Mass Effect:
Greg Zeschuk WIRED Interview

By Shamus
on May 28, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Wired magazine talks to Bioware’s Greg Zeschuk about the PC version of Mass Effect. They touch on the DRM issue:

WIRED: Recently, a lot of focus has fallen on the use of DRM in the PC version of Mass Effect, specifically the much-maligned SecuROM technology. Developers often cite such measures as a necessary step to curtail piracy, but obviously it upsets many paying customers as well. It has recently been revealed that Mass Effect will no longer use the SecuROM technology to protect itself from pirates — was that change a direct response to the outcry of fans across the internet?

Zeschuk: BioWare is always committed to its fans and we always listen to them. There was certainly a lot of speculation and rumors about what was planned for Mass Effect in terms of DRM but we hadn’t officially given any word about the DRM plan until we made the one official statement in our community and overall the response was very positive. We really appreciate our loyal fans that buy our games and keep us in business, but frankly we’re appalled by piracy and its advocates — those people aren’t part of our community.

Was he following the same story we were?

In the continuity I was exposed to (which, being part of my personal experience, I consider to be canon) they offered a horrific new DRM system, fans puked on it, then they backed off to simply using vanilla SecuROM and online activation which fans grudgingly accepted.

But Greg seems to have experienced a different timeline, one where they made only one official announcement and the fans cheered its arrival.

He didn’t actually confirm that they aren’t going to be using SecuROM. He didn’t actually tell us anything about what sort of locks the thing will have on it for the legitimate customer to contend with. He just advanced this strange new rendering of events where their fans were never pissed off. He claims they “always listen to fans” without ever admitting that they changed their policy due to fan reaction.

This is classic ass-covering corporate-speak. This is exactly the sort of snake oil PR we’ve come to expect out of beasts like EA and 2kGames. Their constant need to pretend that bad things never happen (because the shareholders are watching and will brook no fallibility from the leadership) makes for a comical, almost Soviet-style attempt at propaganda.

I find his statement to be sort of depressing. It means further concessions are not in the cards for us. Online activation is the wave of the future, and we are going to have to abstain, tolerate or route around it in the coming years.

What I find to be truly insulting is the inept attempt to pretend this new policy is a response to “the fans”. There are many people who impacted this decision: Pirates, stockholders, developers, and managers. The one party who is not involved in bringing about this baleful new reality is the customers. They are, however, the ones to bear the brunt of it.

UPDATE: The whole “no SecuROM” thing is nonsense. Their FAQ makes it clear the system has SecuROM in it.

The FAQ also has the pie-crust promise:

Q: What happens in the future if I want to play MEPC and EA has shut off the servers?

A: If that should ever happen, BioWare would address this problem.

An amusing assertion, which I have already refuted the other day. You people do not own Mass Effect. EA does. You sold it to them, remember?

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  1. Jansolo says:

    Again, they keep ignoring the futile the DRM is.

    I know a lot of people who is playing a cracked version of Bioshock right now.

    And the fun comes when they realize that it’s easier to update the pirated version than the legal one.

  2. Deoxy says:

    but frankly we’re appalled by piracy and its advocates…

    …which is why we’re trying to help them in every way we can possibly think of.”

    Idiot.

  3. Drew says:

    I don’t care for the “The DRM is Futile Anyway” argument. People are going to steal cars, but that doesn’t mean I want mine to come without locks. People are going to steal credit card numbers, but I try not to spread mine around too freely. The big difference, of course, is that when you steal software, the person you steal it from doesn’t lose it, unlike a car or money. It’s tricky that way.

    Just because there’s going to be piracy doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t do something to discourage it. I completely agree that they should go out of their way to make it a painless process for their paying customers, and certainly, if I had to call the dealership every time I wanted to start my car, that would go beyond reason. And if Volkswagen went out of business, or got bought by Fiat, I’d damn well want my car to keep working. On the other hand, I’m accustomed to having to unlock my doors and put my key in the ignition. I’m even accustomed to calling the credit card company every time I get a new card to “activate it”. Sometimes it’s reasonable to include some level of authentication to make sure that the person using the product is the one who bought it. Granted, a $50 video game isn’t operating on the same level as a car or a bank account, but then, as I mentioned above, if you steal software, it doesn’t take it away from anyone, so it’s a complex issue.

  4. Scholar88 says:

    To put it nicely: more useless corporate junk.

    Is there no end to this raving lunacy?

  5. Robert says:

    There is an ethical solution, Shamus.

    Pay the company their money. Buy the game, at the store or on their website, or wherever. Take what you purchased, and throw it in the trash can.

    Then go and download the same game from the pirate sites, and play the cracked, functional, non-DRM version with a clear conscience. You didn’t steal anything; you paid them for what you’re using. They get their money, you get to enjoy the game without having to jump over the idiot hoops, everyone wins.

  6. JFargo says:

    Oh, didn’t you hear Shamus? They ret-conned what you think you experienced. That never happened. They never did any of that.

    Didn’t you get the memo?

  7. LazerFX says:

    You know, I very often crack my games. I hate swapping discs with a passion (Which makes it odd that I’ve just bought a PS3, but anyway, that’s another discussion). However, I’ll very often NoCD a full, legal, retail copy of a program.

