Governor Lincoln Chafee: Kingdoms of Amalur “Failed”
This past fortnight has been witness to one of the most spectacular and witless collapses in Gaming history. It played out like a tragedy in that the dire outcome was telegraphed from the very outset, though the effect was rather more comedic in nature. What began with scarcely believing whispers that 38 studios might not be able to make the next instalment of its loan repayments, has ended in all 379 of 38 Studios’ employees being unceremoniously sacked (after not receiving their wages in over a month). Not the best start to the day for those employees who were fired by a brief and impersonal email, but even worse for those who discovered that they had a second mortgage to pay off. Part of the 38 Studios initiative to attract more employees to relocate to their Rhode Island premises was the assurance that the developer would take control of their previous accommodations and mortgages, which it would then sell off to new owners. Despite previous avowals from the studio that employees’ former dwellings had already been sold off, many employees this week received calls from their banks asking why they had stopped paying off their still very real and existing mortgages.
Once it had become clear that the solvency of 38 Studios was a lost cause, Lincoln Chafee, the Rhode Island Governor, promptly called a press conference where he repeatedly stated that the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had “failed”. It might seem odd to readers that a game that has sold 1.2 million copies in ninety days could be called a failure, but when the developer has borrowed 75 million dollars in (relatively) short-term loans to fund it, and the game in question has to sell three million copies just to break even, then 1.2 million in sales is a huge failure on the part of everyone involved. More specifically, it is a huge failure on the part of Curt Shilling who borrowed more money than his studio could have ever hoped to pay back with the sales of their mediocre new IP, and it is also a huge failing on the part of the former Rhode Island governor who inked the deal which would see the state underwrite the loans made to 38 Studios, which will now see tax-payers foot a bill for over 100 million dollars.
Pirates Prefer Torrenting the DRM Version of The Witcher 2
The the lack of effectiveness of DRM practices in discouraging piracy is often talked about, yet rarely do we see this principle illustrated in stark unambiguity. The Witcher 2 provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of digital rights management and piracy however, as the game launched in two decidedly distinct versions; a physical version published my Namco Bandai, replete with SecuROM DRM, and a digital version which launched on CD Projekt Red’s own excellent digital storefront, Good Old Games, which came sans DRM, much like every other title on on GOG. Now, by rights most anyone would expect the GOG DRM free configuration to be the most heavily pirated version of the game because there is nothing that has to be cracked, and it comes in one sleek executable file – yet this is not the case.
Despite the fact that the Good Old Games iteration of The Witcher 2 would have been the most expedient file for pirates to immediately slap up on torrent sites, they nevertheless seem to have made the effort to crack and seed the physical version of the game to the extent that the GOG version only accounts for a small fraction of the game’s illegal downloads. Guillaume Rambourg, the managing director of Good Old Games, claims that of the roughly 4.5 million illegal downloads which The Witcher 2 has seen, roughly four million of those were torrents of the physical version of the game with its DRM in tatters. Rambourg’s theory for this odd trend is that pirates are able to grow a bigger epeen by having their name associated with cracking a game’s DRM, though one would like to at least entertain the notion that ignoring the GOG version in favour of the physical version may have held some appeal to the pirate’s sense of ethical propriety.
Tomm Hulett Breaks Silence on Dodgey Port
This gaming generation has given rise to the popularity of the HD port; high definition remasters of the best loved games from the previous generation, which have manifested with various degrees of success. The better examples have been sufficient to breathe new life into old games, while, at worst, endeavours such as Resident Evil 4 may be regarded as something of a missed opportunity, while still being superior to the original title. It is very rare indeed to find a HD remaster which is actually worse than the original experience, yet one such title is the Silent Hill HD Collection.
Relying on the archiving and maintenance of a developer’s game data can be a dubious prospect, as the importance of maintaining the integrity of such assets was not clear to the management of the day. Indeed, sometimes whole games such as Final Fantasy VII would be lost through mishap or neglect. Thus, the most consistently successful developer of HD ports for this current generation is Bluepoint Games, as they have effectively eliminated such uncertainty by developing an elegant software solution which allows them to take a game’s retail disc and reverse engineer it in its entirety for a HD console. This has led to much acclaim for their work on the God of War HD Collection, the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, and their HD re-release of both of the Team Ico’s games.
A good counterpoint to the efficacy and potency of Bluepoint Games is perhaps the bumbling and fumbling of the Silent Hill HD Collection by Hyjinx. This week associate producer, Tomm Hulett, has come clean about what went so horribly wrong for the seminal horror franchise – apparently Konami had lost the final version of the game code. Hyjinx was handed incomplete code for both games, and was left to try and polish it for more than two years (the length of Silent Hill 2‘s original development) before dumping an inferior product onto an unsuspecting market. One supposes that the moral of this tale is that developers who have been less than diligent with their game assets should be doubly as careful when selecting a developer with the requisite experience in handling difficult porting jobs. Hulett claims that Konami are still working on a patch to remedy fan complaints, but one suspects that the defects are too profligate to salvage the experience.