Friday, May 9, 2008

Copy Protection of Games 2

I'm annoyed.

First BioShock came out with the SecuROM Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy-protection software that not only required online activation and reactivation, but limited the number of installations to two (originally). The problem I had with this is the same I've had with Steam: it assumes that all consumers are criminals and insists that they submit to having invasive software placed on their PCs if they want to play the game. (A single-player game, I might add.) I despise that attitude; it is lazy (because it fails to make the effort of deterring the actual criminals) and insulting.

Now comes word that EA, publisher of the PC version of Mass Effect and of Spore, will be using SecuROM on those games and all their other major games to come.

Here's what Derek French of BioWare had to say when asked about this for Mass Effect for PC:

Mass Effect uses SecuROM and requires an online activation for the first time that you play it. Each copy of Mass Effect comes with a CD Key which is used for this activation and for registration here at the BioWare Community. Mass Effect does not require the DVD to be in the drive in order to play [as BioShock does], it is only for installation.

After the first activation, SecuROM requires that it re-check with the server within ten days (in case the CD Key has become public/warez'd and gets banned). Just so that the 10 day thing doesn't become abrupt, SecuROM tries its first re-check with 5 days remaining in the 10 day window. If it can't contact the server before the 10 days are up, nothing bad happens and the game still runs. After 10 days a re-check is required before the game can run.

[Derek later added:]

For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after. You can be completely connectionless for 9 days and encounter no problems playing Mass Effect. And you don't need the disk in the drive to play.
My view of this was nicely summed up by a subsequent reply in that thread:

Seriously, if I wanted to play an online game, I'd buy an online game. Once is okay to activate. Two checks... well, I can deal. But constant checks for as long as I own and play the game, every 10 days? That's gotten a tad excessive. Sure, I have an always-on net connection but what happens if I don't play for 11 days and the moment I want to play my connection is down? Are you saying I'm not going to be able to play my perfectly legitimate purchased copy of the game, even the retail version, until I get permission? That's the kind of idiocy that annoys customers.

I'd much rather have to put the DVD in the drive when I play than be forced to do more than one [validation]. At least I can guarantee that I'll always have the DVD, but there's no way I'll believe any guarantees that my net connection will be there and/or EA's servers won't mess it up.
Matt Martin over at obviously gets it as well. So why is it so hard for game publishers to grasp the concept that making their games less friendly to valid purchasers than to pirates is stupid?

I have no patience with or sympathy for those who pirate copyrighted materials. So it's freakin' irritating to me that the single-player games I'm most looking forward to playing are going to include copy-protection schemes that assume I will mass-copy and distribute their product on the street unless prevented from doing so. I'm not opposed to systems that counter pirates; I'm opposed to systems that treat everyone -- including me -- like a pirate.

If I were the paranoid type, I might wonder whether this is the latest tactic by console makers to try to eliminate the PC as a gaming platform, in this case by getting game publishers to make playing PC games so obnoxious that gamers just give up on them....


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