SecuROM, BioShock and Elsewhere

 By Shamus Sep 4, 2007 62 comments

The question has been posed to me, if you’re so upset about SecuROM in BioShock, why were you silent about it in all these other games you played? Okay, you got me: The only reason I did that was so that I could revel in flaming hypocrisy.

Actually, the simple answer is that I didn’t know it was there. Which is kind of the point, since the most unforgivable part of SecuROM is that it is installed without the user’s knowledge or permission. I’ve been the sort of reckless chump that goes around installing software from large publishers without scanning the EULA for sophistry and decompiling the software to hunt for hidden threats. If this makes me a fool, then so be it. If you can’t trust the person giving you the software, then you’re screwed. If playing videogames requires me to defend myself from the machinations of the publishers at every turn, then I’d rather abandon the hobby for something safer. Like scorpion juggling.

(On a positive note: If you run as admin like I do, SecuROM doesn’t create the process that runs 24/7. Really, it looks like most of the problems with SecuROM arise when people do sensible things like creating proper user accounts. If you’re already irresponsible about security, SecuROM doesn’t make things worse.)

The other reason BioShock raised such ire is that it didn’t just contain the invasive, deceptive, and ineffectual SecuROM. It contained that, plus a ridiculous online activation scheme which was asinine, broken, and also ineffectual.

The old-school copy restriction scheme was thus:

You must have the original CD in the drive.

The latest one is:

You must install SecuROM, activate the game online, jump through the Steam-based hoops, and the original DVD must be in the drive.

That is a lot of the user’s rights that were eroded, not to mention the annoying hassle. And yet, the steps at circumventing the system are exactly the same:

Search BitTorrent. Click download. Play game.

So, the next time a publisher adds a new layer of hassle for legit users, I’ll probably throw another tantrum. This cycle can continue until they have totally wrecked the damn hobby for everyone. They’re off to a great start so far.


202020262 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. blizzardwolf1 says:

    Shamus I think you’re actually doing everyone a service with the recent entries about Bioshock. I wouldn’t have known about SecuROM, or it’s various functions, or the rest of the copy protection Bioshock has on it if not for your revealing it. It’s not the kind of thing that’s really been mass advertised, and from looking at other’s comments, I can tell more people than just me have benefited in the same way.

    I think you should continue tracking the story of Bioshock. Maybe create a whole new section as there are already a number of blog entries for it, but definitely continue bringing the story to light.

    Your efforts are revealing dangerous, corporate backed spyware methods that most of us would otherwise not know about. Your blog, and particularly the research you do, brings more attention to this subject than you think. You’re investigating and revealing the truth behind 2KGames’ lies, and you’re keeping your readers (most of them anyway) from making a costly, potentially damaging mistake by installing this game and it’s surreptitious DRM.

    You inform us, and then we inform others, and so on, and so on. It may not be much, but this is something I think a lot of us didn’t know about before, and if it weren’t for your efforts probably wouldn’t have known at all.

    Pray, keep the good work going Shamus. You got the gamers on your side.

  2. Primogenitor says:

    In the old days, there were some other piracy protections as well, such as looking at page numbers in the manual for icons or words, or spinning a code wheel around till it matched and you could enter what you were supposed to. Some high-end software even had a hardware “dongle” you had to plug into the serial port before it would work properly. And where are they now….

  3. JT says:

    I actually went through the same mental machinations about Bioshock.

    “I’m not buying this game for PC because of everything I’ve read recently. Still undecided whether I’ll entertain buying a used copy for the 360, in the eventuality that I’ll probably buy a 360 at some point, maybe next year.”

    “What’s that? I’ve already got SecuROM on my system ’cause I’m playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent? Well phooey.”

  4. Cenobite says:

    Anyone who installs software on another person’s machine without first obtaining the explicit consent of that computer’s owner should be guilty of a felony. Not a misdemeanor. A felony.

    Obtaining this consent should be a process which not only includes independently verifiable signatures, but also mandates full disclosure of what’s being installed.

    People who wander onto my lawn will face the business end of my shotgun if they don’t explain themselves and/or go the hell away. This is just the basic respect for a person’s home and personal space that we demand of each other as being neighbors and citizens. I don’t see why computer hard drive space should be any different.

  5. Telas says:

    And yes, there’s a fully-functional, fully-cracked version of the game. It was released eleven days after the original release.

    Eleven days. I wonder how much was spent in security measures to gain those eleven days. I wonder if a game could be significantly less expensive if all the security crap was left off of it, and how that would actually affect the bottom line.

    Has anyone seen an analysis of this? (From someone other than the SecureROM folks, of course…)

  6. Cadamar says:

    I remember one game…
    It was a “mature” game and to make sure the player was old enough it would ask you a series of questions that you wouldn’t know the answer to unless you were “old” enough. It would ask things about the Nixon and Ford presidencies or some such. The problem was that it worked! I didn’t know the answers and unfortunately this was long before the internet.

  7. KnottyMan says:

    Ah yes, Leisure Suit Larry…

    “What is Détente?”

    Curses! Foiled again! Hey I was 10… : )

    Keep it up Shamus!

  8. Khoram says:

    “Some high-end software even had a hardware “dongle” you had to plug into the serial port before it would work properly. And where are they now….”

    Uh, there’re still out there. There’s an expensive app we use for work that costs about $10K per license that requires a dongle.

  9. Rob says:

    I actually enjoyed the “lookup the code” protection on old school games…. UNTIL I lost the stupid manual. This was before the inter-tubes so once you lost the manual you couldn’t play the game unless you bought it again or wrote to the company and sent them some $$$ for a replacement. Sounds awefully similar to online activation/keys. :( I’ve lost many a serial key in my day. THANK god for the inter-tubes! :)

  10. Mob says:

    I’m curious: What would you consider to be an acceptable copy protection scheme?
    AND/OR
    Under what circumstances would you accept the scheme used with Bioshock?

