By Shamus Posted Thursday May 29, 2008

Filed under: Video Games 27 comments

A couple of days ago I posted to the Greenhouse forums, soliciting their thoughts on when we might get a standalone version of RSPOD. All I managed to do was re-light the dormant debate on the issue without getting any response out of PA / Hothouse Games. I nudged them again the next day. The thread has since fallen off the front page and I’m pretty sure the Hothouse guys are just ignoring it. Ah well. It was worth a try.

I was really, really hoping they were going to take the path forged by Telltale Games. Telltale has set the standard for how episodic gaming should be done, and it’s a shame to see Hothead stagger onto the field with so little idea of what they’re doing.

I really enjoyed the demo for the Penny Arcade game, and as I’ve said before – the $20 price point is irresistible to me. But I still expect to own games that I buy, and after waffling a bit I’ve decided their activation requirement is a deal-breaker for me. I really wanted to support them, but after a lot of fuss and attention for the fans at launch they seem to have wandered off. That initial wave of attention filled me with the delusion that we might be able to get them to re-think their policy of requiring the game to authenticate on install, forever.

Serves me right for abandoning my default stance of bitter cynicism I’ve cultivated over the last few years.

It’s just as well. Instead of worrying about RSPOD, I think I really, really need to get on the Sam & Max bandwagon. I played the Free Episode and it was fantastic. My next purchase will either be the Galactic Civ expansion or a season of Sam & Max. Decisions, decisions.


From The Archives:

27 thoughts on “Greenhouse

  1. DarkLadyWolf says:

    Go for both seasons of Sam and Max. AT least, that’s what I’d do. The fact I’ve been playing them since Day One doesn’t make me biased in the least.



  2. Andrew says:

    Sam and Max is awesome. A warning, though: The first three episodes of the first season are the weakest of the entire series–they were made all at once, so episode 4 (the one you played) is the first one on which user feedback really had an effect.

    Once you get past those, the rest of the series (the tail end of season 1 and all of season 2) is excellent. Mind-bendingly awesome. It’s kind of like taking an acid trip without the harmful side effects.

    But you really should play them in order–the story is much more enjoyable that way.

    Season 2 hasn’t come out in retail form yet, but it should eventually.

  3. DGM says:


    I’m guessing you’re not a regular reader of my blog, but if you’re thinking of getting into Sam & Max then my last post should be of interest to you:

    EDIT: Also, Jay and I briefly discuss the mathematics of it over at The Rampant Coyote:

  4. Tango says:

    Mostly curiosity, but is there a reason we’ve had 4 updates in short order? Not that this is bad, just odd.

  5. Miral says:

    I second everything that DarkLadyWolf said. And I’m equally unbiased. *cough*

    There are a few misses in each season; as Andrew said, Season 1 started out strong but kinda lost the plot a bit in episodes 2-3 (though the song in #3 is brilliant), but 4-6 just kept getting better and better.

    Season 2 was pretty good all the way through; episode 3 really didn’t do it for me though (but I know other people who loved it), and episode 4 is simply pure unadulterated awesome.

  6. Alan De Smet says:

    Supporting the above, episodes 2 and 3 of season 1 were good, but not their best work. Episodes 4 to 6, however, are great stuff. My fiance and I enjoyed season 2, but found it more uneven. Still I think both seasons are totally worth it. And if you buy the full season 1 now, you not only get instant gratification in the form of a download, for a few bucks more you get a DVD copy of the entire season, free of activation. I’m expecting the season 2 DVD soonish, but it’s not out yet.

  7. yoshi927 says:

    Whoa. They’re making “Bone” games there.
    My life is now complete.

  8. Solka says:

    Hum, Shamus. The new addon for GalCiv2 is “Twilight of the Anor”

  9. Kevin says:

    Man. I want a video game for MY webcomic too. (Does anyone still play those old text-based games? Remember the ones that came out on the old TI99? I have almost enough computer knowledge to make one of those.

    … if I had help…

  10. Mark says:

    Shamus, maybe consider the game a long-term rental and be done with it?

  11. Christian Groff says:

    Have you tried “The Movies?” I know it’s a Sims-type game, but I loved playing it. You can also skip the story mode and insert a cheat file to unlock everything in sandbox mode, then you can make your own films! And no activation crudola! ^_^ (They even came out with an expansion that adds stunts! I need to get my CD drive working!)