    I have no qualms doing it, either – it often runs better, and I’ve bought the damn thing anyway.

  8. Tholmir says:

    @Robert
    The solution is good, but the company will then say “Hey! Look at the sales, even if there is a montrous DMR in it! They love our DMR! It was a good decision to include it”.

    Managers only see numbers.

  9. Scholar88 says:

    @ Drew

    VolksWagen getting bought by Fiat? Fiat in Turin, Italy? Not a chance in the 9 Hells, I think. ;-)

    I agree that some level of authentication about who bought what would be ok. The problem seems to me a bit more complicated: DRM does not seem to be employed as a way of authentication of your purchase, imo. It is simply a way to prevent you from freely distributing the software. It is not some sort of property certificate, it is a mean to secure intellectual property from piracy. Or at least so we are told.
    Ultimately, the worth of a scheme simply consists in this: does the scheme accomplish its intended purpose? If DRM’s aim is fighting piracy, so far it has done a fairly lousy job, therefore the scheme is worthless, only a further burden on the back of honest, paying customers. Probably an alternative road should be found by the think tanks of the great companies. Assuming they want to, of course.

    Just my 2 cents, anyway.

  10. Jansolo says:

    That’s right Drew.

    I’m not against measures to avoid piracy, but they need to focus the problem without blaming the people that is within the legality.

    In fact, all that you mentioned is annoying for the thiefs, but I payed for my games and I’m gonna have more difficulties with them than the pirates will ever have.

  11. krellen says:

    Robert:

    There’s a far more ethical, and more effective, method of combating DRM and making the statement that you disagree with it (and it is the one Shamus practices, and good for him): Don’t buy the game, don’t play the game. It’s a game. You don’t need to have it.

  12. wintermute says:

    Tholmir:

    Worse, they’ll say “well, sales were good, but look at all these copies downloaded from torrents. As fan seem happy to accept DRM, we’ll make it even more onerous next time around. That’ll stop the pirates.”

    I say, boycott DRM. I don’t play games, much, but I refuse to buy music or audiobooks from companies that insist on treating me like a thief, even if it’s trivial to bypass their DRM. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

  13. WysiWyg says:

    I don’t think you see the big picture here. Let’s for a second assume that there’s at least ONE single person “up there” who isn’t braindead. That means that they are very well aware of the fact that their DRM won’t stop piracy.

    It will however stop you from reselling the game once you’ve played it. The “used bin” is a thing of the past.

    This is something I wouldn’t mind if they cut the prices appropriately, but instead they’re raising them.

    It’s all about the money, and you make a whole lot more money if people have to buy the game from you or risk going to jail.

  14. stuff says:

    krellen:

    yes, yes we do. I’m not not playing spore after waiting this long for it.

    @ Robert:

    this works in the sense that the company gets its money and you get the game, but the problem it creates is two fold:
    -first, the company sees that even after the massive outcry over their DRM, people still bought the game, so they conclude that people don’t really care.

    -second, they see that a large number of people pirate their games, therefore they conclude that they need more DRM.

    politically, the best solution is not to play the game, ethically, the best solution is to do what Robert suggested, but easiest thing to do, (IMO, anyway) is pirate the game. Which is more than likely what I’ll do.

  15. Jansolo says:

    stuff:

    A third solution is: try to sell your game at a good price without DRM at all.

    Then count the profits, see the illegal downloads, estimate the saving of not using (developing, introducing and eploying) the DRM.

    Maybe you find you earn more money.

  16. Lain says:

    Most of you forget to take in consideration, that these companies CHEAT AND LIE at you.

    If not for people like Shamus, who care about, what DRM makes with all consequences, they steal informations from your pc.

    They sneak a program on your PC without telling you!

    And partly you buy that crap, becaause its part of the calculated price! Without it, perhaps the evil pirate would buy it, because pirating makes no sense because of the cheaper price.

    Perhaps there is a small sentence somewhere hidden in the Eula or even their homepage down there at the corner, that tells you that they use something. And that it is not of importance, what that program does.

    That program does thinks, you don’t know. They write it in their own homepage!

    Some of you are even willing to allowing that, only for the greed to play a game. (Surely a good one)

    And all that in the name of massdestructioneffect weapons in Irak…. errr sorry, the evil pirates.

    Is somewhere out there, who is able to look into the programming?

    Ah, for what?
    Buy it.
    Use the crack.
    show them a wonderful middle-finger.

  17. stuff says:

    Jansolo:

    yes, for a company that would work. I am talking as a consumer, and therefore must respond to the company’s decision in one of four ways.

  18. krellen says:

    stuff:

    You absolutely do not have a right to a game. You absolutely do not have a “right” to play Spore “after waiting this long”. You could wait two days, two weeks, two years or even two decades and you still have no right to play a game.

    If you steal it, you’re stealing it, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re stealing it “because” the publisher put onerous DRM on it. It’s still stealing.

  19. stuff says:

    Krellen:

    I know that I don’t have a “right” to play a game, but what I am saying is that I’m going to play it.

