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BioWare and EA: Dumbass Effect

By Shamus
on Wednesday May 7, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games

 
 

Oh boy! Mass Effect is coming to the PC. I’ve been looking forward to this since February of 2007. And I just upgraded so my machine should be more than up for it.

Mass Effect, Electronic Arts, EA, Contact Poison, SecuROM
Oh, wait. Wasn’t Bioware bought by EA? Does that mean they’re going to tie SecuROM / online activation around the neck of Mass Effect?

Yes.

SecuROM has been a part of every BioWare release since Neverwinter Nights, but the product activation is something new for them. Worse, this “product activation” isn’t a one-time event, but an ongoing process. I’ve been willing to tolerate SecuROM, DVD checks, and lengthy product keys, (not without complaining, though) but as with BioShock, asking for permission to use a product I allegedly own is where I draw the line.

This is the work of reprehensible vermin. My purchase was certain. I have loved everything Bioware ever made. I would have bought the special edition and filled this blog with articles discussing it until people begged me to stop, just like I did for Jade Empire. As I’m finding out, this is a process which sells games. Conversely, I saw many people avoid BioShock after my writing about the arduous, abusive, and subversive DRM system it contained. My point is not about this particular blog or whatever trivial effect it may have in the PC Gaming world, my point is that real people with real, actual money are walking away from the deal over this futile attempt to get the pirates to pony up.

This game will hit the torrents like all of the games before it. It’s part of the natural order, and there are no exceptions. This new scheme doesn’t even warrant a mention among the great, defeated schemes of the past. SecuROM has been savagely and repeatedly beaten already. This scheme is nothing more than reheated SecuROM with added hassles for (legit) users to endure.

The system as described in Mass Effect is actually substantially worse than the system I lambasted in BioShock last year. The details:

  1. As with BioShock, you only get to activate the game three times. If you reinstall, change some hardware on your PC, upgrade your OS, or move to another computer, you will “consume” one of these installations.
  2. Mass Effect puts every user on a system of permanent probation, where the program needs to “phone home” every ten days or it will refuse to run. That is, not only is there online activation when you install it, but it also requires a silent reauthorization every five to ten days, forever and ever. Just in case, you know, your legit copy ever… what? Becomes pirated?
  3. There is concern over what happens if you run out of activations, or your copy is flagged as a false-positive “pirate” copy. The BioWare guys say you can just “call EA” and they will be happy to resolve your issue. Here is the EA support site. I do not see a phone number. Testimonials in the BioWare forums suggest that EA email support has a turnaround time measured in days. I do not think they would behave that way if anyone could just pick up a phone and demand help, right now.
  4. They have not been forthcoming about what is sent to the mothership during the re-authentication.
  5. Nobody – BioWare guys included – seems to have any idea what sorts of hardware changes will trigger the need for a new registration. (Remember you only get three.) A new disk drive? A windows service pack? New graphics card? Plugging in a USB device? Cleaning the glass on your monitor?

Derek French is manning the forums over at Bioware’s site. He’s certainly nicer and better informed than 2kElizabeth was, but that does not change the fact that the man is a harbinger of the coming idiocy and outrage. The forums look identical to the ones I read during the BioShock debacle: Page after page of fans forswearing the game, cancelling preorders, and asking difficult questions about how this system is supposed to not screw them. Once in a while there is a post from some well-meaning but clueless fanboy suggesting that the publisher has “no choice” but to do this to fight piracy. (Actually, their other choice is this.)

When asked about how long this “phone home” process takes, Derek responded:

[…]when you go to run the game, the re-auth takes mere moments during the game startup. There are no dialogs, no progress bars, nothing for you to enter or confirm. It just goes.

I’ve hammered away at this so often in the past that it now causes physical pain to reiterate – people playing on pirated copies won’t have to endure this check, because the hacker will have removed or disabled it. Every “moment” spent waiting for the game to re-authenticate is a moment senselessly squandered. It is something which will be endured by every single honest paying customer and not one pirate, anywhere, ever. How can anyone attain a place at the helm of EA – where this decision was certainly made – and still wield such septic stupidity? To repeatedly attempt that which is manifestly impotent, and to do so at the expense of one’s own customers, requires a very optimistic yet callous brand of madness.

The game, and your supposed ownership of it, is now a thing which must be maintained. If you find yourself without connectivity when you choose to play your game, your only hope is that you’ve played the game in the last ten days, or you will find out the hard way who really owns the thing.

In any case, the idea that it will take “moments” to re-authenticate ignores the fact that everything on the internet is subject to the pitfalls of latency, routing problems, and downtime. (Derek is all happy at how quick it is, right now, when the only people using the system are the developers and beta testers. This is undoubtedly going to change when the doors open on launch day. This is to say nothing of the classic “everyone tries to register at once and kills the server” problem that BioShock and Half-Life 2 had during launch, a problem that will likely be exacerbated or prolonged by the auto re-authentication every five days.) Despite what Derek says, the fact that there is no dialog or progress bar during the process isn’t a plus, it’s insidious. It means that when it takes the game forever to start you won’t know why. It means if your ‘net connection is down you’ll have to wait until the attempt times out before it will give up and run the game… assuming you’re in the five-to-ten day window. Naturally after day ten you can’t play at all. You thief.

I also read that this new DRM system being rolled out is planned for use in later games as well. Like (wait for it) Spore. A chorus of lamentations. I loved these games, or at least the idea of these games, but I still have too much dignity to pay to be treated like a criminal. I’m determined to abstain from both Mass Effect and Spore. EA and 2kGames can pollute PC gaming with their corrosive nonsense, but I am in no way obliged to fund it. This isn’t a “boycott” or a “protest” or a “message”. This is simply the direct application of principles and reason to my purchasing decisions.

To the senseless captains of Electronic Arts: Fall under a bus and die, you rotten offspring of ignorance and folly. You’ll never get my money. Good luck trying to get some out of the pirates.



 
 
Comments (187)

  1. Strangeite says:

    No. No. No. No. No. Noooooooooooooo.

    DO. NOT. TELL. ME. THAT. THIS. WILL. BE. ON. SPORE.

    There has never been a game that I have more looked forward to. I was planning on being one of the silly fan boys that were going to pony up $10 just for the creature creator. Even though I would get it when the game actually comes out.

    Please Shamus, please let their be a God in Heaven and tell me that you are just assuming that this will be included in Spore. Oh please.

    I think I am going to be sick.

  2. MRL says:

    You…
    You have to be joking. Please. That can’t be true.
    Spore will have that stupid piece-of-crud junk on it? SPORE?

    THE Spore? The game umpteen years in the making? The one Robin Williams personally crashed?

    …this is all a dream. It’s all a dream, all a dream…

  3. qrter says:

    I was waiting to see what your reaction would be, Shamus. You haven’t disappointed!

    And you’re right, ofcourse. It is beyond ridiculous.

  4. Daktylo says:

    Righteous indignation is great!

    Hopefully after losing money they will begin to learn the lesson. However, the sad thing is that you know the programmers will suffer from the lack of funding, usually in the form of layoffs. Then quality suffers, and the stakeholders are provided with substandard product.

    The ones in charge always screw over the worker bees under the guise of best intentions.

    Hard times for programmers indeed.

  5. They had my money, then they lost it. I think I’ll take that US$120 I was planning on giving them and hand it over to the EFF instead.

  6. Changling bob says:

    If SecuROM or whatever else end up on Spore, I’ll buy a disc, then download a cracked copy. Or just get the cracked copy. Probably the latter actually, it’s a lot like effort to buy it and never use the actual disc.

    So yeah, SecuROM is really good at preventing piracy.

  7. Craig says:

    Why spore? Why? Why taint the beautiful golden ideal that is spore?

  8. sandwiches says:

    Well said. It’s not a question of “if you’re not a pirate, you have nothing to fear.” It’s a simple matter of principle.

  9. Doug Brown says:

    I am so worried that the nice young tech support lady ended the sequence with a bukkake scene. Please asssure me she did not.

  10. Shamus says:

    Yes, it was announced that it is indeed planned for Spore. That wasn’t conjecture on my part. In the announcement thread I linked Derek said as much.

    I mourn with you.

  11. Shamus says:

    The young lady is from here:

    http://www.morguefile.com/archive/?display=56240&

    Not to worry, nothing untoward befell her in the pictures.

  12. Primogenitor says:

    As much as I hate to say it, it’s not too crippling to spore. After all, the game is designed to be single-massively-multi-player by uploading/downloading content anyway, so a fractional extra traffic isn’t really significant.
    On the plus side, since spore is so anticipated, there will probably be dozens of not only cracked copies, but cracked content exchange thingies too.

    Oh, and put me in the “will get a cracked version to avoid DRM, and probably then wont buy a real one because its too much effort” category.

  13. MRL says:

    I just called up EA (they make the number pretty damn hard to find – I eventually had to call up their corporate office, and get redirected to customer service from there), and the guy on the phone claimed to be surprised to hear that about Spore, as well.

    If he sends me an email later as he said he would, that’ll be another independent confirmation of the dire news…

    Seriously. Spore. Why? Why taint that, of all that is good? Only a few months to go, and this bombshell drops.

  14. Stark says:

    Ahhh. So, I’m reduced to actually engaging in piracy due to the stupidity of EA.

    I could choose not to play the game… but I won’t. I see no reason to punish myself for EA’s stupidity. I also refuse to support EA fiancially due to this choice – I don’t reward bad behaviour. I lament the passing of BioWare. This move will kill whatever is left of them since sales will be very poor…. and EA will be too dense to see that it was their decision to include completely useless DRM that killed the sales.

    So, in a nutshell… EA is their own worst enemy. They are creating far more pirates by doing these kinds of things. Idiots.

  15. Galenor says:

    Well, looks like to me that Spore: Wii Edition just bagged itself a new customer!
    Again, Shamus, very nice post. Love your arguments, love your stances, and adore your minicomics!

  16. JFargo says:

    I was actually going to buy a new system so that I’d be updated enough to play this game. Forget that now.

  17. pdwalker says:

    Well, that’s another game I wont be buying. I cannot support companies that put that insidious crap into their programs, regardless of how easily it will be cracked afterwards.

    Bastards.

  18. Ysabel says:

    I’m starting to wonder if the folks putting out PC games have significant money invested in console gaming, and are actively trying to kill PC gaming.

  19. Kyle says:

    Wow. This technology on the PC is definitely one of the advantages to owning a console.

  20. Rason says:

    Department Manager of electronics at my local wal-mart, After talking about poor customer care with my boss for about a month, this actually managed to convince him that way EA does falls under the clause of ours about not selling electronic products that do not have working customer service, and my district’s stores will not be selling Mass Effect.

  21. Phlux says:

    Nice outrage Shamus. Glad I’m not the only one. I probably popped a few blood vessels when I started reading this, and it doesn’t even really affect me. I already played Mass Effect on my 360. It was amazing, and I’m truly sorry that those of you waiting for PC who now won’t buy it are going to miss out.

    As for Spore…I’m interested in it…but honestly the gameplay looks really boring. There’s a fair chance I would have bought it anyway because I’m impressed/curious about the technology, but it’s no big loss.

    I’m still outraged though because I know this will apply to future EA titles from other developers, and EA owns pretty much all of them now.

    The best thing we all can do is make as much noise as possible to as many media outlets as possible. 99% of EA’s customers don’t know or don’t care about DRM, so the rest of us have to make noise and hurt their bottom line or it will never ever change.

  22. Vextra says:

    EA just lost itself a customer. I think that this move, especially with such beloved and anticipated titles as Spore and Mass Effect, will increase Piracy and Torrenting by a significant degree. It pains me to see de hard-working, creative games-teams deprived of the fruits of their labour, but i don’t see how anything short of casting EA into the Pits of Hell will reverse this inevitable trend.

