Bioshock: Six Months Later

 By Shamus Mar 3, 2008 47 comments

Back in August 2007, 2kGames promised that they would offer a patch to remove the need for online activation from BioShock at some point in the future. It’s been six months. A patch came out in December, which fixed a lot of fiddly little issues but ignored the miles of rage-inducing complaints regarding SecuROM and online activation. The epic forum thread – which was the only place where users where allowed to gripe about the DRM of the game – is now gone. (The link to it says it’s an invalid thread.) That thread contained thousands and thousands of gripes, pleas for help, and reasonable objections, which were all ignored, neglected, and eventually deleted. Six months later the game is just as onerous as it ever was, although this is only true if you approach 2kGames as an honest customer.

I can’t help but wonder how is that anti-piracy stuff working out, anyway?

I realize this is old news for most people. You’ve either beaten the game and forgotten all about it, or you have no intention of playing it. I just wanted to point out that I still remember the promise they made.


20207Feeling chatty? There are 47 comments.


  1. Snook says:

    From what I’ve seen people play (my roommate, friends, etc) it doesn’t even look that that exciting of a game. It’s got some neat ideas, but I’d rather play Rock Band or something. I do have to thank you, Shamus, for bringing DRM foolery to my attention; before, I simply never knew how bad it had gotten (because I don’t have a supercomputer).

    Do companies send out replacement serial keys, in case you lose the case, I wonder? I’m forced to “pirate” my copy of Homeworld 2 thanks to this issue, even though I bought it (hell I can take a photo of the CD with proof it’s me).

  2. Doug says:

    Since I’d have to upgrade my PC to play it, I’m waiting for it to come out for the Wii. I doubt the issues you addressed will apply to it in that form. I hope.

  3. Scotticus says:

    Actually, I would love to play this game. I had been looking forward to it for a very long time. But when it came out and I heard about the nasty DRM, both from here and many other sites, I opted to NOT support the game/publisher and not get the game. If they removed the DRM tomorrow, I would order the game tomorrow. Until then….

  4. Mark says:

    I just don’t understand why they thought it’d be necessary to have two forms of DRM. Especially when one of them was more effective, less intrusive, and built into their distribution platform. I mean, they didn’t feel the need to protect the console version (something for which I am quite appreciative).

    I don’t think it’s necessary to boycott the entire company. Some numbers speak louder than others, and high console (as DRM-free as possible) sales versus low PC (locked down with two forms of DRM) sales might be louder than low sales across the board. Plus, that way you still get to play the game, and the brilliant people who didn’t have anything to do with the DRM still get paid. I mean, obviously if you don’t have the console this isn’t an option.

  5. OMG-Shams! Shamus linking to a warez search? Is this a sign of the end of times?

    Bioshock was fun – and the halfway point was great – but buying it would have been a pain in the arse. Good thing I have friends who had purchased it.

    The DRM definitely had me against buying the game. Compare to Sins, which I preordered as soon as I realized it was around. Sins also remains a favorite game of mine, even after a bunch of playthroughs against some fairly difficult AI, whereas Bioshock didn’t warrant a second play at all.

    Grah, I need to go eat lunch. Thanks for the update on the State of DRM, Shams!!!1!

    Ben

  6. I thought about buying the 360 version and then sending them a note telling them what I did and why I did it. But this would probably just encourage them to abandon the PC market.

    So screw ‘em. Their software behaves like a virus and is clearly unethical. Until they stop their unethical practices, I see no reason to support them.

  7. Snook says:

    Well said, Mark. In most places I look, people tend to blame things like “lack of innovation” and other such intangible things for the decline of PC gaming. What people don’t consider is playability (over restrictive DRM measures inhibit this) and graphics (yes, you’re game looks great and all, but unfortunately I won’t buy it because I can’t run it!) I love the PC as a platform, it allows for so many possibilities, but when I could shell out $400 for a console and some games, or $1500 for a decent mid-range computer that might play the games I want, I think I’ll go for the console. And as Mark points out, DRM on consoles is non-existent, which helps out hugely in playability.

