Darkspore Off Steam After Plague Of Server Issues

By Nathan Grayson on July 2nd, 2013 at 8:00 am.

How much blood would a server serve if a server didn't suffer from intermittent months-spanning connection issues and apparent indifference from its creator?

I still wonder what sort of mad sparkle in EA’s eye led to the birth of Darkspore, but its ensuing post-launch existence has somehow managed to be even stranger. While the game itself was largely (and sadly) unremarkable, its early DRM server issues have since evolved into an eyeball-and-tendril-flailing monstrosity, rendering the whole thing entirely unplayable for some since May. Recently (possibly as a result), Darkspore was de-listed from Steam, though it’s still available on Origin. EA’s now claiming to have put the offending bugs to bed, but Steam continues to only carry spores of distinctly lighter shades.

Here’s Maxis’ statement on the matter after a months-spanning period of radio silence and an apparently erroneous claim that Darkspore’s support was done and over with for good:

“We recently resolved an issue that was causing some players to not be able to connect to the game. If you any encounter any other issues, please contact help.ea.com for customer support. We will continue to support Darkspore, so feel free to continue to discuss the game here. Thanks – Maxis.”

Which, given the circumstances, sounds more like, “We’ve returned to supporting Darkspore now that we realize there will be extremely negative consequences if we don’t,” but it’s tough to complain about the end result. Well, OK, it’s actually pretty easy to gripe about the fact that solo play continues to require the wheezing embrace of EA’s sickly servers, but I doubt that malady will be remedied any time soon.

I’ve reached out to EA and Valve for comment, but I imagine the Steam stuff will be cleared up before too much longer. More pressing are the resulting implications for EA’s long-term support of “always online” games, as this episode doesn’t set a particularly encouraging precedent. I mean, really? Two months of unplayability for many paying customers? That’s beyond unacceptable. That’s pretty much a worst-case scenario.

If any company – EA or otherwise – is going to convince us that the always connected future is anything more than lazy DRM signing its name with different letters, these sorts of debacles simply can’t happen. Well, unless “It’ll change the way you play games!” was originally supposed to be paired with “by not letting you play them at all”.

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57 Comments »

  1. Khalan says:

    What a wonderful state of affairs and an inspiring message of hope to all those SimCity players.

    *Please ensure your sarcasm detectors are in proper working order.

    • lowprices says:

      *Bzzz… chk chk… clickDING!

      NO SARCASM DETECTED*

      Yep, seems to be in working order.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Darkspore dirigible DLC will have it fixed in no time for nine of your earth dollars!

  2. Anthile says:

    This is a very worrying development. One is reminded of the early days of cinema and television. Not few movies and TV episodes are lost forever because of carelessness and a baffling lack of foresight. Sure, Darkspore isn’t exactly Metropolis but you can’t shake the feeling games are still produced as if they were disposable. Video games are art and should be conserved and protected as such. Developers and publishers have to make sure their products are still usable in twenty years.

    • frightlever says:

      There’s nothing special about “art” that provides for more than economic encouragement to preservation. Most “art” has been destroyed. Some art was created by painting over old art. Only the good, valuable art tends to survive intact.

      In the 20th century it got easier to preserve bad “art” but that doesn’t mean it should be necessary. Furthermore some art is designed to decay, while other art is inherent to a particular installation.

      You can call Sim City “art”, but EA disagree with you. For them it’s a product. You can call elephant dung art if you want to but that isn’t going to persuade people to start hoarding it in their attic.

      There are numerous definitions of “art” – probably as many definitions as people with opinions. I tend to believe art is relative, not an absolute. I wouldn’t define most TV and movies as art, and am yet to be convinced that anything that qualifies as a game is also art. Oh, you can argue otherwise but you won’t be telling me anything I haven’t heard before. Just accept that my definitions of what a game is, and what art is, are different to your own. Or go one step further and explain your absolute overview of artistic merit of everything.

      Oh, and just because a TV or movie, or even a game, isn’t art doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be preserved. I mean, why not? But demanding such preservation on the grounds of artistic merit is flawed. If you want to throw money at the problem then go nuts. I’m sure a few million could get some companies to change their minds about how they preserve the products they’ve spent tens of millions producing.

      • AngoraFish says:

        I recently threw out the last shred of work from my art school days.

        And I’m fairly certain that anything I produced from preschool through to year 12 has long ago met the same fate…

        Not all ‘art’ is worth preserving, and most certainly not every tragic EA release regardless of quality.

      • aepervius says:

        “In the 20th century it got easier to preserve bad “art” but that doesn’t mean it should be necessary. Furthermore some art is designed to decay, while other art is inherent to a particular installation.”

