Bioshock: Forum Follies

By Shamus
on Sep 1, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

BioShock publisher 2kGames has embraced the role of clueless, careless leviathan and the people running the show over there are making sure they play that role to the absolute hilt.

Several days ago 2kGames employee 2kElizabeth claimed that SecuROM wasn’t in the demo and then had proof to the contrary thrown right back in her face. She went quiet on the subject for a few days, and finally responded…

hey guys,

i’m sorry for the delay in responding. i’m currently moving and working out of airports and coffee shops and hotels.

securom is, indeed, on the demo, but it isn’t activated like it is on the full game.

i’d go into more details about it, but again, i’d probably get it wrong like last time. i’m working on getting an official statement about securom on the demo for you guys, if possible.

but for now, here’s an article about how securom is not a rootkit:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070826-clearing-the-air-bioshock-does-not-contain-a-rootkit.html

She’s the only 2kGames person I see posting in there, which means in the midst of this great backlash from customers they have one person sort of half-watching the forums while she bounces around the country, and who doesn’t know what she’s talking about even when she does manage to log on.

Ken Levine stepped into the forums a few days ago and left some comments. I wish I could link to them, but they were deleted. (Link goes to a saved copy.) Our friend 2kElizabeth claimed that his posts were taken down due to the fact that some posters threatened him personally. She says:

what was said above was true. a post of ken’s may have been unintentionally deleted while i tried to take out some offensive and inappropriate posts.

i just want to say that no mod, nor anyone here at 2K would EVER delete anything of ken’s intentionally.

we love ken.

Sounds reasonable enough. Except, why nuke the entire thread, instead of just the offending comments? I have never seen them delete any other comments, even profanity-filled promises to pirate the game. But then someone “threatens” Ken and they nuke not just offending comments, but entire threads? It doesn’t make sense. More to the point, why do ALL of his posts seem to be gone? Why hasn’t he posted since? You don’t have to look all that hard to see that this is a lie. A poor, halfhearted, dismissive lie from people who couldn’t be bothered to come up with something plausible. My guess is that they became upset when Ken pointed the finger of blame for SecuROM at the people at 2kGames. Which, to be fair, is exactly where blame belongs. Ken was getting a lot of “u betreyd us ken how could u lie 2 us??!?!!” static in the forums, which may have enticed him to post. I’m sure they simply nuked his comments and told him to be quiet. (Most people underestimate the tremendous power the publisher has over a developer. They control all the money, and Ken needs them more than they need him, particularly now that the game is doing so well. They could hand BioShock 2 off to the lunatics at Obsidian and still have a best-seller, no matter how bad it was.)

The other great thing they have going is the policy of telling everyone to post all of their SecuROM issues into one gigantic thread. SecuROM could be broken down into a dozen or so topics, from technical issues to personal objections. Users keep trying to do exactly this, and end up getting locked. The SecuROM thread is huge and more or less useless at this point, since at any given time there are a half dozen conversations going on, most of which are flame wars. The idea that anyone could get “technical support” or useful information in that thread is pure fantasy. 2KGames obviously wants all of the SecuROM complaints (which is probably more than half of all complaints) in one box where they can be easily ignored.

It kills me to see new poeple sign onto the forums and leave these earnest pleas to 2kGames for help or for the removal of SecuROM. Their comments are never going to be read by anyone inside of 2kGames except for perhaps 2kElizabeth. Even if she reads it, and even if she doesn’t lock it, she doesn’t have any power to fix it and certainly isn’t going to go to her boss and say, “The users – the ones who have already paid us – think our SecuROM idea is crap and we should dump it.”

The sad truth is that the angry masses are being shoved into a soundproof closet where they can do all the screaming they like without offending the ears of any 2kGames decision makers. Add to the mix the usual assortment of “STFU amd get and XBox PC Luser LOL!” with a couple of “There’s nothing wong with SecuROM I haven’t had any problems” and even the occasional “You have only yourselves to blame for being a bunch of pirates” and you have a recipe for a truly spectacular, multi-sided flame war. (Which is allowed to rage on without moderation as long as they stay in their designated thread.) Now the SecuROM threads are brimming with hate, profanity, threats, and some of the most appallingly bad spelling I’ve seen in ages.

I don’t forsee any concessions from 2kGames. Why refrain from pissing in the well of PC Gaming when people seem happy to drink from it anyway?

Alas.

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From the Archives:

  1. Captain Kail says:

    Hey Shamus, long time reader, first time poster

    I have to say it’s really incredible how the fan community of BioShock has brought the Wrath of God down like this. I can’t remember any backlash similar to this, at least by the fans. It’s just strange to see somebody other than mothers and politicians up in arms I guess.

