Bioshock: DRMShock

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 23, 2007

Filed under: Video Games 77 comments

Thanks to Taffer for the link to this news item. It’s swiped from the PC Gamer Blog, but I’m linking to Taffer and not the original source because the PC Gamer blog doesn’t have permalinks. (Come on guys! I KNOW you can do better than that. Blogs are not mysterious devices. The functionality is well established and easy to comprehend.)

The upshot of the article is that:

  1. You must activate the game on-line to play it.
  2. It can only be activated on one machine at a time. I hope you weren’t planning on playing on your home computer AND laptop, or your home AND work computers.
  3. You can only activate the game twice.

In order for the following to have the proper impact, I should establish my love for this series. The original “Shock” game – System Shock – affected me so strongly that I wrote an entire novel based on the game. The sequel is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been waiting for this one for the better part of a decade. I’ve been following the story since the first hints of it dropped way back in February of 2006. I’m not just a fan of this series, I’m an avid, nearly rabid fan of this series.

Dear 2kGames. I’ve got sixty bucks right here. And you guys will never see it. Never. I don’t care if I see the game in the bargain bin two years from now for $5. I don’t want it. I also don’t want to hear your crying about pirates ripping you off. You started it. Your box claims “This game requires Online Activation to play”, but if you were honest about what that really means – if you let people know what you were really selling – it would demolish sales. And you know it. I don’t use pirated software, but my fond hope is that the pirates give you the quick humiliation you deserve.

Activating the game twice? I picked up Doom 3 a couple of years ago, and I’ve reinstalled it four times since then as I’ve shuffled games around or upgraded my computer. There is no excuse for thinking like this.

And this just backs up my earlier post on the uselessness of game reviews. This should be the first thing mentioned in every review. PC Gamer talked about it on their blog, but I’ll bet this never makes it into print. It is my hope that gamers pass this along, so that nobody buys this game without knowing what they’re getting into.

EDIT: More here. Looks like you get an activation “back” when you uninstall? How magnanimous of them.

EDIT: More here on the 2k forums. They have flatly claimed that secuROM isn’t a rootkit. That announcement is followed by about four pages of angry responses from users talking about how it is exactly that. I can’t say one way or the other, but if they have added lies to the mix then I think it ought to act as a Tony-Hawk style multiplier on the negative feedback and publicity they might be experiencing.

In the comments below someone points out that the number of installs has been upped from 2 to 5. I will admit that 5 is indeed larger than 2, although it is less than inifinity, which is the number of installs most games permit.

EDIT: More on this at other sites:

The Daily Jump
Completely Random Thoughts

Kotaku has a response from Ken Levine

And even the demo installs the rootkit.

EDIT: Looks like The Rampant Coyote is giving the game a pass as well.


From The Archives:

77 thoughts on “Bioshock: DRMShock

  1. MintSkittle says:

    You can only activate the game twice!?! That’s totally unforgivable. If you have to upgrade or your hard drive fails, you’re screwed. I don’t normally wish bad things on game devs, but this game needs to bomb so someone gets the message.

  2. Pffh says:

    Twice!? Okey lets say this game is the greatest FPS of all times and in say 8 years you look through your old games and decide to play it again, but you have already used up those two activation (very likely since most people dont keep the same game on their computer for years and years and hard drive upgrades and other reasons) what then? You cant even buy it again since almost no store will be selling it even in a bargain bin.

  3. bloopy says:

    the first time i noticed the game mags started to ease up on their reviews was when half-life 2 came out. . . it had some sort of activation (i think they called it steam or something) that immediately turned me off, and i assumed it would affect the review, but pc gamer (at least i think it was pc gamer) gave the game a score of 11. . . and that was on a scale of 1-10!. . .

    they offhandedly mentioned the product activation but it came as a total surprise to me that they’d not only say the game was perfect, they said it was *better* than perfect. . . when i read the review i was kind of like, “what? there’s not only a flaw with this activation crap, you acknowledged it as a flaw and *still* gave it an 11!”. . .

    i’m not sure but i got the impression that pc gamer no longer cared about product activation once half-life 2 came out. . .

  4. Author says:

    I find it amusing how there aren’t any comments on this article, yet DMoTR gets 30 to 50 easy. Face it, consumers do not give rat’s tail about being raped by publishers in the guise of anti-piracy. Thus, they deserve what results.

  5. Author says:

    OK, I take it back… Looks like comments get batched. Way to go, people, keep it up.

    One thing people seem missing is that the activation is online. Therefore, the activation servers have to be kept up. Anyone cares to guess for how long they are going to stay up? I am quite sure that the game will be plain impossible to activate when it hits the bargain bin. If it weren’t so, I’d still be playing Legends of Kesmai.

  6. Cadrys says:

    Hmm. I wonder if all of the above is true for a Steam download/install of BioShock. If, in fact, it is restricted to “only twice” activation AND this is a permanent feature, that’s unacceptable.

    OTOH, this might be a ‘first three months only’ feature to slow piracy/force initial sales, and will be removed in a future patch.

  7. Peter says:

    You can only activate it twice, but you get your activation “back” when you uninstall. So it is possible to install it more than twice — provided you uninstall each time.

    Details at (courtesy of Digg).

    But it still sucks if you have a hardware failure, or your OS dies on you, huh?

  8. Zee says:

    Honestly, I knew about this and bought it anyways. Why did I do that? Two reasons.