        No in the 20th century it got better to preserve any physical art, but it went into a minefield and made it more difficult to preserve digital art, because of :
        1) IP
        2) DRM

        If you bought bad art, and the sculptor wanted it destroyed, he was short on luck.

        If you bought a bad game, like say, dark spore, if the developer can decide to shut it off, it is gone forever.

        Same with other digital arts where the original developer is gone and the distributor refuse categorically to maintain it, AND take down any attempt at maintaining it.

        furthermore , from my perspective it was much easier to inspire yourself of another book7sclpture/theater piece and make your own using similar environments or continuing story. The whole Cthulhu mythos is a massive fan fiction using the same universe. You will not be able to do this with digital game IP. They are defended tooth and nail.

        • Corb says:

          No, not “forever”. If the game has a strong enough cult/community following they will crack, mod, and patch the game to death until they can host it on their own servers. Now, when a game doesn’t have this it’s because the game sucked so hard everyone wanted it to go away so the bandwidth could be allocated to more important things on the internet.

          • Vinraith says:

            Popular is not the same thing as good. Why it’s still necessary to point that out in 2013 is completely beyond me.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Britney Spears is one of the greatest singers of all time.

            The Great and Powerful Market has spoken!

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Developers and publishers have to make sure their products are still usable in twenty years.”

      Oh wow, I literally laughed out loud. It’s almost like people care about software having arbitrary expiration dates! Imagine that!

      This is why “piracy” or rather filesharing, cracking copy protection schemes, perpetuating torrents and so on is so important. Publishers do not care about supporting software beyond the time in which the software is sufficiently profitable. In fact, they have a mandate to kill support for anything which is still profitable but doesn’t hit whatever target is set by whoever sets the numbers internally.

      Publically traded companies have shareholders, and shareholders want to maximize revenue. Maximizing revenue means always only supporting that which is the most profitable. This is why there is one company in the world making pinball games. The second-to-last company had a profitable pinball division, but the slot machines were in doing even better. So the pinball division was killed not because the products were unpopular but because they were not as popular as the company’s biggest selling product. Fortunately, not every pinball manufacturer was publically owned, and so you can buy new machines today.

      You can also go and buy old pinball machines in various states of repair, and restore machines that your great-grandparents might have played.

      Now, if you want to play a video game today, that’s fine. If you still want to play in in twenty years, you can go fuck yourself because the future is freemium and/or whatever excuse is needed to attach every game to an online server which can be shut down by the corporate masters at any time.

      Anyone up for some City of Heroes? That game isn’t even as old as Half Life 2! It must still be… Oh wait. Now I remember: it was profitable, but not profitable enough. If you want to play it, you can go fuck yourself! Do you want to play a game that requires an online connection? Well you can today! But tomorrow you can always go fuck yourself. That’s how games as services work to publically owned publishers.

      (Valve is a privately owned company by the way. That is a big reason behind why there are so many Valve fans who dismiss the paranoid criticisms of people who can’t bring themselves to understand the differences between Valve and EA/Activision/Ubisoft/etc. Of course Valve is “not perfect”. But they are trustworthy so far for specific reasons the others are not.)

      Really: what idiots still want to play last year’s games anyway?

      • jezcentral says:

        I shall ignore your sardonicism* so I can point out to the world:

        UFO: Enemy Unknown 1993-2013.

        * Why the word isn’t sardony, I will never know.

      • Corb says:

        those of us who enjoy playing them? The urge to play it again because you enjoyed playing it the first time?

        It really is people like you who are ruining the hobby. Some of us find lasting appeal in some games and like to take steps to ensure a game is usable down the road for others who might want to pick it up and see a classic.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          “It really is people like you who are ruining the hobby. ”

          Wait, wait, wait. Re-reading what I wrote, I just realized I forgot to make it 100% clear when I switched over to being sarcastic. Let me be clear on this: when I write things like ” If you still want to play in in twenty years, you can go fuck yourself because the future is freemium” I am sarcastically, caustically, illustrating how I personally feel that publishers are treating me. They’re telling me to go fuck myself if I don’t like freemium because “freemium is the future” is something EA actually said. So I was “quoting” them on it, adding in the “go fuck yourself” (to myself) as illustrating that “switching to freemium” is not just a matter of changing “monetization” but is, in fact, telling people who want to own their own games that at best they’re living in the past. And at worst they can go fuck themselves for all EA cares because EA is not going to make a non-freemium option for Plants vs. Zombies 2 (as just one example).

