Thursday, April 14, 2011

With The Good Inevitably Comes The Bad

I know I have mentioned that I have been fighting the urge to replay Dragon Age II a few times in the past week or so. The reason I have been fighting that urge is because I have a huge freaking stack of video games I feel like I should be playing. For instance, I have been playing Epic Mickey and making some decent progress with it. But then I kind of stalled out, and kept finding excuses to avoid playing, all the while hearing the siren song of Dragon Age... I tried forcing myself to play Epic Mickey but that just made it no fun. I remembered that the reason I play video games is to have fun, and there is no one but myself dictating what I play or when. So I decided to compromise a little and instead of firing up a new game of Dragon Age II decided I would finish out my replay of Dragon Age: Origins first and then replay the sequel with my character import from that game.

Quite pleased with my proposed solution, I opened up Dragon Age: Origins on Monday afternoon, hit the "resume" button an error message. What the heck? The message stated that the saved game I wanted to continue contained "premium content" (well, duh, it is the ultimate edition of the game, which includes all of the released downloadable content for the game), and that in order to keep playing the owner of the premium content needed to log in to the EA account linked to said content. Okay. Checked the little bottom corner of the screen and it showed that I was indeed logged in to my EA account. Hmm. Logged out and then back in again, but no go, the game is still telling me to log in. I pulled up my EA account and checked and it still showed I had the game registered. I looked at the "downloadable content" section of the game and it is showing all of my DLC is unauthorized. Again. Sigh.

See, here's what happened. After releasing the last bit of DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware and/or EA decided to release an ultimate edition that included Dragon Age: Origins, the expansion pack Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, and all of the DLC. We ended up buying that ultimate edition from Steam when it was on sale (even though we already had the game and its expansion pack) because it was actually cheaper than buying all of the DLC separately, and I wanted all of the DLC (and my husband is awesome). Regardless of what platform you buy the ultimate edition of the game for (computer or console) and how you buy it (disc or digital download), the ultimate edition game itself does actually include all of the extra content. When you install the game, you install this content. In order to be able to actually play anything considered "premium" content, however, you still have to then go to EA and register the game with your EA account (you have to create one if you don't already have one, in fact). Then you redeem the code for the "extra" content on the website. After you've done that you have to open up the game and log in to your EA account from the game itself at least once to authorize your premium content. Only then can you finally play that content.

Now, I get why EA did it this way. This is not actually that unusual. They are trying to avoid piracy of their game and of the extra content. I don't think for one second that this attempt to avoid piracy was at all successful, but I get what they were trying to do. The problem is that in doing so, they made playing content one had legally purchased a huge pain in the butt from the get-go. This was compounded by an issue with the Steam version of the game, which, when downloaded, had a timing issue that caused the DLC content not to automatically be authorized when the game is registered. You may remember when I originally got the ultimate edition I griped about the problems I had accessing the stand-alone DLC quests that I wanted to play. A few internet searches and a frustrating afternoon spent on the internet eventually led me to the Bioware forums and I was able to find the reason for my problem as well as a relatively quick and simple fix, and was then able to get on with playing the game, yay!

So imagine my chagrin when I went to resume the game and found that, once more, my DLC had become unauthorized and I couldn't even continue my saved game until I fixed the issue! Clearly it was no longer just a problem with the install. Yet another frustrating afternoon spent searching the internet on Monday led me to discover that after the initial debacle with the Steam version of the game, the bug somehow spread to all PC versions of the game. What is going on here, folks??? Well, it seems that EA was experiencing a problem with their server, at least since last November/December. This problem causes the DLC content (content which is included in this version of the game and shouldn't actually involve any extra steps except maybe perhaps just registering the game) to periodically (and repeatedly) become unauthorized for users who log in to their EA accounts every time they open the game. This is, by the way, the recommended course of action, because it allows you to keep track of your game stats and achievements on your EA site and to compare your different playthroughs, share them with other players, archive your screenshots, etc. There is a little button you can click when you first sign in to your EA account from the game that says "always sign in," and I of course had that clicked. Which means when I went to resume my game, it logged me in to the EA servers, and the EA servers felt it would be a good time to unauthorize all of my DLC. Just for fun, you know.

