Ask Me a Question: Unbeatable DRM

By Shamus
on Mar 25, 2010
Filed under:
Video Games

photo_disk.jpg

toasty asks:

Observation: Apparently there has not yet been released a working Crack for Assassin’s Creed 2. I know this because where I live currently (Bangladesh) only pirated games are sold.

While I do not LIKE the method of DRM put in place on Assassin’s Creed 2, what would you say if this method of DRM provided Publishers with an effective means to prevent piracy. I still maintain my belief that crackers and hackers will eventually crack/hack the game, but… what if they don’t? Would you take this method of DRM (always being connected to the Internet) as “acceptable” if it allowed PC gaming to flourish without fear of piracy?

Some have claimed to have seen the game running. Others claim that it does not work at all. It’s possible the former are pirates trying to save face and claiming they have a crack that does not exist. It’s possible the people who claim the game remains un-cracked just had a bad version or lacked some technical secret to make the thing go. Rather than call one a liar by endorsing the other, I’ll just pull a Gandalf and admit ignorance by naming it caution.

But let’s play “what if” and assume the Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM remains un-cracked.

I’ve made the case that it’s impossible to create foolproof DRM for a single-player game. If the game is playable on your local machine, then it’s possible to make a playable copy. In that article I left a loophole, stating that this only applied to single-player games, and that it was easy to protect an MMO with a simple login. It’s entirely possible this new DRM simply moves key in-game functionality or data to the remote server.

Regardless of how it was done, what if the system really is airtight? I think that there would actually be good and bad things about that.

The Good

In the short term, we’d at last find out just how much damage piracy really does. There should be known ratios of console-to-PC sales. Particularly in this case, where we’re dealing with a sequel. We should be able to look at the performance of these games and look for unexpected sales numbers for the PC version.

The Bad

If this system holds up, then I’d expect a lot of publishers to jump on this bandwagon. We would lose control of the games we buy and find ourselves at the mercy of publishers.

This isn’t like Steam, where you’re trading your rights for a bunch of convenience and goodies. This a system where you trade away rights and convenience. This is all downside for the end user.

I wouldn’t pay for games under this system. If I was just a gamer looking for a some entertainment, I certainly wouldn’t plonk down money for this. So it would be sort of odd to review these games. (I have a review copy of AC2 here. I haven’t tried yet.) Then again, I’ve often faulted the gaming press for not including DRM in the review process. Maybe the right thing to do is to just review these games as normal, but make people aware of the DRM? I don’t know. In the long term, I’d have to make some hard choices about what my review policies will be regarding this stuff.

The Fallout

Several possible outcomes. Let’s ignore the fact that publishers play their numbers close to the vest. We’ll just pretend that we in the community will be able to see what they see:

  • If AC2 on the PC does much better than trends suggest, then we know that pirates actually went out and bought the game and that DRM is a valid defense against piracy. The question will remain: Is the gain in sales worth the expense of implementing the system? But at least we’ll know how many people are out there that would pay for a game if they had to.
  • If the game has a 1000% increase in sales, then we know that the publishers have been right all along and every download really is a lost sale. (I would not put money on this.)
  • If sales are flat? I don’t know what they’ll think. It will probably mean that the pirates turned into customers were canceled out by the customers turned into protesters. They would probably see it as a public relations problem, and try to convince us that the hassle we’re bearing is for our own good. Which would only enrage me more. But people might get used to this business.
  • If sales are down by a lot? A company as big as Ubisoft simply is not nimble or dynamic enough to pull off the change in direction required to take advantage of that information. They would have a very hard time accepting this truth. Some leaders brought the company in this ruinous direction, and such people are not likely to be willing to admit that they were completely wrong. Excuses will be made (internally and externally) and the machinery that brought us always-connected single player gaming will roll onward. Change could happen down the road, but they wouldn’t just drop the new system.

For further consideration: EA has jumped on this bandwagon as well.

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A Hundred!202020Many comments. 160, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. And EA had been so nice for the last year… Isn’t it sad? Well, the indies won’t be changing their respect for their customers any time soon.

    Ben

    • LintMan says:

      [oops, never mind – I missed Shamus’ link to the EA article at the bottom]

      • Heron says:

        The funky thing is that the forum post where EA_Apoc told us “First thing to be clear about, Command & Conquer 4 has NO DRM. Zip, zero, zilch, none.” got ninja-edited such that it no longer makes that claim.

        Oh, and EA_Apoc has yet to respond to anyone’s questions on the subject.

        (Not even the e-mail I sent to his non-public e-mail address; he usually responds quickly to my inquiries, but I’m at three weeks and counting with this question.)

        I pre-ordered C&C4 before I knew it had this always-online-connection requirement. I would not have purchased it had I known.

        Ironically, even EA.com’s editor-in-chief John Green tweeted, “Booted twice—and progress lost—on my single-player C&C4 game because my DSL connection blinked. DRM fail. We need new solutions”.

        • Nick Bell says:

          At least C&C4 offers you something of value: a persistent online profile where your experience gained in single player carries over to multiplayer. The online system is setup to prevent cheating. Thus C&C4 is really just a multiplayer-only game that includes bot matches.

          You, as a customer, are allowed to decide if this is worth giving up control of your game. But at least it is something (unlike AC2 which gives nothing Steam doesn’t already offer with less restrictions).

          • Marauder says:

            At least C&C4 offers you something of value: a persistent online profile where your experience gained in single player carries over to multiplayer. The online system is setup to prevent cheating. Thus C&C4 is really just a multiplayer-only game that includes bot matches.

            So, since I have no intention of ever play any competitive multiplayer it has no value to me. So, show me where can I opt out…

            Had I realized that this was going to be the case when my Pre-Order shipped, I would have canceled my pre-order, accompanied by an email to EA explaining why their previously sure sale was lost, just as I did with Red Alert 3 before the SecuROM Activation was removed on the Steam version, just like I did with Splinter Cell: Conviction after it was discovered that it will use the same idiotic DRM as AC2…

          • Heron says:

            You, as a customer, are allowed to decide if this is worth giving up control of your game.

            And if I don’t find out about the DRM until after purchase?

          • Nick Bell says:

            For those people who bought the game without knowing, that sucks.

            The only advice I can give is to buy nothing without knowing its DRM. Refuse to buy anything until that question is clarified. If you are unsure, take your money elsewhere. Nothing great, but it’s all I’ve got.

  2. Matt K says:

    From what I’ve read, what is making it difficult to crack is that a large amount of the data for AC2 was moved to Ubi’s servers and thereofore each mission requires you to download the data (either that or it requires an online trigger to progress the mission, I’m not sure which).

    Contrast that with Silent Hunter 5 which uses the same DRM scheme but only 2 trigger points. That has been cracked since day 1.

    Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this direction. Persoanlly I have issues with Steam. I own a few games on it (Orange Box which I got for like $20 when Circuit City went out of busniess and Torchlight which I got for $10) but I try to not have much money spent there as possible since there’s a good chance the whole system will go down one of these days. However, at least they don’t require servers to be able to even play the game (as you can play offline and no data needs to be fed to your system to play Portal or HL).

    I can just imagine when Ubi or EA decides it too costly to keep these servers up since a few years fdown the road only a few people play the game. EA has already taken down servers for some of it’s older multiplayer games so it not like this is far fetched.

    So overall I will never buy a game that requires this kind of a connection for single player just because I like to re-play my games and especially like to play them in places I don’t have internet (like the airport or with the In-Laws). At least Steam I can be offline and still play those games (and I have).

    • GuiguiBob says:

      Agreed completely. As for the servers it’s not an if as much as a when.
      I will also never buy a game that require constent online activation.
      I will also never pirate them.

      I don’t NEED to play your games Ubisoft and EA…

      I wonder when Activision will join the band… it’s surprising they haven’t already. Perhaps they’re planning one much more Evil form of DRM in their secret underground Labs.

    • radio_babylon says:

      re: steam, and why you use it as little as possible…

      “since there’s a good chance the whole system will go down one of these days”

      it used to be there were a whole lot of reasons floating around for why people didnt use steam… in the last few years, most of them have faded away, but i continue to see this one pop up with regularity… and out of all the objections i have to say this one irritates me the most.

      first off: technically, theres more than just a “good change” that steam will go away “one of these days”… it is an absolute CERTAINTY that steam will go away “one of these days”. nothing lasts forever. even presuming steam grows to become the human overlord of the known universe, at some point even the great steam empire will succumb to the heat death of the universe. even so, im sure that isnt what you meant; i assume youre contemplating more human scales of time. however, that still doesnt turn it into a good reason… its roughly akin to saying “i shouldnt buy a car, or go to college, or bother with a job, or contemplate doing any other kind of long-term thinking because theres a *good chance* that im going to die *one of these days*…”

      thats clearly just silly. i dont think any reasonable person would make that arguement. so im going to assume that what you actually mean, is you think theres a “good chance” that steam will go away “one of these days” *SOON*.

      so i guess my question to you is, would you really have me believe that you think theres a “good chance” that steam is going to go away within the next ten years? the next five years? possibly even sooner? and that not only will it “go down” but it will go away in such a manner that no mechanism is made for you to continue to access your purchases? that this is not only merely “possible” but that it is in fact LIKELY (which “a good chance” would seem to imply)?

      if thats the case, id love to hear what reasoning or evidence you could have for believing that to be the case… presuming such reasoning exists, and it isnt just your “feeling” that its the case.

      • Shamus says:

        This industry is prone to upheaval. Valve seems as solid now as Looking Glass did in ’95. They don’t send ME their financial statements, and I don’t intend to execute a bunch of due diligence on a company’s solvency before I buy one of their products. BECAUSE NORMALLY THE TWO AREN’T CONNECTED. A lot can change in a short time. The replacement of a single officer can rapidly alter the makeup and behavior of a company. (Looking at Gabe Newell – God bless the man – does not lead me to conclude he’s going to live to be 100.)

        Buying a game bound to an online system carries increased risk. Other games do not carry such risk. Games are expensive.

        Therefore, minimizing Steam-bound games is a perfectly reasonable and intelligent policy.