    1. I really wanted to play it and I don’t have an Xbox. I got it at circut city so in total the game cost me 42 bucks.

    2. I am certain that within a few months (at most a year) there will be a crack for this game allowing a bypass for the activation. Either that or there will be a patch later on when 2k realized how f-ed up this is. Either way, something will be done to circumvent it.

  9. CJG says:

    Having to constantly deal with Adobe’s Activation Nonsense at work, I can attest that “Activation” is an utter load of BS rolled up in a giant ball of annoyance.

    Just for example: You computer crashes in one of those irrecoverable ways. You didn’t deactivate or uninstall any of your software, so you’ve used up an activation. Now when you reinstall your software again later you have to use up another one of your activations. You might think that this would easily be solved by a quick phone call to the company explaining the situation, but no, they think you’re trying to pirate the software or install it on multiple computers or some other nonsense.

    I don’t usually get all up in arms about DRM, but the entire “activation” concept is beyond the pale.

  10. Tylhandrias says:

    The solution to Bioshock? Buy it on the 360. No copy protection, no need to get better, expensive hardware (I’ve played the demo, and Bioshock is -beautiful-. Oh, and graphics intensive). But yes, DRM is a pain, and stupid, and annoying, and this particular branch is incredibly painful, but Bioshock is looking to be the best shooter since Half-life 2, and the best game thematically since I don’t recall when. And to the person who was turned off by Half-Life 2’s product activation, it was relatively simple and straightforward. You had to have a live internet connection to connect to Steam, and you could only have one CD key on 3 computers simultaneously (may be wrong on the facts here, going by memory), but it wasn’t all that restrictive. Oh, and I mostly played Half-Life 2 for the multiplayer, so having to be online didn’t really bother me. Anyways, just my 2 cents.

  11. T-Boy says:

    Oh, that’s okay. I’ve said my “f*** you”s to game publishers years ago.

  12. Skip says:

    Reading between the lines on the various fora on this, the current state is:

    Bioshock/PC from Steam: 2 PCs total at a time. As of yesterday’s patch, uninstalls actually work.

    Bioshock/PC not from Steam: 2 Activations total, uninstall MAY give you an ativation back, but may not. SecuRom (the DRM provider) will tell you to contact 2K. 2K will tell you to contact SecuRom.

    Bioshock/PC from warez: completely unrestricted.

    Bioshock/360: No known activation issues.

    The steam version is really screwed up, because that’s one of the whole premises of steam – that you can buy their games and play them on any PC, whether it’s at a cyber-cafe or at home. I own a handful of games I bought via steam, and they’re mostly right now installed on 3 PCs. My work PC, my upstairs home PC and my downstairs home PC. I’m _really_ glad I didn’t buy the PC version of this game.

  13. Tylhandrias says:

    @Author, the Steam servers that do the activation are used for all of several game publisher’s games. The newer games that use Steam will more than pay for the older ones’ continued hosting, so it’s very unlikely that Bioshock’s activation will just ‘cease to be.’ A good example is Blizzard’s Battlenet – they still use it for Starcraft, but purchases of their newer games let them continue to host their server – and their older games.

  14. Marmot says:

    That’s shameless self promo…errr… no, wait, wrong subject. I’m definitely going to read your novel these days – I had no idea it existed and I am wondering about it. Thanks for posting the link.

    For Bioshock…nothing to say but agree with you. Steam, limited use activation codes and such are all a blight upon gaming.

  15. JB says:

    Too right, Shamus!

    All this online activation for offline games (as opposed to Guild Wars or WOW, where its warranted, I guess) hasn’t been much of a success – I remember how much of a shocker installing Half-life 2 was in the beginning – needing a Steam account, decrypting the data over the internet, then heaven forbid if the installation screwed up….

    At least once you’ve spent a week perfecting a flawless install, you can use the steam account to install it on any other computer…the idea of someone only being able to install twice, I agree, is laughable.

  16. wrg says:

    Author, I wouldn’t assume that comment volume is proportional to the perceived importance of a topic. Often, the DMotR comments consist largely of banter, which is more appropriate to such a humorous piece rather than something like this. I take these issues rather seriously and am glad I heard of this now, since given the hardware issues I’ve had I’d probably be out of luck pretty quickly. Still, if I don’t have anything interesting to say, I won’t comment.

    Zee, on a practical level I can see where you’re coming from. You may well be right that this situation will change soon. However, although I’m willing to be tolerant of software working less and getting in the consumer’s way more than it did years ago, there are certain lines I prefer to draw. I doubt this idealism will make any real difference, but I’m sufficiently annoyed that as a matter of principle I’m not going to buy this thing. I’d rather spend my money to boost sales of a product that doesn’t try too hard to sabotage those who buy it.

  17. Morrinn says:

    Yo, ho, haul together,
    hoist the *colours* high.
    Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
    never *say* we die.

    I’m taking the black.

  18. Nanja Kang says:

    The novel (Shamus’) I read at work, and made me want to play a cyberpunk RPG for months afterwards…

    The DRM issue is the bi-product of what some of you have mentioned (the hackers that are just going to fix the issue). But I must prompt this question to the forum…
    Which came first the security douche bags or the hackers? Were they one in the same back when movies like “War Games” were released and somewhere down the road the line was drawn? I’d like some input.

  19. sithson says:

    I have a extra copy of system shock 2 I dug up the other day when I was cleaning my room. Haven’t played it in years, popped in it, and played it. Sure it had the annoying you have to have the disc in the drive deal with it, but other then that? No other problems.

