Experienced Points: So Who Is DRM For Anyway?

By Shamus
on Mar 31, 2015
Filed under:
Column

Yes, we’re talking about DRM again. To a certain extent, I realize this is a bit like complaining that the view outside of your jail cell kind of sucks. The DRM argument is essentially over. Our games are already linked to Steam / Origin / Games for Windows Live / UPlay / Whatever. The ownership argument has been over for years. From here on it’s just a matter of degrees. The publishers say, “We both agree the game belongs to us. Now let’s talk about what we allow you to do with it. And when we say ‘talk’ what we mean is, ‘agree to this EULA and leave us alone’. Thanks for being a customer. We love gamers and video games.”

I know the argument is over, but once in a while you need to drive by and chuck a brick through the window to let ’em know you’re still mad. So that’s what we’re doing this week.

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  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Nothing really to say about drm,since I am tired of that idiocy(maybe it is there so that all these programmers would have jobs?),but I want to talk about this:

    Brandon doesn’t care about single player.

    and

    both the single-player and multiplayer

    Why do we still not have a consensus about writing “single( /-/)player” and “multi( /-/)player”?

    • Joe Informatico says:

      English is a weird and ever-evolving language, yo.

    • Shamus says:

      Yeah. At the very least we ought to have a consensus within an article written by one person. Hm.

      • Matt Downie says:

        Compound adjectival phrases are normally hyphenated. So you’d say, “a single-player game” because it stops people thinking you might mean a “single player-game”.
        If you’re using it as a noun when saying “Brandon doesn’t care about single player.” …I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do. Probably hyphenate.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Since I was made to learn this not long ago: hyphen is used only for adverbial constructs (single-player game) but not for things that stand alone (single player).

          Hyphens are also used for combound verbs if they are used as nouns (“they rip off their customers” vs. “this game is a rip-off”)

          For multiplayer: “multi” is not a separate word, therefore concatenating seems like the correct thing to me.

      • Septyn says:

        Next time on Spoiler Warning: Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots and Leaves 2003. It’s the only FPS that helps you improve your punctuation skills! Difficulty settings range from “Daddy, can you write my paper?” to “P-P-P-Pulitzer Mode”. Downloadable house style guides from major newspapers add variety to the gameplay. Available at national retailers and your local library. “Look out, Oxford Comma, I’m coming for you!”

    • HeroOfHyla says:

      multiple player
      multiplayer
      it merges together nicely

      single player doesn’t, unless we want to use “singlayer”

    • Muspel says:

      Multi is a prefix. Single is not. Thus, multiplayer is a single word, while single-player is hyphenated.

      Unfortunately, prefixed equivalents of single-player (like uniplayer) sound kind of stupid, so nobody wants to use them.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I’m all for calling it “uniplayer”.

      EDIT: Ninja’d from >3 hours ago, when I just loaded the page and it took ten seconds to make the comment.

    • JackTheStripper says:

      Hyphen use in English is optional in most cases. I agree with Shamus’ use here though.

      “Multi-” is a latin prefix, so it’s fine to use without a hyphen. I’d only consider adding a hyphen if the meaning of the word would otherwise be ambiguous, or when the prefix’s use with a certain word is not common.

      “Single” is not a prefix though, it’s simply another word, so the compound “single-player” with a hyphen seems more appropriate to me as it is used to denote the meanings of both words work as one (there is a case to be made, though, that “singleplayer” can be its own word, but that rendition is not as common, I believe). Although, keep in mind that the hyphen is not required here either, it only works to make it more clear that the two words form a single constituent.

      As a side-note, I suppose the comparative equivalent of each word being similar to each other would be to call “single-player” as “uniplayer” or “multiplayer” as “multiple-player”. But those are simply not the words we chose to accept. Natural languages are not always governed by best practices or ease of use.

    • Kdansky says:

      You of all people complain about that, when you fuck up every single case of punctuation in every single of your sentences? We may not have consensus about hyphens, but we have have consensus about commas and periods. They have a non-optional space afterwards. You are probably the only person on the whole planet who doesn’t follow that rule.

      Next up, drug dealers complaining about the lack of DEA funding.

      • Phill says:

        Oh dear God this is true. DL’s lack of spaces around braces and other punctuation drives me to distraction. Much like all caps sounds like shouting, the lack of white space somehow makes it (to me) sound like DL is mumbling to himself in the corner and rocking slightly.

        Always worth reading though ;)

        • Kdansky says:

          Weshouldallstarttocompletelydisregardwhitespaceruleswheneverwetalktohim.

          SHOULDITBEALLCAPS?ITHINKITSHOULDALSOBEALLCAPS.

        • Mechaninja says:

          That may explain why I’ve always thought of DL as mumbling in the corner while rocking. On the other hand, some of his comments could give that impression by themselves.

