Sunday, January 3, 2010

Batman Arkham Asylum, worth playing?

So I was going to take an hour break or so from work and start playing Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC before bed. Came across a few problems that makes me think this game might not have been worth buying at all.

First, I bought this game in a package with a handful of other games, so I never really looked at it's own page on Steam. If I had, I would have noticed that it has an activation limit, a big no-no for me. True, it's limited to 4 machine installs per month--which is a more than reasonable limit that even I probably would never exceed. However, the same problems remain that all games requiring activation have. What happens in 10 years when they no longer support that kind of DRM and don't want to run a server just to activate old games? This is especially a problem if Microsoft is taking care of the verification through their Windows Live service. Microsoft has shown in the past they have no problem abandoning a DRM service, leaving everyone with hard drives full of unplayable mp3s they can no longer transfer to other devices or play on new computers.

That's problem one. Problem two is 'Games for Windows Live' itself. It insists on running during the game. I'm not saying it keeps launching when I don't want it to and I have to close it, I mean I can't save games without a Windows Live account. Guess what Windows Live? I chose Steam. It's nothing personal, but it just makes sense for me to continue to buy all my games through one service. Maybe you offer some kind of saved game syncing. That's nice, but if that's a service you offer the convenience is completely offset by requiring me to give you my information and register an account to save a game at all.

So by this point I've already waited 6 hours give or take for the game itself to download. That's fine, I'm used to it, and it's far better than it used to be before I had reliable broadband. But I only have an hour to play around, and now that time is spent waiting for Windows Live to install. Then the game finally launches and tells me I have to have a Windows Live account to save games. I set that up, then am told that Windows Live has to update and I can't be 'online' until I update, so I assume I can't save games until then either. So while it's updating I'm writing this. It doesn't matter how long it takes for the update to finish, play time is already pretty much over.

If I did some research on Arkham Asylum's DRM, then maybe I could have made a more informed decision and chosen instead to play a game that doesn't want to take a shit all over my computer. That would be one of, oh, say any of the thousands of games that don't make me register online--with a distribution service other than the one I bought the game from--in order to actually save my place in the game. Not to play online, not to download a patch or some DLC, but to actually save a game on my own PC, folks. In that hypothetical scenario I wouldn't have bought 'Arkham Asylum' at all, nor would I be writing this. I'd simply be playing another game right now. Of course, then you wouldn't be reading this and I wouldn't be watching some shitty programs take a shit (once again) all over my computer.

PC gaming has so many benefits over console gaming, but all this DRM and Windows Live elbowing in is slowly killing it. How many hoops do you have to jump through to play a console game? Maybe 1 in 10 games makes you actually wait while it installs things, most games I've played does it all on the fly. On top of that you can loan, sell or give used console games at your discretion. No mess, no hassle, you just physically hand the disc to someone else.

You have to register an account on your console to download updates or do anything else online, but that registration is a one time thing. Sure, it's a one time thing on Windows Live, but I don't want to be a member of Windows Live, nor do I want it to for some reason be the middleman between me and me saved games. Nor do I want it running on my computer at all. If I had some love for Windows Live, perhaps I would have bought an Xbox, instead of a PS3, or perhaps I'd be buying games through Games for Windows Live right now instead of Steam.

I don't want to give more money or information to Microsoft, the company that wants games on it's platform to charge for DLC so they can take a piece. I want to give more money to Valve, the company that is still actively updating the three-year-old Team Fortress 2 and not charging a dime more than what I paid for it years ago.

I know I said it wasn't personal and it wasn't, until Windows Live designed--or agreed to implement--a system in which I have to register a game online to save a game on my own computer (or even worse, maybe the games aren't being saved on my computer at all and I can't even play the game offline). I wish this game weren't even sold on Steam. I wish at the very least there were a warning on Steam's page somewhere divulging that in order to play this game you have to get an account with a competing game distribution system. Also, said system will be running in the background, making plenty of those retarded sound effects that Microsoft loves so much.

I am so frustrated right now. I just wanted to play a fucking video game. We slowly get more and more used to DRM, and I am very happy with the simple and reasonable DRM Steam has. You can install a game on any PC, but you can only play it on the PC you're currently logged in on. Since you can't reasonably be playing a game on more than one PC at once, it's perfect.

Some software companies still insist on using more strict forms of DRM along with Steam's, such as SecuRom. SecuRom brings with it (occasional) activation limits and hooks that prevent you from running certain administrative tools on your computer while a game is playing. Simultaneously every game ever with the tiniest bit of hype surrounding it has been available online for free from some piracy website without a single byte of DRM attached, generally days or weeks before the game's official release. I am not a pirate, nor am I advocating piracy. Look at the long list of games I own on Steam, for fuck's sake. The point is, as millions of reasonable people have said millions of times before this, such DRM doesn't stop piracy, it doesn't slow piracy, it doesn't even prevent pirates from playing on a company's official multiplayer servers. All it does is give those who actually paid for your game shittier service. That's it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go finish my bottle, get my diaper changed and tuck myself into bed,


1 comment:

  1. I downloaded Batman: AA from Steam and with some tweaking I was able to run it on my dual booted Mac but because of Live it was a complete waste of money. When signing into my live account it crashes windows into the blue screen. There is no way to save my game. Without live the game runs smoothly, no issues at all. Once I sign into live it crashes everything and forces me to reboot. I'm not sure what's causing it but I find it insane I can't play a damned offline game I bought because of microsoft pulling some ridiculously obnoxious shit. -Justin