CD Projekt Red has called off its witch hunt for…. pirates, and in an open letter to the community is asking for forgiveness. Just in-case you missed the back story, CD Projekt Red is the development studio behind The Witcher 2, and about one month ago, set off on a campaign to hunt down everyone they suspected of pirating the game. Making pirates cough up cash for stolen software sounds reasonable enough; the real controversy was in the tactics they used to collect. Threatening letters asking for money in exchange for legal immunity might have sounded like a great idea to a bunch of cash strapped PC exclusive developers, however in the real world we often give this strategy a different name, extortion.
PC Gamer, Maximum PC's sister site devoted to, well, PC gamers, posted an interesting piece about CD Projekt RED going after software pirates in Germany and threatening legal action to anyone who refuses the settlement offer. In this day and age of BitTorrent, this is hardly unusual, but what's interesting here is that CD Projeckt RED claims it's able to successfully identify pirates of the game The Witcher 2 with 100 percent accuracy.
Skyrim may be the big budget game on everyone’s minds today, but it isn’t the only kick-ass RPG that was released this year. We found a lot of things to like in The Witcher 2 when we reviewed it back in June, and hey, it’s even DRM free! (Unless you buy it on Steam, of course.) While other publishers would have you believe that ditching digital protection is akin to asking for pirates to pillage games, CD Projekt has announced that The Witcher 2 has sold over a quarter million digital copies.
While we were still bumming about the PC snub EA delivered with its Battlefield 3 tournament, we ran across an interview with Adam Badowski, the development director at CD Projeckt – i.e., the makers of The Witcher 2. All the DLC for The Witcher 2 is supplied absolutely free, no strings attached. CDP would like to make DLC free for owners of the upcoming Xbox 360 version of the game as well, but Microsoft just won’t let them.
“Incredible.” “Horrendous.” “Wow. I can’t believe that just happened!” “Ugh, I can’t believe that just happened.” “Geralt, you cheeky bastard.” “Geralt, you worthless bastard.” These are all things we said while playing The Witcher 2. It’s an incredibly hot-and-cold game, to be sure. One moment it might wow you with brilliant writing, or a choice that makes BioWare’s fantasy behemoth Dragon Age look utterly toothless. The next it’ll have you spitting flames over frustrating, repetitive combat, and design decisions that simply boggle the mind. Ignore all that, though, because here’s what really counts: We couldn’t put it down.
Remember when Namco made those ill-advised – and, might we add, thankfully never acted upon – comments about Ubisoft's Dark Lord of All DRM? Remember when The Witcher 2 entered the picture, and suddenly you got a horrible sinking feeling in your stomach as it clicked that, yeah, Namco might be planning to similarly lock the game down and throw away the key? Well, here's developer CD Projekt swooping in to save the day in a very, very big way.
See, CD Projekt also owns digital storefront/blessing Good Old Games, but it's making an exception on that “old” bit with The Witcher 2. Yep, the gorgeous-looking dark fantasy RPG will be casting its spell on GOG on day one. And – better still – it'll be, in GOG's own words, “100% DRM-free,” just like all other GOG titles. Oh, and just in case you – through some Olympic medal-worthy mental gymnastics of entitlement – were able to read that last bit and say, “Huh? That's all?,” a pre-order will also snag you any one of five free games, including Divine Divinity and Gothic 2.
Now then, join us in prostrating ourselves before CD Projekt and screaming “thank you” at the top of our lungs. Also – most crucially – please don't pirate the hell out of this. Otherwise, this seeming end to DRM will probably only be the beginning.
When a publisher starts extolling the virtues of Ubisoft’s Alcatraz-level DRM lockdown, it doesn’t matter how far you read into their words; at the end of the day, it spells trouble. And so it was when Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai declared Ubisoft’s system functional – if not exactly ideal. Shortly afterward, Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt attempted damage control by vaguely stating its intentions, but that backfired -- leading many gamers to fear that the dark fantasy sequel had truly gone over to the dark side.
Fortunately, CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kiciński has released a statement that paints a much clearer picture of The Witcher 2’s DRM situation.