    And yes, I know I’m stealing their game, but I don’t care, as I have no respect for them, as they have no respect for me.

  20. Nazgul says:

    Just another corporate version of the Iraqi Information Minister. Every comment in that interview is calculated and spun, without even a hint of anything possibly ungood from the Land Where Everyone Poops Rainbows.

  21. Serdic says:

    They do have one thing right… I’m not part of their community, and with an attitude like, I never will be.

  22. Zereth says:

    It has recently been revealed that Mass Effect will no longer use the SecuROM technology to protect itself from pirates

    What? When did this happen? If it’s actually true I might actually buy the thing, but last I’d heard they had merely stepped down from “Absolutely horrendous” SecuROM to merely “Terrible” SecuROM.

    EDIT: And a quick look at their forums shows things like a sticky thread saying the authentication servers are up and people talking about how well the authentication is going. O… kay.

    DOUBLE EDIT: Well looky here! I like how the guy didn’t actually mention that, yes, there’s still SecuROM in it in that interview.

  23. Jansolo says:

    As user we could do little: to buy or not to buy (to download will be always available).

    Thanks to Zereth for the advice: according EA, I’m not allowed to have some kind of software in my computer, for instance: emulation software.

    OK, what about my clothes or my political thoughts?

    All of them (certain kind of software or behaviour) clearly indicates that I’m a THIEF for sure.

  24. Morzas says:

    I don’t care for the “The DRM is Futile Anyway” argument. People are going to steal cars, but that doesn’t mean I want mine to come without locks. People are going to steal credit card numbers, but I try not to spread mine around too freely. The big difference, of course, is that when you steal software, the person you steal it from doesn’t lose it, unlike a car or money. It’s tricky that way.

    Except when you steal a car, the owner loses it. Pirating a car would be making an exact copy of the car. For free. If you could do that very easily, no one would bother with locks on cars or with buying cars from dealerships. So it makes me wonder, why do people still bother with buying software? I do it because I know that I have to give back to the people who make my games, or they won’t make them anymore.

    To use the car piracy metaphor, I know that I can easily make a perfect carbon copy of a Dodge Viper, but since I want Dodge to continue producing new models of the car (driving the same one all the time would get boring after a while), I choose to buy it. But what if I just want to try it out before I buy it? I could go down to the dealership and get a gimped Viper that I can only drive for a short amount of time while under the dealer’s supervision or I could fabricate a new one for free and take it for a test drive however long I want.

    Of course, not everyone is going to be ethical and dismantle their fabricated Viper, but since it’s easy to circumvent the super expensive anti-fabrication metal that Dodge uses, why does Dodge even try to stop me? Are they just trying to keep up appearances?

    Hmm, I think I got my metaphors a bit mixed up there, but I hope it showed you why pirating a game is very different from stealing a car.

  25. Assume that a typical game gets 5% legitimate buyers, 95% theft.

    If a DRM changes that to 10% or 15% legit it has made a huge impact.

  26. Morzas says:

    First off, as I stated before, piracy isn’t theft. It’s piracy. Second, that 95% ignores the fact that it’s currently impossible to distinguish the many different categories of software pirates. For example, I know of people who have downloaded a game, played it for a bit, hated the game, deleted it and never played it again. I also know people who have bought a game after playing a cracked copy because the game was really fun and they wanted to be able to play online / wanted to support the authors. Since they’ve both pirated the game, they’re part of that 95%, which makes statements like “Assume that a typical game gets 5% legitimate buyers, 95% theft” useless.

  27. Bruce says:

    Whether you argue that theft and piracy are different or not, doesn’t change the fact that both are equally wrong. Anecdotal evidence about people buying or not buying a game/listening to a song/ watching a movie after copying it illegally doesn’t mean anything. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Sure you can try to ease your conscience by blaming the big bad companies, but it’s still wrong. Sneaking into a movie theatre or a concert without paying is probably closer to piracy if you want a comparison, but not only do you cheat the organisers out of their money, you cheat the people who genuinely bought tickets as well.

  28. Morzas says:

    I don’t dispute that at all, I’m just appalled by the misuse of the word theft here. Pirating a game is not equivalent to breaking into the publisher’s warehouse and stealing a copy.

  29. Jeff says:

    I don’t care for the “The DRM is Futile Anyway” argument. People are going to steal cars, but that doesn’t mean I want mine to come without locks. People are going to steal credit card numbers, but I try not to spread mine around too freely.
    Those examples are strawmen.
    It takes me, let’s see…
    Six clicks, and typing the name of a game.
    Then it begins downloading.

    Complete lack of copy protection is a car with no locks.
    Door locks and alarms are akin to CD keys and simple CD checks.
    The keys (CD or car) can be duplicated. The alarm can be circumvented.
    However, it will deter the casual GTA emulator.

    This, however, is not a car with locks and an alarm. It’s cars with a key that’s also got remote controlled locks you need to call an overseas help desk to unlock, who will then have you verify your ID, and then every so often will check you’re in the car and you have to respond with a password. If you forget your key, boy are you screwed.

    …while the thief drives away with your car anyways, with a 100% success rate, and only slightly more hassle than the days of old.

