On Origin

origin-logoA major part of consternation when it came to playing Mass Effect 3 recently was the forced alliance I’d have to make (for the sake of the galaxy) with Origin, a digital distribution system whose existence is gloriously unnecessary.

As it turned out, Origin wasn’t awful, although the experience was nowhere near as tuned as that I receive with Steam.

Firstly, kudos to EA for quickly resolving an issue with the CD key I was given. My good friend Jake gifted me ME3 as a Christmas gift; however he inadvertently sent me a used copy on DVD, which wouldn’t activate. The Origin rep I connected with – once sent photographic proof of purchase and DVD ownership – was very kind in generating me a key for the N7 Special Edition of the Mass Effect 3 game which would have cost considerably more than the base game I was gifted. This impressed me to be honest, and went against my expectations of Origin being awful to work with on a customer-service basis.

The Origin software itself proved… clunky. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Origin does a very good job in flattering Steam. However, the in-game interface proved to be a bit of a handful; the web browser misbehaved and was sluggish and on a few occasions the overlay ceased working entirely. It just felt as if EA had taken a photocopier to Steam but forgot to clean the glass with Windolene beforehand. It worked but was inelegant and seemed immature. Given EA’s vast resources I expected a more optimised and efficient effort.

My main complaint about Origin has to be the complete lack of gifting – this would have sorted my pre-owned key problem in an instant. I do question the point of even offering a DVD edition of Mass Effect 3 as the discs are unused; installation begins with Origin and then proceeds to activation of the game licence – at which point Origin renders both DVDs superfluous by downloading the entire game from EA’s servers. Surely a leaf could be taken from Microsoft’s book in terms of physical copies – distribute them as boxed product keys that save on DVD pressing costs on discs that never get used.

I had very little to do with Origin’s social features as all my gaming friends reside on Steam, and there seemed to be no chat or friends list function to speak of. Achievements were as irrelevant to me on Origin as they are on Steam; however I did end up somehow collecting Origin points, the purpose of which is quite confusing.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Origin’s performance – it did the job of getting me into Mass Effect 3 though I wanted it to do no more. I was quite surprised that the software wasn’t completely unusable and the support reps not complete morons. I still find myself seriously questioning EA’s petulance in making games Origin-exclusive as this is quite anti-consumer in my opinion. There’s nothing in Origin that Steam (or any other digital distribution service) can’t provide; and in terms of social and gifting, Steam certainly offers a comprehensively better experience, and that’s before going into Sales and Greenlight. It’s just a disappointing but ultimately unsurprising epithet of EA’s generally anti-consumer corporate attitude.

Oh, and the plastering of adverts for SimCity didn’t help things either.

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