  8. THOR says:

    I love BioShock, but haven’t played it recently because it taxes my system too much to thoroughly enjoy playing it just now. I guess I’m a lemming though, I don’t even remember activating it, just playing.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t play any console games. We have a PlayStation 2 that my wife plays Final Fantasy on, and I bought a used original X-Box on the cheap and softmodded as a media center (I don’t even know if it’ll play games).

  9. Jadawin says:

    Thanks, Shamus- I was tempted to break down and get this for the PC, but seeing their shady practices restrengthens my resolve.

  10. mark says:

    its fun, but not that long. beat it in a couple of days.

  11. Taffer says:

    BioShock killed PC gaming for me. Well, that’s not entirely fair, it was just the last straw. I’ve had it with driver updates that break other games, games being released that need to be patched (sometimes more than once) before I can play them, and obnoxious copy protection.

    Ok, I’m still playing City of Heroes/City of Villains, but that’s it. I actually uninstalled all of the other games I had on my PC. My DS, Wii and PS2 are filling the void, with a lot less hassle.

    - Taffer

  12. Phlux says:

    I kind of doubt 2K will ever release a patch to remove the DRM. Nothing will break these companies of the belief that DRM is good for business. They are all suffering from various types of selection and confirmation bias.

    It’s scary how much businesses are built on gut feelings and “what makes sense”. Things that are true do not always make sense, and many things which are false seem perfectly logical.

    I hope that the big names in the gaming industry are actually investing in some hard science to determine the validity of DRM and its true economic impact.

  13. Thanks for the reminder, Shamus. I’ve got a new gaming rig, and I really want to play Bioshock on it, but I’m holding out for them to come through on their promise. Naturally I never expect them to.

  14. eloj says:

    Snook, you’re off by ~$500 and you’re definitely going to play the latest games on an (upgradable) ~$1000 machine.

    http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/14225/4

  15. Zerotime says:

    I’ve still got Bioshock installed on my PC, six months after I installed it – not because I still play it, because I don’t (3/4 of the way through my second playthrough I gave up), but because I’m terrified the uninstall won’t work and I’ll lose one of those stupid install credits.

  16. Rawling says:

    “BioShock killed PC gaming for me.”

    Possibly a coincidence, but since I got Bioshock for my 360 I’ve stopped playing Guild Wars, not touched the Orange Box on PC(although I did beat all of it)… Console’s just easier since my box isn’t too reliable. And because it’s new to me, I’ve got a huge library of sub-£10 preowned games :D

  17. Snook says:

    Snook, you’re off by ~$500 and you’re definitely going to play the latest games on an (upgradable) ~$1000 machine.

    http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/14225/4

    Point is, it’s still more expensive in the long run than a console.

  18. RPharazon says:

    I bought the console version. No gripes with it, and it looks about a thousand million times better than my old 2003 business laptop could ever do. I have no interest in PC gaming anymore. I am not spending $1000+ on a decent gaming computer just so I can upgrade it every few months.

    I have my $400 Xbox, and my $600 HDTV. The Xbox will last me 6 years without needing upgrades, and the HDTV probably 10-20 years since it’s of good quality. That’s a $1000 investment that will carry me through for 6-20 years. Compare that to the PC gaming treadmill of buying a new computer every 4 years and upgrading it every now and then…

    Yeah. I have the Orange Box for the 360. I can run it on the PC, but I don’t want the hassle of Steam. I have Oblivion (hate me all you want, Shamus.) on the 360. No problems there graphics-wise, and it looks great on the HDTV. Bioshock also looks fantastic, and I still need to get all the audio diaries and the achievements and whatnot.

    Basically, my computer is for internet and work, sometimes with a few indie/casual games, or old games (Audiosurf, Command and Conquer, Flight Sim 2004) and that’s it. The Xbox is for gaming, the PC is for the rest of the stuff. I’m happy with that.

  19. Miral says:

    I was holding out on it for a while, but I did eventually cave in and buy it (there was a large discount sale involved). But I did immediately install a crack for it though to avoid the whole activation thing.

