Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

While reading through my RSS feeds this evening a title caught my eye from Massively:

Star Trek Online dev unconcerned with losing global playability for the sake of lock boxes

Uh, what? That sounded incredibly out of character for any of the developers from the STO team, so of course I clicked through to read the whole thing, and then I covered my face with my hand and sighed.

Basically, Jeremy Randall (Borticus) was chatting with some players on the Jupiter Force fleet forums (of which he’s a member as well, or was before he joined Cryptic, I assume he still is) about the lock boxes and what might happen if some countries decided they’re illegal. Jeremy’s opinion was that STO would become unplayable in those countries rather than lose the boxes, because the revenue from them is apparently that good.

It was immediately apparent to me that this is just Jeremy’s opinion being expressed in a discussion among friends. It’s not news. Were this in a press release or on the official forums, then it would be news. Had someone at Massively wanted to use this as fodder for an editorial that would’ve been valid. But it wasn’t posted in an editorial, it was posted as a news item, and that is crap in my opinion. Plus, the wording of the title and the flippant tone of the article (as well as the appended update) make the whole thing feel like link bait to me (and I really considered removing the link above at this point).

What really irritates me is now either the Jupiter Force forums will go closed for fleet members only, or Jeremy will no longer be able to take off his developer hat when chatting with friends. Both of those outcomes suck. The Star Trek Online team is among the most communicative of any MMO live team that I’ve seen, and I really hate to see events that make that seem like bad policy.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should, or that you have to.

Glad I’m not playing Diablo 3.

Diablo 3 launched today to the excitement of many. I mentioned over the weekend that I wasn’t interested in it but was expecting to feel left out. Well, I’d forgotten about the always online DRM that Blizzard was building into the game. Despite the fact that you can play Diablo 3 completely single-player, you can’t actually play it offline. In effect Blizzard launched a single-player MMO today (an SPO?) and had the usually MMO launch issues, namely overwhelmed servers.

So instead of there being a deafening silence on Twitter as everyone was engrossed in playing, or having to read tons of messages about how amazing the game is, instead I was reading complaints about lag, server timeouts, and error numbers. It really reminded me of the original launch of WoW more than seven years ago, and made me wonder why Blizzard wasn’t able to prepare better. After all, surely if any game developer has the experience and resources to handle a massive launch it should be Blizzard. Right?

Personally, even were I interested in the game, I still wouldn’t be playing it as I really dislike the trend DRM is taking at the moment. At least Valve has built Steam to allow for offline play, surely Blizzard could manage something similar if they cared to. Or maybe it’s Activision that doesn’t care?

Either way, I hope that things calm down soon for those of you who want to play, so you can get in and get some quality time in-game.

Ubisoft never disappoints me.

I love the Anno series of games. I love the art style and the game mechanics involved in city building. The combat systems are a bit rough, but I normally turn those off. The real challenge for me in those games are building a stable trade web between multiple islands.

Despite my love for the series, I haven’t and won’t be buying Anno 2070. I want to, I really do, but I think it’s asinine of Ubisoft to include their patented must-be-online-POS-DRM in a single player game that’s available through Steam. Why on earth I want to deal with two layers of DRM? Especially when the one layer that’s not needed and offers zero incentives isn’t even managed properly.

Deus Ex: I tried to let it go.

I have been tempted several times to rant a little more about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I’ve usually been able to let it go and move on. This last bit of news has provided a bit too much temptation though.

“We knew that it would be a weakness for the game, that we had to make a compromise to deliver it [on] two levels. First, the boss fights were forced, which is not the Deus Ex experience. Second, there is no mix [of] solutions to tackle the boss fights, which is not Deus Ex either.

“We knew that before the release of the game, but there had to be some compromise. It [was] our decision.”

If you know that a part of your game is not up to par. If it is a part of the game that’s not integral. Why not cut it? Especially when it becomes a road block to finishing the game. I understand not being able to take more time, that takes money which they probably didn’t have. But surely they could’ve designed around it. Replaced the boss fights with a cut-scene or quicktime event. It couldn’t possibly have caused them more grief than the boss fights have.

One side note, since I’m venting about this anyway. I’ve read a few reviews and comments that question why it’s such a big deal, since the boss fights were such a small part of the game. The problem with that reasoning is that the fights are unskippable. So if you’re like me and get frustrated on the very first one, then you’re done. For me, DX:HR was a five hour game. Plus, if the first fight is that irritating, why would I want to try and plow through it when I know that after getting deeper into the story there’s another roadblock waiting for me, and likely several more after that.

No Thanks EA

I think EA’s trying to convince me to stop being a PC gamer.

Thankfully I started playing Mass Effect on the Xbox because I didn’t want to hope or wait for a PC release. Usually if a game is available for PC and console, I’ll get the PC version. Since Mass Effect 2 built on the previous game’s save file, I’ve been locked into the console version of the series, so this news really doesn’t affect me too much. Still, this as a glimpse into the future and it doesn’t look good.

