The DRM Effect

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The DRM Effect

Some will care, some won't, and, to be perfectly fair, most will never even realize that anything controversial is happening. Still, the continued tightening of the noose around big-budget PC titles brings questions about the platform's long-term viability back into stark contrast against the comparatively hassle-free experience of consoles.

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We need more systems like Steam, that reduce the chance of piracy (so that even if people get titles before release they are blocked by steam) and have better anti cheat system in place and universal patching, but Steam unlike most other programs actually gives you the feeling you own what you've bought, instead of it belonging to Valve, since all the game data is on your computer, you can play offline and you can download and install your own games on as many PC's as you want with the same account.

Skrapt:
since all the game data is on your computer, you can play offline and you can download and install your own games on as many PC's as you want with the same account.

The only flaw with that is you can only have one copy playing in an online match at a time. But I don't mind. It's still good for LAN parties.

Putting DRM on games will cause sales on that game to plumet below hell and into whatever abyss is below it. If anything it'll encourage piracy even more because people don't want to put up with continually validating games and not being able to install them on more than one machine.

What Ea and Bioware were proposing was way over the top. At least they woke up to this and scraped it.

I guess they were testing waters to find what is acceptable to the gaming community and can prevent piracy, this obviously wasent the awnser.

It's all a little silly. The games are going to be pirated regardless of whether the DRM is there or not. It's been mentioned before: if anything, this is another reason TO pirate the software. At least you don't have to deal with the bullshit.

Furthermore, you can look at companies such as the makers of Sins of a Solar Empire to find great games without all the garbage.

I just don't get these companies.

Glad to see theyve reconsidered the DRM. I accept that Publishers/Developers want to combat piracy; but the demands of Ea's DRM system were frankly too much to humour in the name of progress.

I agree that,no matter how many Develeopers abandon the PC, it will always be a gaming platform. For starters RTS' & City sims suck horrendously on consoles compared to the mouse/keyboard combination of the PC. I dont see major publishers like EA abandoning the PC either since games like The Sims still sell through the roof even without invasive DRM systems protecting it from "the pirates."

I love how in one of the links on the right it's got a link to an article that says "Starforce must die!"

Has anyone else noticed how well this works out for the DRM companies? They sell their product as a solution to piracy, when, in fact, it causes causes more piracy; then they get to say, "Wow, that piracy's pretty bad. You'd better buy even more of our stuff," I'm beginning to suspect the real villain is neither EA nor the pirates, but SecuROM.

Skrapt:
We need more systems like Steam, that reduce the chance of piracy (so that even if people get titles before release they are blocked by steam) and have better anti cheat system in place and universal patching, but Steam unlike most other programs actually gives you the feeling you own what you've bought, instead of it belonging to Valve, since all the game data is on your computer, you can play offline and you can download and install your own games on as many PC's as you want with the same account.

Steam doesn't reduce the chances of piracy, every single game on Steam is on a torrent site somewhere. It provides an interface to easily and quickly buy games.

That said, I don't think you own the games on Steam at all, as evidenced by the fiasco with the Orange Box being imported into America at cheap prices and Valve subsequently disabling the game for those people who imported it, all completely legitimately.

http://consumerist.com/consumer/drm/valve-deactivating-customers-who-bought-orange-box-internationally-314690.php

I was prepared to buy Mass Effect, collectors edition if they had one, but after hearing this online activation BS, I'm not going to. I don't care if it's only authenticating when I install it, I'm not buying it. I had to put up with that crap once before with Bioshock.

I bought the game on launch day and tried to install it, nope, "Servers were busy". I try the next day, nope, "Servers have started smoking". I try again, 3 days after launch, once again, nope, "Servers have caught fire". The only good thing that could've come from that, is their office burning down and the people who decided it would be a good idea burning along with it. Alas, that didn't happen.

Okay, I eventually got it installed, played through, finished it, lackluster as it was (rail shooter, mentally retarded version of System Shock 2). Fast forward to 4 months later and I'm having the strange urge to shoot myself for wanting to play Bioshock again. I don't like guns except as engineering marvels so I decided to try and install it. No can do, turns out, they've taken down their activation servers. I have a $100AUD coaster here. All because of online authentication.

Damnit, that went on for awhile. Now, excuse me while I go play System Shock 2 from my disc image that I made awhile ago from my original SS2 disc.

I wonder...Im sure everyone got at least one copied game, now or in the past. Has there ever been a moment wher you tried to copy a game or download it illegally, and it was such a hassle that you thought 'nah fuck that, I'll buy it'.

