FNG Logo created by Nick Serr

30 December 2008

Auditorum - Excellent Musical Online Single-Player Game


If you haven't heard of Auditorium, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

It's a puzzle game involving music and some physics controls that change the way a "stream" of audio is guided.

The goal is to fill all the "audio levels" on the screen, using the controls offered you. The controls have a diameter of area they offer for their influence to take effect. This diameter can be expanded and contracted, and it is up to you to experiment and discover what will work to accomplish the goal.
As the site states, "There are no right or wrong answers; there are many ways to solve every puzzle."
The game rocks; I'll probably be making a donation after the new year. Good work to the Team putting Auditorium together!

29 December 2008

Steam's Annual Holiday Sale - TrackMania United Forever at $19.99 until 02 January 2009!

Steam is having its Annual Holiday Sale until 02 Januray 2009.

They've slashed prices on all kinds of gaming goodness, including:

Dang, I need to become an affiliate for Steam or something... get some kickback from the sales. :) Don't miss the sale... especially for those that haven't tried TrackMania United Forever yet... you don't know what you're missing!

EA Offers Newest Games on Steam (WITHOUT SecuROM; pending confirmation)

Thundr saw the following announcement 20 December 2008 after we all finished playing TrackMania United Forever for FNG:

EA games now on Steam

This of course came as a pleasant surprise, as long as we know the games come without the SecuROM that has caused many in the gaming community to boycott EA by not purchasing their games. Ars Technica published an article about it that stated: "The product pages for each game reveal that all traces of the much-loathed SecuROM have been eradicated."

Grand Theft Auto IV on Steam contains SecuROM
This puzzled me, as I saw nothing on the product pages that indicate anything for/against SecuROM being eradicated. After further investigation, which is why I'm so late posting about this, I found a game on Steam's product pages that DOES mention third-party DRM... Grand Theft Auto IV.

Notice the "3rd-party DRM:" section in the information just above the rating, that mentions SecuROM and Unlimited machine activations.


Looking at the Spore product page on Steam, we see that it lacks a section like that. I'm assuming this is what Ars Technica meant by showing that "... the much-loathed SecuROM have been eradicated."

It has yet to be confirmed that this is true and not just an oversight by Steam to mention it on the product pages yet... but I looked at several EA product pages on Steam, including Mirror's Edge; which will be my first EA purchase on Steam if the DRM is truly gone. None of the pages included information mentioning 3rd-party DRM like the GTA-4 page did.

I trust EA did the right thing here. I sure hope none of us are disappointed.

Please comment here if you've downloaded any of the EA games on Steam and can confirm that they are, in fact, without the nasty SecuROM we all hate so passionately.

Kudos to EA if they've truly seen the light. Myself and several others I know will go back to purchasing multiple EA offerings on Steam to get sans-DRM licenses that we won't have to worry if we'll be able to play or not.

Game on!

16 December 2008

The War Against DRM - How the Prince of Persia is Fighting For Right

Digital Rights Management - In the software development community, it started as a way to slow down pirates in hopes that it would frustrate them and turn them into paying customers.

Like radar jammers and radar detectors, however, the DRM game is just another game of leap-frog. A DRM developer comes up with a newer, shinier, fancy-pants version that will "sure-fire show those blasted pirates this time!!!"; only to be disappointed when within days they've already cracked through and had their way with it.

So the game developers spend who knows how much in time and resources either developing their own or integrating with a licensed one; in hopes that this is the time that no one will pirate their game.

The problem is, there seems to be a misguided notion that DRM acts like locks on a car-door... keeping the honest, honest. I certainly don't believe this is the case. The pirates are already pirates; and most of them are likely to always remain pirates... until their conscience kicks in and they decide to turn around. Likewise, paying customers believe in the game developers and want to reward them for providing them with kick-butt entertainment.

That is, until it gets so freaking hard to install/play a game that it's not worth their hard earned money anymore.

See, it was one thing to start implementing CD-keys and disc authorization... those posed some annoying traits, but were manageable and easy to get passed. But when today, we see things like "You can only install 3 times before you have go on a wild-goose-chase to try to find someone from our support so we can play judge and jury to decide if you're worthy of more activations... and, oh, by the way, did I mention that if you're not connected to the internet, you can't play?!" I'm seeing it drive those who were happy to be paying customers running to the pirates to get a working version of the game that is much more worth their time because they can get it to work on their machines without the mayhem that is today's DRM.

