Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Steam as DRM sucks, in my opinion

Last week I tried to play several different games and had a couple of disappointments. I finally tried installing Sin Episodes 1 on my computer and found out soon after that my physical copy is as good as shit. It uses Steam as copy protection which means that the game can only be played by the first person to register it on his or her Steam account, which in this case wasn't me. That person who sold away the physical copy of the game lost nothing since Valve actually supports making safety copies of their games for players' own use instead of doing what every other company does which is preventing the copying of games in general. So the only idiot who got tricked here was me.
My only two good reasons for Steam.
Unfortunately for Relic and Valve, I only pretend
to be a sad enough person to buy games for breasts.
I'm more of an assman, really.

People who use Steam to buy their games often wonder what exactly it is that others find so wrong with how Steam works. Now I'm not saying that Steam is the antichrist of gaming and should be terminated, I can admit that it is a great service for people who play a lot of different games but don't want to collect them or go out to actually buy them, but there's no denying that Valve is only looking to rack up as much money as they can, with "customer satisfaction" being somewhere on the very bottom of their priority list. Gamer's are clearly just cash-cows to them, just look at the extra content people are expected to pay for, and especially the pricess they are expected to pay for them, on Team Fortress 2

Anyway, companies making profit isn't at all what I'm against. If somebody pays large sums for content I wouldn't download for free, that's their business and as long as they're happy, and Valve is happy, I'm happy. In fact, even if they're all unhappy, I'm happy. What I AM against, however, is using Steam as copy-protection.
If you have half a brain you can paint the horrific visions of the future on the walls yourself, but if you don't happen to see where this eventually leads, here's what I've figured will happen if Steam, as it is now, becomes an even bigger factor in gaming:
  • No more rentals. Since a copy of a game will be permanently locked to one person's account, renting of games becomes impossible. So no more weekend rentals to see what all the fuss with some games is about, either you buy it or forget it (although an admittedly ingenious idea of making rentals work would be to copy the method of 30 day trials of PC software, but do it with full games and make people pay for the "trial")
  • No more trading away older games to fund the purchase of new games. I dare to make the bold claim that majority of those who continuously buy new games at full price cover part of the cost of their newer purchases by selling away the games they're done with. When you can't get rid of older games, the basically useless physical copies begin to pile up in the closet and you spend even more money on games than ever before
  • No more borrowing games from or trading games with friends. When I was a kid, which wasn't such  a long time a go in my mind, trading and borrowing stuff between friends was a big thing. We traded toys and VHS tapes of movies, but borrowing and trading video games is what really connected me with kids my age up until my late teens. First I borrowed Altered Beast and Galahad for Sega Mega Drive, later when Sega died I got Ape Escape and Bomberman Wold for PlayStation from my friends, and even later still I continued borrowing PlayStation 2 games like Ratchet & Clank to and from people in the neighbourhood, which stopped them from being mean to me and making me cry. Video games brought the young ones of this neighbourhood of 25 000 people together, but somehow I feel like these days video games only pull people apart... Only way to borrow games with Steam would be if your friend trusts you enough to allow access to their Steam account, but I believe sharing Steam accounts with people is a serious TOS violation  and you'd lose ALL Steam games you have ever bought in an instant.
  • You're permanently dependant on your Steam account and Valve's kindness (and existence). A little error somewhere and you might lose your entire "collection" of games, and with time, if this "Big Brother" of gaming becomes any more powerful, what prevents them from "tightening the rules" and milking you for a little bit more? Monthly fees for singleplayer only games, or monthly subscription fees to sustain the account? Sounds ridiculously evil and in it's deviousness unplausible NOW, but it's not at all impossible in the grim future my awfully cynical eyes see.
"Let off some Steam, Bennett."
I loved this film when I was a kid, and I still find it funny.

Now if you're a PS3 gamer and don't give a shit about the problems of PC gamers thinking that you're not affected by any of this, do consider the fact that Steam is coming to PlayStation 3. It's already obvious that companies expect every person to have Internet connection and that already sucks, especially here where I live now that some banks are forcing people to do all of their transactions online and actually charge hefty sums if you dare to even enter the bank, and with Internet connection being such a "necessity" is there really any reason why PlayStation 3 games wouldn't end up using Steam as a method of copy-protection as well? Then, when PS4 or whatever the next big console you intend to buy is is released, you can't just sell away your old PS3 and your library of PS3 games as they're useless without your account that you are not allowed to sell.