I can tell you, I never had such a moment. Actually, I had it the way around. A long time ago I played might & magic and daggerfall from pirated disks. I thought those games were so great that I bought original copies. Same goes for my sister; she played copied versions of harry potter games and disney games, and later she bought orginals.

I see pirated copies as a sort of extended tryout/demo. If a game is really great, I buy it. If not, it saved me the money.

Argh! It's not "copyright protection", it's "copy protection" or better, "copy prevention"! Their copyright is not in danger, and does not need protecting (and cannot be protected through technological measures anyway).

I expected better from a professional publication.

wonder...Im sure everyone got at least one copied game, now or in the past. Has there ever been a moment wher you tried to copy a game or download it illegally, and it was such a hassle that you thought 'nah fuck that, I'll buy it'.

Actually yes, I tried to get TF2 from torrents and could only find a version in Russian (I hadn't seen the game in English so didn't know where to go to connect to a server, but I'm guessing it wouldn't have been able to play on most of them)

Bought it from Steam, and all was good.

Thank God at least SOME people have a view of PC gaming that isn't restricted to "OH NOES SUPER-DEVS LEAVIN WE'RE DOOMED". There are hundreds of developers and titles that can and will happen. There's no question that the environment has changed. It's no longer an easy or even wise decision to be PC-exclusive, and the market for mainboard-breaking super-games like Crysis was limited to begin with.

But there are many titles that, unless consoles come with a keyboard and mouse, are never going to be quite as good or quite as executable as on a PC. Niche titles like point-and-click adventures, hentai games (heh) and high-end tactical/strategic releases have always worked better on the PC platform (with some exceptions of course).

People wailed and rended their garments that the emergence of the Wii, with its remote and mouse-like systems would spell doom for the PC dominance of the RTS and "complicated" wRPG market, but that simply hasn't happened. The Wii's family-friendly focus and the fact that its control was never as precise or useful as advertised proved it.

And to hand off an example of a game that just wouldn't be right without a PC, I hold up Lexis Numerique and The Adventure Company's "The Experiment" aka "Experience 112". It's perhaps one of the most immersive and interesting gameplay concepts I've seen since Introversion's Uplink. VOYEURAN GAEM anyone?

Honestly, Steam is a fantastic solution. It had a lot of problems at the start, but ultimately turned into the model for digital distribution. And if you're just going to pirate the games anyway, you may as well buy them and then just use a crack to log on with the same account for LAN parties.

The DRM solution is probably not going to go away, as its being used as a permanent solution for many a company at this point (take Apple and their iTunes-based iPod marketing). Personally, I dislike it, because I don't want to have to have a bloody internet connection available at all times just to play goddamn music. At that point, I'd rather go back to the CD-buying era back at the local music shop just to avoid all the pissing around.

Once upon a time I was an avid Counter-Strike player, and that later mellowed out as I began to find the game repetitive, but I digress. The primary issue (for me) was the release of Steam, and the ending of the World Opponent Network (WON). I found it unsettling that Steam would give companies some kind of reach into my PC, but mainly centered around needing internet for a single-player game! You couldn't play Half-Life without authenticating? (Unless you were lucky and still had the old disk.)

At this point, I don't mind Steam particularly, but only in the instances of exclusively Multi-player games (Counter-Strike, CS:S, TF2, etc), which need to connect anyway so they may as well authenticate the bastard as I do so. And I suppose that it's not that big of a deal in the cases of games with online distribution such as the whole Orange Box, which then it is also understandable. Now that Steam's offline mode actually works, I find there to be less of a problem with it.

I suppose the point of this long, caffeine-fueled, sleep-lacking rant is to say this: Single-player games should NEVER require authentication, but I fail to see where multi-exclusive games really have an issue there.
-WD

First off, I doubt people won't notice it. Everyone that doesn't have internet will immediately notice it, or people on vacations with their laptops. Hopefully some companies won't use it, then the other companies can be effectively boycotted.

Second off, I laugh at the idea that they think that method will stop crackers for more then a couple months tops. They'll just figure out a way to erase the part of the software that checks to see if it has checked within 10 days, or find a way to edit the time left to ten thousand days without checking, or set it up so that THEIR computer is the one that the game talks too instead of the actual main server. I'm disgusted they're underestimating the intelligence of determined crackers.