  23. Zukhramm says:

    Only problem is, it probably won’t kill the sales. The masses will accept the propaganda, they will accept that it’s only to fight the horrible pirates.

  24. bargamer says:

    Spore doesn’t require an internet connection to play, but SecuRom does. Where’s the logic there?

  25. Serdic says:

    I don’t expect it will kill sales. In fact, I don’t expect they’ll notice/care. But, I do. As a result, they’re not going to get my money now or ever again.

  26. Bowmore says:

    I’m with JFargo here — I’ve been planning to build a gaming PC from scratch for a while. I’ve been gathering resources and information and keeping an eye on prices for various parts, specifically so I could play some of the more recent PC games that I’ve been missing out on.

    The combination of friends with nice computers, the Let’s Play forums on Something Awful, and all this SecuROM nonsense, my motivation to continue with this project has been steadily dwindling.

    Now Spore and Mass Effect would be held hostage even after I would have purchased them with my hard-earned cash-moneys? Sorry, EA. I think I’d rather spend my money on console games that I can put into my Wii, or X-Box 360, or PS3, and play instantly and without hassle.

  27. Hanov3r says:

    The BioWare guys say you can just “call EA” and they will be happy to resolve your issue. Here is the EA support site. I do not see a phone number.

    EA’s support site says “If you would like to contact Technical Support over the phone, the correct phone number and hours of availability for your game are listed in your game manual.”

    That said, this sucks. I’ve been looking forward to Spore, well, as long as everyone else has. *sigh*

  28. Phlux says:

    Serdic: You and I are on the same page. Those of us on this thread feeling outrage are in about the .01 percentile of EA customers. This thing will get no major media coverage and zero attention from consumers. Both games will sell very well and the cycle will continue.

    Anyone know any high profile reporters who want to stir up controversy? Primary coverage on the news will start dwindling now that the media is saying there’s a presumptive democractic nominee…something has to fill that airtime.

  29. SiliconScout says:

    too funny.

    I really wanna play mass effect, I only own a wii for a console and AM NOT interested in buying anything else.

    Looks like bittorrent will be my friend and my $$ stays in my pocket.

    Idiots, I actually enjoy paying for good games to support their development but I will not allow myself to be treated like a criminal when I am 100% above board, PLUS right now I am on a farm with dial up… and worse yet it’s limited to 26kbps …. that moment will seem like about 10 minutes to me….

    No thanks, I will DL it at a friends and play it at home happily. BioWare ….. why, I bought jade empire, NWN and all it’s expansions TWICE (so I could play with my wife) I would have happily done the same here.

    WOULD HAVE.

  30. Michael says:

    This is coming from someone that runs a retail gaming store.

    This SecuROM is so stupid that I refuse to take part in it. Personally, I’m going to download a pirated version of the game and then send EA a cheque for $60. They can be happy with that.

  31. Christian Groff says:

    I can’t wait for all of you guys to start playing Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and I will laugh and laugh and laugh at all the new Pokemon converts because gaming companies got so paranoid that they oppressed their customers while the criminals are laughing all the way to the bank.

    Idiots.

    Now you know why I prefer playing Pokemon instead of this half-assed computer game ****. I have a few games for the PC, but I can’t play them anymoer since my CD drive is ruined. *cries*

    After hearing this **** about EA’s computer game lineup, I’m sure that they’ll be hanging by their stupid Madden franchises. Join Nintendo and Pokemon, everyone! Get away from those a-holes and enjoy a REAL game!

    Sure, it has cute creatures, but at least you won’t have to wait ten days to play as Pokemon. *laughs*

    (No, I am not brainwashed by the Nintendo Gods. I just wanted to give my opinions.)

  32. Strangeite says:

    Now that I think about it, we don’t have to worry. A company as large as EA would never ever turn off the servers that would authenticate the game.

    I mean look at how well Plays For Sure has worked for music purchased from the MSM Store by Microsoft.

    Oh wait……

  33. Dreamer says:

    If we could somehow make it so that developpers could publish their own games, I believe that the sun would rise brighter from then on. I would happily pay for something with minimal but useless protection rather than something with maximum but useless and frustrating protection.

    I wonder if we could go to court over this: If we paid for a game but were unable to play it because we “couldn’t” connect to the internet. After all, we gave them the money that they asked for, but they insist that we need permission to play it? We basically paid them for permission to play with one toy out of their toy box, and once time is up, we have to ask permission again or they take the toy away.

    The only thing we’d need is a good lawyer (Who likes games and agrees with us), a solid law that agrees with us, and the money to out-pay EA…

  34. Nihil says:

    Heh, I read the news on Slashdot and immediately thought “This will surely send Shamus over the edge!”. And I was not disappointed.

    Me? I’ve long ago decided that it’s just more sensible to side with the pirates. Not only do your games work anywhere and anytime, you usually get them a few days (sometimes weeks) before official launch, too.

    A couple more interesting scenarios for you to consider:
    1) Malware in the Gestapo program. Maybe EA will put some in, maybe they won’t. But what once this DRM system becomes mainstream, and a good chunk of second-rate producers adopt it? Do you trust Assoftware, Inc. to read unknown data straight from your HD?

    2) Producer goes out of business. Oh boy, I sure wish I could play that nice vintage game that I enjoyed so much when I was a kid in 2008.

  35. xbolt says:

    And here I was, hoping the BioWare/EA merger wouldn’t be so bad…

    I’d really love to be able to sucker punch the idiot that was responsible for this…

  36. Torkell says:

    I wonder how long the DRM servers will be hosted for, and what, if anything, EA plan to do when they eventually pull the plug on those servers.

  37. WoodenTable says:

    Argh. Blagh. Frug argle. Uuuuuuugh.

    Blarg. UGH. Yurk.

    I wanted both Spore and Mass Effect. Now I doubt I’ll ever get them. At least Demigod will be DRM free… of course it’s not an EA game.

  38. MRL says:

    Got a response from EA Customer Support; “Scott” says that he can’t comment on that at this time.

    I guess we all know what that means…looks like it’s TF2 and MMOs for me, and nothing else, for the immediate future.

  39. SiliconScout says:

    I too think they are hoping to kill PC gaming and bring it all to the console.

    But what they aren’t seeing is that getting a console chipped is simplicity itself, many sites show you how to do it and every town / city of reasonable size will have people or even stores that will do it for you.

    Then you can play all the copied games you want. In fact every single “used” console I have ever looked to buy was “chipped”. It happens A LOT out there.

    If you treat your customers as pirates and thieves your customers will become pirates and thieves.

  40. Log082 says:

    Just like someone else who posted, I was planning to build a gaming PC this summer to keep up with new releases. I’m still planning to, but Spore will no longer be one of them. It’s a shame, since I was really looking forward to it.

  41. Crusader Corim says:

    I’m a PC gamer first and foremost, and I’m starting to move my gaming to consoles because of all this trash.

    Guess what the last two new games I bought are?

    Sins of a Solar Empire and GalCiv2.

    Guess what they have in common?

    NO FRACKIN’ COPY PROTECTION.

    Hint for game designers: Throwing away young male customers is bad policy.

  42. Zereth says:

    “Department Manager of electronics at my local wal-mart, After talking about poor customer care with my boss for about a month, this actually managed to convince him that way EA does falls under the clause of ours about not selling electronic products that do not have working customer service, and my district's stores will not be selling Mass Effect.”

    Be sure to inform EA of this.

    As for myself, I’ve canceled my pre-order for Mass Effect and am seriously debating pirating a game for the first time ever. (not counting stuff that’s no longer available at retail or that I already own but can’t find the discs for.)

    And I’ve switched over to hoping Spore is _bad_ so I don’t have to debate pirating it vs not playing it. This feels weird.

  43. Blake says:

    What would tech support suggest if you told them you bought one of the games, but didn’t have an internet connection?

    Also, this is shockingly reminiscent of a weblog entry I read just yesterday.

    (I might still get Spore for my iTouch, though. We’ll see.)

  44. MRL says:

    Sour grapes…ugh. I’m still hoping that Spore is awesome. Though I don’t know if I’ll be able to avoid getting it, if it is that good and still has SecuROM…

  45. Jeffrey says:

    Just heard this myself yesterday. Immediately cancelled my Amazon preorder and noted that excessive DRM is the reason. It may not do anything, but it made me feel better.

  46. Freya says:

    I saw this earlier, and in common with the above comments, I am shocked. Mass Effect was a game I was seriously looking forward to. The biggest problem for me at least is that I don’t have an always on internet connection. To require a connection purely to play an off-line game strikes me as sheer idiocy, not to mention a complete waste of my time and money to connect just to keep playing. Oh well, time to start another run through Baldurs Gate.

  47. Annon says:

    About the “havng to ask permission for a product I allregedly own” thing: Have you actually read through an EULA in detail lately? It doesn’t matter what piece of software you buy, you never actually own it, you are just purchasing the rights to use it as long as th company doesn’t see fit to take the rights away. It’s borrowed–there is no ownership. Every EULA I’ve bothered reading has a clause which says so.

    That said, I will still say that it is very disappointing when a company explicitly slaps you in the face with this legal loop, denying your access–which is fully within their right, you confirmed youself as their bitch when you checked “I agree”–because of an arbitrary and ineffectual DRM scheme. Sad, epcecially because in three years (the time when I usually get around to playing new releases) the DRM probably won’t work anymore just like ToEE or Neverwinter Nights won’t run on my systems anymore becused of their screwed up DRMs. Bloody convenient, since the company won’t support the game anymore ny then, just like with NWN and ToEE…

  48. Viktor says:

    Well, I’m getting Spore on my console now. I usually have various programs using my net connection, so online activation will be far slower than I can wait (not to mention this is basically a loading screen, which drive me crazy).

  49. Doug Brown says:

    Thanks for the reassurance, Shamus. I shouldn’t have worried, given that you were the source. It’s just that The Internets have a bad reputation for doing terrible things to attractive young asian women in office settings.

  50. I think one of the things really needed to begin sorting out this problem is an actual definition of what *constitutes* intellectual property. It would certainly expose these DRM schemes for what they are.

    Intellectual property really comes about as a recognition of the source of value: that physical objects *alone* are not valuable to human beings. Real value derives from thought, i.e. from the intellect.

    The only intellectual property crime lies in *distributing* an intellectual product without permission. You ought to be legally able to make ten million copies if you so desire–provided you don’t distribute them. This is legitimate because you can’t personally make use of more than one copy at a time.

    I’m sad, because I was looking forward to Mass Effect; it sounded like the sort of game I would enjoy. But since I don’t have a computer that would run it, anyway, nor any money at present, it’s kind of a moot issue.

  51. Serdic says:

    I think I'll take that US$120 I was planning on giving them and hand it over to the EFF instead.

    I did half of that — the money I was going to spend on Mass Effect for PC.

  52. Bonder says:

    This is indeed bad. Consider this though, the turnitin.com system being used in an increasing number of universities and high schools does essentially the same thing, treats all users (I mean students) like criminals. A program that compares the output of an undergraduate with all available published works, all other works submitted to the service (including everyone else in the class doing the same assignment) is guaranteed to come up with a heck of a lot of false positives. If a sufficiently large number of monkeys (undergrads) with a million typewriters given sufficient time will produce the works of Shakespeare, are they committing plagiarism? Combine that with very stringent (approaching no-tolerance) policies and blacklists intended to punish cheaters, and you have a nightmare and ulcer inducing combination, on top of the nightmares and ulcers produced by the term paper deadline already.

    These systems of electronic verification are being used on software, in education, and in security, and in each case complaining will get you labeled as a pirate, cheater, or terrorist, because the innocent have nothing to fear from the law. OF COURSE THE INNOCENT HAVE SOMETHING TO FEAR FROM THE LAW, what we have to fear is the presumption of guilt combined with the belief in the infallibility of these inherently imperfect systems. And that’s why we wait in endless lines at the airport, swear at bizarre authentication systems with our software, and cower in fear under our desks at the thought that somewhere out there there is a source who said something similar to what we said, and we haven’t found them!