    I actually only just finished it this weekend — I lost interest for a couple of months about two levels away from the ending. But it was an enjoyable game overall, despite that.

  20. ArchU says:

    Still have no desire to play the game as I don’t need further sources of frustration. Only 420,000 hits on Google? I think piracy must be in a slump…

    Still, it stands to reason to avoid any future 2kgames releases.

    I wonder if registering games assists with recovering licence keys, etc. It must make some difference as proof of purchase. *shrug*

  21. Mark says:

    It’s not so much that consoles have no DRM as it is that the console is DRM, so you don’t need any software DRM to enforce copy protection. That’s a terrible system for a general-purpose computing device, but for an appliance like a console it’s more-or-less the ideal model.

  22. Jadawin says:

    Just to be contrarian- I bought a 360 last July when I quit WoW and played pretty much exclusively 360 games for about 4 months. In late October I managed to swing an upgrade to my 4 year old rig for $600 that rendered it capable of running pretty much anything out. Since then, my 360 has largely collected dust- almost everything that is out for the 360 that I am interested in is also out for the PC and is cheaper, runs better, and has a better control scheme.

  23. Shamus: I wonder, is it the DRM you care about, or is it just the empty promise? The promise was forced out of them because the Internet exploded with rage (from people like you) about the DRM in the first place. Why, then, have you been so supportive of Valve, which uses an equally oppressive, if not worse, online activation system? Steam not only forces you to activate your product on-line, but forces you to occasionally check-in your product on-line to keep using it.

    About consoles: Maybe the console being the DRM is an ideal model for the supplier, but certainly not for the customer. The reason a console can cost a bit less than PCs with the same gaming power is that you are purchasing physical possession of the hardware but not actually the hardware. When you buy a locked-down console like the Xbox 360, you are buying the right to use Microsoft’s computer, because you will not (without some serious cracking) be able to run anything on it that Microsoft didn’t approve. Furthermore, when people buy console games, it teaches developers that they can develop only for consoles and still sell copies, and what company wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to have their product own their users (as opposed to the other way around)?

  24. J says:

    Alex:
    Shamus is no fan of Steam. He’s made numerous posts to this effect in the past.

    And personally, I find consoles to be… limited. They are definitely much easier to own. But currently there is no indie scene. In the current gen, backward compatibility with previous console games are iffy or nonexistent–except for Wii/Gamecube, bless Nintendo. The games themselves (also except Nintendo, bless them) cost $10 more in general–that adds up over a library’s lifetime.

    Upgrading your PC may be required more often than consoles get replaced, but it’s nowhere near “every few months”. And at least post-upgrade, my entire library remains intact, Vista nonwithstanding.

  25. Shamus says:

    Alex: Like J said, I’ve been very hard on Steam. I think my very first videogame post on this site was a rant against Steam.

    I hated Steam. It’s a little better now than it was at launch. It’s arguable, but I think Steam is better thn the on-line activation used in BioShock, which limits the number of installs you’re allowed to have. (Steam lets you have as many as you like, but you can only play on one at a time.) BioShock heaped an awful SecuROM system on top of this, and then was rude, abusive, and dishonest during the backlash.

  26. Zym says:

    Re: DRM
    It’s not just the companies making the games that are causing problems, it the retail outlets as well. They refuse to give a refund for any open software for any reason other than a defective disc. Several times I have attempted to return defective games (the program itself didn’t run, and the company had no interest in patching it) and have been told that I could not exchange the game due to “piracy laws”. I have read up on the piracy laws for my country, and this is a blatant lie.

    As well, is there any less efficient way to pirate games? If one had the inclination to pirate a game, why would they go to a store, buy it, copy it, then attempt to return it? As Shamus’ link shows, it is far easier to download a game if one wants to get it for free. This argument might make sense for music CDs, as those are much easier to copy, but many music stores have much more reasonable return policies despite being more at risk.

