This Dumb Industry: Hitman’s Days are Numbered

By Shamus
on Nov 8, 2016
Filed under:
Column

I hated Hitman: Absolution. Developer IO Interactive took their clever, unique sandbox game and tried to turn it into a story-based stealth shooter. What we got was a tepid stealth shooter, a horrendous story, and (worst of all) a terrible Hitman game.

I thought this was it for the franchise. When a series takes a dramatic turn like this it’s usually a sign that the company culture has shifted. Maybe new creative people are in charge, or budgets have been drastically cut, or the property has been given to an entirely new developer, or corporate is pushing the creative people to make the product more “mainstream”. In any case, this is usually a one-way transformation. Maybe if the backlash is big enough the next game will walk back a few of the changes while stubbornly clinging to their new vision, but I can’t think of a franchise that’s tanked this hard and later returned to its former glory.

But here we are. It’s been four years since the abominable Absolution and we get Hitman: No Subtitle. It’s not just a return to formula, but a high point for the series as a whole. The levels are, if anything, larger than what we’ve seen in the last few entries, bucking the prevailing trend of games that sacrifice scale in favor of shinier polygons. And yet it manages to look stellar despite these gigantic levels. The locations are varied and exotic, and the targets are all interesting and appropriately deserving of Agent 47’s style of deadpan murder. There are usually multiple targets in each mission, with many different ways to approach them.

These levels are enormous, and packed with detail.

These levels are enormous, and packed with detail.

I honestly have no idea how they turned the writing around so quickly. Absolution’s cutscenes were interminable. The vapid dialog chattered on for several minutes, spoon-feeding us forced exposition that was somehow both obvious and nonsensical. They were ugly, overlong, boring, and at odds with the tone and themes of the series. It was just so magnificently wrong. And yet here comes Hitman 2016 with a lightweight story that returns to the cloak-and-dagger stuff the series is known for. The dialog is compact and the writer trusts the audience to understand the sides without needing to spell everything out for us. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or anything. It’s not trying to be. We get exactly as much story as we need to set the tone and give context, but otherwise the focus is on the missions.

The disguise system has been fixed after Absolution made it nonsensical and borderline useless. Swiping the right outfit will typically let you roam around freely like you should. In Absolution, so many people could see through your disguise that you often wonder why you bothered wearing the damn thing. Here in Hitman: [awkward silence] there are occasionally people that can out you, but now they’re rare challenges that force you to adapt and not a hive mind of paranoid killjoys.

So it’s good, right? Well…

“Optional” online.

Sure is a nice videogame session you`ve got here. Would be such a shame if anything happened to it.

Sure is a nice videogame session you`ve got here. Would be such a shame if anything happened to it.

In the past I’ve complained that publishers haven’t learned anything from the forced online backlashes of the past: Spore, Diablo 3, SimCity, etc. Looks like I was wrong. They are learning. It’s just that they’re learning the wrong things. I was hoping they would learn that forced online is a risk (PR disaster if the servers go down) expense (setting up and running servers costs money) and headache (people just want to play their damn videogame in peace) that does nothing to improve sales. Instead the new angle they’re taking is to muddy the waters between “online” and “offline”.

This is a game all about playing the same mission again and again. Each time you can try a new approach. A new method of ingress. A new disguise. Or no disguise. Different weapons. Every time you finish a level you unlock more options. Maybe you get access to a new tool, a new disguise, or a different starting location. All of this adds to the replay value and gives you a reason to keep exploring these expansive environments and discovering their possibilities.

Technically you can play Hitman: The Recent One in offline mode. However, if you do then you lose access to these unlocks. You lose access to the bonus modes where you can hunt down different targets. It stops tracking what methods you’ve used. It doesn’t remember your score.

DUDE. Are you seeing this? I`m so high right now I`m clipping through the furniture.

DUDE. Are you seeing this? I`m so high right now I`m clipping through the furniture.

Instead of just making a single-player game and letting us enjoy it in peace, Square Enix has decided to force us online, but leave us this bare bones version of the game for offline mode. Any outrage over this will be deflected by the qualifying asterisk that the game doesn’t technically require online mode to be playable. It was easy for the community to band together when everything was black and white, but people probably aren’t going to get fired up over a few indistinguishable shades of dark grey.

The problem is that someday those servers are going to go down, at which point the full version of Hitman 2016 will stop existingFor everyone except pirates, obviously.. Instead we’ll be left with the crippled version with no unlocks. Imagine if someone did this back in 2000. What if Eidos Interactive made a bunch of features of the original Deus Ex dependent on an internet connection? Sure, you can play all the way through the game, but you can’t equip the Dragon Tooth sword, several of the aug upgrade canisters are unreachable, all the non-lethal weapons are missing, and you start each level in some kind of “default” state instead of carrying your progress and equipment between missions.

Square Enix is sabotaging the future to annoy people in the present.

I anticipate some objections…

This guy is supposedly playing Dance Dance Revolution, but he`s taking these slow shuffling steps about once every five seconds. It was so hard to resist the urge to cap him on the spot, and he`s not even a target.

This guy is supposedly playing Dance Dance Revolution, but he`s taking these slow shuffling steps about once every five seconds. It was so hard to resist the urge to cap him on the spot, and he`s not even a target.

But Shamus, the game already requires Steam, and if Steam dies then so do all your games. If you’re okay with Valve doing it then it would be hypocritical to complain when Square Enix does it.

Actually, that’s not how risk works. Yes, if Steam dies then I’ll lose access to my games. But now if IO Interactive is shuttered, then the folks in charge of maintaining these servers will lose their jobs. The servers will vanish, and my game will be crippled. The same thing happens if parent company Square Enix goes under. The risk isn’t the same. The risk to the consumer has tripled. We’re now in a death pact where all three of these outfits need to remain solvent to preserve the game.

Actually, the risk has done a lot more than triple. Valve is a financial juggernaut, but Square Enix has been struggling over the last few years. The 2013 layoffs got rid of about half the people at IO Interactive. I can believe Valve will still be here in 10 years, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if IO Interactive or Square Enix vanish – or end up catastrophically “reorganized” – in the next ten years.

You gradually unlock these various starting scenarios, giving you access to different starting disguises and gear. But they`re all locked if you`re offline.

You gradually unlock these various starting scenarios, giving you access to different starting disguises and gear. But they`re all locked if you`re offline.

Shamus, the fact stands that they’re doing the same thing as Valve.

But it’s not the same thing at all. I don’t think that anyone gets upset that you have to sign in to Steam before you can use your friends list, download games, get patches, or earn achievements and trading cards. Those features aren’t possible without being online. In contrast, Hitman’s online requirement is entirely artificial. There’s no reason you need to log in for the game to unlock new starting locations except that they deliberately engineered the game to cripple itself when not online. All of this could be handled using simple savegames. The only thing that actually requires a connection is the global leaderboards.

(And as a matter of personal taste, global leaderboards are bullshit I could do without. When I finish a mission I want to see how much better I did than last time. I don’t care that I’m ranked below ten thousand random strangers and I’m a billion points behind the top players. I’m playing this to have fun. I’m not looking to turn pro, thanks.)

Shamus, this isn’t anything new. You probably won’t be able to run this game on the hardware of 2027 anyway, so this server business is no big deal.