          On the gripping hand, so could many of mine …

  2. General Karthos says:

    I do have to wonder what the problem is that people have with owning games through Steam? I ask because I’ve had to reinstall my operating system three times in the last three months. And every time, I’ve been able to re-download the games that I own and reload the saves that are on the Steam Cloud (and the backups of the ones that aren’t on the Cloud). I can play all my Steam games when not connected to the internet (so long as I’m okay not saving to the Cloud), and I don’t have to enter any CD keys or anything to play my games….

    So what’s the problem? I really do want to know.

    • Primogenitor says:

      The biggest one IMHO is you won’t be able to re-download them if Valve no longer exists.

      In that case, its a pretty small risk – but it is still a non-zero risk.

      • Kylroy says:

        More to the point, I think rational people could conclude it’s a risk worth taking when weighed against the possibility of a computer crash or other glitch borking local storage.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Or if comparing to physical media, losing/damaging disks.

          • Ronixis says:

            I think that the risk feels different when it’s something you can control, though. I could make another backup, but I can’t change the business conditions that determine the success of Valve by myself.

            • Mechaninja says:

              Yet on the gripping hand, relying on Valve now that they’ve figured out to print money and have all the good will of every PC gamer there is feels a lot safer than relying on EA or Ubi. Valve is (seems like?) a GAMER company, while most of the others are game COMPANIES.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      They can, in theory, block access to your games at any time. E.g. if a hacker breaks into your account and uses it to commit fraud, or cheats in multiplayer, they could stop you logging in and thus stop you playing. And Steam has a really bad reputation for customer service, so good luck calling a human to get it sorted out.

      In practice, I don’t know if this ever actually happens, but it could. I suspect one day some rich gamer with nothing better to do will sue a company over Terms and Conditions like this, and we’ll finally get a test case about whether EULAs are enforceable or not.

      Personally, what I do like about Steam is that, even though they’re very much “games as service”, at least the player gets the benefits of having a service (like redownloading and cloud saves), rather than only the drawbacks.

      Edited many times because apparently I can’t do html.

      • Tizzy says:

        I’ve had issues with Steam in the dark ages of long ago, and I can confirm that, back then at least, the customer service was abysmal.

        Apart from that, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about Steam as a service. I think the main concern to have is the usual concern associated to any monopoly.

      • krellen says:

        There have been test cases on EULAs. The only time an EULA has ever been upheld is when it was the only way to get someone that was clearly doing something wrong but could not be charged with any other crime.

        To clarify: the only case I have ever found that upheld an EULA is a decades-old one where the defendant was charged with violating the EULA because he copied a company’s digitally-distributed directory and re-sold it for less. Couldn’t charge him with copyright infringement because things like directories (any list of real-world information, so phone books, maps, etc.) cannot be copyrighted.

    • Humanoid says:

      I’d struggle to name anything I like about Steam. What do I not like? Where do I start? Off the top of my head:

      – The ability to unilaterally deny access to games you’ve purchased. All of them.
      – Region locking. Region locking not just on purchases, but on ongoing use. Someone who legitimately buys a game in say, Estonia, who later moves to the US or whereever, can suddenly find they need to rebuy the game. And to do even that they have to contact Steam support to have their old copy of the game deleted from their library, because you can’t buy a game you already own.
      – The disingenuous notion of some Steam “DRM-free” games that nonetheless require use of the Steam client to download and install.
      – Ridiculous offline mode that requires a connection and logging in to even enable in the first place.
      – The pervasive nature of the client itself, which is designed to really incentivise having it run 100% of the time. The friends system, trading cards, voice chat, screenshot library, achievements. All designed to build dependence on the client, to be online, all the time. The whole gamification thing has been discussed a long time ago but nonetheless it’s an absolute absurdity (and irresponsibility) that people are encouraged to leave games on, idle and sucking up power and CPU cycles, just to get credit for trading cards and achievements.
      – Not paying local taxes due to no local presence (fair enough) but then still charging the same prices as other vendors (e.g. Origin) who do charge tax. The 10% instead of going to the government goes, I assume, towards the publisher and indirectly boosts Steam’s cut.
      – Want to buy a 4-pack of some game? One copy is forcibly redeemed to your account, only three are giftable. Already have a copy? Well too bad, that extra copy you bought has just vanished into thin air.

      Note that in all the above, I’ve given them a pass on things I know they’re beholden to publishers for. The presence of DRM, abhorrent as it is, not technically their fault, okay. Regional pricing is the same, sure. Also UI quibbles such as the tremendously unwieldy categorisation system, or the fact that if login fails, the client closes down altogether and forces a relaunch instead of just presenting the login prompt again.