    (The stores even do this for console games, which makes even less sense as those games can be rented if one only needs the disc temporarily)

  27. chiefnewo says:

    Here’s a developer rant (from the guys that made Titan Quest, a Diablo 2 clone) about how piracy killed their game. Before you say it isn’t related, he talks about extra layers of security checks (DRM in other words) that were in the game. Basically at the end of some quests and areas the game would check if it was legit and bomb to the desktop if it wasn’t. However it didn’t say why it was crashing out, so the game got a reputation for being buggy even before it was released. That’s *really* how to shoot yourself in the foot.
    Full text here, I don’t have the original link:
    http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=23101

  28. quadir says:

    I also wish I could play Bioshock, but held out because of DRM. I also remember their promise, just having looked at bioshock in the steam store a few days ago. I bought audisurf instead.

    To those that say consoles don’t have DRM… consoles ARE DRM. Games that only play in one system, region coding so you can’t play games from other regions, locking out indie content, this is what mod chips are for… but at least the game still works 10 years later.. if it’s not a Live title. and if you blow on the cartridge enough.

  29. Shamus says:

    chiefnewo: You’re way ahead of me. I actually mention that story in the post set to go live at noon today.

  30. Deoxy says:

    piracy killed their game.

    he game would check if it was legit and bomb to the desktop if it wasn’t. However it didn’t say why it was crashing out, so the game got a reputation for being buggy even before it was released.

    More than just piracy, there – all crashes should involve an error message, or the code is bad. Calling that “buggy” is a reasonably accurate, non-jargon* term.

    *It’s not a bug to a programmer, but even if you explained it to a non-programmer, they would likely still refer to it as “buggy”, as it does not work as it should, even if it works as intended.

    Oh, and is anyone surprised that they haven’t followed through?

  31. Jeff says:

    You can’t play Sins of the Solar Empire on a console, nor Hellgate.

    Console being better than PC for gaming is an opinion that relies entirely on a lack of interest for entire genres and types of games. In fact, it depends on an exclusive gaming library filled with only the latest ‘blockbuster’ games.

  32. It’s a fantastic game. I fell in love with the theme the moment I saw previews of the game, as I’ve always been a fan of 1940s retro/art deco and anachronistic technology. I’m not even much of an FPS fan, but the game itself avoids being a mindless kill-fest with the wide variety of scenarios where you can employ the plasmids (“magic”) you find and purchase.

    Of course, I bought the 360 version. Quite honestly, I don’t know why anyone continues to hit their head against the increasingly dense wall that is PC gaming.

  33. Viktor says:

    I know you view pirating as dishonest, have you considered purchasing the game and the never installing it? Using a cracked copy to beat DRM? You still have paid for it so it’s not even illegal, (I may be wrong, but I think it counts as a backup copy), and you still have the moral high ground, but you don’t have to deal with the companies idiocy.

  34. Roy says:

    The promise was forced out of them because the Internet exploded with rage (from people like you) about the DRM in the first place.

    Uh, no. Nobody forced them to make empty promises. That makes it sound like they didn’t have a choice. They’ve had choices from the begining. They made the choice to include a ridiculous DRM scheme. They then made a choice about how to react to the angry user-base. They weren’t forced to make empty promises- they could have ignored the anger. They could have told people “Hey, this is the system we went with, and we’re sorry you don’t like it, but we’re sticking with it.” They made a choice to make certain promises. They then had a choice about whether to fulfill or ignore those promises. They’ve chosen to ignore them.

    Valve, which uses an equally oppressive, if not worse, online activation system? Steam not only forces you to activate your product on-line, but forces you to occasionally check-in your product on-line to keep using it.

    I haven’t logged into Steam in… jeez… it’s probably been a year and a half? Something like that. My copy of HL2 and Counterstrike Source are both working just fine, despite my refusal to log back into Steam.

    The reason a console can cost a bit less than PCs with the same gaming power is that you are purchasing physical possession of the hardware but not actually the hardware.

