Eldritch.
Music is intrinsically tied to my work. If I’m hammering out a piece, I’ll have something with some of the energy or emotions I’m trying to capture blasting out. This afternoon, while working on an Escapist piece about the joy of intelligent people revelling in being gloriously stupid, I’m listening to This Corrosion on repeat. In my multitasking manner, I lob in a review CD of something I’m going to be looking at next and click install.

Immediately, my listening pleasures of Andrew Eldritch rocking out with his metal pole is turned into an ugly cacophony as the install program decides to plays its own music too.

This isn’t on.

You can see what a developer is trying to do. They’re trying to turn your first experience with the game into an actual event. Yes, they think, the installation sequence is an ugly necessity in PC Gaming… let’s turn it a little magical. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some games try to explain their stories, or offer exciting pictures of the game in action to whet the appetite or even try and give a few basic tutorials. Some people may even watch them. But the idea that just because I’ve decided it’s time to prepare to play your game it’s time for you to take over my PC is just one of those ‘orrible pieces of developer arrogance.

I tend to think this sort of thing is just down to developers getting over-excited about their own game. And who can blame them – they’ve probably spent years working on it. They want the experience of getting acquainted to be a fanfare! This is important! Welcome something wonderful to your life!

Except we just want a program that unintrusively puts the program on your hard-drive and then sods off.

Basically, this sort of behaviour makes the developer into the sort of MySpace user who embedded a song on their page, necessitating the person visiting to press “stop” to carry on with their browsing. It’s attention seeking nonsense, believing that their existence automatically takes priority over everyone else’s. It’s the kind of thinking which leads to a developer deciding it’s too much effort to make a game which ALT-Tabs to desktop and then restore back in because… well, why would anyone want to go to desktop?

(This is clearly another rant: Games which make you turn off your IM, just because that’ll make you bounce back to desktop. Not so bad when you can go back to the game, but in the ones which don’t alt-tab and then hang when you go back in… well, it’s time for the every-popular monitor punching.)

Despite install sequences asking you to turn off programs, developers – being users themselves – know that no-one does. If a game has an install which plays music, it’s taking over your PC before it can truly entertain you. Your choice is to turn off whatever music you were listening to or – more likely – just turn off the sound full stop. The latter was always necessary with my shitty old PC, which couldn’t play sound off the CD without slowing down, so anything playing during an install played as a fucking droning hell which sounded like a lost track from Metal Machine Music. Clearly, anyone who has a “music off” button is forgiven… but there’s not exactly many who do this. While we’re at it, we damn those whose install menu plays a low humming noise to appear to be an old-skool steampunk computer console or something to a nearby hell to the music-players too.

Death to Install Music!

(Without turn-off functionality)

(yes)

48 Comments

  1. Nimic says:

    Amen.

  2. Gulag says:

    Couldn’t agree more, but keep the concept art, we like that.

  3. mrkstphnsn says:

    Concur!

  4. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Yeah but: the install music accompanying Call of Juarez is much better than any of my other music.

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    Handy tip for Vista users: If you click on the volume icon then ‘Mixer’ you can adjust the volume for each programme running, so you can mute the nasty install music and happily listen to your tunes.

    Was it Soldier of Fortune II that had the news broadcast playing over the installer? My computer at the time wasn’t fast enough to do both so it kept blasting painful static at me. :(

  6. Okami says:

    I’ve got a song embedded on my myspace site. But I’ve put my settings, so it doesn’t start playing automatically when the page loads..

    While we’re at it: What’s even worse than install music without turn-off functionality are installers that refuse to minimize!

    Fine, you’re installing the game. Great! Now let me please do something else, for christ’s sake! I don’t want to be forced to watch one hour of splash screens, listening to the same ‘moody’ 2min32sec music track running on auto repeat!

    I don’t want to have to ALT+TAB to another program, then hit the windows key to bring up my start menu just to start firefox, only to find out that the fucking install status bar will allways be in the foreground, covering part of my screen.

    Then I try to minimize the window with the status bar and the whole fucking install manager crashes on me.

    Ok, this was kinda the worst case scenario of a PC game install, but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened to me.

    Thanks for getting my blood pressure all worked up, Kieron…

  7. Feet says:

    I always remember Beyond Good and Evil’s install music.

    PROPAGANDA

    *clap clap* *clap clap clap*

    It was quite good and funky for all of 30 seconds then the speakers got switched off.

  8. Janek says:

    Counter-example: Boiling Point.

    But yeah, most of them are annoying as hell. Though I did quite like Flashpoint’s.

  9. Flint says:

    Feet: I was just going to mention that. Things weren’t made any lovelier by the fact that the installer kept freezing and I had to restart it about three times.

    When I heard the PROPAGANDA tune in-game, I slammed my head on the table.