      I’m also trying to avoid blaming them for silly user behaviour such as panning other distribution systems – be it GOG, Origin, Uplay, whatever – for doing the exact same things Steam is doing because for some reason, a monopoly is seen as a desirable thing. EA gets panned for not selling some of their games on Steam, but do I see any Valve games on Origin? Some people don’t even realise they sell non-EA games. It irks me that that kind of mentality exists. Bought a game which requires you to log in on both Steam and a first-party login? Clearly the first party’s fault and not the third party’s fault right? Even though you could have skipped the login on Steam part by buying the game from elsewhere. (Thinking Might & Magic 10 here, where if you bought the game from Steam you needed to log in on Steam in addition to Uplay. Buy it from literally anywhere else and you could skip half the steps. But people continued to buy it on Steam for the nonsense reason of “I want all my games in the same place” then proceed to complain that the people who made the game don’t bow down before the monolithic entity that just took 30% of their revenue for no appreciable benefit. Making it even more interesting was the fact that this was a “Uplay-lite” game in which Uplay operates in a mode far less intrusive than Steam.)

      TL;DR: Steam is good at making irrational people think that it’s the ideal outcome for all games ever to be made dependent on Steam, for all game companies to be beholden to the whims of one man, and to tithe him 30% of their revenue because he’s such a nice guy. I don’t know about you, but it smells like the beginning of a bloody cult to me.

      I no longer buy games through Steam. I unfortunately have to use Steam, but now do all my purchases through third-party sellers such as Amazon, GreenManGaming, Humble Bundle, GamersGate, etc. I want Valve to go out of business so I can see whether they can hold up to that supposed promise that if that happens, people won’t lose their games. Because I’m almost certain those words are just empty as anything else about Valve being good guys.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        @General Karthos

        The comment I’m replying to is more or less the kind of thing all anti-Steam people say (generally people are not so fanatically hateful as Humanoid here is, thankfully). A couple of these are sort of legitimate complaints, but the rest are either blown out of proportion, misunderstood or outright wrong.

        But the real problem is that people who don’t like Steam tend to concentrate on the cons and completely and utterly ignore all the pros. Even Shamus has said that Steam’s pros outweigh its cons, and it’s true. The system is hardly ideal, yes, but it’s a good compromise for what it allows.

        • Humanoid says:

          Steam being “only a little bit worse” than not using Steam is hardly an argument for using Steam, regardless of the exact value of “a little bit”. A lot of the defence for Steam is couched in phrases like “it’s not a big deal”, “only takes a little more time/effort”, “you’ll get used to it”, etcetera. All used to sweep all the genuine issues under the carpet and dismiss them as having zero collective negative impact on the user experience.

          I suppose there’s a lot of truth is the saying that a good compromise leaves everyone unhappy, so in that regard I guess Steam could be called a good compromise.

          • Felblood says:

            –But I find having Steam just a little bit better than non-steam, and a million years better than Origin or Facebook based game.

            Let us never speak of GFWL.

          • Dreadjaws says:

            The idea of using quotation marks is to put inside them something that was actually said, or at the very least implied by someone. I never said anything even resembling “only a little bit worse” or any of those other things you’re quoting.

            All systems have pros and cons. Having games on floppy disks like we used to have before Steam had its share of terrible cons as well. Again, focusing exclusively on the bad parts is hardly something even resembling an argument.

      • Lanthanide says:

        “Steam is good at making irrational people think that it’s the ideal outcome for all games ever to be made dependent on Steam, for all game companies to be beholden to the whims of one man, and to tithe him 30% of their revenue because he’s such a nice guy. I don’t know about you, but it smells like the beginning of a bloody cult to me.”

        Because the alternative is… what? We’d have dozens of completely incompatible systems, that would somehow all be better than steam currently is? Hell, even the current competitors with steam are very poxy bunch, and that is *with* steam as an example that they can emulate and improve upon.

        • boz says:

          “Because the alternative is… what?”

          GoG. It’s not even a question.

        • Humanoid says:

          The alternative is my operating system’s file structure.

          • General Karthos says:

            Wow, lots of hatred there. :)

            So they can block my use of the games I’ve bought on a whim. I’m not thrilled about that. Just curious though: Have they ever actually done that?

            Can’t comment about region locking, except to say that if you buy a DVD in Estonia and then move to the United States, your DVD won’t work on your DVD player. Not sure if computers are region-locked, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that the same was true.

            I don’t give a crap about trading cards or achievements. Why should I? What do I get except a little self-congratulatory pat on the back? My goal with games is to enjoy them, not check off the little boxes that tell me I’ve done a good job. If you’re overly concerned with achievements, that’s your issue, not Steam’s.

            When you say tax, I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean sales tax? I live in Oregon where we don’t have a sales tax or a value-added tax, or whatever the term is for the regressive tax that adds an additional cost onto your purchase. Not sure if people in the 48 states where there are sales taxes have to pay them on game purchases. If that’s not what you’re talking about, could you clarify?

            Didn’t know that about the multipack. That’s unfortunate, and a legitimate complaint if accurate.

            “…if login fails, the client closes down altogether and forces a relaunch instead of just presenting the login prompt again.” When I use Steam, if login fails, it presents me with the login prompt again. Maybe it’s a Mac thing. Or maybe it’s been a while since you used Steam and things have changed.

            I think overall, the conveniences I get out of Steam override the minor, occasional irritations.

