It’s Not Me, It’s You

Dear BioWare:

I have been a huge fan of your company for quite some time. Back when you guys were working with Black Isle you created one of the greatest single-player computer role-playing games ever created (Baldur’s Gate). When you went your own way, you created Neverwinter Nights, which, while somewhat flawed in the single player game was brilliant in that it essentially allowed players to create their own online game worlds.

You created Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which was ridiculously fun, and that was the first time I ever tried my hand at modding a game (if you ever played that game and tried Grif Vindh’s Padawan Roleplay Mod, that was me.)

And then, finally, Dragon Age: Origins. This was a spectacular game, glorious in every way. The writing was excellent. The voice acting for the characters was brilliant and inspired: I believe Alister might be one of my all-time favourite NPCs at this point, even more than Morte from Planescape: Torment (which, while not a Bioware game, is one of the greatest computer role-playing games of all time).

Man, I loved DA:O. It was a spectacular game. I love replaying that game. I bought and downloaded most of the add-ons, and was planning to buy more, soon… and I was really looking forward to Dragon Age 2, because everything I heard about it was top-notch.

But then, according to an article I read on Slashdot and then on, this happened: someone said something obnoxious on your forum, and as a result he was banned. He was not only banned from the forum, he was banned from playing the single-player game that he had purchased and installed on his own computer.

Please understand that I don’t make this comment lightly, and I say it as someone who is genuinely a fan of your games, past and present: I will no longer purchase or play any BioWare game. In my book, if you’re able to remotely prevent someone from playing a single-player, non-networked game, you’re not actually selling legitimate software. You’re selling malware.

Whether or not what v_ware said violated the terms of service or rules of behaviour is somewhat beside the point. Clearly he violated the forum rules of conduct, and banning him from that forum was certainly within the rights of the board moderators. And if the game had been an MMO — a shared community run on a remote server, there’s even an argument to ban him from there… but that wasn’t the case. It was a single-player game that ran on his own computer. A $50-$60 dollar game that he bought in good faith and installed on his own hard drive.

… of course, it’s no longer a self-contained world, is it? Apparently you need an Internet connection to play this single-player game, because when it first boots it checks in to an EA server to verify a number of things… including apparently, whether or not the customer is allowed to play. It’s funny, when Sony tried to do something similar with a number of its DVDs everyone called it a root kit. Now, however, it’s apparently just another term in the EULA, and the official response from the BioWare community rep was to say, essentially, “those are the rules. Tough shit.”

I wonder how long it will be before EA decides to ban players who dislike the game and post negative comments about it on the Internet?

Here’s the irony of the situation: the comment that v_ware allegedly made on the BioWare forums was “Have you sold your souls to the EA devil?” Thank you for answering the question so completely, and good luck in all your future endeavours. Sadly, I won’t be along for the ride.

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