        • Jabor says:

          One of the reasons I trust buying Steam games is that to the best of my knowledge, it *has* been cracked and that if Valve does shut down the service, there’ll be “third-party” replacements available so I can keep playing my games.

          I don’t do it now because I think Valve is awesome and I’m not a pirate – it’s just there as a convenient safety net should the worst happen.

        • MogTm says:

          I’m in a slightly different boat than it sounds like a lot of you are: I think there is a good chance that Steam could go away within ten years and would prevent my from re-playing old games that I like. However, I also know that i will be switching computers and moving across the country at least a few times within the next ten years. Honestly, I think my chances of still being able to play (say) Knights of the Old Republic in 10 years are higher since I have it on Steam than they would be if I needed the disk and/or CD key which might be (and based on my history with disorganization, probably would be) lost or destroyed.

          In the past, I have re-purchased some of my favorites just because the disks had vanquished; I might just be safer taking my chances with Steam. (Of course, I might be able to find no-CD cracks, but by the same logic, I could “pirate” the games I own on Steam in the event of their demise)

        • Duffy says:

          Just to point something out real quick for everyone:

          Steam’s offline mode works very well nowadays and all you need to do is backup your steam folder to insure your library never disappears.

          Tad bit cumbersome, but technically an option that’s not that far from what most of us incredibly paranoid gamers do anyways.

          Hell, I tend to install by DLing games at work on the lappy and transferring the folders over to my desktop at home.

      • Raygereio says:

        I have that argument against Steam. Still do, even though it has proven itself over the last 7 years to be a solid, user-friendly system and even though I even have used Steam to buy games or have purchased games that use Steam as DRM.

        Yeah, Valve is not going to go under tomorrow. But who knows what will happen in 10 years time? No company has life eternal; bad economy, mismanagement, there’s a thousand different possibilities from a company to just curl up and die (though I hope Episode 3 will come out before Valve’s inevitable demise).
        Now let’s assume someone picks up Steam and keeps the servers after Valve kicks the bucket, or perhaps Valve is simple taken over in its entirety – Steam included; without knowing the details of the contracts between Valve and the producers/developers of the games distributed through Steam I can’t say for certain if I will loose access to those games. Unless you have inside knowledge, you cannot guarantee it won’t happen either.

        If you are the type of person that doesn’t replay old games – that looses interest and moves on to newer stuff after playing for a month or 2, then that naturally isn’t a concern for you.
        But for someone like me who isn’t just neurotic about the fact that I don’t own the game anymore, but is neurotic about the question whether or I can still play the games I like in 10 years time, it is a concern.

        Edit: I just got ninja’d with a time-difference of 11 minutes. My Internet-Fu is weak.

      • Matt K says:

        Well lets see, do I start with the video game developers that looked healthy at the time but suddenly went under (some of which was not even due to lack of funds), the mergers of companies that then change their business model, the problems with investment firms and banks thaty just happened recently (all of whom seemed healthy at the time until suddenly they weren’t)? That’s not including the newpaper industry going under, plateforms like Hulu deciding to do a sudden about face on their distribution model and so on.

        You’d have to be an idiot to believe that there isn’t a decent possibility that Steam will go the way of these and many others by either folding, changing the way things work (like support of old games, access to games, etc), being bought out by another company and being forced to go away or change. Plus there a slight chance of suddenly finding your account locked and not being able to access you $XX worth of games.

        That’s not to say it’s a definite but to not consider the possibility both ignorant and stupid. Frankly I’m surprised that you are so hostile to the fact that this can occur at any time (and being a dick about it too). I have no issue with people buying games on Steam but when I weigh the pros vs the cons it makes more sense to buy the games such that I acutally own and not have to worry about what happens to a third party.

        EDIT: Serves me right for writing a long post. See Shamus for a more consise reason.

      • (1) Valve could go out of business.

        (2) Valve could simply shut down their servers. Microsoft did it with MSN Music, and people found their music unplayable less than half a decade after buying it.

        Meanwhile, I’m still listening to CDs I bought twenty years ago. And my dad is listening to vinyl records he bought 50 years ago.

        Games are no different: Looking to my left I can see games on my shelf dating all the way back to 1979. I still play them upon occasion. So, yes, I think it quite likely that STEAM will not exist 31 years from now.

        I drive a Saturn Ion. When I bought it in 2005, there was no indication that the Saturn brand was going anywhere. Today the Saturn brand no longer exists. I’m glad my car doesn’t try to call up Saturn’s servers every time I turn the key in the ignition to make sure the car isn’t stolen.

        Of course, I also bought it used: So I’m also glad that the car industry doesn’t consider used car sales to be bad for the industry.

        • Nawyria says:

          This may be one of the best real-life analogies I’ve read.

        • (LK) says:

          So I’m also glad that the car industry doesn’t consider used car sales to be bad for the industry.

          Not necessarily accurate. They might dislike used car sales, but it’s illegal for them to interfere with them because of the First Sale Doctrine which cuts off their control of their product’s ownership after the first sale.

          This is technically illegal for software too, in fact, except that it’s all done by proxy of DRM which is currently enjoying a very broad range of rights to defend itself against and in superiority to consumer rights.

          All First Sale violations in software are done by proxy of the legally enshrined DRM. Some nations have exceptions that countermand this, but most do not, because the US lobbies aggressively to create carbon copies of its trademark and copyright law in other countries… to the point that it even seeks to impede basic human rights in some cases.

      • HeadHunter says:

        Sorry, Babylon, but that’s a flimsy analogy.
        Would you buy a car if there was a possibility that it would just simply stop working oneof these days?
        Not from mechanical failure or decay, mind you – those things are in the control of the user and avoidable through regular maintenance.

        I’m talking one day, you go to your car to find that you are locked out and the keys don’t work. Or more accurately, the car is just gone – not stolen, but taken by the manufacturer with no reimbursement.

        That’s what you’re getting into when you buy software that you don’t physically “own”. You’re at the whim of a company who can arbitrarily decide that you no longer get to use what you paid for. We’re not talking about EULAs here, which are generally unenforceable and more-or-less ignored. This is something far more volatile and unreliable at work.

        • JG says:

          Oddly enough, several people’s cars were recently shut down remotely, though it was because of a disgruntled ex-employee hacking a system designed to go after people late on their car payments rather than the dealership shutting down.

          Hacker Disables More Than 100 Cars Remotely

          So the scenario may not be as farfetched as we’d like to think.

          • Winter says:

            This is the equivalent to Ubisoft getting DDOSed, taking everyone offline for a bit. (Actually it’s a pretty good analogy in that respect.)

            This (cars getting disabled) was bound to happen as soon as those systems were installed. It was only a matter of times. That said, i’m sure they were swiftly re-enabled as soon as the dealership found out. In the situation we’re talking about that doesn’t happen because the “dealership” goes out of business.

            • Scott says:

              Unfortunately, these people didn’t pay for these cars in full which is why the system was in place. Ubisoft should have no control over my ability to play a copy of a game I paid for. Unless I’m leasing a copy of a game indefinately for a flat $60? Maybe?

    • Jabor says:

      If it actually downloads the data rather than having it already residing on-disk, this is basically a deal-breaker for anyone with a pay-by-the-gigabyte or capped internet connection.

      • Telas says:

        Unless it just downloads a code or a very small bit of data. IIRC, the pirated version of Dungeon Siege failed because of a texture map. Just force a download of the new texture map every time it plays, maybe with an encrypted time code in it, and you’re good.

        What I’d like to see is some kind of “in perpetuity” arrangement similar to the one cemeteries have. This should be easy to do with “dial home required” DRM. I’m not a big fan of government regulation, but this seems like an simple law that would encourage businesses to start up as “DRM farms”.

        Would it be intrusive? Yes. Would it be better than the situation we have now? Probably.

    • (LK) says:

      From what I’ve seen of discussion regarding Silent Hunter 5, which has a working crack but not a fully functional one, mission progression is saved to a write-protected plaintext file on the user’s computer, but it only makes changes to that file when it’s connected to the server.

      The actual mechanics aren’t migrated to the server, the server just holds the key to the door. The user can effortlessly kick the door in and make changes manually to that file to alter their progress but this is tedious.

      This would obviously be easy to work around since the mechanic is a lot simpler than editing memory addresses the way trainers for games do but it adds a layer of inconvenience to piracy.

    • Marauder says:

      EA has already taken down servers for some of it’s older multiplayer games so it not like this is far fetched.

      Also keep in mind that in many cases “older” means only a year or two old (such as all versions of Madden ’09) and possibly without even any available newer sequels (such as most editions of NASCAR ’09)…)
      http://www.joystiq.com/2010/01/04/ea-pulling-plug-on-aging-sports-games-servers/

      So yea…

  3. Zukhramm says:

    What EA Is saying is “I’m not stabbing you since I’m shooting you at the same time”.

  4. Steve C says:

    I wish reviewers ALWAYS reviewed the technical aspects of a game. That includes but is not limited to the DRM. I’m sick of reviewers that review games with a $5000 gaming rig that they replace every 2 months with a new $5000 gaming rig.

    If a game requires an internet connection then it’s a deal breaker for me. Both on a ideological level like with Shamus and on a practical technical level. I’m only on dialup. If a program requires more bandwidth than dialup can provide I can’t play it. It used to be easy to determine if a game required internet. Now it’s impossible and I’m being forced out of my hobby.

    • eri says:

      I agree with this, DRM details need to be explained in reviews. Most reviewers will make mention of the more exotic schemes, but rarely will it ever have an impact on the final score.

      Regarding hardware requirements, though… what’s interesting is that IGN actually don’t use exclusively top-end hardware to review games. Apparently they have an 8800 GTX from a few years ago in one of their machines, and a Core 2 Quad or some such. Hardly a cheap system, but these days it’s fairly reasonable for a gamer (since you can get newer hardware that’s cheaper but close to it in price). And I have definitely seen them complain in their reviews if a game performs poorly. Of course, what constitutes “poor performance” is difficult… is it simply framerate? Long load times? Stuttering? Laggy mouse cursor (console ports like BioShock and Far Cry 2 have this problem all the timed)? My understanding is that usually this sort of thing isn’t mentioned unless the game is explicitly damaged by such issues.