          Incidentally, I am particularly bitter about City of Heroes shutting down literally weeks before I finally started playing. For the first several years of operation, I literally couldn’t play it, or any cutting-edge MMO, due to still having dial-up like many people at the time. But even in 2008 when I finally got broadband and wifi and a copy of CoH I put off actually installing it because of college. So by the time I finally got around to one of the few MMOs I actually owned and had a free month of subscription, it was too late. Not because it was unprofitable, but because it was not profitable enough for a publically traded company. Thus the bitter, bitter, bitterness.

          “Really: what idiots still want to play last year’s games anyway?” Like Ultima Underworld 2, for example. I was just playing that before I wrote that sentence.

  3. Icarus says:

    I did try DarkSpore when the public beta came out – it didn’t exactly set the world on fire to be honest and especially with the DRM/lag issues I gave it a miss and haven’t really looked back. Gameplay was uninspired at best, enemy variety and map design were very dull. To be brutally frank nothing of value was really lost here.

    • AndrewC says:

      A game that was paid for by consumers was lost.

      • Icarus says:

        Yeah, I meant more the ‘pulled from Steam’ part rather than the server issue – breaking a paid-for game and doing nothing to fix it is 100% unacceptable.

        • AndrewC says:

          Yeah, I will admit had slightly conflicting reactions to the news of ‘oh those poor people’ and ‘who are these people that still play Darkspore?’.

          Still, ‘live and let live’ I say. EA, sadly, don’t.

    • Namey says:

      Honestly, I enjoyed this game a lot more than any of the other ARPG’s of 2011-2012. This includes stuff like D3, PtE, TL2, etc.

  4. UncleLou says:

    Gamers have accepted for years that EA regularly switch their servers off after a few years, and noone ever batted an eye-lid, so I am not surprised they thought they can get away with it. Also the reason why I find, say, Sim City’s always-oline DRM much more problematic than Blizzard’s, who still support their 15 year old games.

  5. Blaaaaaaag says:

    According to Eurogamer it’s now back on Steam. I’d recommend taking this opportunity to not buy it. In fact, I’m going to not buy it right now.

    • mrmalodor says:

      For every time you don’t buy Darkspore, I’m going to not buy it 10 times.

    • frightlever says:

      I’m waiting until the summer sale before I don’t buy it.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I just noticed it’s in my games library. I actually own it.

      I’m sorry. :(

      Oh, no: wait wait wait, the game I own is Darkstar One, not Darkspore. That’s actually a decent game, and I should play it again some time. Bullet dodged.

      • phelix says:

        I beg to differ. I found Darkstar One tediously bland, mediocre at best. A bit like Freelancer, but with a fraction of the fun to be had.

    • Buckermann says:

      By the way, the current price on Steam is 49.99€.
      I think that is a very good price to not buy it!

      • Mollusc Infestation says:

        I wonder if i’d get my account banned if i changed region so i can not buy it at that price.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I am not buying it while I sit here, typing this to you. I’m going to keep not buying it. It’s actually pretty disgusting just how many times a day I don’t buy it.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      I’ve been successfully not buying it ever since it was released and announced to be always online, and I’m fairly confident that I can keep that winning streak going.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      I didn’t buy it before it was cool.

    • sharkh20 says:

      Like Pedro said, I cannot believe my mother saved $49.99 by not buying Darkspore on Steam today!

  6. Gap Gen says:

    EA cannot do servers on launch, huh?

    • Corb says:

      what will really twist your mind is that they can’t do them after launch either apparently.

  7. MattM says:

    People ask, why are you fine with Steam but refuse to buy from Origin? Stuff like this is why and it’s not a new phenomnia. I had a similar problem with the DA: O dlc servers. EA just has a terrible long term support track record.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      EA is a publically traded company, which means the owners of the company do not want you to play games which are insufficiently profitable. Valve is a privately owned company which is owned by a bunch of people who (among other things) actually enjoy playing games and understand how their customers feel.

      This is reflected in the respective “services” Origin and Steam.

      Plus, every time I try to sign up for Origin I can’t help but remember Origin Systems and what EA did to that company and I end up screaming “I can’t do this. I just can’t! You’re telling me “fuck you if you can’t get over it”? NO, FUCK YOU, EA! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUUUUUCK YOOOOOUUUUUUU!” and closing the browser tab HARD. Every time.

  8. Foxygamer says:

    Such a shame :O

  9. -Spooky- says:

    “You can buy the (digital) licence, but you don´t still OWN the game ..”

    EA – It´s in the game

  10. LionsPhil says:

    The worst-case scenario is when the servers shut down forever, surely.