This is like saying, “We’re all going to die in the end, so I might as well play Russian roulette.” This compounds the customer’s risk for no tangible benefit.

No Future for Old Games

Just imagine if Ion Storm, id Software, Looking Glass, and Epic Games had done this to their titles in the 90`s.

Just imagine if Ion Storm, id Software, Looking Glass, and Epic Games had done this to their titles in the 90`s.

Back in the early days of television, producers would routinely tape over old recordings or throw away footage from old shows to save space. This means that many formative shows are simply lost to time. Thousands of hours of historically important programs are just gone. Today people look back on those days with frustration and dismay, “You threw away the master copies of 100 episodes of Dr. Who because you needed CLOSET SPACE? Are you INSANE?!” It’s shocking that the people of the past could be so short-sighted. And yet here we are, burning down the future for stupid reasons.

Between changes to the operating system, drivers, and the hardware itself, it’s already going to be a challenge to access the games of today on the machines of tomorrow. Sure, you can run Dungeon Keeper in a DOSBox, but today’s games are orders of magnitude more complex. Worse, computers are no longer getting exponentially faster, so we can’t count on using brute-force emulation to solve these problems in the future.

And even if we don’t care about games from a historical or cultural perspective, from a simple consumer standpoint I’d like to know I could launch Hitman: The One I’m Complaining About Right Now in 2027 and still be able to play it properly, in the same way I can still play Half-Life 2 right now.

It’s already going to be a challenge to preserve a lot of games for future generations. Making single-player games dependent on servers for their save data makes the whole thing that much more difficult. Worst of all, it’s not even clear what the publisher is getting out of it. Is this supposed to fight piracy? Second-hand sales? Is it intended for harvesting user data? Publishers aren’t open about this sort of thing, so from our perspective there’s no reason for any of this.

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Footnotes:

[1] For everyone except pirates, obviously.


A Hundred!2016There are 136 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Zak McKracken says:

    My best guess: They do it because they think it’d make pirating harder. If the game as distributed does not contain all the code to be played with all features, but some relevant part only exists on the server, then a pirated copy needs to either talk to the server and successfully impersonate a licensed one, or it won’t have the full feature set, except if whoever cracks the thing is able to somehow get hold of the server code and include that in the copy. That does not look incredibly likely.

    This means, of course, that even pirated copies will not be able to preserve the game once the servers go down.

    I suppose that in addition to all this, someone whispered the words “big data” into upper management’s ear, so now they’re hellbent on collecting all the information and somehow refine it into money or something.
    I’m currently dealing with an IT person who thinks what we do at work is “big data” (it’s not, it’s lots of computing) and therefore we should do all our computing and data storage in the cloud … I do not get the appeal of this, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask but … it does not effing make sense. It’s introducing more points of failure, it’s more expensive to rent some machine somewhere else than to just operate one yourself if you know you’ll always use it to capacity, and it’s way less safe, on top of being slower because it all has to go through the interwebs… I really don’t get it, but people seem to be magically attracted to the idea because “it’s what you do these days”.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I doubted that piracy was the reason for this practice before,but Im 100% sure that it is not the reason now.Because of denuvo.And square is a company that is already using denuvo for its recent releases.Mankind divided has it and so does rise of tomb raider.

      • Yurika Grant says:

        Meanwhile, in the ‘cracked’ column, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…

        And the only reason the others are currently ‘no’ is because they’re newer games and are no doubt being worked on right now. Yet another pointless DRM scheme costing money and doing nothing to solve the problem (because, as usual, idiot execs go after the symptom rather than the cause).

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thats not true.First of all,the yeses are less than 20%.Second,even those cracked games took months to get cracked,as opposed to zero to negative couple of days with other drms.So yes,denuvo IS solving the problem,by making cracking a single game a monumentally slow process that makes some groups not even bother with denuvo protected games.

          Oh yeah,your assertion about the not cracked games being new,just cause 3 came out last year.Many tried to crack it and simply gave up.

          • Yurika Grant says:

            *shrug* I don’t care. DRM is stupid, always is, always has been, always will be. Piracy is a service problem, again, always has been. Pissing your customers off isn’t the best plan, again, never has been.

            • Fists says:

              To be fair to the pirates, a lot of those games are probably uncracked because no one cares enough.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                No one cares about just cause,fifa and deus ex?Hardly.

                I mean,technically its true.No one cares to spend literally months trying to crack just one game.But then,no one cares to spend months cracking ANY game.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except that denuvo pisses off no one but the pirates.You activate it during the installation,and then never again,unless you want to install it somewhere else,or reinstall it.The only thing it prevents is the modification of the game,so cracks and mods.And most games dont need mods in order to be played,but those that do can just opt to not use denuvo.Its basically like the encryption of your credit card:You dont need to be able to modify the information on it in order to use it.

              The only pissing off of the paying customers comes when a publisher wants to put another protection on top of it,like a constant internet connection,or when they dont release a patch to remove it after they close the servers.But neither of those is a problem with denuvo,but with the current attitude of publishers.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Denuvo is doing something to solve the problem. Denuvo releases don’t get pirated until weeks or even months after release, which is far better than DRM used to do. Naturally, people want to play the latest releases when they’re still current, and there are pirates* who will buy the game if a pirated copy is unavailable in a timely fashion.

          *Note that I’m not saying how many, because I don’t know and neither does anyone else, but surely we can agree there are more than zero.

    • Micamo says:

      It depends on how much information is on the server side that’s necessary for the game to play: If it’s just a simple call home check (as it probably is) then that’s ridiculously easy for pirates to bypass. Besides the game already uses Denuvo which is probably the closest we’ll ever get to an unpirateable game barring keeping everything on the server side. It currently takes the teams about a month to successfully make a patch for a Denuvo game that supports enough CPU models to be viable for release.

    • Tizzy says:

      The customer data angle is not implausible, even though it seems like abusing a lot of the customers goodwill for a very uncertain payoff. Why would they collect it?

      Well: the attitude in many industries seems to be: we know data is money. We just have no clue what to do with ours yet. Also, we’re too busy running business as usual to figure it out. So in the meantime, we’ll just hoard all data we can like we’re Smaug. And maybe later we can use it.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is the prevalent attitude in AAA gaming too.

    • Neko says:

      Here’s my take on it: Telemetry and the ability to add and tweak mission content on consoles without having to push a patch past Microsoft. If the game contacts your own servers to determine NPC layout, items, etc. then you’re free to tinker as much as you like without getting the stamp of approval first.

    • Retsam says:

      As someone who works “in the cloud”; it’s certainly overhyped at times, but there are definitely advantages.

      Cloud data isn’t just put on “some machine somewhere”, it’s put on a redundant network of physically remote machines, which is the golden standard for data resiliency. If you just have one machine, sure that’s simpler (and probably cheaper) but then you’re hosed if the machine goes down. Of course, you can handle that with redundant machines, but if they’re all in one location, they’re susceptible to things like regional power outages.

      And of course, companies can and do have multiple data-centers too, but at that point you’ve lost a lot of the advantages you had in the first place, and since you’ll probably need to hire ore IT people to manage those data-centers, there’s a good chance it’s not cheaper, either. It very well might be cheaper and simpler to let a company who specializes in managing redundant data-centers handle it for you.

