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by Ethos

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Friday, March 12th, 2010

HLLfinal

Why is it that every time we have a theme week devoted to a specific game, I can’t seem to get the Tuesday edition of HLL written?

Ah well. Half is better than nothing. And it’s Final Fantasy XIII Week! You should all be playing it non-stop, just like I haven’t been doing!

Seriously, I have like twelve hours. And God of War III comes out this Tuesday. I’m fucked.

BioShock2-1Ruh Roh: 2k Released BioShock 2 DLC That Was… On the Disc Already?

2K Marin recently released the first DLC pack for BioShock 2, entitled “Sinclair Solutions Tester Pack.” It included all sorts of fun stuff for multiplayer, including new weapons, characters, trials, and so forth. Not bad for $3.99, since, as we’ve already established, BioShock 2’s multiplayer doesn’t suck. (In fact, it’s pretty darned fun.)

But wait! Sharp-eyed gamers have noted the fact that the pack is a mere 24k in size on the PC version, and 108k on the 360. So. Either 2K Marin has come up with TEH BEST COMPRESSION EVAR or… the content was already on the disc, and the “DLC pack” was merely an unlock key.

Mull that over in your head for a moment. 2K Marin wants you to pay for what’s already on the disc.

I mean, I doubt they’re breaking any laws or anything, but the ethics of the thing are pretty sketch. Remember that long article I wrote last Sunday about DRM and piracy? Yeah, this is the sort of thing that encourages that. (VG247)

uncharted2Naughty Dog Thinks Uncharted on the PSP Would Be “Fantastic”

Speaking to Joystiq, Naughty Dog’s co-president Evan Wells said he thought Uncharted on sony’s handheld would be “fantastic.”

“I think it would be fantastic to see the game (move) onto a handheld system,” said Wells.  ”If we can find a partner to work with, I’d love to do that … we definitely wouldn’t do it ourselves. We’re trying to just focus on the PS3 technology and platform right now.”

Really? Would it really be fantastic? Because I don’t think so. I hate to sound like a graphics-whore, but the last thing I want to see is Uncharted 2’s ground-breaking visuals and technology watered-down for the small screen. The fact is that the visual aspect of Uncharted is a huge, huge part of the experience – take that away, and I’m not sure I want to see what the results would be. (VG247)

QUICKIE: Splinter Cell Conviction Demo Coming

In a recent developer diary for Splinter Cell: Conviction, creative director Max Beland confirmed that a demo will be available to the public sometime before the game’s release in April.

“Yes, there will be one. I can’t tell you what map or when it’s going to be released yet, my lips are sealed.”

And… that’s all. It’s interesting to note that Ubisoft already told us back in February that there wouldn’t be one. Guess they changed their minds? (VG247)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Valve’s Gabe Newell on DRM

Speaking at GDC, Gabe Newell had this to say about DRM:

“One thing that you hear us talk a lot about is entertainment as a service,” he said. “It’s an attitude that says ‘what have I done for my customers today?’

“It informs all the decisions we make, and once you get into that mindset it helps you avoid things like some of the Digital Rights Management problems that actually make your entertainment products worth less by wrapping those negatives around them.”

Ride on, Mr. Newell. (VG247. Again.)

That’s all. There’s no more. Goodbye now. Go play Final Fantasy XIII.

Sunday Soapbox: DRM and Public Relations

Monday, March 8th, 2010

drmAs you may have gathered “This Week is Copy Protected” was more of a gimmick than an actual “theme week” – regardless, I hope it made some sort of statement to… someone. And if it didn’t, maybe a little soapboxing will.

Ubisoft’s anti-piracy measures for the PC version of Assassins’ Creed II have been widely publicized, widely discussed, and widely lambasted. For good reason, too – People don’t like that they have to be connected to the internet to play. People don’t like the idea of losing progress due to an internet crash. And, more than anything, people don’t like the idea of a multi-million dollar corporation penalizing their consumers needlessly, in a desperate scramble to protect their aforementioned millions of dollars.

We’ve seen stupid gimmicks like this before. Remember back in the day when record labels like Sony BMG would release CDs replete with software that was required to play the disc on a PC?

Remember how well that worked?

If you had to choose between paying your hard-earned dollars for a CD that you couldn’t even use properly on your own PC, or downloading that same CD for free, sans limitations, what would you choose?

Using that rhetorical question as a springboard, I’ll go out on a limb here and claim that, if anything, Ubisoft’s new DRM method has made people want to pirate Assassin’s Creed II even more. Hence why it has – supposedly – already been cracked. Ubisoft is denying it, but there are plenty of people on the internet claiming that they’re playing Assassin’s Creed II, in its entirety, on the PC, without being connected to the internet. And the game just came out three days ago.

drm2People like to rebel against authority, particularly when they feel the “authority” in question is being tyrannical. To date, Ubisoft has sold over six million copies of the original Assassin’s Creed. When the console versions of Assassin’s Creed II were released back in November, it sold almost two million copies in a single week. So, when they roll out an intrusive new DRM measure, do they expect to look like anything less than a bunch of rich, paranoid asshats desperate to protect their millions?

You have to understand, this is how pirates justify their piracy. Pirates are convinced that the big rich game companies are only getting richer, and because of that, they’re perfectly justified in downloading games for free. Subconsciously, they view game companies as “enemies” – enemies that have more money than them, and charge too much for their games.

