My weekend in gaming + special bonus; My views on DRM!

Finally I got my hands on some fresh gamage, my gaming habits have felt pretty stale over the last few weeks. We have been in the midst of a drought, one that is either about to end or has just depending on your view – but my latest game has been forged in a different fire. I am speaking about Galactic Civilizations 2 and it’s expansion packs, I recently purchased the bundle as a download from the GalCiv2 website.  

I’ve been following Tom Francis’ GalCiv2 diary and his rendition of the game sold it to me. Massive sized galaxies, no requirement of warfare – both things I have been looking for in a game, I’ve been looking to find a strategy game where I can focus on management rather than warfare – for some reason I can never manage to play Civ 4 that way. 

First, the prelude. Before even playing the game, I had to purchase and download it. This is a process pretty new to me, but getting access to GalCiv2 and it’s expansion packs is the easiest thing I’ve done in a long time.

Although my initial reaction was one a little less excited about the process.

Okay, so they’re telling me I have to register an account and download Impulse, Stardock’s game/download/user management application. It is from this program that my purchase and download will be controlled.

Naive and new to the process, I see it as just one more unnecessary step – just another company trying to force their shitty product onto me, giving my girlfriend a little more ammo to fight the perpetual ‘you fill my laptop with crap’ argument.

So I download Impulse and use it’s live list of games to select the GalCiv2 Ultimate Bundle. I double click the icon and confirm my purchase. The game is now ready for download. But this is where things take a turn toward awesome (but not this awesome) – instead of download, Impulse refers to this phase as ‘install’. Okay, how can I install a game I haven’t downloaded yet? Well I can’t, and it turns out neither can Impulse. But it can download, install, patch, register and enter my license key with only the initial click of the install button.

I can understand that some purists may get a little shitty that they aren’t asked for a custom install directory or given micro level control, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the most pleasant thing I’ve done on a PC without the need to use InPrivate.     

I don’t want to lose focus too much, but I’ll quickly weigh in on the DRM issue. Spore has some DRM restrictions that a lot of people don’t like. Stardock’s approach to DRM is we don’t use it. It’s amazing, because it works. There is no challenge for crackers, so they move on.

Of course, this isn’t the full story, you must create an account and register your product to gain access to free game patches – Stardock use the carrot rather than the stick to entice users into a purchase. Torrenting a Stardock game is like playing a beta, you get some of the early stuff but all the latest features are locked away.  

Spore’s DRM isn’t as bad as we’d like to think and Stardock’s isn’t as good as we’d like to think – but this is the internet and it’s about the message, not plain facts. Despite the (honestly, very few) restrictions Stardock do use, they’ll forever be the beacon that shows DRM and copy protection are not a necessity for all of today’s software.

As far as the actual game goes (in case you actually wanted to read about that), it’s pretty damn cool, but has a steep learning curve.

I thought I was over my head when I first fired it up, the game looks hardcore from the start and I wasn’t sure if I had the prerequisite experience in 4X to play – Civ4 has been the only other game I’ve played in the genre, and I’ve got a feeling that was created specifically to make outsiders feel at home.

Having said that, It didn’t take too long to get my grasp and to be honest I think it was the imitation system font that initially scared me off – if its not sporting truetype, this shit must be teh hardcore

I picked up GalCiv2 early last week and looking back, I’m not sure I made the best choice I could have, although I’m not sour because I’ve certainly learnt a real lesson that will save me in the future.

My regret is buying the Ultimate Bundle pack, despite it being a steal at $74 AUD, because of the extra expense I’ll be unable to pick up Wipeout HD until sometime next weekend (and hopefully the ripple effect stops there). I’m enjoying my time with the game, but I would have been just as happy with the stock content,  I couldn’t even tell you want is specific to the two expansion packs. I feel like I’ve robbed a bank and stopped to steal an old lady’s purse during my getaway – are those extra few dollars worth the expense?

Well I’ve spent far too many words on that, and I really wanted to talk about my Warhawk time. 

During the week I managed to hit Chief Sergeant, and I felt a massive loss of motivation. I am prepared for this and am yet to purchase one of the available booster packs so I have some new content to play when I need that interest boost. But my time with Warhawk over the weekend was spent playing a very different game to the one I’ve been playing lately. Over the last month I’ve been playing the tactical, teamwork orientated Warhawk. Protect or capture the flag, take strategic bases around the map, use teamwork to create an advantage, all that kind of stuff. 

This weekend I played the crazy, fast pased, action filled deathmatch Warhawk. A couple of mates came around Saturday night, one with his PS3 (to get the latest burnout patches via my internet.. although he forgot to bring the disk), I set up a second TV and plugged in his system and fired up a lan game. Well we didn’t sleep Saturday night (paying for that now, by the way), and I’m blown away at how a game that plays so well at 32 players can keep me going for 6 or more hours with only 3 of us.

Lets hope next week I can tell you more than a thing or two about Wipeout HD.


2 Responses to “My weekend in gaming + special bonus; My views on DRM!”

  1. 1 Ryan
    September 29, 2008 at 11:29 PM

    Good work, Johnny; how many hits are you pulling nowadays?

  2. September 30, 2008 at 8:39 AM

    I’m not doing too bad 😉

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Playing on Playstation 3

Red Dead Revolver - I paid about $1000 for my launch model PS3, so I guess it's time I get some use out of that emotion chip crammed inside. I remember Red Dead Revolver looking rather good when it was released, and despite the low resolution and odd blurring (that I attribute to playing on a HD set) the game holds up well. It looks good despite these graphical limitations because the art direction is so precise and awesome. And it isn't just the art direction, the music, dialogue and set design (for some reason, set seems a more fitting word than level) all work in tandem to recreate an iconic Wild West atmosphere. Red Dead Revolver doesn’t aim to recreate life in the Wild West, it allows our imagination to take over and populates the locale with legendary men and their legendary stories.

Playing on iPhone

edge - Well I never thought I'd consider playing a game on iPhone as actually gaming, but edge has turned me around. The game is built for the iPhone. Sure, it could be ported, but the elegance of what has been created is astounding, it boggles the mind and makes me wonder what amazing gems we'd receive if current gen consoles weren't clones of eachother.

Playing on PC

Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Generals - Zero Hour - It may be a temporary effect as I slowly reintroduce the PC into my gaming diet, but it seems every title I’m excited to play on the platform is either a strategy game, or a cheap indie game. PC gaming isn’t dead, it’s just restricted to titles that require complex input or a pointing device, and games that couldn't be developed or distributed on other platforms. I guess that’s part of the reason the AppStore is so far a success, there were a lot of indie devs stuck on PC for lack of a better alternative.


September 2008
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