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Friday, August 17 2018 @ 10:48 AM -08

DRM continues to plague paying customers

Microsoft has always had a great attitude about backward compatibility. They know people are more likely to upgrade to a newer version of Windows if they can still run their old software, especially games. Contrast that to Apple's attitude.

Anyway, there's bad news for anyone wants to run (or is already running) certain older games on Windows Vista, XP, 7, 8 and 10. A recent Windows security update effectively disabled the (already much-reviled) Safedisc DRM software.

Anyone who wants to run the affected games (which include Battlefield 1942) can try a clunky workaround provided by Microsoft, or they can look for a 'no-CD' patch from one of the game copying sites on the web. If you choose to do the latter, be very careful, because some of those sites and the files they host are loaded with malware.

Nintendo reminds us that it still hates its biggest fans

Nintendo continues its bullying ways. Their latest move? Taking down fan-made YouTube videos that were created using unofficial tools. Keep in mind that the only reason those unofficial tools were used in the first place was that Nintendo was slow to provide anything official. Will somone please replace the corporate drones in charge of Nintendo with someone who actually plays and enjoys computer games?

Console games moving away from split-screen multiplayer

A recent post on The Verge reports that game developers are increasingly less likely to include split-screen multiplayer in their games. According to the article, the main reason for this is that split-screen gaming doubles the hardware resource requirements of a game.

In fact, while the hardware resources required for split-screen are greater, the difference is usually not that large. That's because a lot of the work being done by the console only needs to be done once, not multiple times. Of course, this depends on the quality of the programmers and the development process used. If split-screen is added to a game as an afterthought, it's likely to be much less efficient.

But the real reason game producers are moving away from split-screen is pressure from management, which sees split-screen gaming as lost revenue. If I can go to my friend's house and play a split-screen game with him, that's one less game sold. Game producers would much rather force us to each buy a copy of the game and play on two separate consoles. The extra expense involved (multiple copies of a game, multiple consoles, multiple online gaming subscriptions) is great for game producers, but a crappy deal for people who just want to play games with their friends.

In any case, this trend is certainly sad. As noted in the Verge article, some of the best gaming experiences come from playing alongside friends in the same game, while sitting next to each other on the couch. It's a much more social experience than online gaming.

Of course, some games will always include the ability to play with and against friends on one screen. Many sports games, like EA Sports' NHL Hockey series, have always allowed this kind of play, and they typically do it without even needing a split screen. This no doubt contributes to the long-term success of such games.

Game developer CD Projekt Red shows the way

Proponents of DRM and other consumer-hostile copy protection technologies often argue that without this technology, software developers would never make any money. This is demonstrably false. In fact, DRM is - and has always been - about trying to squeeze every last penny of profit from a piece of software, regardless of the consequences. The net effects include software incompatibilities, technical support issues, angry customers, bad press, and (guess what?) lost sales.

Happily, a few game developers are starting to realize that DRM, and the attitudes associated with it, are pointless. Leading the anti-DRM charge is Witcher developer CD Projekt Red. These good people recently released Witcher 3, which has no DRM or copy protection of any kind.

And the result? Witcher 3 is setting sales records, and making a ton of money for CD Projekt Red. But why would people pay for the game when they can easily pirate it? Because most people want to support good work, and are willing to pay for it.

Another game developer screws its biggest fans

UPDATE 2015Jan31: After I originally posted this, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought the game. Wow. It's terrific. I particularly enjoy the 'solo' mode, where you're playing in the same universe as everyone else, but you never encounter other human players, only NPCs. Given the data storage requirements for a fully-populated Milky Way galaxy, the dynamic nature of the universe, and the fact that I can play without ever having to deal with griefers, I can totally live with the lack of an offline mode. It's a huge contrast with that griefer heaven, EVE Online. It's fun to see how EVE expats want desperately to play E:D, but are then turned off because they can't pick on less experienced players.

Say you're a game developer, and you need money. Step 1: promise your new game will have features people really want, like offline play. Step 2: rake in the dough via Kickstarter. Step 3: announce that the game won't have offline play after all. Step 4: refuse to give refunds to anyone who contributed money and actually played the early demo version. Step 5: face the wrath of gamers and the ridicule of the Internet.

This is exactly what David Braben did with the upcoming Elite:Dangerous. If this scenario sounds familiar, it's probably because EA did something very similar with SimCity 5. Except that EA never promised offline play or took money from people before disappointing them. They just said offline play wasn't possible, when in fact it was, and forcing online play was only done to prevent unauthorized copying (DRM).

What Braben has done is much worse. Why would anyone trust him or his projects in the future?

Nintendo bricks Wii U consoles

It looks like the geniuses at Nintendo haven't learned anything, and are continuing to act like that console you purchased isn't actually yours. Nintendo recently changed the Terms of Service on its Wii U consoles, which in itself isn't a big deal, but in this case, choosing to disagree with the new ToS will cause your console to stop working. Exactly what Nintendo hopes to accomplish with this idiotic move is a mystery.

Microsoft to buy Mojang?

According to rumour, Microsoft is planning to buy Mojang, the company that develops Minecraft. This would be kind of weird, since Markus "Notch" Persson - the creator of Minecraft - has been a vocal critic of Microsoft in the past. If the rumours are true, one wonders how long it will take Microsoft to mess up Minecraft.

Update 2014Sep15: It's confirmed. Microsoft is buying Mojang:

Konami screws its biggest fans

By now most avid gamers are well aware of the attitudes of game producers towards anyone who dares to create work based on commercial games. Even if there's never any intention to make money from artwork, mods, game conversions, platform migrations, graphics updates, or any of the other millions of ways a game can be celebrated by its biggest fans, the lawyers almost inevitably step in and shut it all down.

But perhaps the worst case scenario for these hard-working and dedicated fans is when they have what appears to be approval from the game producer, only to have that approval pulled after a ton of work has already been completed. That's what happened to the people migrating the 1987 NES game Metal Gear to the Steam platform.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about these ridiculous take-downs is that the work being done by these fans is essentially free promotion for the original game and the company that produced it. The kind of thing big game companies pay other big (advertising) companies to do on a regular basis. Maybe this is part of the copyright mindset, in which if something is 'free' it should be regarded with suspicion. What a waste.

Don't buy Battlefield Hardline until it's been patched

The Daily Dot has an interesting post about the Battlefield series, and how it's been plagued with problems in recent years. They recommend NOT buying the upcoming Battlefield Hardline until it's been out for a while and patched, because it's almost certain to have lots of problems.

Personally, aside from the Bad Company games, I've had no interest in any Battlefield games since BF2. Almost everything that made the earlier games great is missing from the newer games.