  5. pwiggi says:

    As far as the technical challenge of pirating the game goes, one possibility that occurs to me is implementing your own authentication server. You would need to duplicate the functionality of the auth server (if it handles saving or other in-game functionality), but the protocol should be reverse-engineerable.

    Unless they use strong crypto (thinking public-key crypto with a private key held only by the publisher) as part of the authentication scheme. Which would still be defeatable, but would require a two-pronged assault: you’d also have to hack the game to sign its outgoing stuff with a key of your choice.

    This DRM scheme remains pretty defeatable as long as the functionality implemented on the server side does not include critical game resources, such as texture/data files, server-side scripts directing enemy AI, etc.

    • Matt K says:

      The authorization server is already easily cracked. In fact I believe they set it up so the game thinks it already called in and was authorized. The issue here is that the games require either triggers from a remote server or actualy data in order to continue playing. That in and of itself has also been cracked (see Silent Hunter 5) but for AC2 it requires so much data/so many triggers that it is difficult to go though and get/find them all (SH5 only requires 2). So the DRM scheme has already been cracked, it’s just the specific game that may or may not be cracked yet.

    • Nathon says:

      The public-key crypto approach would serve to prevent people from spoofing the real authentication servers, but wouldn’t do anything to people who use a cracked binary with a fake (possibly local) authentication server.

      Side note: I also will not buy (or play) games with this kind of crap in them. StarCraft 2 makes me very sad.

    • wtrmute says:

      In every game executable, there is a conditional branch opcode that gets evaluated sometime, and when that instruction is evaluated, the game decides whether it has been pirated and exits or not and continues. The cracker needs only to figure out where that instruction is and replace it by a no-op (or an unconditional jump, whichever the case may be).

      If the game contains large amounts of data in a server, then the process is a bit more complex. First, the cracker must buy a copy of the game, and modify the executable so that it dumps to file all data it downloads from the content server after decryption. Then create another copy of the executable which goes for the data in the file rather than in the remote server. The cracks will become considerably bigger, but not much compared to the game’s torrent at any rate.

      There is no silver bullet in single player. What worries me is that they’ll do away with single player altogether and replace it with a limitedly-multiplayer campaign instead. Lord of the Rings: War in the North looks to be moving in that direction, from what (admittedly little) information I was able to glean from it. I hope I’m seeing ghosts, though.

  6. Irridium says:

    I really hope this doesn’t become the new standard.

    And I’m betting that Ubisoft will skewer the statistics to try and make it look like this system is working.

    I will never buy a game that uses this system. Its stupid and wrong.

    • Raygereio says:

      Let’s be honest here, pretty much every publisher already skewer it’s statistics when it comes to piracy.
      For one, no one has any real number when it comes to piracy as there’s no way to get those numbers.
      Secondly, making pirates look like a threat allows the big companies to get away with shitty games.
      “Look, our made up graphs show that our low sales are due to piracy, certainly not because our games are either average or just plain bad and we need to put more effort and produce quality.”

      • Irridium says:

        Please tell me I’m not the only one remidend of that one Bullshit (yes, thats really the name of the show. episode with Penn and Teller about statistics.

  7. nerdpride says:

    It sounds to me like a ton of people already bought AC2, before running into the nasties that would make them never buy similarly protected games like it again.

    So, it’s possible that the sales to watch aren’t the ones on this game, but the sales for the next games with it.

      • Gnagn says:

        I saw that Settlers 7 had popped up on the front page of Steam yesterday, and very nearly bought it, til I got to the bottom of the product description page and found that it’s an Ubisoft game and has the same DRM scheme as AC2:

        “A PERMANENT INTERNET CONNECTION AND CREATION OF A UBISOFT ACCOUNT ARE REQUIRED TO PLAY THIS VIDEO GAME AT ALL TIMES AND TO UNLOCK EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. SUCH CONTENT MAY ONLY BE UNLOCKED ONE SINGLE TIME WITH A UNIQUE KEY. YOU MUST BE AT LEAST 13 TO CREATE A UBISOFT ACCOUNT WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT. UBISOFT MAY CANCEL ACCESS TO ONLINE FEATURES UPON A 30-DAY PRIOR NOTICE PUBLISHED AT http://thesettlers.us.ubi.com/.”

        Guess I won’t be getting it…

        • Nick Bell says:

          THIS drives me up the wall. Steam is DRM. There should be no further DRM besides what is in Steam itself. I wish Valve would take a stand and not let these kind of extra DRM in their store.

          • Tizzy says:

            Well, I guess it’s not really Steam’s problem. So long as these “extras” are clearly announced in the product description, let’s not blame them, they’re just the delivery mechanism.

            • Steve C says:

              Yes we can blame them! A store is the products it sells. This is doubly true for a virtual store selling virtual products. They get to choose what they sell. Steam has full control over what they sell and deal directly with the creators of those products. If Steam sells defective products THEY ARE TO BLAME.

              • Avilan the Grey says:

                Of course, but this product is not even remotely defective. It would be defective if you fulfilled all requirements and it still didn’t work.

                That I would never buy the product is another thing, but to call it defective does not make it so.

                • Steve C says:

                  Ok “defective” is the wrong word. How about “repugnant” instead?

                  If Wal-Mart sold a new line of baby cages and child sedatives for the “busy parent” and a Little Bastard Vandalism Kit for “teen rebel” markets then they would and should get a lot flak. Steam should get flak for temporarily renting this product.

                  Wal-Mart is smart enough to never sell such products. Not because they are an socially conscientious company but because they know that selling such things would hurt their brand image. Steam should know better too.

            • Anaphyis says:

              Valve seems to think differently. You cannot buy these games from Steam if you are coming from the UK, they’ve been removed recently after a wave of outrage over the DRM.

              Maybe the rest of the world should take bitching lessons from the Brits and the problem will solve itself.

          • (LK) says:

            Valve will likely soon have the clout to do just that as the foundation of games being made with Steamworks grows.

            Eventually they have enough developers by the balls that they’ll be able to say “no external DRM” and make it happen… if they want to.

            It would certainly cement them an advantage over other sales platforms.

        • Sord says:

          Nearly the same with me. I saw it on the steam RSS feed, thought “Cool a settlers game”, looked at the screen shots, looked at the price, thought I don’t want to spend $50, but if it goes on sale for $30 or less, I’ll get it then. Then I saw the bit at the end and thought “oh well, so much for that” and removed it from my mental list of games to get when they go on sale.

          • DaveMc says:

            Removed it from your list of games to get? No, no, I’m pretty sure that what you’re supposed to do is work yourself into a state of high dudgeon over the injustice of it all, then pirate the game in a burst of righteous indignation. I’m sure I read on the Internet somewhere that this is the correct response. :)

            (Seriously: good for you.)

    • Nick says:

      That’s what REALLY worries me. Like with COD MW2, even by making boneheaded design mistakes, you can still fool a LOT of people into buying it. Since game stores don’t accept opened PC games, and usually won’t exchange console games except for the same one, you can’t return a game.

      Now, the company can claim large sales numbers, and the number of upset or angry customers is not tracked.

  8. rofltehcat says:

    I absolutelly hate the idea of having something like that running all the time.
    RUSE for example will most likely have that system, too, which is a real shame. It is a game that focuses on online play but still the campaign or even skirmishes with bots won’t be possible. They should really make it so that at least skirmishes and maybe already completed campaign missions are playable without any connection.
    After all they don’t even have a LAN play option, so nobody who pirates the game will be able to play it anyways.

    It is really a new aproach to RTS but I fear too many people will be put off by the DRM. After all it is still a niche product (*) with too many people spitting on it because it isn’t Starcraft 2 (in general the SC2-waiting-crowd seems to be on a ‘SC2 will be so awesome, it is all we’ll ever need’-trip). And a niche product that loses some of its potential customers might as well be called a flop.

    (*) It is a niche product on the PC. On consoles it could actually be great because it is a RTS that has the right speed to be played with a gamepad/controller. The PC version already plays pretty well with a 360 controller. Someone with a mouse has an edge over you but it is very small when compared to any shooter or a micro-intense RTS.

    Oops. That was extremely off-topic but it is what I play most at the moment. Oh how I wish every publisher was just using the steam DRM, at least for titles bought over steam (RUSE alreade heavily uses steam community features for managing or inviting friends).

    • Gabriel Mobius says:

      I was actually immediately put off by the DRM. I had been getting popups on Steam that one of my good friends was off playing the RUSE open beta, and this intrigued me. So I checked Steam, saw RUSE, and then noticed that not only was it to be published by Ubisoft, but it also had that stupid ‘must be connected at all times’ clause. So I gave up on not only purchasing the full game, but on even playing the open beta. I refuse to support, in any way, this DRM scheme. It may be a drop in the bucket, but I can only hope that my drop is the one that makes the bucket overflow.

    • (LK) says:

      I actually had a bit of a drawn out conversation with a friend about how sad I was when I realized the very fun beta I was playing was of a Ubisoft game and was therefore a game I would not be willing to pay full price to buy.

      With substandard DSL and an oligopoly of 2 ISPs in my area I do not have the luxury of uninterrupted connectivity, especially during peak hours (the hours in which I would be playing games). The burden of making their DRM system work shouldn’t fall in my lap as a consumer unless they’re offering a discount in exchange.

      I’m never going to buy a game that did a very good job of endearing its gameplay qualities to me.

      An odd analogy: it’s like being expected to pay full price to enjoy owning a Ferrari that won’t start up unless you’ve also maintained a separate, faulty 1981 Ford Bronco in perfect working condition. If the Bronco fails the Ferrari is a brick. Would you go for that deal? I wouldn’t.

      They offer you a product with an albatross around its neck at the same price as hundreds of other products of equal qualities without that drawback. Ubisoft, why should I buy your game with your arcane and annoying flaw when I can buy other games that are just as good for the same price?