I don’t need another online store to buy games from. I don’t want another username to keep track of (even if Keepass makes it easy). There’s already Amazon, Direct 2 Drive, Good Old Games, Impulse, and Steam just to name the one’s I’ve used recently. I have no interest in buying games from EA’s store or Activision’s store or Ubisoft’s store. Especially not given how poorly they seem to handle data security. Having my name and email address is one thing. Having my credit card number? No.

I certainly don’t need or want a social network tied into it either. I’m already in one too many and it especially doesn’t make sense to participate in one tied to a publisher.

Here’s a tip for EA and the other publishers. I rarely identify games with publishers unless it because of awful DRM or some other screwup. I identify games with the developers. When I heard there was a Batman sequel coming, my only interest was would Rocksteady be developing it. Without resorting to Google, I can’t tell you who the publisher is. Honestly, half the time I get EA and Activision confused. Ubisoft is the one publisher I can keep straight, but that’s because of their colossally stupid always online DRM. That’s not good company to be in.

Origin is a bad idea. Having games with Origin exclusive versions is a worse idea. If you really want to shoot off a toe, I recommend going all in and making all of your games Origin exclusive. I might miss out on some fun gameplay, but you’ll save me a lot of money.

I Don’t Understand

After doing a few dailies with my Mage, I decided to take a break from level 50 and switch to my Cleric alt, Kaeji. He was only level 8 and fresh out of the time machine from the desolate future.

While I was running about in Freemarch, I noticed a conversation going on in zone chat. Someone was asking what RP stood for, and that led into some talk about whether or not it was polite to RP outside of private channels. Keep in mind, this is on Faeblight which is a PvE RP server. Let me repeat that: an RP server.

I don’t roll on a PvP server and complain about ganking. That’s kind of the point of rolling on that server type. Why oh why do people roll characters on RP servers (of which there aren’t many) and then complain about RP happening in public channels?

Of course the fellow who was asking about RP obviously didn’t know what he was getting into. But one of the other people who chimed in referred to public RP as exhibitionism, and he seemed to know enough about MMO’s to know better than to role on an RP server and not expect to see some. Why he decided to make his home on Faeblight, I’ll never understand.

LotRO – PC Gamer’s MMO of the Year

PC Gamer named Lord of the Rings Online their MMO of the Year. Normally, I would be happy to see a game I play and love recognized, but I can’t agree much with their reasons for awarding LotRO.

When it came to keeping us entertained all year long with small updates, plus throwing us the occasional party with huge loads of free content, LotRO treated its fans the best.

What? I’m not sure they were playing the same game I was.

They  mentioned two new regions and two new Epic Books. They must be including Mirkwood (which released at the end of 2009) in the new regions because the only new area in 2010 that I remember was Enedwaith. Did I forget a content release? Could they be including the new Yule Festival village? It is true that Books One and Two were released for Volume 3 this last year, and at the time I was pretty happy with Book 1 too. Of course that was when I thought there would be a few months before the next Book, not the six months it turned out to be before Book 2 came out with the F2P release.

One part of the article that I whole heartedly agree with though: LotRO has some of the best server communities of any MMO.

As a LotRO player 2010 was a disappointing year, I hope 2011 turns out to be an amazing year for the game.

No Surprise, Ubisoft DRM Cracked Already

In what was surely only to Ubisoft, their shiny new DRM scheme has been cracked within 24 hours of the release of Silent Hunter V. There’s more details and links at Info AddictRock Paper Shotgun, and Destructoid if you’re interested. Ubisoft claims that it really isn’t cracked, but what else are they going to say.

I would say I predicted this, but really who couldn’t have. Regardless of the crack, I’m still not planning to buy any of their games PC or 360. Too bad, I hear Assassin’s Creed 2 is pretty good, but then again I have a literal pile of 360 and PC games I haven’t finished yet.

D, R, effing, M.

DR-effing-M. *sigh*

I am reminded of the following quote:

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. – Albert Einstein

Ubisoft has decided that they do not want to learn from the experiences of EA and 2K Games.

PC Gamer has an article about how Ubisoft is requiring an internet connection for Assassins Creed 2 for the PC. That’s not just for registering the game initially, or launching the game, but for the entire time the game is running. So your router goes down, or your 2 year old son unplugs your modem? You get kicked out of your game. When your connection comes back up you’re at the last checkpoint you reached. Hopefully there are a lot of checkpoints in the game.

There’s a follow up at PC Gamer where Ubisoft tries to address their concerns, but the only thing I got from it is that they don’t have a firm grasp on reality.

What it boils down to is that they are trying to combat piracy. They are trying to sell this system as a value add, by saying that you don’t have to have the disc to play, that you can install as many times as you want, and that your save games will be stored on a server. What they don’t seem to understand, though, is that when I buy a single player game, I don’t want to have to worry about launch day player floods of the authentication server. I understand, and expect, that as part of the MMO experience, but I don’t want that in my single player experience. Ubisoft doesn’t even believe that it is unhackable. So, once again, people of rip off the company will be able to play however they want and paying customers get to deal with the hassle.

