Bioshock: DRMShock

By Shamus
on Aug 23, 2007
Filed under:
Video Games

Thanks to Taffer for the link to this news item. It’s swiped from the PC Gamer Blog, but I’m linking to Taffer and not the original source because the PC Gamer blog doesn’t have permalinks. (Come on guys! I KNOW you can do better than that. Blogs are not mysterious devices. The functionality is well established and easy to comprehend.)

The upshot of the article is that:

  1. You must activate the game on-line to play it.
  2. It can only be activated on one machine at a time. I hope you weren’t planning on playing on your home computer AND laptop, or your home AND work computers.
  3. You can only activate the game twice.

In order for the following to have the proper impact, I should establish my love for this series. The original “Shock” game – System Shock – affected me so strongly that I wrote an entire novel based on the game. The sequel is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been waiting for this one for the better part of a decade. I’ve been following the story since the first hints of it dropped way back in February of 2006. I’m not just a fan of this series, I’m an avid, nearly rabid fan of this series.

Dear 2kGames. I’ve got sixty bucks right here. And you guys will never see it. Never. I don’t care if I see the game in the bargain bin two years from now for $5. I don’t want it. I also don’t want to hear your crying about pirates ripping you off. You started it. Your box claims “This game requires Online Activation to play”, but if you were honest about what that really means – if you let people know what you were really selling – it would demolish sales. And you know it. I don’t use pirated software, but my fond hope is that the pirates give you the quick humiliation you deserve.

Activating the game twice? I picked up Doom 3 a couple of years ago, and I’ve reinstalled it four times since then as I’ve shuffled games around or upgraded my computer. There is no excuse for thinking like this.

And this just backs up my earlier post on the uselessness of game reviews. This should be the first thing mentioned in every review. PC Gamer talked about it on their blog, but I’ll bet this never makes it into print. It is my hope that gamers pass this along, so that nobody buys this game without knowing what they’re getting into.

EDIT: More here. Looks like you get an activation “back” when you uninstall? How magnanimous of them.

EDIT: More here on the 2k forums. They have flatly claimed that secuROM isn’t a rootkit. That announcement is followed by about four pages of angry responses from users talking about how it is exactly that. I can’t say one way or the other, but if they have added lies to the mix then I think it ought to act as a Tony-Hawk style multiplier on the negative feedback and publicity they might be experiencing.

In the comments below someone points out that the number of installs has been upped from 2 to 5. I will admit that 5 is indeed larger than 2, although it is less than inifinity, which is the number of installs most games permit.

EDIT: More on this at other sites:

The Daily Jump
consumerist
Completely Random Thoughts
hylomorph

Kotaku has a response from Ken Levine

And even the demo installs the rootkit.

EDIT: Looks like The Rampant Coyote is giving the game a pass as well.

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2020201777 comments. (Seventy-seven is the smallest positive integer requiring five syllables in English!)

From the Archives:

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  1. houser2112 says:

    Nanja Kang Says: “And you need DX10… which is no surprise.”

    So does this mean you must have Vista?

  2. xbolt says:

    I hope that the guys behind this blight on computer gaming will realize how stupid they are.

    I think that extreme copy protection makes it even MORE likely for someone to pirate the game. Example scenario: “Let’s see, I can either buy the game and only be able to install it twice, (five times?) or I could pirate the game and install it however many times I want… Arr, hoist the sails, mateys!”

    Now, I’m not saying that I’M going to pirate the game, (certainly not,) I’m just saying what would go through the mind of a lot of people.

    In my case, I’m not going to buy the game, or pirate it. I’m going to have nothing to do with it. (If they get their act together, maybe I’ll look around in bargain bins.)

  3. Darnon says:

    Nanja Kang Says: “And you need DX10… which is no surprise.”

    You don’t need Vista and DX10, though I imagine it does enhance the prettiness.

    Unfortunately project Alky doesn’t cover the August revision of DX10, so I couldn’t try DX10 in XP (which I’ve been using since my Vista install kind of blew up a few days before bioshock came out) and it still looks quite nice. I’ll have to get around to installing Vista just to see how it looks on DX10.

  4. MintSkittle says:

    I’d like to revise my statement from yesterday (see first post^). It’s the guys at SecuROM that needs a good hard kick in the rear.

  5. Tylhandrias says:

    @Justin Alexander.
    Wait, what?
    Saying that a great game is worth a minor amount of hassle is ‘supporting DRM’ and being brainwashed by the media and propoganda?
    And what exactly of buying it on the 360? I prefer the 360 experience for games like that – more efficient controls (just get used to ’em), better audio / larger screen, unified hardware setup (really, who wants to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game, then have to reinstall drivers and go through all that hassle?) In my opinion, there’s no real reason to say that the experience would be ‘inferior’ on the 360. And to the person that said a 360 costs too much, how much does a desktop that can run Bioshock smoothly cost? Probably 1.5 to 2x the money.
    Anyways, I think this is a whole lot of drama over not much. People got up in arms the same way when Half-Life 2 came out, with Steam’s DRM. And when the next-gen consoles came out and the pricetag was $59.99 for new games. But neither of these things changed.
    And Steam and Valve going under? Unlikely, unless Bioshock has a longer lifespan than Starcraft.