  2. Goinalon says:

    Welcome to the Internet, Captian Kail. People on the Internet are always up in arms over silly stuff.

  3. SimeSublime says:

    It’s not all that surprising. Securerom is in other games, sure, but they were games that didn’t have the same hype as Bioshock. On top of that, the other games didn’t fail to authenticate on launch, allowing people time to find out the flaws. Bioshock is simply a beautiful game, and many people want to play it. You take something of little importance away from people, and they shrug. You take something that they greatly desire, and all hell breaks loose.

  4. Nazgul says:

    Shamus wrote “Their comments are never going to be read by anyone inside of 2kGames except for perhaps 2kElizabeth.”

    I dunno about that. If I worked for 2k in their support or engineering teams, I couldn’t help but read the threads in there, as well as the various other blogs and online articles. Tons of people are commenting and writing about the product you work on, and about the company you work for. Sure, some people won’t care but anyone that really cares about what they do generally won’t be able to ignore it.

    Of course, what most employees think in those cases is pretty much a moot point. Someone high up has certainly made a decision about how they are going to manage their public face on this and the others have to play along. That’s how these things work. I’d have loved to have sat in on the meetings and seen the internal emails. :)

    I agree with your take on this whole thing in general though. 2kgames is really dumping on their customers for the sake of their own self-interest, and community backlash is both appropriate and encouraging. (Or at least it is when it’s not rabid and semi-coherent anyway.)

  5. Telas says:

    Nazgul: (C)ommunity backlash is both appropriate and encouraging. (Or at least it is when it’s not rabid and semi-coherent anyway.)

    What are you doing, posting reasoned and rational stuff like that on the Internet? Don’t you know you’ve got to really feel your anger, and engage in the Five Minutes’ Hate along with everyone else?

    Remember: Trolls are only hurt by Flames and Acid!

    ;)

    Telas

  6. Myxx says:

    I’m starting to wonder if 2kElizabeth actually exists… It seems very odd (and not at all Enterprise IT) for a company like that to have only one representative at this phase of their product launch, and that representative is largely unavailable due to personal commitments. She’s so out of the loop, it creates a great plausable deniability and stalling mechanism in attempts to placate the angry masses. I can see a Product Manager yelling out to a cube farm: “someone log into that 2kE account and post some gibberish telling everyone that you’ll look into things.” I don’t buy it…

  7. Davesnot says:

    It makes total sense to nuke the whole thread.. ya see.. you’re thinking like the incompetence lies just in the putting in of the SecuROM.. why not assume that the incompetence is more firmly established.. why should the forum person be any less incompentent?? Ken’s post that I saw said Dickhead .. so maybe that got it axed.. and suppose then just clicked on “delete thread” rather than delete post.. something a rushed, incompetent, overworked, underpaid employee that go the job because he/she had IM’d a bunch of people and used forums and made that sound glorious on their resume.. The higher up management surely just wants the seat filled so they can say they’ve done their job..

    Nope.. if a thing like this whole folly comes to be.. it starts at the top.. and if the top is rotten.. well.. it’s likely to have a lot of rot inside..

    The game is probably good.. Gamers designed the plot, etc and so forth.. The whole playing part sounds good.. but all that is sub contracted to gaming studios.. the morons running the forum are more directly connected to the morons running the PR.. etc and so forth..

    Ahh.. I think it’s called the “Peter Principle” or something like that.

  8. Anon says:

    I’m sorry to mention it, but the whole BioShock Story is slowly getting on my nerves… Is it the only new game and is it that special that we have to read its story over and over again?!

  9. Otters34 says:

    No, but it’s rather infuriating to have a(by all accounts)superb game brought low by a single, somewhat disabling flaw, such as a security authorization.

    Though I must admit, calling the fellows at Obsidian lunatics seems rather flippant. when one of the two reasons they are so disliked were KOTOR2:Lack of time, and NWN2:abrupt cut of funds, if i remember correctly.

    NOTE:Shamus, your spell-checker is in good order today.

