GoG And Sneaky EULAs 2017-03-06
Back in the day I played a lot of Diablo I and II, Duke 3D, and maybe a little Total Annihilation. I waited, and waited, and waited for Blizzard to release Diablo III. But it seemed like it would never come. Eventually I just stopped gaming because I figured D3 was never going to happen. Then one day, some folks at work told me I just HAD to try Guild Wars. The second campaign (Factions) had just been released and the game was enjoying a fair bit of popularity. I liked it so much I started calling it Diablo III to ease a bit of my digital pain. Man, I played it a lot. At the peak of my playing I was one of two alliance leaders that ran a dual-faction alliance of over 700 people. I really have no idea how many people I taught to 600/smite in UW.
I remember when NCSoft/ArenaNet were announcing the arrival of Guild Wars 2. People were scrambling to say how awesome it was going to be, while I sat back and said I thought it looked like a pile of crap. The coming story was essentially unmentioned, the characters seemed to chatter endlessly, the graphics didn't seem like a huge improvement over the current game, and there was the looming concern that they may charge a subscription fee because that seemed to be the direction all game manufacturers were headed. I didn't buy GW2 when it was released, and I had left behind the guild/alliance because it was a huge time sink that had become strictly political and too many wankers wanted their opinions heard. The in game friends I had left stopped playing, or moved on to other games (mostly AoC or GW2), and the population of Guild Wars dwindled but never disappeared completely. Pre Searing and Kamadan are still reasonably well populated but there's a load of "game gold" spammers in both and the support is completely dead. Clearly the game is no longer profitable and they are just pacifying the remaining players by leaving the servers up even this long.
On and off over the last few years I have tried to find a replacement to fill the void that will be left behind when GW is gone... though I have never found anything quite the same. One problem seems to be the way people classify games. It seems most people would classify Guild Wars as a coop RPG, though I don't know what part of massive, multiplayer, or online it doesn't fit. Regardless, all other games seem to fall in to one of two categories to me: crafting grinders and gear grinders. You're either grinding for gear or grinding for materials. For whatever reason, Guild Wars feels to me like it has more content than other games, more quests, more missions, more dungeons, more minigames, more whatever. And in my mind it requires a different kind of skill. Because the game has such a low cap on armour, weapons, character level, and skill attributes, the game became an exercise in evaluating the scenario you were about to play, forming a balanced party, each party member selecting appropriate skills and complementing those skills with armor and weapons, then each player had to know how to play their build so that it was most effective for the group. Sure, other games were similar in that a party with a crappy healer won't last long or a party with no tank is constantly fleeing or a party with no big damage dealer may not be able to handle some foes... but with Guild Wars it seemed to be so delicately balanced, and balanced across the entire game. Sadly, I think that the quality of software development peaked in 2002 and has been declining ever since.
Having said all that, I was still recently trying to find a new way to piss away my time, and I checked out Good Old Games. Right away I liked their position on DRM. One of the things that worries me about Guild Wars is that all of my content is stored on their servers. My characters, the items I have obtained, and my ability to actually play the game rests entirely on NCSoft and ArenaNet's ongoing willingness to keep the servers running. When they decide that they do not want to run the servers anymore, they turn them off, and with the servers will go everything I built along with my ability to ever log in again. The fact that I used to play Dungeon Runners (another NCSoft game) when they shut it down, makes me anxious to leave Guild Wars before it leaves me. GoG's position on DRM seems to generally be that users should be able to play the game when they want, how they want, and without the game manufacturer having the ability to remove the game from them later. The bad news is, I saw something on their site that I thought was really not cool. I was looking at Clive Barker's Undying when I noticed that over in the right margin there is a link that says "Acceptance of end user license agreement required to play". And in that EULA, it says:
When you play this game offline, EA and its affiliates may collect and store non-personally identifiable data including your Internet Protocol Address as well as game play and software usage statistics. If and when you access online features and/or services (if any), this data may be transmitted to EA. EA may use this information to improve our products and services and may share anonymous data with third parties.
I gotta say, that seems really uncool to me. The link is obviously there for everyone to see, but it really is well blended in to make it seem like it is just part of the list that says you need at least Windows XP, 512MB of memory, and DirectX9 to play it. And frankly, having your IP address as well as the date/time is pretty uniquely identifying, unless you are on a network of thousands of people, many of whom are also playing EA games at or near the same time as you. So I looked around a little more and found [for example] that the package of Tomb Raider 1, 2, and 3 has this EULA that says:
Without prejudice to paragraph 4 above, We may from time to time during your gameplay collect anonymous, non-personally identifiable information (i.e. information which neither identifies you nor is linked to, associated with or capable of being used to identify, you) about your hardware system including how you are using the Software Product (including information about your successful installation and removal of the Software Product). This information may also include your internet protocol (I.P.) address (a numeric number assigned by your internet service provider to identify your PC).
The Software Product may incorporate technology (which may be provided by SEL or third party service providers engaged by SEL (each a "Dynamic Advertising Provider")) which enables advertising to be uploaded into the Software Product on your PC, and changed while the Software Product is being played on-line.
The Thief 3 page points to this EULA which has similar statements as the Tomb Raider EULA above because it is also [at least partially] owned by Square Enix in Japan, which only made about USD$2,880,987,590.16 last year. Then there is the Star Wars: Tie Fighter Special Edition page which points to this EULA which says:
We do not claim ownership to your User Generated Content; however, you grant us a non-exclusive, sublicensable, irrevocable and royalty-free worldwide license under all copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, privacy and publicity rights and other intellectual property rights to use, reproduce, transmit, print, publish, publicly display, exhibit, distribute, redistribute, copy, index, comment on, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works based upon, publicly perform, make available and otherwise exploit such User Generated Content, in whole or in part, in all media formats and channels now known or hereafter devised (including in connection with the Disney Services and on third-party sites and platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), in any number of copies and without limit as to time, manner and frequency of use, without further notice to you, with or without attribution, and without the requirement of permission from or payment to you or any other person or entity.
Which is essentially one really long sentence that gives them permission to glean whatever information they can off your enjoyment of the game and use it to make money from any way they see fit, and without any need to ask you, or compensate you. Truth be told, I have not bought or tried any of these games... and won't. The point is not that you shouldn't be using GoG either. I just think it would be really nice if (1) GoG made these extra licensing agreements much more visible to people potentially buying the game, and (2) if they had the testicular fortitude to set aside some of their profit in order to sell only games that do not force such ridiculous licensing agreements on users. After all, that is kind of the point of their DRM-free policy in the first place isn't it?
The bottom line is, when buying games from GoG, you should always make sure to check the right hand margin to see if there are additional licensing agreements you will be bound by... because even though their FAQ says there is a 30 day money back guarantee, that is only if the game won't run on your PC, and if your PC meets all of the other system requirements listed on the page. Not if you do not agree to be bound by additional EULAs after the fact.