  10. dhex says:

    fun pointless trivia – the opening track on the third eye foundation’s 2nd full-length lp “ghost” samples heavily from metal machine music.

    it’s quite awesome.

  11. Pishtaco says:

    Boiling Point : Road to Hell had awesome install music. “From the north to the south, we’re coming to the boiling point…” with latin guitar and trumpets. Sadly my computer is a bit slow so I had to listen to it three times, which diluted the magic.

  12. cHeal says:

    Test Drive unlimited had awful, awful music furing installation.

  13. Veloxi says:

    I thing this has been done well once or twice, like Command and Conquer or Boiling Point, but 99% of the time it’s just, as you say, awful.

  14. Rook says:

    I don’t get why installers feel the need to go fullscreen on you. Is there anyone that doesn’t get on with browsing the internet for 20 minutes whilst a game is installing.

  15. matte_k says:

    @Janek: I agree, Operation Flashpoint’s installer music is one of the few I don’t mind hearing during install.
    Developers have a nasty habit of putting music on the splash screen when you load the game CD in as well, I find that bloody annoying almost as much as install music…

  16. yxxxx says:

    What really annoys me is when the music is stupidly loud and destroys my ears/speakers :(

  17. Joonas says:

    I didn’t even read the article, I just need to say that anything with Sisters Of Mercy is worthy.

  18. Nakkila says:

    What IM software pop-ups windows or such that screws up a game that doesn’t do alt-tabbing? That’s just plain evil. My ever-so-original MSN Messenger sure doesn’t, thank you M$!

  19. Steve says:

    One of the few things that annoys me about Company of Heroes. Bloody surging nonsense.

  20. Turin Turambar says:

    Command & Conquer. (1995)

    Yeah, that was an installation.

  21. UncleLou says:

    Though I did quite like Flashpoint’s.

    First thing I had in mind when I read the article.

  22. Sombrero says:

    @Schadenfreude

    this goes for my browser too!

  23. Larington says:

    Thoroughly agree, i’ve even encountered some travesties of installer design where the music is being loaded from the CD whilst files are being transfered across (As opposed to copying the music file across and then playing it from the HD/memory).

    Which slows the install down best case scenario, or causes intrusive audio skippage in worst case scenario.

    Either way, somewhat less than ideal.

  24. Ryan says:

    Yes, they think, the installation sequence is an ugly necessity in PC Gaming… let’s turn it a little magical. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Best installer ever: Zork Grand Inquisitor. “The Frobozz Electric Installer has detected that you do not have the latest version of DirectX. Normally this would be punishable by totemization, but as today is the anniversary of the phrase ‘I am the boss of you’ the Grand Inquisitor has deigned to forgo your punishment.” And so on. Literally every screen had something amusing; you could zip through it and have a nice quick (music-free, IIRC) install, but why would you? “Click ‘Next’ to continue with the installation. Click ‘Back’ to return to the previous screen. If you know someone who does not know what ‘Cancel’ is for, shun them.”

  25. Dr Snofeld says:

    Red Alert 2 had the best installation program that I can think of.

    True story: a friend of mine had his Red Alert 2 discs with him at school, and decided to try installing it on the school network during a class, cos he wasn’t the brightest bulb. Of course, he had the PC’s volume up, so it bellowed “WARNING! GOVERNMENT SOFTWARE DETECTED! TOP SECRET CLEARANCE REQUIRED!” when he put the disc in. Somehow he managed not to get in trouble, but he got a damn good scare.

  26. Mr.Brand says:

    Noisy installers DIE! THEY SHALL DIE AND BURN IN HELL!
    Luckily, I have two computers. One for games, and one without Windows, pumping those latest eMusic acquisitions most of the day.

    Another thing bad installers do is to take longer to REMOVE a game/program than it took installing them. Wizards & Warriors was particularly bad. Half an hour to install on my system at the time, even longer to remove those 4000+ decompressed .wav files (why didn’t they leave those compressed?!).

  27. Janek says:

    Agh yes. I get very aggravated when stuff takes a year to uninstall. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’m probably already aggravated with it for me to be uninstalling.

    AND ANOTHER THING. Has anyone noticed the increasing tendency to not put an uninstallation shortcut in the start menu or wherever?

    “Why yes, maybe if we force people to trudge through the control panel, they’ll spontaneously decide that no, actually they won’t uninstall our magnificent piece of software.”

    Grarghjnvjs.

  28. chesh says:

    I think all installers should play Metal Machine Music, actually.

  29. Mal says:

    I read this article and immediately remembered how impressed I was at Command & Conquer’s installer in 1995.

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one :)

  30. Mal says:

    Janek, the lack of uninstallers on the start menu is in line with Microsoft’s UI Guidelines – and if you want your software “Certified for Windows” then you have to follow them.