    Final nail, making the turnitin system available to students so that they can use it to check that their work is fair is considered to be a bad idea, on the grounds that it would enable the cheaters to figure out how to beat the system!

  53. Aaron says:

    I think the last purchase I made for a computer game (that wasn’t an MMO) was Warcraft 3. Everything else I play is on a console. With everything that’s gone down with DRM and SecureRom (and thanks to you Shamus for enlightening me) I will only be buying from … well … basically Blizz-avision (so Starcraft 2). Otherwise, it’s console games and MMO’s for me.

    What a horrible way to treat your consumer base.

  54. Oleyo says:

    heheh, “you agreed to the poisoning when you installed the product” Awesome.

    Shamus is like a video game Robin Hood, stealing the money he would have given to a game publisher from them, and paying it back to the poor with amusing cartoons, and Lupins.

    Also, he has a large sack labeled “swag”.

    http://orangecow.org/pythonet/dennis-moore.html

  55. Oleyo says:

    heheh, “you agreed to the poisoning when you installed the product” Awesome.

    Shamus is like a video game Robin Hood, stealing the money he would have given to a game publisher from them, and paying it back to the poor with amusing cartoons, and Lupins.

    Also, he has a large sack labeled “swag”.

  56. =Dan says:

    I won’t be buying either of the games. I hope that Spore is being released on Xbox 360 as I won’t have to worry about DRM at that point. This crap is what is causing PC gaming to shrink and console gaming to grow by leaps and bounds.

  57. […] Shamus Young wrote a post pointing out something similar, but even worse in the upcoming PC port of this year's Mass […]

  58. Heckie says:

    If I went and illegally downloaded a torrented version of Spore, cracked it with an extra illegal crack, and used an even more illegal content distribution network to get all the species and such, then mailed a check to Mr. Wright for say 60$ (or whatever it is for sale at) along with a letter stating that, ‘while I loved his games, I will not be treated as a criminal’, would I be a bad person for doing so?

    Or should I send cash to him directly? A money order?

    I will play his games, but I will not play EA’s game, if you know what I mean.
    Just a thought…

  59. Jeremiah says:

    It’s like a vicious cycle:

    1) Game is pirated by a few people
    2) Big-wigs outraged over loss revenue, implement stupid DRM.
    3) People outraged over stupid DRM; more piracy ensues.
    4) Big-wigs don’t understand what went wrong, implement even worse DRM.
    5) repeat steps 3 & 4 indefinitely.

  60. Alan De Smet says:

    And they always ignore an important question: in 20 years, when I start up XPBox (the inevitable successor to DOSBox) to play some games from the good old days, will the authentication server still be up authenticate me? Will my IPv28 network connection even be able to route the IPv4/v6 packets the game wants to send? This is helping to create a disposable culture, making it extremely difficult to study older works. Greedy, short sighted content creators love the idea as it eliminates competition, but it’s bad for society as a whole.

    Of course even if the backlash leads to lower than expected sales, the idiots running things won’t think, “Maybe our unreasonably draconian authentication system is to blame.” They’re think, “We didn’t sell enough copies. It must be piracy! For out next game, we’ll force players pay $20 per hour for a guy named Guido to watch them and make sure they don’t make any copies. Since Guido isn’t too smart, he’ll just beat up anyone who touches any media other than ours.”

  61. Thad says:

    So, basically, if you buy the game, play it for a while, then leave it for, say… two weeks, and come back, you are screwed? That’s good marketing!

    Reminds me of the (lesser but still overly annoying) anti-piracy bits on DVDs, which only annoy those who aren’t pirating DVDs…

    (To join the others: Not Spore! Be It Not So!)

  62. Deoxy says:

    Annon,

    EULAs are an interesting piece of work, actually – they take your money FIRST, then show you the terms of the agreement (AFTER you money is nonrefundable).

    There are MANY legal problems with the EULA concept as currently incarnated… and, by putting off and serious court cases about it long enough, they may well have won on it, simply by having it be so standard that the courts won’t want to mess with it.

    And thus our rights die by a million paper cuts…

  63. krellen says:

    Annon writes:
    About the “havng to ask permission for a product I allregedly own” thing: Have you actually read through an EULA in detail lately? It doesn't matter what piece of software you buy, you never actually own it, you are just purchasing the rights to use it as long as th company doesn't see fit to take the rights away. It's borrowed”“there is no ownership. Every EULA I've bothered reading has a clause which says so.

    Has an EULA ever been upheld in court? Challenged in court? EULAs are designed to avoid flagrant abuse of a program. Most things an individual user will try to do, but runs afoul of an EULA, likely will not hold up in court, because regardless of what the license says, there’s a implicit agreement when you make a purchase that you now own your purchase. When something the company changes makes you unable to, they’ve violated that contract – and that contract is important because it’s the foundation of our entire global economy. If it starts falling apart, we’re going to have a lot of trouble.

    I’ve always wanted to find the judge that first ruled in favour of the MPAA against an individual and beat him senseless, then get him removed from the bench, because that sort of precedent is very dangerous. How dangerous? Seen [i]The Incredibles[/i]? The idea that a judge would rule against a super-hero for saving someone’s life is ridiculous, but that movie took it to its logical conclusion. When you start punishing people for just being upstanding citizens, you open yourself to a world of problems. Without that ruling, companies wouldn’t try to get away with this, and people would be more willing to make an outcry against it.

    But at least I can be satisfied that I’m being proven true: Spore is a myth, like Fallout 3 or Ron Perlman.

  64. Richard says:

    How can they have the Bioshock fiasco staring them in the face, having future user complaints and outrage out the ears and still decide that this is the best thing to do for their company?

    Their response on the forums to a player asking if he didn’t play for 10 days and then picked it up on day 11, and his internet happened to be down (a distinct possibility, with busy work schedules and ISP flakiness). Their response was: call customer support so they can document the incident.

    This activation system goes in AFTER the MLB fiasco, where baseball fans couldn’t watch the videos they had bought, AFTER PlaysForSure shut down, turning their files into so much trash, AFTER Bioshock lost sales over it.

    They are insane. And why, officially, would people cancel their preorders? It’s those danged pirates. They takes our money and they feeds it to the sharks. Holy crap.

    More Stardock for me; I have Demigod on preorder.

    EA, please come to your sense BEFORE Spore.

  65. Corsair says:

    Good thing I wasn’t getting it anyway – I already played through it and saw multiple of the endings as Paragon and Renegade. I won’t need to tie up my internet connection for a day or three downloading it.

    Time to start getting this baby prepped for DLing Spore.

    Incidentally, Shamus, I don’t suppose we could persuade you to become a Pirate – I’d really like to see your review of Mass Effect. And the hat would complement the chair-sit well.

  66. Cadamar says:

    Well, I won’t be buying Spore now. And after watching my brother play Mass Effect on the 360, I’m not impressed. It is not living up to the hype and is not worth pirating much less suffering through this draconian DRM.

    I think I’ll use that $60 to fill up my gas tank instead. Maybe go for a nice drive with the top down to someplace cool.

    F You, EA!

  67. Tichfield says:

    I sent a tip yesterday to the Consumerist – they said they’d ‘look into it’, but no story so far.

    Companies DO pay attention to that blog, as it’s a well-known source of high-impact negative word-of-mouth, so if others want to tip them off, as well…

    Oh. And I of course canceled my pre-orders for MEPC and Spore, and let Bioware know of the former on the appropriate thread in their forum.

  68. guy says:

    I was planning on never pirating anything except abandonware, and this might actually change my mind. or maybe i’ll only get stuff using steam copy protection and whatever SDcentral mk.II is called.

  69. Zaghadka says:

    I’m with you, Shamus. Fuck ’em. I’m going to play “Zack and Wiki” on my Wii now.

    I pay for my games, and I don’t want to have to ask permission. I will choose the standardized lock down of consoles over the “mother may I” of PC’s.

    Oh, and I’ll choose Indy developers on PC’s and give THEM my money.

    Hollywood is in collapse. The recording industry is in collapse. The big media brokers are failing. They all moved on to the AAA video game industry, which was the refuge of all the intelligent customers they scared off, and that too will collapse.

    So much for their “imaginary property,” it’s more like the emperor’s clothes. ;)

  70. RPharazon says:

    And this, dear readers, is why PC gaming is quickly dying.
    Thankfully all the worthwhile developers always release their games without invasive DRM or at least have a console option.

    It’s a cycle, really.

    DRM causes people to pirate games.
    Pirates cause developers to release games with DRM.

    One party has to stop doing what they are doing. The pirates won’t budge, so it’s up to the developers to say to their public “Yes, we care about you.”

  71. Deoxy says:

    You know, I just noticed something about your comic:

    The install disc is coated… so you are poisoned BEFORE you actually do the install. So, you could actually just pull out the disc, not install it (that is, NOT EVEN SEE the EULA) and still be poisoned.

    Of course, this is basically how it is now, really – once you’ve purchased the product and opened it, you’re screwed (they have your money no matter how bad the “product” is).

    That just makes it even better. Heh.

  72. Zukhramm says:

    Even more funny is the line with “aren’t just some pirate”. How would he be poisoned if he doesn’t have a disc?! XD

  73. Nova says:

    As a mac user (and therefore, not usually a PC gamer, and thus usually immune to this idiocy), I have only this to say on the subject of this happening to Spore:

    WTFNUWHY?!

    It’s as bad as having to buy two copies of WoW, so that it can be played with two accounts in the same household >____<

  74. stuff says:

    WTF.

    this pisses me off to no end. I was planning to buy both sopre and ME. The thing is, I’m currently running linux, and was planning on dual-booting windows for the sole purpose of playing those games. Well, not anymore, EA just lost themselves about $120 and cost microsoft $200. But on the bright side, I save $320.

  75. Telas says:

    Had I the time to play videogames (baby en route; ETA June 21), I’d pirate this thing just to give the electronic finger to ’em.

    Crusader Corim @ 42: Hint for game designers: Throwing away young male customers is bad policy.

    Throwing away middle-aged married consumers with six digits of disposable income and kids on the way is worse policy.

  76. Uninverted says:

    This is freaking amazing. They simple handedly changed the definition of hacker back to “Computer hero”.

  77. Jeremiah says:

    Now I have “Jukebox Hero” stuck in my head, with ‘jukebox’ replaced by ‘computer’.

  78. Colin Lacey says:

    I’m not saying this is a good thing, but technically you don’t own the game. You own the disk and the right to play said game, which is on the disk. In no way are the publishers handing over their intellectual property, but simply physical property and a right to use their intellectual property. This means they can impose any restrictions they feel necessary, because you as the consumer agreed to this exchange.

    As you yourself said, you are in no way obligated to buy their product. The realities of a free economy such as ours is that there will always be those who produce something that you desire. It is the producer’s perogative to impose any such measures on their product and offer it to the consumers to sell. It is the consumer’s right to buy what they desire, or to not buy it. In fact, EA as a producer could has no pre-sale obligation to the consumer. A company such as EA’s first responsibilty is to provide money to it’s shareholders, not pander to the consumer’s desires, especially not those of the individual consumer or a niche market. If the consumer buys their product and EA makes money, it’s entirely in their rights to continue what it is they do.

    A good analogy would be offering a bag of crap for sale. Perhaps you find the bag aesthetically pleasing, but are put off by the crap contained in said bag. As a consumer, why should you feel insulted when the producer had no obligation to offer you only the bag.

    Once again, I am in no way attempting to say that you must like EA as a company, but simply trying to show the other perspective in the argument.