      You as a publisher are not allowed to define the utility of that transaction on both sides by mere fiat. If you want the customer to see value you have to work to create value, not just claim it’s there and look down your nose at them if they see through the lie.

  9. Psithief says:

    I wish this super nasty DRM debate was happening in a game franchise I might actually play.

    I find the idea of playing an assassin completely impossible and reprehensible, and as such, I do not care that I will never be playing an Assassin’s Creed game.

    Does anyone else have a similar problem in framing this DRM issue in a manner they may actually care about?

    • Sheer_Falacy says:

      It’s ok, you only kill bad people. In Assassin’s Creed, the assassins are the heroes – not just designated protagonists, actual heroes.

      • Sean Riley says:

        Ehhh. That could just make it worse to me. If Psithief’s issue is with the method rather than the goal, then framing them as heroes is doubly morally offensive.

        Consider Hitman. I like the Hitman franchise. But Agent 47 is a designated protagonist. Yes, he’s sympathetic in many ways, being repentant, and having attempted to quit at least once. But he’s a murderer, and the game is not shy about reminding you of this. For me, that makes the palatable. It’s not trying to say what you’re doing is right. It’s trying to say, “But it happens.” That’s a much more sympathetic take on the idea to me.

        • Kdansky says:

          Taking on the role of something you find morally offensive might be more interesting than you think. If this was theater and you were an actor, would you totally object to play the role of Macbeth (who murders in cold blood)? Morale choices are rarely clear-cut, and since games often do such a poor job of that, they show very well that black is not always black.

          That said, I never liked the Hitman-franchise either. But I also disliked the gameplay of those titles (DIAS).

  10. Meredith says:

    We all know that no matter what the numbers actually show, or how many people really do refuse to buy these games, the publishers will manage to twist things to seem as though it was successful or find some new way to blame pirates. Then they’ll make up a bunch more nonsense about how it isn’t DRM and aren’t they nice doing us a favour by having everything require internet connections. The next step as I see it will be streaming the game from the server, maybe preloading one map at a time to speed things up, and we’ll be paying for literally nothing.

    Why is it that the people in charge of game publishing never seem to actually be gamers? I really think that would solve a lot of this communication divide.

    • The reason gamers don’t go into publishing is because they go into making and testing games instead, or barring technical talent or inclination, into reviewing games. Publishing is a more straight-up business role for the most part, and so attracts people from that mindset

      • krellen says:

        For me, publishing would be the one thing I’d really want to do, because I’d really like to make the decisions on what games merit support and what ones do not. A publisher could probably do a lot more to move the gaming industry in a desired direction than a dozen developers could.

  11. Felblood says:

    I’m not a serious pirate anymore, now that I have a job and all the money that comes with it, but my old connections and resources allow me to get an inside view of the situation.

    The torrents show at least one crack for AC2 with good user ratings from communities that are very reliable about that sort of thing. From reading the instructions and help thread I’d say that this crack is buggier than the typical No_cD, but very much working. It’s from RELOADED Team, so it’s likely that a less buggy re-release will appear in the coming week.

    I haven’t tried this crack personally, but I know of a guy who has a crack for his copy of Command and Conquer 4, which supposedly runs on the same DRM system. I saw enough of the set-up to know that it required a connection to EAs servers before the crack was applied, but now only requires a connection the the loopback address. i.e. a lightweight, fake server is running in the background, and the game asks the player’s own machine for permission to run.

    He assures me that now that he has the means to protect his investment, he’ll buy the game once it comes down from the crazy high, launch price. I’ll see it, if he follows through on that. I figure it’s about a 50/50 chance for this guy, but the average is likely less than that. (These numbers assume my abject lack of faith in mankind is justified.)

    This thing is way more hassle to get set up than any cracked game I’ve seen before. (It expected a number of obscure .dlls that he spent hours tracking down.) Often times cracks are much more convenient than the commercial product, precisely because of the DRM. Unless the official version managed to be even worse than this, which isn’t beyond the realm of possibility or even expectation (It’s an EA game.), I can’t see this crack drawing in many of the casual pirates who actually buy games if they don’t see them on the torrents.

    As this type of DRM becomes more common, it’s going to be easier and easier to find cracks for it, and those cracks are going to be more stable and easier to use. It’s going to be exactly like the CD check, the manual codeword search, and the CD key, all over again.

    You said yourself that DRM is impossible, Shamus; I’m surprised that you would doubt yourself so quickly.

    • scragar says:

      If you don’t have a permanent internet connection, there’s a significant speed restriction, you’re on dial up, or any one of a million other possibilities it’s likely you’ll need the crack to play the game at all.

      It might be uncrackable, but I think they are going to get a record number of returns on games employing this system, and that will hurt their bottom line more than anything else.

    • Garden Ninja says:

      You said yourself that DRM is impossible, Shamus; I’m surprised that you would doubt yourself so quickly.

      I don’t think Shamus is doubting himself. The question asked was hypothetical: What if there were perfect DRM? He explicitly mentioned his previous argument, but set it aside, and answered the question that was asked.

      • Plus, he himself said that MMOs don’t have this problem, and this solution is effectively a single player MMO with none of the benefits. Whether that’s a good idea in the slightest is another topic of discussion, but the loophole in his argument is exactly what Ubisoft are using here.

      • Felblood says:

        Okay, I see that.

        I saw the bit about AC2 being uncrackable and rushed through the rest of the article in my haste to lambast the idea as perposterous.

        Even if it was uncrackable, I still wouldn’t buy it, but I’m a lost cause to AC and C&C from the word go. I just don’t care about these games at all.

        Now if Ubisoft was to make a Conquest sequel with this kind of DRM, I still wouldn’t buy it, but I’d be sad about not buying it.

        • Felblood says:

          You know, the thing that really set me off, was the idea that “the pirates” would lie about it, if they couldn’t crack a game. I know I’m the bad guy here, but hear me out. You have to understand piracy if you intend to stop it, or even slow it in a significant way.

          You’ve got to understand more about pirates and how they move and think, to understand why it won’t happen that way. Pirates do not trust each other simply by default. Sure, every pirate considers himself an honest crook, but the other pirates will take a little convincing before they trust the word of a confessed criminal.

          The willful, domestic pirate typically gets his files from the torrents, and typically has some community resource he uses to find out which torrents are worth tapping into. If he pulls down a torrent that has bad or even just poor quality content, he’ll often warn other people off of it.

          There are game cracker teams that have claimed to have a crack for a game, before the actual work was completed, and a system has evolved to shun such people and their uploads. Teams will rarely promise us anything they don’t have in hand.

          The more you talk about how impossible a game is to crack, the sooner you’ll see a quality crack for it. Publicizing the strength of a DRM scheme will bring teams flocking to take a crack at it.

          If there was no crack for a game, the pirates would be the first ones to tell you. Not only do they derive intense satisfaction from harming organizations that have lied to them them about their products(the reason many of them became pirates), but they get a real crack sooner if they tell the truth.

          Many a pirate will steal your game and blame you for it, but there are surprisingly few who would lie to your face.

          You want to slow piracy? Undermine that system of trust, respect and honor among game thieves. It’s their most powerful asset.

          • A lot of hacking the pirates was done at one time with .mp3 downloads. Your suggestion is that torrents, pirate identities and the like ought to be the target of game company hackers intent on disrupting reputation and trust.

            An interesting suggestion.

  12. Dev Null says:

    Even if it does get cracked now, if they’ve got a couple of weeks of sales out before the cracks hit the torrents they’ll call it a win. Only actual sales numbers will show whether they’d be right or wrong in that. I’ll be really interested to see how it comes out (the only sales figures I could find in a cursory look included the console, so are fairly irrelevant.)

    • scragar says:

      I think you are wrong to count sales, a game returned still counts as a sale. If the DRM breaks the game like it will for many people that’s going to be a lot of returns.

      Now if there was some way to see sales and return figures on a game I might be interested to see how the results for games with this sort of DRM compare, but for pure sales numbers it’s a meaningless comparison.

      • Philip says:

        Last I checked it is almost impossible to return a PC computer game to a retailer and most online sales and download sales are considered final.

        • Felblood says:

          And there’s no way to accurately track how many people would return the game without actuially letting them.

          Ergo, all available statistics are irrelevant. How many publishers do you think are aware of that?

        • Heron says:

          It’s theoretically possible to get Valve to refund (and remove from your account) a purchase made on Steam — I managed to succeed once — but you’re generally right. Their official policy is “no refunds”, and it takes a lot to get them to break that rule.

          I doubt “the DRM made the game unplayable” would fly with them… but then, they track how much time you spend playing your games, so maybe they’d accept your explanation if you only logged half an hour of time in-game.

          What I find surprising is that some retailers do let you return games, even when such returns don’t make sense (e.g. C&C4). Once you’ve attached the game’s cd key to your EA.com account, in the case of C&C4, the physical disc is worthless; any store that lets you return an opened copy of C&C4 is shooting themselves in the foot, because they cannot resell it if you attached the key to your account, and they have no way of knowing whether you did so without trying it themselves (an act which would prevent them from selling it anyway).

  13. Max says:

    I’d like to know: Do these games have a warning label on the retail box? It should say something like “internet connection is required to play”?

    If not, than this is a pretty darn scam, which would be sueable (at least in Europe).

    • Raygereio says:

      They may be moronic idiots, living high up there in their ivory towers without any knowledge about the real world; but they aren’t stupid.

      Yeah, it does that on the box. In a really, really tiny font hidden away between the system requirements, that is.

    • Heron says:

      Yes, the boxes do point it out. In tiny print. On the back.

      They also contain clauses like this:

      “EA may discontinue the online portions of this game by giving 30 days’ notice at http://www.ea.com“.

      Considering that the “online portion” of C&C4 is all of C&C4, that sort of disclaimer doesn’t inspire much confidence – at any given moment, I may only have 31 days left to finish the single-player campaign.

      Not that I care… the game is so crappy I can’t even make myself keep playing it, and that’s quite aside from my irritation that I bought it not knowing about its DRM.