    Unistalled it (Honsetly the grahpics on it are bad to now-ay-days stuff, and it scarded the stuffing out of me.)
    and put it back away. Needless to say, this new incarnation is going to be x20 more scarier and I can’t play them kinds of games, so I wont be getting it.

    Now if it was more like a myst/riven/ deal where there was puzzels are not as scary (I always play easy mode) then sure
    though that 2 activation thing really makes me pissed. How stupid.

    Anyways, Shamus, if you want that old copy of SS2 let me know i’ll send it to you. (you should hav emy email)

  20. mos says:

    How sad. Seriously. I was so looking forward to this game. :(

    I don’t know how many games I’ve actually uninstalled over the years, but I can probably count the number on my fingers. Usually, if I’m reinstalling a cherished game, it’s because I’ve upgraded a drive or something.

  21. DaveJ says:

    Downloading the HL2 demo was one of hte stupidest things I’ve ever done. Screw this activation crap. The xbox360 demo, it played like a knock off of Condemned.

    Don’t know if its even worth downloading.

  22. Miral says:

    Likewise. It sounds like I’ve probably uninstalled more games than mos — I tend to run out of disk space quickly, so I uninstall the ones I’ve finished or don’t think I’ll get around to playing for a while. But still, many games end up never getting uninstalled at all. And I was actually thinking about getting this game (although I was going to download the demo first). But with this news it’s definitely heading towards the “forget about it” pile.

  23. Zaghadka says:

    A small fact check:

    “you can uninstall and reinstall this game, and if, by chance, you have 2 computers you want to simultaneously play this game on, you also can do that.”


    (scroll down to the text in yellow, “Elizabeth from 2k’s reply”)

    Of course, her reply is full of “weasel words” and implies that, yes, your install is being tied to a hash generated from your hardware setup.

    Despite this slightly kinder policy, I completely agree with you. I’m also a rabid fan of this series and they can keep it.

  24. sithson says:

    They already gave.. they will proboly give even more, if this is the case.

    They have raised the number of activations from 2 to 5.

  25. Gary says:

    The game has been out for two days now and there is already a crack for it on BitTorrent. I don’t know if it works because I don’t have the game but I find that oh so funny. Why do they even try, I’m sure they spend X amount of dollars paying someone to come up with some form of anti-piracy and then pay someone to code it and etc., just to have it cracked two days later. That’s just like locking your door only keeps out honest people, the real thieves break a window or carry lockpicks.

  26. Darnon says:

    There were a few cracks (most likely fakes) floating around before the game came out. Most cracks are just for bypassing having the CD/DVD in the drive when you play it; the authentication bit with Bioshock is part of the installer program. Of course, pirates used to write their own installer programs all the time before CD images became more popular (and it let them show off some of their programming talent with all sorts of fancy installers).

    As for Bioshock itself, it’s definitely worth picking up even with its goofy activation schemes. I clocked in on it at about 10 hours, start to finish, which is pretty short for a game nowadays, but it certainly has some replayability to it. As for it being scarier than SS2? I don’t think so. Rapture is a lot more actively inhabited (even if those inhabitants are all trying to kill you) than SS2, so you rarely find yourself wondering whether what just made that noise behind you was alive or not. The story is pretty good, if a bit rushed at times especially with its generally cut and dry objectives, and it has a nice little twist at the middle. Unfortunately it seems there’s no way for you to redeem yourself after that, though. If you were a cold-hearted bastard most of the first half, you’re pretty much guaranteed the ‘bad guy’ ending.

  27. sithson says:

    They always say that locks keep out honest people.

    Shamus, what in your codifing expertise or rather, just opinon in general do you think would be the best way to stop piracy? Surly theres some sort of way.

    I think the best way to combat it, would be simple.
    You go to store buy game, they give you a reciept for said game. You install it. Done. No need to have disk in drive, none of that BS. The lack of BS causes sales to rise, becuase, well theres no BS, you dont spend money to fight BS and you have a great game, which then people by more of.
    But that’s just me.

  28. Corsair says:

    Copy protection is annoying, yes. But not buying a game because they don’t want people to steal their intellectual property? That’s like going into a jewelry store and refusing to buy any of their stuff because they have security. By the way, you’re missing out on an extremely good game.

  29. Zaghadka says:

    I think extending from two to five activations is missing the point.


  30. Ralff says:

    The best (worst?) part about this is that this terrible DRM is going to do absolutely nothing to pirates. All this is going to do is hurt sales; pirates are either going to pirate the game (and they will, there’s no way Bioshock won’t get cracked soon enough, if it hasn’t been already) or they’re not going to buy it.

    Look at Gal Civ II. Massive sales, apparently, and pretty much no copy protection at all unless you count the serial number. What happens if you have hard-drive failure or something? Too bad, I suppose–you’re down to one install. Personally, if I had bought Bioshock and then found this out, I’d probably return it and grab a torrent for it.

  31. Rich says:

    Just another example of forcing honest people to wait for the dishonest types to fix a game. I was going to buy this tomorrow. Now I’ll wait until there is a crack. I’ll still buy it, eventually. But not tomorrow, not yet.

    I’ll wait for the pirate types to come out with a DRM “patch”.

  32. Coyote says:

    Wow. I was ranting on this subject at the same time – but I hadn’t heard about the latest development about the “uninstall” not working.

    I was gonna buy this game over Steam. I think I might be joining you in your refusal to support a publisher who treats its customers as criminals.

    I’m not amused.

