On Tuesday, November 25th, I posted fixes for the video-game, Far Cry 4. It was the most read blog post I made in November despite only being up for 5 days.
While writing the post, I could barely contain my absolute disdain I had for the new gaming services / digital distributions and digital rights mechanisms.
Gaming services are the new shovelware.
In the past few years, after watching the rise of Valve’s Steam and Apple’s App Store, in an effort to successfully monetize intellectual property, we’ve seen an explosion in gaming services…. mostly forced upon users.
The idea is simple, if you design a game that requires a service/distribution platform service, then buyer is converted into that service’s user base. However, these same companies still need Steam in order to reach customers and thus you have services that replicate (often poorly) features that Steam has perfected over the course of a decade.
The offenders are many: Rockstar Social. Uplay. Windows Live. Origin. Yet, none of these services incentivize users to love them. Instead of buy -> install -> play, the wonderful three step process that Valve introduced and Apple took and ran away with. Now, when you buy a game on Steam, you have to buy -> install -> register for service -> verify registration -> sign into service -> play.
These would be a minor annoyance if they always worked smoothly but often they don’t.
Some services are only quasi-evil MyCrysis by CryTek and WB Play is nagware at best. A very small handful of services are good, Gearbox’s SHiFT is completely optional and nag-free. You can chose to sign in, get some nice bonuses and it doesn’t try to replicate the functions that Steam does. The WB gaming service with Shadows of Mordor I’ve successfully avoided. I’m not sure what it does (it replicates some social functions that Steam does) but I don’t care. I don’t play games online (besides Borderlands).
In the past two years, I’ve had three separate games rendered unplayable entirely thanks to their services: Max Payne 3, Fable 3 and Far Cry 4. I am not hardcore gamer. I don’t even call myself a gamer, nor do I play a lot of games. I play games occasionally in Windows on my Mac Pro. With Max Payne 3, I could not play the game until I signed into service and unfortunately under OS X would not let me sign in. I had to download the 30 GB game in Windows, sign up in a web browser (sign ups within the game were broken) and then sign into the game, save my game, reboot and copy my game save to Max Payne in OS X. Fable 3 defeated me. The save game corrupted so I stopped playing. Not long after, Windows 7 borked and I had to reinstall (I kept all my data). I forgot all about Windows Live. Fast forward to months later, I was ready to try my hand at Fable 3 again. Sadly, since I don’t know what email address I registered the game to I can’t sign in to play it despite having a legit key tied to my Steam account. Most recently Far Cry 4 had not one but three separate glitches that broke the game, all entirely thanks to Uplay. After hours of work, I managed to fix it and even documented how in a blog post. I’m privileged class of user, who’s been who’s had been using computers since 1992, had internet connection since 1997, has a technology degree, and works as a web developer. When I play games, I’m not out to replicate my job.
We’ve seen some entirely terrible schemes, such as Ubisoft’s Uplay scheme the required an active internet connection AT ALL TIMES, Window’s Live’s geo-regioning (akin to a DVD or Blu-Ray) which can render a game unplayable. Origin has been accused of spyware, so much so that it’s EULA violates German law.. WB Play has yet to fully materialize but I fear we’ll see something akin to UltraViolet. I’ve gone as far as to use hacks to remove said services on games I’ve legally owned.
I was thinking I may eventually pick up Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, but now I won’t. This is plea that’ll land on def ears but please stop using proprietary systems to manage games. If they offer enhanced functionality, let me choose to opt in. Gearbox’s SHiFT should be the gold standard: Optionally enhance your game, and do not replicate functionality that Steam already provides (and does a better job of).
Ubisoft Uplay, Electronic Arts Origin, and Microsoft Windows Live as a paying customer please stop, don’t turn me into a pirate. I love Steam and I hate your service(s).