Commentary: Dragon Age 2 and the wrath of fans

By:
12 Mar
2011
13 Comments
 

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.

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Tagged in: Gaming, security, Bioware, EA,  
 
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  • mark_t50

    Nice read, it pretty much sums up how I feel. I deliberately held off from purchasing until the issue over ‘SecuROM’ was explained and to see what happened with the poor chap who got banned from playing the game.

    By late yesterday it seemed that the SecuROM issue was explained enough for me to be happy (It is apparantly nothing more than a poorly coded release control program and not full blown SecuROM). And the issue with them locking that chap out off the game was a ‘Glitch’ that was ‘Fixed’ so I purchased and started downloading.

    However it seems that they are still locking people out of the game, this time a PS3 user has been blocked because of forum comments:

    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/141/index/6503413

    So I’m really starting to doubt the explaination that it is a ‘Glitch’, seems to me like EA / Bioware are trying to use the fear of losing your game access as a means to control forum behaviour, I suppose a bit like the Blizzard fiasco when they thought Real ID would improve forum behaviour, I sure hope this turns out better for Bioware than it did for Blizzard ;) I personally find it disgusting that they are willing to do this, ban them from the forums sure, but to take away access to a single player game they have purchased is dreadful imho.

  • http://www.techgoondu.com Chi-Loong

    @Gin

    As stated before, the core issue for me here is not the gameplay itself (which I will touch on later) but their boneheaded treatment of customers and the DRM issues.

    I especially loathe badly written DRM that screws up your computer, be it SecuROM or Starforce. As other folks on the Net have mentioned, and you’ve argued before, DRM that hurts legit gamers is rubbish — it doesn’t even stop piracy!

    If consumers do not hit the corporates where it hurts (i.e. with your wallet) they will never learn that doing certain things to their customers are *not* ok.

    Now, on to gameplay of DA2. Perhaps DA:O set the bar too high, but to move to a hack-and-slash version that is reviled by many fans is not a smart move at all. After all they had expectations of what the game would be like, and it’s not Diablo. It is absolutely not smart to alienate a large part of your fan base.

    Wasn’t Dragon Age supposed to be a reboot of the Baldur’s Gate type of game — deep storytelling, multiple story arcs, tactical (even difficult) gameplay? After one phenomenally successful game why are you changing the formula? If you want, strike out on a different IP like Mass Effect.

    The fact that so many gamers are up in arms over this is because we do, to a certain degree, care about the games made by certain developers. If some smaller development house made a passable game I doubt I’d care very much.

    Similarly, if Blizzard or Valve released a product that many of their core fans disliked you’d see a wave of negative publicity.

  • ginlee

    DRAGON AGE 2 IS AWESOME – TRUST ME

  • http://www.me.com B33

    Um. I’ve played it. I preordered it. I despise it. So — you can blame 4chan’s army of anonymous trolls all you’d like: the truth is that there are heaps of loyal Bioware fanboys (myself prominently among them) who absolutely feel betrayed.

    Look on the Bioware forums. Heaps of fanboy butthurt.

    In fact, the better written the review — the more disdain you’ll see. EA done goofed. (Well, maybe it was the Bioware team, but it makes me feel better to blame the publisher)

    What a profound disappointment.

  • Anno123

    @Wasted Joker

    The author simply stated that he/she was concerned about the changes in DA2 and the negative reviews on metacritic. He/she did not bash DA2.

    @Anoymous

    It’s a two way street. You have fanboys who gave the game 10/10 unconditionally and you have trolls who did the opposite. User reviews are unreliable, and why would 4chans pick DA2 as their target instead of some other high profile games?

  • kooleo

    i actually played through the game and still hated it. i loved Origins, and i played it on Ps3. i enjoy the old KOTOR style of RPG. thats why i and 80% of everyone else hated dragon age 2. it was watered down in every aspect. it wasnt really about console gamers. it was about $$$$$$. getting casual fans to buy the game so they could get more $$$$$$. only problem is bioware has just lost most of its core fanbase. (including me) im done with bioware games

  • http://www.techgoondu.com Chi-Loong

    @Wasted Joker.

    Did EA ban one of their fans for posting on their forums, causing him or her to be unable to play their game for 72 hours? Yes or no?

    Did EA ship or not ship DRM with their software and not tell people about it? Yes or no?

    Note: this is NOT a review of the game. You can find lot of that elsewhere, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m woefully inadequate to judge as I haven’t played it. This is me stating why I think what they did was bad practice and thus should not be supported.

  • WastedJoker

    So you’re bashing a game you haven’t even played? Well done.

  • Anoymous User

    You do know those metacritic user reviews were by stupid 4/chan trolls? Check Gamespot for honest reviews from people who actually brought the game. The PC version has a 7 though but it probably would have an 8 if it wasn’t for trolls, you only have to look at their reviews to see they haven’t played the game.

    My advice? Wait till the game price drops and then try it out if you are wary about it.

  • Nick

    Like you I’m a long term PC game player, and Bioware fan. Based on what you’ve written above, I’ll be voting with my wallet and not buying also (and will scrutinise future Bioware releases prior to purchase to see whether putting customer interest at the back of the queue continues.) I’ve never been a fan of the way EA works as a company, and I’m disappointed that the publisher negatively affects the developer, but it’s a bed they made together.