Monday, November 2, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins -- who offered the better deal?

Today, I preordered Dragon Age: Origins, on the last day preorders were available, to take advantage of the preorder bonuses.

Before I get into the details of which options were available to me, and why I chose the one I did, let me first state that I was pleased to see the announcement that Dragon Age: Origins does not include the vile, accursed SecuROM DRM which has been the deciding factor in which games not to purchase in the past. Their decision to use a simple CD check played no small part in my decision to buy this game. In my experience, DRM schemes such as encrypted content, SecuROM, and older methods, do absolutely nothing to hinder hackers, who provide cracked versions of the software, most commonly on the very same day the software is released, despite the best efforts of the publishers to prevent it. These publishers spend who knows how much money in research and development or licensing fees for these DRM methods, the cost of which is inevitably passed on to the legitimate, paying consumers, and which provide frustration and grief only to these selfsame legitimate, paying customers when they mistakenly prevent them from playing. Pirates, meanwhile, enjoy the software stripped of all its nannying.

As was posted in the aforementioned link:

We’re happy to announce that the boxed/retail PC version of Dragon Age: Origins will use only a basic disk check and it will not require online authentication. In other words, the retail PC version of the game won’t require you to go online to authenticate the game for offline play. We have chosen not to use SecuROM in any version of Dragon Age that is distributed by EA or BioWare.

It was a fine day when iTunes removed the DRM from their catalogue, and it seems that it is also a fine day now that EA has elected not to use SecuROM in its newer games.

Digital Download, or Retail Box?

Now, this copy protection may not have even been an issue had I chosen to buy the game via Steam or Direct2Drive. I've purchased from Steam before, for Half-Life 2, and it caused no problems when playing mods made for HL2. My understanding from the TES Nexus forum about Direct2Drive, however, is that the D2D version of Oblivion (and perhaps Morrowind as well) does not work with some (or all?) mods, so I didn't even consider it as an option, even though I don't know for sure if mods also wouldn't work for the D2D version of DA:O.

Oftentimes, I buy retail box versions of games for the sake of having a physical souvenir, preferably with some nice box/disc art and a printed manual. But there is also the advantage of being able to find the games years later, in the dusty, hazy future, and reinstall them to enjoy anew, perhaps with the aid of an older OS emulator, long after the demise of Steam. Unlikely to happen? In the fullness of time? From dust it came, after all, only 6 years ago. To dust shall it not one day return? But the discs will outlast any change in management, scaling back of services, corporate mergers, or bankruptcies. A lifetime guarantee is only a promise during the lifetime of the company, not the customer. But I digress. And how!


So, the first criterion was that the version I purchased must be amenable to mods. The preview videos make much of Dragon Age's moddability via its included toolset, saying it includes content and resources that aren't even in the game, and citing its power, flexibility, ease of use, and ability to do "anything", including making your own in-game cinematics. Even if the game itself sucks, mods will make this game worth owning.


At any rate, Steam and retail box both seem fine for mods, so the next criterion is price. I found the retail box available for preorder for slightly less than Steam's price. This much I don't understand. Isn't the cost of distribution for Steam lower than that of manufacturing and shipping physical copies? If so, why aren't they passing the savings on to the consumer? Steam loses this point. This is why I still buy more music on physical CDs than buying individual mp3s on iTunes. An entire CD is usually cheaper than 2 or 3 iTunes tracks.

Bonus content

Both delivery methods I evaluated offered some standard bonuses in common, as well as bonuses not offered by the other side. Common to both were The Memory Band (a ring which adds 1% to Experience Points and one skill point), Blood Dragon Armor (unspecified high protection in combat, and will also be usable in Mass Effect 2), and The Stone Prisoner (an addon which adds a golem companion to the game, with a new quest, new areas including a village, items, etc.)

Exclusive to Steam was The Wicked Oath (a ring which adds +10% to critical strike damage, improves armor penetration by 2, and adds +1 to combat stamina regeneration).

Exclusive to the boxed version was a discount on a future video game purchase, and The Lion's Paw boots (which add to armor, dodge, and evading missiles stats). I had thought that the boxed version also included a cloth map, but this was apparently only in the Collector's Edition.


My selection was the boxed version. The only thing offered by Steam was an in-game item that should be easily recreatable with the toolset anyway (if I so desire), the box version is cheaper, and I get my souvenir. If I were more in a hurry to get the game, I might have been more tempted by Steam, but as Neuroticfish once said, "ich habe keine Eile."

Now, as for the first thing I would like to see in a mod? Fix Morrigan.

Concept art:

In-game version:

Not the same thing.


  1. Never heard of that game, but the concept art I did! It's Jason Chan, scroll down on his blog to see some extra work he did for that game, if you enjoy artwork:

    I agree with you that owning a CD feels better. Computers tend to mess up (specially on my n00b hands), and having things on CDs is better then downloading a whole bunch of games all over again! That if the company still exists, like you said.

  2. Thanks for the link. ^_^ I had seen all of his Dragon Age art, but a lot of the other art was new to me, and it's very good work.

    I downloaded the DA:O Character Generator last week to design my character ahead of time, and I have to say it wasn't too hard to make a character who looked more like Jason Chan's concept art of Morrigan than the final product does, and I wasn't even specifically trying for that. I'll post up my results later.