      > It’s more expensive to rent some machine somewhere else than to just operate one yourself if you know you’ll always use it to capacity

      This statement is true, but “if you know you’ll always use it to capacity” isn’t a great assumption, in a lot of cases. To take an extreme example, look at online video game launches: those are frequently problematic because the company almost never has enough servers. Not because they’re incompetent about how much demand they’ll get, but because it doesn’t make sense to have enough servers, in the traditional model.

      A game gets a huge spike in traffic on that first day, that won’t be sustained afterwards. If it takes, hypothetically, 1000 servers to serve the initial boom, but only 500 to sustain a normal load after the first week or so. Do you buy 1000 servers, just so that people can get into the game on that first day, then have half your servers sitting idle for the rest of the game’s life? Probably not. You just buy the 500 you think you’ll need long term, and get your PR team to do damage control.

      The cloud takes a “rental” approach, so a company could rent 1000 servers for that first day of traffic, then once traffic subsides, scale down and only rent 500 servers. They could handle that initial boom, without having to commit to having that many resources forever. That’s a very sane use of the cloud, and I’m hoping more companies start doing it.

      It’s, as ever, about the right tool for the job. The “cloud” isn’t the right tool for every job, but it’s the right tool for some jobs, and “the cloud is just someone else’s computer” meme sort of misses the point.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Sounds like you should join forces with Ross Scott:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2pdvh4uiaM&t=20m30s

  3. Jay says:

    One of the elephants in the room is that Steam games often sell for under $10, at discounts up to 85% off. If people get a big enough discount, they tend to be understanding. A full-price AAA title comes with significantly higher expectations.

  4. Durican says:

    Oh for fork’s sake! I still haven’t played Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3 because I abbhor forced online connection for SINGLE PLAYER MODES, and I loved Starcraft and Diablo 2. When my internet connection fails I can still boot up Steam and play my games in offline mode with no drawbacks, because games that don’t let me play them unless the server deigns to allow it don’t see a single money from me.

    EDIT: Incidentally, if a game is on both Steam and GOG, then GOG gets my money. If GOG goes bankrupt I can still play the Tex Murphy games I purchased last year whenever I wish.

    • Primogenitor says:

      GOG now does some limited “if you own it on Steam, we’ll give you a copy on GOG” which I think is really interesting.

      • Durican says:

        The GOG copy remains DRM-free right? If so, I’m looking to clean out a lot of my Steam library.

        • John says:

          Yes, GOG games are always DRM-free, but you might not be able to get as many GOG versions of your Steam games as you might think. Since GOG started doing Steam Connect, only a few dozen games have been eligible. I have only been able to get the GOG version of one game that I bought on Steam (though to be fair my Steam library is quite small). GOG has to negotiate these things with publishers and developers, I suppose. Unless the game in question is in the Witcher series the odds are very mich against you.

          • Mephane says:

            Also and for the record, Steam DRM is not mandatory. A game can be released on Steam entirely DRM-free, as is the case for example with Kerbal Space Program.

            • Ian says:

              So, could I buy KSP on Steam, then uninstall Steam completely and still be able to play the game for evermore, on any* PC?

              * OS compatibility notwithstanding

              • Ninety-Three says:

                Yes. I’m not sure if you could copy your KSP files between computers, but you could repeat the “Steam, download, uninstall Steam” process on any number of computers with the end result of a bunch of eternally-working KSP executables.

                • Mephane says:

                  You should be able to back it up, copy it to any new computer you buy in the future, and even play different versions of the game if you keep back-ups before updates.

                • Richard says:

                  You absolutely can just copy the Steam edition of KSP onto an entirely different machine without Steam and it’ll work just fine.

                  I keep multiple copies of KSP, mostly so I have the Steam “pristine” and most up-to-date edition and the various modded and older versions.

                  For many indies, Steam’s just a nice way for gamers to send money to the developers and for the developers to distribute updates with the minimum of fuss.

              • You could also do what I (and many others) are doing/did.
                Buy the game, find a NoCD crack and play it without internet and on whatever machine you want without any DRM crap telling you “how” and “where” to play the game.

                I’m not gonna put up any links but I’ll admit that I’ve visited a place called Game World Copy (the words in the name has been swapped around). It used to be pretty ok but the ads shown on that site is really horrible, they have “work safe” ads now it seems but the adnetworks they use are really bad, we’re talking popups and unders and all the dregs of the industry really.

                Also, while I did use NoCD cracks on games I bough on CD Iv’e also used “NoCD” (in quotes for a reason I’ll explain now) for non-cd games as well.
                Several games I’ve played required a crack to remove DRM so I could mod the game. And we’re talking singleplayer offline games here. Interesting thing is that these “NoCD” cracks only deal with the single player stuff, and while they could crack the multiplayer stuff they stay away from it (which could allow multiplayer/online cheating), so they’re nice that way.

                A few game devs and publisher are nice enough to publish a final patch that removes any DRM (aka a “Sunset Patch”), but they are few.
                Somebody mentioned Obsidian’s Alpha Protocol. I can’t recall any other games from the top of my head sadly. Quite a few of them are probably on GOG now though.

                Part of the issue is the engines and the tools used (or middleware), they enable some anti-cheat feature and it locks the whole game in a DRM anti tamper thing.
                This is why I prefer games that have separate single and multi player executables, or better yet sell them separately (if the exe’s and maps are separate then they might as well sell them as two different editions anyway).

            • Chiladelphus says:

              A game can be released on Steam entirely DRM-free, as is the case for example with Kerbal Space Program.

              All of Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy games on Steam (and maybe their other games, I don’t know) have this feature too (EU IV, CK II, HoI IV, Vicky II, etc.).

          • Nick-B says:

            Don’t forget to mention that all these “add a steam game to GOG” deals are available for a short time only. If you fail to do the work of connecting your accounts and clicking a magical button while it is going on, you lose out on ever being able to do it again. I didn’t know that, and missed the first round of conversion because I either missed the announcement or thought I had eternity to do so.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              I have to say as much as I enjoy, and take advantage of, the offer I can’t help but be slightly confused by it businesswise. Almost the only reason I see for this is an attempt to bring people over to the GOG store, a lot of people will do it simply because it’s free stuff, not to mention having the game on both platforms offers some clear advantages (like a backup download source in case one of them goes under, or the DRM free installer for most stuff on GoG). I can imagine CDP hoping some of those people will start to consider GOG an equal, or even preferrable platform to Steam… but at the same time I’m sure a lot of people decided it’s a “buy on Steam get on GOG for free” kind of deal…

              • As I figure it, the biggest barrier to people picking Steam over GoG is that Steam users probably have a huge library invested in the platform, and little incentive to start building up a separate library on a new platform, even if that platform is more consumer friendly. Since people are unlikely to buy a game again on GoG once they have it on steam, it’s almost certainly better to just try and build up peoples’ GoG collections as much as is economically feasible.

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  The biggest barrier is inertia. Shamus wrote about it before, I think in discussing Origin. It’s not enough for GOG to be as good as Steam, or even a bit better, because people hate change. I’m aware GOG exists and I keep using Steam because Steam works well enough, I’m lazy, and I see no compelling reason to switch.

                  But speaking of libraries, there’s a bigger issue than libraries not carrying over. I just performed the highly scientific experiment of checking the twenty alphabetically-first games in my Steam library, and only ten were available on GOG. GOG could give me a free game every month for life, and I would still prefer to use Steam for its larger catalog.