  79. krellen says:

    I doubt that stance stands up in court, Colin. I did a quick search and the only instance of an EULA being challenged in court I could find was in regards to Apple’s iTunes and Apple’s OS X – both unresolved, the former looking bad for Apple’s EULA (basically, Apple’s caving to all the complaints; the complaint was filed by the consumer protection agencies of Norway, France and Germany) and the latter barely having gotten a start.

    If someone with more knowledge in legal history can give me other precedents to look at, I’d love to see them, but until I see otherwise I simply cannot imagine a court actually upholding that utterly ridiculous stance on what that EULA actually allows.

  80. Colin Lacey says:

    Just realised Annon made a similar point about the ownership of software. Sorry about that.

  81. Carra says:

    Part of why piracy is so popular is the ease of use. You can just download the game, install it, copy the crack and bam, it works.

    You don’t have find a serial key, keep track of it or worse, finding out you consumed all your uses.

    It’s in part why steam works so well.

    The irony of all those security measures are that it actually drives people into piracy as it’s quite simply a lot less effort.

  82. Colin Lacey says:

    Krellen, I’m unsure if you’re refering to my stating that the publisher still owns the actual software, but the proprietary nature of such software licensing simply means that the consumer has a right to use the software. From what I can gather, it seems that the the precedent for challenging EULAs is that they are not freely provided prior to the purchasing of software.

  83. DM T. says:

    I actually preordered BioShock Limited Edition (had to get the pewter Big Daddy) and waited for three weeks until a crack came along, so I won’t lost one “precious” activation (it was three at first, then they upped it to five).
    I was thinking about purchasing Mass Effect & Spore when they both come out but I guess I’ll have to pass on both.
    I just hope that Bethesda’s Fallout 3 doesn’t come with this kind of Stupidity-on-disc.

  84. Colin Lacey says:

    Wikipedia (which I know isn’t the best source), states that “The hallmark of proprietary software licenses is that the software publisher grants a license to use one or more copies of software, but that ownership of those copies remains with the software publisher.” As EULAs for such games are proprietary, the same would apply.

  85. Carra says:

    Just want to add:

    I agree totally. I have done that many times to get around the stupid hoops some companies make you go thru to get their stuff installed.

    I remember one time with CA i had to actually photocopy all 6 sides of the box and the PO to get anew keycode ( previous IT guy lost them ). I gave up and got a keygen.

    Same for windows, i had legit boxes for every workstation on NT4, but used one key for them all. It was just to much trouble to manage. If i ever got audited. ‘oops, i i must have typed it wrong, but would you like to see the licenses i have here stored in the safe?’

  86. […] read Seamus Young’s blog post about the copy protection on Mass Effect and Spore. This is outrageous. I looked into the BioWare forums concerning this. The Technical Producer, […]

  87. Kristin says:

    So, when I go to Ireland for 11 days… I’ll come back to find I can’t play my videogame anymore?

    Hell, I have games that have sat on my shelf longer than that. If I had to go through and validate all my games at least once every ten days, I’d never have time to PLAY anything… and my collection isn’t all that extensive.

    Looks like time to get me a console…

    ::wonders if this will affect Sims 3 – if it does, Sims 2 and I are good buddies::

  88. Colin Lacey says:

    Copyright law also allows individuals to make copys of the software, but restrictions present in EULAs mean that the company also owns any copys made.

  89. krellen says:

    The point, Colin, is that when distributors start instituting things like network check-ins and planned obsolescence, they are violating the agreement to let you use their software. You bought the right to use the software, and you should own that in perpetuity, until you voluntarily relinquish it. If you want to lend that right to another by lending them your disc, that’s your business. If you want to exercise that right in 20 years, you should have that right. Because of the nature of these new DRM schemes, and even many of the old CD, dongle, or key based ones, these rights are violated.

    If I lease a car and lend it to someone else, I’m liable for the damage to the car when I return it, but the company cannot sue me because I let someone else drive it (they can sue for the damage, not the use). The same is true of software. If I lend it to someone and they make a bunch of copies and distribute it to everyone they know, I’m liable for that – but if I lend it to him and he just uses it, then gives it back? Not so much.

    Despite what companies want us to believe, there is an implicit contract that we are purchasing a product that we can then use when we buy software. This is an implicit contract in every purchase, and societies recognise this; that’s why we have consumer protection agencies and other such organisations. When companies start violating that by making it so that we have not purchased a product we can use, there’s a problem. Whether this comes down to forcing retailers to accept open-box returns or a modifications of EULA is debatable, but either one will lead to an end of this ridiculous idea; retailers that keep having to honour returns aren’t going to be happy, and distributors that can’t sell things to retailers aren’t going to be in the market for long.

    Just putting “internet connection required” on the box isn’t going to get them out of it; all we need to do is prove to the court that the only reason we “need” an internet connection is to stop them from violating our rights as consumers. On-line games can get away with that because of their nature, but Mass Effect is not an on-line game.

  90. The Werebear says:

    Ok. That breaks it.

    *Pulls on an eyepatch and gets out a cutlass*

    Ey’m buyin’ yer games, ye scurvey dogs, an’ leavin’ ’em en tha’ plastic. Ey’ll download meself some *workin’* copies an’ get meself a crack.

    Why are the major companies so dumb about this? Can’t they look at Stardock and see how LIKED they are? I’m going to start buying everything they sell just on principle.

  91. Fosse says:

    I was definatly doing to check out Mass Effect. Not buy it for sure, but I was interested and would probably have picked it up after reading some user feedback.

    I have been looking forward to Spore for years. I intended to buy it immediately upon release. I have been certain of this purchase since I first read about the game’s concept and each time I’ve seen new information on it I have become more eager.

    Now I will purchase neither game, on principle. I tolerate CD checks because I really have no choice. I will not tolerate forced registration and the assumption that my product is stolen. I also don’t shop in stores that force me to check my bag at the counter. I understand why they do it, but I’d rather give my money to the place down the street that welcomes me in regardless of what I’m carrying.

    And, for what it’s worth:
    I liked GalCiv 2. I don’t absolutely love it, but I had a lot of fun playing it and its first expansion pack. I wasn’t dying for the latest expansion pack, but the fact that I could download it easily, that I don’t have to prove I own it (except to download patches, which is fine by me because the company is giving me further value for something I paid for), the fact that their tech support in the very few times I’ve needed it (once for a lost serial # and once because of a forums problem unrelated to the game) has been quick, friendly and helpful, and the fact that I really want Copy Protection to die means that I picked it up on a whim the other day. Just because they’ve been so nice to me in the past.

  92. Turbosloth says:

    Irony: I was looking forward to this. I was ready to buy it. I had EVERY intention of legitimatley purchasing this game. I had the money set aside and budgeted (I’m on a tight budget, so I have to plan purchases ahead)

    guess what I’m gonna do now?

    Wait for a torrent and go download the ‘warez. After all, if your going to treat me like a criminal, I might as well just level the playing field and act like one, hey?

    Guess your online activation is making a difference in piracy levels after all, EA. Just not in the direction you intended.

    Oh, and the main reason for this is that I play games on my laptop, and I travel ALOT, and its not unusual for me to be 10 days or more without an internet connection – and if you think for one SECOND I’m going to let you make me not play a game I legitimatley purchase from you for NO reason, you’ve got another thing coming.

  93. FlameKiller says:

    Dont have Mass effect and have no plan to buy it.
    My X(Damn crashin)box 360 and original (2!!!) X(crashin)boxs are the only consoles (other then the Wii(but i dont think(i hope correctly)can run it)) that i have that could run it.

    my X(crashin(damn or otherwise))boxs are plagued by the red ring of death. my computers are fine. even have a old maxed out windows98 computer here(its holding on to life(it was even updated from 95)). but after hearing(or reading)this i am swearing off of it.

    sad about Spore. i greatly pity those who wanted it. but i admit that i had no intrest in it. that type of game is not what i normally play. though i know some people who are quite upset.

    for the security I ask “Why?” people can copy movies so they dont have the main menu. so the pirates for games can easily take the security systems out of a game. one guy buys the game, copies it dozens of times (if selling hard copies(if not then only once)) and returns the original. then sells the copies (or sells off a shady website) for no money lost. (i appoligize to no one in mind for telling everyone the way to properly pirate games(Im not guilty of anything!!(I SWEAR!!!!(except for a few trollish comments on previus posts(which i deeply apologize for))))

    my biggist problem with the new security is that you cant play LAN with the same copy. neverwinter nights is like this and i was quite frustrated with this. this is what i like about AoE. even the most reacent edition (passcode needed(to install)) you can play over LAN with the same copy. i have no idea about EA’s Battle for Middle Earth though (Quite posibally it would not work).

    this has been my rant and my first wall of text.

  94. Mark says:

    The phoning home I can deal with on Spore, since that game’s online already. What I can’t deal with is the way SecuROM notices some of the programs on my computer – well-known piracy tools like Process Explorer and Visual Studio – and won’t let me run the game as a consequence. To say nothing of the other (poorly document) incidents of SecuROM’s dickery.

    If it weren’t SecuROM, I admit it, I’m enough of an unprincipled weakling that I’d suck it up and play. I think what I’ll do is find some workaround… I’ve got a spare Windows license handy, maybe I’ll install that on VMWare – I won’t care if that gets tainted by SecuROM’s vile clutches.

    Hmm, it seems that SecuROM doesn’t play nicely with VMWare either. Maybe just put it on its own partition. For Spore, it’s worth it.

  95. Colin Lacey says:

    I understand your point, and I apologize if I sounded rash. I simply meant to illustrate a point. I still wish to clarify that I am in no way in favour of such security policies.

  96. Uninverted says:

    Man, these games might as well just come with disassemblers.

  97. Aufero says:

    Mass Effect was the game I was most looking forward to playing this year, (I can’t think of a Bioware game I haven’t bought and enjoyed) but I guess I won’t be playing it after all. I’ve canceled my pre-order, I refuse to pay to be treated like this.

  98. Matt` says:

    Someone waaaaay up the comment pile mentioned turtitin.com (a plagiarism detection service that checks student’s papers against each other, and against other sources)

    I know someone who submitted their thing once, then made some changes and resubmitted it. It then flagged the new version as being 95% copied work because it was 95% the same as the first version.

    Obviously our teacher realised this was not a correct verdict… but still. Could be a nasty flaw.

  99. Studoku says:

    I liked Mass Effect and Spore looks good from what I’ve seen of it.

    I’m not siding with the people who want to buy a game then play a pirated copy. I’m just going to download a pirate copy and send the £40 to charity instead.

    This way, EA doesn’t get my money, I’ve still paid money and got a game, someone benefits from the charity and everyone’s happy.

  100. coffee says:

    Here’s my story…

    I had to download a keygen for my legal copy of the Neverwinter Nights box set.

    Because it had two sets of CD keys – one for the game, and one for the expansion.

    Unfortunately, only the expansion key was valid. So I used that to install the game, and had to get a keygen to install the expansion.

    To me, EUlAs are trash simply because they’re made under the financial equivalent of duress. You pay the money, and then have to ask permission to use the item you’ve already purchased? While it’s true that we only purchase an not presented with instance use of the game, i.e. the CD, it’s also true that we are not presented with the EULA at the point of purchase, but at the point of installation.

    It’s similar to renting an apartment, and only being presented with the lease agreement when you want to move in. Either agree to the terms which were not presented when the item/service in question was initially purchased, or let the company keep your money for… Allowing you to purchase the item.

  101. MintSkittle says:

    I was gonna pre-order Mass Effect for my friend’s birthday, but now I’m not. He’ll just have to be content with waiting for the weekends to play it on my 360.

    And we’re both gonna miss out on Spore.

    *sigh*

    I swear, these people are trying to kill PC gaming.

  102. Blurr says:

    I don’t understand what companies think when they put this stuff on their software either. A good DRM scheme will be seen as a challenge and broken by some of the best hackers out there, while a not-so-good DRM scheme might be broken by a slightly talented hacker.

    Oh well.

