As the Lead Designer, I’m willing to bet Ken wanted nothing to do with SecuROM, and would have been happy to see his game hit the market without it. SecuROM is the doing of 2kGames, the publisher. But now that the fans are outraged, pissed off, returning the game, and flaming the company in the forums, 2kGames is sending Ken out to pacify the crowd. What a rotten and cynical move. I guess they realize that anyone from their own company is going to be given more or less the same greeting and respect as the Mouth of Sauron, and so by using Ken as their mouthpiece they hope to trade on the goodwill and trust he’s earned with the fans over the years. Can you imagine how that phone conversation went?
2kGames Bastard: Hi Ken.
Ken Levine: Hello again, your evilness.
2kGB: Hey, remember that SecuROM stuff you didn’t want in your game?
2kGB: Yeah. We need you go go out and explain to people why we did that.
2kGB: Your fans are really mad. If something isn’t done soon it’s going to really hurt the sales of your BallShock thing.
2kGB: Yeah. Great. I’m sure it’s great. Just get out there and make them want this game.
Ken: Okay. They have some real genuine issues here. What have you done so far to appease them?
2kGB: Well, we’re sending you.
Ken: Right. Besides that.
2kGB: Nothing, really.
Ken: Okay. So what should I tell them?
2kGB: I can’t imagine. Anyway, good luck with that. Let us know how it goes.
Let’s step through his comments a bit at a time. When asked about the copy protection used by BioShock, Ken said:
This is the best part of the interview: A useful list of other titles to avoid. It’s not clear to me, but I gather that what he’s saying is that all those other games have SecuROM, while BioShock has SecuROM and online activation. The fact that SecuROM is installed without the users knowledge is an important distinction which gets glossed over here. (And actually, BioShock has SecuROM and Steam DRM and a CD key and the disc is required to play and it requires online activation.)
Later Ken adds:
And this one makes me mad. “This DRM scheme is just a little worse than previous schemes” is a preposterous excuse that ignores the principles behind the matter. Don’t install things onto the user’s computer without asking. Don’t install things that can’t be uninstalled. Don’t install things which circumvent security. Don’t leave a process running 24/7 unless you have a really good reason. (A 24/7 process to manage access to a piece of software that will be run for about twenty hours and then ignored is not a good reason.)
So 2kGames is promising that at some undefined point in the future they will release a patch that will negate the need for online activation. Since they were devious enough to sneak SecuROM onto user’s PC’s in the first place, their word is a currency of rapidly declining value. Ken is talking tough, like he’s going to make 2kGames do the right thing, but the truth is that if he had any power over the publisher then the DRM software wouldn’t have been added to the game in the first place. He’s as impotent as the users when it comes to the fate of the game.
And even if 2kGames lives up to this agreement, this is only a fraction of the problem. People will still have this Windows “service” running on their machines without their consent, they will still have malformed keys in their Windows registry, and they will still have to put up with all of the other layers of DRM in addition to SecuROM. 2kGames hasn’t budged an inch. All they have done is sent a famous and well-liked game designer out to make a non-binding promise on their behalf that at some point in the future they will abuse their customers slightly less.
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