Wolfdale:
The DRM solution is probably not going to go away, as its being used as a permanent solution for many a company at this point (take Apple and their iTunes-based iPod marketing). Personally, I dislike it, because I don't want to have to have a bloody internet connection available at all times just to play goddamn music. At that point, I'd rather go back to the CD-buying era back at the local music shop just to avoid all the pissing around.

Do it anyway. I have yet to buy a single song off Itunes etc & have maybe downloaded 10 illegally (most of which ive subsequently bought legally) . Everything else I buy in good old fashioned CD form, then usually copy those songs onto my Mp3player (no I-pod for me thankyou).

A famous senator once said:

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

First off, to the author: great piece. Very well written.

Girlysprite:
I wonder...Im sure everyone got at least one copied game, now or in the past. Has there ever been a moment wher you tried to copy a game or download it illegally, and it was such a hassle that you thought 'nah fuck that, I'll buy it'.

I can tell you, I never had such a moment. Actually, I had it the way around.

Same here--it's always been the other way around for me too.

DaDude9211:

Second off, I laugh at the idea that they think that method will stop crackers for more then a couple months tops.

With the current game revenue model being what it is (mostly first week/months hit sales, waning down to very little), that's all they want to do. If they prevent day-0 piracy, as it's called, the payoff may be big enough for them not to care about the games being "eventually" cracked (or perhaps legitimate customers choking on the DRM).

[Editor's note: Since the time of this article's writing, EA has formally announced they will forgo the updated SecuROM protection scheme for both Spore and Mass Effect in favor of a less invasive method.]

Just a little heads up: the "less invasive" method is pretty much the one currently employed in Bioshock, reduced by two installs. It is pretty much another "Complete Bollocks" DRM scheme. Perhaps it's less invasive in terms of your computer being checked periodically, but it now is being invasive in a completely different way: your fullprice copy of the game has now been downgraded to a rather expensive rental. In my opinion, that obliterates the freedom to install an original as many times as one wants, a principle I personally hold very dear. It also destroys the second hand market aka the right of the consumers to re-sell their purchases to others. Hence, like Bioshock, I will not purchase Mass Effect in this form, nor will I Spore or any other EA product deploying this DRM scheme.

But hey, if the masses can live with it the "You get Three Game Stamps and then Talk To Us" policy, it's only a matter of time before they can swallow the "We will Check Your System every 10 days" policy, or the soon coming "Thou shalt Pay 70 Euros for a One Time "Playing Ticket"" policy...

File me under "don't care".

While I purchase some games (eg TF2, which, coincidentally, I've pirated as well since buying it) most are downloaded, tried, and ditched.
If it's a game I will continue playing, I'll pay. Otherwise, I'll have my disk space back tyvm.

Bioshock is still hiding on my hard drive somewhere, waiting for a day when I'm tired of the legit purchased and free legal downloads I'm playing.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
First off, to the author: great piece. Very well written.

Girlysprite:
I wonder...Im sure everyone got at least one copied game, now or in the past. Has there ever been a moment wher you tried to copy a game or download it illegally, and it was such a hassle that you thought 'nah fuck that, I'll buy it'.

I can tell you, I never had such a moment. Actually, I had it the way around.

Same here--it's always been the other way around for me too.

Exact. What makes the PC such a piracy friendly machine is that it contains all you need to grab an illegal version of a game.

- The internet on PC.
- The CD/DVD image reader on PC.
- The CD/DVD burner on PC.
- No need to burn a copy, especially if you're a fan of portable mini HDDs.

On consoles, it's different. It's a bit harder to get piracy rolling.
You may have to modify the hardware of the console, or at least need to use some devices to launch burnt CD/DVDs, and you do have to burn your copy for starters.

The sad thing is that it's so easy to get an illegal copy of a game on the PC, the more restrictive and punitive the measures are, the more people will become even more lazy and grab illegal copies.

Until the point where you get beyond the "acceptable protection" threshold, and you start to use DRMs which are a hassle. Then they become so problematic that people are really put off, some pissed by being treated as criminals without faulting, you generate an outroar, and these people are now even more entitled to grab illegal copies because playing the legal version is really bothersome, and basically, as a publisher, you realize that you haven't helped yourself the slightest.

I think if you want to get more games sold in the classic retail system (leaving aside Steam or others like Garage Games's new portal, plus all the other older ones), you have to give the consumer some power, and ease their lives, show them that piracy is even harder.

Ultimately, buying a game is extremely simple. But the price is the problem.
Or maybe we're reaching a point where classic retail has shown its limits in the light of the democratization of new technologies.

