Despite being technologically advanced, modern gaming can suffer with some weird issues; some being your regular error codes and outages, and others being borderline unexplainable. And it’s the latter, concerning the latest development for Arkane Studios’ Redfall, that prompted me to write this article. Strap in because we’re diving into DRM.
Redfall Unveils Bad News in FAQ for Single-Player Enthusiasts
So, what’s this article about? You’ve probably already guessed based on the keywords “single-player” and “DRM.” But if you don’t know what DRM means, it stands for Digital Rights Management, and essentially means that most of the time, you’re buying a license to play a digital game and not owning the actual game itself.
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This article might sound like it’s parroting things already known by a significant portion of the community, but I represent the opinion that some things need to be talked about on a regular basis until the vast majority is aware of them. And that’s not enough. Players need to be vigilant and ready to take concrete action when developers and studios implement practices that are deemed anti-consumer in any way, shape, or form.
Redfall Will Require You To Be Constantly Online, Even For Single-Player
Let it be known that this isn’t a hit piece against Redfall, but rather an opinion piece against every past, present, and future title with a “restriction” which inevitably causes some of your favorite games to become unplayable when the developer decides to pull the plug, whether the game has online multiplayer or not.
The Official Redfall FAQ includes this:
“Will playing Redfall require an online connection for single player as well as co-op? A persistent online connection is required for single player and co-op.“Official Redfall FAQ
Due to anti-piracy methods, it has become a standard in many single-player games to have an initial “check” when you launch it, while some allow you to play them offline. Now, why would Redfall require you to be “Always Online” in single-player mode? Assistance from the game server in calculations and processes pertaining to the “match” you are playing alone, maybe? Why would that be necessary if this is the case?
How Long Can You Play The Game You Bought? Or Should We Say: Rented A Licence For?
This isn’t just about gamers in student dorms with poor Wi-Fi that often doesn’t work at all, or simply people with a poor or nonexistent internet connection. No, this isn’t about the Judgment Day Apocalypse scenario where the entire internet falls down because, trust me, you’ll have a lot more burning issues around you than the inability to play your video games if something of that magnitude does happen.
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This is about consumer rights that have been boiled like a frog for a long, long time, where nowadays we just “purchase a license” to download and play the game from a designated gaming service; this is about game preservation as well, of which you probably heard here and there.
We live in very, very fast times. Compare now to 20 or even 30 years ago and notice how there wasn’t an abundance (or, shall we say, overproduction) of content. It’s hard to capture an individual’s attention and keep them consuming your product and not moving to the next. When most of your player base moves away from your game, and it (which is SaaS, or Software as a Service, most likely) therefore becomes either unprofitable, or its profit-gathering capabilities have been reduced to a minimum, you naturally have to announce the sad news that you want to pull the plug if you cannot salvage it.
One recent example is Rumbleverse, which hasn’t lived long enough to celebrate its first birthday. Luckily, the developers offered refunds for all purchases made after the game launch. Some wouldn’t do that, or the refunds would be partial due to the impenetrable protection by the fine print™ in the EULA that people “sign” by clicking “I Agree” after saying “tl;dr.” However, the fine print doesn’t stop people from just, I don’t know… Not buying your future products.
I watch some YouTube channels that are really into game preservation, such as AlphaOmegaSin and SomeOrdinaryGamers. And people are right when they insist on buying physical copies because it usually works without the all-mighty internet. At the end of the day, you own the disc and the case, which you can trade or sell later, whereas trading in is not possible with digital games (albeit, in some cases, you can get games on some crazy discounts digitally).
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What Should We, As Gamers, Do To Combat This?
There are numerous examples of developers changing their minds and then, subsequently, their ways after enough pressure and/or if their profits tank sufficiently. It’s almost as if they know what they’re doing is wrong but insist on doing so without any significant resistance from customers. And it’s essential to have everyone let them know about this. Building trust between yourself as a salesperson and the customer base is a difficult and constant process.
There have been historical examples where an offline mode was added afterward, and developers gave self-support tools for players who want to keep playing after official support ends. Ask yourself why a classic like Counter-Strike still lives. It’s damn easy to rent or create your own server and ask friends to hop on and play with you.
And then ask yourself why the new Battlefield (I forgot the name due to how forgettable the experience is) is already dead and why the next one will definitely be better. Because the majority of the community finally stood up against years of gradual quality drop. And what did they do? They migrated back to older iterations of Battlefield, which are deemed GREAT by the community. And how was it possible? Because servers for that game are still running.
It’s also an excellent time to remind ourselves of the mess that Warcraft 3: Reforged is. Imagine having a stable game work for decades and then tossing everything in a dumpster by knowingly releasing a completely dysfunctional and “modernized” replacement while purging the old, stable version from existence. What do people who want to play the old Warcraft 3 need to do to play the game they paid for back in the day? They need to install it from the CDs if they still have them, find patches on God knows what website, and then find like-minded people somewhere to connect through a Virtual LAN Client such as Hamachi or GameRanger or even resort to pirated, private servers that host the old, working version and risking malware with a shady torrent installation. See the problem(s) behind this?
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Why wouldn’t we be allowed to play the games that take us back to some more straightforward and perhaps prettier times when we want? Why must almost everything be “SaaS” (or Live Service, in other words), and when did we become this internet-dependent?