Weekend Short-Takes: 9/7/12

Ubisoft drops DRM from PC games despite soaring piracy rates

Simon:

Hot off the news a couple weeks ago that Ubisoft PC games were pirated up to 95% of the time, they reveal that they in fact have dropped their DRM scheme all together. The scheme required players to be connected to the internet, and only gave them a certain number of activations per game. But off our Com-cast discussion that extensive procedures like those above only punish legitimate buyers, they might win a handful of gamers over. I say this because cracking the security measures is easy enough for experienced hackers, so increased ease of piracy isn’t necessarily going to be a huge boost to the pirated percentage.

John Fenix:

As the old saying goes, once you have what you want, you won’t go after it anymore. I am not sure if that will work in this situation, but just like another saying goes, only time will tell.  

Alex:

In a time when some developers are turning away from traditional gamers/gaming I was rather surprised to see this news out of Ubisoft. While they have had some of the worst DRM on any games (always on internet requirement, limited installs, etc) the fact that they have secretly been trusting their customers is both a rather amazing and a welcome fact. Removing this barrier to using the content they provide means people can consume it in a much easier, more enjoyable way. Hopefully people repay this trust, something that the 90%+ piracy percentage would suggest is not being done now.

Photo Credit: gamerlimit.com, scenicreflections.com

Valve says it's jumping into the computer hardware business

Simon:

Looks like Gabe Newell’s trying to put some bite behind his bark, especially in terms of calling Windows 8 a catastrophe for developers used to the more open model in the past. We’ve also heard that they’ve prioritized Linux, so it’ll be interesting to see if that’s the software foundation of this new hardware. They say they’re genuinely frustrated, and might even look to fundamentally changing the concept of the mouse and keyboard. My question is: will they make two versions and then stop?

John Fenix:

Oh, Valve and your crazy, yet wonderful shenanigans. To me, the most interesting is changing the way of basic input. In some cases, people have been really apprehensive to change. Then again, when Apple release the first iPod, then the iPhone and iOS devices, people fell in love with it, the key being that they were very easy to navigate and control. What kind of “innovations” Gabe Newell speaks of will be interesting to see, which makes one wonder just how mind-blowingly amazing Half-Life 3 is going be when it comes out on this thing.

Alex:

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and if the morass in the computer development world is as bad as Gabe Newell says then innovation is indeed necessary. However, I wonder if his claims are not somewhat overblown. In regards to his claims the mouse and keyboard “haven't really changed much in any meaningful way over the years,” My question is besides making a mouse a bit more responsive, cramming a few more buttons on it, or making a keyboard more ergonomic, what else is there to do? The format has worked well for the last 20-odd years in its current format and though I’d be curious to see what they come up with, I wonder if this will result in anything truly meaningful.

Photo Credit: geeky-gadgets.com

Assassin's Creed 3: "Our challenge was, 'reinvent everything'"

Simon:

Ok, so the headline is a bit misleading from the aspect I want to draw attention to, but follow me on this one. The important bit comes from AC3’s lead design director saying that these kinds of enormous collaborative projects, more commonly referred to as “AAA titles”, are drawing to a close, in favor of smaller, newer projects. I think that this is a very good idea, because it leads to more agile and more creative titles, sweeping out bureaucracy like Call of Duty has generated. However, when one of these catches on, then will there be infrastructure or a willingness to pursue that venture further? Like, perhaps, the original Assassin’s Creed?

John Fenix:

Looking at the success of games and mods like Minecraft and Day-Z, smaller and smaller games are getting much more common as large-scale productions are waning. This is not a bad thing. I rather have small, creative, and innovative games, than the same generic “big-title” game any day. Yet, one must look at the other side of the coin. Not every great small game will get the spotlight it deserves. Those that do may become the next “big-title” series the rest of us dread. It’s an ongoing situation that we can’t understand fully because it’s happening now. We will have to wait and see. 

Alex:

Assassin’s Creed 2 was a massive game with a massive scope. It had incredibly accurate recreations of major Renaissance Italian towns as well as a vast countryside. Yet Assassin’s Creed 3 will be even bigger. Seeing the scale of the project, from the first Assassin’s Creed to the last, it is nice and to see the innovation that this series has shown (starting off as just running, jumping, climbing stabby stabby to much more than that.) This approach, genuinely unique IP that starts off with a solid, tight base and expands from there is increasingly rare in this age of yearly updates and no new IPs. So when they claim they will reinvent everything for the next game, the fact that their sense of innovation has not been lost gives me hope that maybe major studios can continue to innovate. 

Photo Credit: edge-online.com

EA Turns Its Back on Single-Player Games

Simon:

Another slightly misleading headline here, but the actual initiative in the proper context makes more sense. They want more cloud connected services for their best franchises like Mass Effect and FIFA, in addition to focusing on development for multiplayer components of games. My problem is: how does the defocus on single-player affect games such as Mass Effect or Dead Space? We’re already seeing the creation and rollout of multiplayer aspects for both of these games, but at their core, they are still very story and narrative based games. When you turn away from that core, you lose something very fundamental.

John Fenix:

As someone who enjoys games that have a good single-player component but are more playable and enjoyable in multiplayer like Halo and to a certain extent, Minecraft (on the record, I preferred the WWII Call of Duty games), I understand the need for having multiplayer be an important part of the game design, the main one being replayability. Yet, I am also a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, a narrative-heavy singleplayer game like Mass Effect and Dead Space. I have played Brotherhood and Revelations, both of which have multiplayer aspects to them, and I barely touched that part. My point is that it’s not a bad thing. Look at the Halo community and what they’ve come up with. Yet, as new IP come along, will single player story driven games be able to have that certain depth we enjoy with a burden of multiplayer? Maybe these games can bring a story that encourages multiplayer like Left 4 Dead or Portal 2. Yet at some point, that can become too impractical. It’s why I avoid MMOs. Where is that fine line between creating a cooperative narrative without forcing them to think they would be better off on their own?

Alex:

While it is unfortunate that we see less and less developers focusing on single player games these days, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. As per our ongoing dialogue of mobile gaming vs. “traditional” gaming, the market continues to shift towards easier to make, easier to consume mobile games, many of which have some sort of community or multiplayer aspect. This shift could potentially create some quite fun multiplayer experiences, but I can’t really say I’d be willing to sacrifice a quality single player experience for more multiplayer ideas.

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