The industry has seen a shift... but I think in the wrong direction than what their goal was.
See, paying gamers, when starting to have enough with the DRM bull would go purchase the game, install, then immediately go find a no-CD crack somewhere on the web so they could enjoy their game without having to find their CD. But they felt justified because they still paid their money.

Now that the DRM is getting harder for the paying customer to deal with... I dare say some of them are frustrated enough to just not even bother paying anymore and just go download it free anyway since they know they won't have the same hassle and can still play the game.

All the while the true-blue pirates have been doing the same thing they always do... no difference there... just now the paying customers are defecting; instead of the desired result of pirates converting to paying customers.

Now, the ones that really do desire to remain honest in their licensing of games have had enough. Many of us are boycotting the big companies that insist that this mega-restrictive and sometimes system-hijacking is necessary to stall the pirates... when really all it's doing is hurting the paying customers.

Why do these companies think that just because something may be easy to copy, that the paying customer is going to all-of-the-sudden lose their conscience and go get their game for free, just because it's easier to get free now? They need to realize the pirates ALWAYS provide the free version, but we, the paying customers, WANT to support the developers!!

But not when they make it so hard/irritating to try to get past the DRM to play the game that it's not worth the time/money we're spending on it.

Enter Spore from Electronic Arts (EA.)

A list of anti-DRM rant threads on Amazon for Spore
Click to enlarge


This is a game I was looking forward to. That is, until I was looking to order off Amazon and saw the following list of discussions going on about it's new DRM; the newest version of SecuROM. When I heard about a limit of 3 activations, a requirement to be connected to the internet for forced "phone homes" and what not... all sorts of red-flags went off in my head. What if I'm on an airplane with my laptop? What if I'm at a mechanic, waiting for my car to get fixed and have no internet connection?! I can't play my game?! You've got to be kidding me!

There are other scenarios that make this extremely frustrating too, like having a gaming desktop and gaming laptop that one gamer decides to take the game on the road with some synced saved gameage ... but now can't because of the restrictiveness. It also goes without saying the number of complaints that have come from games like this where the DRM jacks up the system some so other functionality doesn't work quite right anymore either (but their system worked fine before installing said game.)

Ok, so some it is somewhat speculation since it needs to be solidly proven to be concrete evidence, but you get my point. The trend has proven to NOT deter the pirates, but has seriously hampered the honest gamer from having full enjoyment of the game they paid to play without countless extra hurdles to jump through that the pirates don't have to deal with since they've hacked past the DRM folly.

A very nicely written article about Piracy and PC gaming was written at the StarDock "Sins of a Solar Empire" forums.

I'd like to interject here that GameSpy released their picks for the 2008 PC Games of the Year today. Spore was #10 (congrats on still landing there even though EA is much hated by the DRM-frustrated) right now... However, Spore was beaten by both of StarDock's major players that are BOTH non-DRM.... Sins of a Solar Empire came in at #9 and Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor came in at #7. Fallout 3 came in #1, and it doesn't install any DRM. It uses SecuROM for disc checking... but it's all on the disc, it doesn't get installed on your computer.

Both have had killer sales... why?! Because honest gamers LIKE to play their game... not spending their time trying to get past DRM so they CAN play the game. Good games will make money because the honest will continue to pay for them... We don't rush to go pirate a game becuase we find out the developer made it easy to copy...

I not only buy one license for the games I really like, I buy a few licenses so I can play with my kids on our LAN. I know other gamers that do the same.

EA, sad to say, has lost out on quite a bit of money from me lately... because of my boycott, I've been deprived of the joy of playing Mirror's Edge, Red Alert 3, Need for Speed: Undercover and Spore. And EA has lost out on all the money I would've spent on those games (including multiple licenses for the likes of Need for Speed and Red Alert 3)

It's too bad because I'm VERY interested in Mirror's Edge... but I want to play it on PC because my PC's waste the consoles; but I'm sick of being the one to suffer the DRM plague because the publishers feel the need to punish the paying for the sins of the pirates that continue still to get away with (and now provide an easier-to-get-working copy of their games) it, regardless.

The bottom line is... the paying consumer is the only one that gets hurt from this. The pirates have, and always will, relish in the challenge of cracking the latest DRM... I don't even think some of those that crack the DRMs even play the games... I think they just conquer the challenge and move on to the next.

