Amnesia and a brand new toy
First, since this is my blog and I feel obligated to inform you about mundane details of my life, I got a new phone finally after my old one crapped out on me. I went with the HTC Incredible for my new one, and it’s been great so far. Really fast, things like turn-by-turn navigation work great (which is good since my poor sense of direction is the stuff of legends) and the big screen is great for web browsing or other types of time-wasting activities. I’ve never been one to do much on my phone other than make calls and occasionally check email, but now that I have a high-end device I’ve caught myself fiddling with it constantly. I used to scoff at the assholes that were always paying attention to their damn phones, and now I am that asshole. The circle is complete.
My review of Amnesia: The Dark Descent just went up at GameCritics, and it’s only the second perfect score (10 out of 10) I’ve given out in my relatively short writing career. I’ll let the review do most of the talking, but suffice to say it is a *great* game. In terms of pure psychological horror, it had me high-strung enough to where my cat trying to paw at my hand while I was playing was enough to make me jump out of my chair and fall back onto my bed. As I laid there trying to catch my breath, I knew I was playing something special. Absolutely everything Frictional Games did here is top-notch, which is even more impressive when considering the development team consisted of only five people. I don’t like to mention price in my reviews since I don’t like holding different games to different standards based on cost, but this is an absolute steal at $20.
She’s a lot scarier than she looks
Frictional’s blog has some info about their current projects and whatnot, but what caught my eye was a specific post about Amnesia’s commercial performance and the impact of piracy. It’s a very honest piece, conveying the problems facing a developer when it comes to piracy, specifically in this passage:
First of all, once you have played Amnesia there is little meaning to play again. A person pirating the game and finishing it has no real reason to go back. So even if a player likes it and determines that it is well worth paying for, there is no incentive to do so. It is quite common to read on forums that people have downloaded a pirated version and say that they will probably buy it later. The question here is how many actually does this? Even if you really liked the game and want to support the developers, it basically feels like money down the drain since you get nothing extra after paying. This is not the case for a game like Minecraft where more content is released all the time and the game is designed to be highly replayable (and darn it for that, damn time consumer!).
The second reason is the lack of any proper protection. Not only does Amnesia not have any real protection from the start, there is almost no way for us to force people into buying ad-hoc. What we can do is to release patches, but this only affect people that have not been able to start the game, a small part of the user base. So once the game is out we are basically screwed and we can not do much to make people chose a legal over a pirated one. Minecraft requires a server connection and is constantly updated, effectively pushing people towards buying the legit version.
So what to do about this? One way is to create different kinds of games, where we can implement these sort of things. But that just feels wrong. A developer should not design a game based on how it can be protected and doing so can only lead to bad things for our games (to avoid feeding potential flames; this is based on what we want to do with our games, not what we think of others who might do this). What we want to continue doing is to create single player games that try to evolve the way in which videogames tell stories and evoke emotions. Another option is to expand our horizons and try other platforms. This is what we are currently looking into. We do not know what this will mean as of yet, but hopefully we can continue to expand platforms and not limit them.
Frictional has taken the high road here, in that they willingly choose to not use copy protection and give the full amount of content with the initial purchase. To me, that means a lot in a gaming universe with DRM that requires an constant internet connection or bucketloads of DLC that should be part of the main game. So if you happened to be reading this and have played/are playing a pirated copy of the game, please just pay the $20. You’re getting a great game for one third of a full retail purchase. In a world where Fallout: New Vegas can hit shelves for $60 and have all kinds of crap wrong with it, Amnesia is something that deserves to be noticed.
Look at it this way-the cost of Amnesia is equivalent to about 3-4 trips to Subway depending on your sandwich preferences. Not too bad if you ask me.