Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Online Authentication

Copy Protection. Without it games would be stolen left right and center wouldn't they? Its obvious the folks over at Stardock are in financial distress right? Thats funny, because the sales numbers seem to indicate they are doing quite well, in fact Stardock now publishes games for other developers which is quite impossible without financial success.

Is copy protection a bad thing? Not always. Sometimes a harmless cd-key can force entire legions of players to buy the game if they expect to play multiplayer. If the game is good, they'll buy it. However a new version of copy protection is slowly becoming the norm. It's called online authentication. What does that mean? Basically upon install the game will check a server to see if your personal copy is legit, if it isn't or if that server cannot be reached - ipso facto you aren't playing that game. Sounds good in theory right?

Well what if that server cannot be reached due to other concerns? What if I do not have an internet connection on the PC I wish to play the game on? Surely thats a prospective problem right? It isn't the largest one either. What if....oh I don't know, the server didn't exist? All things come to end sooner or later, as has been proven many a time by companies being bought out or folding due to lack of funding. They lose track of their old games, and many companies simply don't give a shit. What happens to your copy of Super Dungeon Master IV if that server does not exist? You can't play it thats what, and you'll spend the next few months looking for a working crack to a game you paid full price for just because "it stops piracy".

Let's take a look at Steam by Valve software. Decent program, easy to connect, easy to use and quite feature and content rich. Oh but wait, I need to be ONLINE to play my games? Even for single player? So what happens when Valve software gets purchased by EA games? Don't smirk, remember westwood? Origin? It happens. If steam cannot function then neither can your game now can it? Oh well, at least Valve made their $60 right? Who cares if HL2 can't work in 10 years time? No one plays old games right? No one at all right? Silly me for thinking I should be able to play old games on new computers when I have the future to look forward to? It's not like 10 year old games are playable today anyway right?

The only ones who support this push for online authentication are the ones who are casual gamers and forget them 5 minutes after finishing them. What if HL2 was your favourite game? Oh well sonny. So you say they'll release a patch years from now to remove steam/authentication from the games? Name one damn person who has. One. Go ahead, I've got time.

Better yet are you trusting Valve? Their head honchos used to work for Microsoft for god sakes! Better yet, if you just got fired or laid off would your first reaction be "Man I gotta get that patch out, all the fans'll be angry!"? Some people forget this is a business, and once you leave a company why the hell would you care to save them face? If you have left on bad terms then you can forget wanting to help that faceless corportation. So unless Gabe and co are going to release said patch while HL2 is still being sold and the company is safe and sound you are SOL. So its become a game of whether or not to trust the company or not. People always say the Steam network will never go down, but they seem to forget the bulldozer that ran over the WON network. I believe they were called VUgames. Any and all games that relied on it (albeit mostly multiplayer) now refuse to work. Sure we got lucky and no games used online authentication back then but what happens today now that games do? Don't shake your head at me, its going to happen one of these days.

Maybe not to valve, but I swear to you when it does I'll be there with my "Told you so" look on my face. Incidently I left out some points here on purpose. I have been asked by some folks to take part in Allgames.com's show on online authentication. If they accept I'll post a link here where you can listen to me rant on further.

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