      • Yurika Grant says:

        It’s a nice idea, but really limited right now. I only had a single game that was compatible (To the Moon), but hopefully more will be eventually.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except diablo 3 was not intended to be a single player game.It was a coop multiplayer game.Sure,you CAN play it on your own,but you can also solo a bunch of mumorpugers and that doesnt change the fact they are still mumorpugers.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Except diablo 3 was not intended to be a single player game[citation needed].

        • Tizzy says:

          Whether or not the game was designed this way, the fact remains that previous installments were designed to be played equally well online as off. And that therefore, fans of the first two can be legitimately sour about the change.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            A sequel does not have to follow its predecessors in gameplay(or any other element).Grand theft auto proved that decisively.

            • Tizzy says:

              No indeed. And that’s a good thing, of course. But making a sequel that rewrites the rules in some way does risk alienating the fans. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. Sometimes it does bu it’s worth it anyway, you trade them for better fans.

              It’s just something to keep in mind.

      • modus0 says:

        Except the console versions allow one to play without needing to be online. And the only feature lost in that case, is the ability to join, or be joined by, friends.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          That was patched in later.And that doesnt change the fact as to how it was designed to be initially.Just go through it single player,and you will first get an ai sidekick early on,and second you will see that said sidekick gets seriously underleveled as you progressed.So its designed from ground up to nudge you towards coop,and the single player is more like an addition to that.

    • ChrisANG says:

      FYI: In single-player mode Starcraft 2 doesn’t force an online connection for anything other than achievements, though when you first purchase it it’s probably going to want to download a LOT of patches. I think decent internet is required to install the game, but once it’s installed you can play it offline. This was important to me, because I also loved Starcraft 1 and my internet connection is… limited.

      Which is another irritating thing about forced online singleplayer: There are a lot of places in the world where you can’t get reasonably-priced, fast internet (like upstate New York, to pick an example at random). In that situation, you don’t want to hand a VIDEO GAME a blank check for your data account. Patch sizes for AAA video games routinely run multiple gigs in size, that is no kind of ok.

  5. Jumbalia says:

    I won’t swear by it but this always online leader boards is one of the reasons Just Cause 3 is borked nearly a year after release and considered pretty much unfixable. Square seem so clueless about their franchises (pure luck is what made Hitman and episodic gaming come together I think) that I nearly hope they go the way of THQ. Tomb Raider could actually be the game of old, Deus Ex wouldn’t have 5 years of work butchered 2 months before release and single player games would not have required online or be broken without it. :/

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    And as a matter of personal taste, global leaderboards are bullshit I could do without.

    Have you seen Spacechem’s leaderboards? I think they fix the entire concept of leaderboards by displaying score data as a histogram, which gives you a far more meaningful sense of how good you are relative to the average person, and how close you are to the best.

    • Ingvar says:

      Zachtronics do this in a lot of their games (Spacechem, TIS-100, Infinifactory and Shenzhen I/O, at least; based on personal observation).

      Fun(?) fact, TIS-100 was the game that made me install Steam. Prior to that, nothing was worth living in SteamPowered land.

    • Jarenth says:

      Yeah, Zachtronics really hit on a good score display method here — they re-used it in Shenzhen I/O too.

    • psivamp says:

      That’s much more interesting than the scoreboard.

      Argh, they have their histogram misaligned so that integer bin N is centered on N.5 . I hate that.

      This is the default behavior of most systems. I have tools for work that I wrote up that I corrected this for and it’s much harder than it should be using python’s matplotlib package.

      • Ingvar says:

        Well, it’s correctly covering the half-open interval n <= value < n+1, for n an integer.
        You seem to prefer the half-open interval n – 1/2 <= value < n + 1/2, for n an integer and that's OK too.

        But neither is necessarily mis-aligned.

    • Echo Tango says:

      That should be standard for all games that have high scores.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      I think a histogram would work even better on skill-based games like Race the Sun. Zachtronics games (probably) have a single “best” score theoretically possible, and players are really just trying to discover what that solution is. Thus the games would actually benefit from displaying the “best ever” score in each puzzle/category. Cheating would normally make that worthless, but programming games like these can easily be validated on the server (not sure if they really are…) so true high scores become worthwhile.

      There is a fan site for Spacechem (and presumably the others) that collates the best solutions, and they are really impressive!

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Yes, the Zachtronics games do server validation, and yes there is necessarily a best possible score. On some levels there are provably multiple solutions that earn the best score, in others there are provably only one.

  7. Ian says:

    I don’t think that anyone gets upset that you have to sign in to Steam before you can use [stuff]

    You didn’t really think that would go unchallenged did you … :)

    I’m so upset about this I refuse to use Steam, or any other form of always-on spyware. It’s a pain all right – it means I have not played ME3, DA2&3, Civ5/6, TW:S2, Skyrim, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera.

    If it wasn’t for GOG, and those rare indie devs selling their stuff direct (hello TaleWorlds!), I wouldn’t be playing anything at all.

    It’s a odd dilemma with Steam. On the one hand they’ve provided a platform for countless indie games that never would have been noticed otherwise, which in a world of increasingly unimaginative AAA games is definitely a good thing. On the other, it’s a de facto giant profit-making monopoly, and there’s only ever one outcome when that happens. It’s only a matter of time.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      But Steam isn’t always-on. You log in to download your games, then you can log out, turn it off, heck uninstall it if you want, and run the executables you downloaded. Authentication is only required to download, because giving downloads away to unauthenticated users is normally called “piracy”.

      • Falterfire says:

        Whether you can play a game without Steam installed depends on the game. It’s a check that games can implement, but don’t have to.

        • Decius says:

          I suspect that there are Steam cracks for most things, and if Steam authentication ends there will be a wholesale Steam crack. It seems like the authentication is just too well documented to prevent creating an executable that always authenticates.

          I suspect that if there isn’t already some such program, that’s mostly because Steam pretty much just works right and GOG or disc copies are slightly easier to pirate.

          • Yurika Grant says:

            IIRC, Valve were asked this once before and Gabe responded that in the unlikely event Steam went under they’d do all they can to issue unlock patches or whatever so games can still be played.

            How viable that is… dunno, given how shitty publishers tend to be, pretty much guaranteed they’d get in the way at every turn. But for smaller, older, indie games and so on? Shouldn’t be a problem.

            • Zekiel says:

              I think that sort of statement-of-intent is pretty worthless. I’m not dissing Gabe – he may very well want to do it. But if Valve goes under, its because they’ve run out of money, so they would be unlikely to be able to pay people to create these patches, not to mention negotiating the hurdles with a huge variety of publishers.

              My philosophy is that Steam is a risk, but the low prices make it a sensible risk. In practice there aren’t many games that I want to play more than a couple of times. If Steam disappeared it’d be highly regrettable, but there are probably only 5 or 10 games (out of about 80) that I own on it and would miss.

    • Daimbert says:

      I refuse to buy Steam games, too. If I buy a physical copy, I don’t want to have to log on at all, ever, or have that Steam thing running on my machine to play them, and I’m not that interested in simply downloading games.