            Oh, but I do prefer GOG as a game provider. Especially since I can get ahold of Master of Orion II, Theme Hospital, Stronghold, and more of the classic games I have always loved.

            But there’s still no OSX version of Escape Velocity.

            • Humanoid says:

              – Well they have banned people from Steam and that of course means that person loses all their Steam games. I’d like to think the bans are for ‘legitimate’ reasons, but it’s still a system with zero granularity.

              – Computers are not region coded. DVD drives in a computer can be, but it’s a moot point because it applies to DVD movies and not DVD games, never has. Further, even if you take that same hypothetical PC over along with the rest of your stuff, it still doesn’t matter, the region coding is based on geolocation, i.e. your Internet connection, not any hardware you’re running. You can defeat geolocation using a VPN, but guess what, Valve give themselves the right to ban you for using a VPN. Aside, DVD region locking actually is no longer a thing in Australia, any player bought today will ignore the region code of any DVD inserted into it.

              – No, I don’t care about Steam achievements or trading cards either. Yes, I ignore them. But it doesn’t mean they’re harmless, many marketing initiatives are and have been banned in the past because they promote undesirable or otherwise generally anticompetitive behaviour.

              – When I talk about tax, I should specify I’m in Australia, which has a flat 10% goods and services tax. To be fair this is likely down to the publisher agreement moreso than Valve. That said though, I’d rather a little extra money go towards my government than towards said publisher’s (and Gaben’s) pockets.

              – The multipack thing is very much a thing happening right now. If I instead buy a multipack from GamersGate say, I just get 4 keys to use however I like.

              – Probably a different type of login failure. Not a case of mistyping the password or anything, just random failure after entering correct details, which pops up a dialog saying login failed and the whole thing just closes down. It’s on PC, and has happened this week.

              _______________

              Anyway, yes, I was in a bad mood this morning, and in other situations may have typed the same message in somewhat milder language. But I still do sincerely believe that Steam has been a net negative to the consumer as a whole, albeit with the one unarguable benefit that games are cheaper now. I understand that’s a big plus, and don’t argue with someone who thinks that overrides everything, but for me it doesn’t, and the many times I opt to pay more for a non-Steam avenue shows that.

              I also am pleased with their support for Linux, although I do not support SteamOS itself – I see the main benefit as being better support on traditional Linux distributions. That said, it’s still a move purely out of self-interest, and it would be foolish to assume that Valve’s intentions for PC are any less monopolistic in intent than Microsoft’s. Valve want Steam to BE PC gaming, and for PC gaming to BE Steam, and that’s my primary concern.

              I’d also say another factor is that I personally don’t play Valve games (I don’t play shooters). For someone more favourably inclined towards Valve for their actual game output, that may make them more receptive to Steam in the first place, and it’s a wholly understandable sentiment, I mean I want my favourite devs to do well financially too, but when dealing with a behemoth like Steam, it’s kind of necessary to view it as a standalone entity.

              And finally yes, GOG’s approach to their new client is the right one, strictly optional. As I said, I don’t blame Valve for having to accommodate publisher demand for DRM with the Steam client, but there’s no reason to enforce its use for games that they themselves proudly announce as DRM-free.

              • Richard says:

                As a point of fact, the region-locking comes from the same stupid publisher requirement as the regional-pricing.

                I’m absolutely certain that Valve would prefer to not to do any region-based stuff, because it’d make their lives much easier.

                I’ve never bought a multipack, and if that’s really what happens then that’s unacceptable.
                If it’s mentioned up-front then I’d refuse to buy the multipack, and if it wasn’t then I’d raise hell (including reversing the transaction, as that right is inalienable) should that happen.

          • harborpirate says:

            I remember the days when “managing games by file structure” was the only choice, and I do NOT want to go back.

            Some games required they be installed into a specific directory that they chose, which inevitably was on my tiny OS partition and not my huge data partition. Some games spammed my desktop with half a dozen icons (many for useless tools and other detrious) without giving me a choice. Some installed toolbars, always-running services, and other annoying crap that bordered on (or was) malware. And, of course, all of them had endless disks/discs to keep track of because “if you want to play the game without the disk/disc in the drive, clearly you’re a pirate”. Server/cloud save systems were not worth the time and money to implement. Buying online was something only a madman would want to do, since if it existed at all, you’d have to manage a separate account+password for every publisher and who knows if they’d even let you re-download.

            If we lived in an ideal world where no matter what game I bought, I could get it online from any storefront I chose, I could dump its files in a directory, and make a shortcut in a standard place to the primary binary that would let me launch the game? SURE! Oh, and all games were compatible with a reliable cloud save system that ensured that if my computer suddenly decides to melt into a pile of slag, I can still buy another PC and play from where I left off. AND all games supported cross-buy and worked no matter what OS or hardware I switched to/from, and always allowed me to re-download the game if I needed to. Yes, that would make me happy. Sadly, that is far from the world we live in.

