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FREE GAMES!…legally August 9, 2010

Posted by maxfreund in General, PS3.
Tags: , , ,

The promise of free games, or a free computer, or even free cheese is often met with skepticism by the general public, and for good reason. No one ever wants to come out behind, and if you give away a product with no strings attached, you generally end up bringing up the rear.

But I was recently made aware of a way to obtain essentially “free” games on the Playstation Network, and it is a completely legitimate and legal action. Intrigued? Let me explain.

The three major consoles, the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360, all have substantial online catalogues. Complete with simple flash games for a few dollars, all the way up to full 40 – 60 dollar games, that could be found at your local Best Buy. These virtual stores are tremendous places for gamers to find niche, indie developed gems, or just get a new game without having to put their pants on and brave the outside world.

But with so much content available for download, questions about ownership have arisen.

With normal, retail games, when you purchase a game, you get something physical. In the old days it was a cartridge, and now it is a Blueray or DVD, but it is something tangible. You can hold it, bring it from house to house or console to console, and resell it at Gamestop or Ebay when you are finished with it. But with downloadable content, it isn’t so black and white.

When you purchase a game via an online store, a file is downloaded to your system. And while you “own” the game, and can play it all you want, you loose that physical aspect.

This is a legitimate concern for game companies, because if a person is expected to purchase all their content digitally, the consumer will need to have that same sense of ownership that they are used to, or the transition to digital distribution shall not go smoothly. These concerns have led to an interesting concession by Playstation, and brings me to your “free games”.

DRM or Digital Rights Management is the ownership of a piece of code, and governs what a person can and cannot do with that code. Every game that is downloaded by a user off the Playstation Network is tied to that person’s profile. This tether allows the user to delete the game file from their consoles’ hard-drive to make space, and then re-download it to their system at a later date, free of charge.

But what if your console kicks the bucket, and you have to go drop 300 bucks on a new PS3. It is a different console. One that has no memory of your prior downloads. You do not have to buy all new disks for your new PS3, could Sony possibly expect you to repay for all your downloadable games?

Well thankfully, no, they don’t.

Sony has granted each person the ability to re-download any game onto 4 other consoles. This covers a person who may own two systems simultaneously, by not making them buy the same game twice, as well as any situation where your system dies and you need to grab another one.

But in my humble estimation, 4 re-downloads on different systems seems excessive. I have owned consoles for the past 3 console cycles, and have never once reached more than 3 systems of the same type (damn you red ring!). So what am I expected to do with these extra downloads?

I am legally alloted them. They are just sitting there, waiting to be used.

Well, the simple answer is to trade with friends! And thus, the free games. If you have a friend who owns a PS3, they undoubtedly have downloaded some PSN titles that you may be interested in playing. Well all you have to do is sign onto their system using your user ID. Go to the PSN store. Click on the downloads history button, and re-download all of your games onto their system.

Doing this will knock off 1 of your 4 allotted re-downloads, so pick the friends you trade with wisely.

When I learned of this, I was excited. Frankly, games are really expensive, and to a starving college student, any little freebee is welcome.

And while this may seem slightly sneaky, or subverting the intended use of not making a person pay for the same game twice on two of their own systems, think of it this way.

Back in the days of the N64, did all your friends own a copy of Super Smash Brothers? Of course not. You brought your copy from house to house, spending hours enjoying it with different people at different times. Think of this as just a way to digitally share the wealth and borrow your friends favorite game.


Give Ezio a Chance December 28, 2009

Posted by maxfreund in General, PS3, Xbox 360.
Tags: , , , , , ,

With the holiday season winding down, I have settled in with my newly acquired cache of games, and recently completed Assassins Creed 2.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and plan to go back through it to collect all the extra goodies I missed while playing the main campaign, the overall package brought up a huge pet peeve of mine, and has driven me to write this mini rant.

Assassins Creed 2 is obviously the second game in the Assassins Creed series, which Ubisoft proclaimed to be a pre-planned trilogy during development of the first Assassins Creed.

The trilogy is supposed to follow the life of Desmond Miles, a man caught up in a modern day war between two factions, the Templars, and the Assassins. Miles is a descendant of former assassins, and so far the first two games in the series has had him plugged into a machine that allows him to relive the experiences of his ancestors, in order to gain knowledge and experience for the modern day conflict.

The problem that I had when playing Assassins Creed 2, is that it is an incomplete story, it begins essentially in the middle of a scene and ends with Desmond and his obnoxiously stereotypical chums escaping their facility. No closure, no self-contained story. I understand Ubisoft has grand plans for this franchise, and wants the three games to be played in succession in order for the entire story to be enjoyed, but they executed it so poorly.

If you want an example of doing it right, look at Uncharted. Uncharted 1 and 2 are complete, fully-fledged games that have a beginning, middle and end. Both can be played independently and provide the gamer with a great, immersive story, yet when played together the experience is that much more expansive and deep.

Assassins Creed 2 fails to be an independently functioning game, and for 60 bucks, that is unacceptable. But the most frustrating part of it all is that there is a tremendous story hidden within Assassins Creed 2.

I know who I would pick to build a franchise around, but Ubisoft has chosen a whiney punk in a hoodie instead...

Ezio Auditore de Firenze, Desmond’s Italian ancestor, is whom you spend over 90% of the game controlling, and is the year’s new badass. He is suave, cunning, and wears fashionable left shoulder capes. And the setting of Renaissance Italy is breathtakingly rendered, and a welcome change from the usual post-apocalyptic brown and grey landscapes of modern day games.

But instead of creating a tremendous, complete, compelling assassin game based around Ezio, Ubisoft forces Mr. Miles down our throats. The fact that most of the time you are in Ezio’s world, means that the player gains little to no interest or connection to Desmond, so the few sections that you are controlling him feel tacked on. But since the entire Assassins Creed storyline revolves around Desmond, the Ezio experience lacks the center stage it deserves, and Assassins Creed 2 ends up feeling like an incomplete experience.

For all the negative, there is a great game hidden in there. The time that you are Ezio is tremendous, and all of Italy is worth exploring, I really enjoyed this game, but hate that Ezio does not get the front stage he deserves. If Desmond was scrapped, along with his obnoxious futuristic war storyline, and Ubisoft gave me an awesome 1400s Italy assassin game, it would be on my short list for game of the year. Instead it is an incomplete experience that can only be fully appreciated with prior knowledge of AC1 and subsequent playing of AC3.