And, frankly, a lot of companies do a good job of fitting that bill. Take a look at, say, Activision. Easy to pick on, yes – but legitimately so.  When their CEO, the infamous Bobby Kotick, admits outright that he’s only interested in games that can be “exploited every year on every platform” and have the potential to become “$100 million dollar franchises” that makes him look like a cash hungry douche. That makes him and his entire company appear to be out-of-touch with everything other than the bottom line. That makes Activision look like the stereotypical big, rich corporation that’s after a gamers’ wallet, and nothing else. Subsequently, that makes people not give a shit when they illegally download Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

And they give even less of a shit when they find out that the game generated over a billion dollars in sales anyway.

DRM3Activision’s one of the more obnoxious examples, but they aren’t the only one. One of my personal pet peeves happens to be everyone’s favorite Nintendo, and I’ll tell you why: they’ve abandoned every customer who made them what they are today. They promise “hardcore,” and they give us Wii Music. They built a gimmick that resonated with non-gamers, (or “suckers” as I like to call them) found out that there’s a virtually limitless supply of these suckers, and left the rest of us to rot. And they don’t give a shit, because god knows they don’t need to. I don’t like giving Nintendo my hard-earned dollars anymore, because a) they don’t care about me, and b) they don’t need it anyway.

At this point, you might be asking: “What, then, Riddles? Should rich companies become less rich?” No, of course not. The issue I’m alluding to here is simply that of public relations. If game companies want people to stop downloading their games, a good first step is to make gamers like them. Instead, like the music industry before them, the game industry seems convinced that the best way to combat piracy is to do the exact opposite: antagonize, inconvenience, and in some cases, criminalize the consumer.

James Burt is an Australian man who uploaded a copy of New Super Mario Bros. Wii to the internet. It was downloaded over 50,000 times. So, Nintendo sued him for $1.5 million dollars. Reportedly, an agreement was reached in which Burt will pay a lesser amount, but the actual amount was not disclosed. And one has to wonder how much “lesser” than $1.5 million they would agree on.

Back in 2008, five different U.K.-based videogame companies announced their intentions to slap lawsuits on 25,000 people. One of these people was a woman named Isabela Barwinska. A company named Topware dragged her to court and forced her to pay them $30,000 for illegally downloading a game called Dream Pinball 3D.

Remember back when Napster was a big deal? Like, such a big deal that everyone’s favorite group of thrashers, Metallica, filed a big stupid lawsuit against them? Remember how bad that entire ordeal made them look? Remember how much respect they lost amongst their fanbase?

Remember when Blender magazine ranked them #17 on their “biggest wussies in rock” list? I actually don’t remember that part; I just read it while doing research for this article and thought it was funny.

drm-is-badThese are mistakes that the game industry must learn from. What do you think Topware gained from their lawsuit? In all likelihood, they did nothing more than bankrupt a hapless pinball fanatic. And, in the process, they made themselves look like assholes. The same can be said for Nintendo and their crucifixion of Mr. Burt. Granted, Ubisoft’s DRM method for Assassin’s Creed II isn’t nearly as cruel or offensive as these lawsuits, but unfortunately, it has the same negative effect on the all-important relationship between game companies and the consumer.

The disturbing thing is that these draconian methods seem to be on the verge of becoming a trend. Take Sony and their ridiculous “entitlement” system for the recently-released SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 for the PSP. In order to play the game online, you’re required to register your copy online, which requires a special code. Thinking about picking it up used? Well guess what: a new registration code will run you an extra $20. But hey, at least those nasty pirates won’t be able to play online, right?

Again: won’t this only encourage piracy? Imagine yourself as Average Joe Gamer. You don’t have a whole lot of extra cash on hand, so you decide to wait a few months and pick up a used copy of SOCOM 3 when the price drops. You visit your local GameStop and walk up to the desk with a copy of the game, only to be informed by the kind and knowledgeable clerk that, in order to play the game online, you’ll be forced to shell out twenty more dollars.

If I was Average Joe Gamer, I’d probably walk out the store, direct a silent “fuck you” towards Sony, go home, and download a cracked copy. For free. And the same goes for Assassin’s Creed II. I’ll take my copy sans internet-requirement, please. I mean, come on… aren’t games one of the first things we gamers reach for when the internet goes out?

And what about when Ubisoft’s servers go kablooey?

There’s no easy answer to the issue of piracy. I recognize that. And by all means, the game industry should continue to take measures to discourage illegal downloading. But it can’t be at the cost of sacrificing good relations with gamers. Intrusive measures such as those employed by Ubisoft and Sony will, inevitably, accomplish the opposite of their intended effect. People will rebel because of the inconvenience, and people will rebel because they feel like the companies deserve it. And, given the way they’re all acting about it, who knows – maybe they do.

Welcome to… This Week!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Special thanks to whoever made this.

Special thanks to whoever made this.

We’re such oddballs here at Riddlethos.com.

This week, (March 5 to be precise) Ubisoft will finally release Assassin’s Creed II for the PC. Good news for the twelve people who will buy it, right? Wrong. With Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft is rolling out a brand-spankin-new DRM (Digital Rights Management) safety measure.

In order to play Assassin’s Creed II on the PC, you’ll need an internet connection. Furthermore, you’ll have to be connected to Ubisoft’s servers at all times while playing the game. Creepy, eh?

Oh, and if you’re disconnected from the internet for any reason, at any time, you’ll be thrown back to the menu screen.

To say the least, it seems like this new DRM may be a deterrent to people who live in countries with large expanses devoid of internet. Like, say, North America. Also, Ubisoft is not my big brother, so they don’t always need to be watching.

In honor of Ubisoft’s stellar efforts to further the cause of big, money-grubbing companies that criminalize their customers, and of draconian DRM measures that will serve only to increase piracy, This Week is Copy Protected.