  10. Mari says:

    I’m with Myxx on this one. I really don’t believe in 2kElizabeth. I mean, I believe that the account exists, but I don’t think it’s a single person. I suspect it’s probably a communal account to keep the haters from getting hold of a real name to apply their anger to. And the “I’m moving and doing all of this from airports and cyber cafes and such” smacks of one of my favorite excuses when I don’t feel like dealing with huge support issues “I’ve got a lot going on right now with my family life. My responses to this issue will be sporadic but I’m looking into things. Mea culpa” which translates to “Playing Tetris would be more interesting to me than dealing with your whining on an issue I can’t fix so I think I’ll do exactly that. Once in a while I’ll check back in with a new excuse until this all either gets fixed by somebody else or you people quit whining at me.” It still allows people to focus their rage on me because I’m the designated hitter but it gives a vague and plausible but ultimately unsatisfying reason that I will not be dealing with anything. I feel safe in assuming that I’m not the only one who occasionally does this.

  11. gyokuran says:

    If they deleted his post intentionally, it could have been caused by the Tim Perry reference. Ken clearly states that he’s the one to blame for all copy protection decisions…

    Apart from that, I don’t see anything damaging and it could have been just a mistake. Who cares.

    It’s just sad to see a legendary series like System Shock go down in a fire of hate because of an overzealous copy protection policy.

  12. General Ghoul says:

    Here is a link to Ken’s original post that was deleted:

    http://www.destructoid.com/bioshock-s-big-daddy-silenced-by-2k-forum-mods-internet-fast-like-cheetah-41076.phtml

    From that link the offending part:

    “Copy Protection. Copy protection calls are all made in New York by Technical Director Tim Perry. Our job is to implement what he decides. If he’s not a member of these forums, I’ll suggest to Elizabeth that he gets active in them.”

    He called out the TD in an online forum filled with people who failed their SAN checks. A quick Google check will give you his address and phone number. I sure he’s had a pleasant week.

    And even more offending:
    “Thanks for listening. If we can direct PM-informed traffic to the most appropriate people everybody can get better and more timely answers to their questions.”

    Dear God Ken, didn’t you get the memo that the customers are crap and we aren’t answering anything from them, jeas, what were you thinking.

  13. Rich says:

    Quoth Captain Kail: “I can’t remember any backlash similar to this, at least by the fans.”

    I can recall similar, but not quite as strong backlash about Star Rangers II and to a slightly lesser extent Silent Hunter III. Both were about the vile and pernicious StarForce.

  14. eloj says:

    Since there is now a fully functional ‘warez’ release out (http://www.rlslog.net/bioshock-proper-lolcats/), surely the windows for the activation crap is now over?

  15. lxs says:

    That’s “speeling”.

    Honestly.

  16. Me says:

    “Dear God Ken, didn’t you get the memo that the customers are crap and we aren’t answering anything from them, jeas, what were you thinking.”

    He was probably travelling the country using internet cafes when that memo was sent out ;-)

    There is a simple solution. Buy the game, leave it on the shelf and run the warez version. I’d like to see the courts convict you for that ;-)

  17. Shapeshifter says:

    “(Most people underestimate the tremendous power the publisher has over a developer. They control all the money, and Ken needs them more than they need him, particularly now that the game is doing so well. They could hand BioShock 2 off to the lunatics at Obsidian and still have a best-seller, no matter how bad it was.)”

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the publishers.

    I mean… how hard can it be?

    Publishers clearly think gamers are swine and should be treated like swine, which sounds to me like a bad plan but here we are, and i’m not really interested in playing that game.

    So how do we get rid of them?

  18. Winged Ignorance says:

    As typical and predictable as it sounds, this is what happens when too many important decisions are taken away from real people — such as developers, who themselves are usually gamers — and put into the hands of suits.

    When I say suits, I mean those strange creatures who have absolutely no business wherever they happen to be. These are people with a total disconnect from whatever it is they’re handling, whether it’s senator Ted Stephens “series of tubes” remark or the decision of the publishers to include a software as intrusive and invasive as SecuROM.

    More often than not, the people making these games are gamers themselves. Thus, they tend to have some sense of what they should and shouldn’t include in or with a game. The presence of publishers, who themselves are simply old businessmen who are interested more in making money and treating customers like potential criminals, means that developers have to put things in their games — or take things out — that the publishers disagree with. Since the publishers are the ones with money, they have the say.

    Sorry about the barely-coherent and probably-contradictory rant. I felt the need to type SOMETHING on this subject.

  19. Deacon Blues says:

    From what I’ve read, Obsidian’s greatest failing isn’t insanity – it’s being too corporately weak-willed to stand up to a client who knows nothing of software development, but knows all about getting a product out in time for the holiday shopping season. (Or, to quote Ellison’s line about TV producers, “I don’t care if it’s good, I need it Thursday!”)