  33. Madjack says:

    I don’t usually say things with such certainty, but I’d bet anything– *anything*!!– that every single developer who put blood sweat and tears into that game would like to see it totally DRM free. Nobody who actually makes games for a living likes DRM because they understand it is useless, clunky, insulting and just plain bad. They don’t want to see it pirated either, but DRM does nothing to prevent that and anyone with an ounce of tech savvy knows it.

    So why, then? You get outfits like Wal Mart who won’t stock a game unless it has DRM, and the suits just bow down and take it.

    Blame the publisher, blame the publisher. The same people who are trying to erase Irrational’s name from the books of gaming history are the same people who want DRM all over your machine.

  34. Arvidos says:

    You guys should see this too…

    Bioshock doesn’t work with the majority (Or so I got the impression) of video cards out there, for no obvious reason, which have led to 53 pages of disgruntled players on the 2k forums. I myself found this out when I tried to launch the demo, and accusations that this is to screw people over as part of some corporate deal. I don’t know, I couldn’t read it all. :P

  35. Chris says:

    A quick comment about Adobe’s activation: they’re wonderful about phone activations. I’ve never spent more than 3 minutes on the phone with them, and the phone techs have always been great. I’ve had to call a number of times because I forgot to deactivate and have never had any problems at all.

  36. Alan De Smet says:

    “That's like going into a jewelry store and refusing to buy any of their stuff because they have security.”

    No, it’s not. Not in the slightest. Ultimately comparisons to physical property are going to fail miserably because copyright infringement and physical theft are wildly different crimes performed by different people with different tools and different techniques with different victims. This isn’t about security in the jewelry store. This is about the security in the jewelry store following me home after I paid full price for the jewelry, then the store’s security telling who can wear the jewelry I’m paid in full for.

    Ultimately if I purchase some cufflinks, a book, or a game, I want to own it. In ten years I should be free to wear or loan out the cufflinks, read or loan out the book, and play or loan out the game, without regards to who created it ten years ago.

    (Oh, and Shamus, a “preview” option for comments would be a nice addition to the blog. One never knows what subset of HTML/BBCode/etc works on a given comment system and it’s nice to be able to check.)

  37. Gaping_MAW says:

    Steam has recently removed the 2 installs limit.. which is really not relevant as steam is an online authentication system anyway :0

  38. That's like going into a jewelry store and refusing to buy any of their stuff because they have security.

    More like refusing to buy any of their stuff because they strip-search you on entering and leaving the store, and will only allow you to RENT the jewelry (for the same price as other jewelry stores are letting you BUY theirs), and that you must KEEP coming physically into the shop every month (and being strip-searched) to file a continuation of the rental agreement so they don’t repossess the jewelry.

  39. Synapse49 says:

    Guys, this is SOOOOO not a story. Nor is it something to be worked up about. Even if you DO run out of installs (presumably because you forgot or couldn’t uninstall first) the error message that pops up has a phone number to call so you can open your license back up. Big deal.

    You know what I hate MORE than that “inconvenience”? Sticks on the side of jewel cases that force me to somehow keep track of where each and everyone is. That to me is inconvenience.

    Another thing. Software licenses in the corporate sector have been doing this for years.

    And finally, playing this on the 360 completely circumvents this entire non-issue if it is that big of deal to you. In fact the majority of this blogs complaints about the trials and tribulations of PC gaming can be solved outright by adopting console gaming….. I don’t even care which one. Rumor has it Bioshock will be on the PS3 sometime in 2008 anyway.

  40. Zaghadka says:

    What now? Did you say rootkit?!

    Is Sony (the maker of SecuROM) up to it’s old tricks? Can they seriously NOT have learned from their last debacle? Should SecuROM now properly be pronounced “screw ’em?”

    Well, I looked it over, and I’d have to say technically it’s not a rootkit. It’s just a pain in the ass.

    Looks like some ignorant folks have noticed output from sysinternals “Rootkit Revealer,” and assumed it was a rootkit without taking the further step of carefully analyzing the data. I can’t find any rootkit processes.

    What there is is a deliberately malformed key in the user tree that can’t be deleted (which ironically warns you not to delete a bunch of later keys that can be deleted) and some files in the Securom cache of your user account that are hacked so they can’t be properly accessed by the user, and therefore can’t be deleted. The files are in %userprofile%\Application Data\SecuROM\UserData.

    I would assume the reason why these files are formatted this way is so that your average user won’t wipe out his DRM keys by mistake, especially in light of them only being issued once on install. Frankly, putting it in a hidden directory (UserData) probably went far enough. This is Sony, however. They don’t respect people’s hardware as their own.

    If you ran the install as ADMIN, then your admin account is now corrupted with these files.

    While it’s using rootkit techniques to do this, it’s not really a rootkit because there’s no active agent running on your machine. A rootkit is defined as hidden software, that can’t be seen by the user processes, which runs beneath user scrutiny by using various tricks available in the Windows OS.

    Personally, I’m not happy that I’ve got files that can’t be deleted. What if I decide to create a new user account? I’ve been considering going to the trouble of creating a limited rights account to run from for the enhanced security, but with the same name as my current admin rights user account. Now I can’t properly delete the old account, because it’s corrupted with undeleteable garbage.

    Also, it seems I got my dose of the “rootkit” from Neverwinter Nights 2, so this doesn’t just affect Bioshock. All the files in my Securom cache are dated January 10th, which is the day we got back from Christmas vacation (me with a new copy of NWN2, which was more than a little disappointing.) The key has been there for a while as well, long before I installed the Bioshock demo.