  11. Vegedus says:

    “Search BitTorrent. Click download. Play game.”

    Actually, that’s wrong. It took more than a week after release for the game to get cracked. You have to have the latest version of daemon tools. You need to download the crack and apply it.

    Okay, it’s not much of a hassle, but the secuROM did bother the pirates… A bit. Something like the pirated version coming later can actually make some of the lazy pirates go ahead and buy the game. I does not warrant the secuROM in any way, of course, and the hassle has increased more for the legit than the pirates, but I thought I’d just point it out.

    Sorry if I’m nitpicking.

  12. Shamus says:

    Mob: Great question.

    I really like the incentive-based system Stardock uses on their games. If they got hit by a meteor tomorrow, I would lose access to all of the bonus content, but I would still have the original game I paid for.

    Let’s lay SecuROM aside for a second and pretend we’re only dealing with online activation:

    I actually sort of tolerate the BioShock-style activation for cheap games. The $10 games from BigFishGames, PopCap, and the other “Casual” gaming portals use this system. It doesn’t bug me because I think of the games as disposable anyway. Once I’ve had my fill of Zuma, I’ll never play it again. It’s just $10. And it’s very hassle-free.

    The reason I can’t take it from larger games is because they cost so much more, I DO plan on playing them again in ten years, the system is more of a hassle, and it’s frequently BROKEN at launch.

    Still, if they embraced a StarDOCK (not StarFORCE) style system I’d shut right up and give them my money.

  13. Locri says:

    Does anyone remember the old Monty Python game? You had to give the proper name for the particular cheese shown and the answers were in the manual… it was pretty funny, but annoying still.

    And Shamus, considering your views on fairly simple things like BioShock’s copyright protection (yes, I did say simple), I’m wondering what your views are on the more extensive ones like XP and Vista’s intrusive WGA systems that recently suffered a failure and mistakenly told millions of users that their software was invalid.

    Great posts on this whole BioShock issue though!

  14. Nightops6 says:

    As blizzardwolf1 (1) says, such are my thoughts. You’ve done a simple service in bringing this to the attention of gamers, if nothing else, Shamus – thank you.

  15. Rob (not the same one) says:

    Shamus, good points on BioShock!

    This is one of the many reasons I don’t play PC games. They may pull this crap with a game console, but at least the security of the game console doesn’t affect all of the other uses of the console (there are none!)

  16. Nanja Kang says:

    If this blog would not have covered it, I wouldn’t have known about it…

    On another note I beat BioShock… overall it is a fun game, but the last boss fight is a bit anti-climactic.

  17. Dan says:

    Wow. This thing has gone so altogether white and nerdy that it has become authentically gangsta.

    Good show, my good man. Good. Show.

  18. Phlux says:

    I would love to get the ear of a game publishing exec and really try to find out what the reason behind these things are. I want an honest dialogue with someone who has the credibility and authority to speak on the subject.

    I don’t want to just yell at him or her and demand satisfaction for these heinous crimes, I just want to understand why it is that they feel these things are necessary. I’m sure they’re reasonable people, and not just mindless “screw the consumer” executives like many seem to picture them as being. They have a serious job of running a company. People who work for them count on them to keep the boat floating so that they have a job.

    I guess I’d really just love to know why they think it’s all gone this far. How much have they really lost to pirates. How much are they spending fighting what seems to be a losing battle? That’s the stuff I want to know.

  19. Psychoceramics says:

    So I was playing my pirated copy of Bioshock (cause fuck 2K games. Not paying them for stupid decisions), and one of the quotes on the loading screens really struck me.

    It went along the lines of “Oh, those boys in Ryan’s lab can make it hackproof. That don’t mean we ain’t gonna hack it.”

    I found the irony delicious.

  20. Kilroy says:

    My question to the people that did buy the game:

    Does the EULA say anything about SecureROM been installed?

    If not – I say Class Action the buggers.

    Now I personally have not played many games in the last 4 years, my life focus changed, and I cannot afford to upgrade my video card every 6 months.

    But I still would not buy bioshock or any other game that installs this crap without the ability to remove it when I am finished the game.

    Oh well

    Kilroy

  21. The Pancakes says:

    Shamus — long-time reader, some-time poster, love your site.

    First, it’s interesting that you choose this moment to draw the line in the sand about copy protection. You’ve admitted that BioShock’s predecessor was a very important and influencial part of your life and I can respect that. Having a much-anticipated sequel go this badly must have been a shock, but this sort of pervasive, sneaky crap has been going on for years. You’ve admitted that other games have installed SecuROM on your machine without your knowledge previous to your install BioShock. You play a number of small games, like Zuma, and I know from experience with the wife’s machine that those online guys are awful for installing crap you’d never agree to install if you were told up-front that they were doing it. And yet this is the moment you chose to make your stand. Is this all BioShock, or is BioShock the straw that broke the camel’s back?

    Second, to state that this is a game you intend to play 10 years from now? That’s pretty bold. For a story-driven game like BioShock, how much fun can it be to play the game more than a few times? Can the ending change that significantly from game to game? If so, then apologies to you as I am ignorant of this game and it’s predecessors, but I think back on the games that I played 10 years ago and there are very, very few I’d even consider playing again. Besides, which ones would actually run on a machine produced in the last 5 years?

