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Funcom No Longer Making Offline Games 95

Posted by Zonk
from the nice-to-have-the-monthly-fee-too dept.
1up has commentary from Funcom, makers of games such as Anarchy Online, Dreamfall, and Longest Journey. The developer has taken the drastic step of deciding to cease creation of games without an online component. The company's CEO pins the blame squarely on game piracy. "Several stats he listed were startling if ... true, including that 200,000 illegal copies of Dreamfall had been downloaded before the game was even released and anywhere from three to ten copies of any PC game are pirated for each one sold. Adventure Gamers suggests that future offline games such as Dreamfall Chapters may require an active internet connection to prove authenticity when you play, similar to how Steam works."
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Funcom No Longer Making Offline Games

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  • by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @06:50PM (#18369013)
    200,000 illegal copies of Dreamfall had been downloaded before the game was even released

    So, where did the original come from?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blackicye (760472)
      They're likely to hurt themselves more than tackling the problem of "piracy". More of the usual punishing of paying customers, its not like people will be more willing to pay for games if you put additional hassle into their experience. And its definately not like it won't be cracked eventually. So unless your game is approaching greatness I don't think this will help their sales much if at all.

      I personally won't buy any game I know to be encumbered by additional DRM such as online verification. I don't eve
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Implying that if it hadn't been leaked by a Funcom employee, it wouldn't have been pirated at all?

      I think that logic deserves a "Huh!?"

      The point is that a ton of people pirated the game. Whether they pirated before the official release or after, that doesn't change anything.
      • by Restil (31903)
        Well, it IS possible that people who were chomping at the bit to play the game and eagarly awaiting the release date would have happily purchased it on the release date, since waiting for a fully cracked pirated copy to show up and download would take several more days. However, if they had a chance to download it a few weeks before the release date, vs waiting until the release date.... what do you think is more likely? It's a known fact that offline video games make the most of their money within a few
  • Steam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @06:58PM (#18369081)
    It will definitely stop piracy, because we all know HalfLife2 simply cannot be played without a valid Steam account....
    • Re:Steam (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dan828 (753380) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @07:16PM (#18369261)
      And sometimes, it simply can't be played even with a valid Steam account. They had an outage a while back that resulted in many people not being able to play their valid Steam games. Apparently, if the client recognizes that you have a working internet connection, but still can't get authorization from the Steam servers, you don't get to play. Caused all kinds of fuss on the Steam forums.
    • by svvampy (576225)
      All game protection methods are, like DRM, exploitable by definition. The publishers want to make it hard enough for joe user to increase their initial sales, before the hype dies down. Before people can find sufficient information about a game to decide that it sucks without buying. Perhaps if publishers were able to provide some sort of incentive to the player to tie into an on-line activation/validation then people would have more incentive to support the publisher. Or they can continue to treat their p
      • Perhaps if publishers were able to provide some sort of incentive to the player to tie into an on-line activation/validation then people would have more incentive to support the publisher.

        Indeed, the most obvious incentive is to release the game in "chapters" where each chapter is only released once the previous chapter has achieved sufficient revenue.

        Each chapter needs to be sufficiently independent to make it worth playing and paying for - and to make the players eager to play the next chapter.

        That's the
        • by jandrese (485)
          The problem with that is that if you release 50% of your game (with the intention of releasing the other 50% in chapters), then people will play it and say "it's too short, this sucks" and you'll never make your remaining chapters.
    • I'll admit it. I had originally pirated "Dreamfall", for any of a number of contrived reasons. I loved it, and am still loving it. So when I opened up Steam one day to find it available for purchase, I immediately payed for it and eased my conscience. I get the feeling I'd do the same for a number of games. How is this different from just ordering the games from Amazon? To be honest, I really don't know. Maybe it's my resistance towards actually accumulating more physical junk.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Animaether (411575)
        ah.. but what if you loved it, but stopped loving it? (e.g. you found it fun to play, but can't be bothered to play it again.) Would you still have purchased it?
        What if you didn't love it, but found it quite entertaining enough to play it through anyway? Would you still have purchased it?
        What if you only loved it half way through, then found yourself bored with it or just otherwise couldn't bring yourself to play it through anyway? Would you still have purchased it?