    Stealing cars and stealing credit card numbers are not valid comparisons. Valid comparisons would be the speed limit, bans of talking on cellphones and such. THAT would more accurately illustrate the proliferation and ease of breaking the system, while heaping penalties upon those who weren’t going to do it anyways.

    Edit: Not to mention that stealing cars and credit numbers directly take away the ability to use it from the owner. Speeding and street racing is a much better example of the penalties, enforcement, and ease (from the view of the lawbreaker). You can heap on penalties and constantly patrol, but they’re going to street race anyways. It just makes it harder for everyone else to go a little above the limit as the police crack down.

  30. Mark says:

    When was this article written? It could be that the interview took place before the fiasco.

    What’s he talking about, “no SecuROM”? Is there any talk about this on the Bioware forums?

  31. Zereth says:

    Thanks to Zereth for the advice: according EA, I’m not allowed to have some kind of software in my computer, for instance: emulation software.

    This is referring to optical drive emulators, I believe, which allow you to convince your system that a CD or DVD image is really a disc in a drive and behave accordingly. It’s not referring to an SNES emulator, if that’s what you thought.

    What’s he talking about, “no SecuROM”? Is there any talk about this on the Bioware forums?

    Not that I could find, but as I linked earlier, there’s an FAQ, updated today, a day after the interview went up, which talks about the effects of the SecuROM DRM included in the software. You’d think they’d have changed that if it wasn’t included.

    EDIT: Not to mention they’d have probably mentioned this, and the game went gold on the 18th so they couldn’t change anything after that.

  32. MechaCrash says:

    If a DRM changes that to 10% or 15% legit it has made a huge impact.

    Yes, but how many otherwise legitimate customers are driven away by the DRM? There’s always the assumption that the money made from pirates turned customers (after development and deployment costs for the DRM, of course) is going to be greater than the money lost from people who don’t want to deal with all the “mother may I” bullshit for something which they theoretically own.

    I don’t know if “SecuROM, online verification, limited installs, reverify weekly” is at the same level Starforce was, but it’s certainly trying its best to get there.

  33. Dirty Dan says:

    Stephen M:

    Not quite. If a game has 10,000 legit users and 190,000 pirates (5%), it makes the exact same amount of money for the company as if it had 10,000 legit users and 90,000 pirates (10%).

    Bruce:

    I wouldn’t say that theft and piracy are equally wrong. As others have said, piracy doesn’t necessarily deprive somebody of something that they rightfully own: if somebody was originally going to buy the game but decided to pirate it instead, you could say that it costs the company money — but if somebody pirates the game who didn’t plan on buying (or couldn’t) in the first place, then the company doesn’t “lose” money, because they weren’t going to get it anyway.

    I’ve actually got a fair history of purchasing things that I’d already pirated and vice versa. Generally, though, it’s a matter of utility. I pirated a DVD because I couldn’t successfully rip the movie onto a usable form that I could mix into a music video. More recently, I purchased an RPG rulebook that I had already downloaded because it’s difficult for me to efficiently learn the system via PDF. What this means is that the company ought to make it advantageous for us to have a legit copy. It’s plain economics: people will do whatever has the best combination of high convenience, high benefit, and low risk. The risk of piracy? An astronomically low chance of litigation. The benefit and convenience? Free with no DRM. There’s no contest, so companies shouldn’t be surprised.

  34. Shamus says:

    For those asking about SecuROM, I’ve updated the post above.

  35. Robert says:

    My biggest problem with all this DRM is that it makes it impossible for me to exercise rights that I have when I buy the gam—rights that the End USer Agreement can’t take away, because they are enshrined in my country’s laws. (Well, enshrined until our knock-off version of Bush changes them under pressure from the real Bush, anyway.)

    I have a right to make a copy of the software, for backup purposes. I can install it on another computer if I choose to move it.

  36. Aufero says:

    “Overall, the response was very positive.”

    That’s certainly a… unique view of a couple of hundred pages of complaints, followed by all threads on the subject on the Mass Effect forums being locked. Not to mention the complete retcon of the actual events.

    Guess they really are part of EA now.

  37. Dirty Dan said:

    I wouldn’t say that theft and piracy are equally wrong. As others have said, piracy doesn’t necessarily deprive somebody of something that they rightfully own: if somebody was originally going to buy the game but decided to pirate it instead, you could say that it costs the company money — but if somebody pirates the game who didn’t plan on buying (or couldn’t) in the first place, then the company doesn’t “lose” money, because they weren’t going to get it anyway.

    The problem with this pragmatic argument is that it has no prescriptive value whatsoever. It does not answer the question: *should* I pirate a game? The number of variables you’d have to consider in each particular case would be so vast that your powers of cognition would break down and you’d never be able to know that you did the right thing.

    It is for precisely this reason that people who follow this method become so angry and defensive when their methods are brought into question: their entire method of *mental functioning* is being challenged. To them, it literally feels like an attack on their entire person.