    I’m sorry you are a dying breed of gamer, Shamus. I used to enjoy playing the Sierra games, but the new games don’t live up to the hype, and this copy-protection scandal is killing computer games.

    BTW, I doubt that EA will die even if their computer branch goes under – they have so many video game companies under their thumb they can leech off of them. >_<

  12. Slippery Jim says:

    Twilight of Arnor will bring you more joy in the long run I think. It is simply excellent. I can’t recommend it jighly enough!

  13. Lukasa says:

    Just to add to the small number of people recommending Twilight of the Arnor, it really is an excellent add-on: Stardock have outdone themselves in terms of adding content and fixing problems. This is largely because it’s the last add-on for Gal Civ 2; the next time they do a Gal Civ game, it’ll be number 3. I highly recommend it.

  14. Jeff says:

    I’ve lost track of Gal Civ ever since I purchased Gal Civ 1 and then “tested” *cough* Gal Civ 2. While I beat GC1 a few times, I don’t think I even got half-way through a game of GC2.

    Is there finally a storyline somewhere?

  15. Drew says:

    I’m with you. When I evaluate a software purchase, I think of it like any other entertainment dollar I spend. If I’m ok spending $10 on a movie ticket (and I may or may not be), then I’m ok with something like $5 an hour for that entertainment spend. If I’m ok with spending $50 a month on cable TV (not to mention some sort of amortized cost for the TV, etc), then that’s $X/hour for that entertainment. And if I’m looking at a game, I ask myself what the cost is, and how much time I figure I’ll spend playing it. If the quality of the entertainment is high enough to justify the per-hour cost, I call it a good buy. If not, I don’t pick it up. So if you take the example of RSPOD, you’re looking at something like 8 hours of gameplay from what I understand, for $20. That’s a $2.50/hour, and if the game is entertaining enough to justify $2.50/hour to play it, I’m in. If they could guarantee I could play it again in 10 years, let’s say there’s a 30% chance I would actually do that, so that’s another 8 hours * 30%, so maybe like another 2.5 hours of play, which lowers the theoretical per-hour cost a bit more.

    I think that’s really the only way to evaluate these kinds of purchases. Don’t get me wrong, I like having things on my shelf as much as the next guy, but rationally speaking, it just makes sense to me to break everything down to a per-hour cost.

  16. krellen says:

    Twilight of the Arnor makes GalCiv2 an entirely new game. You need Dark Avatar for it, which it seems you don’t have, but it’s worth it, I think. TotA gives each race a unique tech tree and unique buildings, which transforms the experience of playing each one into a new game, rather than just a carbon-copy of each other as before.

    Dark Avatar added the “Super Abilities”, which was a good step towards making each race unique. Twilight is just the final step in that direction. I recommend it.

    For the record: I have not played Sam and Max.

  17. Adamantyr says:

    To Kevin:

    Yeah, there’s still a 99’er community, just go look for the mailing group on Yahoo. I’m writing a vintage CRPG for the TI myself right now. And no, it won’t have DRM. :)

    I assume you mean the cartridge-based text-adventures that Scott Adams did? There is an editor for those that a fellow wrote; it’s actually pretty nicely done with a built-in scripting language and everything. The only trouble with it is you’re limited to around 13k, which goes pretty fast…

    Ahem, back to the thread at hand, I totally support your decision not to buy DRM software, Shamus. And yes, it is disappointing to see them opt for silence rather than responding to you. I expected better. I guess dollars rolling in tends to erode one’s sense of duty to respond to customer complaints.

  18. Jeff says:

    Hm, tempting, I wonder if they sell a gold pack with both expansions nowadays?
    I’m replaying Morrowind, so I can wait, hah.

  19. Joe says:

    So, here’s a question. Say, 6 months from now, PA/Hothouse releases RSPOD Episode II. When they do, they say “We’re releasing Episode II with the same DRM/activation as we had in Episode I. However, we are re-tasking all our activation servers for activating Episode II, and releasing a patch which removes the activation requirement for Episode I so that you can install it without activation. We’re still *selling* Ep I, and Ep II, but Ep II is the only one that requires activation anymore. Additionally, if this goes well, our intention is to release a new episode every 6 months or so, and simultaneously release a no-activation patch for the previous episode.”