    So, it looks like SecuROM is now on my boycott list, along with Starforce. I can only hope they are forced to provide tools to remove these files from my machine. Thanks a lot Sony.

  41. Zaghadka says:

    Well, here I am in Ubuntu Linux, and the good thing about Linux is it doesn’t have the HOLES the Windows OS does.

    I asked it to delete the offending SecuROM files, and it said, “What files?”

    I love Linux. ;^)

    So, if you want to get rid of these freaking files, you’ll have to mount the NTFS volume with NTFS-3g under Linux, and Linux will gladly take care of them for you.

    As for the registry key, I think the only way to deal with that is to export everything you want to from NTUSER.DAT and the %username% folder, blow away the account, and import it all back into a new account.

    Or, you could just live with having a regkey labeled “!WARNING! Do not delete” which is completely benign and harmless.

    Oh well. I hate Sony.

  42. Ian says:

    “Another thing. Software licenses in the corporate sector have been doing this for years.”

    So? Why should $49 games have the same security measures that a $3999 modeling package has?

    It wouldn’t be so bad if it actually stopped piracy but it simply does not. Games get thrown right up on BitTorrent trackers at or even before release and usually come bundled with a crack or some other way to circumvent the security. It doesn’t stop piracy, it just punishes and annoys legitimate customers.

    Ridiculously intrusive copy protection is the biggest reason that I’m primarily a console gamer now. I pay for my games, I certainly don’t pay to have to jump through hoops to install the damned things.

  43. Ian says:

    “As for the registry key, I think the only way to deal with that is to export everything you want to from NTUSER.DAT and the %username% folder, blow away the account, and import it all back into a new account.”

    Nah. After the rootkit has been removed you should be able to right-click the offending key(s) and change the permissions on it (most likely it just denied the current user access to them — administrators can reset the permissions).

    “So, if you want to get rid of these freaking files, you'll have to mount the NTFS volume with NTFS-3g under Linux, and Linux will gladly take care of them for you.”

    Yeah, but that assumes that someone knows enough about Linux to install NTFS-3G in the first place (and has an installation handy). Mighty fine package, though…I’ve gotten quite a bit of use out of it.

  44. Zaghadka says:

    And if you want to get rid of registry entries with embedded nulls, (!CAUTION!) the program is here:

    This is a CLI utility, and it’s very dangerous. It works though. Put a smile on my face.

  45. Ingvar says:

    That is, indeed, sucky. Especially the conflicting information about SecuROM (until otherwise proven, I shall expect it to be a rootkit). But, then, games not living and being playable “forever” is nothing new. I have, on my shelf, a copy (legally bought and all) of Safecracker. Installs fine, but cannot be played, because it immediately bombs out with a “needs more than X MB RAM”. Any day now, I’ll have sufficient patience to take a debugger to it, since I suspect the problem is too much free RAM.

  46. Zaghadka says:


    There’s no rootkit. SecuROM creates a broken key (with embedded nulls) on install so a poorly informed user will get an error message if they try to wipe out the SecuROM tree. They could otherwise wipe out their key tokens, and not be able to get new ones without a new serial number.

    The files are malformed to avoid deletion and examination, but they are key-caches, ostensibly to allow you to run the game without the disc inserted. If one could access them, then one could replicate them on any number of machines, and run the game without the disc on all of them.

    None of this indicates a rootkit, and I couldn’t find one. It’s just more sloppily coded DRM. It’s crap, but it’s not nefarious.

    (and no, I don’t expect anyone to mount their partition in Linux to fix this, I expect SONY to fix this.)

  47. kamagurka says:

    I think I’m gonna pirate it. Then, if I like it, maybe I’ll buy it, so I have the license. But that disc is never touching my drive. That’s what happens when you punish your customers for giving you money.

  48. Ian says:

    Zaghadka: Thanks for the clarification. I should have skimmed through the comments a bit more.

    But wow, that is complete and utter crap. SecuROM right now seems worse than StarForce ever was. :/

  49. mike says:

    Wow, that’s horrible. It’s s shame too, as I downloaded the demo for 360 and it was EXTREMELY awesome. Shamus, try to get a hold of someone with a 360 and the game so you can keep your $60, and still experience what is bound to be a really, really good gaming experience.

  50. Gary says:

    Since my PC choked on the demo I went for the XBox 360 version anyway (I’d have preferred mouse and keyboard). This sounds like a complete mess though. I would have suggested the Steam route but it appears even that has it on (since Steam is designed for multiple machine use I’d have expected not), I’d hope that, at some stage soon, they are going to remove that restriction.

    How long will it take for pirates to break this? I expect little time at all, meanwhile a consumer who just wants to play the game they have bought are getting the shaft. Nice one.

  51. Takkelmaggot says:

    Rat socks. I was looking forward to playing that game, you know, in a year or two when I could afford the required video card. Tough luck, 2kG. It’s your own fault that I won’t be hawking up $30 to play your game.

  52. phlux says:

    I think this is 2kGames actively trying to undercut the PC platform. They must be thinking “Wow, we’d make a ton of money if only we didn’t have to develop for multiple platforms.”

    My understanding is that the website was also down for much of wednesday, so nobody who bought the game that day could even install it. It went through the entire installation routine, but if you couldn’t activate online, then it uninstalled the WHOLE GAME until you could re-activate.

    DRM makes me crazy. It serves no purpose except to infuriate legitimate consumers. The pirates were never going to buy the game anyway. Anything over free is too much for some people.