  103. Yahzi says:

    It does seem like the plan is to kill PC gaming.

  104. Kobyov says:

    Oh man… I was looking forward to these. At least I live in a country (NZ) where its legal to bypass DRM, provided that you are using the software for a legal purpose. And yes, I also looked for a number to call EA and complain, and could not find one.

  105. K says:

    Two more games that I will pirate with a good conscience. I’ll certainly not buy them.

  106. Blurr says:

    On a related note, there was this one time I changed my desk and sat down, honestly expecting Windows to ask me reactivate, as it had done so many times before.

  107. […] It seems that Mass Effect will be coming to the PC soon, along with what may be the most absurd anti-piracy measure yet; not only will you have to register online when you install the game, but you’ll have to re-register every 10 days or the game will lock you out.  This is in addition to the other draconian measures that are becoming popular these days, like limited installs.  Shamus Young takes this process to its logical (and hilarious) conclusion here. […]

  108. GAZZA says:

    Sigh.

    Sign me up for the increasing hordes of “will buy Spore and then download a cracked copy”. I probably WILL buy it, but it does so hurt to feed the stupid.

  109. […] In the meantime, in relation to my DRM Hell post, here’s some more DRM nonsense to gawk at. This time it comes from the gaming world and involves Bioware, a company who has made several games I enjoy. Looks like EA, the mega publisher who bought them out, is planning to ruin several future titles with the same system, most notably Spore. I was really eager to buy Spore on its release, but if its burdened with this sort of draconian activation scheme that is required every 10 days — no thanks. Hat tip to Scorpia and Shamus. […]

  110. Krellen says:

    I wish the hordes saying “I’ll buy and then pirate” would stop. Pirate it (as much as it pains me to advocate piracy), be without it, or deal with the DRM. Giving them your money and then bypassing the DRM isn’t going to do a thing. The only thing corporations can hear is money. When you give them your money, you’re saying “what you’re doing is okay.” Anything that gives them your money is telling them you approve of the DRM.

    Don’t do it.

  111. Derek K. says:

    Bioware: I love you. And because I love you, I hope that you fail, and fail horribly.

  112. Raka says:

    How can anyone attain a place at the helm of EA – where this decision was certainly made – and still wield such septic stupidity?

    Simple. This stupidity and the outrage it generates doesn’t result in an easily quantified impact on revenue, or to bad publicity in mass media. The helmspeople at EA are beholden first and foremost to their stockholders. In the absence of hard numbers showing harm from this approach, they have to persuade the stockholders that something is being done about this piracy menace which is costing umpteen zillions of dollars in sales. Said stockholders, who are much more likely to be exposed to MPAA/RIAA propaganda than they are to read slashdot, will look at the fancy line graphs produced by SecuROM et al and be persuaded that only these products and policies keep the piracy plague from draining the coffers dry altogether.

    EA almost certainly knows that their efforts are pointless. But fighting the perception of the stockholders is a risky proposition, and there’s no clear path to unambiguous victory for the executive that breaks from the pack. Stake your career on pulling the copy protection off of a game, and you better hope it’s not the next Daikatana. Even if you do get moderate to good to great sales, how do you prove that they wouldn’t have been even better if you’d included electronic shackles?

    Bioshock’s DRM raised a mighty hue and cry, but basically that cost EA a few hours of time from a single PR rep. And all those blog posts proclaiming that the DRM would stop them from paying for the game can easily be spun by DRM-friendly factions as sour grapes from frustrated pirates, particularly with the strong sales figures Bioshock pulled on every platform. Sure, that spin is probably crap. But SecuROM’s sales team has line graphs and expense account dinners and they’re on a first-name-basis with the decision-making people at EA. We have the sympathetic ears of a subset of a niche segment of a population group that isn’t highly regarded by business executives in the first place. They win, unless we find a way to change the fight.

    Unfortunately, I’m much better at diagnosing causes than I am at proposing solutions. I’d love to hear suggestions, though.

  113. andy says:

    Huh. Oh well. No bioshock or now Mass Effect for me. I am finally going to go purchase GalCiv (with the expansions) and Sins of a Solar empire, just as soon as I get through the orange box, which has already stretched to the maximum the boundaries of DRM (yeah, I am a few years behind the curve, even though I have a fairly new rig).

    Eventually I will get a console and quite possibly will play Bioshock and it’s DRMed brethren, in the mean time I heartily thank you for giving the lowdown on this and will be voting with my wallet.

  114. Mr Toaster says:

    K, I’m not buying Spore.
    I’m gonna download it.

    Nice job EA.

  115. DocTwisted says:

    This makes me SO happy I got a Wii. It means I’ll be able to play Spore without worrying about DRM.

    As for Mass Effect, I’ve played it on my stepbrother’s 360 and found it lacking in the gameplay department… the writing and voice acting were good enough that I’m willing to watch it be played, but the awkward controls and total lack of an “enemy radar” to tell which direction you need to turn while being hit made me quit playing before I got through the first chapter.

  116. LintMan says:

    I preordered Bioshock and got it before I heard about its ridiculous limited-activations DRM. But won’t get fooled again on that count, so no Mass Effect for me. It’s a shame, because I’m a Bioware fan and was looking forward to it.

  117. Winter says:

    Regarding EULAs: they have a HUGE problem in that they CAN’T outline the details of the transaction (ie, just exactly what you are getting for your money) because you can’t see them until after you have already made the transaction.

    It’s like going into a car dealership, buying a car, and then getting a cardboard cutout of a car with an “EULA” that dictates you paid your money for a cardboard cutout and that the cardboard cutout shall be considered “a car” and, oh yeah also, no refunds.

    I mean, if you ever stop to read EULAs (enough to understand them) they’re completely ludicrous. It’s just lawyers gone wild, writing down their most insane and lurid fantasies.

    For instance, it is a violation of the EULA to connect Windows ME to… the internet.

    I’m not joking. They have a clause that states you can’t connect it to more than X computers at a time–to stop people from using it as a server, forcing them to buy the more expensive windows server OS. However, this also describes pretty much any connection to the internet. Yet people continue to connect Windows ME to the internet… the filthy criminals!

    I think it’s safe to say that EULAs are de-facto garbage and any attempt at actually enforcing them suspicious at best.

    Furthermore, companies will treat software as a “product” that is “sold” (as opposed to how they describe it in the EULA) when it is convenient to them. Microsoft got in trouble for doing this just a little while ago, in fact.

    Regarding turnitin: this particular service has a huge problem in that it is theft of intellectual property just as much as any other sort of “piracy” is theft of intellectual property. The problem here is that students are forced to hand over their works to a third party (a third party which, let’s be clear, profits from these works) for no charge and with no say, in contravention of their rights as copyright holders. While i’m no fan of plagiarism, turnitin is pretty reprehensible. I haven’t encountered it yet, but if i ever do i’ll demand they pay for the use of my works (doubly so considering they’re profiting off them!) and see what happens.

    (Considering i strongly suspect turnitin is actually a ploy by various “content providers” to acclimate young people to the idea of surrendering their rights to faceless corporate authority, thereby turning the nation into Shadowrun, instead of letting them grow up to be gnarled and angry about this like i am what will probably happen is i will be “coincidentally” sued by the RIAA/MPAA/etc for downloading a hundred billion songs and movies.)

  118. Blobert says:

    The DRM they are going with is horrible, yes, but I’m not a thief so I won’t pirate the game in “righteous rebellion” like some.

    Yes, the way these companies go about the whole DRM is all sorts of screwed up, but you know, in the end I want to play Mass Effect. So I will go buy the game.

    Hope I didn’t disappoint you all too much. :D

  119. Jeff says:

    Krellen:

    trying to remember the details…

    There was a case in California a few years ago (5?) in which EULAs did not hold up in court. I think it went up to a US district court. Anyways, Some lady bought windows and nortin anti virus from a compusa. Ended up returning them, opened, because she didn’t like the EULAs. They refused. She went to court, and it became a class action suit that included Best Buy, and a few other big software companies. Basically the EULA violated California and Federal law. The Sunshine Act and the Magnisuson Warranty Act, I think.

    In CA, you must beable to see the EULA before your purchase, or the EULA must be printed in the box and the CDs sealed inside the box. You can then read the EULA before opening the CDs. If you disagree you may return the product, provided the CD seal isn’t broken. So, the Sunshine Act (if thats the right one) basically said that you cannot enter a contract that you haven’t read. The MM Warranty Act basically states that retailers are responsible for the good they sell.

    Thats all I remember. I argued once at a Best Buy in Wisconsin. They said that Copyright Law forbids them from taking opened software. I ended up having to ship the discs and all to the publisher, and return the unopened copy they sent back (despite the EULA telling me to return it to Best Buy). I had to eat the shipping.

  120. Suzene says:

    Fucking hell! Well, I’d planned my next machine upgrade to coincide with the release of Dragon Age and then work my way back to Spore and Sims 3. If this is the shape of things to come, EA/Bioware just saved me the couple thousand I would have spent on a new gaming rig, not to mention whatever I would have dropped on their games in the meantime. What utter drivel.

  121. Lanthanide says:

    I haven’t read all the other comments (I don’t have the time), but I want to reply to Shamus’ point here:

    but it also requires a silent reauthorization every five to ten days, forever and ever. Just in case, you know, your legit copy ever… what? Becomes pirated?

    Precisely. It is to stop a person’s CD key from becoming publically available on warez sites – if they receive many multiple check-ins from a particular key, they’ll know it has been leaked and can de-activate it.

    This obviously doesn’t solve the problem of a hacker stopping the software from checking to begin with, but that’s the reasoning for it.

  122. DanK says:

    You know, this hits me hard.

    Mass Effect was the game I was going to buy an X360 for – but I just couldn’t justify the spend with everything else going on in my life. Then I learnt that the X360 ‘exclusive’ game was coming out on PC, it renewed my hope. I hardly buy games since I am trying to save for my wedding, but hearing about the downloadable content for PC had me putting aside a little at a time, waiting for May 28.

    And now this.

    I know Bioware, EA, or anyone with the power to make changes will never read this – but my computer is mine. I have the control of what goes on, transmissions on my network, and the sorts of crapware I install. And this is crapware. Phoning home every 10 days, treating me like a pirate…

    You had my money, it was sitting here waiting for you.

    Now you don’t.

    I am voting with my wallet.

    And I’m going to play your damn game anyway.

    Bioware was always a must-buy company for me… now its an also-ran.

  123. Maroon says:

    Oh my god.

    The pirates are running EA.

  124. ravells says:

    Thank you for posting this Shamus. I had intended to get Mass Effect, but I shan’t be doing that now, at least until they change this ridiculous anti-piracy coding. Perhaps to show EA the error of their ways someone should start a guestbook full of the names of people who would have bought their games but chose not to on the grounds of SecuROM, just so that their bean counters (and shareholders) can get an idea of the number of lost sales (which let’s hope are legion) their idiotic anti-piracy measures are causing. Perhaps then the board of EA will be taken to task and told in no uncertain terms to review their anti-piracy measures.

  125. Zaxares says:

    *sigh*

    Well, I’m still going to buy Mass Effect anyway, because I love Bioware as a developer and I want to continue to support them.

    But the first thing I’m doing once I get my hands on a copy is to go online and look for the cracked MassEffect.exe file. :P

  126. guy says:

    yeah, i doubt anyone is doing it out of rightousness, they are doing it because they hae running the DRM scheme on cable that shorts out in the rain and fails at random for days afterwards.

    they also don’t want a rootkit installed on their computer. i don’t either.

  127. Fenix says:

    It’s so annoying. It’s like they’re just begging to convert me TO piracy in order to prevent these problems. I have a friend who bought bioshock and didn’t know about the copy protection. In the end he downloaded a pirated ripped version and none of the problems were there. Just double click on reg_edit and play.

