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Friday, February 23 2018 @ 12:23 AM -08

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.

'Gears Of War' Designer: Used Games Must Be Killed So Unsustainable Development Can Live

Over at Techdirt, Tim Cushing has an excellent rebuttal to Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski's clueless rant against the used games market.

If the game business is really being hurt by used game sales, why is that the customer's fault? If it's getting too expensive to make games, find ways to reduce costs or increase profits that don't make enemies of your customers. Here's a hint: try lowering prices.

Ubisoft's uPlay DRM hacked - easily

In the ongoing comedy that is Ubisoft's utterly pointless attempt to protect its games from 'piracy' (free promotion), the latest news is that Ubisoft's uPlay DRM has been hacked. And apparently it was trivially simple. As a bonus that is sure to add to Ubisoft's enemy list, the hack uses uPlay to provide DRM-free access not only to Ubisoft games, but also to games from other companies. Hilarious.

EA sucking more every day

I posted about EA's Origin service when they first announced it. At the time, the big concern with the service was that running it would effectively allow EA to access your computer and do whatever they want with whatever they find there.

Now comes a report that running Origin exposes your PC to being hacked remotely. Thankfully, it's easy to avoid this problem: don't buy EA games. Or, if you simply must run some EA game, don't ever leave Origin running.

DRM in SimCity 3: EPIC failure

When EA announced that their new version of SimCity would require an always-on Internet connection, the response from the Internet was practically audible. Why should a single-player game be required to connect to the Internet? You may have guessed the answer: greed.

Yes, game producers have been salivating at the big profits and piracy-proof models of successful online games like World of Warcraft, and are now busily adding phony and/or worthless online-only features to even single player games. In response to the uproar, EA claimed that the game couldn't be played without a connection to their servers, since a lot of the game processing would be done there. They also played up the 'social' aspect of the game - essentially tacked-on multi-player features that don't really add much to the game. They claimed it would be impossible to make the game work without a connection to their servers.

And then the game launched. EA's servers promptly fell over, and haven't gotten back up since. The uproar increased markedly. Many players are only able to play about 10% of the time. When they can play, gameplay is often extremely sluggish. Refunds are being demanded. Reviews are scathing; there were so many terrible reviews for the download-only version on Amazon, that the retailer pulled the game from its web store.

Here's a random selection of posts on this debacle from around the web:

Update #1: SimCity modder proves that the game can run indefinitely without being connected to EA Servers.

Update #2: EA Admits SimCity Could Have Run Offline. So now EA is back-pedaling like crazy, although they will never, ever admit that the real reason for the single-player Internet connection requirement was DRM (copy protection). Meanwhile, hobby hackers are engaged in a worldwide race to produce a fully-functional, single-player, no-Internet-required, cracked version of the game. These people love a challenge. Still think it was a good idea, EA?