This weekend I was Hall D Coordinator at Anime Boston, a big ole'convention in the Hynes Convention Center of downtown Boston. It was home sweet home for 19k nerds over three days, and it was a blast to be a part of. I got to meet some cool people, I got to do physical labor, but more importantly, my 3DS' StreetPass tag count went from 26 to 107.
During this process, I got a really good idea of what this passive yet rich feature is here for, and seeing it action was pretty damn fun.
StreetPass is mad easy
I put my 3DS in my pocket at the start of the day on Friday, and by the time I reached my concert hall I had 11 pass tags. This was a shock to me, as I usually only get two or three at best a day by going to school/work and seeing my same, 3DS owning friends over and over. And all it took was being in the right place, at the right time. Conventions, by the way, are AMAZING places to nab some pass tags. Just walk around outside one and you'll probably pass enough people to get a sizable game of Find Mii going. I sometimes forgot to flip the wireless back on if I was conserving battery power, and it doesn't work if you have it closed with a DS game running (I had Okamiden on me all weekend), but when it did work I would look for that notification light and smile.
It connects gamers, not people
I really like that the model is "Check it later", as opposed to trying to get people to actively search for each other. That could have gotten really creepy, really fast. The 3DS isn't a dating service, and it's not designed to facilitate instant meet ups but to get you to realize that people around you game too. And the only slice of their life you get is facilitated by the Mii Maker. It focuses more on the fact that they have a 3DS, than on applying that fact. So, you get a chance to see the slice of the population with similar tastes, and then maybe leave them a message for the next time you StreetPass. I didn't feel any pressure or weirdness having people I pass recieve a copy of my Mii on their 3DS because, well...it's just a Mii. The Hershey's Kiss of avatars.
It's just the right amount of everything
Once you've got a good stable of passes, it only takes about 5-7 minutes to cycle them all through Find Mii and Puzzle Swap. Again, that "Check it later, flip it open, play it for a second, flip it shut" model is working. You can click through the little adventure, and recieve the gift of 3D artwork from your StreetPass tags with ease, and it doesn't need saving, lots of menu navigation, complex controls of crazy graphics to make it fun and simple. It's for the moments during your day you've got just that right amount of downtime. Waiting for your meal at lunch? Sitting at the bus stop? Waiting for the kettle to boil for tea? That's the time for breaking out the StreetPass Plaza.
Find Mii was poorly designed
I want it to go on record that "Maybe a hero with a light blue shirt can break the same color shield" is one of my least favorite video game lines of all time. Half the magic effects make no sense, your characters usually miss or do no damage if they're level 1
(and you only get higher levels by using magic, or meeting people more than once)...there's little nit-picky things I hate about Find Mii and they all have to do with the lazy, lazy attention to detail. Why not dumb down Paper Mario/Super Mario RPG or something more interesting to make your minigame. Clearly time and effort went into it, but it's hard to tell where with a game that simple. And despite that simplicity, the deceptively complicated parts of Find Mii are almost a chore when at their worst...which sadly is most of the time.
The message system sucks
My favorite personal message from the weekend? "Not enough chara" because that's exactly how many spaces you get to send your "personal greeting." Nintendo's character limit is draconian. And where's Pictochat, dammit?! Pictochat made anime conventions worth it for a variety of reasons, and it's the one feature I miss from my DSi. The 3DS could very well release pictochat as a downloadable app, and now more than ever if someone made a chat app for the 3DS they'd make a killing. The simplicity of communication feels like a step backwards...which flows perfectly with Nintendo's modus operandi: If it's abuseable kill it. They don't want phallus and swear words on their systems, so you don't get much room to write them or many ways to share them. Not a bad idea to limit the flaming/griefing but you can't just cut everyone's head off when looking for the knaves in the crowd. Eventually people are going to notice you just don't seem to care about fixing what works, and instead trying making something new to avoid the problems with the old one. At least...in software. How many Game Boy Advances/DSs were there again? (Advance, SP, Micro, DS, DSlite, DSi, DSiXL, 3DS) Why not have your hardware team design some software for once.
Your passes expire
Early on when I got the 3DS, I thought my passes would last forever. Sadly, and there's no warning of this in the Plaza itself, they don't. They expire after what feels like 24 hours after you've gotten one, If you don't greet that person at the plaza entrance immediately upon opening your 3DS. If you do, it banks all the passes like normal, but forgetting to play Find Mii first, and losing all your passes is simply evil. I can see clearly why this is set up as such: you don't want to wade through tons and tons of Miis at the end of the month, and it's a good way to make sure players are cracking open their 3DS on a regular basis. But really, getting rid of the passes just because you haven't checked them seems a little harsh. A harsh answer to "Players will have to go through so many passes..." Solutions: Make it save the unused tags into a stable for the next time you play Find Mii, let more than one character fight at a time during battles...it feels like there's so many options to make Find Mii just a liiiiitle more fun. As is I'm using very little brain power to slog it through a dungeon designed with limits like "If you haven't met a person who's favorite color is yellow, you're boned." Using coins to buy heroes sometimes helps, but I was limited to buying 10 of them...and not one of those dogs had a yellow shirt. It's just a fix for a problem instead of fixing the problem. Smacks of laziness.
StreetPass events are showing up on the facebooks now. As the device gains momentum, we'll likely see more and more of them. Taking my 3DS for a walk, and seeing if I passed anyone with a 3DS when I get home has become a bit of a ritual for me. The 3DS I want to see is one with that little green light blinking; it means I have a little break-time-fun ahead of me. But only a little. It'll take a bit more love before the system really shines like the diamond handhelds Nintendo typically rolls out.
And since I don't have fancy capture software or a decent webcam, here's a picture of me playing Find Mii.
Results may vary.