DRM Systems and the Publishers Who Love Them

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DRM Systems and the Publishers Who Love Them

Shamus Young revisits DRM and looks at the good progress companies are making... towards turning everyone pirate.

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I find with Mass Effect 2, if I try and load the game without being connected to XBL, my DLC will become corrupted, and I can't load my game because of the corrupted DLC, which I have to sign back into XBL, redownload the DLC, and then load my game in order to play.

in the news thread about Ubisoft's DRMI suggested a way that scans our rectums to ensure only the registered rectum plays the game.. It's about the only place DRM could go from here.

A long while back I made an april fools post about a DRM that required you to keep constant pressure on a biometric fingerprint scanner to play the game. Doesn't seem like such a joke now.

My main issue with steam is that sometimes it will just say 'That game is currently unavailable" even if it's a single player game. Want to play Portal? Steam won't let you? screw you, that's what you get.

But all in all, I love Steam as a concept, I just wish it was a littler friendlier with the online activation.

So thats why I can't buy Mass Effect 1 for the PC nowadays. Fucking resale has been killed completely.

I love Steam, personally. It may be online activation, but it has an offline mode, which is really useful. I think that out of the three, Valve's option is most certainly the best.

Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD work: Unobtrusive, reliable, versatile and with a ton of benefits.

Call me cynical, but I think that your idea of how ubisoft's future products are going to look might actually come true. And that you have to travel to an ubisoft establishment and show that note in order to be allowed to play your game there.

I'll tell you where it'll go from here:

They'll install spyware that they won't tell you about, it'll be part of the game so you can't uninstall it without uninstalling the game, and it'll constantly be monitoring your computer use, so that if you ever go to a website that the company has blacklisted (such as PirateBay, or something with "hacker" in the title), then the game will notify the company and any and all games you have already bought from that specfic company will be considered stolen property, and you will be locked out of those games forever, even after uninstalling and reinstalling.

And they won't tell you why it happened.

Naturally, this is all with the resrictions of having to always be online and having a registered account and all that jazz.

THAT's the only way I can see things getting worse...

SatansBestBuddy:
I'll tell you where it'll go from here:

They'll install spyware that they won't tell you about, it'll be part of the game so you can't uninstall it without uninstalling the game, and it'll constantly be monitoring your computer use, so that if you ever go to a website that the company has blacklisted (such as PirateBay, or something with "hacker" in the title), then the game will notify the company and any and all games you have already bought from that specfic company will be considered stolen property, and you will be locked out of those games forever, even after uninstalling and reinstalling.

And they won't tell you why it happened.

THAT's the only way I can see things getting worse...

haha.... wow, I didn't think anyone could come up with an idea worse then my "anal probing DRM" idea, but damn, that's it.

I have this sneaking suspicion that Ubisoft is just using the PC segment of their business as a "trial run" for implementation across the board, because the alternative (that they honestly think this will deter pirates) is indeed rather horrifying - how could somebody as highly paid as their management no doubt is manage to be so staggeringly stupid?

Of course, my theory is equally horrifying, but at least they would just be evil rather than clueless jackasses ruining good games with unwanted and pointless bullshit tacked on.

I can imagine several ways it could easily get worse. Hell with AC2 even if you could keep playing and save your game but not load your save game until you re-connect that would be no where near as bad, not good but no where as outrageous.

Asehujiko:
Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD work: Unobtrusive, reliable, versatile and with a ton of benefits.

Call me cynical, but I think that your idea of how ubisoft's future products are going to look might actually come true. And that you have to travel to an ubisoft establishment and show that note in order to be allowed to play your game there.

I have to agree with this. While I'd prefer no DRM at all, Steam is the best system I've seen in place. It's (mostly) background, they have auto-backup and make patches for EVERY game in the event Steam goes out of business, and they have some really fantastic sales.

I am pretty sure Ubisoft is only doing this so that their real DRM scheme will be better received when they finally "relent" and reveal it.

Still, before long this will scare away enough customers that they will start having trouble making money on it. Assuming they run out of people and ways to lay the blame elsewhere besides themselves, they'll have to come up with more reasonable policies.

To the people who don't mind Steam: the problem is that every company is making a new one. Steam won't seem so great when it's (in Shamus's words):

Shamus Young:
Steam. Impulse. EA Manager. 2kGames Nanny. The Activision Activator. Take-Two GameAction! Ubisoft UBehave. Eidos Eipod. Codemasters Master Decoder. THQ Launcher. Microsoft PC Live Launcher Suite for Windows 7. Lucas Arts Game Hutt. Capcom's Resident e-Ville. SEGA System Master. A stupid program for every game. A login for each one. All of them crowding around in the bowels of your system, downloading patches and updates and hopefully not sharing too much personal data. (Or you can set a policy of forbidding them to start, and then when you go to play your game you can sit there and wait while it updates.)