It's funny. because the game industry isn't oblivious... the reactions vary as you look around... PCGamer now provides a DRM Alert in all of their reviews, so you're not caught with your pants down. (Thanks PCGamer!)

And of course there are rebuttles from the game companies that usually claim the whiners are the pirates... but I don't understand how they even go there, since the pirates don't feel the pain of the DRM, remember? They get CRACKED copies!!! Anyway, they're either ranting about the whiny customers, ranting about how they won't back down because they have to protect their assets... or they have to make posts defending their position of why they used their DRM and how it's not as bad as the next guy's... (see Bethesda's post about the before-mentioned Fallout 3 and the SecuROM for disc check only)

xkcd put out a hilarious comic about DRM in general, but it totally applies to my feelings about PC gaming and DRM. It's my perception of what this hell-bent attitude that DRM must be more encroaching because it gives some CEO a warm fuzzy that it's protecting their assets. I'll say it again... you're only hurting the paying customers.

Here's another joy of EA's new DRM for those that took the chance on purchasing Red Alert 3. Bless your hearts. At least the workaround will work in no more than 36 attempts... hope yours is at the left-end of the spectrum... Out-of-control.

So... why have I been so long-winded; and how the freak does this all tie in to the Prince of Persia?!

Simply this... my friend Joe sent me a link to an Ars Technica article mentioning that the new Prince of Persia (retail box) contains NO DRM!!!!

The article is pretty funny, because it mentions reasons why Ubisoft may have made this move... and I've had discussions with others about it.

Some say it's because they had an "epic fail" on Assassin's Creed and their implementation of the DRM there (problems like unto the Spore and Red Alert 3 frustrations, if I understand correctly.) Some say it's a "challenge to the community" to see if the honest will run pirate the game "just because they can."

Well, I'm fed up with that B.S. attitude. If that's how these companies really feel, they might as well close up shop now... because if you're going to insult your paying customers by basically telling them they're a bunch of dishonest buttholes, how much loyalty can they expect?

I'm hoping this is Ubisoft's way of saying "We're a big publisher and we want to show some faith in the community and PROVE there are good honest people out there and we can stop this DRM madness and still make money."

StarDock has already proved it with their 2 top games of 2008... Sins of a Solar Empire has already sold well over 500,000 units. If the honest want the game, they'll pay for it.

This is our chance now to prove that no DRM CAN make them money. I was tempted to buy the entire Prince of Persia pack on Steam because they offer all for games for only $15 more than the new game as a stand-alone.

But I'm willing to buy the retail box version (heck maybe even 2 or 3 and give them as gifts) so I can show that I support the non-DRM revolution. I think we'd all be wise to do the same.

And not only support Prince of Persia, but Stardock and their games! There are good game makers out there that deserve to be paid for doing good things... and this display of trust by both Ubisoft and Stardock are well deserving of proving that they can be profitable without killing the paying customer.

Now, that all said... I'm going to say that, realistically, I'm not seeing Ubisoft completely ripping DRM completely if Prince of Persia kicks butt in sales... But I'm hoping they'll at least tone it back down to just CD-keys and what not ... things that are bearable on not system-intrusive.

No game is worth having my system scanned for specific hardware and all that other BS that these guys think they need to do nowadays. Ease up!

Down with the DRM! Go Prince of Persia!

---------------

For the record, I am a software developer... so I understand the perspective these game developers are coming from... But I also understand the perspective of a customer who doesn't want a game getting intimate with my computer and making itself such a hemorrhoid to work with that it's not worth messing with...

I advocate legitimate licensing and I pay for licenses for the games I play; and will continue to do so for the game publishers that will make it easy for me to play their game.

When publishers like EA will realize this and go back to easy-to-use software, I'll start buying their games again... not a second before. I hope you other legitimate paying customers will join me in boycotting all publishers that continue this madness until we send the message loud and proud that we're not going to put up with it anymore. (This goes for boycotting the console versions too... buying those doesn't help the cause.)

13 December 2008

Portal: Weighted Companion Cubes

Steam's store has just released plush Weighted Companion Cubes for a "mere" $29.95; and I'm not sure who can afford them right now in this economy... but they're awesome anyway, so I thought I'd share.

What I REALLY want though, (and still too expensive) are the Weighted Companion Cube Fuzzies to replace the galloping dominos that currently adorn my rear-view mirror in my car.