    I played through the first 2 areas of mass effect on my friends xbox360. I thought “oooooooooooo some pop in but this is fun. I’m so getting this for PC.” Now the only way I will be WILLING to play it is with a pirated version without the fricken problems. I’m gonna just play my friends xbox version instead.

    I love bioware, and this is probably just a scheme cooked up by EA and not bioware (I could be wrong of course) but I’m not going to be buying this game.

    And people wonder why their games don’t sell on PC………. lets just blame the pirates………. Yeah it’s totally not our fault………. Right…

  128. Frank says:

    I couldn’t have put it better:

    How can anyone attain a place at the helm of EA – where this decision was certainly made – and still wield such septic stupidity? To repeatedly attempt that which is manifestly impotent, and to do so at the expense of one's own customers, requires a very optimistic yet callous brand of madness.

    Can we start a group or movement of sort? People who would gladly buy your products but now won’t because you’re idiots?

  129. P'kay says:

    A day at EA…

    Derek really wished he wasn’t here.

    “Umm, sir? We have a problem…”

    “What? WHAT???” The head executive person of Electronic Arts
    swivelled in his chair, hyperventilating.

    Derek continued: “Well… since we announced the new copy protection scheme we’ve had… phone calls. Approximately 20% of
    all our preorders have been… cancelled.”

    The executive paused. Suddenly, he grinned. “Perfect.”

    Derek stepped back. “Sir? Isn’t that bad?”

    “If those were honest customers, maybe. But the simple fact is
    most, if not all of those cancelled preorders are from pirates.”

    “Pirates?” Derek interrupted. “Don’t pirates -steal- the games?”

    The executive continued: “Before the pirates pirate the games,
    first they must own them. Our announcement of the new copy
    protection scheme has disheartened them. They know they’ll never
    beat the scheme, so they’ve given up.”

    “I guess so…” Derek turned. “But… -that many?-”

    “EVERYONE COULD BE A PIRATE. AND IF WE DON’T STOP THE PIRACY
    EVERYONE -WILL- BE PIRATES.” The executive was suddenly in
    Derek’s face. “NOW, YOU GO OUT THERE AND TELL THE PIRATE SCUM
    THAT IF THEY DARE TRY AND PIRATE OUR GAMES WE WILL CUT UP THEIR
    FAMILIES AND STUFF THEM INTO THEIR MONITORS.”

    “I-er-yessirrightaway!” Derek started moving- but felt the
    executive’s hand on his shoulder.

    “Tell them nicely, please. You are our public relations, after
    all, and we want them to know we care…”

    By Pumpkinetics. All resemblance to reality is unfortunately
    intentional, yet somewhat exaggerated.

  130. […] Shamus wrote a great piece again: Bioware and EA: Dumbass Effect […]

  131. 11 says:

    Damn. This hurts. Not going to pirate anything, but I’ll be damned if I’ll purchase something with this terrible of a DRM.

    I almost feel like preordering the game just so that I can cancel the order :\

  132. Strangeite says:

    Raka: You are absolutely right, they win unless we can figure out a way to change the fight. I have been thinking about that all night and I think I have come up with at least a small way to change the fight.

    I am not going to argue if an EULA is a valid binding contract or not. In fact, it is besides the point. With that being said, you are given the choice to agree to the terms or not agree to the terms. Unfortunately, you are only given this choice AFTER you have paid for the product and open the box, rendering it unreturnable to most retailers.

    Here is my thought. I don’t know about most states, but I can speak for the State of Kentucky. Small Claims Court allows an injured party to sue for monetary damages of less than $1,500.00. A defendant can ask for a jury trial if the claim is for more than $250.00. If a plaintiff sues in Small Claims Court, a defendant is required to appear and if the defendant is a corporation there are only three categories of people that can represent the corporation; an officer of the corporation, a person regularly employed in a managerial capacity or an attorney. So, if I buy a game from Best Buy that is published by EA for $60.00 and I name Best Buy and EA as defendants to the claim, both Best Buy and EA will have to have a representive come to the courthouse in Kentucky. This is where it gets interesting. Most states, including Kentucky, have very limited reasons why a defendant can collect attorney’s fees from a plaintiff, even if they win. Me and my little posse of attorney’s will check to make sure, but I am 99% positive that the judge can NOT make the plaintiff (that is you) pay for the defendants (that would be EA) attorney’s fees. At $350.00 an hour (a very typical rate) if only 1000 of us sue, that starts to get real expensive, very fast. For them.

    Now before anyone rushes out a starts filing small court claims, let me stew on this a little more and figure out the logistics, but I am pretty sure that we can start to do real damage and attract media attention by this little gambit. Think of it as an attack by a million paper cuts.

    Let me work on this a little more, and when I start to get a better handle on it I will post a summary on my blog, http://www.strangeite.blogspot.com

    So what do you think? Is everyones anger red hot enough that they will be actually willing to invest about a half a day of their time to making this happen. Filing a claim in small claims court is actually really easy and you don’t need an attorney. The proceedings are informal and it really shouldn’t take more than about a half a day off of work, at most. Even if you lose the case, all you will be out is the court costs, which will be about the cost of the game, but EA will be out thousands of dollars by having to fly an attorney in.

  133. Krellen says:

    Question, Strangeite: What happens if the defendants don’t appear? If it just means a ruling in favour of the plaintiff, we don’t accomplish much, because that just means you get your $60 back, which of course only costs them $60.

    On the other hand, if failure to appear constitutes contempt of court, well, that’s a whole other bag of fish, and quite a rich bag at that. Gold-plated, even.

  134. Dave says:

    To those of you espousing the “Well, now I’m forced to pirate the game” stance: I hate to sound like your mother, but you are *not* forced to pirate it. If you find the DRM unacceptable, you may adopt Shamus’s position of refusing to buy the game, and you may be irritated about the company’s choice to use that form of DRM. You may tell them so, directly and through forums, to your heart’s content.

    What you may *not* do is pirate the game, play it without paying for it, and claim that this is somehow morally justified because you didn’t like the DRM – at least, not according to any moral system I’m aware of. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, then break the deal and don’t buy it. But don’t claim that your righteous ire somehow entitles you to get it for free.

    (On the other hand, I’d have no problem supporting the “buy the game, but actually play a more convenient cracked version” option. That may still technically be illegal, but it’s not immoral as far as I can see.)

    Now go tidy your room. :)

  135. Strangeite says:

    Krellen: We are working on that. The short answer is that if the defendant doesn’t show up, the judge will offer a summary judgement in favor of the plaintiff. However, the more we think about this, the more it appears necessary to add as a party to the claim the actual retailer that you purchased the game from. So, if you buy the game from Best Buy, you would issue a summons to Best Buy. There really isn’t a penalty for them not showing up, other than that the judge will rule against them. With that being said, you can call witnesses. If in the claim you need the manager of the local Best Buy to testify that in fact it is true that you would not be able to return the open box, you would get the court to issue a subpoena to the local manager. Now he IS obligated to appear and if he doesn’t, then it is a contempt of court charge. So no, EA won’t have to show up, but Best Buy will, which if enough of us do this, make Best Buy start to put pressue on EA for forcing them to carry water for them because of their problem.

    We are still working on the best way this could work but I hope that answers your question.

  136. Mr. Son says:

    SPORE?! But- but- … Grglefnrkargle-*

    …Congrats, EA. You have created a new pirate. Now I need to go find a suitable animal to sit on my shoulder. I think I’ll skip the eyepatch thing. I’ve had to do it before and it’s not fun. But a peg leg doesn’t sound so bad…

  137. DGM says:

    You certainly know how to stir up the hornet’s nest, Shamus. Do you give lessons? :)

    Anyway, if we want some hard numbers for how many people will boycott or pay-then-pirate because of the DRM (either to show the EA executives or for our own analysis), perhaps this site could help us get them: http://www.petitiononline.com/

  138. Boing says:

    I usually download a game first and if it’s worth my money I buy it. For Spore I was planning on rushing out on launch day to get it as quick as I could, but it seems as if I’ll just be getting a free pass to it now. I only hope they see this article and how much business all this “protection” is losing them, then they may see that they are making a huge mistake.

  139. jack says:

    Haha jokes on them because someone will crack it anyways.

  140. william says:

    so a couple of thoughts…

    strangeite seems to have come up with a working plan. a damned good plan if all his research is done properly.I can’t follow through with this (wrong country) but i strongly, strongly ask you guys to think about it. so far here we’ve seen lots of ” SCREW THIS IM GONNA PIRATE IT!” which unlike Dave i don’t really have a problem with, i guess i’m not as moral as i thought i was. but if you really think this should stop, and aren’t just blowing hot air and futile complaints, do some research into the legal proceedings. as mentioned before, these companies see the world through their profits and costs. if they start losing money to multiple court cases, a small group of people could actually make a difference. I implore you to look into this. and spread the word people. we could bring EA around!

  141. KSharp25 says:

    Guys I am NOT reading over 144 posts, just adding what I know/heard. So if this was mentioned already, sorry.

    However IGN, Game Informer and others have spoke with EA in the past and they have more or less came right out and said that SecuROM is going to be their default DRM here out. Meaning EACH AND EVERY EA title you buy here on in will have this in some form. Every game. Period. Get used to it, because of all absurdities, other publishers have started to look long and hard at the policy and agreed that while cumbersome to comsumers and inconvienant, it is an effective measure. This may become the norm.

  142. Alan De Smet says:

    Colin Lacey:

    When I buy a game, I really do own that particular copy of the game, just the same as if I’d purchased a book, a CD full of music, of a DVD movie. What I didn’t purchase was the right to distribute copied (the copyright). But that one copy I own, outright. I didn’t purchase a license.

    I didn’t “agree” to any particular exchange. I walked into Best Buy and bought a music CD, a DVD movie, a book, some headphones, and a video game. I got a sales receipt. I was never presented with a license agreement or other terms. I exchanged cash for physical property. So long as I don’t copy the CD, DVD, book, or game, I’m basically free to use them however I like! But when I try to make use of the video game on my PC, it then tries to renegotiate a transaction I made an hour earlier. Oh, and if I disagree, it sucks to be me, since I can’t return it. I. Don’t. Think. So.

    Unfortunately the software industry has managed to convince people that this is in fact legal, and that you somehow need a special license to make us of something you already own. Don’t buy into it; it’s a lie.

    Now, if software vendors want to have licenses on what they sell, they can do so, legally and honestly! Attach the EULA on the back of the box, and require the store to have me sign it and give it to them before they let me leave with the box. I’ll have agreed to the EULA before money and media exchanged hands. Perfectly legal.

    At the moment companies are relying on deception to push forth a bogus legal theory. They’re relying on customers ignoring the EULA and just mindlessly mashing OK. This isn’t honest capitalism, it’s chicanery and we should not stand for it!

  143. Zukhramm says:

    “What you may *not* do is pirate the game, play it without paying for it, and claim that this is somehow morally justified because you didn't like the DRM – at least, not according to any moral system I'm aware of. If it's a deal-breaker for you, then break the deal and don't buy it. But don't claim that your righteous ire somehow entitles you to get it for free.”

    Just becuase you don’t see it as morally justified doesn’t mean others don’t, or that it isn’t. Especially not among those who already had felt there was anything immoral about downloading games.

    “(On the other hand, I'd have no problem supporting the “buy the game, but actually play a more convenient cracked version” option. That may still technically be illegal, but it's not immoral as far as I can see.)”

    Paying and thus still supporting EA is something I see as far more immoral than pirating.

  144. Anonymous says:

    Let’s drop all the goddamn hypotheticals and references to “the pirates” as some sort of abstract entity. I’ll speak plainly: I AM a pirate. I played Duke Nukem 3D and Ultimate Doom back in the day installing from a borrowed CD. Same with Starcraft when that first came out. I’ve played Fallout, Fallout 2, and Planescape Torment without ever actually owning a physical copy of any of them. I tried out Gothic 3, Two Worlds, and SoaSE before any demo was available for them, and uninstalled all three within days once it became clear that I disliked them.

