Rage Against the Machine
Me trying not to talk about hateful DRM when I used to get hit by it is like the Daily Mirror trying not to talk about Diana: It just doesn’t happen. I generally try to keep my anger subdued when I write on here, mainly because it feels like you shouldn’t see me when I’m that riled. But it’s impossible to not get annoyed when you get to the pile of crap that is Games For Windows Live.
Sweet jesus, what a fun weeks it’s been for me. Not only has the snow made it impossible to get to college and prepare for a god awful exam which I’m planning on failing as you read this, the attempts at de-stressing myself were unsuccessful because of that pile of rubbish. As I was revising for a mechanics exam (The maths behind physics basically), Red Faction was my ‘destress’ game, since it had physics in it and so was technically revision. This game of course has GFWL used as part of its DRM (I say part, I have my copy with Steam, but Steam isn’t required, and I haven’t had a Steam issue yet).
I’ve never fully encountered GFWL before in my gaming career, only a brief spell with the DoW2 beta, which I really didn’t participate in much anyway, but a fair few horror stories have reached my ear. Being a fair person though, I refused to hate it on principle. If it works for me, and does it’s job, then it’s a fair cop. I’m not a cruel person, and not a person who complains because everyone else complains like readers of a certain paper (*cough* Daily Mail *cough*. Before this week, I saw no reason to not like it. It kept telling me to update Red Faction using their system, but I could safely ignore it, which I did seeing as my connection’s been rather flaky over the past few weeks, and it never told me what these patches were, and thus I was signed in as offline. It mostly ran in the background, not really doing much, so it was fine. As such, I continued to play, got to just before then end and didn’t notice any significant blocks to my attempts to playing. Until this week.
As stated above, my connection is rather flaky at the moment, as I’m using a wireless card (Yeah yeah, wireless gaming is stupid, blah blah blah), and I keep losing the router signal somehow. This means that I can find it difficult to log into GFWL, and other occasions it times out because the connections slow (See above). On some occasions (Read: All), the signing in just keeps trying until it can actually do it, without a check to see whether there are difficulties or not*. Then you realise how much of the game needs this sign in. Want to load up a save? Want to save a game? GFWL log in please. Volition, would you mind telling me why I need my gamer profile to play a game on my hard drive? I’d understand if my saves are in the cloud, but unless they are, why the hell are you forcing me to?
I wouldn’t be so incensed if it wasn’t so badly designed either. If I don’t install the updates it has, then it says I’ll be signed out of GFWL. But I’m not, I get signed in as offline. It’s similar to if you don’t have a connection when trying to use Steam. It tries for some time, then signs you in as offline. It tells you that you aren’t connected to the Steam servers, and that you have an issue. With GFWL, you only get that if you actually do sign in, and elect to not install an update, and doesn’t tell you it’s got issues. I can’t be the only one that thinks that’s a damn stupid idea can I?
Why can’t I have an offline account straight away if it realises that it can’t log in? Why do I need an online one? I wasn’t told this, I wasn’t aware that I needed GFWL to play this game. An analogy that I always end up using in a DRM debate is that we’re being treated like dolphins who have to jump through hoops to get fish. Why do Volition think it’s a fair practice to force me to have a working connection, even though I’ve got this game legally, and have played it for a while? Something somewhere knows that I’ve bought this game legally, as I’ve linked it to my account. You could just tell the game which account it’s linked to. I dunno, try a triple MD5 hash encryption and spread the characters of that hash in a file in a seemingly random way, so nobody can brute force it easily, and tell the game how to load it up and check.
Let me make this clear: I respect the purpose of DRM. I fully believe that Intellectual Property should, and needs, be protected, and a good DRM will help that. I just don’t want a DRM that makes it impossibly difficult to play a game when I have bought the game. There’s been other things in the past, like DRM that’s destroyed disk drives (Starforce I think). Gamers are right to be cautious of DRM. Gamers also pay attention to the gaming press. As soon as anyone in the press gets hit by DRM, gamers will hear about it, and then the bloodbaths begin. What annoys me the most about DRM is how the one thing it’s supposed to stop becomes the one solution. So many times I’ve had to use a torrent/download to get a crack because the DRM was preventing me play these games. Does that make me a pirate? You tell me. I’ll say it again, I respect that developers need to protect their property. I don’t respect the idea that they see the need protect it so well the legitimate gamers can’t access it.
* Just so you know, I read a book and was waiting for 10 minutes without a log in. This isn’t about it not happening straight away, it’s about the damn thing just not realising there’s an issue and telling me there is, instead of freezing my game. I finished a whole chapter of Bad Science, which I heartily recommend. Ben Goldacre, you now owe me a commision of about 0.01%. Return to reading