    When. Not if. Hope nobody has a retro-gaming itch for it in a decade or so.

  11. MeestaNob says:

    THIS ISN’T A DEVELOPMENT! This is standard operating procedure at EA.

    1) Sell game.
    2) Do bare necessity patching to make game work for duration of release window.
    3) Forget about game.
    4) Sell sequel.

    If you have bought an EA game in the last DECADE and have it go wrong on you, you have only YOURSELF to blame. They wont listen. They never listen. They don’t care, they HAVE your money.

    Can’t help but post like a sensationalist tabloid in this instance, there really is no cause for surprise when EA fucks the consumer.

    • Corb says:

      I think the surprise isn’t anything you’ve said, but the fact the Darkspore still exists.

  12. Caiman says:

    The solution to all this is to never buy EA games. It’s worked for me for about 2.5 years now (my last EA game was Dead Space 2). A weight has lifted from my shoulders.

    • Skabooga says:

      Fortunately, EA has also become creatively bankrupt, which makes not buying their games all the easier.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      This has been my mantra for about 4 years now. The only time I’ve violated it was trading someone a serial for FIFA 13 (I gave them a free copy of CS:S that I got as a Holiday Giveaway gift from Valve) and The Sims 3.

      Now that Konami is publishing Pro Evo on Steam and EA is refusing to update FIFA’s engine for the PC, I don’t have to worry about EA being the easier choice anymore. (getting Pro Evo on PC in the USA is extremely aggravating and expensive) However, there is no competition to The Sims series and I’m far too addicted to leveling up my sims’ skills and building additions to their houses to ever give all of that up.

  13. derbefrier says:

    Darkspore wsnt too bad. I quit playing fairly quickly due to the bug that would not let you telepot to the boss. It was gamebreaking at the time and I just never bothered with it again. In fact I completely forgot I even owned the game

  14. strangeloup says:

    I picked this up for about three quid on some Steam sale thing, figuring that I could probably get on with some click-on-things-until-they-die action. Never got around to installing it though, and if it’s still bollocksed (as some are saying) then maybe I won’t bother.

  15. fish99 says:

    I wouldn’t agree that Darkspore was rubbish, it was just mediocre. It was an interesting twist on the ARPG, with a certain charm and tight combat, but repetitive levels, no story, and most of the fun of getting loot removed.

    It’s kinda sad that all these always-online games will eventually get switched off when the player numbers drop below some arbitrary threshold, and presumably disappear forever, whereas I can still play much older games. I noticed when running FIFA 11 the other day the online side is now switched off, and that’s only 3 years old. And EA wonders why everyone hates them.

    • Low Life says:

      I’m not sure who you’d be agreeing with if you thought it was rubbish; the article only states that it was unremarkable, and that’s just about the same as mediocre. And yeah, that’s exactly what it was – the first couple of hours in the beta were surprisingly fun, but then the repetition kicked in and I was done, with the game not giving me any reasons to keep playing.

      • fish99 says:

        @rockpapershot tweeted thus:

        “Darkspore was rubbish, but people are still upset that its servers were down for a month”

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      EA: the only game company even more tone-deaf than Microsoft.

  16. mr.ioes says:

    whole thing entirely unplayable for some since May
    You mean May 2011, right? Cause that’d be true. People have been getting this login error until April this year at least.

    Only took them nearly two years and a delisting by Valve to make them fix their game into a playable state. EA huaaaa!

  17. Frosty840 says:

    Not a criticism of Nathan’s post, but it depresses me how easy these stories are to cover.

    “Here we are, where we said we would be when this DRM was announced. We said its most obvious consequence would not be super community-based bells and whistles but rather that paying customers would be negatively affected. Well, paying customers have been negatively affected. ::sigh::”

    It’s all rather depressing.

  18. Beernut says:

    Not a very good year so far for Maxis…

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Maxis hasn’t had a good year since The Sims 3. Even that had a little controversy, with the rabbit-hole method for public outings.

      I thought Sims 3 was a noted improvement over Sims 2, but my view might be rosier because I didn’t hate the “rabbit-hole” mechanic as much as other people did. Still, I hope they dump the “rabbit-hole” idea for Sims 4, as it was fairly immersion breaking. It would be nice to go to the movie theater and actually wander around, have teens sneak into theaters, buy popcorn, etc.

  19. Muppetizer says:

    Does no one remember the four months or so that Dragon Age: Origins had half its content cut out unless you applied a bizarre, I’m assuming semi-illegal, work around?

    The DA:O launcher required an internet connection on launch, and while you can play the game offline if the launcher can’t authenticate with the servers then it deactivates all the DLC.