I don’t subscribe to the line of thinking that PC Gaming is dying, but lately I’ve been coming across more and more examples that make it hard to defend that position. There’s a shopping mall just across the street from where I work that has an EB Games in it, which my lunch buddies and I browse through almost daily after eating at the food court. I often wonder if the guy working there thinks it weird that the same three guys come into the store every day and look at the same stuff they saw the day before, but whatever, I’m sure we’re not the only ones doing that. Regardless, over the years we’ve seen a noticeable decline in the shelf space provided to PC Games, which isn’t anything new, we’ve all seen that I’m sure. Yesterday I noticed yet another contraction in the shelf space in order to accommodate more Wii games. Once spanning the entire wall, the PC Game section at that particular store is now about the width of my outstretched arms. Fitting, because PC Gaming needs a hug, yet, it doesn’t appear to be hugging back.
For the past little while I’ve had an urge to play through Diablo II again, for nostalgia’s sake I suppose, but I hesitate every time I grab the game discs, remembering how much I grew to hate Act 3 and all the little fetish guys running around. Enter Titan Quest. I had heard that Titan Quest would give me all the game play of Diablo II with the added benefit of modern graphics. Plus, it would be all new to me, so when I saw the gold edition (original game plus expansion) at EB Games yesterday for $19.99 I decided to pick it up. I’ll buy just about anything for twenty bucks.
Iron Lore Entertainment, the developer of Titan Quest, recently closed down, and I read an interview somewhere where pirating of the game was cited as a significant factor in the studios closure. If true, and I have no reason to doubt it, that really sucks. However, I ran into a frustrating problem when installing my newly purchased game. Being the gold edition, I assumed the install procedure would take care of installing both the base Titan Quest game along with the Immortal Throne expansion for me. Instead, even though they were consolidated on to one DVD, there was still a separate install that needed to be run for each game. That also meant two different product keys that I needed to type in. Whatever. Titan Quest installed fine, but the expansion wasn’t accepting my CD Key, which prevented the install. I checked and re-checked the key, ensuring I didn’t put it in wrong. I read each character one by one, confirming my entry as I went, still to no avail. I went to THQs support site, as they published the game, but there were no reported problems with Titan Quest: Gold Edition. There were also no reported CD key problems for the regular version of the game nor for its expansion.
I eventually found myself on some unofficial forums where many others were reporting the same non-functioning CD key issue. Apparently just about every gold edition box shipped with incorrect keys for Immortal Throne. My gold box came with three instruction manuals; one for the base game in English, one for the expansion in French and English, and another for the base game in French. All three manuals had CD keys printed on them. Naturally, I figured the key on the Immortal Throne manual would unlock the expansion, which it didn’t. Instead, the forums were saying to try the key on the French base game manual for the expansion. That did the trick for me and I was able to complete the install. It really aggravated me that my key didn’t work in the first place, but more than that, I had to rely on posters in an unofficial forum for a solution. One poster had even posted an email exchange he had with THQ support who kept insisting that he return the game to the store he bought it from until he got one with a working key. Are you kidding me? He eventually sent his email to a developer at Iron Lore itself who was able to push THQ into action. The gold edition is now over a year old, yet THQ couldn’t be bothered to put any sort of notice about what apparently is a very common problem on their website?
Sadly, stories like this aren’t isolated to just a few games or publishers. I just don’t get copy protection any more, its only purpose seems to be annoying legitimate purchasers. If you’re going to implement copy protection, please make sure it works, is transparent to me, and doesn’t mess with my PC. If you can’t guarantee those three things, then don’t bother.
The problems with PC Gaming aren’t isolated to copy protection issues either. When I was playing Bioshock the game would periodically freeze up and crash for no apparent reason. I’d have to power off my PC and after relaunching Bioshock, I’d have to reconfigure all my game settings like resolution, detail settings, etc. One of those settings, I believe it was the surround sound speaker settings, would require a reboot to take effect. In short, it was a huge pain in the rear. A friend of mine was telling me a similar story, where, while playing Battlefield 2, all his configuration settings just decided to reset to default for no reason, and were only brought back after renaming certain config files. I’ll also never forget the day of Half Life 2’s launch. I couldn’t play the brand new game I had paid $65 for because the Steam authentication servers were hammered. Contrast issues like this to my Xbox 360, where I power it on, put in a disc, and play a game.
PC gaming isn’t dying, nor will it, but I do wish it was a little less frustrating at times. Now, because I’m often told by my co-worker here that my posts often have a negative tone to them, I’ll finish on a happy note: bunnies and kittens, hopping joyfully through a field of daisies under a beautiful rainbow. Sunshine.