    The proper method for answering the question: should I pirate a game (or rob a bank, or steal a car), is to say: it’s someone’s property. Do I have a *right* to take someone’s property without permission? Do I *want* to live in a world where this is the norm and I must fight like a dog in the mud in order to cling to enough possessions just to stay alive? No, you don’t have a right, and I really hope you don’t want to live in that kind of world. So, you should not pirate a game.

    You can be 100% certain that you’ve done the right thing. And that’s worth a lot more than fiddling a few hours away in front of a computer screen.

  38. Morzas says:

    Again, piracy is not theft. It’s piracy. Copying a computer game is not equivalent to stealing property. What about my Dodge Viper example didn’t sink in? I could try to describe it another way if my Dodge Viper example was too confusing.

  39. GAZZA says:

    More to the point, what if you are pirating a game just to get the cracked version after you’ve already bought it (which is the only reason I ever pirate games)?

    I’m not taking someone else’s property or infringing on their intellectual property – I’ve bought the game, they’ve got my money, I just don’t see why I should give them the right to install malware on my machine just to make sure that I’ve paid them.

  40. Krellen says:

    Morzas wrote:
    Again, piracy is not theft. It’s piracy. Copying a computer game is not equivalent to stealing property.

    Yes it is. It totally is. There is not a difference.

    What about my Dodge Viper example didn’t sink in? I could try to describe it another way if my Dodge Viper example was too confusing.

    It wasn’t confusing – just completely off-base. You are taking something that doesn’t belong to you without permission. That’s theft. It doesn’t matter if the “original” is still intact – you’ve still acquired it unjustly. Theft is theft is theft.

    What you’re proposing is the same as everyone downloading and reading your book just because you decided the best way to distribute it was to put it in a box, rather than simply as an ordinary open book on a shelf. You’re still stealing it, and calling it “piracy” doesn’t change the fact that it’s theft. Maybe you should look up the history of “piracy” and see where the term came from. Hint: “pirates” were professional thieves.

  41. Nick says:

    For those of you still not getting the difference between larceny (theft) and copyright infringement (piracy):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larceny

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement

    This is the distinction:

    Larceny: “taking of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of it permanently”

    As you can see, piracy is NOT theft. Unless you mean:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy

  42. Alan De Smet says:

    Copyright infringement is neither piracy nor theft. It’s copyright infringement. If I infringe your copyright, I have not raided your ship on the high seas and plundered your cargo. If I infringe your copyright, you still have your original to enjoy. If I infringe your copyright, and you try to file a claim for theft with your insurance company, they will laugh you out of the office.

    Sure, in the common parlance, copyright infringement is called theft. And piracy has also been used to describe massive copyright infringement. (The usage to describe small scale copyright infringement is a relatively new usage.) But when we’re discussing the very nature, ethics, and law of copyright infringement, it’s important to be very, very clear about what we are talking about. Calling it theft or piracy in such a situation is nothing less than equivocation, intentional or not. It muddies the waters and causes people to drag in assumptions that simply are not correct.

    (And for the sake of the someone who will inevitably suggest I’m a giant stealing pirate, please try again. I support copyright law. I think copyright is a good thing for society and that we should respect it. I think we should respect copyright on its own merits, not because we’ve confused it with an unrelated crime.)

  43. Nick says:

    On the offchance that this comment shows up, any reason that your blog will not put up my comment when I submit it for the first time and then claim that I am trying to sumbit a duplicate comment on subsequent attempts?

    Edit: Never mind, got it. It didn’t like my URLs.

  44. Nick says:

    For those of you still not getting the difference between larceny (theft) and copyright infringement (piracy):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larceny

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement

    This is the distinction:

    Larceny: “taking of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of it permanently”

    As you can see, piracy is NOT theft. Unless you mean:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy

  45. The Werebear says:

    What gets me is the general foolishness of these anti-piracy measures.

    Consider: EA and Bioware are burning huge amounts of fan goodwill(and probably money) in their attempts to stop pirates. If the sentiments expressed here are a fair judge, then a vast majority of these pirates would probably not have purchased the game, want to sample it before buying, or already have purchased and want a backup.

    This means that EA is spending all this effort to secure money that they would A) Never have in the first place, B) receive soon after, or C) Already have. This is a humongous waste, especially considering that no DRM has ever had a lifespan measured longer than months, and the breaking of this system is considered a foregone conclusion.

    It would probably be better for EA and Bioware to rely heavily on community support. If they treated us with the respect that a vendor should treat a customer, I know that I would be more than happy to hand them money for a game, and to rally with them against pirates.

    However, if they are going to treat the community like we are scum, they will force honest buyers to side with the pirates in an attempt simply to ignore the obnoxious protection.

    To add to the confusion of the Dodge Viper Metaphor, it would be like preventing copying by programing 10% of all cars to explode when they exceeded 50 mph, on the off chance that it might catch some copiers in the blast.

  46. Nick says:

    For those of you still not getting the difference between larceny (theft) and copyright infringement (piracy):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larceny

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement

    This is the distinction:

    Larceny: “taking of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of it permanently”

    As you can see, piracy is NOT theft. Unless you mean:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy

  47. Scholar88 says:

    However, if they are going to treat the community like we are scum, they will force honest buyers to side with the pirates in an attempt simply to ignore the obnoxious protection.