    Finally, to Flux and others who’ve expressed a desire to understand the why’s behind something like this, I hate to sound like a dick, but it’s pretty simple: money. It’s all about the money. Money, money, money. More money == good. The shortest path to all the money is the best path. Not some, not half; all the money. It’s not about screwing the consumer. It’s not about them being ignorant of their customer’s desires and foibles. It’s about maximizing profits. It’s about making more money, more money, more money. Because it’s not enough to have enough. Demasiado es no nunca bastante. It’s not enough to publish a good game that’s fun to play and people want to buy. It’s about making money. It doesn’t matter if it’s video games or air conditioning units or barrels of oil. Every commodity and service is merely a means to a single end: all the money. To win in the game that those guys are playing, you have to have it all. All the money, that is, and anything less makes you a loser.

    Hope that helps, Flux!

  22. Takkelmaggot says:

    Heh… I remember a submarine sim (the original Silent Service, maybe) whose copy protection required you to identify the silhouettes of various US and Imperial Japanese ships before playing the proper game. Easy, if you had the manual. Presumably the game designers decided that if you knew the profile of an Akatsuki-class destroyer by heart without having paid for the game, you were pretty much entitled to play anyway.

  23. Allan says:

    Kilroy:

    It doesn’t matter what’s in the EULA, even if the EULA had mile high text saying “INSTALLS SECUROM ROOTKIT ETC.”, because you can’t read the EULA until you’ve already purchased the software. It’s like if you bought a car, and after you’ve transfered the money the dealer only then told you that you had to wear a GPS locator at all times and in order to start the car you had to phone him and ask permission.

  24. Shamus says:

    The Pancakes: Just yesterday I re-installed System Shock 2 onto my computer to replay it. On Saturday I was playing Starcraft and Unreal Tournament. Last month I jumped on Battle.net and played some Diablo II with my frinds.

    Yes, I think re-playing a game in ten years is a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do.

  25. Shamus says:

    Also: I just picked up the Space Quest Collection. The first game came out in the mid-80′s, and the “newest” came out in 1995.

  26. Shamus says:

    The Pancakes: Also, when it comes to money, I’m sure you’re right. The publisher wouldn’t be doing its job if they weren’t trying to make money. What’s surprising here is that their clumsy efforts to fight piracy are most certainly a net loser. When you add in the cost of a SecuROM license, plus the cost in support headaches and returned products, and then consider that the game hit the torrents eleven days later anyway, it does make me wonder what they think they are doing.

    Did they think they had an unbreakable system? Or did those 11 days allow them to convert enough pirates to customers to justify the expense? Have they ever done any sort of comparison of sales figures to see if these measures have any effect on piracy? Have they heard of the other, less invasive approaches, and if so, why haven’t they considered those?

    I’m assuming that you can’t get to running a multimillion dollar company if you’re a drooling idiot. But they are doing things that make it LOOK like they are, indeed, drooling idiots. I’d love to see things from their perspective and understand why they keep doing this sort of thing.

    Barring that, knocking it off would be cool. :)

  27. Bimble says:

    Eh, I’ve gone back to play games 10 years later (or more – Infocom games still rule). Apart from the hurdles you have to jump to play old games on newer systems (surmountable if you still have an old system around – ah, that precious Mac SE sitting in a closet), there are those old copy protection schemes getting in the way too. I can find the floppies for Starflight and Starflight 2, for example, but I’ll be darned if I can find the paper wheel for the codes for Starflight, or the foldout map where you have to count the stars in a sector for Starflight 2. At least if you look around hard enough, the magical Internet provides solutions to those issues.

    Online activation doesn’t have a workaround that doesn’t involve grabbing a hacked executable. If you run into any trouble with the copy protection – the company goes out of business, or you simply want to run a single-player game on a system that isn’t online all the time, like a laptop – your only hope is to put blind trust in a hack published by someone who won’t even give his name out, let alone a support phone number. That’s a really rotten position to put your customers in.

    Yeah, you delay the pirated version by a few days, and that might get a few more sales. But really, the folks determined to pirate the game will wait until a hacked version is out. I can’t imagine that the extra sales from a delayed hack is a significant number.

    Meanwhile, you have the ill-will generated by a poorly implemented protection scheme. If it’s a transparent process, then yeah, few customers will care. But if they wind up being unable to play the game they bought right away, or if they put it on their laptop, hit the road, then find they can’t play until they get Internet access again, they’ll be upset. Unfortunately that discontent will probably hurt the developer more than the publisher who insisted on the copy protection scheme – if someone feels hosed by Bioshock, if they see “from the makers of Bioshock” in a game description they’ll hesitate. Most consumers won’t pay enough attention to the name of the publisher to factor that into their next choice of game.

  28. HeatherRae says:

    Kilroy,

    But I still would not buy bioshock or any other game that installs this crap without the ability to remove it when I am finished the game.

    The problem is, nothing on the box or the EULA (at least in the case of NWN2) says ANYTHING about SecuRom. I had no idea I was installing it, and I was never informed in any way, shape, matter, or form. How am I supposed to somehow psychically know that a game has this software when there is no indication whatsoever on the box?

  29. smilydeth says:

    ah yes, copy-protection…

    The original sim-city came with a list of cities and populations that you had to enter in order to play. The fun part, is that they printed it in burgandy with black print…which is of course impossible to copy without a color copier. Does anyone else remember spending a few hours writing out the answers on a code wheel?

    Games have copy protection. They have all had some form or another since the beginning of the hobby. What’s the big deal about this one… if you can’t handle it, don’t buy it. After all, there’ll be another game out any minute now that is going to be ten times cooler…we all know this. As for Secure-Rom… I want everyone who has complained about it to run both adaware and spybot on their machines…I bet good money there are at least a hundred programs running on them that you had know idea about, yet have gleefully allowed access to your machine by installing this software or that…or randomly accessing the internet. Heck, It wouldn’t surprise me if Shamus’ Blog contains a tracking cookie!

    Welcome to the AGE OF INFORMATION!!!