      That being said, for many of the games on your list I ended up playing them on a console, which doesn’t do that … at least, not yet. The worst case was with Dragon Age: Inquisition, where in order to get the history I wanted I had to use the Keep, which was a massively annoying process that made me very, very bitter. That I can play console games easily while watching TV pretty much seals the deal for me on the side of consoles — without even considering that I won’t be able to get Persona 5 on the PC — although I buy some GOG games sometimes.

      (Note that I said BUY, not PLAY [grin]).

  8. Lee says:

    then I’ll loose access

    Professor Bartle would be very cross. ;)

  9. Echo Tango says:

    Back in the early days of television, producers would routinely tape over old recordings

    A lot of Elvira footage was lost to this practice, IIRC. Twas the MST3K of its day. Well…with more boobs, though. :P

  10. Supah Ewok says:

    I wonder how likely it is that Hitman was designed around the idea of it being always online, then somebody at the last hour decided that the game should be able to run offline, but a lot of the things you mentioned were tied to the server coding, so all they could do to ship on time was present a truncated form of the game for offline mode so they could release on time?

    • Ivan says:

      If so, then maybe they will fix it at some point. If that is the case, only corporate inertia and pride would keep them from doing so.

      So yeah, maybe it will get fixed. And then I will buy it. I hope that happens.

    • Yurika Grant says:

      Square Exec 1: “Guys, remember Sim City 2013? Maybe if we add an ‘offline’ mode that’s basically crippled, we can avoid the same consumer backlash.”
      Square Exec 2: “Genius.”

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    The “One day the servers will shut down and this game will cease to exist” argument is disingenuous. The game will only die if the developer doesn’t put out a no-server patch to accompany the server shutdown. It’s tempting to say “But companies are lazy, they’d never bother doing that for an old game”, except the shutdown of GFWL gives us a concrete counterexample: every GFWL game I own got patched and is playable today. It’s certainly a possibility that the game will go unpatched and die, but to present it as a certainty is very misleading.

    • Durican says:

      I did not know that GFWL took that positive step. Of course, I’ve never used GFWL, because doing so would mean having to navigate GFWL. Are there any other examples of forced online games allowing offline access when the servers shut down? I’d be very impressed if there were any examples of EA caring to let anyone play games once the servers get too expensive to maintain.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        It depends if you’re talking about the singleplayer phone-home sort of online or the genuine multiplayer online. Historically, things like MMOs and FPSs with server-based lobbies tend to go away for good when the servers shut down. Offhand I can’t think of any other singleplayer online games that have had their servers shut down yet.

        • Ingvar says:

          It seems a whole slew of Sportsthing YYYY servers have shut down about a year after the release, making the game unplayable.

          Don’t know if “annually released game series old installments stop working once the next year is a couple of months old” counts, though.

        • Bubble181 says:

          Heroes of Might and Magic VI. See post below for more info.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Check out Ross’s game dungeon video I linked above.The practice of games dying because of servers shutting down,even the ones you can play in single player,has been happening for quite a while now.He made a big list of them.

    • Lachlan the Mad says:

      Counterpoint: FUEL didn’t get un-GFWL-ified. I had to crack it.

    • Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

      Sigh. That’s because GFWL did not go bankrupt. The very rich and leery of bad press parent company paid a lot of expensive people to do that. This is not how game companies normally end. Typically they get shut down because they ran out of money. And then there is no money to have people create patches. And in most cases the liquidator will be opposed to it even if the money is there as it might reduce the liquidation worth of the company/IP’s to set the games free in this way.

      • Syal says:

        Although it seems like they would want to keep the games working in some way so they could sell them to other companies on their way out.

        Or maybe it’s a Peter-Paul decision, whether they want to control everything at the beginning or still have something to offer at the end.

        I can’t tell if this is stupidly confusing or confusingly stupid.

        • Jeff says:

          I worked for a game company that needed to raise cash quickly so they shuttered down one of their divisions. That division had a game ready to be released — it had already gone to the printers. They decided not to release the game because taking the loss gave them more money than releasing the game.

          It is accounts that run companies not game designers. They make decisions based upon tax code and other silly constructs.

          A company that shutters has zero incentive to path their games to work without servers. Even companies that are still in business have left their older games that rely on servers high and dry when the usage falls enough (I’m looking at you EA).

  12. Ivan says:

    Welp, Square Enix just lost a sale. I was waiting to hear your final thoughts on this, after all the episodes are out, but this is enough for me. You know what, I feel like this will accomplish nothing at all, but I am now going to Email Square and tell them basically the above.

  13. John says:

    Hey, Shamus! I liked the global leaderboards in Good Robot! I thought they were interesting. I mean, yeah, the guys in, say, the top five spots might be cheating somehow, but I had a lot of fun comparing my scores to those of other commenters here . . . except I guess that might constitute an argument for friends-only leaderboards rather than global leaderboards. (I wouldn’t have had nearly the same reaction if I hadn’t recognized any of the names.) I don’t know.

    And a quick check of the boards reveals that I’ve been knocked out of the Top 100 for High Score. Curses! Curiously, my position on the Robots Destroyed board remains relatively unchanged. I can only assume that other people are playing through the game much, much faster than I ever have.

  14. Peter H Coffin says:

    Plus, Valve’s said more than once that if they’re in a circumstance where they need to shut down, they’ve got an override patch ready to go that puts the client into “Super Offline Mode” and the Steam client becomes a launcher that satisfies DRM checking forever. You’re just responsible for installing all your games before the final shutdown and carrying them on your own hard drive forever.

  15. James says:

    Didn’t realize it had an online requirement for your upgrades. I love the constant updates and online features game offers but is it really to much to ask to make them optional? Thankfully I have a reliable fiber op connection but I still feel this requirement is bullshit. At least I now know that the few issues I had were the game didn’t save my upgrades was part of their server problem and not my copy.

    It’s such a shame about this constant connection BS to cause this really is a great game. Probably the best Hitman game of the series. I’m sold on the eventual Hitman season 2 but I really wish they’d fix this

  16. Jokerman says:

    Such a same a game this good, with such a return to form has done something like this that steals all the headlines. IO should be getting a ton of plaudits, but square has instead forced everyone to focus on the release method and online only.

  17. Fade2Gray says:

    OH, you must be talking about Hitman 6: Hitman.

  18. Galad says:

    Typos: lose instead of loose, shinier instead of shiner, and maybe one more.

    This is a nice, engaging article as usual from an informative standpoint, but I’m unclear on what I could do as a consumer about it, other than not buying the game, which I’m already doing as it’s not my cup of tea.

    On a mostly unrelated side note, as much as I love Nuclear Throne, I am not a fan of the two indie devs’ decision to remove the daily and weekly challenges from the GOG version. I hope it’s due to technical reasons, and not some store discrimination

    • John says:

      Nuclear Throne isn’t the only case where the GOG version of a game is less feature-rich than the Steam version. You can’t get any of the DLC for Armello, for example, if you have the GOG version. Here’s a list of games that had or have similar issues. (Please note that I did not make or verify the list. Reader beware.)

      My personal experience suggests that Steam is more likely than GOG to have Linux versions of games. GOG only got the Linux version of Bastion about a month ago, for instance, while Steam has had it for literally years. Similarly, Expeditions: Conquistador–which is one of the “free” games in the ongoing GOG sale–is only available on Windows and Macintosh from GOG while Steam has carried a Linux version for ages. I’m not trying to knock GOG here, because from what I’ve heard they would like to carry more Linux (versions of) games, but that’s not much actual help to a would-be Linux gamer.

