Here’s an almost textbook study in how to absolutely destroy your fanbase, courtesy of the folks at EA who probably screwed Bioware in this week’s release of Dragon Age 2.
Firstly, a disclaimer. I’ve been a long time fan of Bioware, having been an old-school PC gamer that loved their Baldur’s Gate series. I still have fond memories playing custom fan-made scenarios of Neverwinter Nights. I absolutely loved Dragon Age: Origins, and got around to being quite fond of Mass Effect 1 and 2, even though they are more of a light RPG/shooter hybrid than a true-blue RPG.
Knowing that Dragon Age 2 would be launched around this time, I was almost 95 percent sure I would get it this weekend, given my track record with Bioware games. My mistake, of course, was to fire up the net to browse Metacritic for reviews of the game.
That is when I found out that most of the user reviews hated the game. And when you have a large segment of your fanbois who hate what you’ve done with game — in huge contrast to the mostly positive reviews given by critics — you have a big problem.
I count myself as an old school gamer who plays on a PC. In fact I laughed at friends who played the original Dragon Age: Origins on an XBox or PS3 because the isometric view didn’t exist and tactical combat would be more button mashing than planning. So I knew I would not be swayed by a more “Mass effect”-styled play of Dragon Age with more linear story lines and streamlined (read: simplified) combat.
Stripped down dialogue trees, the entire story being set in one city and having many areas being reused, and fans complaining that content is woefully short gave me pause.
I still probably might have given the game a chance. However, when I read that EA sent their mighty ban hammer on a fan who complained on their forums, who locked said fan out of being able to play the game they bought(!), I decided to vote as simply as I can as a gamer: Not buy your game because of your craptastic way of treating customers.
I also absolutely detest obnoxious DRM bundled in with my digital content, especially on the sly, and bundling secuROM on Dragon Age 2 without telling anyone is unethical and will earn you the wrath of tech bloggers like me everywhere. So here’s more to add to your bad publicity woes, EA.
By the way EA, I also hated Spore, which also strangely garnered great reviews when it launched. It would have only been an unmemorable game, but what pushed it over the edge into craptastic territory was your — surprise, surprise — abhorrent secuROM that you bundled with it.
So here’s a love letter from me to EA: Please stop destroying Bioware.
In a lighter tone, the most anticipated game that I’m slavering after is ArenaNet’s Guildwars 2. Who has, as a company, been great to the fans (as this fanboi can attest!), if you go by various 2010 polls on MMORPG.com and Massively.
Some other anticipated titles in 2011 (and later) include CDProjekt’s Witcher 2, Valve’s Portal 2, Runic Game’s Torchlight 2, Blizzard’s Diablo 3.
Update: 12th March
Bioware claims on their forums that the DRM they are using for Dragon Age 2 is not SecuROM, but another Sony Release security product that is essentially harmless, as summarized at Games.on.net.
However, in reading the pretty forum long thread, it seems that things are still unclear. People are asking why is it that if it is NOT SecuROM are the Windows registry listing SecuROM entries? Does SecuROM appear only on press copies of the game?
Whether EA/Bioware is innocent of sneaking in a malicious version of SecuROM (i.e they used something that uses SecuROM libraries but is *not* SecuROM) — and I might give them the benefit of the doubt here — this is a total screw-up by EA/Bioware.
There is a certain segment of folks like myself who loathe SecuROM.
It is an infamous DRM that gets admin-level access to the system (the definition of a rootkit) so that it can bury itself and not uninstall itself after the game is uninstalled. In fact EA has been hit with civil lawsuits over the bundling of SecuROM in games like Spore.
Bioware stated clearly that they do not use SecuROM when the game was launched. And yet if people find SecuROM entries in their registry what do you expect people to do? Not get frigging mad?
Steam seems one way to get around all this mess, but not everybody has access to high-speed Internet in order to play a single player game.