    What I want to know is….is BIO-SHOCK fun to play?
    Because that…in the end, is the true reason for buying it..copy-protection and all.

  30. smilydeth says:

    …On a completely random note. I just realized that Shamus is selling t-shirts…how cool is that?

  31. Cenobite wrote: “Obtaining this consent should be a process which not only includes independently verifiable signatures, but also mandates full disclosure of what’s being installed.”

    That would be… interesting. “Hello? Adobe? Yeah, I just purchased this copy of Photoshop but it won’t install.”

    “Oh, yes. Well, someone decided that we needed an independently verifiable signature before we could install the software on your machine. So if you could just print out the PDF in the root directory of the DVD, complete and sign it, and then mail it our corporate headquarters, we’ll then allow you to install Photoshop.”

    In your outrage, you’ve simply gone from one ludicrous extreme to the other: 2KGames would make us jump through hoops because they think we’re all pirates. You’d make us jump through hoops because you think all software companies are nefarious.

    Shamus wrote: “I really like the incentive-based system Stardock uses on their games. If they got hit by a meteor tomorrow, I would lose access to all of the bonus content, but I would still have the original game I paid for.”

    Amen. Treat me with respect and reward me for being an honest customer. Don’t treat me with suspicion and

    For me a copy protection needs to adhere to three principles:

    (1) It should not damage or degrade the performance of my equipment.

    (2) It should not make my ability to use what I paid for dependent on the continued existence of the company I bought it from.

    (3) It should not force me to abrogate my rights under existing copyright law.

    BioShock’s copy protection scheme violates all three of these tenets.

    More generally, toss another vote in the “bravo Shamus, you’re 100% right and you should keep on preaching truth until you’re blue in the face” column.

    Pancakes wrote: “First, it’s interesting that you choose this moment to draw the line in the sand about copy protection.”

    Actually, Shamus has been commenting on these issues from the very earliest days of this blog. He linked to some of those previous blogs in some of his BioShock-related blogs. Most notably, he’s commented about the fact he’s never played Half-Life 2, since it’s impossible for him to actually own the game.

    (I wouldn’t have played Half-Life 2, either, if I had known before buying it in the store the DRM I was buying with it. It’s the reason I won’t buy BioShock now.)

    Pancakes wrote: “Second, to state that this is a game you intend to play 10 years from now? That’s pretty bold. For a story-driven game like BioShock, how much fun can it be to play the game more than a few times?”

    It’s BECAUSE it’s a story-driven game that it’s fun to play the game repeatedly. It’s the same reason I’ve LOTR multiple times, own STAR WARS on DVD, and own multiple versions of Hamlet.

    In terms of computer games, I regularly return to classics like ULTIMA IV, ULTIMA VII, and FINAL FANTASY VII (to pick some of my favorites off the top of my head).

    Pancakes wrote: “Finally, to Flux and others who’ve expressed a desire to understand the why’s behind something like this, I hate to sound like a dick, but it’s pretty simple: money. It’s all about the money. Money, money, money. More money == good. The shortest path to all the money is the best path. Not some, not half; all the money. It’s not about screwing the consumer. It’s not about them being ignorant of their customer’s desires and foibles. It’s about maximizing profits.”

    Except there’s no logical way to conclude that this type of invasive DRM does anything to increase the amount of money you’re making.

    As has been remarked multiple times already, the game is already cracked. So there are four types of people (ignoring those who would never be interested in the game):

    1. Those who would buy the game even if it had no copy protection.
    2. Those who would never buy the game, but will download a pirated copy.
    3. Those who would have bought the game, but won’t because of the DRM.
    4. Those who would have downloaded a pirated copy, but just couldn’t wait a week and a half for the crack to appear, so they ended up buying the game because of the DRM.

    The first two categories are irrelevant to the question. So what it really boils down to is:

    Are there really so many people in category #4 that it justifies not only the revenue lost to the potential customers in category #3, but also the costs of developing the DRM scheme and running the activation servers for the rest of eternity?

    Nobody knows the answer to that question, because no reliable study has ever been done. But my gut says no. Common sense says no.

    Justin Alexander
    http://www.thealexandrian.net

  32. Shamus says:

    Justin Alexander: That breakdown of the 4 different possible customers is a very effective way of looking at this. Thanks.

    Full Disclosure: In the early Steam posts I do talk about buying HL2. Like you, I didn’t realize what I was getting into until it was too late.

  33. Telas says:

    Vegedus:

    “Search BitTorrent. Click download. Play game.”

    Actually, that’s wrong. It took more than a week after release for the game to get cracked. You have to have the latest version of daemon tools. You need to download the crack and apply it.

    Sorry, but the “demo” I saw plays fine without cracks, and without Daemon Tools. It’s an .ISO file that mounts with Alcohol.

    No names, though… sorry. :)

  34. Telas says:

    …and by “demo”, I mean “fully functional game with no DRM silliness”… ;)

  35. Jeff says:

    Not to mention that ‘more than a week’ is hardly the norm. I’ve seen games out before they were available in stores…

    This is especially noticeable in games that have different release dates across the world, like STALKER.

  36. Peter says:

    Re the age certification system in Leisure Suit Larry: my favourite question was

    The song American Pie was about
    a.miscegenation
    b.Marilyn Chambers
    c.a dead rock star
    d.four minutes too long

    The game considered both C and D to be correct answers …

  37. Davesnot says:

    What makes you think you can’t be a drooling idiot and run a company? .. Hell.. you can run the most powerful nation in the world and be a drooling idiot.

  38. Miral says:

    Actually, since Steam has an “offline mode”, once you’ve unlocked it once (which you’d do at purchase time) you can keep playing HL2 forever without being on the Net (or having the Steam servers still exist).