    The Werebear, they are not forcing anyone. Their line is simple: “Do you want to play this game? Fine, but by my rules”.

    Do you not like the rules? The solution is simple: do not purchase the game. Resorting to piracy is not the solution, and not because of lofty reasons of high moral ground. EA and BioWare are companies, they are not entities which operate according to a moral system. They exist only in order to make money, lots of it. If we want to give them the cold shower, we have to negate them what they are after.

    “Dear EA, dearest BioWare, you decided to screw my hobby? More power to you. I am going to screw your precious profits. I will not buy your products not even if a nuclear bomb is dropped on my thick head.”

    Using illegal copies of the software will give even more support to this DRM lunacy.

  48. Zaghadka says:

    Oh god. Yet another rational discussion jacked by the “bad car analogy.” ;)

    I know who the crooks are, and I’m fed up with them lying to me. There’s no excuse for it, there’s no point to it, and I’m not buying their lying, cheating malware, infested games.

    Piracy, besides not being theft, is not “piracy” either. Stop making bad analogies, when the problem companies face is illegal distribution. Illegal mass distribution is the problem.

    SecuROM is not the answer. SecuROM is based in files that Sony won’t let you delete from your computer. On several occasions, for my protection against deleting valuable SecuROM keys, it has screwed up my user account with unbrowseable/non-deletable files and screwed up my registry with undeletable keys. Specifically, the regkeys use a method that many rootkits use, and so people were mistaking SecuROM as a rootkit. They probably stopped doing this “for my protection.” It’s not enough.

    The last time I had a run in with SecuROM, I had to go into Linux to delete the keyfiles for games I had long since uninstalled. All this so I could properly delete a damaged user account. Linux and NTFS-3g, folks. That’s what it took. XP wouldn’t let me touch em.

    This isn’t about piracy. It’s about who owns and controls your computer. If you run Sony’s SecuROM, they own your computer, and the things they will do “for your protection” can cause you major problems in the future.

  49. MaxEd says:

    Funny how Russian version of Mass Effect, to be published by “1C” on 30th of May, WOULD NOT have on-line activation and installations limit… That is: version for country with one of the highest piracy level will not have the same strong protection which will be used in “law-abiding” west countries.

    I still will not buy Mass Effect, it’s not my kind of game, but I cheer 1C for securing this victory against forces of international imperialism :)

    P.S. It MAY have something to do with Gazprom money and nuclear rockets ;)

  50. Rossmc says:

    The technical problem with DRM as implemented, specifically the issue of online activation and restricted installs, is that it is predicated on the assumption of PC ‘persistence’, which is clearly nonsense.

    There is not a single component of my gaming PC that will not be replaced in a maximum two-year cycle.

    Also – as ever – this has nothing to do with piracy. What the publishers are actually concerned with is me buying a game, playing it, then giving it to a friend. They would rather my friend paid for it as well.

    There is only so much market for PC games. Trying to artificially expand it by making games more troublesome to own is just stupid. This is bad business practice so don’t fret too much. Like all bad business practices before it, it too will die a natural death.

  51. ArchU says:

    “Wired magazine talks to Bioware’s Greg Zeschuk…” Er, BioWare is the developer, not the publisher. Maybe Greg of BioWare has been kept in the dark about what the publisher is up to with SecuROM – and they do, from what I’ve seen, listen to their fans but seem a bit powerless to halt the publishing colossus backing them.

  52. Jansolo says:

    Zereth: no company can tell me which kind of software are allowed to install in my private computer. I didn’t expect such comments from the US (maybe in the Soviet Union as somebody said)

    “This is a humongous waste, especially considering that no DRM has ever had a lifespan measured longer than months, and the breaking of this system is considered a foregone conclusion.”

    Meanwhile, only legal buyers are harmed. Patient downloaders will have no problem.

    According to my comment on privacy, I totally agree Zaghadka and Rossmc.

  53. Mordaedil says:

    I would like to disagree with you Shamus. I don’t think Greg meant positive in the way that fans welcomed the DRM. More that it died down (ie. lack of commentary on DRM = positivity) after they went half-way and cut out the 10-day dial home feature.

    Infact, the forum was from that point on only trolled by one or three really negative people who couldn’t behave themselves better than an outraged 8-year old (albeit with good grammar)

    I understand your hesitation Shamus, but if Mass Effect isn’t the game for you, maybe it’s time to just let go?

  54. Morzas:

    That Dodge Viper analogy was the most gloriously, delightfully screwy thing I’ve read all night. I don’t care if most reasonable people in this thread disagree with you morally, ethically, or semantically, your post will be the one I remember most out of all the comments.

    That being said, I really only have one thing to say about the long-running piracy debate, to paraphrase the world’s wisest Drengin: “Piracy is not the issue. Sales are.” It’s not about how many people pirated the game, it’s about how many people bought it–and to say that stronger DRM, theoretically reducing piracy, will directly increase sales is something of a non sequitur. Even if a DRM actually did manage to reduce piracy, such a thing would matter little unless a thwarted would-be pirate actually wanted to play the game badly enough to knuckle down and pony up.