        The problem is that for every 1 person
    • Steam protection has been cracked, but HL2 was the first game in a long time that NO ONE could play before its release.

      Nowadays, as they said, pirates get the GOLD master of any given game and release it while it goes to duplication, so you find pirated images on p2p networks before the original in retail. No one can compete against that. At least, HL2 was available in store before it was on the p2p.
    • by RexRhino (769423)
      It CAN stop piracy if it is a MMOG like say Anarchy Online, or a game that people play exclusivly online like Counterstrike. Having it connect to the internet to play the local single player is lame, because it a decent cracker can simply bypass the part that needs to go online to play. But if using the company's servers is part of the critical functionality of the game (like an MMOG), then there is no way to pirate the game other than to hack the actual server (which is far more difficult).
  • will be more likely to use hacks / pirated downloads of there games now.
  • What was the last non-offline game that Funcom made which didn't suck? The last game I'm aware of was Anarchy Online which was literally not playable after even a month and was a total abortion of a release.
    • by omnilynx (961400)
      Just as an aside, if you haven't checked Anarchy Online out since then, you might want to drop in and see if it's any better now. I've played several other MMOs, including one that's still in beta, and yet I keep coming back to AO. They do a lot of stupid things with it, but they've managed to accrue some good stuff, too, over the years. And you can't beat the price (for the basic version, anyway).
    • AO killed my inner child.
    • by KDR_11k (778916)
      To be fair, it did say "anarchy online" right there on the box, when has anarchy ever worked?
  • I can see why they'd be interested in doing this. Look at World of Warcraft, it sells like mad cakes because not only is it a good game, you HAVE to buy it (I know there are private servers but that means playing online with like 10 other people and content that hasn't been updated in who knows how long). Steam games do well too because you can just buy your game right through Steam and the required online connection is just natural to those buyers. If this was five or more years ago, I'd say required an
    • by sqlrob (173498)
      It's going to depend on the game. I've bought both Longest Journey (PC) , and Dreamfall (XBox), and was fully prepared to get the third. Internet connection required? Nope, sorry, no go.

      For me, direct internet connection for single player games is a total deal killer.
      • Interesting. Is it for privacy reasons? Security? Or are you just refusing to play it on those terms? I don't blame you either way, just curious.
        • by nuzak (959558)
          Those games are commonly played on laptops, and are a great way to pass time on the train. Connectivity ain't *that* pervasive yet (or it's just expensive).
        • by geekoid (135745)
          I wn't buy it on principle. I do not like being treated as a criminaal. No person should ever have to prove that they are innocent, ever.

          They got a problem, they can accuse my, present there evidence and then I will DEFEND my innocence.

          They only exception to this is if I sign a contract stating otherwise in clear terms.
          • by NeMon'ess (160583) *
            So you never played Pirates! or any of the other games that asked you to demonstrate you had a manual or had painstakingly copied one?
            • The big advantage of this method is that you have a fucking manual with color, graphics in a lovely little box and not just a stupid PDF to print yourself (if one at all) with your downloaded version. Call me old, but I like the box around the game as much as the game. I bought some nearly only for the box because I have found it beautiful or very interesting.

              For the painstakingly copied manual, it was the cost of pirating. It is true that you where sole if you lose your manual, but in this case you have yo
          • by cliffski (65094)
            UI see. so when you buy clothes in a shop, and they need to remove that tag when you pay at the till, and then you need to walk through the scanner at the door......... do you just not buy clothes anymore?