    It also has a backup/restore thing, so you can make a backup, remove it from your drive, and then restore it at a later date and keep playing. (I *think* you can do all of that while offline, as long as you’re using the same Steam account, but I haven’t tested it.) So in most situations you’re covered.

    I think one of the biggest problems with publishers is that they’re listening to the FUD-mongers who are claiming that every download is a lost sale, which is obviously false (given the choice between purchasing, pirating, and doing without, many people will only pick one of ‘pirating’ or ‘doing without’ — they won’t ever purchase, so they’re not a lost sale).

    (Anyway, to avoid going on much longer, basically I agree with Justin in #31.)

  39. Lanthanide says:

    To be honest, I think a lot of this is overblown. Has anyone actually shown that having SecuROM on your system does something bad to it? Other than apparently having to uninstall processexplorer if you are using it, I haven’t heard of anything.

    Certainly if it were causing system crashes etc like StarFORCE does, we’d have heard about it now. I myself has bought Bioshock, and I heartily recommend it – if there ever were a game that you would classify as ‘art’, this is it. I haven’t had any noticable problems since secuROM was installed.

    I understand the principal of it, but people are acting like it is some backdoor trojan just waiting for the opportunity to send out your credit card details etc.

    In any event, what I have to add in here is that it may not actually be about the money at all. What matters is opinions. The opinions of the shareholders and other people who have invested money into the various companies. The shareholders say “we don’t want you to release that game without copy protection”, the execs say “ok, but it’ll probably cost us more money than we’ll make from it”, the shareholders say “we don’t care, just do it” or “we don’t believe you, just do it”. And so it is done. Obviously it probably wouldn’t be as straightforward as that, but it’s probably close to the truth.

    Perhaps the company has a charter that says all games must use DRM on them? This gives rise to another way of looking at it: the cost of developing Bioshock may go directly against Bioshock, but the cost of developing secuROM and including it on multiple games, would be spread over multiple games. So you can’t simply break down the customers as Justin did for 1 game and say is 4 >= 3, you need to look at all games that the company is releasing using that particular type of DRM, because the cost of the DRM would be spread over all of them. Given that no one really knew that NWN2 had Securom in it (so 3 would have been a very small category), you can see that this issue is really not as cut-and-dried as it appears to be.

    Furthermore, the publisher of the game has to make a decision – DRM or no DRM. There is no way for them to 100% be sure which option is going to make them more money. They can’t go out and survey everyone to find out the #’s of people in each group as described by Justin. They just have to take a gamble on it. They can’t release the game with DRM on it, see how well it sells and then turn back the clock and sell it again this time without DRM and see how many sales they get and then pick the strategy that worked best.

    So given that the publisher can never truly know how many people fit into all 4 categories, that the cost of developing DRM may be spread over multiple games, that a game can only ever be (first) released once, and that they may even have a company mandate to put DRM on all games, is it any surprise that a game ends up with DRM on it? I don’t think so.

  40. Yunt says:

    My guess as to responsibility would be shareholders in the publishing company. Someone has to protect their investment, aside of course from producing decent content for reasonable prices, this is how you do that.

    The situation is very similar to the excuses given by the MPAA or the cable companies on why I have to sit through commercials after paying them up front for their services or why I’m constantly bombarded with FBI warnings and “You’re a pirate if you’ve ever watched this movie without paying for it!” messages.

    The bottom line is that *you* are now the product, not the game or movie. You paid a token fee for the purposes of driving the hype and increasing the “mindshare” for a given publisher, developer, etc. When they can brag about selling a billion copies of “The Adventures of Stupid in Moron Land”, they get more investors and can then spend a bunch of money prettying up a sequel which is essentially the same thing recycled, for cost saving purposes of course.

    Your eyes, your brain, your money are being sold to investors, sold to advertisers, sold to the highest bidder. Your enjoyment of the game, movie, etc. is completely secondary to how many copies they can sell and thus how many investors they can con into financing the next ridiculous scheme.

  41. Mr. Son says:

    “Has anyone actually shown that having SecuROM on your system does something bad to it?”

    Even if it doesn’t, it’s still an insult. It’s like getting a roommate , and after he’s moved in you find he has a drooling, incontinent dog he stuck in your garage and didn’t tell you he owned.

  42. Old Man Matt says:

    I’m in complete agreement about this sucurom stuff and I hope 2k goes broke for trying it.

    On the other hand, I went to Walmart Sunday and they were running the Bioshock trailer. Multiplied by a full wall of TVs. It was breath-taking.

    I also just noticed that 2k publishes Civ 4 and its expansions, so it may well be too late for me to worry about this.

  43. trigear says:

    Say what you want about BioShock and SecuROM, I still love my Half-Life 2. And Steam. I would buy all my games from Steam, if it were possible.

  44. nehumanuscrede says:

    ” In the old days, there were some other piracy protections as well, such as looking at page numbers in the manual for icons or words, or spinning a code wheel around till it matched and you could enter what you were supposed to. Some high-end software even had a hardware “dongle” you had to plug into the serial port before it would work properly. And where are they now…. ”

    ” “Some high-end software even had a hardware “dongle” you had to plug into the serial port before it would work properly. And where are they now….”

    Uh, there’re still out there. There’s an expensive app we use for work that costs about $10K per license that requires a dongle. ”

    Yep. Still there. Companies still put effort into research
    and development of the hardware dongles. As for the why, I cannot possibly fathom because every piece of software I
    own that is dongle ‘ protected ‘ has been cracked and is
    available on the internet for those wishing to find it.

    In fact, while I own a fully legal copy of Softimage | XSI,

    ( Yeah I actually buy software I use all the time. . go
    figure )

    I run the dongle hack because if anything happens to the
    dongle, your bazillion dollar software won’t work. At all.

