Saturday, October 25, 2008

Far Cry 2: (if) Anything Goes (wrong with SecuROM, you're fucked)

Today's title is a not-so-clever play upon the title of one in a series of trailers for the inexplicably-named Far Cry 2. Inexplicably named?, you wonder, whatever could he mean? Put simply, Far Cry 2 has, besides being a shooter which takes place mostly out of doors with fairly remarkable human AI and semi-realistic weapon handling dynamics, nothing to do with Far Cry. Neither the game engine, nor the development team itself are constant between games. The closest analogue to the situation that exists with Far Cry, Far Cry 2, and Crysis was that of the Age of Empires series compared to the first Empire Earth. The latter was the far more audacious brainchild of original AoE developer Bruce Shelley, who split with Ensemble studios, whose plan for Age of Empires 2 was simply more of the same. Crysis in relation to Far Cry is very much like AoE 2 versus 1. Certainly some aspects of the design have been improved, but along the way the developers seemed to lose sight of what we all found so charming in the original. Where Crysis is essentially a punishing benchmark for the PC hardware elite, it looked to me as though FC2 was shaping up to be a little more innovative, a little less stale. I was (the operative word) looking forward to the ability to roam 50-odd square kilometers of map at my leisure, to experimenting with different approaches to combat, and to interacting with the various in-game factions.


Well, what really separates Far Cry from its successor in my mind is that I cannot, in good conscience, buy FC2. Even on Steam it is saddled with a 3-computer 5-time semi-refundable secuROM-based DRM solution. Let's break this down, shall we? Even if I buy the game on a platform with tough, integrated DRM, a platform that requires me to be connected to the internet, a platform that knows my name, a platform that TRACKS MY GAME-PLAYING HABITS...UbiSoft still doesn't think their IP is safe enough. For the record, if I'm going to go into the kind of trouble it must take to crack a Steam game, do they really think I'll stop there? SecuROM, like every other kind of DRM, has attracted the usual posse of gamer-hackers and pirate-hackers who for reasons ranging from legitimate (secuROM is notorious for butchering system performance and flat-out not working, or so I hear) to the morally ambiguous (they do it for the lulz) to the nefarious (read: piratical). So, what they are asking me to do is to potentially devalue the money I spent on the kind of kick-ass hardware one uses to play current games by chaining me to a stupid activation system that doesn't seem to offer any more practical security than Steam already does (you know, locks and honest folk and that...). Oh, but it DOES limit how much I can use their game. To me, this represents the height of irony. Game developers are going out of their way to create the potential for what they call “emergent gameplay”, they are trying to give the player more control over the interactive experience. At the same time, game publishers are working round-the-clock to limit the number of times you can install the games that YOU pay to use with YOUR money, and piracy continues unabated. In fact, piracy was marketed as ACTIVISM when Spore was released with unreasonable activation limits. “Make Spore the most pirated game in history,” was the rallying cry “show EA that this DRM shit does not fly with gamers”. I didn't pirate Spore, though. I can't say that after seeing gameplay past the cell stage that I really felt I even wanted to play it. Everywhere you see people variously toasting and lamenting the so-called decline of the PC as a platform for games. Everywhere you see developers blaming piracy, but I don't think for a moment that we should be so na├»ve. Games are getting bigger, prettier, louder....but shorter and costlier, in general. This has been a recognized pattern long before people started whining about piracy as they have in recent months. If you read the newsposts on Penny Arcade (I only read it for the articles, I swear!), you'll see that Tycho always says the same thing about PC gaming: people – not counting the small but vocal minority of hardware aficionados, ie. Yours truly – just want to play. They don't want to worry about the kind of issues that will necessarily cause problems on a platform so variable and diverse as the PC. Consoles are cheap, their games tend to sell better than PC titles, and for the most part they are idiot-proof. While the move towards hard drives and firmware updates and downloadable content may complicate the gaming console experience, I doubt that the “insert disc and play” functionality is going to go anywhere. Well, at least until game cartriges make their inevitable return to prominence, but even so maintenance will still be as simple as “blow on the contacts”. Truly, what would make the most sense for people who want a thriving market for games with the kind of complexity and indie content that only PC gaming can provide as present, the 90% of gamers who don't have a hard-on for their hardware should just buy Macs, thereby creating enough of a market to make development worthwhile. Macs, with their (generally) standardized hardware, could then move into direct competition with gaming consoles, and proceed to beat the stuffing right out of them. The power of Steve Jobs to make relatively unremarkable products look like Yaweh's own gadget collection, combined with the kind of market share that would allow Apple to exert serious power over hardware manufacturers (hell, they somehow have Intel half in their pocket already!) would combine to form a super-gaming entity that could somehow convince consumers to pay three times as much for a piece of hardware with identical capabilities and upgrade options to a gaming console. Of course, Apple's record of having pretty strict control over media (the plan not to allow third-party iPhone apps, anyone) might antagonize indie developers for a while, I think that the larger problem would be in the long term. The few of us who love to tinker with hardware would just suck it up and hack MacOS onto a gaming PC...but the supply of hardware would eventually dry up. The mac platform would, due to its homogeneous nature, be a potential coup for DRM, which could be encoded into ALL HARDWARE.