Or maybe the internet providers will have to strictly police the internet habits of their customers. Ugly, isn't it? Especially since it's not their job, and people will move to providers which don't act as the next gestapo (Godwin's Law +1).

I dislike how both Spore & Mass Effects developers champion the invasive & restrictive nature of SecuROM DRM because "you dont need your disc anymore." I for one am not inclined to lose discs, at least not within the time it takes for me to grow permanently bored of the game. Besides, even if I dont need the disc to play, I still need it to install & so losing the disc is still just as inconvienient in the longterm. Besides you dont need the disc for Company of heros either & you dont see it demanding weekly internet acess for a 3rd party system to stop itself throwing a tantrum & limiting you to 3installs before you have to beg the publisher to let you install it again.

Arbre:
Until the point where you get beyond the "acceptable protection" threshold, and you start to use DRMs which are a hassle. Then they become so problematic that people are really put off, some pissed by being treated as criminals without faulting, you generate an outroar, and these people are now even more entitled to grab illegal copies because playing the legal version is really bothersome, and basically, as a publisher, you realize that you haven't helped yourself the slightest.

[...]

Ultimately, buying a game is extremely simple. But the price is the problem.
Or maybe we're reaching a point where classic retail has shown its limits in the light of the democratization of new technologies.

It's not just the fact that this type of DRM has passed some type of "convenience treshold". The DRM scheme also effectively changes the product you are buying.

In the "old days", you paid a non-trivial price (60 Euros, say) for a physical "Disc" which contained the entire game. For as long as that "Disc" was in working order, you could install the game on any PC and play.

Now, you're supposed to pay the same 60 Euros for a "Disc" containing DRM which - even if your "Disc" still works perfectly fine - may at some point prohibit you from playing. Because you had the gall to reinstall it three times, for example. Or the "Disc" might not even contain the entire game at all, because the publisher removed the .exe (as was done in Bioshock).

In other words, you're getting much, much less product, yet the publishers are selling it to you at the same price as before. This does NOT compute, at least not in my head. Dear game developers, if you're limiting the product to three installs and add NAGWARE to boot, at least have the decency to adjust the pricing model accordingly.

For example, Mass Effect with three installs = 20 Euros from day one, and each extra install has to be bought/downloaded for 5 Euros extra. Something like that.

At least, that's what I'd expect. But no, the majority is fine with the way things are going, or doesn't really know or understands the situation yet and thus this kind of thing steadily progresses, at which point I think it's time to look for a different hobby altogether.

TBH microsoft should just release a decent working mouse/keyboard combo for the X360 so we can be done with the PC altogether if this is the way PC gaming is going to go :-) (though theres always room for the little guy on the PC which is something harder to say about the consoles)

VMerken:

For example, Mass Effect with three installs = 20 Euros from day one, and each extra install has to be bought/downloaded for 5 Euros extra. Something like that.

You know what? That's something I suggested as well in another thread in General Gaming, but I'm not ultra fond of it.

You have to set up an account with an associated credit card, and if things would go bad, you could't go to the store anymore, you'd have to start engaging some form of procedure with the publisher, via letters, emails and phone calls. :/

Then you'll get one account per major publisher as long as you buy at least one of their games on PC, because I'm sure each publisher would love having his own delivery system.

A load of trouble in perspective. I mean, I want to buy a perfectly complete and finished product, and play it.
The fact that I have to install it is already annoying me these days, and now we would have to go into all that crap to get the right to play a game?

I'm seeing we're going backwards.
Eventually, different versions of a same game could be sold.
One, for those who don't have internet, but then would have to install an anal retentive protection system (and even then, since it would be cut from the internet, I don't see how it would be efficient against piracy).
Another, for those who have internet, where your game would check up, like every six days, your game validation, etc., and allow you to play.

In the end, all this police state sucks.
This cannot get any better.

Cousin_IT:
TBH microsoft should just release a decent working mouse/keyboard combo for the X360 so we can be done with the PC altogether if this is the way PC gaming is going to go :-) (though theres always room for the little guy on the PC which is something harder to say about the consoles)

This would solve some problems, and likely diminish a part of the hardcore market on the PC, and I'm sure many would be happy to ditch the level of customisation enabled on a PC, to gain in ease and pleasure.
Now, I'm talking about customisation, but more and more games have servers lock vars values based upon what console gamers would be allowed to play with.
The PC has already turned into "casual game" machine by excellence, where it's easier to get small games on your PC than on your console, but where you're spared the trouble of protections and tiring installations.