    But such an assumption ignores the simple fact that once a DRM scheme has been cracked, it can’t be “uncracked,” so to speak. The best one can do is delay the cracking to avoid zero-day piracy, which is the exception to my above point. That is, the only piracy that can be strongly linked to affecting sales in the way DRM advocates are thinking of. That is, the golden window of sales opportunity where the only way someone can play the game is by buying it, when (hopefully) hype and anticipation can defeat the urge to pirate the game–because to pirate would require that the game be cracked, and that would require waiting, and people don’t like to wait. But after it’s been cracked, as far as pirates are concerned, it’s like it never had any DRM to begin with. After the cracking, people who will buy the game as opposed to pirate it will buy it despite how easily the game can be gotten illegally. Likewise, people who pirate the game after it’s cracked are not the sort of people who would buy it if they had any choice in the matter. Probably because they’re asshats, but the ethics and morality of it don’t affect the facts on the ground.

    And intrusive, phone-home DRM schemes, or schemes so cluster-cuddled that they actually harm your computer (that you *DO* legally own, as opposed to software you “license for use”), don’t do much other than spread much-deserved ill will towards publishers, while giving pirates and their advocates a chance to earn goodwill and trust from the community at large. Which would be a bad thing, one suspects.

    That being said, Stardock certainly built up a lot of press for its refusal to use intrusive DRM schemes (replacing them with rather more reasonable “just verify you got it with a serial, or get it digitally distributed, where verification happens on purchase as a matter of course”). There was nothing to stop piracy of the game, just a boost of goodwill press and sentiment to promote sales. And they treat pirates as potential customers, not the other way around. That definitely boosts goodwill by word of mouth, which again helps sales. Stopping piracy is always a concern, but the *real* bottom line is also always sales, nothing more. I’d like to see more companies take the strategy of focusing their money and effort on maximizing sales, as opposed to spending money and effort fighting piracy.

    More importantly, I want to see them succeed, as Stardock has.

    …..

    It’s funny that I used to come here to laugh and smile, but now I come here to get caught up in the DRM-and-Pirates talk. And I have the sneaking suspicion that someone else said the exact same thing I just did, somewhere within the past week.

    All of a sudden, I’m swept with an air of futility, and foolishness. Perhaps it’s only a feeling, and not a premonition of things to come. Perhaps.

  55. Dolleater says:

    Forcing people to contact customer service (which naturally is a small army of dull monkeys) to even be able to install/play their games. Thats just so… EA.

  56. Deoxy says:

    Krellen, Jennifer Snow, etc,

    The thing you are not considering is that there are other issues at work here – that is, you are assuming certain VERY IMPORTANT things that are not yet decided.

    1) Scope and balance of copyright.

    Copyright has always been a balancing act that restricts rights of some citizens for the direct benefit of other citizens, but the payoff has been the long-term benefit of all citizens – that’s why it’s done. Copyright has, BUILT IN, several concepts that have been getting thoroughly abused of late (“fair use” and “limited time” are the easiest and most obvious examples). The rules of copyright are not immutable, and, with enough abuse, society will cease to see any benefit to copyright and will do away with it. This is BAD… but it’s already happening. How many people under 30 have ANY guilt about pirating music or games? Not many. This is BAD! And it’s because of crap like this.

    2) Legality of EULAs.

    A whole different (but related topic), I’ll summarize: EULAs are assumed by most people to be legal, since they are drafted by lawyers, etc., but the concept itself is clearly something we find repugnant, immoral, and illegal in other areas (modifying an agreement after the fact – basically a form of “bait and switch”). But the courts have held…. well, not much, since most companies have put a lot of effort into avoiding actual court decisions on EULAs (probably because it’s plain that most portions of EULAs, indeed, perhaps the entire concept, would not stand up to the slightest scrutiny).

    So, you can say “theft is theft is theft” as often as you want, but until you bother to actually deal with the real issues, people who actually use their brains will ignore you.

  57. krellen says:

    Deoxy:

    In a previous post by Shamus, I was one of the main proponents of the illegality of EULAs. Simply because the EULA is illegal, however, does not make it legal, or right, to copy software at your discretion. There is, in fact, a difference between downloading cracked installation files to your machine from someone else’s and lending or giving a CD to a friend or family member when you are done with a product. One is called piracy, and the other isn’t.

    Downloading cracked software, the so-called “piracy” that’s “okay” because it leaves the “original intact” is patently illegal, immoral, and damaging to society. Lending the CD with the program on it to your friend, however, is not, because that’s your CD, not the publisher’s, and what you do with it is your business.

    If companies are wise, they capitalise on the penchant for people to lend CDs by making it desirable for all parties to own an individual copy. Companies that truly excel, like Blizzard, have done this with competitive and co-operative game-play, on-line hosting, and simple game-play mechanics so entertaining that fans simply don’t want to be without the game. Making it hard to lend the CD to a friend isn’t going to help sales.

