Daily Archives: January 28, 2010

Beware the fury of an impatient man

I’m quite cross. About DRM. Which makes me even crosser, because I don’t want to be some ranting demagogue who goes around giving 1 star to Spore on Amazon. I’ve briefly outlined my DRM agnosticism before, obviously no DRM scheme is totally effective, but maybe they put a few people off, so long as I can get on and play the game I’ll overlook a few hoops which is all that’s necessary for evil (and/or DRM) to triumph. Well finally I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more.

Ubisoft have a new “Online Services Platform”. It’s an “added value platform“. And you’ll have to be permanently connected to the internet to play any game on it. Not just a bit of a check on startup:

What will happen if I lose my Internet connection when I play the game?
If you lose your Internet connection the game will pause while it tries to reconnect. If the Internet Connection is unable to resume you can continue the game from where you left off or from the last saved game.

Not to mention:

Can I resell my game?
Not at this time.

“Not at this time”? Being the system is only being rolled out in future titles, obviously you can’t resell them “at this time” because you can’t buy them in the first place. Also mysteriously absent from the Q&A list are more pertinent questions, like “You know it’s still going to get cracked in a couple of days, tops, right?” and “Are you fucking kidding?”

You might point out it’s not so different to a MMOG, you have to be connected to a server for those all the time, what’s the big deal? Two things: there’s a *good* reason you’re connecting to a server for a MMOG, like, all those other players, and if there’s a problem with an internet connection that’s the time I’d most like my other, single player games to be available. RPS links to a GameSpy piece that includes the line “While it’s hard to conceive of PC gamers being stranded without an Internet connection, those situations do come up, particularly when traveling.” Well it’s not *that* hard to conceive, is it, you managed an example right there. Tell you what, another example, just off the top of my head y’know, maybe your phone line goes down for a couple of weeks? Too crazy?

The only way this makes sense is if other companies have banded together and written Ubisoft a huge cheque to be sacrificial lambs, deliberate putting out the most blitheringly stupid DRM system they can think of on PC games they don’t give a stuff about so other companies suddenly don’t seem as bad. “Launch day DLC via in-box codes that can be redeemed once, so if you sell the game on the new owner has to shell out if they want that same content? Seems like a little bit of an underhanded way of making the second hand games market less attractive. Still, it’s no Ubisoft.” Any slight foibles Steam might have pale in comparison to a shade so light even Procol Harum are unable to suggest anything whiter, and that’s before it offers Psychonauts for £1.

If the Ubisoft Bloody Stupid Platform offers games for a quid, we can talk, until then I’m officially boycotting anything that includes it. That was going to be a bit of an ironic boycott, as a cursory glance at their upcoming games list didn’t reveal anything I’d been particularly planning to get anyway, but after clicking on a couple of titles to double check R.U.S.E. started actually looking quite interesting. It’d slipped under my radar ’til then, somewhat fittingly for a game about deception and concealment, so I now find myself in the slightly confusing situation of being interested in a game only because I’ve decided to boycott it (assuming it requires the permanent connection). Still, makes the stand vaguely meaningful, I suppose. Ooh, I feel like an activist now, someone get me a placard. “DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING!”

Sound trumpets! Let our bloody colours wave!

A mode of co-operative play that is becoming a standard feature in FPS games these days is one where your group have to fight off wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. Gears of War 2 has Horde mode, Halo ODST has Firefight.

LotRO’s Skirmishes have a similar sort of feature but it’s not quite what I’m after: it’s a fixed number of waves, and the waves of mobs don’t get progressively more difficult as such, they simply have a random chance to have a lieutenant spawn with each wave, with the final wave spawning a boss mob. I can’t think of a comparable example in any of the other MMOs that I play, let me know if there are any examples that you are aware of.

I think this could be quite a fun mode of play in MMOs. A party of up to five players spawn at a point which they have to defend; increasingly more difficult waves of mobs attack, with short breaks between each major wave allowing the players to regenerate some health and mana (standard potions and food wouldn’t work in this game mode, but there would be potion and food equivalent items placed at strategic locations around the map that players could gather, if they wish to risk leaving the safety of their defended position). A timer begins its count at the start of the game and the longer a group of players manages to stay alive the greater their reward; once all players are dead they are returned to the exit point where a chest with the loot they earned based upon their survival time awaits them.

Thinking in terms of World of Warcraft – in order to avoid the standard AoE-spam tank’n’spank that exists in the game at the moment for most five man dungeons, it might be that the non-elite mobs in a wave can be controlled with taunts and standard aggro generating techniques, but that lieutenants and above are immune to such, they can however, be restrained with various crowd control abilities (this is based upon an idea that tigerears mentioned recently when we were discussing tweaking the existing five-man dungeon content to remove some of the AoE spam, Rohan recently touched on the same idea too).

There are all sorts of other game elements that could be incorporated: turrets that can be used to thin out the waves of mobs as they approach the defended position, for example; objectives around the map that give powerful buffs and other effects, but which require a significant amount of risk and skill in getting to (and back from) them.

Do you have a non-dungeon-crawl mode of game-play that you’d like to see in an MMO?