  6. DaveJ says:

    Damn! I was going to get the demo. I do understand why they put that shit on a demo, you basically have to if you are already infecting the complete game, but it sure is a great way to stop me trying new things.

  7. blizzardwolf says:

    In response to Tylhandrias:

    That is certainly one way to view it, but it doesn’t seem like an issue over how much it will ultimately cost to play the game, as much as it is over the intrusive, greedy, and underhanded methods being used to “protect” the game. A desktop capable of running Bioshock WOULD be expensive, more so than an XBox, of that I don’t think anyone can doubt.

    Having said that, most people who have said setups, have established them over the course of months, or even years. I don’t know of too many people who have, or are willing, to go out, and spend the $1,000+ all at once, right now, for the sake of this game. The point is, people who have the requirements necessary, expect (and rightly so) to be able to pay for this game, own it, and play it without trouble or harassment. Just because someone has an expensive computer is no reason to tell them “Well you shouldn’t mind spending a little more for a game that SHOULD behave for you anyways.”

    And, by telling someone in whatever way, that they should not bitch about feeling forced to spend more money on an XBox, just to freely enjoy a game they’ve already paid for, is basically saying just that.

    People were in arms about STEAM as they should have been, and Shamus runs the gamut of reasons why under the Video Game rant “STEAMing pile of Filth.” This operation is no less than the same thing, just dressed and designed differently.

    A great game is worth a little hassle, true. Serial keys, needing the disc in the drive, that’s a reasonable compromise, and I don’t think anyone should suggest boycotting a game on those methods alone. But there is a line, let’s call it the Half-Life 2 line, where NO degree of greatness or innovation can justify the pervasive, restrictive, and surreptitious methods of control being applied.

    Case in point: Bioshock.

  8. Cineris says:

    First thing that came to mind the other day when hearing all of the accounts of friends who were unable to get the game to play at all — This is why PC gaming is dying. It’s just shockingly clear to me that the PC is seen as the substandard gaming platform and they want to push people towards the 360.

    Kind of sad, really. I’m much more of a PC person, and since I do all kinds of development on PCs, it’s much easier to justify spending money on improving it.

  9. guy says:

    Starcraft did the need the disk in the drive and the serial keys, which were all a minor problem, but bioshocks protection seems to suck, and has been broken, so it only hurts the honest people.

  10. Scourge says:

    What would interest me more is what happens if your PC suddenly crashed and you can’t uninstall it, make that happen twice and, hooray! You wasted 60 bucks for nothing and now you can’t use it ever again.

  11. Tylhandrias wrote: “…really, who wants to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game…”

    So you’re arguing that, because you don’t want to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game, it makes more sense to spend $280 or $350 or $450 on an X-Box 360?

    I’m trying to follow the logic there, but I’m not having much success with it.

    Tylhandrias wrote: “And Steam and Valve going under? Unlikely, unless Bioshock has a longer lifespan than Starcraft.”

    I was playing ULTIMA IV last week. Yesterday I was watching STAR WARS. This afternoon I was reading HAMLET.

    You can’t tell me with a straight face that companies have any guarantee of lasting 10 years or 20 years or 30 years or 400 years. And IP that I paid for should not become useless based on the successes and failures of the people I bought it from.

    If I buy a chair from a furniture store and the furniture store goes out of business, I’m still able to sit on my chair. I find it an unreasonable expectation that I, as a consumer, should be expected or required to research a company as if I were intending to buy stock in them when I simply want to put down my cold, hard cash and walk off with a copy of a movie, song, or video game.

    And, even then, there’s no particular guarantee of financial stability. ENRON was one of the largest and most successful businesses in the world… right up to the point that they declared bankruptcy.

    You say that Valve is unlikely to go bankrupt tomorrow. But, unless you’re secretly their CFO, there’s no way for you to actually know that. Apparent success is not guarantor of stability. TSR, Inc. — the original owners of the Dungeons & Dragons IP — gave no indication of their instability right up to the point where they shut their doors.

    For customers like you, the media companies are the camel: They stuck their nose in the tent and you said, “Well, that’s not so bad. It’s just installing STEAM, right?” Now they’ve come all the way in and they’re starting to munch on the nice dinner you’ve laid out and your response has become, “Well, they may be eating my dinner, but I still have some food over stored in my X-Box 360 cooler. So that’s okay…”

    Personally? I want the camel out of my tent.

    Justin Alexander
    http://www.thealexandrian.net

  12. Miako says:

    Give me a break, people!

    Game designers (the real ones), expect you to break the stupid copy protection!

    Therefore, no problem, about later use.

    a $20 pc game is probably pretty close to “at cost”

    They only make money off the early-adopters.

    Which makes me ask, “why drm anyway??”

  13. Miako says:

    >Well, here I am in Ubuntu Linux, and the good thing about >Linux is it doesn’t have the HOLES the Windows OS does.

    >I asked it to delete the offending SecuROM files, and it >said, “What files?”

    and I love Knoppix! For all those times windows decided that yes, it really does love eating critical parts of itself!

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