    Do you:

    A) say “DRM sucks. I refuse to do business with anyone who brokers in it. Your games are tainted with its evil stench even after you’ve removed it and I will not buy them.”

    B) say “Finally! Episode I is for sale now, as opposed to some bizarre form of rental. I’ll buy it right now, and as soon as you release that patch for Episode II, I’ll probably buy it too!”

    C) say “Wonderful! You’ve proven yourselves trustworthy, I believe you when you say you’ll release your patch with the next episode, and if you fail to I’m only out the latest game, so I’ll buy both Episode I and Episode II right now and, so long as you keep up your end of the bargain, will keep buying episodes as long as you keep putting them out (and as long as they don’t suck).”

    What’s your thoughts?

    It’s interesting as market research, because if there *is* a crack available before their patch, then they can definitely count every single post-patch sale as one that DRM would have *lost* them if they kept it.

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    Gamespy rips the Mass Effect DRM scheme on the last page of their review!

    Apparently it’s not enough to reduce Mass Effect’s rating of five stars out of five, but the whole last two paragraphs go into detail about how bad the DRM is and “questionable copy protection” is mentioned as a Con on the first page of the review.

    I know this has little to do with RSPOD or Sam & Max, but “The Truth About Piracy” post already has almost 100 replies, so I’m mentioning it here.

  21. MadTinkerer says:

    Incidentally, by “rip”, I mean “criticize”, I didn’t mean to imply that Gamespy have ripped a copy of Mass Effect (though they might need to once their three legit installations are used up).

    BTW: Joe: I say “B”. The DRM issue has become a deal-breaker for me too, but I still want to buy it…

  22. Shamus says:

    Joe: Personally, I’d go for B.

  23. Meta says:

    If something minor like that is enough for you to dismiss the game for that reason alone, I don’t figure you’re going to play any PC games made in the year of 2009 and beyond, ever.

  24. Mazlak says:

    I agree with Meta. DRM’s are only going to get worse and worse as the PC gaming market share vanishes. Not wanting to re-open old flame wars here, but I spent my new PC budget on an Xbox 360, and found my 5 year old PC still more than adequate for web surfing and multimedia. Now I own Mass Effect, and RSPoD is safely downloaded to my hard drive. It’s not as if I’ve ever had to reformat my original Xbox drive, so it’ll probably still be there in 5-10 years when I want to play it again.
    About RSPoD though – it’s designed with the one button click of a console game, but with a resolution and menu screen for a PC. Not having a high def TV set, I found myself sitting very close to my television. If you’re a fan of PA style humor, it is still a very enjoyable game. Now my only question is when is Episode 2 coming out?

  25. Alan De Smet says:

    Mazlak: “It's not as if I've ever had to reformat my original Xbox drive, so it'll probably still be there in 5-10 years when I want to play it again.”

    That’s placing a lot of faith in a mass market, disposable piece of hardware. I’d also be worried: if you get it onto a new Xbox when your old one dies, will you still be able to play it? As I understand it, online purchased content only works if you’re logged into Xbox live. (There is a weird exception for the first Xbox you own; anyone on that Xbox can access any content purchased on it. This exception does not carry over to replacement machines.) So the question is, in 10 years, will Microsoft still be running the login/authenticatin servers? Sure, they’re Microsoft, and surely they’ll still be in the games industry, right?

    I doubt it. Microsoft is still in the music business, but it didn’t stop them from declaring that in a few month, all your “PlaysForSure” music stops playing for sure. It becomes, PlaysForMaybe.

  26. Kotenku says:

    You should absolutely go for the GalCiv expansions – BOTH OF THEM.

    Twilight of the Arnor completely overhauls every single race, giving them unique techs, tech trees, improvements, and it runs about 10 times better.

  27. Justin says:

    @ Alan De Smet, You can re-download XBL content on your next 360 to restore the licence to your current 360, thus making it available offline.

    And @ our dear host: RSPOD is now going up on Steam. I don’t know if that helps your boycott, but it does represent a DRM you’ve come to terms with (I think… I could be wrong).

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