            What makes Steam great is its ability to twist the arms of publishers/dev houses to force them to (mostly) do the right thing. These days, I don’t worry about how to start a particular game. I don’t worry about where games are stored (I set that up once and could stop worrying about it). I don’t have to do any of the endless mundane tasks that I used to have to do to just boot a game up and start playing. I don’t have to worry about something happening to my PC and losing everything as a result.

            Oh, and games are far cheaper than ever before.

            I guess this is down to being comfortable with a benevolent dictator that, for the most part, acts in a fair, equitable and predictable manner. One who generally acts in the best interest of the people it serves, rather than corporations that sometimes would like to abuse those people (or just don’t care about them and harm them unintentionally).
            I admit, there’s always the possibility that dictator could turn evil, or disappear and leave us all hanging. Anarchy would be preferable to that, but I find those scenarios unlikely.

            tldr; I lived through PC gaming anarchy, and as far as I’m concerned, it was a hell not worth revisiting.

    • Galad says:

      Only issue I’ve had with Steam was when I tried playing a steam game on a laptop, while being on the bus, hence having no internet access – if the laptop were shut off or in sleep mode at the start of the ride I’d need to login again in steam. I can’t do that without internet access, so I don’t really see how offline mode works with steam.

    • Xeorm says:

      For me, the benefits of owning games through steam have outweighed the bad points, but that’s not to say that the bad points don’t exist. Main potential problems revolve around Valve and what they own ultimately setting what I own. That’s not a problem when things are going well, but it could become one, which is problematic. Examples:

      Their play offline feature does not always work, and it’s incredibly frustrating if it strikes when you were hoping to use it. It’s not too far fetched to think that this sort of bug might spread to other things as well. Like say because of whatever OS you use giving you problems.

      There’s also legality problems. Right now Valve can and does change their legal terms of use as they see fit. Good luck getting a good challenge going.

      And of course the doomsday scenario where Valve’s servers fail and all the games you “own” are lost. Unlikely, but it’s still there.

    • Tom says:

      The problem is that you DON’T own games through Steam. Steam and its ilk are like a rich kid on your block whom you pay a lump sum and in exchange he lets you come over and play HIS games whenever you want. Unless he gets annoyed at you for any reason, or gets sick, or is very busy, or just decides one day that he doesn’t feel like doing it any more, in which case he reserves the right to slam the door in your face and keep your money. It’s spelled out plainly in the EULA.

      In practical terms, Steam is better than the rest because, SO FAR, they have generally kept the door open. However, they explicitly reserve the right to be every bit as massive jerks or incompetents, or worse, than all the others. Whether or not you let that slide comes down to whether you’re willing to practice realpolitik. Personally, this is one principle I’m not letting go of. I will not install steam as long as that clause is still there.

    • Blackbird71 says:

      “I do have to wonder what the problem is that people have with owning games through Steam?”

      The key right there is that you do not in fact own games through Steam – you license them for as long as they are made available to you, which is an indefinite and unknown period of time. This license could potentially be revoked at any moment, for any reason, with no recourse or compensation.

      Some people prefer to actually own products that they purchase.

  3. Drew says:

    Friggin’ Brandon. That guy is RUINING it for the rest of us.

  4. Groboclown says:

    Another thing that might be happening here is that Brandon has 3 computers he uses to play the game. Let’s say he spends 3 days a week at his dad’s, and 4 days a week at his mom’s, and sometimes plays on his laptop. He’s taking advantage of Origin’s features by using the cloud services as people claim is the New Thing People Want To Do with cloud services.

    Now, he’s spent the money, has money to spend on more games (hey, 2 PC’s capable of playing the game: that’s some good money). Then he goes and upgrades all those computers with the latest NVidia Radeon 29909SXm2p graphics card.

    So now he’s a fellow who clearly likes to spend money on games. And here he is being crushed by EA because he likes to use their services.

    Did I get that right?

    • KingJosh says:

      That’s NVidia Radeon 29909SXn2p.

      Otherwise, entirely correct.

      EDIT: The “m” would’ve denoted a mid-range card from two generations ago. The “n” denotes current generation. One generation ago would be denoted by an “x.”

      • AileTheAlien says:

        What kind of insane naming convention is that? It’s not even alphabetical! And the letter is in the middle of a bunch of other seemingly random characters! :S

        • KingJosh says:

          Since I can’t tell for sure if you’re joking, I’d better clarify that I was joking. The nonsensicle non-alphbetical “naming convention” was part of the joke.

          To be fair, both Nvidia and AMD have naming conventions that can seem almost this nonsensicle in real life. But, that’s because each company makes their own, then introduces new products in response to their competitor’s products, and then has to replace the whole mess and start over with a “better” naming convention every few years, anyway.

          • AileTheAlien says:

            Well, I feel silly now. And a day early, too! :P

            • Humanoid says:

              The depressing thing is that it used to be much worse. Both companies rationalised their naming systems into the idea that they’d be named such that higher-number-is-better, getting rid of pointless prefixes and suffixes such as Ti, MX, GT/GS/GTS/GTO, XT/XTX, Pro/Platinum, etc. That lasted maybe a year or two, before they started adding stupid qualifiers again, Ti (returning), “GHz Edition”, not to mention Titan X, Titan Z, Titan Black, etc.