      • tmtvl says:

        Remember how we used to love GOG because their games always worked exceptionally well under Wine? How times have changed.

        • John says:

          GOG remains my preferred source for games that I must run or intend to run with Wine. I’ve had reasonable success with Age of Wonders, Hitman: Contracts, Freespace, and Street Fighter Alpha 2, all of which I got from GOG. Meanwhile, the only Steam game I have ever got to work well with Wine is Good Robot. Civilization IV inevitability experiences game-breaking graphical glitches about 15 minutes in to a new campaign. Pirates, even with all the settings set to minimum, was too choppy to play.

    • Echo Tango says:

      The only reason I can think of, is that since GOG doesn’t have DRM, it would be easier to hack some cheats into the game, and get onto the top of all the leaderboards?

      • Galad says:

        That’s .. actually a good potential reason for the content cut. I guess some checks can be put in place, at least in Nuclear Throne’s case, to check whether someone has a bajillion (or even just 100k, which is around 2.5x the current global (for all characters) world record) kills, and just banz0r them for a week from dailies, or a month from weeklies, for example. Ofc, I am not a dev, so it might not be that easy.

        Also, now that I checked out John’s list, DAMN! That’s a lot of games that, even if I’m not personally really interested in checking out, I’ve heard their names and thought of them as respectable. The complaints aren’t always damning, but sure are bitter to take in. Even though I’ve chosen Steam over GoG as my main platform, due to its vastly better community features, I’d still like to see GoG continue succeeding as the only DRM free store we have in existence.

        “Emails to the devs regarding this issue were met with a “ask GOG if you want a refund” reply.” – sheesh, it’s like you don’t want me to buy your game on launch day, Hand of Fate 2 devs

        • Echo Tango says:

          Actually, the type of check you describe would be easy to do server-side (check for fishy high-score). Client-side would be to stop the game from doing anything fishy in the first place. If I as a dev can lock down the game with soem kind of DRM, you can’t modify the game in a way that would work, or I’d at least be able to check if the game’s been modified, and ban you from the online stuff.

      • Syal says:

        I’m wondering if there could be tax issues with updating GOG’s version of a game? I could see Nuclear Throne not doing a Daily Challenge if they had to pay taxes every time they updated it or something.

  19. Blunderbuss09 says:

    Honestly the worst thing for this ‘forced online’ crap is that companies either don’t know or don’t care that not everyone has a good internet connection. Sure, in this case you don’t need much but some people still have to make do with speeds barely above dial-up.

    From what I’ve seen the game industry’s response to that is ‘tough shit’.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Even if you have a pretty good (read: fast) internet connection, it might slow down during peak hours, or cut out occasionally. Forcing a net connection for things that don’t actually require it is just asking for trouble with your customers.

    • THe issue isn’t even if people have a good internet connection or not. It’s that usually when the internet goes down (even if it’s only fora few minutes) it’s usually noticed when you really do not want it to go the fuck down. (like when gaming, streaming video or music, etc).

      Stories like someone getting kicked out of a single player game just because the DRM didn’t get to chat with the authentication or “single player” server for a brief moment should never happen in the first place.

      Games defaulting to saving your games in the cloud (without making a local copy as well) should also not be a thing people have to worry about. But I’ve read stories where people could not play a single player game because the game could not reach the save game cloud server.

      Usually these services are not down long, but for the player/consumer it might just mean they have to postpone their gaming until the next night or at worst their entire gaming weekend is ruined (and they can’t take off work again for several months).

      “Requiring” internet is one thing, but not functioning without it is another thing. And devs/publishers/software companies need to understand that. And now that Steam allows refunds this should be even more important.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        “Requiring” internet is one thing, but not functioning without it is another thing.

        Isn’t that almost the dictionary definition of requiring? If something can function without a thing, it’s not really required is it?

        • As I described just a few lines above. If the game can’t reach the server it can still allow the user to play.

          For example the check could just be queued for later, waiting with the check for up to a week or even a full month shouldn’t be much of an issue.
          Initial check when the DLC is installed/downloaded, and the next check within the next month.

          But I fear greed (for money/data/control) will just make this worse. I’m waiting for the day when Calculator refuses to work because it can’t connect to the cloud or something.

  20. Bubble181 says:

    People like to claim these sort of things “don’t have an impact” or “don’t happen”. I own Heroes of Might and Magic VI, and the expansions. I bought it shortly after the expansion’s release, but had other games on my playlist. I played about 6 hours of it, then put it aside to play other stuff (errr, the Witcher 3 I think?).
    Anyway, cue me installing it a few weeks ago. Installs just fine. The expansion downloads just fine. It connects to multiplayer servers fine. UPlay, OK. “The Conflux”, though? No connection possible. And that means no access to unlocked items, no access to save games (feel free to play skirmish or start the campaign , but you can’t save, so….)
    So I contact Ubisoft Tech Support. They say it’s a “known issue”, and they’re “working on resolving it with no ETA”. Oddly, their own forums signal “end of on line support” in 2013. No solution is coming, the game simply won’t connect on Windows 8.1 or 10. This is for a game from 2011 with a 2013 expansion. The game’s literally unplayable except useless skirmishes. For a single player campaign. Because their game can’t connect to their DLC servers anymore.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      the game simply won’t connect on Windows 8.1 or 10

      Wait, so is the issue that the servers went down, or is it just some OS-specific bug?

      • Bubble181 says:

        A very good question, and one I can’t seem to get an answer to from their helpdesk, after asking 3 times.

        Either way, it’s an issue caused by problems with their call home software for a single player campaign. Game’s still being sold over Steam, too.

    • While making it harder for pirates is a probable reason, I suspect it’s more to prevent second hand sales og a game.

      Also in this case the long tail profit for that game is probably low enough that “they can afford” to ignore the original consumers/customers having issues with the game.

      A sunset patch should be (in my opinion) budgeted into the initial game budget.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      To be fair,that game was buggy as hell on release.And not just its online component.Ubisofts response was to fire the devs,bring in new one,and then just give up on the game.Really,their attitude towards that franchise was pretty bad overall.

  21. Fast_Fire says:

    And here I thought the industry at large has been making _good_ progress on learning its lesson on the DRM clusterfuck occurring since over a decade ago.

  22. Dreadjaws says:

    In every discussion about this game, the gaming media talks about how the only thing people complain about is the episodic format, and how they are all wrong about it and should give the game a chance. Newsflash, gaming media: no one gives a crap about the episodic format. The “optional” (read: forced) online is the major problem with this game, and the entire reason why I refuse to play it. Note that if I was going to play the game I’d be doing it on the PS4, so whether Steam does something similar or not is completely irrelevant.

    Nevertheless, the fact that people still insist that this is anything even close to what Steam does is baffling, considering that you don’t have to be online to play games on Steam. You need to do it only the first time after installation for each game (and not even for all of them), and that’s it. Every other time you can do it without an existent internet connection. Anyone who tells you different hasn’t even tried to do it in years or maybe ever.

    And this is the major problem with the gaming industry: the fact that consumers are willing to accept all these problems just to be able to play some more games. And it’s absolutely baffling in a year when the alarmingly increasing number of remasters makes patently ridiculous the fact that people don’t even care about playing new games anymore. I’d say they have become animals, willing to stand abuse just to eat whatever they’re fed even when they’re being pushed to the slaughterhouse, except that animals wouldn’t defend their abusers and they would actually try to escape given the opportunity.