Impulse doesn't have to run in the background of course, so it doesn't really fit on the list. But you get the picture.

Battle.net 2.0 will be the next big Steam to come out, I think, but not the last.

I hear that with the next system, we will be paying for a pass which we will be able to use to play the game at official Ubisoft Game Centers while a man stands behind us staring over our shoulders and asking "You a criminal?" the entire time.

I think it's worth noting that both Stardock and GOG.com both continue to provide completely DRM-free software - and pretty high quality software at that.

Most of my purchases in the past couple of years have been through these two excellent companies.

I already don't buy Ubisoft or EA games because of them buying up all the little developers and leaving us with this gigantic ineffective blob they seem to want to call a company, and which everyone seems to be copying. They have not taken the time to learn how the business functions from the customer's point of view, they only care about themselves. Good luck to them. They will need it with this sort of decision making process.

I think the reason people don't look at Steam as DRM is simply because it works. Not as DRM particularly, but it properly provides everything you listed and Valve puts work into it; they're constantly trying to make it better.

Then look at GfW LIVE - Microsoft couldn't give 2 flying shits about it.

After 1 activation you can also at least use Steam in offline mode. Still no good to those who don't have internet access, but good enough for most with a very patchy connection and onwards.

I doubt I need to add anything more to the shit-storm that is Ubisoft's DRM.

Petition against it here folks: http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?ew15dl94&1

If I get anywhere with contacting a human at Ubisoft (who's job it is to look at customer complaints, or who is at least willing to) I'll post it on here.

Altorin:

SatansBestBuddy:
I'll tell you where it'll go from here:

They'll install spyware that they won't tell you about, it'll be part of the game so you can't uninstall it without uninstalling the game, and it'll constantly be monitoring your computer use, so that if you ever go to a website that the company has blacklisted (such as PirateBay, or something with "hacker" in the title), then the game will notify the company and any and all games you have already bought from that specfic company will be considered stolen property, and you will be locked out of those games forever, even after uninstalling and reinstalling.

And they won't tell you why it happened.

THAT's the only way I can see things getting worse...

haha.... wow, I didn't think anyone could come up with an idea worse then my "anal probing DRM" idea, but damn, that's it.

That's a rootkit right? I'm pretty sure they're illegal.

JeanLuc761:

Asehujiko:
Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD work: Unobtrusive, reliable, versatile and with a ton of benefits.

Call me cynical, but I think that your idea of how ubisoft's future products are going to look might actually come true. And that you have to travel to an ubisoft establishment and show that note in order to be allowed to play your game there.

I have to agree with this. While I'd prefer no DRM at all, Steam is the best system I've seen in place. It's (mostly) background, they have auto-backup and make patches for EVERY game in the event Steam goes out of business, and they have some really fantastic sales.

Wait, they already made patches for the games? I now love steam even more.

I wonder how long until it gets cracked. Before release date would be a kick in the balls.

feather240:
Wait, they already made patches for the games? I now love steam even more.

That's what I've heard. It's a very smart choice.

I have easily spent a couple of thousand pounds on games. Typically my preferred platform is the pc, arguably one that has historically been an easier one to pirate games on. I have also never pirated a game.

I played Assassins Creed on the PC, however, when the second arrives I intend borrow a friend's on the XBox, rather than purchase my own. I don't intend to circumvent the systems Ubisoft intend to set in place, but neither do I wish to tolerate them.

To state the old diatribe, with regret, this is one sale they're not getting.

Shamus Young:
Where will they go from here?

2011

Ubisoft would like to announce our new service to the customer! Ubisoft games will now be (exclusively) available at our new Ubisoft gaming centers. Just buy the game from a store and you'll be able to install and play the game (only) at our centres (for a limited subscription fee).

Blood tests, DNA checks, and photo ID will be required for entry to the facility. All customers must be accompanied by a Ubisoft 'helper' at all times whilst on site.

I foresee that DRM will cause a crash in mainstream, big publisher Computer gaming. It'll get to the point where there will be so many people pirating or just not buying, that they'll stop making them. Then we'll be stuck with pay-to-play-by-the-month or micro transacting in any good pc game or be stuck with what people who think they can make games in their basements flash games.

And then PC people will rise up and hack the consoles because they can't get their daily hacking fix on the PC via that DRM, and then the console market will crash.

And it'll be back to square one for the Video Game industry.

Worst case scenario. 0 Hour.

I kind of want DRM to make pc gaming crash. A rejuvenation is what this industry needs.

Asehujiko:
Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD work: Unobtrusive, reliable, versatile and with a ton of benefits.