    It sounds like, for instance, KOTOR II could have been a far more interesting game, with several more sidequests, including quests that would have made sense of the conversation between the floaty droids at the end, as well as one that would have let HK-47 express his love for the manufacturer of the HK-50 line (remembering that 47’s definition of love involves using a high-powered rifle and computer-assisted scope to blow out your target’s knee from five kilometers away). It would have been possible to resuscitate the reputation of Jedi on Dantooine; the secrets of G0-T0 would have been less annoying; even the old lady might have made some kind of sense in the end. But sadly, LucasArts’ merchandising masters reportedly forced the product out the door to meet an artificial deadline, rather than waiting until the damn thing was finished.

    Of course, this could be so much crap – I wasn’t there – but it sure fits what I do know about LucasArts…

  20. gyokuran says:

    Looks like the LOLCAT group has finally made a 100% working proper release with no activation, SecuROM, etc.

    The publishers should ask themselves if it really was worth it.

  21. guy says:

    no, it wasn’t, but that will just make it more annoying in the future, as they try to make it work.I’m glad i just do strategy games, which have less copy protection.

  22. Ozy says:

    Thanks for that, eloj. I was flagrantly stealing an .iso of it before, but was figuring that I would probably end up installing it on a separate partition with its own copy of WinXP to actually run it. Even with a crack, SecureROM still gets on your system, right? Indeed, I wondered if perhaps merely having part of the .iso on my hard-drive was a hazard, as though, like a fragment of a Borg Cube, the bits contained therein would extend insidious tendrils into the surrounding torrents until it gained enough power to attack my registry, all without Setup.exe even having to be executed, or the .iso even mounted.

  23. Taelus says:

    As to Obsidian question, they have other issues besides just deadline concerns. The storyline for KOTOR II was weak to begin with. KOTOR II was just a less effectively managed recreation of the first game, adding in a few new force powers. Their habits on this front are repeated with games like NWN II. They take what made something unique, poke a few new holes in it, write up a terrible story that looks just like the first one, and then market it as something new. The fans have written better stories on the basic NWN engine, with more interesting changes and updates, or so goes my opinion.

    How Obsidian stays in business is beyond me, but I get the feeling it has to do with charging a lot less than BioWare.

  24. Meems says:

    Aside from all of the other stuff (which has been pretty well covered by Shamus and the other commenters) I don’t think much of the fact that 2kgames’s representative can’t seem to use capital letters where appropriate.

    (This is a pet peeve: it really bugs me when people use chatspeak and such on forums. Keep it in the chatroom, thanks.)

  25. Scourge says:

    Taelus Says:
    They take what made something unique, poke a few new holes in it, write up a terrible story that looks just like the first one, and then market it as something new.

    Not to forget taht they also made the elvel 20 cap again and now bring out an add-on which raises the level cap to 30 XD I mean, come on, how hard is it to simply give us the chanbce to reach level 90 in such a game… it would be way more fun.

  26. Ian says:

    Shapeshifter typed: “So how do we get rid of [publishers]?

    I don’t think it’d be too terribly difficult. It would require more work from the developers, for sure, but it would be excellent for consumers.

    First off, let’s take a look at the success of Introversion. They ended up putting out a successful little hacking “simulation” game called Uplink, followed by a unique RTS called Darwinia, followed by a little nuclear domination game called Defcon.

    When they first started out with Uplink, there were four of them — two business-focused people, one main programmer, and one that ported games to other systems. Even now with their extended staff (12 people total) they develop quality, low-budget titles and do all of the packaging themselves for web site orders.

    Stardock is another example of a company that is known for self-publishing titles, from games to Windows enhancement suites. They’re also famous for developing a modern game (Galactic Civilizations 2) that uses minimal copy protection, not to mention the convenient distribution model that they use for their software (it’s like the anti-Steam — they both use similar concepts, but Stardock Central is considerably more consumer-friendly).

    Clearly, it’s not impossible for developers to self-publish their works. Back in the early 90s, self-publishing was the rule, not the exception. Look at companies like id Software, Apogee/3D Realms, and Epic — they all operated using the mail-order shareware distribution system which, given the fact that they’re all still alive and well, shows that it can work.

    I think the problem, more than anything, is that game development took a similar course to movie development. Rather than a game being developed as a labor of love by a handful of people — say, 10 to 15 — with virtually no budget, they are instead being developed like movies, with teams of a hundred or more and budgets in the tens of millions of dollars. That is why publishers are needed. They are like the film studios of the gaming world. They allow for such massive products to be made.

    One real issue here is that developers, of course, lose a great deal of creative control. Rather than having complete reign over the code, developers are forced to cater to the will of the publishers (including their choice of copy protection, nefarious and consumer-hating or not), the ones giving them the big bucks.

