By Shamus Posted Thursday May 22, 2008

Filed under: Video Games 73 comments

From the comments of people who have gotten the game, it sounds like Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, the Penny Arcade game, has pretty much the same DRM scheme as is being used in Mass Effect: Online activation, limited to three different machines, with more being given on “a case by case basis”.

It’s slightly less risible here because the title is a digitally distributed budget title, but in the end you still have to ask Hothead games if you can play. I just assumed that there wouldn’t be any DRM. I mean this is Gabe and Tycho Mike and Jerry we’re talking about here. Being ex-PC gamers themselves,I would imagine they would recognize the futility of the system. Why go to all the trouble of developing their own digital distribution system if it’s just going to be another implementation of the same stupid thing everyone else is using?

(By “everyone else”, I mean everyone besides Stardock. Bless them. A few weeks ago, I bought Sins of a Solar Empire. They mailed me the game, but let me download it as well. An hour after I made my purchase I had the thing installed and ready to go. No DRM fuss, no mess. I did have to type in a CD key, but I can do that as many times as I like. It was beautiful. I still have Collector’s Edition box sitting here, unopened. Like a present I’m saving for later.)

I actually object to the activation less in this case. I consider RSPOD to be a more or less “disposable” game. Play it once, and forget about it. It’s a budget title, and probably not something I’ll want to repeat five years from now. But still, the principle of the thing is the same, and the very idea of asking permission just rubs me raw.

I don’t know if I’ll skip the game over this or not. I’m certainly not going to run out and buy it right away.

Sigh. My hope that publishers will come to their senses over this is waning fast.

EDIT: Thinking about this the next day, I don’t know why I was so eager to give them a break. I guess because they are “indie” and I have a soft spot for indies. But my soft spot for indies comes from the fact they they don’t act like the big publishers. If I’m going to miss out on Mass Effect and Spore then I’m sure not going to indulge Hothead games in the same scheme.

The quote, from their forums: (Thanks to DaveMc for finding this.)

We don’t anticipate having to limit the number of redownloads but remember that each new machine or major hardware change may trigger a new key to be issued against your license. Our plan is to allow multiple installs and to be generous in that regard to cover murdered systems, planned upgrades, people wanting to play it on their PC and their Mac or even Linux box etc. Even if the limit is reached–a limit that we have not determined yet–we will be flexible in resetting or increasing the limit for paying customers. If you are registered, we will keep your license keys stored for you in your profile and you will be able to see the number of times that license has been used for various systems so there will be no surprises.

To hell with them. They should know better.


From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “RSPOD: DRM

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Wow, just when I was actually considering buying the game. I tried the demo and it was kind of fun. Definitely figured it would be worth $20. But it’s hard to support that kind of DRM nonsense.

  2. MintSkittle says:

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to pass on this now.

  3. Dev Null says:

    I actually object to the activation less in this case.

    I repeat: who ARE you, and what have you done with Shamus?

    To hell with them. They should know better.

    Oh, THERE you are! Welcome back!

  4. Nilus says:

    Ex-PC gamers. Looking at Tychos posts its pretty clear that at least he still plays PC games a lot. They play console games as well but I would hardly call them ex-PC.

  5. Ryan Graham says:

    I didn’t realize the activations were tracked. Damn. I thought it was more like buying a cd key. oh well.

  6. JFargo says:

    I was going to buy the game. Thank you for pointing out this nonsense. I’ll just make it a pass now. *Shrugs* No big loss, as I’m a casual gamer anyways.

  7. qrter says:

    And, ofcourse, there’s already a cracked version out..

  8. Jeremiah says:

    I just realized something. I don’t keep up with Penny Arcade comics anymore, but I’m pretty sure someone showed me one of their comics where they made fun of the ridiculous DRM in Bioshock (or some other such game). Seems especially funny that their game would have something similar. Or my memory is just completely making that up — wouldn’t be the first time.

    On another note, I wonder how much control over this aspect of the release they actually had.

  9. Brother None says:

    Jeremiah (and shamus, you’ll remember this):

    I think you’re thinking of that one. Really recent, too.

    So, uh…hypocrite much, I guess?

  10. lplimac says:

    Yes the did lampoon EA about draconic DRM….
    less then 3 weeks ago. Maybe their robots don’t enjoy it either… but I doubt it. I guess they can justify it because they aren’t EA. Way to fight for the little guy!
    Great minds think alike Brother None :D

  11. qrter says:

    Part of the accompanying blog to that strip (which was based on the “phone home every 10 days” version of the proposed DRM) has Tycho following up with:

    EA has chosen to dial back the authentication requirements on both Spore and Mass Effect. It’s still SecuROM, but it’s the SecuROM most PC gamers have come to grudgingly accept as opposed to this new 1984 shit.