I corrected this for you:

Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD NOT work: Obtrusive, unreliable and with a ton of bugs/problems.

How can any sane man on this earth love steam? Seriously... you must be sick... or understand nothing of computers at all... <.=.<

No, it's nothing to do with the used game market. I don't think piracy has anything to do with it now, even publisher's board rooms can't be that stupid, in fact I think they're much smarter than that.

It's all to do with the new game market.

Unfortunately, publishers have noticed that players on Xbox live (and PSN) can be forced to abandon games extremely quickly after their release, then moved on to the next 'in' title. This is so extreme that one of the biggest hitters in online console gaming ever, Halo 2, is getting it's online support cut along with every other Xbox title this year before it's sixth birthday. Some take it to even greater extremes, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence's online mode was little more than a 40, five month beta test to MGS4.

By effectively rendering the game useless, players have no choice but to buy newer games (or pirate). Having seen that model work and work consistently for a few years now, the major publishers are desperately searching for a way to force this system into the PC market, which hangs onto games all but indefinately.

All of these systems, IWnet, EA's... whatever it is, Ubisoft's save server, even Steam, hand control of your ability to play the game over to the publisher. Because of this they get to dictate when you stop playing.
Piracy happens to make an extremely useful scapegoat. It gives them a catch all excuse that has the added effect of making them appear to be the victims, punitive measures to combat player control don't make good PR to the mass media. Punitive measures to combat piracy sounds downright necessary.

There's nothing to stop them, there's umpteen clauses saying they can cut support at any time with no explanation and you signed up by installing the game.

It's a problem that's probably going to get much, much worse. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see DRM that dictates when and/or where you can play the game soon.

it befuddles me that companies don't realise how counteractive these kinds of DRM are.

The more restrictive their DRM is, the more likely I am to pirate their game.

Just Steam? No risk. Online activation as well? Completely fucking stupid (I mean, what do they think steam is, exactly?) but I'll go there.

But this? I'm sorry, but I'll find a program some wiz has written to convince the game I am connected. There is just no real risk I'll bother trying to live with this DRM.

And if I'm going to take the risk of using a hack to ignore the DRM, the step to downloading the game and being a pirate is very small.

Bad DRM forces players to become pirates. It's not some 'information wants to be free/I can't be fucked paying for it' bullshit either. I download/pirate *very* little these days; it's not worth the bother, I can afford anything I want etc.

But when your DRM is MORE BOTHER than pirating the game, what the fuck do you expect people to do? As a previous poster noted, this DRM is *marginally* less annoying than the game coming with a butt plug with a heat sensor and a USB cable that switches the game off if the plug isn't in; at least there is a market segment that would enjoy that.

feather240:
Wait, they already made patches for the games? I now love steam even more.

Even if they haven't , Steam can be cracked. If Valve were to ever go bust just watching the various clan league forums would soon tell you what you needed to keep playing.

Which is probably where Steam's major success lies. It's relatively easy to hack, but for what you would gain (and lose) it's not worth it for all but the obsessive.

Doug:

2011

Ubisoft would like to announce our new service to the customer! Ubisoft games will now be (exclusively) available at our new Ubisoft gaming centers. Just buy the game from a store and you'll be able to install and play the game (only) at our centres (for a limited subscription fee).

Blood tests, DNA checks, and photo ID will be required for entry to the facility. All customers must be accompanied by a Ubisoft 'helper' at all times whilst on site.

I would so work there.

Shamus Young:

Some people suggest that the systems based around online activation aren't really there to fight piracy, but are instead intended to kill the second-hand PC game market. That sounds plausible enough, except the used PC market is pretty much dead already. Retailers no longer deal with them.

Almost true, but you must remember that second-hand games are quite easily had, and for affordable prices, on Amazon.com and eBay. Granted, that's about the only places you can find them, but still.

Oh yeah, and I agree with Seamus about DRM. It's like kicking your obedient golden retriever puppy after hearing on the news about how some jerk's pit bull mauled an eight year-old girl.

Maybe Ubisoft is a few months from going down in flames and decided on the rarely used method of; If I die I am taking you all with me!

The companies surely must know by now that DRM isn't worth the paper the code can be printed on.

It's nice to be reminded of the special way each of these companies treats their customers.

I had a pirate copy of Far Cry 2 on day one, I was just about to go out and buy it, but thank god a friend told me it was bollocks and gave me a copy to try out for myself.

I still think Steam is by far the best system. I have never had any issues with it and the offers you get on there are jsut crazy. Empire Total and two unit packs for under 20? Yes please

Odjin:

How can any sane man on this earth love steam? Seriously... you must be sick... or understand nothing of computers at all... <.=.<

I used steam since its inception, as have pretty much all my family and friends. I have heard of absolutly zero issues with it, and seen none either.
And how the hell is it obtrusive? You get a box telling you abou updates and a box saying what the latest release/offer is on startup, that is all.