      That’s only physical box games, though. Games on Steam usually tell you about the DRM at the bottom of their product page near system requirements.

  14. LintMan says:

    While I’d like to see the PC version of AC2 be a resounding flop due to savvy PC gamers boycotting its DRM, I suspect that the majority of people buying games just don’t know or care about this kind of stuff.

    So I’m expecting AC2 PC sales to be flat/in-line with the console sales. That said, I think this would be a resounding indicator that the industry’s “lost sales due to piracy” claims are bogus. Claims that pirates turned customers were offset by customers turned protester shouldn’t hold water, because *by their own claim*, there are 10x or more pirates than customers.

  15. Deoxy says:

    There are actually pirate servers for some MMOs – at least, there were 5ish years ago, last time I spoke with someone “in the know” about such things. They do tend to be very sparsely populated, though (no surprise there).

    Once the pirates get used to this new form of DRM, it will be broken just as easily as any other, but it may take a bit more time, since you actually have to play through it to get the content from their server to include (assuming you actually download the content from the server at the time, it’s not just check every so often to see if you can keep playing – that would be just as easy and quick to beat as the usual old stuff).

    So, by making the game depend heavily on the internet, some level of crack delay CAN be created (basically, the number of hours it takes to play through the game, plus an ever-shrinking chunk of time after that to package it all), but then, it also puts some serious hurt on a significant portion of the legitimate player base, as well.

    Making single player games depend on the internet, which is also the source of pirate copy downloads, does not seem like a winning strategy to me.

    Really, the only “DRM” (sort of) that works is constantly changing content – any static content, no matter how it is provided, can easily be cracked. THIS is the portion of MMOs that provides the DRM, not the login.

    • Felblood says:

      You missed something important when you were learning about pirate servers, for MMOs.

      You can play WoW on a pirate server, but you can only play with the other pirates. –without any sort of modding or cheat policing.

      A WoW subscription isn’t about buying a game, it’s about buying access to a comunity. You can’t just download four gigs of people who aren’t cheaters and jerks.

      • Jabor says:

        Depending on which server you go to, there are mods (the ones that stop cheats), but no mods (the ones that change the game).

        Some private server admins know that there’s a solid niche market for people who want to play “the real thing” but can’t afford it – and those people do take steps to make sure that it’s as close as possible to the actual thing, including the lack of mods and cheats.

        But you are missing the real point of the post, which is that even software that runs primarily remotely is duplicable with enough time and effort.

      • Deoxy says:

        Congratulations, Fellblood, you completely and utterly missed the point of my post.

        MMOs are usually listed as the GOLD STANDARD of “DRM”. I was pointing out exactly your point – that there’s no DRM at all, it’s that people want to play with other people. Every other aspect of the MMO, including the new content that gets added as time goes by, can be (and regularly is) pirated.

        For a single-player game, that’s all it has.

        • Felblood says:

          No, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I said.

          It isn’t hard to crack WoW, there’s just no point, because the game isn’t the point of WoW. It’s all about the Network Effect.

          I’m sorry if I offended anyone who happens to play on a pirate server. I haven’t had any luck with them myself, but if you found one that suits your style, that’s cool. The lack of constant gold farmer spam alone is a considerable perk.

          In my experience there are precious few pirate communities that aren’t overrun with self-entitled man-children. When you find one, you remember it and keep coming back. Considerate and trustworthy pirates are a pirate’s best friend.

          For all my talk about how not all pirates are like that, I should really know better than that.

  16. rbtroj says:

    Examples of things that can go wrong:

    I bought AC2 unaware of the DRM attached. I have a good connection, but even so, every once in awhile during gameplay the connection hiccuped, and my play was interrupted literally mid-jump on one occasion!

    I bought Settlers 7 because I have not yet conditioned myself to look for DRM before buying (I know, what an idiot!) This is the big problem as someone above mentioned. People will buy before being aware and the numbers will only reflect sales, not returns (since you can no longer return something you’re not satisfied with).

    I bought Dragon Age under one EA account. I bought Mass Effect 2 under another. I cannot use my DA Blood Dragon armor bonus in ME2 without logging out of the account under which my ME2 bonus loot was bought. Granted, it is possible to work around this, but I don’t think I should have to.

    • Garden Ninja says:

      I would ask why you didn’t use the same account for both games, but you shouldn’t need to login anywhere to play a single player game, even if it is only/primarily used to coordinate sharing of extras. Just make the extra thing a code that I can put into either game. Stuff like that is usually little better than cosmetic anyway, so why would they care if the codes get shared?

      Also, is Settlers 7 any good? I play mostly console games these days (and some old PC games), but I’ll probably build a gaming PC sometime in the next decade. If Settlers 7 dropped the DRM, would it be worth playing?

      • WarlockofOz says:

        Since many DRM-by-login schemes (such as Steam) don’t permit you to play a game on one computer at the same time as a different game on another there is a decent argument for keeping multiple accounts with each such scheme you use in order to allow friends/family to play games you own at the same time you’re playing something else. I’m generally happy with Steam but every time the kids come over I’m reminded that Peggle & Plants v Zombies are on my main Steam account and wish I’d bought elsewhere.

  17. randy says:

    But how much did it really sell?. Ubi has not given any number. Nobody has real numbers. How much did the Prince of Persia without any DRM sell?. Nobody knows. Ubi only said that it sold poorly, but of course they say that it was because it had no DRM and I say it is because it was a POS.

    So, what happens if the DRM holds?. It won’t. Or perhaps it hasn’t already. I think no game is going to beat Chaos Theory in that regard (around one year). And that was using the hellish StarForce. And that’s exactly why I and many other people didn’t buy it.

    But let’s say it holds. If there’s no piracy, will distributors treat us better?. Will prices go down?. Will there be better support?. I say no to all of it. Just look at the PS3: no piracy, and nothing is changing.

    I say that the publishers are just bastards, and if they invent an unbeatable DRM, the first thing that’ll happen is that game prices will go up $10. And the second?. That I’ll take my pile of pending games and start playing. And after some years, when that’s finished, I’ll go to the indies and the open source games.

    Me, I’m not giving an effing dollar to either Ubi or Activision until they end their stance of shitty DRM, forced connectivity and no LAN support. And I guess that’s going to take really long.

  18. Fosse says:

    If AC2 on the PC does much better than trends suggest, then we know that pirates actually went out and bought the game and that DRM is a valid defense against piracy. The question will remain: Is the gain in sales worth the expense of implementing the system? But at least we’ll know how many people are out there that would pay for a game if they had to.

    No we don’t. That’s mistaking correlation for causation. We merely know that sales on the PC did much better than trends suggested they would. It could be due to a better marketing campaign, or the awareness spurred by the DRM response.

    Same for sales being in the crapper not proving that gamers avoided the game in response to the DRM. (Fingers crossed.)

    However, I think you’re exactly correct in what people will interpret these outcomes to mean. Those are intuitive reactions and reasonable guesses.

    Anyway, like the poster above I abstained from Settlers 7 only because of this DRM.

    • Tizzy says:

      Glad you’re pointing this out. All this time, I’ve been thinking: “If I had poor game sales to justify, I would blame it all on the crappy economy.” It would be hard to prove that argument wrong.

  19. Chris Ciupka says:

    It’s ironic that even EA’s official first-party community blogger (their equivalent of Major Nelson, I guess) has actually complained about the DRM in C&C4!

    Apparently, his DSL had a couple of hiccups and he lost progress in his single-player game.

    When your own community outreach mouthpiece thinks your treatment of customers is unacceptable, methinks you have a problem.

    • Irridium says:

      Then EA flat out lied saying that it has no DRM…

      I don’t know whats worse, that they have the gall to do this, or that people will eventually accept it…

  20. Neil Polenske says:

    I remember you saying this game was cracked on the first day. Did you ever actually back that up with anything? I never saw a link or reference of any kind regarding the statement and I don’t if it has been addressed before.

    • Raygereio says:

      Ubisoft has released a statement saying that it hasn’t been cracked and anyone saying it has been is a dirty liar. Ubisoft’s PR department apparently has been taking lessons from a certain Iraqi Information Minister.
      If you want proof, google it. I’m going to be a nice guest to Shamus and won’t potentially get him into trouble by linking to any warez site.

      • Neil Polenske says:

        ‘Google it’ isn’t proof.

        • Raygereio says:

          By “google’ing it” you can find a cracked version Assassins Creed 2. Warez are not difficult to find, nor do you have to join some secret group. The only thing you need to know how to use a torrent.

          If you don’t consider downloading a version of AC2, cracking it and playing it – blissfully unaware of Ubisoft’s servers being down – proof, then I don’t know what else could be.

          I’m not going to link it for you because of the reason I already mentioned.

          • Neil Polenske says:

            I already checked a torrent site before I made my first post. Only one torrent was up, had 100 seeds, and over 200 comments of people who couldn’t use it. And this was on one of the most popular torrent sites I know of that would have two dozen torrents available for a AAA title on its release.

            • Raygereio says:

              Alright then, let me clarify.

              It has been cracked, they just aren’t done cracking yet.
              AC2 doesn’t have a constant connection with Ubisoft’s server, it makes a quick call to the server whenever you use a lever, kill someone, step onto a roof, etc, etc. At last count there are well over 1300 places where the game makes that call (if you want an estimate of the total of calls, just add a zero or two to that number), what’s further making things difficult for the crackers is the fact that the code used to make the call at each of those places is radomized, making it difficult to discern the patterns used.
              However you can change/remove those calls, it’s just a matter of finding all of them which take a long time.

              Before the release of ACII, there was a crack that allowed you to start up the game. After the release there was a crack that allowed you to start up the game, but not enter the animus. Now we have one where you can enter the animus, but just do some free roaming.
              Technically a fully working crack does not exist yet, but the DRM method itself has been cracked and it’s just a matter of time untill every single one of those little calls has been found.

  21. Lukasa says:

    Although the review is not up on their site, in the PCG UK issue 212 (April), the review of Assassin’s Creed 2 begins “It’s brilliant. Don’t buy it.” The paragraph that follows is a description of the implementation of the DRM on the game. Tom Francis (the writer) notes that his score is that of the game, and that DRM does not enter into the score, but he does not recommend buying it.

