on Jun 23, 2009
I was really worried there for a few months. The news that EA was dropping DRM made me a little uneasy, and the news that they were salvaging the beloved Brutal Legend and bringing it to gamers filled me with dread. As the unofficial EA nemesis, I watch my adversary closely in the news and look for chances to engage them in ineffectual rhetorical combat. Any news that they might be turning good is very bad for me. It’s like when an evil pro wrestler turns to the good side. Sure, audiences love the tale of redemption, but the good guy that used to be his nemesis is going to have a tough time finding a match. He can either fade into obscurity or turn evil and rekindle the rivalry.
I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to turn evil when someone forwarded an email to a tale of tech support gone so horribly wrong that it has become clear my earlier fears were unfounded. EA will continue to be a bountiful source of industry-wide evil for years to come, and this recent dalliance with integrity is just a ruse that will be unmasked at some dramatic point in the future.
Consider the story of one guy who bought a digital copy of Crysis to play on his 64 bit machine. The EA loader – Electronic Art’s comically inept attempt to counter Impulse and Steam – was screwing up the works. Originally, the user was able to run Crysis just find by directing Windows to run Crysis in 32 bit mode. But then EA introduced a change to make Crysis dependent on the EA loader, so that the game would not run without the loader. This caused the game to stop working, because (I think, it gets murky for me here) there was no longer any way to force the game into 32 bit mode. (Since the loader was now running the show.) The game broke when this change was introduced, and led to a lengthy exchange between the user and EA support. The tale is long, and filled with injustice and bureaucratic horrors.
Basically, they delayed for weeks. He had to wait a few days for each response from tech support, and each response was another copy / pasted “solution” that was obviously unrelated to the problem. He would protest, and draw their attention to the matter at hand. They would insist, and then he would acquiesce and perform the requested busywork. Then he’d re-open the issue and the cycle would begin anew without them ever speaking about the real problem or doing anything that might lead to a solution. Eventually the user reached the point six months after his digital purchase, and they informed him that he needed to re-download the game. But since his six-month download window had expired, he would need to buy the game again.
Yes, they tried to sell him a second copy of a game which they had themselves broken and for which they had never provided any useful support.
This is the tech support you’re supposed to contact if you run out of Spore installs. This is not the work of a lone, poorly trained tech support jockey. This is a lumbering machine of unthinking repetition and callous bureaucratic indifference that had the audacity to waste a man’s time for weeks and then demand more money while gesturing at the fine print of the EULA and shrugging. (And getting the details of the EULA wrong. Near the end of the war, the tech support guy is confusing a six-month ability to download a game with the ability to play the game, and ignoring the detail that the problem arose long before the download window closed. (AND not knowing that the window (which, again, was completely irrelevant) was for six months and not a year.))
Ah, EA. Welcome back, you evil sons of bitches. You really had me going for a minute.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.