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VGHomework: DRM from the depths of Hell!


This week on the show, we discussed Blizzard’s always-online requirement for Diablo III and measures other publishers are taking to ostensibly protect their games from pirates. These practices can have the side-effect of making gamers’ lives miserable, though, so we want to know: Have you found yourself caught up in DRM Hell?

Q: Did you have any trouble playing Diablo III during launch week?
Paul (@spaulsandhu): I present Exhibit A:

Matt (@mkernan): Nope, no trouble at all. Granted, I didn’t buy it and didn’t try to play it, so I guess that doesn’t really count.

Q: Have you ever had to buy an online pass for a game?
Matt: I’ve never had to myself, but I feel really sorry for the average game-buying consumer who has to deal with this crap. I have the benefit of following the industry closely enough that I am far better equipped to navigate the waters of DRM, online passes, and packed-in DLC. It’s enough to make the average Joe’s head spin, if you ask me. I did recently buy a used copy of Homefront that was missing the online pass, but I paid so little for the game that it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Plus, Homefront handles the online pass issue pretty elegantly – you can play online up to a certain rank, as a test drive of sorts, before the online pass is required. You could even keep playing it indefinitely, if you don’t mind the pretty low level cap.

Q: Would you buy a next-gen console if you couldn’t play used games on it?
Paul: Absolutely not! I would refuse to support any console manufacturer that would do this. I understand that developers want to protect their IPs, but preventing consumers from playing legally purchased copies of used games would be going way too far. If the rumours surround the next Xbox are true, I’d probably just boycott any Microsoft products from this day forward.

Matt: I think this will become an irrelevant question in one or two console generations, with the move to all-digital distribution. So, in that sense, yes. However, if the Xbox 720 and PS4 come out and one makes playing used games more difficult than the other, then I’d lean toward purchasing the more lenient one.

Randy (@randy_wrecked): I don’t have a problem with that. I seldom buy used now because I believe so strongly that used games are a detriment to the industry. Eliminating the market for them would change gaming substantially—no more online passes, no more on-disc DLC, and no more wildly divergent retailer pre-order exclusives. I think Steam is a perfect example of how an all-digital game delivery system can operate and, as long as console developers can learn from Valve’s model to create comparable experiences, I would happily give up on used games and get on board.

Q: Is there a game you can’t play anymore because the servers are down, or for some other reason? (Maybe no one plays it online anymore?)
Matt: Usually when I read about servers being shut down, it’s a list of games I’ve either never played or haven’t played in quite some time. However, the recent announcement that the online features of EA Sports Active 2 were being turned off did ruffle my feathers a bit. But let’s face it, I haven’t worked out with that thing in months anyway.

D.J. (@metaly): OK, I’m cheating a little because this isn’t completely unplayable online yet, but I’m going to say Battlefield 3! With DICE allowing PC players to run their own servers, it’s become extremely difficult to find a one to play on with settings resembling the “vanilla” ruleset—that is, one without astronomically high tickets, a single map in the rotation, tweaked respawn times, or the server owner’s extensive list of banned weapons. This has happened to a degree with Battlefield 2 and 2142 in the past—as the games age, the variety of servers dwindles—but it’s frustrating to see it already happen to a game that’s less than a year old!

Now that you’ve heard from us, it’s your turn! Tell us your DRM woes or your online gaming horror stories in the comments below.