So apparently Half Life 2 is going to use a Windows XP-style online only authentication scheme, according to this forum thread.

Ignoring for the moment that every post on the Internet is ALWAYS COMPLETELY TRUE, it’s pretty interesting. Valve is basically assuming that every computer capable of playing Half Life 2 is also connected to the Internet, and what’s more, apparently, unlike Microsoft, isn’t giving the opportunity to activate via phone. If you can’t activate your software via the Net, well, you can’t play.

This doesn’t affect me personally… thanks to Steam, Half Life 2 is already sitting, happily encrypted, on my hard drive waiting for the day Valve cuts it on. I’ve always been a fan of online purchasing; Stardock leveraged it to great effect with Galactic Civilizations and, well, there’s that whole MMO thing, most of which can be purchased online (at least in free trial form) now.

But at the same time, it’s pretty invasive. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes for Half Life 2 to be cracked and available for pirates to play whether or not they’re on a network (assuming they, you know, untether after downloading it). Will it be before the game is available in stores?

Some forms of copy-protection are getting pretty brutal, what with deactivating the game if they think you have a CD burning application installed (you know, like the one I have to use to crack the MP3s I paid for two posts back) or even just flat out installing random device drivers without telling you. So how is online activation worse? And given the fact that every single game coming out is up for download before it comes out, something has to be done, and it’s pretty obvious “the honor system” isn’t working. Just ask the guys who did IL-2. And for every Doom 3 which shrugged and probably saw its “early release” as free publicity on a zillion selling title, there’s games like Victoria from Paradox which, after being leaked a month early to pirate sites by an unscrupulous reviewer, saw its sales fall into the floor.

I like video games. I make a living from them – admittedly, on the one category of gaming that is virtually impossible to pirate. It will be interesting to see how Valve does with this.