    Nothing like several thousand dollars worth of software
    that is rendered inoperable by a $10 dongle that quit
    working. . . .

  45. Lanthanide says:

    “Even if it doesn’t, it’s still an insult. It’s like getting a roommate , and after he’s moved in you find he has a drooling, incontinent dog he stuck in your garage and didn’t tell you he owned.”

    So that means that you’re never going to get any roomates, for fear that they may own drooling, incontinent dogs that you don’t know about?

    I can understand the sentiment – I don’t like having stuff on my computer that runs 24/7 if it doesn’t need to be there. I just think people are blowing the seriousness completely out of proportion and acting like it is devil spawn that will certainly ruin their computer or consume all of their system resources and bring the whole thing to a halt.

    Frankly, I’m sure SecuROM is the least of the average user’s worries – how many people have got spyware or trojans on their machines that they don’t know about? I’m sure everyone will say “well you just need to use virus scanners and firewalls”. But what about various ‘free’ programs you download that have been sponsored by google or yahoo and try and install their shovelware on your computer (yahoo toolbar etc) every chance they get, unless you specifically choose not to install them? I bet the majority of users simply click past them and don’t care, just like the majority of users wouldn’t care about SecuROM being on their machine as long as it doesn’t do any harm.

    If someone can prove harm was done by SecuROM, I’m sure there’ll be a class action suit about it (see Sony DRM), but until then I think everyone is just being a bit extravagant about the whole issue.

    I have no problem with DRM, as long as it does not harm the usability of the machine it is installed on (in any way whatsoever) and does not create arduous obstacles to the legitimate owner of the product – I think that 5 concurrant activations (it was never intended to be 5 (2) activations total as some people believe) and online activation for Bioshock is actually pretty reasonable as far as DRM goes, particularly because they’ve said that online activation will be patched out in the future.

  46. Ian says:

    @Lanthanide: The thing is, what exactly did the online activation do? Drive away potential customers.

    Bear in mind that a 2 install limit was in place initially and there were numerous problems with the authentication servers (not returning keys on uninstall, simply not working, etc). At least ordinary games with SecuROM “protection” don’t totally prevent you from playing the game when their servers are down, ala Half-Life 2.

    What’s even worse is that despite such a consumer-unfriendly system being in place, the pirates still prevailed. Patching the online activation (not to mention the CD-based copy protection) out of the game has already been done — X months/years in advance.

  47. Me says:

    The bottom line for me is that you’re punishing your loyal paying customers in order to put of probably a very small percentage of pirates.

    Unless you’re a very lazy, stupid, ignorant or impatient pirate, you’re going to be able to grab a bootleg copy a week or so after release and play to your heart’s content. In short, it’s only going to prevent casual pirates, and how many of them are going to say “Meh, copy protection to hard to break, I’ll go buy it in the shops instead!”.

    Still, such control freakery is sadly unsurprising, no matter how misguided. A oft-used management tool for lazy and incompetent managers is the “Let’s put in rules upon rules that punish all the staff trying to do the right thing, whilst those trying to get away with something will go on getting, since they don’t care.” technique.

  48. Bärsärk says:

    “#39 Lanthanide Says:

    To be honest, I think a lot of this is overblown. Has anyone actually shown that having SecuROM on your system does something bad to it? Other than apparently having to uninstall processexplorer if you are using it, I haven’t heard of anything.”

    And this would not be enough? Subverting the use of my computer is ok as long as it does no immediate harm?
    However, as others on this site have noticed, you cannot run the game on a system where you have a kernel debugger (like Visual Studio is considered to be) installed on the machine.
    So BioShock (through SecuROM) is trying to dictate what other legitimate programs I may have installed on my own computer? And it does this without warning me before purchase? It may not be technically criminal, but it is pretty shady.

  49. Roy says:

    Frankly, I’m sure SecuROM is the least of the average user’s worries – how many people have got spyware or trojans on their machines that they don’t know about? I’m sure everyone will say “well you just need to use virus scanners and firewalls”. But what about various ‘free’ programs you download that have been sponsored by google or yahoo and try and install their shovelware on your computer (yahoo toolbar etc) every chance they get, unless you specifically choose not to install them? I bet the majority of users simply click past them and don’t care, just like the majority of users wouldn’t care about SecuROM being on their machine as long as it doesn’t do any harm.

    So?
    Just because a lot of users don’t give a rat’s ass about this doesn’t make it right or acceptable- it just means that a lot of people are apathetic or ignorant about their computers. Which is fine- that’s their right. Just because a lot of people probably have spyware and trojans on their machines doesn’t mean that we should shrug and say “Oh well, I guess spyware and trojans are just peachy keen.”

    I care what is installed on my machine, and I especially care when a legitimately purchased piece of software tries to co-opt control over what I put on my machine. And, as others have pointed out, the stupid thing tries to dictate what other legitimately owned software your machine can have on it, which is crap.

    I have no problem with DRM, as long as it does not harm the usability of the machine it is installed on (in any way whatsoever) and does not create arduous obstacles to the legitimate owner of the product – I think that 5 concurrant activations (it was never intended to be 5 (2) activations total as some people believe) and online activation for Bioshock is actually pretty reasonable as far as DRM goes, particularly because they’ve said that online activation will be patched out in the future.

    Well, I think it’s safe to say that we have very different concepts of reasonable. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a game to prevent or interfere with other legitimately owned programs. I don’t think it’s reasonable to limit the number of times I can install a product that I’ve bought and paid for, regardless of whether they plan on phasing it out with a patch. What happens a few years down the road when the patch isn’t readily available? I’m tired of being punished for actually paying money and buying a game legitimately.