    PCG have stated that they will continue to mention any draconic DRM system like this in the review, but they will not have it affect the score.

    This seems like about as much as any games journalism company can do, realistically.

    • Kdansky says:

      Except for scoring correctly.

      “Well, my new Volkswagen looks awesome and drives awesome, it just needs some maintenance every 50 yards. But this will not affect my rating of the car: 100/100.”

      Stupid, is it not?

  22. Someone says:

    I think the challenge here is not to create a 100% pirateproof DRM but to slow crackers down and sell as much copies as possible before the crack is out. Most of the games today are cracked at day one (if not earlier) but maybe its because the copy protection is always the same (disk and/or online check in exe file). Perhaps if you hide it well enough pirates will have to spend some time to at least locate it.

    I believe Shamus wrote about a similar “creative DRM” system in Arkham Asylum, where it locks the ability to jump to pirates. The constant connection system may be going this way, if Ubisoft is secretly planning to drop it after the initial sales in a month or so. Still its not a permanent resolution since after a while everyone will learn to just wait until the DRM is dropped and then pirate it.

    This is the problem with my concept as well. It requires an actual test to determine just how much patience the gamers have.

    • Raygereio says:

      “I think the challenge here is not to create a 100% pirate proof DRM but to slow crackers down and sell as much copies as possible before the crack is out.”
      That’s pretty much what the big companies are doing at the moment and it obviously isn’t working. The pirates aren’t stopped and the companies are only hurting themselves as they loose customers.

      It’s a (somewhat sad) reality that you cannot stop piracy. Period. No matter how smart you think you are, there’s someone smarter out there. Most of the people that crack games do this as a hobby; you cannot compete with someone who’s having fun.
      The challenge is to stop seeing pirated copies as lost sales (for the most part they aren’t as there’s a big group that will not buy the game, ever), but instead on winning back as much potential costumers as possible.
      Rule number one in any business; if you treat your customer well and you do quality work, he will leave satisfied and he will come back.

      That will never happen though, as being nice and producing quality will require effort from the big companies. It’s probably more cost-effective to just produce crappy games and pay someone to develop yet another DRM scheme that will be obsolete the moment it’s released.

      • Tizzy says:

        Unfortunately, it seems like quite a few businesses get away with treating their customers like crap, and many more only dream of emulating them. I really wish it wasn’t so, I think the rule makes sense, but apparently treating us like crap is less of a hassle to these companies.

        • Deoxy says:

          But most of them really don’t do it very well – the only really successful ones either have no serious competition of succeed by staying inside the “prosecution curve” (Microsoft).

          Also, to make it at all, even then, you must be very, very big, so that you can take the bottom-end customers in many places (as that’s the only ones you’ll get, most times).

          If you are a large enough company to market in a large portion of the world, yes, you can get away with crappy service, simply because the world has so many idiots and newbies (by which I mean idiots and the inexperienced, usually the young, but really anyone new to a certain market – first-time internet users, for instance, of any age).

    • Felblood says:

      Your point about changing DRM schemes more often is deeply flawed, sir.

      Not only, as Raygereio pointed out, because new DRM schemes are like candy to a code cracker, but because they are the very oppositte to the actual customer. They are poison.

      Every new DRM scheme is a drop of poison in the well. –The well full of customers that all game developers drink from in order to survive.

      Look at the AC2 situation. Legit users are shut out, inconvinienced and lied to in new and unfamiliar ways, and this makes them fearful and angry.

      CD Keys and disk checks were a lesser evil, and the modern gamer has evolved defenses against the biggest problem with them, but imagine a world where you have to learn to cope with a new DRM scheme every week. –every day. It’s too much hassle.

      People won’t stop buying games because of hassle, but they will cut back their purchasing. Every new DRM scheme will make the entire industry less profitable, as more and more gamers scale back their spending, until turning a profit in games becomes untenable.

      The Tradgety of the Commons means that big comapnies will continue with this course as long as they see short term gain in it, and they will only stop when the damage is so bad that the etire industry is in grave peril.

  23. JB says:

    Seems I’ll be buying Episode 3 and Diablo 3, and then it’s good bye Windows gaming forever for my part. And I’m not interested in upgrading to Win 7 either, so that fits the plan.

    • Heron says:

      If you upgraded to Vista, then it’s just silly to not upgrade to 7, seeing as how 7 is just Vista with fewer bugs ;)

      • However if, like myself and many other people, he never bothered going past XP, then it’s perfectly valid

      • Avilan the Grey says:

        Actually it isn’t.

        It is what they promised Vista to be, with fewer bugs. It is the first Microsoft operating system to need LESS system resources than it’s predecessor, for one thing. Any computer you can run XP SP2 on, you can run Windows 7 on. Try that with Vista…

        • Marauder says:

          It is what they promised Vista to be

          Strange, I’ve been running Win7 since the betas, and running the final as my primary (Windows-based) OS pretty much since RTM (Being a large Enterprise Licensee = Fun). However I STILL don’t have the relational database filesystem (WinFS) that I was promised for Vista…
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinFS#Development

          WinFS was initially planned for inclusion in Windows Vista, and build 4051 of Windows Vista, then called by its codename “Longhorn”, given to developers at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in 2003, included WinFS, but it suffered from significant performance issues. In August 2004, Microsoft announced that WinFS would not ship with Windows Vista; it would instead be available as a downloadable update after Vista’s release.

          Of course, Windows 7 is still a HUGE improvement over Vista, and a worthwhile upgrade for XP as well… (Windows’ own built-in DRM not withstanding…)

  24. Johannes says:

    And there I was, totally convinced AC2 had already been cracked. Oh well…

    That being said, I think it’s remarkable that in the PC review on Gamespot for AC2 the reviewer was explicitly negative about Ubisofts DRM. One can screw over their gamers, but obviously, when your game goes failing on the actual reviewers, things get more awkward. Still, this on Gamespot! Didn’t expect that.

    This same reviewer has reviewed C&C4, where he calls the requirement to be online all the time ‘unreasonable’, and “an unfriendly way of approaching copy protection”.

    Well, to me, this b*llsh*t way of copy protection is totally unacceptable. Oh, and Steam. I used to like Steam, but it has been a bit unstable of late. And when Steam takes minutes to launch… Waiting to play a game I want to play to don’t have to spend time in idleness? Come again?

    When this trend continues, it will kill PC gaming. I for one won’t be playing crappy sh*t-games, gameplay-wise, running badly on my several-years-old pc because they employ fancy graphics I don’t care about when they don’t build on solid gameplay. And that’s the game companies’ second big trend of the last years. Really, don’t they understand that people are currently seeing these games like a commodity, just like they see the crappy sh*t-music the record companies have been puking out during the last decade?

    • RTBones says:

      Interesting thing to me (and as you mention, unexpected from Gamespot) is that the DRM scheme is just about the first thing mentioned in the review. I’ve seen reviews on Gamespot before where the DRM scheme is addressed but not “headline” the article. Along the same lines I find it fascinating how FEW reviewers talk about the DRM – yet Gamespot has it front and center. Destructoid talks about how Ubi wanted a guaranteed positive review from a reviewer in Germany before agreeing to provide a copy of the game for review, but mention of DRM is absent.

  25. AGrey says:

    You compare this kind of DRM to MMORPG’s: required constant connection to the Publisher’s server in order to play, server-side data, etc.

    If that’s true, then (assuming it is impossible to crack a copy that does not require internet) wouldn’t you just assume that the server software itself would be cracked?

    I can imagine a pirated copy simply connecting to a pirate server set to always say yes to connecting games.

    sure, you’d need to stay connected, but connected to a server that doesn’t check the game’s ID, you still wouldn’t have to pay for it.

    Take a look at how much trouble Blizzard is having keeping private servers for WoW under control.

    • Johannes says:

      You could also run one locally. However, I’m wondering: how would you know which data the game expects from the server? Requires quite some reverse engineering and hacking skills, IMO.

    • Jarenth says:

      Still, that doesn’t remove the twin roadblocks of a) always having to be online to play and b) the inevitability of servers dying over time. Pirating a game this way looks like it’s even worse than just buying it, and that’s saying something.

      • Jabor says:

        Not if the IP of the “pirate server” happens to be 127.0.0.1…

        The real problem is if the game requires actual data from the server, in which case you’re now back to plugging away at a blackbox in order to get that data.

        Software pirates have been spoiled by getting everything handed to them on a platter in main memory, now they’ve got to rediscover how to break a system when you can’t see inside.

        • Anaphyis says:

          Depends. What makes MMOs hard to emulate is the out-sourced game logic (quests, management, path finding et al) on the server side. You’ll either have to reverse engineer these or obtain the software through a leak or hack.

          The constant-on DRM however relies on inexpensive small bits of information passed between client and server, not on heavy CPU or bandwidth usage on the server side.

          So it really comes down to the question: Are those idiots enforcing these anti-customer systems willing to pay a huge amount of money over the course of at least 2-3 years for servers powerful enough to handle this AND basically have game where half of the engine is another piece of software that has to be developed and maintained separately.

          And the even more important question: Is keeping the pirates out worth it to basically maintain a MMO with the added costs but without the added revenue through subscription/micro-payment? I highly doubt that. But I also don’t have access to accurate sales figures much less access to the pirate hive-mind.

  26. Rayen says:

    i’m hoping against hope that always connected doesn’t catch on for very long. see i’m not gonna buy AC2 until a i have a PS3 (probably a couple of years away T_T). I have internet but i’m in a rural area where my connection is a little sketchy. It’s not a big problem when surfing it’ll pop off for a couple of seconds and pop back on but it does this at comletely random intervals and that couple of seconds would mean i lose three hours of gameplay. I think a large segment of gamers are going to to alienated by this kind of DRM, i just hope that it large enough for sales figures to be hurt.

  27. Drexer says:

    I have to say, I feel tempted to go back to my days of high school where I happily joined the pirating masses to play AC2, just to check out all of those DRM claims; but I’m standing by my no-pirate/no-buy point goddamnit!