Portal: Weighted Companion Cubes

Ah, Portal... classic good times.

10 December 2008

FNG Report: 2008-11-28 - Turkey Bowl 2008 Second Edition - The Curse Returns

Holy crap, I realized I never posted the recap of our Thanksgiving weekend FNG; or Turkey Bowl 2008 Second Edition. I can't pass this up... the story must be told.

Before the story, I need to make mention that it was nice to see the return of BigBadMrT and Toxic to FNG. We're sorry it turned out to be a disaster for BigBadMrT, but hope he'll not let it frighten him away from making more frequent appearances.

In a sentence... Classic Thanksgiving weekend Turkey Bowl; it's a good thing we had a LAN Party Turkey Bowl before Thanksgiving this year.

It all started when 11:00pm rolled around and the first bad-omen sign was Atholon saying he was too tired to play.

When we finally rounded everyone up, we had BigBadMrT, DirtyDan (Tsam), ThatOneGuy, Thundr and Toxic.

ThatOneGuy hosted... as I launched the first race, we had two gamers' crash with GPF's and had to restart. I knew at that point we were already doomed.

Things went alright for the first three races, after the restart. But on the 4th race, Dead Man's Pass... Thundr and BigBadMrT lost internet connection. We never heard from BigBadMrT again; and we wouldn't hear back from Thundr for another 6 races.

Thundr returned long enough to tell us his router went on the fritz and would no longer provide him a reliable connection. He quickly hooked back up with us using an AirCard with his laptop to finish out the stunt and tag rounds. DirtyDan bowed out before the Tag round due to a funeral he needed to attend the next day.

Needless to say, take the results at face value... because we didn't have all the racers with us the entire time. Those that did get to race had a good time despite the hurdles.

So again, the FNG Turkey Bowl curse reared its ugly head once again... which is a shame. The track list is great and we'll have to race the tourney again later; MUCH later.

Results:
  • ThatOneGuy: 206 points
  • Toxic: 181 points
  • DirtyDan: 169 points
  • Thundr: 148 points
  • BigBadMrT: 110 points

Fastest Laps:

  • Cross Step: That One Guy - 01:44.08
  • Crossed Streets: That One Guy - 02:08.26
  • DDR: That One Guy - 01:29.48
  • Dead Man's Pass: That One Guy - 01:45.16
  • Funky Flyer SE: That One Guy - 00:56.99
  • Machkeu Basin: That One Guy - 00:57.26
  • Mosquito Hill: That One Guy - 01:26.58
  • Pepsi Max: DirtyDan 01:39.69
  • SnowFields: Toxic - 00:52.06

09 December 2008

2008-12-05 FNG Report: Getting More TrackMania In Our Lives

So Thundr, DirtyDan (Tsam), Atholon, and myself made our return to TrackMania last Friday and tried a new server that is now a favorite we'll be frequenting.

It's called "Dirty Fun" ... and get your mind out of the gutter, it's an all dirt track server; which made for a drifting skidding roaring good time.

I made a return visit tonight to show my son and got to play an incredible track I have to share with all of you. You see, RC-style tracks are one of my favorite creations in TrackMania. They're a byproduct of the ultra-flexible Track/Replay Editor system Nadeo built into the game.

A track creator creates his/her track and changes the camera angle to be sky high looking down on your car and you get to control it like a Remote-Controlled car the entire race. Crusard made one called "Micro Machines" and tonight on this server I found "Remember Off Road?" by sol666. It's a blast and I highly recommend you download it immediately and give it a shot.

Remember Off-Road?

I really need to go through all my downloaded tracks and find all of this style of track, put them in their own special folder and make a playlist out of them. They rule.

Anyway, "Dirty Fun" has some dirt tracks that have cool mods too... one of them looking like yellow desert sands, somewhat like unto Yuma Sand Dunes from Motocross Madness 1, but much prettier. Tonight I raced one called "Ice Rally" that is a Stadium/Dirt track modded to look like winter. It has a smooth flow, is fast and really fun to race

So, looking forward to more of the same this Friday... hope to see you all there!

05 December 2008

I Need More TrackMania In My Life

FNG has been mega-focused on Motocross Madness 2 for the past month or so... I'm in the mood for some TrackMania tonight. What does everyone think?

Games on Amazon