            Every industry has to take measure s against people stealing their stuff. retail does it, and software companies will have to do it too, especially as its even easier to pirate a game than it is to shoplift.
            The alternative is no more new games. Hope you like solitaire.
          • by Blakey Rat (99501)
            I'm pretty sure the first The Longest Journey had no copy protection. But this must vastly limit the games you buy... for instance, Dreamfall has copy protection on the disk, and almost every game made in ... well, ever has copy protection of some sort. (It used to be looking things up in a manual, then specially formatted disks that reported "bad blocks" when you tried to copy them, then CD copy protection drivers, now internet activation.) The only game I can think of that had no copy protection whatsoeve
    • by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @07:32PM (#18369423)
      There really isn't any comparison between WOW and single player "offline" games that "require" an internet connection to play. Something like Half-Life 2 having to "authenticate" to play is ridiculous...whereas for WOW there would be no way NOT to do it. WOW is a lot more than just a game, it's a persistant online world...there would be no way to implement that type of game without a network connection. WOW doesn't sell like hotcakes because you have to buy it...it sells like hotcakes because it's a really well done game. The price is reasonable ($19 for the game w/first month free, $15/month) for an online game you can play with your friends with millions of players. $15 for a month of WOW is very cheap, entertainment/$ wise. Sure, Burning Crusade costs $40, but it's not required, and if you think of it as a one-time fee to add additional content without any increase in the monthly fee, it's not really that bad. A company that makes bad games trying to reduce "piracy" by adding authentication to single player games is just signing their death warrant.
  • If the choice is a game that requires a phone home to play, or a game that comes loaded with some totally nasty DRM that tries to root kit its way onto my machine, I would gladly chose the phone home.

    -Rick
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'd just as soon just buy the box and download a pirated version, then. I'd hate to see games go the way of movies, where illegal downloads are the better value, since you can backup them, play them on Linux, don't get ads, don't get stupid annoying unskippable 'you filthy pirate' videos, etc.
      • Whenever I see that bit, I tell the people sitting there, "You know, the pirated version doesn't have that ad..."

        Let's think about this. They want pirates to stop pirating, so they go and try to beat their message into... their own legitimate customers? To the point where they actually end up driving some of them to piracy, just so they don't have to be called a pirate?

        My own compromise has generally been renting and ripping. I think the rental price is fair, especially considering I simply don't have the h
    • by hurfy (735314)
      Aye

      Find a way for the phone home to work and get rid of the nasty DRM stuff. And don't require the damn CD. I play 2 games regularly, putting in and out of the case daily is too rough on em :/

      Get that nasty stuff in there and i won't buy it anyway. Starforce taught me a lesson if nothing else. I never did get my DVD+R (really is only a plus) working right again :/ Wouldn't have been half as annoying if the game wasn't a complete ripoff even without starforce (Midway arcade pack...relive the arcade experienc
      • by tlhIngan (30335)
        It's funny, but these days, Steam is practically the distirbution system. I wasn't around when HL2 was originally released, but some searching has revealed numerous issues, but the last time I saw a "Steam Sucks" post was dated 2004-ish.

        It looks like Valve has learned a few things and made it easier. First, you only have to be connected once to authenticate the game. The games are stored locally, and can be played locally without "phone home" access (it tries, but then goes into offline mode if it can't con
      • by KDR_11k (778916)
        I disagree. Often CD using games get official patches that disable the CD check, where that isn't the case you can just get a crack. I've yet to hear of any online-authenticating game getting an official no auth patch.
    • I don't even want to have to use daemontools, much less some nasty crack. And I'm certainly not going to be a good little consumer and put the game disc in every time I play, scratching it more and more until it's unreadable.

      I honestly could care less if the game works offline, though others will certainly want them to work on their laptops even without wireless. I don't even care if it's horribly inefficient -- say, a 5k/s trickle of data -- my gaming rig is always plugged into nice fast DSL, except when i
  • Good for them. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anduz (1027854) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @08:01PM (#18369737)
    The gaming industry is a funny place really, we the gamers want good innovative games with breath taking storytelling but whenever such a game arrives for the PC it ends up with horrible sales because it gets heavily pirated. So naturally smaller companies, one example being trokia, dies down due to lack of willing investors while giant companies like Blizzard and EA triumphs on by selling the same mainstream games year in and year out.