Odjin:

How can any sane man on this earth love steam? Seriously... you must be sick... or understand nothing of computers at all... <.=.<

Maybe because it has done nothing for me but work perfectly. And as mentioned, it has provided me numerous bonuses in trade for my compliance with their schemes. The mere fact that I was able to back-up my Steam files from my XP machine, build a brand-new computer with Win7 on it, and restore the Steam files, then have access back for all my Steam games after some incredibly mild-updating. In the next 10 days, I will have to replace my Win7 beta install with the retail version that I've been putting off (I bought Win7 through the Best Buy pre-order, but the beta is so stable I haven't really felt like going through a re-install). It will take me longer to install and configure one game off of CD/DVD media than it will to install and configure every single game I have ever purchased through Steam (20 of which I currently have installed for playing).

Maybe I'm just a lucky minority, but anecdotal evidence would suggest instead that you're allowing your idealism to get in the way of a not-so-bad reality. Even if you don't want to use the service on principled grounds, fine, but it really shouldn't be so hard to see why the rest of us aren't that bothered by it.

Asehujiko:
Steam is a perfect example of how a DRM platform SHOULD work: Unobtrusive, reliable, versatile and with a ton of benefits.

Call me cynical, but I think that your idea of how ubisoft's future products are going to look might actually come true. And that you have to travel to an ubisoft establishment and show that note in order to be allowed to play your game there.

Definetly. Alot of people could take tips from Steam!

The very small ray of sunshine is that almost no one seems to be working with StarForce any more. DRM that actually forced me, the freaking end user, to download a driver update for my game's copy protection- because the combination of StarForce out of the box and Zone Alarm firewall was causing a hard crash and reboot.

(I won't even bother getting into the various other ways the folks behind StarForce have generally behaved like a bunch of thugs- the information is all there for the price of a quick search with the engine of your choice.)

Still... Ugh. I suppose in a sense we have Microsoft to thank for all of this. Once it got into people's minds that you could make a typical end user phone in (literally or metaphorically) in order to prove that they had the right to use the software they had purchased, every smaller software company started to covet that degree of control.

Or you could go higher and look at the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, when we got big into the kind of language that insists you're buying a revokable license when you thought you were buying a disk with some software on it.

I know, LET'S BOYCOTT EVERYTHING!... Dammit, I honestly don't know. Virtually no one on either the business or the government end of things seems to give a flying fuck about the diminishing rights of consumers in the face of ever more draconian IP law, or how ridiculous those laws tend to look in the face of how people actually use software. What is it going to take to get some pushback that those in power would actually heed? I don't even think throttling the gasping PC game industry to its final demise would be sufficient to get the point across; it already seems, half the time, like the bigger companies are looking for an excuse to neglect the PC.

Perhaps our one real hope is the quiet renaissance in smaller developers. The big creative teams that make A-list games are getting screwed no matter what they do. They're pressured by the marketing department, they're pressured by the accounting department, they're pressured by the fans, and it's just a matter of course that very few games are going to both such awesome blockbusters and such stunning, free-thinking achievements of sheer unmitigated art that everyone will be happy and even the hardcore pirates willingly lay down their cash in awe and fear that such grandeur might perish from the face of the Earth. It's in the Braids and the World of Goos and even the Galactic Civilizations that we might find groups with the flexibility to try to reach out to the consumers without having to reach through a barbed-wire fence of paranoia and spin.

feather240:

Altorin:

SatansBestBuddy:
I'll tell you where it'll go from here:

They'll install spyware that they won't tell you about, it'll be part of the game so you can't uninstall it without uninstalling the game, and it'll constantly be monitoring your computer use, so that if you ever go to a website that the company has blacklisted (such as PirateBay, or something with "hacker" in the title), then the game will notify the company and any and all games you have already bought from that specfic company will be considered stolen property, and you will be locked out of those games forever, even after uninstalling and reinstalling.

And they won't tell you why it happened.

THAT's the only way I can see things getting worse...

haha.... wow, I didn't think anyone could come up with an idea worse then my "anal probing DRM" idea, but damn, that's it.

That's a rootkit right? I'm pretty sure they're illegal.

That didn't stop Sony....

Well, first off, as far as I can tell, this whole Ubisoft debacle seems to be based off a single reviewer. There could be another explanation. In fact, I assume this is the case, since no executive could POSSIBLY be so staggeringly stupid.

Also, Steam is win of all kinds. The acceptability of it's DRM is bought and paid-for by its other features. Also Valve.

Finally, I think you drastically overestimate the average PC gamers willingness to care about DRM stuff, unfortunately.

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