    The idea is to reduce clutter on the start menu.

  31. Chemix says:

    and to increase dependence on Microsoft’s built in uninstallation program. Then it gains self awareness and causes a nuclear war… ok, must remind myself that skynet isn’t real again, it’s the Illuminati that rule the world instead.

  32. Zuffox says:

    I actually thought this to be a relic of the past – much like the mongrel idiots playing with html and afterwards website music for their very first site.

    I don’t agree on your reduction of the installation purpose, though, Gillen. It’s something between a teaser, the credits, and some conceptual imaging. I myself loved when developers tried to keep you glued to the installation screens with swanky artwork and screenshot slideshows as the installation progressed. If I’m not mistaken, Total Annihilation did this pretty well, though it’s many a moon since I’ve played it.

    Was just reminded of the good old horrible installation screen, I never made much sense of; you know, the one with the three progress (?!) bars at the bottom left, one containing a cd icon.

  33. Janek says:

    Mal – Interesting. Should’ve probably figured out MS would have something to do with it, seeing the trend started at around the time of Vista’s release. Sigh.

  34. Matt says:

    I liked the Command and Conquer (and sequels) installers. They made life different.

  35. HeroFromHyrule says:

    Installing, please stand by……

    Please fill out the registration form, while you are waiting.

    Classic.

  36. Jay says:

    Red Alert 2 – Best. Installation. Ever. Right from the start, it tries to draw you in, and it doesn’t fail

    But yes, everything else is crap

  37. Caiman says:

    I tend to like installation music as well, but perhaps I’m playing games with better music than you are! Besides, when I install a game I want to be sure I don’t have a dozen other processes running at the same time to minimise any fragmentation during installation. So no, there’s never any other music playing, and my volume control is right here by my left hand.

  38. inomine says:

    @Chemix

    Err, no, you’re wrong. Yes MS now requires you not to put uninstall links in the start menu, but you do not have to do anything like use their own installer. Any program can create an entry in the Add/Remove Programs list, regardless of if MS had anything to do with it.

  39. AbyssUK says:

    I remember on my old amstrad CPC464 it would have a loading mini game.. now that would be a good idea!
    Hows about a mini version of peggle or zuma with the games graphical style for while you wait?

  40. Matthew says:

    Ahh, InvadeALoad! Those were the days.

    C&C, Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2’s installers were the best I can think of though.

  41. Jocho says:

    Yea, Red Alert 2 had a really good installer. Some background story and then these pictures of in-game units with this instructing voice saying “pay attention, commander – you might face some of these units in the field” or something. Really well-done.

    But, yea, some way to turn sound/video off or minimize the installer might be a good idea.

    And, while we’re at it, I want to mention the multiple disc installers, which in the middle of the process sends this “attention! Switch CD!” with no alert-sound or anything and freezes the whole progress, forcing you to pay attention to the installing the whole time it takes. That annoys me, at least.

  42. Optimaximal says:

    I loved the fact that Red Alert 2 gave you a fake countdown to enter a valid CD Key… I always pondered waiting the 15 minutes to see if the SEAL team really did smash through my window and double-tap me :)

  43. ShineDog says:

    Yeah, I actually want installers that hijack my PC with a song and dance. Just music is lame, I want to get excited about games, and I want the game to do everything it can to get me buzzed. Hence the old CnC installers, those were fantastic.

    Also Crimson Skies. because it had a fantastic little prequel radio drama you could listen to.

    That always got cut off at the end because the install always beat the audio. stoopid.

  44. Lachlan says:

    I’ll join the chorus praising the old C&C installers – even though they were often followed by an unskippable intro the first time you played the game, which could get very irritating on a re-install. I remember the first sign that something was wrong with C&C Generals was when the installer popped up a generic progress bar…

    Thief 2 put some vaguely helpful tutorial info in its installer. Submarine Titans used the progress bar for a cute little animation of submarines whirring past.

  45. THANKYOU SCHAUDENFREUD WHEREVER YOU ARE!!!! says:

    Thankyou for the tip about vista volume mixer/I am installing Frontlines,and the game plays the same music over and over,and I want to play a game while it’s installing.Anyways your advice worked.Thankyou.

  46. Vagueism says:

    I recently installed the old adventure game Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars and liked the way they tried to make installation a better experience by letting you play Breakout while the files were copied to the hard drive.

  47. Samuel says:

    I was installing Beyond Good and Evil and i think; what the hell is this music. So i search for Turn of Install music in google. I get this nice article, and the seventh comment explains beyond good and evil. So damn annoying!

    Nice article btw!

  48. Mangumm says:

    hi all , i read some comments and gettin LMAO ;DD my e-mail is mangummpl@gmail.com , send me pls the name of song in TDU installation , that was “aws“ xD i trying in g00gle but this piece of junk cind find it xD