  50. Stranger says:

    I have fond memories of the original X-Wing copy protection, which was not unusual for the time: certain manual pages held symbols in the corner and the name of a star system. When the symbols were shown, enter the password and the game would let you play.

    Similar to those are Eye of the Beholder (I still play those games), and before I got the trilogy disc I used to have to guess or consult a list of notes from previous copy protection attempts (Yes, I HAD lost the manual and my father was too stubborn to write for another one).

    Morrowind, I would still play if my computer was not inoperable. I don’t know if it HAD any hidden software in it. Somehow I doubt it.

    But companies have got to do something to at least attempt to deter pirates from hitting their software. I’m not going to come out and say “I’m in favor of SecuROM” . . . that’s irrelevant since I don’t own any games which use it and have very little interest in the games I’ve seen listed with it. I’m in favor of copy protection/prevention measures.

    I’d like something similar to what consoles do. For what I know, there is a hardware lockout which prevents copied CDs/DVDs from working . . . unless you take your console’s integrity in your own hands and alter the hardware. Doing so, of course, means you can NEVER receive hardware support again. This, I am in favor of . . . it doesn’t stop people, but those who do it are effectively no longer supported by the company.

    Is it possible, perhaps, to put some sort of “header” on a CD/DVD which would tell the computer “Hey, this is a legit copy” which is not reproducable by burning drives, and will NOT be ripped by an image maker? I’d put money into researching that end if it was me, and possibly making those codes changed for each game. Heck, if it’s not possible then why not find a way to MAKE it work?

    And if this was already attempted and cracked then my apologies. I’m not a very good pirate. I think they revoked my membership when I decided it was too much effort to keep up with current single-player games on the PC hardware-wise.

  51. azgarth says:

    heh, securom bad? try starforce, pretty much the only protection that actually kept a few games uncracked(unless you physically detached your real cd-rom player), it also completely fucked up your pc, i will NEVER buy a starforce game, there even have been a few in which they REMOVED the protection with a patch(beyond divinity for example).

    [quote]“Some high-end software even had a hardware “dongle” you had to plug into the serial port before it would work properly. And where are they now….”

    Uh, there’re still out there. There’s an expensive app we use for work that costs about $10K per license that requires a dongle.[/quote]
    i take it you mean cubase? yeah, awesome program, and yet, even though there’s a dongle, it’s still cracked(ok ok, the previous version, but still).

    stranger, i believe stuff like that has been tried, IIRC, it’s PART of what starforce did(besides changing your dvd-player’s drivers and alot of other stuff)and it just won’t work, either it’s data, and you can pull it with ripping, sure, you might need to make a new ripping program, but it’s possible and viable, or you would put it on something else like a disc, an image or something, but then you could just hack the verification program to make it think it’s getting the right image(much like you would do when you would hack a fingerprint reader).

    im all for buying great games, but protection, it’s bad, just bad, until the companies get that as well, it will keep getting worse, and it will keep getting cracked, sometimes by something as basic as putting marker over part of the disc(hello there sony), sometimes through additional programs, keygens, cracks, whatever is made, it can be cracked.

    bimble,
    you know there’s stuff like emulators right, stuff like DOSBOX, or for consoles, i’d think there’s an emulator for whatever piece of hardware you’re looking for, just google.

  52. Michael says:

    http://forums.2kgames.com/forums/showpost.php?p=191631&postcount=2347

    Apparently 2k expects you to buy the game for every member of your household.

  53. Deoxy says:

    Last I checked, the game was cracked at 42 hours after release, not 11 days. Of course, the initial crack (42 hours) did have some requirements (such as the ones listed, deamon tools, etc), but that’s also been overcome, now (maybe THAT was the 11 days). It is now as Shamus said – “Search BitTorrent. Click download. Play game.”

    42 hours. All this crap for 42 hours. Actually, that in and of itself is pretty good: it wasn’t cracked BEFORE release! That’s how badly copy protection is beaten – lasting 42 hours is well above average.

    Among the myriad problems of SecuROM (and its ilk) is that you don’t know it’s there, and it isn’t uninstalled… and the next version or iteration of DRM software… and the next… etc. It’s sloppy and destructive to my PC, inherently. If it at least uninstalled with the game, it would suck less.

    But the principle is the same, either way. Let’s punish the people that give us money for the existence of people that don’t. Yeah, that helps SO much. :rolleyes:

  54. To those of you saying “Well, gosh, everyone’s computer is already hacked/trojaned/spywared six ways from Sunday so who cares about one more?”
    I have to say “Gosh, you Windows people put up with a lot.” I run Linux. Don’t have any of that stuff. Of course, running Windows games on Wine in Linux is iffy–sometimes they work, sometimes not so much.
    But one thing we Linuxers do demonstrate: The spyware and viri and trojans and whatnot that you people assume are just “part of the information age” aren’t. It doesn’t have to be that way if your operating system isn’t designed to allow it.

  55. Spiral says:

    I couldn’t find a proper “email tip” link, but here’s more Bioshock BS:
    http://kotaku.com/gaming/2k/2k-on-bioshock-why-should-your-brother-play-for-free-296622.php
    It seems 2k thinks that you shouldn’t be able to install the game under two different users ON THE SAME PC.

  56. Shamus wrote: “Full Disclosure: In the early Steam posts I do talk about buying HL2. Like you, I didn’t realize what I was getting into until it was too late.

    Sorry for misrepresenting you. Apparently old age is finally claiming my memory. ;)

    Lanthanide wrote: “To be honest, I think a lot of this is overblown. Has anyone actually shown that having SecuROM on your system does something bad to it?”

    It takes up disk space. It clogs the registry. It slows down start-up times. It accesses the internet without permission and attempts to bypass firewalls in order to do it.

