Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The non-piratable game

Is it possible? Can you have a game that no-one can copy, 'steal' or duplicate. how about one that doesn't require a purchase, yet can still gain revenue. How about one that's new, cutting edge, and doesn't require you to have spent £300 in the last 6 months on a video card to play. It does exist. So, a big YAY from those people who, like me, play games for the GAME and not the fancy visuals.

Part 1 - the personal Rant
For the most part, game makers seem to be following Hollywood's modern formula
  1. Don't worry about the story [gameplay], worry about the visuals. That's the important bit.
  2. If possible, make it a sequel, or as near identical as possible, to a pre-existing game, the more successful the better.
  3. promote the game as much as you can, advertising, merchandising, tie-ins, contests - enacting.

Thus we have games where gameplay is abandoned in favour of looking good. My own personal test of a game is to play it on the very bottom graphical settings and judge it by that. A good game should be unaffected by it. It is, after all, a game you play, not a game you watch. I've been playing games on computers for 20 years (well, 1 month shy of 20 years) when the resolution was less than 1/4 that of a standard TV, and we felt lucky to have 8 colours. This meant that game companies had to make the games good. With the increase in processing power, especially graphical processing, gameplay seems to have taken a back seat to visuals. Doom3 or Quake 4, for instance, are functionally the same games as doom and Quake, but you won't be able to run the new versions on a P100 like you could the old ones. The new Heros of Might and Magic game requires a graphics card with better specs than the entire computer needed to run the games in the series. Over time, have these games really added anything new? I used to play a game called Delta Force 2 online. It was graphically acceptable, had voice talk, you could play a 32 player game online using a dialup modem, and in single player mode the computer reacted to any noise you made. That was in 2000. Apart from an increase in graphical resolution, what has changed in the last 6 years for FPS games? Absolutely nothing, and yet you'll see adverts and reviews saying 'this is new, exciting and better than before. The amount of innovation in the games industry is low. Some put this down to piracy, or 'its what the gamers want'. Piracy isn't an issue, because people tend to want to buy good games. People don't have a problem with supporting games where the gameplay comes first (see previous N2N piece about GalCiv2). Moreso if the game is unique, and had a lot of time and effort put into it. look at how popular "The Sims" has become.

Part 2 - the point
Sorry, but I really have no patience for the mass-produced samey junk that passes for games. Instead, I came across one this weekend that is both fresh and unique, has no copy protection, and no absurd system requirements. Instead, it's a website based game, involving the Internet itself. in that respect, its similar to the in memoriam (aka missing since January), where you have a set of puzzles, and you have to actually find the answers. missing could still be copied, however, and played, and as time went on, doing the requisite searches didn't lead to the same pages they once did, hint/solution pages would be google-bombed above them, or just the way pages are indexed and ranked might change. Thus we come to the next development, and the point of this piece, Perplex City.
An online game, played out in stages for the last year or more. special time-centric tasks, and a real sense of community. websites and game-blogs updating at random times through the say, with new stories, info and data. These may lead to IRC chats, or meets at certain places. There Might be a program released that only works on a certain type of computer (running OSX and having inertial sensors) or an online AND real life treasure hunt around Clapham Common.
I hear you thinking and wondering how its paid for then, since this sounds quite expensive, especially when you hear there's a £100,000 prize at the end of it. Answer is there are cards, and that's the second half of the game. there are 256 cards, being sold in 4 release groups. They're in packs of 6, and each has a puzzle on it. Scratch off a silver bit (like a lottery ticket)- and enter that code and the right answer to the website. The cards, when combined, make up a map, and have some other puzzles on them. Its a very unique system, and its very nice to see someone taking some time to bring some ingenuity, effort and real flair to the games market. The amount of work in just creating the story, let alone running it is staggering (if you factor in that many of the characters in the game have email addresses which they will reply to you from) makes you wonder if it is just a game, or actual really real.
I guess why this sort of game is called an 'alternate reality game' (or ARG). This is the first time I've encountered one (excluding the aforementioned In Memorandum) and is a type of game I can only see growing. The problem will be, however, being overly saturated with them. Meanwhile, other companies will release Unreal tournament 17, and blame piracy for it not selling well, whilst other people make games you want to play, want to spend money on (and will doubtlessly spend more money on than 2 high priced regular games). Mind candy 9the company behind this game) are doing as others should. They're 'thinking outside the box'. by funding via puzzlecards, instead of the traditional subscription method, they're enabling all levels of finance to play, you can spend as much as you want and play. the only physical items are the cards, and each has a 12-digit ID which can only be used once, so copying is out, and since it works via the web, that P2 gathering dust is up to the job. From all the game players who play for the games, I and others thank you for being able to play a game with no copy protection worries.

Perplex City Wiki, for all the info about the game

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