I had this neat idea once of setting up a PC that I would use exclusively for gaming. I would make sure it had good hardware, and it would run WinXP without an anti-virus suite, firewall or any sort of security software making the performance that much better. No, no – I’m not crazy or suicidal. You didn’t let me finish. I would not connect that thing to the internet – ever. Yes, I would not be able to play online but most of the games I play are single player games so it would not be a total loss. I figured that without a network connection would be as secure as possible. In addition I figured that if I ever had kids, this would be a perfect way to set up a gaming and experimentation machine for them without worrying that they’d get into some online shenanigans.
This would actually be a good educational device for all parents. Teach your kids that Windows is that silly toy OS daddy uses for playing games, and Linux is what you use when you want to do serious work or just screw around on the interwebs. It was a great concept on paper.
It only took me about 30 seconds to realize that it would be horribly inconvenient if not impossible in practice. This is why:
- Patches – these days most of games end up on the store shelves in a half finished state. Usually to get playable experience you ought to wait around 6 months and then download and install all 6 or 7 patches just so that you can avoid random game crashes, interface bugs, broken quests and missions and graphical oddities. Of course I could download all these patches on another computer, burn them on CD’s and transfer them to the gaming PC but that’s a chore.
- Online Activation – this inconvenience is not easy to circumvent. I can’t tell you how many recent games use online activation of some sort. This totally wrecks my idea of an offline gaming PC because I would have to connect it to a network for the activation to take place. But hell, the machine would be behind NAT, and plugging it for few minutes every once in a while probably wouldn’t compromise it.
- Call Home to Play – naturally crafty game makers figured that online activation is not enough of a proof you are not a pirate so many games now require to call home each time you try to play. This would make them unusable on an offline PC that I envisioned.
Funny thing is that if I really wanted to implement this I could simply by pirating games. Some scene groups (not all) will ship games that are actually already patched up making #1 a non problem. They would of course be cracked solving problems #2 and #3. I’d still have to burn the game on a CD to transfer it to the gaming PC but it would be no different from circumventing #1. The only renaming concern would be potential malicious code contained in the crack that ships with the game. But again, if you stick to known scene groups and watch out for fakes and impostors you would usually be fine.
Here is an added bit of irony: honest customers have to activate the game online, and have it periodically call home in order to prove they are not pirates. Pirates on the other hand don’t have to do anything because the game has been cracked and the online activation/call home code was circumvented. I talked about this before but I will say it once again. Each layer is just like adding another lock on your front door. It doesn’t matter how many lock you have if the burglar is armed with a bump key. Besides, most burglars will probably use the open window in your living room rather than try to pick all the locks on your door anyway.