    All of that is bad stuff. And even if you argue “well, it’s not taking up that MUCH memory” or “it’s not taking up that MUCH CPU time” or “it’s not slowing down your system that MUCH”… well, that may be true. It’s also irrelevant in principle. And it quickly becomes irrelevant in practicality if you’ve got multiple programs all running SecuROM-like programs. Small numbers add up.

    Plus, SecuROM — while annoying and unethical — is not the primary complaint. The primary complaint is the activation scheme.

    Lanthanide wrote: “So given that the publisher can never truly know how many people fit into all 4 categories, that the cost of developing DRM may be spread over multiple games…”

    While the basic development costs can be spread out, that just means the accounting is a little more complicated. But, ultimately, you still have to apply the DRM to the executables of the game in question. And that’s not a point-and-click process. You’re paying software engineers to incorporate the DRM code into the executable.

    And my suspicion is that the biggest cost of the operation is not developing the DRM software, it’s maintaining the activation servers. Indeed, it can be argued that the cost of maintaining those activation servers is effectively infinite (since the company is obligated to maintain them for all time). In practice, of course, the company will yank the plug on them within a decade and the game will become unplayable.

    Which is, of course, one of the reasons why the activation scheme is unethical.

    Lanthanide: So that means that you’re never going to get any roomates, for fear that they may own drooling, incontinent dogs that you don’t know about?

    That would be silly. But if I know that they’ve got the drooling, incontinent dog before they move in, I’m not so stupid as to invite them in any way.

    Lanthanide: I bet the majority of users simply click past them and don’t care, just like the majority of users wouldn’t care about SecuROM being on their machine as long as it doesn’t do any harm.

    Yes, many people are stupid. Why on earth do you think that means I should be stupid?

    Justin Alexander
    Dream Machine Productions
    http://www.thealexandrian.net

  57. Allan says:

    Purple Library Guy said;
    But one thing we Linuxers do demonstrate: The spyware and viri and trojans and whatnot that you people assume are just “part of the information age” aren’t. It doesn’t have to be that way if your operating system isn’t designed to allow it.

    Well if it was Linux running on more than 90% of computers, you’d probably be saying that of Windows.

  58. Dev Null says:

    Frankly, I’m sure SecuROM is the least of the average user’s worries – how many people have got spyware or trojans on their machines that they don’t know about?

    Just because you’re waist-deep it shit doesn’t mean you want someone crapping on your head.

  59. Goinalon says:

    Whoops. I guess that’s the last time _I_ toss off a one sentence piece of snark without really intending it to be a topic for discussion.

    Well, okay, the last time this week.

    EDIT: Bleagh, I just spent so much time on a serious response post that I really should just get a blog of my own if I want to discuss it. ANd I really don’t. So I’ll write this instead. Shamus, I recognize that the SecuROM measures of previous games and those of Bioshock differ in degree, that Bioshock’s DRM is more visible to the end user. None of the procedures mentioned seem too restrictive to me, but then, I’ve only got one machine capable of running Bioshock, it’s hooked up to the internet 24/7, and if I did play it on the PC, I’d pretty much play it sometime within the next year and never pick it up again once I finished it.

    Of course, I’m a middle-aged guy with a heart condition, and I chickened out on my XBox 360 rental halfway through the Welcome to Rapture level because the adrenaline surges were too much for me, so heck, it’s not like I’m even going to buy it for the PC myself.

    It is my fervent hope that your crusade to end intrusive DRM in games doesn’t cause you to miss out on too much gaming goodness because of what is essentially a political stance. Good Luck.

  60. Veylon says:

    I’d like to jump in here with what I think the basic motivation is. “companies have got to do something to at least attempt to deter pirates from hitting their software”

    It’s basically snapping fingers to keep the elephants away. The pointy-haired manager asks the development crew what they’re doing about pirates. They can either choose to say:

    A) “Nothing” and try to explain the costs and benefits to a guy who will then have to try to push it to his boss and so forth and so on in a game of telephone where each player is deafer than the one before.

    OR

    B) “SecuROM” or whatever. This covers everyone’s butts by laying the blame for failure at SecuROM’s door instead of within the company. Everyone wins. The development crew wins because SecuROM takes care of everything, the publishers don’t have to ask any hard questions, and SecuROM gets money for doing essentially nothing.

    Obviously, any compnay will easily choose B over A.

  61. randolph says:

    not sure where to post this so i’ll post it here.

    so… have you guys heard about the new mass effect securom drm scheme?

    i think EA is finally managing to trash the golden reputation that is bioware.

  62. Blizzardwolf: It hasn’t been “mass advertised” because the companies want the sheer audacity and illegality of their DRM schemes to disappear. (Here’s a hint: A) Nowhere in the EULA does it tell me that SecuROM might potentially make my computer unrunnable, or open it to security threats. The wide variety of things that these DRM do to harm your computer is staggering. They do have the right to protect their software. They don’t have the right to release malware. B) The EULA is unenforceable anyways. C) Even if it were, it’s still a dick move with a tiny sliver of benefit). The fact that these schemes are clearly a no-win for consumers is revealed by their sheer dishonesty and their attempts at coverups. They want you to move on and install their trojan, already. I never thought I’d see the day where game publishers were one of the premier distributors of malware…

    @ Stranger: The reason consoles can do that (ineffectually – it’s trivially easy on most to break such protections, or use flashable ROMs, or other workarounds) is because you don’t have unlimited hard drive space on it and because you don’t necessarily have admin access. Neither are true on the PC. If I have admin access, I can do whatever I want in the registry, I can run whatever crack I want. And since I can Daemon the CD, given that I have hard-drive space… At the least, SOME DRM schemes make it so I have to spend more hard drive space to crack it than not. (Others, however, actually make it take LESS space…)

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