on Jun 16, 2008
Once in a while I’ll see a link from another site referring to me as a “anti-DRM crusader” or words to that effect. I didn’t understand why at first, but as I look back on the archives I notice a lot of posts dedicated to the issue. I’ve certainly expended more than my share of words on the subject. It was never my intention to “crusade” at all. I just see the mainstream PC Games industry going to hell, and as we ride along I’m pointing out the windows and directing your attention to some of the more notable landmarks.
I’d rather I didn’t have to write about this stuff at all. I’d rather the publishers would just sell me a game and bugger off and let me use it in peace.
Once in a while I get comments to the effect of, “I can’t believe you make such a big deal out of [online activation]. It’s trivial!” I think a lot of these comments must come from kids who can’t remember what the world looked like before 24/7 connectivity. This means they are also young enough that they don’t have a catalog of old PC games they like to play, and haven’t learned the joy of revisiting old titles. In any case, they’re confusing the actual effort imposed on the user with the transaction taking place. Yes, online activation isn’t that painful (assuming the activation servers don’t die at launch) but I would still balk at online activation for single-player games even if it was quick and seamless. The effort isn’t the deal-breaker for me, it’s the lack of control. I don’t want my “ownership” to be something that can be revoked if the producer changes their mind. I don’t want it to be something that can just vanish due to financial upheaval, which is rife in the videogame industry. I won’t stand for it. I won’t buy it.
I’m not trying to “send a message” – I’m just setting the terms under which I’m prepared to do business. I won’t stand for buying something if I need the permission of the producer to use it ten years down the road. I don’t expect other people to “join me” in this “crusade”, because I’d keep doing this even if I was the only one who cared.
When I’m tempted to buy one of these games, I think ahead ten years, to when my hard drive has a couple of dozen such games on it. I put in a new graphics card, and half the games “break”, requiring phone calls, re-activation, and sending in pictures of the physical media to prove my ownership of the things. And that’s for the games that still work. This is on top of the list of games that will inevitably be orphaned by the loss of activation servers.
At one point someone commented that, “If this bugs you then you’re not going to have any PC games left to play.”
That’s pretty much the thrust of all these posts. I’ll buy a console before I accept online activation. If (when) the publishers infest those machines with this nonsense, then I’ll just put more time into my other hobby. My d20 doesn’t require any authentication.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.