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Gaming miscellany

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.

Game producer still blind to the futility of DRM

Square Enix America's Senior Manager of Business and Legal Affairs spoke with TorrentFreak recently, and says "DRM is here to stay". His reasoning makes no sense. For instance, he says that they rely on customer feedback when considering DRM in their products. If that was true, they wouldn't use DRM at all. If he can show me a customer who likes DRM and thinks it's a good thing, I'd be very surprised. Users hate DRM. Period.

Here's an excerpt from Techdirt's analysis of the TorrentFreak interview:

"There may have been a time in the past few years when you'd have sworn DRM was on its way out the digital door. Between free-to-play games, strong consumer feedback, and the overall failure of DRM to actually stop anyone actually interested in pirating games, movies or music, there just didn't seem to be much point any longer. With the advent of new crowdfunding business models, DRM made even less sense. But not only is DRM still around, legacy players using it are actually torpedoing otherwise useful leaps forward in business in story after story. And, despite the fact that some entrenched industry players are wising up to the futile nature of DRM, others are digging in their heels."

Only truly crappy games actually cause aggression

The debate over whether video games cause aggressive behaviour in players has been going on for years. Every time there's a mass killing in the US, someone finds out that the perpetrator played some kind of video game, then the media goes crazy, saying that the video game made them violent.

A recent study has determined that yes, video games do cause aggression in players, but only when the game itself totally sucks. We've all played games that are frustrating: impossible puzzles, impervious bosses, idiotic gameplay, broken game components, and so on. Encountering frustration like that in a game does lead to aggression in players. Well, duh.

EA adds useless modability and 'impossible' Offline mode to SimCity 5

Remember when SimCity 5 came out, and the gaming community uniformly rejected it? The game's problems included the lack of legitimate modding, and no way to play the game offline.

Well, EA has now fixed all those problems. EA has made some changes to SimCity 5 that they hope will boost its sales, but are in fact generating even more scorn. First, they've made modding possible. With caveats. Lots and lots of them. So many, in fact, that the only legitimate mods are changing the surface appearance of buildings. In other words, you can do all the modding you want, as long as it's boring and worthless. Second, despite earlier saying that offline mode is 'impossible', EA is enabling - guess what? - an offline mode for SimCity 5. Amazing that it took them so long, when it took only a week for someone else to do it after the game was released.

Here's a piece of advice, EA: fire all the lawyers and business school grads who run your business, and hire people who understand the software business, and gaming in particular. You are, after all a GAMING company.

Nintendo forces Super Mario Brothers recreation to shut down

A fan of the original Super Mario Brothers game lovingly recreated the entire game in a web-based format. As the owner of the copyright on the Super Mario games, Nintendo chose not to welcome and and embrace this project, and instead threatened its creator with legal action. And so the site, Full Screen Mario, is now offline.

Unfortunately, it seems that Nintendo is one of those companies that can't see past even the very remote possibility of something eating into their profits. They also have a hair trigger for legal solutions, releasing their lawyers at the slightest provocation, when there are always better - and less hostile - solutions. The upshot of all this is only that Nintendo has damaged its own image in the eyes of fans. Way to go, Nintendo!

Witcher 3 to have no DRM despite piracy of previous games

CD Projekt Red, developers of The Witcher and its sequels, have confirmed their stance on piracy and announced that there will be no DRM on the upcoming Witcher 3. The two earlier games in the series were pirated heavily, but CD Projekt realizes that trying to prevent piracy is a waste of time and effort, and they are concentrating on building player goodwill - and a good game.

Eidos: winner of 'most idiotic DRM' award?

In the long, sad history of DRM (aka copy protection), there have been a lot of bad ideas. Eidos may have come up with the worst one yet. Anyone with a 'jail broken' (i.e. arbitrary Apple-imposed restrictions removed) iPhone who legitimately purchases the new Eidos Deus Ex game will find that firearms mysteriously fail to work. There is no warning about this in the game, or during the purchase process. Eidos' motivation for this senseless DRM remains unclear. Possibly Apple is offering monetary rewards to developers who are willing to be Apple police. Regardless, any possible benefit to be gained by Apple and/or Eidos is going to pale in comparison to the backlash. When will they ever learn?

Ubisoft user passwords compromised

I just received the email below from Ubisoft. This is, of course, yet another in the long list of reasons why forcing users to connect to online services to play offline games is idiotic. I'm talking about Ubisoft's UPlay service, which you must use in order to play any newer Ubisoft games. Anyone using this service should change their UPlay password as soon as possible.

We recently found that one of our Web sites was exploited to
gain unauthorized access to some of our online systems. We
instantly took steps to close off this access, investigate the 
incident and begin restoring the integrity of any compromised 

During this process, we learned that data had been illegally 
accessed from our account database, including user names, 
email addresses and encrypted passwords. Please note that 
no personal payment information is stored with Ubisoft, meaning 
your debit/credit card information was safe from this intrusion. 

As a result, we are recommending that you change the 
password for your account: xxxxxxxx 

Out of an abundance of caution, we also recommend that you 
change your password on any other Web site or service where 
you use the same or a similar password.  

We sincerely apologize to all of you for the inconvenience. 
Please rest assured that your security remains our priority. 

The Ubisoft team 

Update: I followed the instructions in the email to change my password. I can log in on the web site, but when I go to the Account settings, it tells me I need to change my password again. I can play Far Cry 3 in Offline mode, but when I try to go online, it tells me my password is wrong. When I enter the new one, it still doesn't work. Way to go, Ubisoft. Looks like UPlay is working out really well for you.

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