On Friday night, I suddenly, desperately wanted to play Mass Effect 2. I'd procrastinated all the way up to the release of Mass Effect 3, and finally snapped out of whatever was holding me back. No problem: digital distribution makes the PC the best-suited platform to satiate sudden cravings. ME2 is on Steam, but since ME3 is exclusively on Origin, I figured I'd buy it there so the two games could snuggle up together in my library. That arbitrary decision was a huge mistake.
In Steam, when a game finishes downloading, it's ready to play (unless any prerequisites need installing, but that's generally painless). I assumed Origin would work the same, and the service's FAQ claims it does: “Installations are easy, as Origin technology enables instant play after a successful download.” But when Mass Effect 2 was finally on my hard drive, the download button turned into an install button. No big deal...until I clicked on it.
Not only did I have the Hungarian version of the installer, but it was encountering an error which I couldn't read. That's pretty damn absurd, but I wasn't going to give up so easily. I really wanted to play Mass Effect 2, and hey, I'm a resourceful PC gamer! I can fix a simple localization mix-up! So I poked around in the installer's directory and discovered the installation configuration ini. A simple change to the file name loaded the installer in English. Easy. Now what was that error?
I reopened the config file and saw that it does reference file locations in terms of discs. It's apparently a known problem , and the solution I found claimed it was caused by a corrupted download. That meant my only option was to redownload the game with my fingers crossed. I had too much resolve to give up there, so I went ahead and redownloaded the game, but at a much faster rate and without crossing my fingers...
I'd chastise myself for feeling entitled to instant gratification, but instant gratification is the main benefit I get from buying digital editions. I spent two hours downloading a broken product and another hour trying to fix it. I was done. Because Steam was there to save the day, I finished Mass Effect 2 in time to have a fresh save ready for Mass Effect 3 before the weekend was over (yes, I played all weekend).
I know it's a bit late to jump on the Origin hate bandwagon, and I never really wanted to—at least, I never expected to rant about it here (what is this, r/gaming ?). But it shouldn't fail at its core function: delivering games. I don't think every game needs to be on Steam, and I'm not just cheerleading for Steam. I know EA won't abandon its platform, so I want it to work well and succeed. I don't hate Origin, and maybe this was just a fluke, but it doesn't give me confidence.
It's not news that Origin has problems, but maybe this post will spare someone my specific frustration: if you need to catch up on Mass Effect 2, I don't recommend acquiring it on Origin. Buy it on Steam, and your save will port over just fine when you play ME3 (which did install fine on Origin).
UPDATE (Mar 13, 2012)
Here are a couple updates from conversations I had with EA today:
Clarifying the FAQ, which states that “Origin technology enables instant play after a successful download,” EA Dev Relations Account Manager J Eckart explained: “Games older than Origin use the old 'click to install' method simply because they were shipped (and their installers built) before Origin's tech existed. In those instances Origin is simply a delivery mechanism to get an image of the disc down to your HD.”
Regarding my specific issue with the ME2 installer, John Reseburg, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, added: "We've been able to pinpoint an issue around the experience you had – it's exceedingly rare, but we'll be taking steps to ensure it is resolved."