Where I'm going with this is that PC gaming would have to sacrifice the strengths of our platform in order to achieve mainstream success. It would lead to a momentary renaissance of gaming, but we would be effectively signing away our last vestiges of control over digital content in the process. The other extreme is the abandonment of DRM, making the PC attractive as a platform through an unofficial “try-before-you-buy” culture (for the honest folk, at least). The lifting of DRM restrictions would create a lot of good will in gamers, and it might even lead to a momentary jump in sales...but big-budget games would inevitably disappear from PC, which would become a sort of starting point for would-be game developers, releasing freeware and shareware content in a bid to land spots at a major label.


The reason I'm not going to buy Far Cry 2 is because I am following the third path, which I believe has the potential to lead us toward victory in our fight to remain a viable, free environment for gaming. Of course, it is marked as a “top seller” on Steam, so the fight may already be lost, but I object to the DRM enough that this won't change my decision. If gamers don't buy games that come with unreasonable terms of use (ie. The retail version of Bioshock at launch), game companies WON'T MAKE MONEY. When they decide to treat their customers like vermin. Pirating games may feel good, but it's not the answer. I contemplated buying FC2 and then pirating a version with the DRM removed, but UbiSoft would only see my money if I did that. They would not see the gamer, fighting to preserve his favourite hobby by any means necessary. They would only learn that they can get away with bullying us, and everyone who went to school knows that if you don't let the bully use you for his or her personal entertainment, if you refuse to react to their provocations, they will (hopefully) stop trying. If you continue to react, they'll only come back more and more often.


So if you're listening UbiSoft, you just LOST A SALE of Far Cry 2. I sincerely hope it's not the only one you lose.


In the interests of striking an emotional balance in this post, I shall now shift gears entirely.


To be succinct, I've got love on my mind. Stop. Did you click the link before continuing? If not, open it in a new tab and keep going. It is thematically consistent with what I am going to say, and it will also make the experience of reading this blog 100% more FUNKY.


DDR players who own Supernova 2 are excused now, although they're likely to have reached for their dance mat upon hearing the first strains of music after clicking the link.


Now that we're all groovin', I can continue. This thanksgiving marked for me an entire year of being single, possibly barring an incredibly mishandled affair around the holidays. You know who you are and in retrospect I'm really really really sorry, even though I'm pretty sure you're not holding a grudge. One year of being single has taught me that, well, I don't really like being single. It has also taught me that I don't hate being single either. If I were surrounded by happy relationships, or incredible-yet-too-intimidating prospects, I think I might be a wreck, but neither is the case. Being single is totally stable, and relatively functional. The impending visit of my Ex-girlfriend does, however, have me in a bit of a rush. I'd love to have a date for next weekend, not only for purposes of escaping the house, but as a show of strength, a defensive maneuver of sorts. Unfortunately, dating someone for those reasons is a violation of the second formulation of the categorical imperative – the long way of saying I am uncomfortable with using people. Relationships being organic as they are develop at uncertain rates, and with a week's notice I really don't have the highest of hopes. It's not as though I haven't been considering the issue since much earlier in the year, it's that I have yet to really find an individual of the female persuasion with whom I have the right kind of rapport, ie. The kind I can talk to naturally, without watching my words to make sure I'm not geeking out too hard. As you probably know, this would already be PRETTY RARE even if I wasn't beset with a terminal case of shy.


So boo-hoo, I don't really talk to girls. At least I don't pop my collars.


What I have at the moment are prospects, but nothing more. In each case there are too many unknowns to allow for a solid plan. Missing first year university here has been academically painless (although I think I'd be better off having taken FYP, that's another story), but it has the unfortunate side effect of alienating me from the social dynamics which have sprung up. All I know is that if people like my housemates they tend to be ok with me. This would be awesome if girls visited this place more than once or twice in EVER. The only other constant that I have become aware of is that if I meet someone at Dal, chances are it turns out they're a King's student anyhow. Some have voiced an opinion to the effect that this just goes to show that I attend the wrong school. I guess at least that when I meet girls at Dal my housemates will invariably know something about her.


Fifty bucks says that no matter who she is, it's always:


Oh, her. She's dating a guy in my tutorial”

(or something to this effect)


  • Loud!


PS. My heartache is over and indeed I can live without you.

PPS. Have you listened to Holy Fuck? That shit is bangin'!

PPPS. Maybe I should just take the hint* and get a haircut?


*assumption that there was a hint to be had? ASSUMED!

7 comments:

GoldMatenes said...

Hey.

My collars aren't that bad.

Loud said...

Hahaha....crap. Now I feel so bad for so many reasons. You're pretty much a perfect counterexample to the general rule of popped collars.

I still dunno if it would be beneficial for me to rock that style, though.

Dr. Ivan Hood said...

Dear Mr. Loudipants.
Aw.
Awww.
I don't really want Farcry 2 anyway.
Aww.
Love Twitchasaurus Rex! RAWR!

Ps. I'll cut your hair!

Anonymous said...

SecuROM is great. I mean don't you want to just rent your games forever at full price? And stop being able to play if (when) EA shuts down their authentication server?

I make a point of buying non-SecuROM titles and will only buy a SecuROM title if I think it's really good. And usually I'll eBay a cheap Thai copy. I'm still buying it, the publisher still gets paid, just a little less...

Scarlet Gypsy said...

RAH! ARG! KERDOSH!

DON'T YOU DARE CUT YOUR HAIR!

Loud said...

Sheesh, I wouldn't get it buzzed, if that's what you're thinking! I mean, it'd be a funny exercize to see how people would react, but I think I'd wake up one day and just want my damn hair back.

I might, however, trim it before it gets much longer than it is. Maybe back to somewhere around shoulder-length?

Simon said...

I hate to say this, but the chances that Ubisoft is listening to you seems low.

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