GOG release of 2016 Hitman reignites controversy surrounding online connections for single-player games

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GOG, CD Projekt's online store for digital games distribution, has always branded itself around DRM-free games. "We are GOG.com, the DRM-free home for a curated selection of games," reads a notice on the front page, and each game page has a section that says "no activation or online connection required to play." Because of this, many have come to see GOG as a haven for games preservation, freeing games from different launchers and storefronts, and allowing players to actually own them in totality, to play however and wherever they choose. However, the latest major release on the platform, IO Interactive's 2016 Hitman reboot, has angered some fans by locking features behind an online check-in. While this doesn't technically stop you from playing offline - Hitman's story and bonus missions can be played offline - the majority of features require a connection to IO Interactive's server, such as Escalation missions, Elusive Targets and user-created Contracts. There is a prominent warning on the game's store page that says this, though some users are claiming it launched without this warning. However, what isn't mentioned in this warning is that major parts of the game's progression system are also locked behind online connectivity. Unlocking new weapons, new starting locations, location mastery and getting your mission scores require a persistent internet connection. "In other words," says GOG user HeavilyAugmented in his review, "playing the game offline means you never unlock new content and you'll have to start with a default loadout of a regular suit and silenced pistol always."

The game's page is being flooded with negative reviews, and currently sits at an average rating of 1.4/5 (for comparison, the game's Metacritic page currently sits at a 7.5 average user rating). A GOG team member named chandra made a post on the GOG forums thanking users for bringing the issue to their attention, and says they will give an update "in the coming weeks," but also mentions that users are free to use their right to refund the game if they are not satisfied. "At the same time," the post continues, "while we’re open for meritful discussion and feedback, we will not tolerate review bombing and will be removing posts that do not follow our review guidelines."

This response only drew more ire, with many users feeling the term "review bombing," often applied to when fans swarm a product's user reviews with frivolous complaints, was not appropriate here. "It's not 'review bombing' when the reviews give better information on what is actually locked behind online DRM than the game's store page," said GOG forum user Breja. Though chandra clarified that they would only be removing reviews that breach their review guidelines, it has done little to calm the angered fans, and left them with an interesting question: should a storefront like GOG be selling a game when the majority of its content is gated behind an online connection?

:arrow: Hitman - Game of the Year Edition GOG Store Page
 

TheGodMauro

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The users are in their right to give it a low rating. GOG's core audience is made up of people that like game preservation and/or dislike DRM, so of course they will be against a singleplayer game that requires an active internet connection to use basic features for no real reason (Specially when it comes to unlocks, that's a low blow).
 

FAST6191

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Technically they are not wrong (though removing reviews might be).
For all practical purposes then yeah I can see the disappointment and how they did not see this coming from way off I don't know. Would probably have either meant a dummy service, secondary service, emulated selection of things or something like it though (more than any strip the DRM and recompile job and something akin to active development, possibly even new servers which likely warrant a minimum time before shutdown commitment).
 
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This shouldn't have been allowed on GOG in the first place. It goes against everything they stand for. No wonder their customers are pissed. If this ends up being the first of many such cases and marking a shift in their policies, you can bet they're going to lose a lot of customers.
 

RichardTheKing

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You can play the entire game offline. Elusive targets and contracts are, by their very nature, online content that’s time sensitive/user generated and not a part of the actual game you paid for, they’re extra content from the developers/other players, and this is by design, not a form of “DRM”. Storm in a teacup, as usual.
Except for the whole "progression is locked behind online requirement" thing, which is quite awful.
 
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RichardTheKing

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What kind of “progression”? From what I recall, you can play it from cover to cover offline.
Read:
Unlocking new weapons, new starting locations, location mastery and getting your mission scores require a persistent internet connection. "In other words," says GOG user HeavilyAugmented in his review, "playing the game offline means you never unlock new content and you'll have to start with a default loadout of a regular suit and silenced pistol always."
 

Foxi4

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You can progress the story just fine, which is what matters. Starting at custom locations or with pre-picked weapon stashes is more about replayability and challenge, I wouldn’t describe that as “progression”. Rather, it gives you some tools to mess around with and create custom scenarios.
 

ChiefReginod

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Whatever money they stand to make from the game had better be more than they're going to lose from losing their standing as a "DRM-free platform." It's literally the only reason most people buy from them instead of Steam or whatever else.

As an almost exclusive GOG buyer myself, I now have to research whether a new game has DRM or not before buying. This is a huge deterrent that goes beyond the one game.
 

guisadop

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the DRM in the hitman trilogy is one of the most idiotic I've seen in recent times, maybe second to only Metal Gear Solid V and Metal Gear Survive.
If not even GOG could convince them to remove the DRM to this 5-year-old game, do you think they'll bother releasing a patch when the servers inevitably shut down?

You know, I feel that half of this is overblown. Yeah, it sucks that you aren't going to be getting persistent upgrades due to the profile being tethered to their servers, but that's how the game was originally coded. I don't like DRM as much as the next person, and I'll gladly go sailing on the high seas to get a cracked copy. But here's the double-edged question:

If you go and pirate the game, which more than likely disables all online connections anyway, how is that literally any different than the game GOG just released?

The base game doesn't have Denuvo, or any online check-in. You can almost certainly boot it up completely offline, and beat the entire game, without connecting once. As far as I'm concerned, that's "good enough". People are going to need to reexamine how these things work going forward. More and more games are tying their content online, and seeing what GOG gets is basically the game without the DRM wrapper, it's not exactly like they can fix it. It's not like they should create custom DOSbox wrappers for these games to spoof their connections. That would require them to reverse engineer the network code behind the games in the first place.

Now, could GOG apply pressure to have the game developer move more essential content offline, like profiles? Probably, and they probably should. But I'm not going to lampoon them over getting rid of malware out of a game and not running on my computer anymore. Thank fuck.
If I'm not mistaken there's an "offline unlocker" for pirated copies... another case of DRM where pirated users have an advantage over paying customers.
 
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