    Bzzzz. Wrong. One of the main reasons that consoles cost less than PCs is because of the rather significant manufacturing differences between computers and consoles. Every Wii produced is pretty much the same as every other Wii in production. Being able to manfacture units in volume means that that the production costs per unit are going to be lower than a comparable computer that is built to order. Consoles can also expect greater sales than a particular model of computer, in no small part because of the lack of variation. If you’re looking to buy a PS3, you don’t have a ton of options. If you’re looking to buy a comparable laptop, you’ve got nothing *but* options. It has very little to do with whether or not you’re purchasing the hardware or just the rights to the hardware.

    Furthermore, when people buy console games, it teaches developers that they can develop only for consoles and still sell copies, and what company wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to have their product own their users (as opposed to the other way around)?

    You’re ignoring the benefit to consumers- The reason I purchase console games is because *I know they’re going to work*. Oh, they may still suck, but, for the most part, they’re going to be released in a playable format. They’re going to work the way they’re advertised, and they’re going to look good. I don’t have to worry that my console’s video card won’t be supported, or that the sound is going to cut out, or that I’m going to need to download three patches to make the damn thing work the way it’s supposed to. I don’t have to worry that it’s going to crash unexpectedly for no reason and compromise system stability.

    Console being better than PC for gaming is an opinion that relies entirely on a lack of interest for entire genres and types of games. In fact, it depends on an exclusive gaming library filled with only the latest ‘blockbuster’ games.

    I don’t know that I think that console gaming is “better” than PC gaming- they’re different beasts with different advantages and disadvantages. And I don’t think that prefering console gaming requires or even depends on exclusive gaming libraries full of only the latest blockbuster games.

  35. Mark says:

    It takes a pretty odd definition of “blockbuster” to suggest that console gaming consists solely of blockbuster titles and crap.

    It comes down to games. Not technologies, not genres, but games. I’m prepared to seek good gaming experiences regardless of the medium of conveyance. Sometimes a bad decision like zealous DRM makes me decide it’s not worth the trouble.

    I can understand people not seeing anything on a given platform that’s worth the money or hassle, but most of the mud that’s slung in the PC-versus-console “debate” is just idiotic.

  36. ArchU says:

    I wonder if 2kgames (Valve, too?) use their software development team to do their customer service, and marketing team to do their after-market tech support… =p

  37. guy says:

    frankly, any evaluation of consoles as “better” COMPLETELY IGNORES RTSs and turn-based stratagy games. the RTSs that get ported to consoles suck even if they are the top sellers in the PC market, and the release of UAW on the Xbox is why it’s interface is the worst i’ve met, and i’ve played the second and third RTSs in existance, before they invented bandboxing, much less shift-bandboxing. C&C3 is not doing too hot on consoles either, i believe, and the expansion is making a new interface just for the x-box. and it still looks cumbersome to use.

  38. Viktor says:

    Then attach a mouse and keyboard to your console and call it a day. Consoles have a major advantage in the fact that they all have the same hardware so they can be mass-produced cheaper, all games developed are guaranteed to work with your graphics card, and you aren’t expected to upgrade every 6 months. Not to mention it’s cheaper. I really wonder why anyone prefers the hassles that come standard with computers solely because of the interface.

  39. Shamus says:

    Viktor: We stick to the PC platform because we ALREADY own a PC. Getting a console means buying another expensive piece of hardware.

    That’s why people use a PC.

  40. Dihydrogen says:

    That one ~1000$ PC that eloj was pointing to was quite a bit more than a budget PC. While the RAM they listed was not very good for its price, overall that is actually quite a good machine. It ought to be able to handle Crysis on high no issue, or any other new game you throw at it.

    What always drives me crazy are people that say that their $400 dollar console will be able to run games for the next six years and my computer will need to be upgraded every couple months. I got my computer last year for around $900 and it is a bit faster than the latest generation consoles. I will be able to keep my computer for probably the next 6 years and be able to run most games that come out over that timeframe (with the exception of course of PC exclusive titles that are intended to run on computers bought in the last 2 years such as Crysis was). Just because someone owns a PC does not mean they must run games at ultra-high. Not to mention, with graphics at the stage they are in within a couple of years low settings will look great, and with any luck game developers will see the Wii and will focus more on game play (probably not, but one can dream).