Now, finding a way to play with a mouse and a keyboard in front of your telly, in a sofa? Why not.
I suppose it would require something like that first.
Maybe that's how the Wii Fit's board is supposed to be used?

Just as a point of clarification, EA is based in Redwood City, CA.

Redmond, WA is the land of Microsoft and Nintendo of America, which is kind of like the land of milk and honey, but digital and more expensive.

- Alan

I think the right answer is to go ahead and buy the game, but install the cracked download. Aside from all the advantages - developers get paid, no hassle for you, the purchaser - they'll also eventually have to have that meeting where they try to figure out why they've sold 40 million copies, but have had only 30,000 install checkins. I think that sends a *much* clearer signal than simply not buying the game altogether.

And you know, if their DRM is so good, why not just release at as shareware, and call it a nag system? Microsoft came real close to doing that with XP validation.

My problem with all these systems like DRM and also Steam is that you need internet to activate the game. What are you supposed to do if you don't have internet? I find it quite annoying that in order to play a single player game, one needs the internet to do so. Especially because this is not clear at all when buying the game, plus I wonder whether it actually is included in the minimal requirements sections.

bkd69:
I think the right answer is to go ahead and buy the game, but install the cracked download. Aside from all the advantages - developers get paid, no hassle for you, the purchaser - they'll also eventually have to have that meeting where they try to figure out why they've sold 40 million copies, but have had only 30,000 install checkins. I think that sends a *much* clearer signal than simply not buying the game altogether.

And you know, if their DRM is so good, why not just release at as shareware, and call it a nag system? Microsoft came real close to doing that with XP validation.

Buying the game and installing the illegal copy only solves one problem, but brings many more, and doesn't make the task easier at all.
It's even more absurd, in a way, because you're getting two versions of the same game, and the one you install won't let you play on all servers.

I'm about to buy a new laptop which I never intend to put on the Internet. Does that mean that I can't play many of the modern games? No single player PC game should depend on an Internet connection. Come to that, PC games (and a lot of other software too) should look at consoles as a model: once you put in the cartridge or rev up the DVD, you're ready to play. This might not always be possible with "installed" games, but it should still be a one-click process. Finally, games might need a licence, but they sure as hell shouldn't need a privacy policy.

And the earth will have collided with the sun by the time all that comes true... :(

Why do PC game developer keep hating their constituents? The only thing this does is alienate the people who actually bought the goddamned thing. Never in my 20 years of PC gaming has an anti-piracy measure actually kept anyone I knew from pirating a game. This won't, either. All it'll do is piss us off until every last one of us buys a PS3. What? They've got an equally onerous DRM scheme, too? Fuck.

Surely DRM is similar to a pirate going to a torrent site, seeing the game they want, then a pop up says 'hey, we just need to install this exe on your system, then you can download the game!'

If a pirate wouldn't do that to get the game for free, how do they think doing this to paying customers is going to affect sales?

The big problem is keeping customers in the dark about what they're doing, and customers not feeling they can trust what they're told about these things being added to their computers.

The Orange box' yes that example again' I bought and I not only paid for it, but I'm quite happy with Steam on my system, I'm not sure why, but I dont feel like Steam are out to scan my system then kick my door down if find an old half life 1 no cd patch on my system.

Steam is the future to me, the only concern I have is that if Steam goes out of business, do we all lose all the games we've bought? There's the 'backup' option, but won't we need to connect to the servers? I know its a tiny risk, but its there.

However I'm all for it, and I think it's great that steam are promoting old old games for like $5, patched and fixed so they're playable on todays pc.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/07/18/ubisoft-having-a-crack/

Nice to see someone at Ubisoft deciding "This DRM we've used is too difficult to work around ourselves, let's just steal a no-CD crack".

the only concern I have is that if Steam goes out of business, do we all lose all the games we've bought?

I've seen - on a few occasions - references made on the SteamPowered forums to a quote from someone at Valve who essentially said "If Steam goes belly-up, we'll release an update that lets people play the games they've bought."

Edit: Looks like it could be worse than I thought on the Ubisoft front.

http://digg.com/pc_games/Ubisoft_issue_NO_CD_Crack_as_Official_Patch_for_R6_Vegas_2

"First they stole the community made SADS (stand-alone-dedicated-server) patch that took the community *months* to make and called it their "official Ubisoft SADS patch" (Vegas 1) . Then they deleted all forum evidence that the community made it themselves."

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