    Sure, the games look prettier nowadays than they did back in the mid/early 90s, but at what cost?

  27. Miral says:

    I agree with everything that Ian just said :)

  28. ArchU says:

    From a certain point of view this makes me glad that I’ve never played System Shock or it’s sequel as I don’t have to face the disappointment of dealing with 2kGames now.

    On the other hand I may never know what I’m missing out on.

  29. The Delurker says:

    I generally make a point not to post on blogs like this. I’ll be honoest, I come here for the web comic. I am not into most computer RPGs and I don’t own a console. Still I do play computer games and I own at least one 2k game (Civ4).

    more importantly, because of my job I regularly skim a lot of new sites (bet you wish you could get paid to browse the web too). One of the is the BBC. I found this little gem.

    [quote]
    [b]Sony faces renewed security woes[/b]

    Electronics giant Sony has again been accused of selling products that leave PCs vulnerable to attack by hackers.
    [/quote]

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6968234.stm

    From what I am gathering, even in Japan, Sony has a reputation for being arrogant and daring the customer to challenge them. It seems like they forget that the global market doesn’t always work the same way it does in Japan.

  30. Psychochild says:

    Ian wrote:
    I don’t think it’d be too terribly difficult. It would require more work from the developers, for sure, but it would be excellent for consumers.

    It also requires that consumers become more educated and willing to look for things that don’t have a lot of marketing.

    I’m an indie game developer; I run the game Meridian 59 (http://www.meridian59.com/). It’s a really good game, but the graphics are ancient (to put it politely) and therefore most people give it a pass.

    The problem on the dev side is the usual suspect: money. It takes money to make a game. You can do some interesting things with graphics-light games (like Introversion’s Uplink), but for the most part games are a visual medium. The big problem, in my experiences, is that most people generally won’t tolerate less-than-stellar graphics. And, unfortunately, that’s the majority of the costs. Anyone familiar with Open Source knows you can get programmers to work cheap. Artists aren’t so easy to come by.

    So, you need money to fund a game. Even a modest game will cost a tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars if you work with professionals, and they want to get paid. Working with amateurs can sometimes work, but often you get what you pay for in these cases. Unfortunately, indie game developers don’t always have several thousand dollars to blow on a game project. Well, some of us have credit cards, but I did that once and am not eager to get into that much debt again. Who usually does have the money? Publishers.

    Now, realize that making the game is only half the battle. After you make it, then you have to let people know it exists. Again, if you don’t have stellar screenshots, expect a lot of people to be turned off immediately. And, if you make a typical indie game (that is: niche), don’t expect a whole lot of free coverage from game news sites. They want to attract the most advertising viewers, so your small game tends to get overlooked all too easy. They tend to cover the games from the big names (who also buy the advertising… see the circular problem?) Unfortunately, good marketing isn’t cheap.

    If I might use myself as an example, I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 10 years now. I own and operate a relatively well-known online game (although I wasn’t one of the very original developers). How many of you have heard of me? Yet, I’ve had several thousand people play my games. Most of you haven’t heard of me because I don’t have large marketing pushes.

    So, I think that game players need to become more savvy if they want to do away with publishers that make boneheaded decisions like using SecuROM. They also need to realize that an indie’s first game isn’t going to be as pretty as a mainstream game. But, once you get some income from previous games, it becomes easier to fund future games without having to sell your soul to the publisher.

    Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I could rant about how sleazy publisher are in taking IP rights and other underhanded business crap and screwing developers. I could also rant about how stupid things like overbearing copy-protection is killing what little is left in PC gaming. It’s sad that one of the most highly anticipated games has to be bogged down by that copy-protection. Of course, most publishers see better returns from console titles; the conspiracy theorist in me tells me they also wouldn’t mind if PC gaming fell off the map since it would mean less indie competition. (It’s all but impossible for an professional indie developer to make a game for the consoles.)

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. But, at least I feel better. :P

  31. Greg says:

    I agree with Meems. The only thing 2kElizabeth’s post is missing is some lols and ^_^s. She’s supposed to be a professional representative?

  32. Michael says:

    There’s a PR kerfuffle regarding a SFWA-initiated DMCA takedown notice that hit one of Cory Doctorow’s Creative Commons works.

    Teresa Neilsen-Hayden (brilliant TOR books editor) wrote up her list of What to do if you have a PR disaster. Basic common sense, but people don’t follow it.

  33. {E} darktower says:

    for all the hype this game is crap.

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