Valve and any other companies that push this sort of online activation of games claim that this is just their way of fighting piracy and that their intentions are honest, and I have nothing against companies protecting their assets, but the claim that their main goal with online actviation was anything but to get more money out of the people who already buy their games legitimately is bullshit. Search the Internet a little bit, look for any information on how much trouble this type of DRM causes for pirates, and come tell me Steam has had any real impact on games that require a registration with a Steam account. Only reason why games like CivV, TF2, L4D and L4D2 may have been pirated less is the fact that barely anyone plays those for the singleplayer experience, especially not TF2 for the obvious reasons, and for the online multiplayer you need Steam accounts.
Steam games aren't uncrackable so piracy lives on, and the only people who will suffer from all this in the long run are people who buy their games legitimately, as has been the case with all types of copy-protection throughout the history of video games (apart from the PAL release of Spyro 3, the best copy-protection in history). Right now, though, the people who suffer the most are people like me who, as buzzards prey on good offers at game stores, waiting for some soccer mom to bring in ages old games from her son's closet, ready to pounce at the sight of any good titles and buy all the classics with their pocket lint. I honestly don't know if that's morally wrong, to buy used games, DVDs, VHS tapes, books or music CDs, or any type of art previously owned by a private person in general, but I have a feeling that most consumers of the world would say it isn't.
I'm not insinuating anything.
Valve, and possibly many other companies like it believe in their greed that by removing people's ability to acquire games used will result in everyone buying their products at full price, but that's a logic error. Indeed the people who normally buy their games used would be divided into people who begin to buy games new and people who stop buying any games that demand a Steam account, but my guess is that less people would start buyng Valve games new than what Valve is optimistically hoping for. I really can't say that if Steam registrations of games become more prevalent in gaming and the avenues of trading games between consumers narrows that I would stop playing video games altogether, because that would be too thick of a dookie to even flush, but I am first and foremost a collector of video games. I don't buy weekend titles and I don't pay for something I can't place on my shelf. As long as possible I will devote my time and money on acquiring games that DON'T require Steam to be played, and with more than two decades of video games (that I'm interested in) I have enough existing titles to search through already. I don't need Steam to make my life more complicated.

As usual I could go on and on about this, but considering that I didn't originally mean to even mention Steam in this particular blog post, as hard to believe as that may be, I'll move on to rest of my week of video games after a final reminder to you all: Steam isn't pure evil and shouldn't be gotten rid of and if someone finds it to be the best service ever then that's good, but I just wish that none of you ever forget to never let any company to get too big or allow them to control the market and especially consumers however they want. Even if it's a company you like, if it gets too big and poncy and their policies change, you'll just end up royally fucked. It's easier and safer to prevent things from changing too fast than to revert back to the old ways after change has taken place, so keep an eye for any chances to say NO! when companies try to milk you dry and do raise your voice when appropriate and at all possible.

Anyway, back on the original and now lost track, after Sin Episodes Emergence, or my personal lack of it rather, was such a disappointment I tried installing XIII for PC. After about 45 minutes I finally got my PC to even read the disc, and after another 15 minutes I had the game installed. Sadly it took only 10 minutes of gameplay to find out that it doesn't work. I suppose it's incompatible with Vista or something. The game does run, and runs fine too, but enemies act really weird, I can't sometimes get past simple events like the walk with the lifeguard at the very beginning as she just stands in place, I hear sounds or get hurt a minute late, and without frames dropping or anything else in the game changing my character switches speeds from too fast to too slow. Changing settings, running the game in compatibility mode and changing the affinity to run it on one core all yield the same crap results. Shame, too, because the game looks really interesting and I dig the art style.

Fantastic Dizzy ends like all great stories should:
with the smaller hairier testicle next to the bigger, smoother one.
Seriously, I like the game, it's just really weird.
I have also tried to continuously play Rogue Ops since I honestly would like to shout an angry review of it over some footage and upload it somewhere, but I haven't made much progress. The game isn't difficult, far from it, it's just so damn booooooring. Every 4 minutes or so  I feel like getting up to check the email or go eat a sandwich and when I do get up I end up leaving the game paused for hours and just forget about it. It's not even so bad it's funny, it's just so bad it makes me feel stupid for playing. I know I'm stupid, I just don't like to feel like it. I hope that if I do write a blog post or even record a video review of it someday that I can still remember all the jokes I've made of it when I was still young, though I think it'll be my grandson who finally beats it at this rate (I started playing it about three weeks ago, and to put things into perspective the first two levels take like ten minutes each to finish).
I've mostly just played Sega games instead of Rogue Ops, trying to get as far in one run as possible in games I never beat as kid. Comix Zone seems a lot easier now than it did when I was a kid, but the two roms I have crap out at the end of the fourth page and the screen turns into pixelated vomit and Nickelodeon gack that moves. However, I have rediscovered the fun of Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master. I sucked so much when I was a kid that I only got to stage 3 of Revenge of Shinobi where the soldiers appear once, but now, without past experience I've gotten much further in one run.
I also found out that for some reason I have a rom of Fantastic Dizzy on my external harddrive, and I played it all day last Saturday. That's actually what I started writing about in this post, a review of Fantastic Dizzy and I titled the post "Fantastic Dizzy is Fantastic" but changed it when I realized that I'm just listing why Steam is the devil's work. I suppose there's not much to review in the game anyway, it's a very fun adventure-puzzle-platformer but without much replay value after you've beaten it, and if you're bored you can go to Abandonia.com and download the older Dizzy games for DOS absolutely free. I suppose I might do that myself someday, now that I found out how childishly fun the games are.

I also finally got John Carpenter's The Thing on DVD now, so at long last I have all my all-time favourite movies available on my shelf at any given time. And I even bought it new and unused! Yay!

1 comment:

  1. I really agree with your opinion, when I got my copy of Duke Nukem Forever in Christmas 2011, I was very disappointed of using Steam, because I hate when I buy from my local store and yet I'm forced to use Steam. I understand buying from Steam store and using Steam, but why force me to use Steam when I bought a psychical copy? That's what I never understood. Might as well torrent the damn games and get a cracked copy that doesn't require that fucking steam!
    The only good site that sells digital copies of games is GOG.COM which stands for Good Old Games. At least this one does the job correctly, although I prefer to get digital copies of games from torrent and abandonware sites. If I want an old game in psychical form, I'd get it from eBay. If I want to buy a newer game that doesn't require any form of DRM, I'd buy it.