    .. which could perhaps indicate that Tycho accepts this kind of DRM, hence it is used for the game.

  12. Phlux says:

    Yeah, I did my best to start some hub-bub about it on their forums. It seems kinda pointless, though. Most people just don’t care.

    I feel for them, I really do. Online activation is about the only kind of DRM system that has any hope of having any effect on CASUAL piracy. i.e. me handing my key to my friend. It still won’t work, though, because someone will just crack the EXE, and it’s a small game, easily downloaded via torrent.

    It’s just aggravating and pointless. At least it doesn’t have SecuROM, though, and it’s cheap, so I don’t feel bad about having bought it.

  13. Mark says:

    Does it leave anything on my computer other than the game?

    Perhaps more importantly, does the demo leave anything on my computer, besides the demo?

    Yeah, activation, whatever. I don’t mind renting games. But I don’t want to pollute my computer any more than I have to.

  14. Ron says:

    Hi All,

    I’ve been reading your blog for the past few months and have to say I completely agree with your assessment of DRM. I also like how you keep promoting Stardock. I have always loved Stardock games. But I have always wondered why you have never promoted: or I have never found any DRM in GamersGate and even though Gametap is DRM, it really is a subscription model. I think PennyArcade would have done better with a subscription model, like GameTap did with Sam and Max. It looks like the same concept.

  15. Serdic says:

    Pity, and I’d rather enjoyed the demo too. That’s what I get for not reading the EULA first.

  16. Cadamar says:

    You’re not missing much with Mass Effect. I watched my brother play through most of the game (including the beginning, bits of the middle, and the ending) on my 360 and I was not impressed.
    The combat was infantile, the character development was a joke, the AI was pathetic, the driving around bits were pointless, there were multiple examples of annoying playtime padding, the story had potential that was completely wasted, and the ending was a big let down.
    Now that my brother is done with it I think I’ll just exchange it for something else (like GTA4 or Assassin's Creed or a Call of Duty game).

  17. Alan De Smet says:

    My big complaint about online activations is, “Will I be able to activate it in a decade when I reinstall it?” Massive companies like Microsoft and Major League Baseball have shut down activation servers, locking people out of content they’re paid for. Why should I trust a little tiny startup to still be around in a decade?

    A real shame, I was interested in this game.

  18. Drew says:

    Shamus, there’s an email address set up for journalists to contact greenhouse ([email protected]). Why not hit them up with some of your issues and give them a chance to respond? This is a situation where you just might be able to discuss these issues in a real way with someone who isn’t just a mouthpiece, and either get a good understanding of what’s being accomplished, or maybe convince them that what they’re doing isn’t helping anyone, and instead just might be driving away potential customers.

  19. evilmrhenry says:

    Oh. Well, I was going to get it. Anyway, put me down for another person who likes to play decade-old games.

  20. JFargo says:

    I completely agree with Drew, and just want to add my voice to the “you should contact them and ask about this.” It would be very interesting to hear what they say, especially when they were lampooning similar DRM not long ago.

  21. Taellosse says:

    Damn. I should have paid more attention to what I was agreeing to when I bought it last night. Then I could have emailed Gabe&Tycho and complain that while I really wanted to buy their game after playing the demo, I couldn’t countenance a pointless DRM scheme. I figured I was just buying a CD-Key that would work as much as I wanted. Now I sort of regret my purchase. Although, practically speaking, as you say, I am unlikely to play it more than once–it appears to be entertaining, from what I’ve played so far, but not terribly replayable. But it is the principle of the thing, not to mention the hypocrisy of their condemning DRM in others then allowing it to be used in a game with their own names on it is unpalatable. Perhaps I shall write them an email anyway, and say that.

  22. noneofcon says:

    I’ve been reading the blog for a bit, and I agree with your take on DRM.

    I have a question for the general community though, does anyone know of a website that lists what DRM systems different games use? Most review sites don’t list it (or even factor it in for the review, maybe press copies don’t have drm?). Thanks!

  23. Phlux says:

    Here’s the part I find very troubling. This is a quote from Jerry “Tycho” Holkins on a recent PA news post regarding DRM in PC gaming:

    “It’s the sort of thing that makes a person invest their leisure time with other machines, or – and this is awesome – pirate games they have themselves purchased by circumventing the check with a cracked exe. This is something I do almost one hundred percent of the time, because I can’t be sure I’m receiving the full value of my hardware if I don’t.”

    Does this mean I have his permission to crack the game? Isn’t this pretty much rank hypocrisy?

  24. Tashara says:

    If a user’s post on the Greenhouse forums are to be believed, the number of activations are the same as Mass Effect.

