Wednesday, December 16, 2009

offline play

It seems as if offline play is increasingly forbidden. It's not enough that games features rely on an internet connection, like online multiplayer. No, the game must be connected so that the publisher can verify its legitimacy; otherwise, the game is crippled... even unplayable.

Case in point: I've been playing Oblivion recently and investing a lot of time into decking out my character's castle, a DLC addition to the game. The castle was my focus, for reasons I've previously described. Late last week, lightning fried my modem and severed my internet access for a few days. When I attempted to load my game, I was told some content is "no longer available" and would I like to load anyway? In a moment of naivety, I answered, "yes".

Well, I'm back online now, and you can probably guess what happened. My castle was part of that content no longer available. And when it disappeared, so did everything inside. Hours of gameplay lost. I had been stocking it with all sorts of items, including one-of-a-kind quest rewards and magic items. All gone. I even had to redo the quest to gain possession of the castle.

Had I known I would lose all of this if I loaded my save file, what were my other options? There were only two other options: to start a new character or don't play the game. In other words, I was cut off from all progress I had made in the game until I was online again.

This is far from an exceptional experience. Every time I'm away from internet access, half my Xbox Live Arcade games are not playable at all, and DLC is often unavailable.

How rare is it to be cut off from internet access? It's not that uncommon.

Many people have unstable connections. I have known many people who lose internet access for minutes at a time and have experienced that myself. Scott was telling me today that he can lose internet for just a few seconds and it means he cannot save the game he's playing because his DLC access was cut off during that small hiccup.

Many people travel to locations with no internet. I took my Xbox 360 to such a place over Thanksgiving and was denied access to many of the games I own because of this online verification nonsense.

Publishers, stop treating your customers like thieves. Somehow, every other industry has survived frequent thefts without placing limits on how and when customers can use the products they buy. Figure it out.

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