    2kGames has permanently lost me as a customer. Not that they ever really had me, what with their traditionally craptastic lineup of awful games. Bioshock not included.

  53. blizzardwolf says:

    I have to say, this is quite disappointing. Nobody would willingly buy this game if they knew what kind of hoops they had to jump through to make it perform. As Shamus once said in relation to STEAM,

    “Let's see: You can't sell it, you can't loan it out, you can't return it, and you can't use it without the blessing of the maker. I suggest that you don't even own the TV. You paid for the right to keep someone else's TV in your house and watch it as long as they allow.”

    That said, is it really a legitimate doubt that sales of Bioshock will be enormously high for at least a few days, maybe even a week, from buyers who simply don’t know about the DRM restrictions on the game? High enough to at least justify this kind of harsh anti-piracy treatment on the part of Sony and SecuROM.

    After that golden period has expired though, especially judging just from what I’ve read in the comments here, the more tech savvy and learned consumers will be the ones Sony has to count on to keep sales afloat in the long-term. Word will have spread significantly further by then, and almost anyone who’s interested in the kind of next-generation game Bioshock is, will either have done their homework or found out from someone else what these problems are.

    Of course we already know that, barring a miracle or some future act, this what’s going to happen. But I’d also like to address a few other concerns. (next post I think)

  54. blizzardwolf1 says:

    Why is this server not letting me submit my next comment?

  55. blizzardwolf1 says:

    Sony’s (and other’s) defense so far is basically to say “DRM is not that bad” and “You can always play it on the XBox.”

    Regardless of whether the DRM may or may not be a rootkit, it’s still something that is installing on my computer when I didn’t ask it to, without my permission, and can’t be deleted once it is. Whether it has the processes of a rootkit or not is irrelevant, software that behaves in such a way should be avoided on general prinicples of safety.

    As for just switching to an XBox, that’s only a viable option for those of us who have or can afford one, which most people can’t. Otherwise, more consumers have computers than consoles. I concur with Shamus. While Bioshock looks to be an awesome game, I will not be spending money on it, and I don’t recommend anyone else do so either.

  56. True, non-transferable licenses is a pain. I’ve really only been on the buying end, not the selling end, so I never really thought of it much.

    There are too many good games out there that do NOT have the publisher using mechanical restrictions to curtail your legal right as a consumer.

    I’m anti-piracy. I write video games for a LIVING. I am disappointed in those who say they will be pirating the game. But I am even more disappointed in Take 2 for making legitimate consumers feel like they are EXPECTED to pirate software.

  57. Qujoe says:

    For those who are hesitant to play it on an X-Box because you prefer the keyboard/mouse combo, I stumble across this today using the StumbleUpon extension in Firefox.


  58. Qujoe says:

    Looks like I may have borked that link. Let me try that again and I will provide it just in case:


  59. Nanja Kang says:

    We’ll out of curiosity I bought the game… don’t hate me. However I am dumb… the system requirements want you have have a duo processor… I have everything else, but it shows in the game play. It is a beautiful game, with nice game play. The creepy sounds along with the Fallout style world and old record music is nice. And you need DX10… which is no surprise.

  60. Mark Caliber says:

    I’ve run into an issue with one of the Star Trek games as of late. IT was a bargain bin special and it’ll let you play without registering, for a little while, then it crashes your computer.

    When I went to register the game? The server hosting registration had been taken down.

    Yeah, DRM sounds like a Real winner

  61. Roy says:

    Copy protection is annoying, yes. But not buying a game because they don't want people to steal their intellectual property? That's like going into a jewelry store and refusing to buy any of their stuff because they have security. By the way, you're missing out on an extremely good game.

    If that’s what people were suggesting, and if that’s what was actually happening, you might have a point. It’s not their desire not to have their property stolen that’s ticking people off, it’s the ineffective, insulting, and intrusive measures they’re using. It’s, as someone else pointed out, like having the guards follow you home and tell you when you can and can’t wear the items you purchased.

    Guys, this is SOOOOO not a story. Nor is it something to be worked up about. Even if you DO run out of installs (presumably because you forgot or couldn't uninstall first) the error message that pops up has a phone number to call so you can open your license back up. Big deal.

    Actually, yeah, it is a big deal. I purchased the bloody software, why should I have to call and get someone else’s permission to reinstall it regardless of why I’m doing so? That’s the whole point of purchasing things- so that you can use them at your leisure. And, the idea that it’s okay for them to install unwanted software on my computer without asking me and without my permission? That’s shite.

    You know what I hate MORE than that “inconvenience”? Sticks on the side of jewel cases that force me to somehow keep track of where each and everyone is. That to me is inconvenience.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. What sticks?

    And finally, playing this on the 360 completely circumvents this entire non-issue if it is that big of deal to you.

    I shouldn’t have to drop several hundred dollars on a console version of a PC game (and use a control scheme I’m not fond of) to get a usable copy of the software that doesn’t have restrictive and insulting software restrictions on it.

    In fact the majority of this blogs complaints about the trials and tribulations of PC gaming can be solved outright by adopting console gaming….. I don't even care which one. Rumor has it Bioshock will be on the PS3 sometime in 2008 anyway.

    Well then, it wouldn’t be PC gaming, would it? I love my consoles, but a console is not a PC, and I don’t see why that’s so hard to understand. If I wanted to play this on a console, I’d have picked up the console version.

  62. gahaz says:


    The 360 version is bugged, after about 8 hours of total, not consecutive, gameplay on 75% of systems the game begins to hitch and load every few feet. The game also has no REAL widescreen, they zoomed in and cut the top off the top and bottom to make a widescreen image….