    I also legitimately buy games. I’ve bought the entire Dawn of War series. I bought Oblivion. I bought Bioshock, obtrusive DRM and all. I’ve also downloaded cracks for pretty much every PC game I’ve ever bought just so I don’t have to deal with tracking down the disc every time the mood to kill xenos for the God-Emperor or watch people have awkward conversations about crustaceans strikes me, or risk damaging the disk and thus being fucked when an inevitable reinstall is required (due to my computer crapping out on me or some such circumstance.)

    And I’ll say this much: this shitty DRM does not in any way affect my purchasing decision. I wasn’t going to buy Mass Effect anyway, since I already have the Xbox 360 version. I’m still going to buy Spore because it’s a game I’m interested in and I want to support the developers of it, so they will continue to support their game. This is because I’m confident there will be a workaround for this bullshit within a few weeks (as a very conservative estimate; I wouldn’t be surprised to see it turn up within a few days like it did for Bioshock) and I can sit there making horrible crimes against nature and make them enslave neighboring tribes of abominations unto the Lord and then sell those same slaves back to the tribes they were taken from, all without ever having to take the DVD out of the case at any time following the initial installation.

    To say that it hurts only the paying consumer is a bit inaccurate; cumbersome DRM can in fact delay torrents by days, weeks, or even months. It’s difficult to prove that this actually provides an incentive for pirates to go out and buy the game, but it is a clearly measureable effect. This, however, makes you wonder whether the problem is being addressed or merely the symptoms of it. My point is, this shit is not completely pointless but it might as well be. There are dedicated pirates who, if a cracked copy is unavailable for a significant amount of time, will go out and buy a copy of the game, and then work with the rest of their fellow pirates to crack the DRM as quickly as possible and distribute it far and wide, packaging the torrented image with a brief .nfo file (complete with ascii art) that identifies them as the ones who cracked it. Pirates are a determined bunch and the reasons for pirating are as many and varied as the pirates themselves.

    TLDR: This DRM and the accompanying backlash from the minority of users who even know what the fuck DRM is will accomplish absolutely nothing. The vast majority of people who were going to buy Spore are still going to buy it, and the majority of people who were intent on pirating it probably just feel vindicated by EA’s ham-fisted attempt to dissuade them.

  145. Colin Lacey says:

    Alan De Smet, due to Krellen I am in total agreement with you, and once again I apologize for my comments. However, I still stand by my claim that EA has no obligation to us. It is because of this that I find it rather odd logic when someone says they will pirate a game because EA chose to do what they did. Either you are doing so because you want the game so badly without the DRM, or you are pirating in protest. The former would entail a simple disregard for law, while the latter is still both morally and legally falliable. If you want to lodge protest against EA, do it through proper and legal channels. Piracy, no matter how it is justified, still entails theft, which I would hope others agree is in no way tolerable.

    Once again, I in no way support EA’s decisions in this matter and am not attempting to defend them.

  146. Deoxy says:

    “while the latter is still both morally and legally falliable.”

    Legally, I’ll grant you, but morally? According to whom? Not the majority of people in this country or the world at large.

    In fact, there is a significant moral case (even by your own morality, I would guess) that pirating it in protest is, to a large extent, the RIGHT thing to do, even if you don’t like or play the game!

    The issue is the abuse of the US legal system. There is a good case that the ones behaving immorally here are the companies pulling this crap, not the pirates (well, perhaps both).

    Personally, I don’t have time to pirate games, so it’s not a big deal either way, but you are assuming a lot of things when you declare the morality of the situation.

    I do generally agree that, for actual real-world objects, theft is bad, and I agree that the proper behaviour in a case like this involving real-world objects is (in the vast majority of cases) simply doing without, but the issues of “intellectual property”, EULAs, copy protection, etc, are not so firmly resolved in terms of morality that they can simply be assumed to morally be the same as real-world property. When the dust settles from all of this, I think it will work out differently.

  147. Colin Lacey says:

    The fact remains, however, that someone worked to make the property that people claim to be intending to pirate. Despite this I can, to an extent, see your point if you consider it morally right to pirate intellectual property in protest of something you consider wrong.

    I personally think, though, that when breaking society’s laws, especially over something so unworldly and superfluous as videogames, it constitutes a disrepect to society and those around you. There are of course exeptions to this, in which it is not possible to petition the society you live in to change the laws you consider unjust. We are, in spite of this, talking about videogames, of which we have apparently lulled ourselves into a sense of needing to have.

  148. […] things that pissed me off! Because this is a blog as well as a gallery! Wheee Spore! ( Part 2 ) ( Part3 […]

  149. Dave says:

    Zukhramm: “Just becuase you don't see it as morally justified doesn't mean others don't, or that it isn't. Especially not among those who already had felt there was anything immoral about downloading games.”

    Well, true, morality is always debatable. I should have said that I don’t see any moral justification for it, personally. I still don’t, but some of the posts above are starting to show me why some people do, which is interesting.

  150. mom says:

    If people would just pay for games this wouldn’t happen. Enough Said.

  151. ArchU says:

    “To repeatedly attempt that which is manifestly impotent, and to do so at the expense of one's own customers, requires a very optimistic yet callous brand of madness.”
    Bless you, Shamus, for the eloquence and class demonstrated by that statement.

  152. Mordaedil says:

    Mordaedil: Most likely it’s going to be hard to quell their anger-mongering and they don’t seem to read what you and yours write, in that, as I feel it, if there arises a problem with using Securom, it will be dealt with.Would that be correct?

    Stanley Woo: We will certainly do our best to mitigate any problems SecuROM might have. We’ve been given certain assurances regarding how it’s all going to work out and how effective it all is, so that’s what we have to work with. Primarily it will fall to EA’s SecuROM support to deal with matters, but as with all of our other products, we’ll still have our technical support (self-help) forums around to help people who are experiencing common, solvable problems. As for those in extraordinary circumstances, well, you can’t plan for the unexpected, so we’ll just have to keep doing our best.

    This was sent to me as I apologized for a sarcastic remark I made that was interpreted as flaming in the forums. What do you think of it?

  153. Zukhramm says:

    “I personally think, though, that when breaking society's laws, especially over something so unworldly and superfluous as videogames, it constitutes a disrepect to society and those around you. There are of course exeptions to this, in which it is not possible to petition the society you live in to change the laws you consider unjust. We are, in spite of this, talking about videogames, of which we have apparently lulled ourselves into a sense of needing to have.”

    I don’t like this excuse. While yes, they are only video games. The problem is such a big company as EA is doing something like this, without much objection because the majority of the customers simply do not care.

  154. Karsten says:

    First, let me clear a clear misunderstanding. You can install and un-install the game as many times as you want as the Securom copy protection IS NOT tied to the installer. Derek French has said this numerous times on the Bioware forums; he has also said that he had done this himself – and the game did not require re-activation when you un-install and install the game, MEPC. Bioware is writing the installer themselves (like they always have done, I suspect). Derek French also has said that the Securom copy protection system is tied to the .exe program of MEPC. This means, in all likelihood, that when you un-install MEPC, Securom un-installs as well.

    The 3 activations are so that you can have MEPC installed on say a laptop, a desktop in your house and maybe a desktop in your summer cabin or something like that. This is actually what I think is great with his – much better than the previous EULAs in which you’re ONLY allowed to install the game om 1 single computer. Also, you can have the game installed on 1 computer with 12 user accounts as the securom and game is tied to your computer, not the user accounts. In Bioshock’s case, the activations were tied to the user accounts, not the computer itself as well as you had to download the game’s .exe program from 2K servers. I suspect that the MEPC’s .exe program will be included on the disc so you only need the cdkey to activate the game once when you first install it.

    The good news is that you don’t need the disc in the drive to play the game. I strongly suspect this move is to combat the widespread use of no-cd hacks that is used solely for this purpose. The bad news (or vey bad news) is that the game requires that you re-authenticate your cdkey every 10 days as a minimum. Derek French have been very patient in explaining how this works. It does not work quite the was you describe it. If you buy the game and install it and get the game to activate, then 5 days after, when you play MEPC, the game just does this re-auth process automatically and if it works then you can play MEPC. The timing is then re-set. The problem comes if it can’t do this for varius reasons at least every 10 days. The game will try to re-auth with the servers from day 5-10; if the game fails on day 7, but connects with the server on day 9, you’re good to play the game, MEPC.

    I strongly suspect this is move is to deter people from using keygens to make ‘false’ cdkeys to get the game to activate. Or at least hinder them from doing so for at least 4-6 weeks as every developer and publisher now seems to look for these crucial 4-6 weeks to break even i.e. sell the 1 million copies of the game that means that the devs. at least break even.

    Unlike Bioshock’s support and activation, I think, that EAs support will be in place, there will be helpfull people around the world as EA is bit bigger than 2K is. Bioware and EA know that MEPC is a higly anticipated game and my bet is that EA will have servers throughout the world that people will be connecting to when activating etc. the game.

    As for Proces Explorer (from Microsoft) Bioware uses Microsoft as well and Derek French have said that Proces Explorer no longer should be a hinder to play MEPC; I strongly suspect it is Derek that have been writing the installer for MEPC.

    Spore is supposed to be online anyway, so people can probably live with this for Spore, I think. However, MEPC is still a single player for the PC and the Xbox 360. (unless, the MMO Bioware is making is — well, you figure it out….)

    As I have said on the Bioware forums as well as on other forums, I’m not exactly a fan of this sort of draconian copy protection system. Many people do not have stable and reliable internet connections as well as they don’t have a broadband connections (which seems now to be recommended or required to play the game, MEPC). There’s a another reason, too, that I don’ty like this system and it it this one: It treats every loyal Bioware fan and customer for the past 20 years as a criminal and a thief. It sends a clear message to the fans who have been behindt Bioware for the past 10-15 years and this is: ‘hey, now that we have gotten our big fat pyacheck from EA, we don’t need to care about you guys anymore. We just ignore you and your complaints and do this because we just know that all of you will be pirating torrenting the game’. This is, as we say in Danish, to shoot small bird with guns, or to make a mountain out of a molehill i.e. overreacting way too much with something that is a very small problem. I suspect that maybe only 1½-2½ percent of the gamers that buy MEPC will try to pirate or torrent it. (I won’t – but I wont buy the game either, mostly due to the draconian copy system protection that treats loyal customers as thieves.

    And yes, this securom copy protection system is probably to stop people from giving out their cdkeys on warezed sites.
    But this will mean that Securom knows your IP adress. This also means that EA and Bioware knows our IP adress. I’m not that comfortable with this, but since I know you can lookup IP adresses on the net and get where you you live etc. I can live with this, I think. As for people giving out their cdkeys or sharing them, I really don’t think people do this anymore. I think, if people want to this, (I won’t do this, though) they will just download a hack or crack that removes the need for the cdkey check alltogether. In trying to combatting pirating and torrenting, EA and Bioware are at leat 5 years behind, I think. (not that I have pirated a game or torrented, but I remember seeing people asking each other for their cdkeys 5-6 years ago on forums that I frequent recently). Today, people just seem to be asking for a way to remoce the cdkey check. Again, I won’t do this.

  155. Zukhramm says:

    “I strongly suspect this is move is to deter people from using keygens to make “˜false' cdkeys to get the game to activate. Or at least hinder them from doing so for at least 4-6 weeks as every developer and publisher now seems to look for these crucial 4-6 weeks to break even i.e. sell the 1 million copies of the game that means that the devs. at least break even.”

    I have an idea. What about keeping this security system, adding it in all games, but patching it out after two months? (And of course, have this stated on the box, that it will have limitations the first two months of release). I know I could accept that.

  156. Deoxy says:

    I personally think, though, that when breaking society's laws, especially over something so unworldly and superfluous as videogames, it constitutes a disrepect to society and those around you.