    From a quick peek though, although there are some cracks which seem to work, the number of sources available is till quite small, which is kind of unusual if there is an available game.

    • Jarenth says:

      You could also play it on the 360 or PS3, if you have one. Like, right now. Without any hassle or forced-online bullshit. As bad as the DRM situation on the PC is getting, it’s a small comfort to me that there’s still the console market as a legal-customar-who-hates-DRM alternative.

      The great well of PC gaming has slowly and subtly been poisoned over the years, and only now we’re starting to notice that the water tastes kind of funny. If you need me, I’ll be over at the console rivers, not getting my DRM on.

      • Ranneko says:

        Except that the console rivers are almost pure DRM. It just is a form of DRM which rarely inconveniences the consumer and comes from the iron control of the platform, which is not available on the PC platforms.

        It may not be a form of DRM that you care about but you are still buying into DRM.

      • Drexer says:

        Here is the thing though, if they release their product for the PC, should I not expect to have the same rights as if for the console? There it also is a very good point about everyone turning over to consoles, that we lose the only platform that’s more open and moddable, and that has also always been a great selling point for PC-games. In fact, it seems that it is upon this idea that the whole of RPS is built.

        Don’t take me for a PC fanboy though, I have considered getting a PS3. Both to continue my roots as a console gamer(PSX>PS2>A future PS3 I hope), and because there are quite some games that interest me. However, the only game that I really will need to play will be The Last Guardian, so until that comes I can save my money.

        There it also is another two things that annoy me on buying for the console though. One is the need to have to scavenge(and probably not find) for one of those white or black special editions to get the extra areas. Seeing as I loved the trip I took to Italy, I really wanted to explore as many real life landmarks as possible. The other, is that my younger cousin which is an history geek, ain’t as financially well off than me. Initially I was going to buy two copies of AC2, one for me and one for him, but now I cannot. He only has a laptop because of the need of one next year for college, and he hasn’t got a regular internet connection. He can usually make downloads through Steam because a friend and neighbor of his lets him use the net for some hours of the night, but what can he do with a game like AC2?

        • Jarenth says:

          In reply to both:

          Maybe I should have been more clear. I love my PC and laptop both to death, and I generally prefer playing games on said PC platform. I don’t think the current state of PC gaming is deserved or justified, and I’m certainly not saying everyone should abandon PC gaming for consoles — I know I won’t. I’m just pointing out that the state of PC gaming is, well, rather sad. Not that you guys didn’t know that.

          Also, regarding that console DRM crack: While what you say is true, it’s not really the spirit of what I meant. What I meant is that I can get the 360 version of Screed 2, pop it in the tray, and play without any form of whining or connection checks. As far as I know, the 360 doesn’t even do that forced-firmware-updating-for-new-games thing that the PS3 and Wii sometimes pull.

          I guess that means the dividing line for me is whether or not I’ll be bothered by DRM after I’ve already paid money for games. I may be strange like that, I don’t know.

  28. Nick Bell says:

    There is another possibility to why it has not been cracked, or has been cracked but not widely spread. It could be that people simply don’t care.

    There is a lot of software out there that is simply not pirated, because the people with the talent to crack simply don’t want it. The pirate ecosystem is such that quality and demand keep titles available. Lack of interest can easily kill a pirated game, far faster than DRM can.

    Which can be a far greater insult. It is one thing for large groups of people think your software isn’t good enough to buy. It is even worse for most people to decide it isn’t even worth getting for free. Popularity tells a great deal in piracy, just like it does in sales.

    There is a reason Modern Warfare 2 was both the best selling and the most pirated game of last year.

    • neothoron says:

      Games far more confidential than AC2 are pirated on a routine basis.

    • Raygereio says:

      I think the more important reason you wont find the crack for AC2 easily is because you don’t need to have the disc in your drive in order to play.

      Pretty much all the big websites that ‘collect’ cracks only do this so that you can make a personal back up of a legally owned game.
      This is the same reason you will have trouble finding a crack for Mass Effect 1 for instance, as – just like with AC2 – you can just make a image of the disc and use that to install. You don’t need the disc after that. Those websites already operate in a legal gray area; if they also supply cracks for games that work on online activation, they will start to look way to much like illegal warez sites and will be shut down.

      Once the activation servers go down at some point in the future, that may change though.

  29. ClearWater says:

    Some have claimed to have seen the game running. Others claim that it does not work at all.

    At first I thought you were talking about the actual, uncracked game. That made me laugh.

  30. LOLdependent says:

    It is interesting the fact that in the readme that comes with a pirated game, there is always a message like “if you enjoyed the game buy it to encourage game companies”.

    • Drexer says:

      The same is also usual around the Anime fansub community, the comic book Digital Comic Preservation movement and such, although there the results seem better for the companies. Though that might also be because most Manga, Anime, and comic hardcovers aren’t 50€ each.

  31. silver Harloe says:

    I quite PC gaming after Bioshock. Unless you count indies like Eschalon and Avernum and DROD. Which I do count, because they’re generally better on writing and hours per dollar, anyway. The annoying DRM in games doesn’t bug me at all :)
    Of course, I’ll miss HL2 Ep3, Portal 2, Star Craft 2, Thief 4, and Deus Ex 3… but… Episode 3 took too long and now I’ve forgotten why I care what happens next. Portal 2 will be too hard for me – Portal 1 was pushing my limits towards the end. Thief 3 and DX2 were lame anyway, so I only hold moderate hope for their sequels. Star Craft 2 looks too different to me – I would have preferred more additional units, but less “complete removal of units” – a better engine for the original Star Craft with a couple add-ons would have pleased me immensely. Not that I mind the new units, but I would have liked to replay Star Craft 1 with superior grouping controls in the meantime, as well (it gets tedious with a fleet of Corsairs having to click them individually to disable a turret zone because they don’t have the smarts to just use the nearest-one-with-enough-power when you have a group selected).

    So… I guess I only “kinda” miss PC gaming.

    You, know, really, if they’d just give “keyboard + mouse” as an option for console controls (even a “special” keyboard that just had like arrow keys, lean and strafe buttons labelled as such, and so on – though then it loses the ability to also be an “RTS” keyboard, but to me that sounds like an opportunity for more money), I could happily deal with their hardware DRM and just play games on those. It’s not so much the PCs capabilities that IMpress me, as the pain of holding a console controller for more than 10 minutes (and my inability to aim with a thumb stick) that SUppresses me.

    And perhaps that’s the compromise we’ll eventually reach. A console with memory and graphics closer to a desktop and a real set of controls. And just make “PC” games for it.

    • WarlockofOz says:

      I’ve often vaguely wondered why Microsoft hasn’t produced a ‘XPC’, something between a PC and an Xbox. Keep the Xbox benefits (user can’t screw up the system, known single hardware spec to develop for), broaden what it can do (keyboard, mouse, at least as much ability to run non-game software as a mobile phone), profit.

      • Raygereio says:

        Because Microsoft doesn’t want to be accused of imitating Apple?

      • Anaphyis says:

        It’s a paradigm problem. Consoles you have in your living room, under your TV with a comfy chair and at best a couch table nearby. One that is too low to use a keyboard and mouse comfortably without inviting back pain. And you want some solid working space for anything larger then a gamepad, a dozen buttons on the other hand is somewhat limiting for what you usually can do with a PC.

        Unless voice recognition software or some other input method makes a giant leap forward, computers in the living room remain what they are now: Video game consoles and home entertainment systems.

  32. Mario l. says:

    Hi Shamus, I’d like to draw your attention on something off-topic.
    It seems that a game named Hydrophobia, that is due to arrive on xbla quite soon will use procedural technology.

    I quote from their press release:
    “HydrophobiaTM” has been developed using Dark Energy Digital’s own “InfiniteWorldsTM” game creation system, which uses bespoke procedural technology. This allows for a AAA retail quality experience for a tiny fraction of the usual file size, pushing back the boundaries for downloadable games.

    So it seems that procedural technology have another advantage.
    After your post about that I’m pretty curious to see the results.

    p.s.: for more information about the game, this is the website: http://www.hydrophobia-game.com/

  33. (LK) says:

    Ran a quick search on TPB to verify that Silent Hunter 5 is cracked now.

    Silent Hunter 5 Mod tutorial for Campaign Offline Play

    As a result of UBI Soft DRM policy and constant requirement for online connection during single play of campaign, legitimate users at their forum, found a way by modding game scripts to allow you guys to advance further in game without their shitty servers.

    As this post has been constantly deleted on their forums even it didn’t contain any
    cracks or patches, or anything against their crap EULA or rules , I’m making it available here for all to download.

    Pdf file of tutorial: 650 kb.

    Post is a bit messy but understandable.

    UBI has lied that unlocks and file saves have to be on their servers.

    Everything works offline.

    You can use legitimate offline play with ubiplay or cracked version here at Bay.

    Either way campaign progression works and saves on your computer too.

    All Credit to Zygmunt Torpedo from SH5 Ubi forums.
    Thank you man you did it.

    UBI and

    UK Forum Managers

    Fuck you.

    Our game is working full offline.

    Mega*pload link:
    mega*upload/?d=D98A9RM3

    If I owned the game I’d give the workaround a try but I’ll stick to playing SH3 which I bought years ago and which they’d probably have nuked their DRM support for by now if they’d done this BS earlier.

  34. RubicantX says:

    The whole high speed constant connection bring up when I bought Dawn of War 2. The box said “requires online activation” and I thought “hey no biggie I only have 56k dial-up but I can live through a few minute activation process”.

    Except after installing the game, then installing Steam, then updating GfWL (which was already installed due to Fallout 3 DLC), and then having to UN-install DoW2 because you have to have Steam installed and running BEFORE you install the game, then RE-install DoW2… WHEW *wipes sweat off brow*

    After ALL THAT I find out there’s a MANDATORY day one patch that I must use steam to “auto-patch”! Okay just a patch… even on 56k dial-up that’s a few hours. Just a few hours and I’ll be able to play.
    NO. The patch was 1GB in size. I estimated it would take 10 hours to download… Fast forward 8+1/2 hours later it was 30 minutes away from being finished. At this point I had been crossing my fingers for an hour because my IP usually dropped me after 8 hours of being connected.
    And of course it drops me. So I restart it and try again and go to bed.
    Both times failed of course. If Steam had a resume download feature for patches at least I would have little to no gripes to speak of.