              I guess it’s not exclusively a thing with video cards. Toothpaste seems to be following the same trends. Rationalise their pointless product diversity into one (e.g. Colgate Total) sensibly enough. Then a few years later you have a dozen variants of that supposedly unified product again (there’s now a stupid number of Colgate Total variants).

              • If I owned a Titan X, I’d worry about icebergs.

                Thank you, don’t forget to tip your server.

                The suffix stuff is made to sound high-tech, but the days of major components having only numbers for their names is over after Intel found out it couldn’t trademark 486, and then started naming their chips things like “Pentium.”

          • Moridin says:

            The naming conventions only SEEM nonsensical. In practice, you ignore prefixes(like GTX/GT from Nvidia, R9/R7 from AMD). Then it’s just first number for generation(higher is better except when the companies change the numbering scheme which happens every once in a while, generally after getting to 9 or 8), second and third numbers for where the part falls within the generation, and suffix after the name means that it’s better than the card with the same name but no suffix, unless the suffix is M in which case it’s a mobile part.

            • Humanoid says:

              But you also have to contend with renaming/rebranding, and the suffixes that do mean something. At the moment it’s at least relatively in control, nVidia only having the Ti suffix and AMD having the ‘X’ suffix. Though there’s also the X2 and who knows what’s going on with the Titan naming convention.

              Also worth noting on AMD’s side, the 280/X are better than the 285, and on nVidia’s side, the 7xx series is part of the 9xx series. so still a bit of nonsense from both.

    • Ziusudra says:

      No, what you’re describing here is another false positive like the benchmark maker that originally found and exposed this DRM. The Brandon that Shamus describes in the article is actively trying to pirate the game. The Brandon you describe is prevented from legitimately using the game by what Shamus argues is pointless DRM.

  5. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s someone in these game companies whose job is dependent on DRM existing. It’s kind of like the gaming industry’s version of the TSA: It demands to be everywhere, it predicts doom if you fail to use it, and it generally mucks things up and makes headaches for consumers.

    When analyzed, it shows little to no benefit. It’s often misapplied, sometimes making things even worse. But when this is brought up, the DRM/TSA chief scares everyone into a scenario where security fails and the world collapses.

    In the end, you get X-ray machines that embarrass passengers, don’t foil anything, and have to be discarded at huge costs. But the security chief keeps their office, which is what’s important.

    • rofltehcat says:

      My theory: Tradition and bureaucracy (or possible mishap).

      They probably have some design document/guideline that says limited installations are part of their standard DRM package/requirements. Another alternative would be that the devs were sent an old EA guideline by accident. Either way nobody bothered questioning it.

      Alternative: The installation limit has always been part of their DRM suite since the Spore days and only this time someone activated a checkbox that nobody had touched in years.

    • J. Random Lurker says:

      I don’t see executives as always going for the cost/benefit analysis on every subject; as fellow humans they can be as irrational as the next guy. I think for some MBA-types, learning that their company’s product is being enjoyed by someone without the company getting compensated is a pet peeve/hot button/an affront to their worldview.

      I’m reminded of this book explaining that once a company is very successful, some self-defeating beliefs and behaviors can fester inside it for a long time, under the reasoning that “we’re making money, we must be doing something right”: How the Mighty Fall.

  6. Ziusudra says:

    I wonder if the collection of hardware data is the primary purpose, much like what Steam does, and this DRM was just an easy and cheap, though still pointless, addition.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      Somehow I doubt EA cares about collecting any kind of information beyond your debit card number.

      • That data is resalable as well as useful to the marketing department, if it can be presented as a positive (“we have a lock on the upper half of the 18-24 year old gamer market as extrapolated from the amount of time they uninstall a game or intentionally disconnect their connection during multiplayer!”).

        They may not have a use for it, but it adds to the bottom line.

  7. Zak McKracken says:

    I think they do do it “for” the pirates, not the Brandons. It’s not about thinking it would help much, it’s more about showing they opposed them or somesuch. A bit like TSA strip-searching your grandma to show to the terrorists they mean business.

    It’s also about creating an atmosphere where people think that games piracy was not a thing that has always existed and was also a terrible crime etc. Really, it’s more about scaring people, and also in order to have a better case if you take someone to court: You won’t get a big punishment if you’ve been tolerating them for ages. You need to show you’re active. That, and harsh punishments, and the lobbying is what they hope will create an atmosphere which will if not discourage not kids who are swapping games then at least make their parents nervous who think their kids will go to jail for this.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      It’s a bit like politics: If there’s something you don’t like, you need to be seen as being “tough on xx” — irrespective of whether being tough (or better yet “cracking down”) actually helps solve the issue.

