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Gaming miscellany

'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?

Battlefield 2 for five bucks

EA is offering most of the Battlefield games at greatly reduced prices on the Origin site until February 27, 2013. That includes the Battlefield 2 Complete Collection for $5. Anyone who doesn't already have it and wants to play on the TPU BF2 server should grab it fast.

I was tempted to buy Battlefield 3 for $10, but then I remembered that Battlefield 3 sucks. Also, you can't run the game without using EA's crappy Origin service.

Patch for Battlefield 1942 reduces problems in Windows 7

I recently upgraded my main gaming PC from Windows XP to Windows 7. So far I've had very few issues with games, but Battlefield 1942 was a problem. Running it normally, the game would crash on startup about half the time. Then when it started okay, it would crash between maps about 75% of the time. I tried enabling the various Windows compatibility modes, and that definitely reduced the number of crashes, but at a terrible cost: after a few minutes of play, the framerate would drop to the point where the game was unplayable, and the audio started to sound weird.

A bit of research led me to a fix provided by Grabbi on (the awesome) bfmods.com. The fix consists of a small file containing application compatibility settings specific to the main Battlefield 1942 executable, BF1942.EXE. Once installed, these compatibility tweaks adjust the way Windows runs BF42, and the result is far fewer crashes and smooth gameplay.

I've posted the fix in the "Files and links" section of this site, but here's a shortcut: http://jrc-core.com/files/BF1942-vista-win7-fix.rar

Company of Heroes: support request

I just submitted this Company of Heroes support request to THQ support: "Every time I go back to this game, it's the same thing: I can't run it without logging in, I can't log in without patching first, the patch installs but doesn't appear to do anything, I download the patch outside the game and install it, I try to log in but my previously-working username and password are rejected, and both the Register and Forgot Password buttons are grayed out. Every time this happens, I waste literally hours trying to figure out what the %#&@ is going on, and end up wiping the game and reinstalling. Please note: your efforts at copy protection (the clear source of all these issues) only serve to frustrate and annoy paying customers. Pirates don't care and are not affected. No amount of money you might conceivably have saved by (supposedly) thwarting pirates is vastly outweighed by lost sales due to customer anger. Please stop it. All you are doing is forcing legitimate customers to find pirated versions that don't require all of this crap. STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Meanwhile, what do you suggest, short of a total reinstall (he asked, knowing full well that you won't be able to help)?"

Will they even respond? I doubt it. Even if they do, they won't be even slightly helpful. I'll report anything they do say here.

Update 2013Jan29: They never responded. Instead, they went bankrupt.

Update 2013Mar06: I finally got this response:

We are emailing to notify you that THQ is no longer able to offer support for Relic owned titles. All support for this titles will be through Sega. If you have an open ticket with THQ, Sega will be receiving your specific ticket to continue support. Thank you for your patience and support over the years. THQ Customer Support

Has Ubisoft seen the light?

Apparently, Ubisoft has dropped the always-connected requirement for its future PC games. It's difficult to be certain of the motive for this welcome change, but the recent public backlash against the UPlay DRM probably had something to do with it.

Whether this is an attempt to stem the tide of negative publicity, or a genuine rethinking of DRM policies, remains to be seen, but the full Sep 5 RPS interview with Ubisoft execs seems to show that opinions are divided. In any case, it is encouraging to hear that at least some of Ubisoft's management has finally realized that DRM is ineffective at preventing piracy, and only serves to annoy paying customers.

Ubisoft's idiocy persists

I'm starting to lose track of all the boneheaded blunders coming from Ubisoft.

The latest fiasco? Apparently their pointless DRM software - aka UPlay - includes a security hole so huge that it must be some kind of record. With this software installed on your Windows PC (required if you want to play any of their more recent games), your computer is wide open to attacks from any web site. No special hacking skills required. Immediate and complete access to your computer.

Luckily for Ubisoft, this particular hole was easy to fix, and they issued a patch right away. Of course, you have to install the patch to fix the hole. But there's a larger issue: if Ubisoft feels it necessary to force you to install their DRM crapware, they should really hire competent programmers. Who knows how many other holes exist in this software? I'll bet the black hat hackers are looking at the UPlay code right now, rubbing their hands together gleefully.

Anyone who's been reading this site for a while may remember that I previously recommended boycotting Ubisoft games for the PC. Needless to say, that recommendation has not changed.

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