    • Matt Downie says:

      Seems a pretty trivial form of abuse. I have to be online? Five years ago, that would have bothered me. Now, I’m always online, so I’m willing to put up with it. It’s a minor inconvenience compared to, say, having to find a CD and put it in the drive, or having to type in the third word from page 23 of the manual, or having to pay $99.99 over iTunes to get the best value gold-pack so you can reload your guns and continue playing.
      If you’re not always online, or you don’t think you’re going to get your money’s worth between now and the time the game’s servers shut down in five years’ time, feel free not to buy it.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Yeah. Comparing a mild inconvenience that the consumer is forewarned of to mass animal slaughter is… a bit dramatic.

        • Dreadjaws says:

          “If you’re not always online, or you don’t think you’re going to get your money’s worth between now and the time the game’s servers shut down in five years’ time, feel free not to buy it.”

          And I didn’t buy it, just like I said. It’s not like I needed your permission.

          But see, here you’re showing another facet of the problem I’m mentioning. You think that just because something doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t affect anybody else. You’re unable to see past your own priorities and privileges. I’m glad you live in a place where internet is cheap and constant, but I, and million others, don’t, and the publishers are basically telling us to go fuck ourselves.

          Furthermore, forcing the game to be always online adds just another thing that can go wrong, and that’s never a good thing. We don’t just depend on our own internet connection, but on theirs as well. And if you believe their servers are not likely to fail, you’re a high level of naive.

          The biggest problem, though, and the one people like you keep ignoring, is the fact that the reason they’re doing this is because they think we’re thieves that would steal their game if they didn’t do it. You are perfectly comfortable to give money to people who insult you just so you’re able to play a game. So yeah, my comparison to the slaughterhouse is pretty appropiate.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its not that baffling actually.People have always been like that.We just like to pretend that we arent animals,but we are.We have our instincts and easily manipulated emotions and drives.Even those of us that exploit that in other people are susceptible.

  23. Kelerak says:

    So, how much do we want to bet that Final Fantasy XV is going to be online only?

  24. Preserving old games should not be an issue in and of itself.

    First of all a sunset patch would solve the DRM issue.

    Secondly a “Complete Edition” could be released (maybe including a sunset patch) including all DLCs and extras.

    Thirdly, open up the file-formats, provide some documentation on it. This will allow modders to “fix” stuff later.
    Some devs have released the source code for their games, allowing people to buy the game but use a community made executable.

    In some cases the file formats used i such that they can be ported, many games use scripting (pre-compiled and not) usually LUA or a C variant. As long as the game files aren’t encrypted then people could port the data of the game to a new game engine.
    As long as you can port the game to a new engine it could in theory be preserved forever.

    • Tizzy says:

      These days, some publishers have managed to make money by constantly re-releasing their games in an endless parade of remastered editions.

      Could this sunset patch approach kill this possible revenue stream? Either from a legal and marketing point of view?

      • From a legal standpoint. No, if anything it sticks closer to consumer protection laws that not (being able to use the product you bought, years later. Your fridge doesn’t stop working just because your internet is having a bad day after all).

        From a marketing standpoint? Maybe, but it’s misdirected in that case.
        If nobody are able to play the game for half a decade to a decade after it was released then a re-master will need way more money in advertising than if the original was still playable.
        Fans being able to play and mod the game years after support for the game ended is a huge free advertising. A big example is Skyrim.

        With Skyrim Bethesda ported it to their “Fallout Engine”, which is now starting a new Skyrim modding renaissance.
        And if they planned ahead properly then maybe in 5-10 years they’ll have a new remaster of Skyrim but using the Elder Scrolls VI engine or Fallout 5 engine).
        Popular mods will migrate to the new engine. Modern PCs will be able to play the game, assuming they have lossless original textures and audio you’ll get better looks/sound, more polygons, better shaders.

        And it’s all done with little to no effort by the devs (compared to normal game development), it’s not free money but compared to a game from scratch it is and the profit margin is huge.

        If Skyrim had activation servers that you could no-longer access then the game would be dead by now and there would be no remaster.

        If Bethesda is doing what I think they are then in 10-20 years they’ll have 20 or so games using Bethesda.net and many will be 2nd or 3rd edition games.
        Bethesda (at least under Howard) seems to always make new games, so there will never be a Skyrim remake. Thus a remaster makes sense, but only if the game is popular.

        Right now Skyrim modders are split in two camps. Skyrim Classic and Skyrim Remastered, and some are even making new mods for both.

        To Bethesda it does not matter which Skyrim you play as long as it’s Skyrim. They are able to sell the remaster for more cash. But they’d rather sell you the classic Skyrim than not sell it at all.

        Also, a sunset patch basically means “We have no immediate plans for any further patches or content for this game.” but it does not mean they won’t make a remaster half a decade later.
        The bigger the game base gets the bigger future sales will be on future titles (where the larger profits are).

        Bethesda even let those that have the original Skyrim with all the DLC stuff (on the PC) to get the remaster for free on PC.

        Now. Bethesda only uses steam as a DRM. And they could easily make a patch to make the game steam free.

        With Bethesda.net I think they’ll move to using a Bethesda.net DRM rather than steams, that way they can sell the same game on steam and via their own site and other services.

        But I’m getting sidetracked. So to get back to your Qs. No legal reason why not. And as to marketing, pricing the remaster at the same price as he original will make most people get the remastered instead. Heck, they can drop the sale of the old game on platforms where the remastered is available (and only sell the old one on platforms that only the old one can run on).
        In the case of PS4 and Xbox One it would be Skyrim Remastered but on Xbox 360 and PS3 it’s Skyrim Classic.

        Note: I know I keep saying Skyrim Remastered while it’s actually Skyrim Special Edition. While technically I probably should say Skyrim 2016 edition as I’m guessing there might be a Skyrim 2022 edition or similar one day *shrug*.
        In the digital age of game distribution there is no need to ever stop selling a game. As bandwidth and storage increases and costs drop the storage and sale of old games (even when remastered) gets cheaper each year.

        GOG built it’s business on “remastered” or fixed or sunset patched games (they worked with the devs to fix them in some cases, getting a final DRM free patch or in some cases a final bug fix). I’d love to see GOG do a article on how they “renovate” a old game from start to finish.
        Even if a dev/publisher do not wish to put money into a sunset patch or a remaster there are companies out there that are willing to do so for them (and not just GOG).

        I mean look at this https://www.gog.com/games?sort=bestselling&search=star%20wars&page=1

        Look at it. The graphics look like crap on the oldest titles by today’s standards but… but they can still be played dammit, they can still be played. *sniffle* What a beautiful sight.
        But GOG shouldn’t be the hones that have to do this. In an ideal world GOG would not have been necessary. GOG came to life as a reaction to the failure of game publishers to provide what customers wanted, and GOG is thriving as a result.

        The devs/publishers still ave the source, if the installer is 16bit and thus can no longer install on 64bit windows (a real issue a few games have now) they can fix that and suddenly they can sell thousands of copies more by just doing a recompile of the installer script.

    • tmtvl says:

      I wish all games would be like Battle for Wesnoth: open source.