    • Actually, you’re making it sound like trademark law: If you do nothing to protect your mark from a known violation, you’re sending tacit approval of its use outside of your control and could lose it. An example of this is “The Yellow Pages” and their walking fingers logo, which used to be a trademark of AT&T.

      I don’t think that applies to intellectual property and so forth, but their logos are TM’ed, so… I dunno? This almost sounds like a plausible reason why it still exists, but it also sounds like how a team of lawyers can justify their fees to AAA game companies.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Even in trademark law, the “we must always defend” is not true, although it is used as excuse often enough.
        I think lawyers justifying their existence has to do with it, and also there’s the problem of corporate risk-averseness: Maybe you, as a peon in the law department, don’t really mind a thing, and it’s extremely unlikely it will ever cause a problem, but it’s on your desk right now and if it ever does cause a problem, you loose your job. The logical thing, then, is to go after it. On a slightly higher organisational level, the different departments are competing for money and thus have to show to upper management how important their own role is. So, naturally, the success of the department leaders becomes dependent on their skill to talk up the importance of watever they’re doing, and to look good accordingto whatever metric they’re being measured against. And that goes all the way to top level management in relation to government…

    • Kylroy says:

      The word for this is “Security Theater”. It doesn’t actually *make* anyone safer, but they *feel* safer.

      I would not discount the emotional dimension for the company – if someone’s stealing your work, you’re going to want to do something to stop that even if you can’t.

  8. Alec says:

    The DRM argument isn’t over for me at least.

    There is probably one ‘AAA’ title a year that looks exciting enough to bother with the hassles, and even then I get it on Steam (for being less dumb than the others), and skip it anyway if it’s connected to Ubisoft in any way (Never Forgive).

    That said, my game time is filled with indie games (mostly available direct from the devs DRM free), retro games (GoG), Kickstarter games (DRM free), or throw-away games that I simply will never care if Valve nixes my account. I don’t see how anyone gainfully employed can possibly have enough time to play the quality output of these avenues and still have a hunger for Asscreed 17 and Shootguy 47.

    Steam incidentally provides a convenient way of managing my owned, DRM-free titles – I’m pleased they allow you to use non-steam games in the management tab.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      It’s pretty sweet that they let you add non-Steam games to your library, for organization.
      Plus, it also marks you as “in” that game, so your friends know not to ping you, etc.

  9. drlemaster says:

    I agree with most of what you say here, but I think you misunderstand the purpose of DRM. To the extent is has a purpose, it is to make the game hard enough to pirate/copy that people don’t feel like chumps for actually buying a copy. That being said, having worked for several large companies over the years, I am strongly convinced that about half of all corporate decision are made so someone can impress someone else during a meeting, and serve no other purpose. Someone was trying to impress the boss by suggesting “extra-tough” DRM be put in place, or someone wanted to make a rival look bad by pointing out how they neglected to include enough DRM in the game. Stupid decisions don’t require stupidity, just someone being disingenuous at level x of middle management, and someone at level x+1 who doesn’t care.

    • I may be the product of growing up with prizes in cereal, but I always felt my reward was getting all the “feelies” for buying a game, especially from Infocom. I wish they’d go back to that, but for paying full price for a game instead of preordering, since that way lies broken games and buying an unknown quantity.

      Or at least a t-shirt. Buy it for X on Steam, get a t-shirt. Best copy protection overall, and you get a t-shirt.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      They could also use the other way to make people feel good for actually buying the game – provide a high quality product for a reasonable price. It’s what’s eroding piracy in music and movies. (iTunes, GrooveShark, Netflix, etc)

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Yeah, but it has been established time and again that DRM simply doesn’t fulfill that purpose, and, in fact, is pretty much counterproductive at it, as it encourages piracy rather than stopping it.

      Furthermore, the piracy DRM tries to stop is the kind of piracy that existed pre-internet, which was people sharing their game discs/ks with their friends. Now piracy can be done even if you never have any contact with other human being, yet companies still cling to this system that had already stopped being useful even before it was implemented.

    • Tom says:

      The Humble Bundle offers explicitly DRM-free games (i.e. eminently piratable ones), and lets you choose how much you pay, down to practically nothing. Cleverly, they also show you the average of what everyone else is paying, by installed OS, invoking the powerful forces of peer pressure and tribalism. Dale Carnegie understood that stuff well when he wrote parts of HTWFAIP.

      I, for one, don’t feel like a chump for endeavouring to pay a fair price for the humble bundle, and I also have a strong inclination NOT to casually spread my highly copiable copies about willy-nilly, out of respect for the devs and publishers and the respect and trust they have shown me.

      Trust and respect are reciprocal; the only way to earn them is to hazard offering a little of your own to the other party first, and the fastest way to lose them is to arrogantly demand them as if it were your natural right to do so. This is something clearly utterly beyond the comprehension of the users of DRM, whose every action screams “we don’t trust you or respect you at all, you’re all a bunch of would-be thieves, but we want your money so we guess we have to do business with you, but we’re watching your every move, you scum. Now give us your credit card details and trust US to give you something of value and treat you fairly in return.” Well, that’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Faced with that attitude, I would have few moral qualms at all about spreading pirated games far and wide.

