On a multitude of occasions, I have played games which have "optional" online features that require an account at the distributor/developer's machines and a unique key, of which I have had a legally purchased copy that came with a legal key. All of my games and keys are kept in a single room in my house where I live alone and my keys are NEVER at risk of being stolen by some other human being present in my house.
However, on numerous occasions, and in particular with Ubisoft games, despite being a legal owner of the games, when going to use the online features of the game even such as just basic multiplayer, the game company's server not only tells me that my own key is "Invalid CD key", but it tells a friend of mine that his key is invalid too, and 2 other friends have since bought their games and got the same result. As a result none of us are able to play these games online as we intended when we bought them. Doing research into the matter it turns out that "pirates" have cracked the algorithm used to generate the license keys and over time have generated and used at random - keys which are legitimate and collide with legal keys of other users. When the game servers detect multiple people using the same license key, they flag that key as being pirated and "invalidate" it.
This means that the customer who PAID for the game in order to be honest and do the right thing, and to have a simple no-hassle gaming experience - ends up being the one unable to play the game, has a miserable experience and is the one punished by the game developer. The pirates however just generate another bogus key and continue to play the game anyway, and the legitimate customer has to either generate bogus keys too in order to play the game, or as is the case for my gang of friends that bought the game - we had to install Hamachi VPN software and play the game through the VPN as a LAN game which does not validate the license keys, but it does almost double the in game latency, giving a greatly reduced gaming experience.
There are other games I've played where a key was required for online play only, and the game company shut down their online servers a few months after I bought the game, leaving a game that no longer had any functional multiplayer, even though the game itself was fully capable of multiplayer without any game company server-side requirements other than them making it that way for no reason. I'm not talking about a World of Warcraft type game where the gaming world is centralized, I'm talking about your average first person shooter where you start a game and everyone joins in - but the game company forces it to happen through their service which they then shut down leaving you have to jump through hoops (like Hamachi) just to play the game.
Everyone will have their own feelings on these issues, and their own tolerance of game company shenanigans. I suppose there is no exclusive right or wrong, and I'm even more sure that there are people who will disagree with my own opinion, but if GOG is looking for opinions, and game developers are too, well.... this is mine.
I wont buy games that have DRM, and I wont buy games that have online components (optional or not) which are tied to a DRM strategy such as license keys to access an online world ran by the game developer. They can make it, they can sell it, I just wont buy it.
So... "Just don't buy such games then." Indeed, that is my option and the option I will take. What my concern is, is that bringing online-only type games, or games which have online-persistant or other online features (whether they are optional or not) on GOG, means that I need to take extra steps to carefully read up on every single game purchase before I make it - lest I be disappointed after the fact of a purchase. I've bought a tonne of GOG games somewhat whimsically knowing in advance that they are DRM-free and hassle free and don't have the disappointments I've had with various titles purchased in the past through standard boxed commercial games. Now I potentially have to read all of the fine print on every game. If these type of games are brought on board, a huge red flashing widget on the game page that is impossible to miss should be present IMHO for the fraction of people who think like I do (however big said fraction might be). If I can avoid such titles easily enough (by my own metric, not someone else's), then it isn't as big of an issue I imagine. But if I have to read the fine print on every title, I know that I will more likely end up buying less games whimsically and only buy when I have time to actually read all of the fine print.
One thing is good to see though, is GOG approaching the community to ask us what we think, and it is good to see all of everyone's opinions being expressed whether they are similar to mine or completely disagree with me. That's the beauty of this, simply to be able to express feedback like this of our individual choice and preference without it being right or wrong, but just ours.
Keep up the good work GOG!
(P.S. Some of the Ubisoft games I hinted at above include GRAW, GRAW2, some of the Splinter Cell and Rainbow 6 titles, but there are tonnes of other games plagued with similar draconian DRM that treats the customer as a criminal after they forked out $10-70 for the damn game. I'll never ever buy an Ubisoft game again, except perhaps from GOG DRM-free, and only then if multiplayer online works without license keys.
P.S.S. I'm aware that some GOG games already indicate that their multiplayer or other features require a license key to operate. I find that disappointing but know it is beyond GOG's control and understand the technical reasons why it is like this. For some games at least the single player and other elements may still be worth it even if the game's online servers are no longer available, but GOG does prominently indicate it in the game cards at least. Still, it would be nice if GOG had a way to bring up their own game servers for some of these old titles. I imagine the load of people who'd use them would be light enough it wouldn't cost much to keep them online, but then it may be too much effort expended for the manpower involved, etc. Ah well. :) Still, I don't want to encourage these industry practices, so have to speak out against them on ideological grounds at least. I do feel GOG has our best interests in heart in the end though.
Post edited April 15, 2013 by mharris