  63. Tylhandrias wrote: “And to the person who was turned off by Half-Life 2's product activation, it was relatively simple and straightforward. You had to have a live internet connection to connect to Steam…”

    Which means that the game is only useful for as long as STEAM exists. Which means it lasts only as long as Valve survives as a company. Or, of course, until Valve decide to pull the plug on STEAM.

    That’s the fundamental problem with DRM: It makes my ability to use the software or video or PDF in question dependent on the continued existence of the business I bought it from. I could spend $500 on a suite of professional software, have the company I bought it from go out of business the next day, and be left with nothing but useless plastic coasters.

    Of course, the other problem with STEAM is that it loads at start-up and chews up system resources. “But it’s not that much!” That’s not the point. And even if STEAM only chews up a few MB of RAM and CPU time, it set a precedent which everyone else in the industry is now following. I’ve seen computers where you’ve got STEAM and you’ve got NCSoft’s equivalent and you’ve got Blizzard’s background downloader and another three game-related programs begin loaded at start-up, all of them chewing up system resources.

    I am, frankly, amazed that the propaganda of the media companies is working to the degree that people are actually SUPPORTIVE of DRM.

    About a decade ago now, when DVD was coming out, there was a competing format: DIVX. (Not to be confused with the codec.) With DIVX discs you bought the movie at full price, but every time you watched it, the DIVX player would dial up the movie studio and charge you $2.50. It was touted as “renting the movie without having to return it”, but it was basically Hollywood’s first attempt to make you pay the same price for licensing a movie as you would for actually OWNING a movie.

    At the time, people saw right through that bullshit and the market rejected it. Today I suspect there’s a lot of people who would lap it up.

    Here’s the reality of DRM: No matter what the scheme, it will be cracked. It always has been and it always will be. It’s fundamentally impossible to protect any kind of encryption scheme when the end-user has the key (and the end-user has to have the key because they need to be able to use it).

    So DRM does nothing to prevent piracy. The only thing DRM does is inconvenience or cripple legitimate customers who actually paid for the software.

    Corsair wrote: “But not buying a game because they don't want people to steal their intellectual property? That's like going into a jewelry store and refusing to buy any of their stuff because they have security.”

    No, it’s like going into a jewelry store and refusing to pay for a diamond ring which requires you to call the jewelry store every time you want to wear it. Also, you can only wear it on one of your fingers — don’t try to wear it on a different finger, because that obviously means you’re a thief trying to steal the diamond ring.

    Justin Alexander

  64. Ktrenal says:

    I think possibly that the reason why people are so keen to pirate games is because the publishers of games are always so keen to screw us over. Given the choice of buying a game that will do things to my system that I didn’t ask it to and for which I’ll have immense troubles in the event that I need to do an emergancy reformat, or simply pirating said game to avoid all those troubles… “Arrrgh matey! Hoist the sails!”

    To all the people that have said “just get the console version”, that’s really kind of offensive. Consoles are massively over-priced for what they are, lacking the innate versatility of a PC. And since various games are designed for various different consoles, it’s not a matter of buying ONE console. It’s a matter of buying several.

    And console GAMES are massively over-priced too. PC games are as well, of course, but around here, on average you pay double the price to have the game on a console.

    That would, of course, be the other reason why piracy is so popular these days. The more over-priced something is, the more likely people are to try to find other ways to get their hands on them. I’ve pirated games before because I didn’t want to shell out vast amounts of money to buy them when I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy playing them. Some of them I’ve later purchased legitimately, some just get deleted…

  65. houser2112 says:

    Nanja Kang Says: “And you need DX10… which is no surprise.”

    So does this mean you must have Vista?

  66. xbolt says:

    I hope that the guys behind this blight on computer gaming will realize how stupid they are.

    I think that extreme copy protection makes it even MORE likely for someone to pirate the game. Example scenario: “Let’s see, I can either buy the game and only be able to install it twice, (five times?) or I could pirate the game and install it however many times I want… Arr, hoist the sails, mateys!”

    Now, I’m not saying that I’M going to pirate the game, (certainly not,) I’m just saying what would go through the mind of a lot of people.

    In my case, I’m not going to buy the game, or pirate it. I’m going to have nothing to do with it. (If they get their act together, maybe I’ll look around in bargain bins.)

  67. Darnon says:

    Nanja Kang Says: “And you need DX10… which is no surprise.”

    You don’t need Vista and DX10, though I imagine it does enhance the prettiness.

    Unfortunately project Alky doesn’t cover the August revision of DX10, so I couldn’t try DX10 in XP (which I’ve been using since my Vista install kind of blew up a few days before bioshock came out) and it still looks quite nice. I’ll have to get around to installing Vista just to see how it looks on DX10.

  68. MintSkittle says:

    I’d like to revise my statement from yesterday (see first post^). It’s the guys at SecuROM that needs a good hard kick in the rear.

  69. Tylhandrias says:

    @Justin Alexander.
    Wait, what?
    Saying that a great game is worth a minor amount of hassle is ‘supporting DRM’ and being brainwashed by the media and propoganda?
    And what exactly of buying it on the 360? I prefer the 360 experience for games like that – more efficient controls (just get used to ’em), better audio / larger screen, unified hardware setup (really, who wants to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game, then have to reinstall drivers and go through all that hassle?) In my opinion, there’s no real reason to say that the experience would be ‘inferior’ on the 360. And to the person that said a 360 costs too much, how much does a desktop that can run Bioshock smoothly cost? Probably 1.5 to 2x the money.
    Anyways, I think this is a whole lot of drama over not much. People got up in arms the same way when Half-Life 2 came out, with Steam’s DRM. And when the next-gen consoles came out and the pricetag was $59.99 for new games. But neither of these things changed.
    And Steam and Valve going under? Unlikely, unless Bioshock has a longer lifespan than Starcraft.

