Friday, July 12, 2013

Deus Ex: The Fall - Tripping Out of the Gate

Ever since Deus Ex: The Fall was announced as a phone/tablet-exclusive game (as part of Squeenix's questionable business reform methods that basically boil down to "MORE TABLET/PHONE GAMES"), it's been seen as something of a bad idea from every angle that was thought possible.  Anyone with a little sense in their head at least wrinkled their nose in confusion at the prospect of controlling a First-Person Shooter (that wasn't on rails) on a device which only has an input method of a touchscreen if they didn't outright denounce it on principle alone.  Others pointed to the efforts made with Human Revolution which, while mostly good, they did leave a little bit to be desired here and there (which is a known quantity, what with the Director's Cut coming out to fix those bits) as a reason to be wary of this game.  And still others didn't find a problem with the game itself, to the point where they just wanted it on other platforms as well.  With all those, there was one angle that nobody thought of because why would you think of this angle?

When The Fall released last night, people were quick to find out a little quirk that the developers had implemented in the game: If you were playing it on a jail broken device, you couldn't fire a gun.  Of course, the non-skippable tutorial at the start of the game requires you to shoot a gun at least once, so several people were left at a sort of impasse.  They had the game, but they couldn't play it because it requires something that they're not allowed to do.

For the uninitiated, 'jail breaking' your phone basically allows you to toy directly with the workings of the device in ways that makes Apple and everyone else all angry and such.  It is something that has a variety of uses, from simply modifying a thing or two here for purely cosmetic or ease-of-use reasons to, of course, simply pirating the shit out of whatever games you like.  As with simply modifying a device, you have all sorts of people doing it for varieties of reasons - it's the same thing as folks who used to soft-mod Wii's and PS2 to play imported games; they bought the games legally, they had a device that, in theory, was able to play it and simply had to make it so, instead of buying a whole new device that was the exact same thing, but coded to a different region.  Of course, there were also people that modified consoles to play burnt disks, that's just the sort of thing that happens whenever it comes to a simple modification level.

This was of course just an attempt at a sort of 'indirect' anti-piracy measure as we've seen in the past, but the problem was that it very obviously affected people who didn't pirate the game in any way or fashion.  The official App page for the game does say "** Please be aware, the Deus Ex: The Fall play experience is currently restricted on jail broken devices. Do not purchase if you have voided your warranty and have Jail broken your device.", but I cannot definitively say that it -always- said that, even if I am under the impression that it did.  Even if it did, however, it's still pretty much the greyest area one could murk around in at the moment.  Jail breaking, depending on who you ask and in what context, is perfectly legal, even if that does open avenues that are not quite so much.  Denying you the ability to play the game on a device that has been modified, but not denying you the ability to purchase it is the very definition of suspect, and while I don't know piracy rates on Mobile games (though I believe I've heard they're absurdly high), I imagine this sort of thing ended up affecting far more legitimate buyers than pirates.

I personally liken it to people who go into their computers and modify things for performance reasons, perhaps even going so far as to "overclock" certain aspects of it, usually for gaming means.  It's generally not advisable, I'm sure and it voids the warranty (though whether that's technically supposed to be enforceable is up in the air), but it's not an exclusionary matter.  It's not the best example, of course, since it doesn't do anything to the ability to pirate games, but just...roll with me here.  Just imagine a scenario where a game released on Steam, people bought it, and it said "We're sorry, this game isn't playable on PCs with overclocked components." perhaps for the bullshit reason of "This game was designed with X specs in mind" or something like that.  People would lose their shit and rightly so.  There would be no reason for it, just as there's basically no reason for The Fall to be unplayable on jail broken devices, since it doesn't automatically mean anything by that alone.

Thankfully, there's going to be an update coming up soon that will make the game playable for all, but it's a weird bump in the road considering it was completely unnecessary.  It certainly doesn't do Squeenix any favors, either, and they're a company that really needs to have some favors going around at this point in time.  I can't imagine they're the first developer to put this restriction on a game, and they're definitely not going to be the last, but the real issue at hand is whether or not they're going to try it again after this.  They pretty much only focused on the fact that they didn't state clearly enough (read: with big bold letters that you can't miss) that the game could not be played on Jail broken devices, so perhaps they're simply going to make that change next time around?  That wouldn't be the smart move, of course, but when is the smart move ever the Squeenix move?

now just port the damn game to Vita, somebody, anybody

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