    No I'm not a big fan of hefty anti piracy, but then I guess you need it in a world where people don't pay you unless they have too - whether they love the game or not. - Going for consoles is another sollution, one that has carried companies like bioware far.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Or people don't really want that and lacking game sales are blamed on piracy.

      Of course, if someone got a copy of th e game before release, and released it, then it sounds like they have company security issues.

      And people download cracked versions of games they gave bought because the cracked version doesn't bog down the system with annoying tools designed to make you prove your not a criminal.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ucblockhead (63650)
        I've downloaded a number of cracked games. In every single case, it was because the goddamn copy protection on a game I purchased with real money refused to find the valid CD that was sitting in the drive. Usually I only did it after spending frustrated hours with "support" trying to get a fix.
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          That sounds like you downloaded a full game, are there no simple cracks available that just remove the check?
          • by grumbel (592662)
            Depends, especially with older games it is often hard to find a patch that works with your exact version of the game, so its often easier to just download the right version then to try to find the right patch, if it exists at all.
          • Depends on the game.
    • by hanako (935790)
      ... wait, are you saying that somehow innovative games are constantly pirated and therefore get crap sales, but nobody pirates mainstream games, and therefore we end up with more mainstream games? Because that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

      Is piracy a problem? Yes and no.

      Is piracy the reason 'innovative' games stumble compared to mainstream? No.

      • by anduz (1027854)
        wait, are you saying that somehow innovative games are constantly pirated and therefore get crap sales, but nobody pirates mainstream games, and therefore we end up with more mainstream games?
        No, I think it's safe to asume that mainstream games get pirated by more people percentage wise. But they'll sell enough copies total to keep investors happy despite it - especially right off the boat. Which seems to be rather important in the industry, because even games that have gone down in history, like fallout,
  • Considering that FunCom refuses to release a demo for Dreamfall, and the sell-through rate for demos is often in excess of one hundred to one, and FunCom doesn't even have to pay for any of that bandwidth. I don't support pirating games, but I also don't support forcing the player to buy before they try.

    I want to buy Dreamfall. I really do. But I don't trust them enough to buy before I try. I've long held that I will buy this game under either of these conditions:

    * They drop the price to $20 CAD, or
    * Th
    • There is a demo (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The first link on the navigation bar on the official Dreamfall [dreamfall.com] webpage says "free trial". You can supposedly download the game as a bittorrent, and if you decide to purchase it, you just need to unlock it. (I haven't tried. I'd really like to, but I don't have a computer with a good enough graphics card.)
    • Having played the game (and also being a big fan of both TLJ and Dreamfall) I'll say that while the puzzles weren't Riven-style difficult (the really weren't even Myst III: Exile-style difficult either) the writing for that game is extraordinary. It's worth it just for the story alone.
    • You can already get it for $20 CAD as I got it for that many months ago. (Provided you can find it - futureshop doesn't carry it anymore. Unpopular games seem to dispear entirely once they go to the bargin bin. Maybe this is a reason for the piracy? :P) If you enjoyed the orginal, The Longest Journey, I'd recommend picking it up but don't expect any of those hard adventure style puzzles. Instead we get dumbed down boring puzzles opening locks and hacking - that and an awful clunky combat system that should
    • What are you smoking? The free Dreamfall demo [kotaku.com] came out more than two months ago.
      • by dsparil (844576)
        The problem is that the demo was released 9 months after the game.
        • Very good point. I absolutely refuse to purchase a game without trying it out, be it a demo or a full version 'demo'. Sometimes it backfires for the company though. I pulled down Doom3 and deleted it within the first 20 minutes.
  • He is right.
  • Isn't Funcom making Age of Conan? It's supposed to be pretty much the greatest MMORPG ever from what I can tell. Of course, most MMORPGs try to look like they'll be the greatest ever, and since SWG pulled the wool over all our eyes I guess we can believe anything.
  • by EvilIdler (21087)
    So FunCom are going to retrofit some lame online component to all their games now,
    or are they simply becoming a boring old MMO company?
  • by illegalcortex (1007791) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @10:26PM (#18370745)
    Assuming his number are correct, I'd say the only thing it really shows for sure is that for every person willing to buy and play a game at their asking price, there are a three to ten people willing to play the game at some price lower than that. True, that price may be zero for some or all of them.