  70. DaveJ says:

    Damn! I was going to get the demo. I do understand why they put that shit on a demo, you basically have to if you are already infecting the complete game, but it sure is a great way to stop me trying new things.

  71. blizzardwolf says:

    In response to Tylhandrias:

    That is certainly one way to view it, but it doesn’t seem like an issue over how much it will ultimately cost to play the game, as much as it is over the intrusive, greedy, and underhanded methods being used to “protect” the game. A desktop capable of running Bioshock WOULD be expensive, more so than an XBox, of that I don’t think anyone can doubt.

    Having said that, most people who have said setups, have established them over the course of months, or even years. I don’t know of too many people who have, or are willing, to go out, and spend the $1,000+ all at once, right now, for the sake of this game. The point is, people who have the requirements necessary, expect (and rightly so) to be able to pay for this game, own it, and play it without trouble or harassment. Just because someone has an expensive computer is no reason to tell them “Well you shouldn’t mind spending a little more for a game that SHOULD behave for you anyways.”

    And, by telling someone in whatever way, that they should not bitch about feeling forced to spend more money on an XBox, just to freely enjoy a game they’ve already paid for, is basically saying just that.

    People were in arms about STEAM as they should have been, and Shamus runs the gamut of reasons why under the Video Game rant “STEAMing pile of Filth.” This operation is no less than the same thing, just dressed and designed differently.

    A great game is worth a little hassle, true. Serial keys, needing the disc in the drive, that’s a reasonable compromise, and I don’t think anyone should suggest boycotting a game on those methods alone. But there is a line, let’s call it the Half-Life 2 line, where NO degree of greatness or innovation can justify the pervasive, restrictive, and surreptitious methods of control being applied.

    Case in point: Bioshock.

  72. Cineris says:

    First thing that came to mind the other day when hearing all of the accounts of friends who were unable to get the game to play at all — This is why PC gaming is dying. It’s just shockingly clear to me that the PC is seen as the substandard gaming platform and they want to push people towards the 360.

    Kind of sad, really. I’m much more of a PC person, and since I do all kinds of development on PCs, it’s much easier to justify spending money on improving it.

  73. guy says:

    Starcraft did the need the disk in the drive and the serial keys, which were all a minor problem, but bioshocks protection seems to suck, and has been broken, so it only hurts the honest people.

  74. Scourge says:

    What would interest me more is what happens if your PC suddenly crashed and you can’t uninstall it, make that happen twice and, hooray! You wasted 60 bucks for nothing and now you can’t use it ever again.

  75. Tylhandrias wrote: “…really, who wants to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game…”

    So you’re arguing that, because you don’t want to spend $250 on a video card to play a $60 game, it makes more sense to spend $280 or $350 or $450 on an X-Box 360?

    I’m trying to follow the logic there, but I’m not having much success with it.

    Tylhandrias wrote: “And Steam and Valve going under? Unlikely, unless Bioshock has a longer lifespan than Starcraft.”

    I was playing ULTIMA IV last week. Yesterday I was watching STAR WARS. This afternoon I was reading HAMLET.

    You can’t tell me with a straight face that companies have any guarantee of lasting 10 years or 20 years or 30 years or 400 years. And IP that I paid for should not become useless based on the successes and failures of the people I bought it from.

    If I buy a chair from a furniture store and the furniture store goes out of business, I’m still able to sit on my chair. I find it an unreasonable expectation that I, as a consumer, should be expected or required to research a company as if I were intending to buy stock in them when I simply want to put down my cold, hard cash and walk off with a copy of a movie, song, or video game.

    And, even then, there’s no particular guarantee of financial stability. ENRON was one of the largest and most successful businesses in the world… right up to the point that they declared bankruptcy.

    You say that Valve is unlikely to go bankrupt tomorrow. But, unless you’re secretly their CFO, there’s no way for you to actually know that. Apparent success is not guarantor of stability. TSR, Inc. — the original owners of the Dungeons & Dragons IP — gave no indication of their instability right up to the point where they shut their doors.

    For customers like you, the media companies are the camel: They stuck their nose in the tent and you said, “Well, that’s not so bad. It’s just installing STEAM, right?” Now they’ve come all the way in and they’re starting to munch on the nice dinner you’ve laid out and your response has become, “Well, they may be eating my dinner, but I still have some food over stored in my X-Box 360 cooler. So that’s okay…”

    Personally? I want the camel out of my tent.

    Justin Alexander

  76. Miako says:

    Give me a break, people!

    Game designers (the real ones), expect you to break the stupid copy protection!

    Therefore, no problem, about later use.

    a $20 pc game is probably pretty close to “at cost”

    They only make money off the early-adopters.

    Which makes me ask, “why drm anyway??”

  77. Miako says:

    >Well, here I am in Ubuntu Linux, and the good thing about >Linux is it doesn't have the HOLES the Windows OS does.

    >I asked it to delete the offending SecuROM files, and it >said, “What files?”

    and I love Knoppix! For all those times windows decided that yes, it really does love eating critical parts of itself!

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