    Yes, companies have been pushing the boundary on what copyright does and does not allow, and they have been heavy-handed about it. But a wrong does not make a wrong right, and their abuses do not explain, excuse, or justify other abuses. We have a legal question on our hands, yes; the way to resolve it, however, does not lay down the path of “theft” of their property. The only way civil disobedience works in changing policy is by drawing public attention to an issue. Piracy does not draw such attention, and thus does nothing to resolve the legal question.

  58. Shamus says:

    The hilarious thing is that my noontime post today (which I wrote last night) is going to pour gasoline on the debate we have going here.

    I must say how pleased I am that we can have these things and retain a civil tone. I haven’t been joining in, but this is a pretty interesting thread.

    Thanks guys.

  59. Nixorbo says:

    Lol “piracy vs. theft vs. copyright infringement” argument.

    Mere semantics.

    The point is that you’re illegally obtaining products/services without paying for them.

    Unless, of course, you bought a copy and then downloaded a crack/what have you. But then you’re not really affecting change, are you? Just furthering the downward spiral.

  60. […] think the closest analogy of piracy is the one Bruce offered in the comments: It’s like sneaking into a movie. Sure, it’s not “hurting” anyone – nobody […]

  61. Stephen M:

    Not quite. If a game has 10,000 legit users and 190,000 pirates (5%), it makes the exact same amount of money for the company as if it had 10,000 legit users and 90,000 pirates (10%).

    and

    Piracy is not the issue. Sales are.” It’s not about how many people pirated the game, it’s about how many people bought it

    What we have going on now is a huge experiment that appears to be paying off for the company.

    If I sell 10,000 units without DRM and my next game sells 15,000 units with DRM, odds are I’ll stick with the DRM.

    Now I may go from an installed base of 200,000 to one of 30,000 — but the real thing that has occurred is that many game companies have gotten greater sales.

    There are a lot of variants. Guild Wars DRM is the fact that you have to play in the persistent on-line world. It makes buying used copies difficult, but the fan base doesn’t seem to mind at all.

    I abhor some DRM schemes — especially SONY’s half cracked install without warning root kit mess.

    And, I buy all of my software legitimately.

    But the real key is to spend your money in ways that encourage DRM-free solutions and to communicate your choices.

  62. Moontyger says:

    I actually bought Mass Effect PC yesterday, because I decided that one time activation wasn’t too bad, if not ideal. However, when I went to install it, I noted that while they might have said they’d no longer require periodic reactivation (the every 10 days bit), it’s still in the EULA. Along with giving them permission to record not only information on my system, which I expected, but also my IP address, which will be associated with this information.

    Needless to say, I was less than thrilled. Stating that they won’t do something seems pretty meaningless when it’s still in the EULA. And as someone who upgrades their system fairly regularly, “three machines” isn’t much at all. Really, I hate all these schemes that want to prevent me from replaying games years from now. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve reinstalled and played old games I’ve really enjoyed, like Planescape: Torment, Daggerfall, or The Longest Journey. I do not want to give that up lightly.

    Bottom line, I have a game I really want to play, but I refused to agree with the EULA. I can’t return it as I had to open it to see said EULA, and thus am stuck with a copy of a game I will not play. Until I find a cracked copy to download, of course. Then I can play the game I bought without this crap. But it makes me wish I hadn’t bought the game in the first place, as that sends a message that I find this DRM acceptable and I do not. It’s really ridiculous; I am a legitimate consumer who prefers to buy things rather than pirate them, and yet they put these things on their games that make pirating the obvious best choice. How does that make any sense?

  63. Deoxy says:

    Yes, companies have been pushing the boundary on what copyright does and does not allow, and they have been heavy-handed about it. But a wrong does not make a wrong right, and their abuses do not explain, excuse, or justify other abuses. We have a legal question on our hands, yes; the way to resolve it, however, does not lay down the path of “theft” of their property. The only way civil disobedience works in changing policy is by drawing public attention to an issue. Piracy does not draw such attention, and thus does nothing to resolve the legal question.

    If you are trying to kill me, I can kill you to defend myself. That is a much, MUCH more extreme case than what we are talking about, but it is still a case where a “wrong” is made “right” by another wrong.

    Behavious is right or wrong in context. In this context, they are trying to “kill” my right of “fair use”. Society will almost certainly respond (and to a significant degree already has responded) to this “deadly” force by “killing” their right of “copyright”.

    Now, you may not like this analogy, and I’m not going to defend it as perfect, but it certainly destroys your “a wrong does not make a wrong right” claim.

    Again, you are assuming the very issues at stake. Without trying to get into the actual debate itself, this reminds me of the abortion debate: the real issue is whether the “fetus” is considered a person (“it’s a person” make abortion a form of execution, “it’s not a person” makes abortion no different than removing the appendix), but nobody ever talks about that, and thus no progress is ever made.

    “Legality” is fluid. In terms of copyright, I make no claim that copying other people’s work is legal (it’s clearly not in a great many cases), nor do I really want it to be (copyright has been enormously good for society). I’m talking about what the law SHOULD be, and I’m talking about the actual behaviour and morality of the majority of society (that is, what law is supposed to approximate).

    Just because our politicians sold themselves to the highest bidder and made laws accordingly doesn’t mean we should blindly follow them.

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