    “society’s” laws? When the majority of a society is breaking a law, it’s pretty hard to call it “society’s” law – many of the relevant laws were purchased (with campaign contributions) by the large music and movie companies.

    And it’s not JUST about video games, but about rights to many, many things – everything that ends up in digital format, in fact, which is (or soon will be) essentially all Intellectual Property. This is about the clash of the concepts of IP and “fair use” (which has been on the receiving end of a massive beating).

    Copyright (and other IP laws and concepts) have been tolerated by society because of the benefits it has given in terms of rewarding those who create value… when a large enough majority of society determines that those who create the value are no longer the ones who benefit from these laws (see the way the vast majority of artists are treated by the music industry, for example), the laws will change. Whether Congress manages to keep the laws on the book in step with the “laws” society follows is not the point.

    If it was “just about video games”, I wouldn’t really give a darn.

  157. Alan De Smet says:

    Colin: My apologies for overlooking your previous reply.

    Zukhramm: Oh, please yes. I would even be happy with a six month, or even year lag. So long as there was a concrete promise to provide a patch on or before a certain date that would eliminate the online check, I would happily return to buying games without another thought. It would completely eliminate my primary concern: will I be able to replay this in five years? (There is a small chance the business might go under between publishing the game and the patch; I’m willing to live with that risk.) It would reduce illegal copies during the most profitable period. Unfortunately a game company has little incentive to spend even a single man-day creating and distributing such a patch.

    On that note, hey 2kGames, where;s the Bioshock patch you promised? As soon as it comes out, I’ll order a copy of Bioshock!

  158. Gorrex says:

    If you really want to make an impact, I have an approach.

    First start by gathering a list of stock holders for EA or any other company using these schemes. Next upon release day email, mail and telephone them with links to the pirated torrents. Then add in as many testimonials from legitimate customers that have refused to buy said game. This will in one stroke show the protection software for as useless as it is, and will show the damage it does to possible sales.

  159. Kyle says:

    I’ve been following Spore since they announce it in… what, 2005?

    Just recently a video driver update took down my Windows install to where it was unbootable and because of Alienware’s retardedness when I got the machine, it won’t go into safe mode or perform any recovery whatsoever.

    So I re-installed Gentoo, Cedega and I’m looking at Crossover Games.

    Thanks to a combination of hardware, OS and game publisher stupidity I may not have a choice but to skip what is my most anticipated game since first getting a Playstation One.

    It *might* find its way into my console collection but even that is iffy, I think I’m just kinda screwed.

  160. yajirobe says:

    I used to always pirate games to try them out before buying (dont believe me, look at my shelves of games.. I have probably spent, in my lifetime, the equivalent to the price of a high end car on games). But now, rather than pirate them, if they pull this kind of crap, I figure if they are so worried about not letting individuals play it, then I just wont. That’s a real shame about Spore. I really wanted to play it, but I’m not going to fight with them to do so.

  161. FairlyShocked says:

    So what is going to happen is I – who would have happily bought the game – will instead wait for it to be cracked, because I don’t want EA phoning home on my computer every 5 days. And, since I’ll already have the game, I won’t end up BUYING the game…such that EA will in fact have driven many law-abiding customers to piracy.

    Genius.

  162. Avilan the Grey says:

    Well.. I am thorn about Mass Effect. Maybe I will download a copy out of principle. Just to teach them.
    Spore… I think I have to buy it. Because it’s Spore. It will be huge blow to my ego, principles and moral standards, but I think I will have to buy it.

    /Avilan

  163. Digital says:

    HAHAHA

    Enjoy paying $80 for that guys, I’ll download mine from home, install it without needing ever needing a disk, run it without this nonsense, and if I get bored with it, I’ll delete it. If I decide I want it again, re-download.

    Valve/Steam did it right; they make getting their stuff like pirating it. You download, install, and never have to mess with it again… want harddrive space? Delete it, the game is YOURS, so they’ll let you DL it again free. You want updates/fixes? Automatically done and doesn’t bother you.

    Get with the times or be left behind (same goes to a lot of companys bitching about piracy)

    I’m proud to buy games from them, I steal them just as proudly from EA.

    I hate to have to do that with spore, but luckly it seems spore may have come around a little on it (later news)

  164. Digital says:

    (this was ment to be with my other post, didn’t edit in time)

    Ever wonder why people pirate games? I promise you this, I can afford to buy the game if I wanted to. Why would I take the time to drive to the store, buy an outdated disc (that if I scrach up is not replaceable), pay extra for a stupid box that I’ll throw away, bring it home, fight with the install, beg permission to use the $80 toy, and then be treated like a criminal?

    If my internet goes down for 2 or 3 weeks (cant pay it, or the ISP goes down, hurricane, moving, whatever) I can still play my version. If EA’s server is down, mine works fine. I can burn off copys of all my favorite games, and years later if I get the urge throw them back in and be playing in minutes (which I do often).

    Better to skip the crap and go straight to being treated like a criminal who’s game works right every time ;)

  165. rawrbuckles says:

    I tried buying games for pc’s until I ran out of money. Then I started pirating. Then I ran out of money for pc HARDWARE upgrades. Then I decided that consoles were cheaper. I got a 360 for xmas, and I only own the games that I will replay over and over (Halo3 Cod4 gta4). I can rent everything else for 5 bucks and beat it in a weekend. I’m fed up with computer games. I’m fed up with being treated like a thief. I’m fed up with being a thief. When I have the time and money, I game on a console from now on.

  166. Dolleater says:

    Ive always prefered getting a nice cracked release over installing a bought copy (if i happen to really like a game i will buy it, when the price drops. seriously, spending close to 100Euro for 1 game is crazy when you can spend half of that a few months later.)

    Yes, some early versions of games are kinnda messy when cracked, but just give it a month or so and there will be bunch of Proper PROPER releases.

    This isnt about being a pirate or not. This is about choosing your prefered media/distrubution technique. And like any smart consumer, you (should) choose the best way of installing/playing/acquiring your merchandise.

  167. Anonymous says:

    This cannot be happening…Spore…3 years of waiting…and the pirated copy will be easier to handle than the real thing <.< How ironic.

  168. anonandon says:

    This is great! Reward the pirates, punish the people who abide by the laws. Just like gun laws. Awesome!

  169. smIsle says:

    @ 154:

    “If people would just pay for games this wouldn't happen. Enough Said.”

    If the producers made really good games that didn’t punish the honest consumer, we would. They make crap games, no one buys them, so they blame it on pirates. NOTHING will get rid of the hard core pirates, but most of the people out there want to pay for their games… if it’s worth the money.

    –A Pirate, and a Paying Customer

  170. Moohaha says:

    It’s this kind of crap that makes me pirate games in the first place. I somehow feel justified pirating games that hit consumers with DRM techniques. Not only that, but I don’t have to worry about activating my pirated copy because it’s already cracked. So I can install it an infinite amount of times.

  171. Harsha says:

    They use piracy as an excuse. Look at sins of a Solar Empire. Absolutely no protection , still its a PC best-seller.

  172. Zodux says:

    This is no less than outragous!

    I have never liked how EA treats their customers on any level. But this.. how would they want to punish us like this? As righteous gamers I think we deserve better treatment! I have bought EVERY TITLE of those games that I have liked.

    I will certainly not support this kind of monstrosity in any way. This means war!

    By this we have a new commandment for gamers; “Thou shallt nawt buyeth games from EA!”

    Not that I didn’t loose my respect for EA a long time ago, because I did, when I first tried to register Battlefield 2 Booster Packs.

    Don’t bury the axe of war until wev’e won!

  173. Gavin says:

    I’ve been pissed at EA ever since I lost a key for Sim City 3000. No way I would spend $15 on a game that wasn’t even worth that much at the time. Their “support” line is a joke, and they do have a phone number. I dug for hours to find it, and it was absolutely useless. I hate the company. God forbid they screw up Spore.

  174. colin m says:

    i can only imagine what the next a game will have. i imagine this:

    -scans emails, system and encrypted files, and sends copies to ea, every 10 minutes
    -turns computer off if you browse the internet for more than 10 minutes, because you might be pirating
    -creates nanobot speaker to record conversations
    -turns monitor into one way webcam, and monitors what you do.
    -if you utter the words arr, yarr, matey, swab the poop deck, etc, will start legal proceedings against you.

  175. RahaMies says:

    This is pure bullcrap! I was going to buy this Mass Effect on PC, but it seems that I have to use piracy for the first time in my whole life to get it. EA is not going to sell too many of those Spore-games, I can sense it!

  176. hatedrm says:

    I had these problems with BioShock, and tried to get support to sort it out – who told me to contact SecuRom – who told me I had a pirated copy. I DIDN’T! I bought it from a perfectly reliable computer store in Switzerland – it was NOT a pirated copy. So what could I do? Having paid CHF 89.- for the game, I bloody well downloaded a crack, and since then it works brilliantly. From now on I refuse to pay for this kind of bullshit. Yes – thats right, I’ll download the WORKING version for free – until the software companies realise who they’re really cutting out.

  177. KelThuzad says:

    I… caved.
    I downloaded the trial of creature creator, then uninstalled it.
    Does it have SuckuROM?

    @Gorrex
    That sounds… pretty plausible. I can’t tell if you’re serious or joking.

  178. Tom says:

    You should have just bought it on steam like i did.
    simple as anything

  179. Hmmm says:

    Not sure if EA will actually know what type of business mistakes they’re making, but hell, it’s their game, why not?

    I mean, in the end, maybe putting more of an incentive to buy the game (aka, some type of physical bonus) might lure more paying customers. And I’m sure more people are willing to give money to support the creation of more games.

    But, just as many others, having such programs placed onto your computer is just down right unethical, especially business wise.

    Donald Trump would fire their asses in a heart beat. (at least I would :S)

  180. Lyndis says:

    You’re right. DRM is an ignorant joke.

    I say hunker down, crack the shit out of the game, and make them suffer for DRM via making piracy an option. We’re the people and we’ll decide whether it’s legal, EA. Don’t piss us off with your’ ridiculous protection schemes.

    Maybe if they see their games are getting considerably lower sales they’ll back the hell down.

6 Trackbacks

  1. By Mass Effect DRM « Zukhramm on Wednesday May 7, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    […] Shamus Young wrote a post pointing out something similar, but even worse in the upcoming PC port of this year's Mass […]

  2. By Cooking XP » Blog Archive » DRM Updating Old Games on Wednesday May 7, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    […] read Seamus Young’s blog post about the copy protection on Mass Effect and Spore. This is outrageous. I looked into the BioWare forums concerning this. The Technical Producer, […]

  3. […] It seems that Mass Effect will be coming to the PC soon, along with what may be the most absurd anti-piracy measure yet; not only will you have to register online when you install the game, but you’ll have to re-register every 10 days or the game will lock you out.  This is in addition to the other draconian measures that are becoming popular these days, like limited installs.  Shamus Young takes this process to its logical (and hilarious) conclusion here. […]

  4. By The One With Aldacron : Struggling with the New Computer on Wednesday May 7, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    […] In the meantime, in relation to my DRM Hell post, here’s some more DRM nonsense to gawk at. This time it comes from the gaming world and involves Bioware, a company who has made several games I enjoy. Looks like EA, the mega publisher who bought them out, is planning to ruin several future titles with the same system, most notably Spore. I was really eager to buy Spore on its release, but if its burdened with this sort of draconian activation scheme that is required every 10 days — no thanks. Hat tip to Scorpia and Shamus. […]

  5. […] Shamus wrote a great piece again: Bioware and EA: Dumbass Effect […]

  6. By Theoretical Coffee » Whee! on Thursday May 8, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    […] things that pissed me off! Because this is a blog as well as a gallery! Wheee Spore! ( Part 2 ) ( Part3 […]

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