Thursday, March 15, 2012

How EA Ruins the Mass Effect 3 Experience

At last... I got home carrying Mass Effect 3 in my hands for my Xbox 360. Having recently played the previous Mass Effect games back to back, and finding out for myself just how great these scifi epics really are (everything good you might have heard about these games, is well deserved!) this was a moment I was anxiously waiting for.

In the past days I have been "preparing" for ME3, playing Mass Effect Infiltrator and putting up the ME3 Datapad app to good use (although the datapad Apps has incredibly annoying bugs, like the one forcing me to login to EA Origin account every single time I enter the App - and constantly saying that it requires "internet connection" no matter having full strength WiFi broadband internet available).

So, the least I would expect when I inserted Mass Effect 3 disc 1 into my Xbox was that I would be playing ME3 in its full glory within a minute or so... But I was sadly mistaken.

I am a very bitter complainer regarding all DRM and anti-piracy related crap. That's one of the reasons that ultimately led me to nearly abandon PC gaming - after year after year of being treated like a criminal whenever I bought a new game, sometimes even being forced to find "illegal cracks" in order to be able to play my legally acquired games!

There were dozens of games I wished to buy, but refused to do so due to its abusive DRM schemes, and every time I sent an unanswered email to its producers, telling them exactly that. EA was one of my blacklisted companies... but unfortunately I wasn't able to resist Mass Effect.

Having moved my gaming habits to the Xbox and PS3, I though I would be spared of the DRM crap. But the fact is that the gaming experience is being ruined just the same as it was on PCs.

So, I inserted the ME3 disc... and was immediately greeted by a message saying that I have to login to EA Origin network (I would expect the "Live" Xbox experience to be enough for all that and more - but ok, I can even admit that EA needs its own network in order to cross console/PC boundaries).

Next, I'm prompted to enter my activation code! C'mon really?...
In the old days, you could buy a game, play it, lend it, and resell it... Now, you buy a game... but you can't lend it, and any second hand buyer will need to pay for its own activation (even though you're no longer able to play the game because you don't have the discs!) So... why aren't the physical discs "validation" enough?

Most of the time, most people might zip through the activation procedure... But as you might have guessed, that wasn't the case. I entered the code, it got validated and began to download the activation key... but when I tried to play the game, I was greeted with the exact same warning that I needed to activate my game - or pay an extra activation.

I rebooted the Xbox several times, went in and out of the game... and there was no way to play the damn game...

Apparently, the activation key download was left "pending", and I finally had to sort through my download history in order to try to force it and redownload the nasty key. And that finally did it...

So... instead of putting a disc in and playing a game, I spent several excruciatingly long minutes trying to get to play the game I had bought!

But that wasn't the end of it.

Once I wa finally able to enter the game, I obviously chose to import my well known hero, that I created in the first ME game and that went on to play through ME2, and would now be entering ME3.
As you'd might expect, after so many dozens of hours playing with a hero you custom-created, you get to grow fond of it. So... when the import feature greets me with yet another "not able to import your model facial features"... you can't help but feel what sort of quality control they might have these days?

So, instead of playing the game, I was forced into recreating my ME3 hero... with that ever present feeling that it would never be "the same" as it was before. Fortunately, the rest of background info got through... but in any case I was well over 15 minutes since I first inserted the disc in my Xbox... and the free time I had to play the game was actually... over.

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