I tried several steps recommended by the Bioware forums and in other parts of the internet, and eventually did find a solution. This solution involved me editing the actual code of the game. Um. No. That should not be the required solution to make a game just work like it should. I am sorry, that is just wrong. Bleah. There is actually a patch for the game that fixes all of these bugs, apparently, but after I downloaded it and went to run the file, a little pop-up window informed me that this patch was for disc versions of the game only, not for downloaded versions. Sigh. Whatever. I did get it fixed, and finally, finally, I could resume play, yay!

So I resumed my game and imagine my surprise (yet again) when I am looking at the screen and find my character in nothing but her undies, no weapons or clothes. What? Hey, so, I fixed the glitch that caused my DLC to be unauthorized, but a secondary, related glitch had now kicked in. This new glitch causes all of the items you gained from playing the DLC to simply vanish from your inventory (and bodies). At that point, I was willing to forgo a few cool weapons and armor so I could just get on with the game. I found more clothes in my inventory and dressed and armed my character and plowed on. Of course, I was in the Fade when all of this happened, so when I got to Alistair's nightmare to find he had also lost his items, he wasn't technically in my party at that time, meaning I couldn't affect his items. So I had to go through that whole conversation with him in his undies...

Naked Alistair is naked.

It would have been a lot more funny if there hadn't have been so much frustration behind it. So I played a little bit Monday night and quite a bit on Tuesday, and I finished up the Circle of Magi quest and headed back to camp. And found Levi, the guy who I had helped secure Wardens' Keep in one of my DLC quests already completed, still hanging about in camp, even though he should have been back at the keep setting up his new business. Uh oh. Not a good sign. I opened up my journal and it still showed all of the DLC stuff I had played in my completed quests. Okay, that was promising. Then, I opened up the world map, and none of the places I had visited (some of which should still be accessible, all of which should at least be present) and none of them were on the map. None of them. Only DLC location was the one I hadn't played yet.

Grumbling because I had hoped/planned to go back to Wardens' Keep at least at some point, I went to Sulcher's Pass to go ahead and play that DLC through at least. The guy told me to complete the quest I would need to go to a specific place further south and he would mark it on my map. This is a quest that would get me a new companion character I hadn't gotten to play before, so I eagerly opened up my map wasn't there. That glitch that makes all of the DLC items go away? Also makes the DLC related places disappear off the map as well, making them inaccessible. Damn it all to hell.

Some quick research showed me that by continuing to play after the first encounter with the glitch (i.e. naked people), I had killed my already slim chances of recovering the DLC within the game. Unless I was willing to do some more code tweaking, that is. I read the instructions for said tweaking and dude, beyond me.

So. This game is borked. One of the reasons I wanted to do the second playthrough was to get to play all of the in-game DLC. I was only twenty hours in (it's about a hundred hour game). I went ahead and made the executive decision yesterday to just start a new new game. My DLC is authorized and I am not logging back into EA until I finish this playthrough.  Hopefully this will prevent those pesky glitches from thwarting me again. I somehow doubt that at this stage EA is really worried about fixing the glitches with the first Dragon Age game, which is a shame.

Wait, wait, wait, you want me to do what now?

Part of me wants to say that this really isn't worth all of the hassle. Part of me doesn't want to give EA the satisfaction of continuing to play their broken game. But the other part of just really wants to play Dragon Age. What can you do? I decided to start my third character with the same background as number two, though I did tweak her appearance a bit again (I do love playing with the appearance generator). Also, on the plus side, in game two I had already managed to accidentally hook up with Alistair, when I had really intended to pursue another relationship. So now I have a chance to not break his heart, yay! A personal challenge to me will be winning him over as a friend without getting romantic. I don't even know if that's possible, but I'm sure gonna try to find out!

So...yeah. I'm playing Dragon Age again. I know you're shocked and surprised. I just wish such an awesome game didn't come with such ridiculous baggage.

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