  41. I’m glad you said it, Dihydrogen, because it saves me the trouble.

    If you bought a computer with the same features as a PS3 you would:

    (1) Pay about the same price. (And what little difference there is in price is because Sony is still eating a loss on every console they sell.)

    (2) Be able to do many more things with the computer than you can do with a PS3.

    It’s also true that you can spend a lot more on a high-end PC that will be superior to the PS3 in every single way. I fail to see what the problem is with that.

  42. Grue says:

    I bought and played BioShock on the PC. I thought it was pretty good but overrated.

    At first I was with the anti-DRM people, but now I think almost all the furor is motivated by emotion. What is the practical issue with BioShock exactly? Sure you may not be able to play it a few years from now, but IMHO it’s not good enough to want to do that anyway. I’m done with it now and never noticed whether it had DRM or not. I suspect that’s true of 99% of the people that bought the game.

  43. [...] the other hand, when I read a comment over at Shamus’ blog the other day, I got rather irritated to the point that I had to vent. [...]

  44. guy says:

    Viktor, i see you missed my point. my point was that the interface made a good number of games possible, including the best-selling games of all. star craft has sold more copies than several consoles have all by itself. at least on the computer. on the N64 it is a miserible peice of junk. of course, the genres i mentioned are also less demanding of visual quality, and i would think that they might be hard to play if i used a plasma TV instead of a moniter. not all of us care for the genres that are possible on a console. also, good luck getting metriod 1 to work on your Wii, while my supposedly not-backwards compatible PC is actually suffuring from some form of malfuction when it refuses to play Birthright: the Gorgon’s Alliance, a game so old it has a win95 and a DOS mode. i say this because it works just fine on a diffrent system running XP just fine. heck, Xcom CE works perfectly, despite being at least as old as starcraft, which is also working perfectly.

  45. RudeMorgue says:

    I got it as a gift.

    Installed it, played it through in like four days (and I’m not one of those “Half-Life 2: Ep. 1 was only four hours of gameplay!” hardcore players or anything).

    It was neat and fairly entertaining, but in the end the story was predictable, totally on rails, and had no friendly characters to feel any empathy for.

    Half-Life 2 and its follow-ups have been vastly, vastly more engaging, thought-provoking, and interesting. Ditto Portal.

    They also look better.

  46. Grue wrote: “At first I was with the anti-DRM people, but now I think almost all the furor is motivated by emotion. What is the practical issue with BioShock exactly? Sure you may not be able to play it a few years from now, but IMHO it’s not good enough to want to do that anyway. I’m done with it now and never noticed whether it had DRM or not. I suspect that’s true of 99% of the people that bought the game.”

    If 99% of the people who are infected by a virus are too ignorant to notice what the virus is doing, does that mean the virus is OK?

    Because one of the biggest complaints about the Bioshock DRM is that it acts like a virus.

    And more generally, arguing that “DRM is okay as long as the game sucks” doesn’t really make for much of an argument, does it?

  47. GamerCow says:

    This bugs me.

    (Steam lets you have as many as you like, but you can only play on one at a time.)

    Why would you need to play more than one at a time? You only bought one game, what entitles you to play more than one game at a time? “Hey, I bought this Big Mac, why can’t I have 2 Big Macs? Or 3? What a rip off!”. See how ridiculous that sounds? “Ah, but Gamercow,” you say, “I want to share my Big Mac with my friends.” Okay, give them the Big Mac, let them take a bite, and give it back. Its a magic Big Mac that never gets fully eaten. You still don’t need or deserve two Big Macs for the price of one. PC gamers have been getting away with piracy of sorts for 25 years now, and until gaming manufacturers figure out a way to block privateers successfully, a system like Steam will be the way to go. As far as Bioshock goes, its an outstanding story, with wonderful gameplay and ambiance.

One Trackback

  1. By Gaming Costs at Augury on March 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    [...] the other hand, when I read a comment over at Shamus’ blog the other day, I got rather irritated to the point that I had to vent. [...]

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