  25. Droid says:

    Hitman: Invisible
    Hitman: ________
    Hitman: Granted (as a sequel to Hitman: Absolution)?

  26. Steve Online says:

    I don’t think that anyone gets upset that you have to sign in to Steam before you can…

    I sat in on a 40-minute irc conversation, last year, where someone was absolutely furious at steam’s ‘tyrannical, consumer-unfriendly, unintuitive bull[pucky]’. Their problem? They couldn’t use the mobile steam app for something the desktop version can’t do, let alone the mobile version. Every explanation of ‘the thing you’re trying to do is irrational, impossible, and nobody else in the world has ever wanted it’ was met with ‘because valve is full of [ancestrally disadvantaged] developers making [fecally extruded] software!’

    So, people absolutely can get upset about everything.

    (They were a linux goon, if you were wondering.)

  27. Christopher says:

    I’m a little surprised that I’ve never heard about this. I check Giant Bomb. I tend to watch some of those bigger youtube guys who are always on about consumer rights, like Jim Sterling. But this is the first I’ve heard about it.

    You’re probably not gonna lose the Mr. Negative image by writing an article about a great game, give it a couple of paragraphs about how good it is and then spending the rest of it on a problem. But I appreciate the angle because it’s let me know about this thing I never knew was an issue. Not sure what to do about it. I mean, it’s a wonderful game, I was planning on picking it up once this season ends. But thanks for letting me know. I hope they put out a patch when the online finally shuts off to make it work the same offline.

  28. This guy (Ross) picks apart Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Invisible War and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and I’ll assume Deus Ex: Mankind Divided later)
    And I’m only 3 minutes in and I already had my first “Oh fuck, he’s right. I noticed that but never really thought about it before.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxOKEsBx4NU (Deus Ex)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPwpLDvAnvo (Invisible War)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYLEuQrvND0 (Human Revolution)

  29. Draklaw says:

    You’re missing the point Shamus. If the game you enjoyed is unplayable in 5 years you will have a good reason to buy the remake… :/

  30. @Josh
    If I recall you are a fan of Tie Fighter. And in connection with another comment here I ran into this https://www.gog.com/game/star_wars_tie_fighter_special_edition

    GOG edited the comment somebody made with this line of text:
    “GOG staff comment: The 1995 DOS CD version is now included as of 28.04.2015.”

    Not sure if you are aware of this or not. If not, then I guess all you need to do is re-download it (I assume you own a copy of the GOG release of the game) and you’ll have the definitively best version of Tie Fighter to re-play again. :)

  31. Incunabulum says:

    That second picture, the black one with the writing? That’s why I’ll never buy this game.

    Don’t care if its good, don’t care if its *lifechanging*, that online crap is crap and checkpoint saves are bullshit. Put the two of them together and its simply no-go territory for me.

    I’ve already stopped buying *anything* from Ubisoft after their AC DRM bit – no big loss as the only thing I was interested in was SH4 (or 5?) and it was shite compared to its predecessor. HINT: ‘Simulator’ games *benefit* from increasing detail in each iteration and suffer horrendously from ‘streamlining’ to ‘attract the larger mainstream casual audience’ YOU FU!. . . calm, calm, calm.

    Square is quickly heading towards my ‘do not buy from this publisher’ list.

  32. Steve C says:

    The BBC wasn’t throwing away the masters. They were erasing them and recording over top. It was to save the ~£300 of buying another blank.

    There’s a good little story about how Terry Gilliam saved the Monty Python masters at the last moment. They were about to be recorded over with dog races. We have Python today because he rushed over to the BBC and bought all of the original Monty Python episodes for the cost of brand new blanks. Imagine if he hadn’t and the world lost Python. I imagine Gilliam made a pretty penny too when the BBC sheepishly came back to him to rebroadcast reruns.

    tl’dr: Doctor Who was eaten by dogs. It was Dog-laps, not Daleks, that ultimately deleted him.

  33. Blackbird71 says:

    “I don’t think that anyone gets upset that you have to sign in to Steam before you can use your friends list, download games, get patches, or earn achievements and trading cards. Those features aren’t possible without being online.”

    This is just a personal perspective, but I’m going to challenge this thought:

    I don’t care about Steam’s friends list, I know how to get in touch with my friends and can communicate with them through many means that don’t require Steam. With phones and texting, communication is quite possible without being online. With email, TeamSpeak, and other chat programs, online communication is quite possible without being tied to a specific service that also limits your control over your games.

    While I also have to log in to GOG to initially download a game, once I have downloaded the installer, I can save a backup copy and use it any time I’d like without ever having to return online. Therefore, beyond the initial purchase and download, installation and ownership of a game is also possible without the need to continually log in to a service.

    Once upon a time, it was very easy to get patches without needing to log in to any site or service – go to the publishers webpage, download patch, done. Then, save a copy of the patch to use for later installs. Why should patches require a log-in? If the primary purpose of the log-in is to verify ownership of the game, then what is the point of logging in for a patch? If anyone does not own the game, the patch isn’t going to do them any good, so such verification is pointless.

    Achievements and trading cards? Who cares? I’m sure some players do, but not I. I play games for my own enjoyment, not for internet bragging rights.

    No, I still don’t see the need or justification for how Steam does things. I avoid Steam like the plague, and Shamus, that is largely due to your early posts on the service which rightly pointed out the dangers and problems inherent in such an online service as a requirement for accessing one’s games. I understand you’ve changed your mind as Steam improved and added more features that made the service more justifiable to you, but I cannot agree as I value ownership too highly.

    • Shamus says:

      No no no. I wasn’t saying “Steam is just fine.” I’m saying “Steam is completely different from what we see in Hitman.” I was specifically talking to people who ARE fine with Steam and try to excuse Hitman as being the same thing.

      I also would prefer the bays when I could buy a game and feel like I owned it. But it’s sort of exhausting to have THAT argument every time Steam comes up, so I usually assume that 99% of the people are okay with the premise of Steam and go from there. The thing about those articles years ago is that I’ve already made those points, and re-stating them again and again wouldn’t do anyone any good.

      It’s true that achievements, friends list, and trading cards are needless bells and whistles that aren’t required for a game to function properly. But they’re SOMETHING, and some people do value them. Hitman can’t even offer this level of shallow “service”, instead crippling the game and holding it ransom. You can hate Steam or love Steam, but no matter how you rate it, Hitman is worse.

  34. Kalil says:

    Thanks for the warning. I’d seen your other posts and comments about Hitman, and was really tempted to try the game (I’ve never experimented with the series before), but…

    Right now, I’m am floating about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Texas on a NOAA research vessel. While I have internet (obviously), it is extremely slow, shared with the entire 40-man crew, and goes down whenever the ship takes a hard roll or turns north (placing the stack in between the receiver and the satellite).

    Online-only(ish) games are simply not an option for me for half the year or more, and games like this or DIII (*glares*) which function primarily as single player and use online-only as a form of user punishment… I take them as a personal affront.

  35. baud001 says:

    Looks like one step forward and one step back

    From https://hitman.com/en-gb/updates/november-update-release-notes

    All unlockable items that are earned when connected to the game’s servers, are now also saved to an ‘offline profile’, meaning that they can be used when in Offline Mode.

    So you’ll need to be online to unlock things, but then you won’t have to be online to use your unlocks. So maybe they are moving in the right direction.

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