“Given the concerns expressed by players and growing media speculation, we have decided to make public our internal DRM policy,” he said. “Although we are the game’s developer, we obviously won’t be making a unilateral decision on the DRM protection that is applied to The Witcher 2. Nevertheless, our internal rules and guidelines should reassure players.”
“As per our policy, we will do our utmost to prevent the adopted DRM solution, if any, from making life difficult for those who acquire legal game copies. I can’t imagine using any protection that would deprive game fans of any of the pleasure that will come from playing the game, as has been the case with other notable PC game titles,” he explained.
“Notable titles,” of course, likely include Settlers 7, Assassins Creed II, and Splinter Cell: Conviction, among others. Which means that avoiding the example set by those games is part of CD Projekt’s company policy, for Pete’s sake. So take a deep breath, everyone. The Witcher 2 is in good hands.
Upon reading The Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai's pro-Ubisoft-DRM spiel, we imagine a decent many of you probably did double-takes as you put two and two together over and over again – always reaching the same confounding result. The Witcher 2. With DRM. Does. Not. Compute. After all, developer CD Projekt heads up Good Old Games. That's about as anti-DRM as you can get.
Namco Bandai and CD Projekt are separate entities, however. And fortunately, this is one instance where left hand and right aren't quite in agreement.
“Our distributors commented [on] the Ubisoft-like DRM securilty solutions, and we’re receiving a massive feedback about applying such in The Witcher 2,” read a post on CD Projekt's Facebook account. “There’s nothing to worry about, as nothing is decided yet.
“And still, it’s a private opinion. You know CD Projekt RED’s opinion about DRM, right?” the developer added, referring to Good Old Games.
That tree-demolishing gust you just felt? That was thousands of Witcher fans breathing a collective sigh of relief. Thank goodness, too. Geralt's not the handsomest guy around, but his ugly mug's still a far prettier sight than a big, game-obscuring “Connection lost. Please wait.” screen.
Going to the dentist sucks. It’s like mouth hell, with tongues of flame replaced by regular tongues, drills, needles, and toothpaste so awful-tasting that it makes us want to wait 30 hours before eating instead of 30 minutes. But until the day we invent super-powered ray guns that blast our teeth clean in the blink of an eye, the dentist is – sadly enough -- our only option. That, more or less, is how Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai feels about Ubisoft’s almost universally reviled DRM system.
"I will be very honest. I think it's a good [approach] for one reason: I have no alternative today. Is the best one? Certainly not but as of today if I can make something else I'll do it, but it's better to do something than not do something,” Namco Bandai Partners VP Olivier Comte said. “At the moment they are doing a good strategy.”
He added, however, that Namco Bandai’s doing everything in its power to craft a better, smarter successor to the DRM throne. Even then, though, the publisher still sees gray skies ahead.
"I'm convinced that whatever system you put in place you can be sure that two hours before putting it out it'll be cracked in Russia. I think that the combat against piracy is very complicated because it's very complicated to explain to a 12-year-old that drag and dropping a file on a PC is piracy - he was born with this,” Comte explained.
Between the rainbow of racial slurs on Xbox Live and now this, it seems like the solution to all of gaming’s ills is simple: eliminate all 12-year-olds. Thoughts? Seems pretty sensible to us.
The Witcher, an under-the-radar fantasy RPG that – despite what its name might suggest – has nothing to do with witches, has officially earned itself a sequel. This news should be exciting to you, human being with a modicum of sanity and intelligence. If you’re not bouncing up and down with glee, though, give The Witcher a try, and then come back and join the party. Everyone else, you’ve got a trailer to watch. We’ll wait.
Cool, huh? So, when can you expect to sink your fangs into the White Wolf’s next adventure?
“We’re aiming for release in Q1 2011,” said a CD Projekt RED rep.
Oh, is that so? Well, it sure is a good thing that gamers are such patient, non-demanding people. Boy howdy, if we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard a gamer say “I can’t wait to play Game X” or “I’d kill someone with a miniature potted cactus to play, say, The Witcher 2 right this freaking second,” we’d have zero dollars. Because gamers never talk like that. Ever.
Huh? You still think they do? Oh, we have so got a miniature potted cactus with your name on it.