      Tldr: if you treat people like potential criminals, most of them will feel that they might as well act like that. If you give people the benefit of the doubt and a little trust, most of them will feel an urge to live up to it (this is non-psychopathic individuals and small groups I’m talking about; large corporations seem immune to the effect, because they function like psychopaths). This is basic, basic psychology, and if you’re a giant corporation dealing with vast numbers of people, you’re utter imbeciles if you don’t make any effort to factor human psychology into your operational decisions. It has been well known for ages that greater surveillance of people, or just their perception of greater surveillance, tends to worsen their behaviour. People will be what they feel you expect them to be.

  10. krellen says:

    I have a feeling that this hypothetical person being named “Brandon” is a subtle form of revenge against me, to which I say: well played, Shamus.

  11. Dreadjaws says:

    The kind of DRM this game has is pretty stupid, but it’s hardly the worst kind of DRM. I mean, this DRM limits the installation to 8 machines, but there’s DRM that limits the installation to a few times in any machine.

    Like, I believe Bioshock(?) did, you could only install the game three times, even if it was the same PC. Did you have a problem and had to format the hard drive? You lost one installation, even if you hadn’t even started to play the game yet. Hell, you could very conceivably be unable to play the game you purchased at full price even once.

    I honestly don’t understand how that kind of thing is even legal.

    • Decius says:

      Short answer: It’s not.

      Long answer: You always have the right to terminate the EULA, by deleting all copies &tc. At that time you own the physical media, and can exchange it to anyone you want to, who then owns the media and the data on it (subject to copyright law, just like selling a print that you purchased of a painting).

  12. RTBones says:

    Count me in the crowd that says that the DRM argument should be ongoing as long as there is DRM (apart from an initial online check/activation), regardless of whether or not the argument can be ‘won’ anymore.

    I’m not sure the EAs/Ubisofts really know who DRM is for either – I do think it isnt about piracy anymore. I suspect it is less about investors and uninformed suits than it is about numbers-driven bean counters who answer to the suits and investors. Think about it – their whole job is min-maxing their given set of numbers , and they arent generally going to be concerned about *how* those numbers get min’d/max’d.

    The best example I can come up with to illustrate this is Microsoft and their attempt to laden the XBone with DRM to the point that gamers were going to have great difficulty sharing games or running legitimately purchased games on an XBone not their own, not to mention having to be online all the time. The PS4 and Sony beat them up and took their lunch money (at least at launch – the ‘how to share playstation games’ commercial was priceless). The result? No more online all the time and the draconian DRM requirements went away because the bean counters figured out their numbers were going into the toilet.

  13. It is so amusing that as I’m typing this now EA’s Origin is borked and won’t go online.
    Which means I’m forced to play in offline mode.

    Now I’m not sure how the cloud thing works but I’m glad that saves are local for DA:I (with cloud backup) because I would not be able to access my saves for a single player game right now if that was not the case.

    The weird thing is that Origin did patch/update itself but it can’t “connect” to the EA origin servers.
    So shit is broken even if the network is ok otherwise. Go figure.

    Edit: Oh and I won’t be able to get any DLCs rght now either.
    Do pirates have this issue?

  14. RCN says:

    Uh… Is it me or did your site get hacked into a My Little Pony theme?

    Or is it your April Fools joke? Did your daughters get you up to it? Or your son (I won’t judge)?

  15. Volfram says:

    “And when we say ‘talk’ what we mean is, ‘agree to this EULA and leave us alone’. Thanks for being a customer.”

    I actually had a sudden run in with this which soured my enthusiasm for gaming far worse and more harshly than any quasi-political events involving gaming journalism over the past 6 months ever could have. The end result is that while I own copies of Borderlands 2 and Homeworld: Remastered, I haven’t played, or even installed, either. Doing so requires agreement to Gearbox’s abusive and totalitarian TOS, and as a result, I will never install or play either. And I’ve been waiting ten years to play Homeworld: Remastered.

    And because Steam doesn’t currently have a return policy, I can’t get my money back(on them or on Fez and Aperture: Tag, for differing reasons.*). And because Steam doesn’t currently have a transfer policy, I can’t resell them to someone else, because they’re already in my library.

    So this form of “conversation” is why I’ve bought hardly any games since February(Unrest and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.), and why I will NEVER buy another game from Gearbox. I just don’t have any trust left for most publishers. And I have negative trust for Gearbox.

    They do it because you let them get away with it. Send them a message. Stop buying their games.

    Stop buying games. Period.

    *Aperture: Tag is a terrible game made with virtually no quality control, which gleefully rips assets from Portal 2 to the point of borderline plagiarism, and I’m of the opinion that Valve should pull it from the Steam library and send their lawyers after the creator for theft of IP and impersonation of their brand.

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