Let me explain something to Ubisoft. I haven’t played Bioshock. I didn’t buy it for PC because of all of the problems 2k had with their server-based DRM scheme. There were plenty of other games for me to play at the time, so why purchase something that is going to cause me frustration. I also didn’t buy it for Xbox 360, since I didn’t want to encourage bad behavior. Not a big deal, right? That’s just one sale. Well not exactly. I’m not buying Bioshock 2 either. Not because of any DRM of 2k boycott, but because I never played the first one, and I feel I would be missing out on the full experience by not having played the first game.

This whole debacle is very timely. I didn’t play Assassin’s Creed 1 because of some of the reviews it got about repetitiveness, and I was deep into several other games at the time. Generally this means that the window of opportunity for me to get into a franchise is closed. Assassin’s Creed 2 has been getting such good reviews, though that I thought about picking up both games for my 360. I was actually in Best Buy this last weekend and had both games in my hand. I didn’t end of buying them, but only because I decided I should check with friends and see if I really needed to play the first game or I would be better off watching some Youtube cut-scenes. Boy am I glad I didn’t buy those games now. So Ubisoft has cost themselves two sales from me, and likely any additional sales on the franchise since I’ll be so far behind on the story.

As rants go, this one is pretty weak, but I’m not really pissed off so much as exasperated. You would think that gaming companies would look at case studies of what the music industry went through already, or at least what other gaming companies have already tried and failed at.

It reminds me of a corporate reorganization at a former job. We had a full IT department meeting, where the CIO outlined a reorganization we were going to do. Instead of grouping staff by technical skills (team of Java devs, team of Oracle admin, and so on) we were instead going to be grouped by business area/process. This meant that a team in charge of a specific business area would have one or more developers (of different skills sets like Java and Progress), a DBA, a tester, etc. The funny thing about the meeting was the CIO introduced the idea by saying it had been tried at other companies and never worked, but we were going to give it a shot anyway. I left wondering what the heck he was thinking.

So good luck to Ubisoft, trying to do nearly the same thing that EA, 2k, and others have already tried. I’m sure that you won’t have a multitude of issues every time a new game releases and thousands of players try to authenticate against your servers at the same time. I can’t imagine that you’ll have a horde of  angry customers calling support wanting to know why they can’t play their offline, single player game because your DRM servers are down for maintenance. I’m sure no one will mind in a couple of years when you decide to decommission the servers for old games, or really care if you decide to patch out the DRM at that time.

If you want to read some more about this, there’s some more good information and opinion over at both Rock, Paper, Shotgun! and Ars Technica.

Personally, I’m not committing myself to a boycott of the company or anything. I’m not going to start rage posting on forums or signing a petition. I’m just not going to buy the game and then move on with my life. I suppose I may be tempted at some point to buy an Ubisoft game despite the DRM, but right now I can’t think of a game that I’m looking forward to enough that I’d be willing to deal with that kind of DRM. Assassin’s Creed certainly isn’t interesting enough for me to bother. I have so many more convenient ways to spend my entertainment time.

Magic Red Button

Caught an interesting story today while I was catching up on my game news feeds in Google Reader.  Apparently a Labour Member of the European Parliament wants to mandate that any gaming device (computers, consoles, etc.) be fitted with a red button that can be used to control access and/or disable a game.

This idea is stupid on several levels.

If the problem is a lack of parental oversight, then either they’re not around to press this button to begin with, or a child is going to press it again once the parent is not around.  Kids are not stupid and for ages have been applying their imagination and ingenuity to doing things they want to do which they are not supposed to do.  A button is either on or off, unless there’s some kind of biometric security built-in, it won’t deter any child over the age of 6 months.

If the problem is more of a panic situation where a parent sees their child playing something they’re not supposed to and want to shutoff the game as quickly as possible, they already have a multitude of options: turn off the TV, turn off the console, or remove the child from the room.  Even better than a magic button, my Xbox 360 already has parental controls built-in, as does my TV, and I’m sure that the Wii and PS3 have similar options.  These types of controls allow me to limit what kinds of games can be played on the console regardless of whether or not I’m standing by to press any buttons, no matter what color they are.

One comment from the politician’s website that does concern me is this:

“We want a code of conduct for retailers and the producers of these games. And internet café owners need to be reminded of their responsibilities. A recent survey showed that large numbers of children, some as young as six, are accessing the internet without adult supervision in internet cafes.”

Children as young as six?  What parent is letting a six year old run around on their own?  I think if there’s any problem here that really needs to be addressed it is a lack of parenting.  I can guarantee you that my 6 month old will not be running around anywhere unattended in the next 10 years.

Still it is nice to know that America doesn’t have a monopoly on stupidity.