    But what if two of those ten would be willing to pay it at half the price? So instead of one player at original price, you get three at half price. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that would be an increase in sales, and most likely an increase in profits. This is especially true when you sell online and cut out a lot of the distribution costs.

    Their problem with the alleged 200k copies being pirated before release has nothing to do with "normal" piracy. Those people did not choose to pirate a game rather than buy it, as the option to buy it wasn't available. That's a completely different ball of wax.

    So really, all those number say to me is that there is a possible untapped potential. It does not say "we're losing the full price that three to ten copies would have made for every one we sell, because all of those people would have bought the game if they couldn't pirate it." That's RIAA math.
    • Seriously. I'm sick and tired of all this "300,000 copies of X have been pirated" = "300,000x$$$ lost" crap.

      The parent of this post got it dead on, mod up, mod up.

      Here's to the software authors who know better, may they also be the ones who earn my coin.
  • My inner child has been dead for a long time because of Anarchy Online. /212 soldier.
  • Makes them an offline video game developer? I liked Dreamfall and the Longest Journey (I own both), but to be honest, I only remembered the company more for Anarchy Online and their wacky attempts to bring in new subscribers.
  • Meh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WarlockD (623872)
    Wish this didn't sound like a troll, but I bought this thing when it first came out. The Longest Journey was by far my favorite adventure game of all time and even at the $40 dollar price tag, Dreamfall was far worth it. (Ending was bleh, but it makes me want the last in the series)

    Just that the times have changed. No one wants to pay real money for games now a days. It takes just a few clicks to get a pirated game, its just that easy now adays. Why spend $40 bucks on a single player adventure game w
  • The title of this item on /. is: Funcom no longer making offline games. But the article states Funcom said they decided to stop making "traditional" offline games. This could mean they will only make non-traditional offline games, like the ever more popular episodic games, or games you need to download and activate online to then be able to play offline. Nothing has been said about having to have an internet connection to be able to play the games. You cannot even conclude they will stop making boxed versi
  • Is it just me or is everyone getting sick of the piracy argument?

    I remember back in the day before the internet was huge and you could find out whatever you wanted about a game, you paid a buck for a demo, if you liked it, you bought the full version.

    so the execs are saying, "here is an idea!" Lets stop releasing demos but blame our plight on piracy, lets jump on the bandwagone of having everyone say our game is shit on the net but say that it is piracy that is fucking us over. Hell, it is workin
  • Personally i block most games at my PC's firewall.

    Simply put, i don't trust any games publisher to refrain from sending my personal information down from my PC to their servers.

    An easy example: the vast majority of games nowadays tries to phone home even those with no online multiplayer component. Now, what exactly is a valid purpose for a single player game to "phone home" everytime i start the game?

    I will allow a game to contact the internet (though i often block some addresses) only when it has an online
  • So, when Funcom goes under, are all the people who bought games that need an ok from a remote server going to be plumb out of luck? Sucks to be them? Same for Steam, actually.
  • If it is indeed how they say, than I sympathize with them. I just hope they are not making stuff up as an excuse to put totally ridiculous copy protection ont heir games in order to increase sales. I realy doubt that copy protection will increase sales that much. People who pirate have been doing so for so logn they no longer would purchase a game at all. Well maybe they would buy one game instead of pirating 10. Regardless, I hate piracy. I have no problem paying for a game in order to support future

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