    I had a download manager that allowed me to d/l huge files by resuming. If the patch had been a manual download it wouldn’t have been a problem. I got 6mb/sec cable modem the next day. Thankfully the Cable/Phone/Modem “package deal” was roughly the same as what we were paying for dial-up and phone service already so it worked out for me.

    Basically this means AC2 isn’t $50 or $60 or w/e it is. It’s $665 for the first year and $600 for following years subject to changing increase in price anytime. I’d love for someone to sue UBI for $600 a year and make them say how long in minimum time they would be keeping up the game servers. Not only would they be losing money to boycotters, but they’d be losing 11x the amount they received from people buying it.

    • HeadHunter says:

      Welcome to the 21st Century, where dialup honestly isn’t a feasible option for gamers.

      Neither is an 8086 with a monochrome monitor – ours is an expensive hobby, sadly.

      To play the newest games, we need recent technology – be that a new video card or better internet access.

      • Shamus says:

        Yeah I don’t know what the problem is with people these days. Why don’t they just build their own broadband infrastructure so they can play videogames?

        I doubt they use 56k modems because they like the dialup sound.

        • HeadHunter says:

          Sarcasm is unnecessary. This wasn’t a case of availability, as he went and got 6 Mbps cable service the next day. You might as well have typed “Tl;dr” if you overlooked that.

          Regardless, people continue to buy games whose requirements exceed their hardware and then are surprised when they encounter difficulties. I’ve got a 6-year old rig that was a rocket box when I bought it, and is still pretty servicable for most uses (put in a new video card and more RAM a while back), but I don’t expect it to run the latest games.

          56kbps has been below the standard for nearly a decade. I’m surprised that anyone with that level of access can even load this page, let alone do anything else with it. I’ll bet he’s got a cell phone with more bandwidth than that.

          I’m not in any way defending this kind of DRM scheme, but let’s not blame the game developers for those users whose hardware, for whatever reason, is years behind the times.

          • Shamus says:

            I was objecting to the attitude in general. LOTS of people can’t get broadband, or are on a metered connection. Uncapped, flat-rate, reliable broadband, is not a universal thing.

            • HeadHunter says:

              I agree – but people who can’t (as opposed to this case, where it sounds more like “Won’t”) have got to understand that their gaming options may be somewhat limited.

              Suing Ubisoft because you don’t want to get a service that’s available in your area is the truly absurd attitude here – and it deserves the ridicule I gave it.

              • Raygereio says:

                It’s still stupid; demanding that you be permanent online for a singleplayer game would be the same as when I come to a customer to repair their TV and say “Sorry, sir. I can’t fix your TV as your door is red. You’ll need to paint it blue, then I can fix it”.

                If you’re talking about a MMO – a game where the whole being online aspect is integral to the game – yes, then you just have to accept the fact you are limited in the enjoyment of your game.
                But we’re talking a singleplayer game here. Being online isn’t necesary to play the game, being online doesn’t add anything to game, it’s just (depending on your connection and the way it’set up) inconvenient/annoying/extremely frustrating.

              • Zak McKracken says:

                You are wrong here:
                While it’s correct to say “most gamers have a flatrate anyway, so there you go” it’s not correct to say “if you’re a gamer, it’s legitimate to force you to have one”. That follows the standard approach of “most people are doing it, so everyone else must do it, too” that’s probably a proper fallacy.
                I know people who have been happily gaming offline for years, and why wouldn’t they? I also know people who had connection problems for months on end because their provider was too stupid. Why would you introduce a mechanism that keeps them from playing?
                Myself, my internet connection is reaally fast but has hiccups all the time. So would I be unable to play the game? I won’t try to find out!

                Things would be different if there was a technical necessity to have a connection (like, with a real online game…), but there isn’t. The connection is artificial, so probably Ubisoft just thinks they can ignore anyone who hasn’t got a stable flatrate. That’s is legitimate again, but it’s not polite.

  35. W says:

    Full text in the RSS feed? You shouldn’t have! :D

  36. CrushU says:

    ACTUALLY, there is one company whose DRM works, has games which have not been cracked, and the people who buy the games don’t realize there is DRM on the games.

    Nintendo. ;)

    Technically it’s for the DS games they have, and it’s called Anti-Piracy (AP) instead of DRM. Anyone involved with flashcarts/hacking DS’s will know that the DS has surprisingly effective AP measures, which go away entirely if you just buy the game. Now, granted, EVENTUALLY it gets cracked, but I’m talking on the order of a month before the crack is out for any particular game. The fact that their AP measures are so silent that No One Knows they’re there, is what makes me take my hat off to Nintendo. THIS is how it’s done; Buying the game makes it a seamless experience, compared with bugs if you try and pirate.

    • Nick Bell says:

      But the DS is still extremely easy to pirate on. A flashcart will let you play games without any physical modification. No mod chips, no flashing firmware. Pull out the cart, and everything goes back to stock. That seems easy, not hard. And there is a fully flourish community of people cracking the games themselves. Why do you think Nintendo is hurting flashcart makers so aggressively?

      The Wii is similar, but it can be cracked with software alone. Nintendo tries and fights those with firmware updates (something the DS can’t do), but those only slow down the problem.

      So I think Nintendo is not any better than the other companies at this.

  37. RubicantX says:

    Actually a 56k modem IS “feasible for gamers”. In fact it’s so feasible I had zero problems until that one issue. As I said with manual patch download links (the kind you “right click” and “save as” as opposed to auto-patches) I could download the largest patch with a download manager that allows resuming… unless they specifically code the web page to NOT accept resuming. You can get e-mail, check any web page that doesn’t require you to sit through a feature length movie first, and yes, check blogs, news, or game FAQ sites.

    There’s even one free MMORPG called “Maplestory” where I was able to play albeit with the disadvantage of not being able to pick up items as fast as other people and it took the monsters one second to “realize” they’ve died. I’m not much of a online gamer as I prefer solo, but co-op games are fun. (which DoW2 has a co-op option for the capaign so I’m glad I got broadband) Neverwinter Nights 1 also was perfectly fine on dial-up for online Role-playing.

    My computer can play DoW2 on “Medium” gfx settings with zero slowdown, “High” with very little, and if I manually edit the settings file to put it on “Ultra” (it locks me out from ultra in game for some reason) I get slowdown to 20FPS. (It drops lower during very heavy combat rarely seen in the campaign.) I did check the “requirements” and “suggested” system specs but nowhere did it mention I would require a broadband connection, nor a mandatory 1GB patch before I could play.

    Lawsuits, while some ludicrous, are a lawful tool to not only “hit them where it hurts” but they set up legal precedents to protect people and consumer rights.

  38. acabaca says:

    I do think that uncrackable DRM, if it was possible, would be a bad thing for both the consumers and in the long run, the industry too. This is because it eliminates the two useful side effects of piracy (used here to refer to copying of games for non-profit, not manufacturing poor quality forgeries of the products) – the full preview it provides for the customers and the free marketing it provides for the producers. These have the effect of punishing well-marketed but poor cash-ins, and boosting good but poorly marketed underground titles, and these are absolutely a good thing – it provides an incentive to make better games, instead of merely better advertisements. A pirate may not buy all the games he likes, but he never buys a game he doesn’t like, and that has a certain corrective effect.

    Without it, what can the potential buyer do? He’s at the mercy of hearsay, the ads, and the notoriously unreliable reviews which are just extended ads these days (and which the publishers actively attempt to skew in their favor by means of hush orders, conditional ad deals etc). This setup rewards swindlers and cheats, snake oil salesmen, and the game houses love it, as it’s much easier to be a swindler than actually, y’know, make good games.

    Even after this the consumer has another tool as a way to cut his losses: selling his game back to the store, to get back a portion of the money he was cheated out of. And it’s telling that the game houses regard this practice, absolutely ordinary in any other context, as horribly unfair – because it too punishes people who make bad games. Not as sharply as piracy does, but it does, and they don’t like that. They want the customer to be at their mercy.

  39. And I started hating EA a little bit less when I saw them releasing all the old C&C games…

  40. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You can safely scratch assassin creed 2 from the list of games with unbeatable drm.Though it seems that in order for the game to work completely,you needed a save from the end of it.Periodically,there were cracks that allowed you to play the start of the game and some of the missions,but now there are versions(yes multiple)of a fully playable cracked game.And I can confirm that at least one of them works.

  41. Reverend Del says:

    I avoided AC2 on the PC, bought it for my Xbox instead. I don’t buy games for my PC often anyway. However this was one I wanted but didn’t want to have to abide by that ridiculous DRM. No high minded boycott of the game, just a switch to a different platform.

    I don’t pirate games often, and when I do it’s for games I cannot get hold of owing to supply rather than cash, so the idea of pirating AC2 to “punish” Ubisoft for making me feel like a common thief never entered my mind.

    Last game I pirated was Fallout 2, then I finally found a bundle copy with the first game and the really rather rubbish spin off, plus a rules set for a tabletop game based on the setting. £5. For two of the finest RPG games I’ve ever played.

    Frankly if I can’t get a hold of an old game I’ll download it. If I can’t get hold of a new game I won’t play it. If a game is trying to be evil and make my life difficult by having horrific DRM, I’ll just buy it for a different system.

  42. mortalKarnage says:

    I find the only DRM that’s good for the consumer and works thus far is the Batman: Arkham Asylum one, which has no “prevents you from playing” bull-$%&#, but instead deactivates some of your abilities, like gliding. This means the pirates can’t enjoy their game that lacks content provided free of charge to legit copies of the software.

    I’ve noticed that most other DRMs either screws the consumer six ways to Monday, or screws us and means nothing to the pirates who don’t use the DRM when they play.

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