    From the user’s post in, supposedly quoting the EULA:

    2 Limited Use License. Like we mentioned above, you are buying the right to use the Program, not the rights to the Program itself. Hothead hereby grants, and by using the Program you thereby accept, a limited, non-exclusive license and right to install and/or use the Program on a maximum of 3 personal computers belonging or primarily used by you (for example, on your home computer(s) and a laptop) with the express understanding that the Program is licensed, not sold, and that your license confers no title or ownership of the Program. If you wish to use the Program on more than 3 personal computers, Hothead’s customer support may (in its sole discretion) increase the number of computers on which the Program may be used on a case by case basis. This license is not a sale of the original software program (which means that the fee you paid gives you the right only to use the Program). To avoid any misunderstandings, the license granted hereunder is for one individual person and the Program will be deemed in “use” on a computer when it is loaded onto temporary memory (i.e., RAM) or installed into the permanent memory (e.g., hard disk, CD-ROM or other storage device) of a computer. Installation of the Program on a network server is strictly prohibited. Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as granting any right to use the Program on a computer that is not owned or primarily used by you.

    I couldn’t find the game’s license agreement on their website, and not having the game, I do not know if that’s really from the EULA or not.

    If true, that seems like the same situation as with EA Games and Mass Effect: Three activations; one used per machine. Internet access required to activate. More activations on a case by case basis, after contacting support in some way.

    At least says

    Games you download may contain a Digital Rights Management (DRM) System managed by The Greenhouse. The DRM system may communicate over the Internet with the Games in order to prevent illegal or unauthorized use.

  25. Z!re says:

    Phlux, I was thinking the same thing.
    I guess they’re OK with people pirating their game then, one could even argue they are encouraging it by including DRM.

  26. DaveMc says:

    @Phlux: I think it means you have his permission to crack the game, as long as you *also* buy it.

  27. Gahaz says:

    I think the point is being passed over here though. The DRM only happens when validating the CD key they give you. It hooks up to their servers, checks the Key, and then off you go. There should also be a small concession thats its only available over the net and is an episode. I can’t ever agree with the online DRM mumbo jumbo when I have the game in my hand, but dialing to the servers the first time you load up to put in the cd key seems not so bad. It seems to me they just didn’t add in the cd key check system in the game instead leaving it with greenhouse.

  28. DocTwisted says:

    Gah. The evil spreads, and despite being made of fail.

    Talk about “should have known better.” I was looking forward to this game after seeing the preview here, and now I’m going to take a pass because I too am firmly against DRMs limiting my installs (I have 2 PCs in the house and will likely be adding a 3rd sometime this year).

    To Penny Arcade if you read this: What the fuck were you thinking slapping this shit onto your title?

  29. Justin says:

    Every time I get upset about having to update my console, I remember that there is no DRM-bot awaiting my purchase of an Xbox game so that it can (joylessly) sodomize my hard drive and then maybe hunt down Sarah Connor. This is not to say that I don’t hate SecuROM. I think that it is a bigger organized crime syndicate than US health insurance.

  30. General Karthos says:

    This sort of nonsense is why I am a console gamer first. Yes, I play PC games too, but as a Mac user, it takes forever for them to come out for us. Join us Shamus, it isn’t too late. :)

    I’d recommend going for the XBox 360. Then you can get your Mass Effect Goodness without any of that licensing crap.

    PS3s are cool, awesome, and the superior system, but the reason I got the 360 was because the “superior system” has (at this point) inferior games, and costs a lot more.

  31. Alan De Smet says:

    The thread in question makes me a bit sick. Hothead themselves answered a few questions professionally, although they’ve completely ignored the “how can we trust you to activate my game in 10 years question” which was asked point blank. But the defenders sicken me. Some are smearing everyone who is worried about this as “freetards,” attacking the speakers instead of honestly the reasoning. Others bow down before, “Gosh, Hothead is really, really nice, so it’s completely impossible that in a decade things will have changed.” There is also a dash of, “Don’t worry about it, you can just break the protection in the future,” ignoring the violation of the law and the entire point of the activation system. This is why I worry about the future. Sure, some people (waves to Shamus) worry, but it seems like lots of people are perfectly willing to trade away our cultural memory for entertainment today. Bleh.

  32. nathanael says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, mate. This irritates me. I really, really, really hope that this is just a big misunderstanding, as I find it hard to believe they would allow this.

  33. Factoid says:

    Here’s the hay I’ve been making in the PA and Hothead forums. Kudos to hothead and PA for actually taking the time to respond directly.

    The conversation is on-going, and so far nobody has tried to shove me aside. They seem genuinely interested in assuaging consumer concerns.

    I’ve thus far gotten direct responses from Robert Khoo (PA’s business director) and 2 members of the Hothead staff.

    Also, an interesting article regarding recent court decision on the “First Sale Doctrine” which is semi-applicable here.

    Factoid – formerly known as Phlux

  34. Stu says:

    Just played the demo – really nicely produced game. Seamless blending from 3d into 2d. The cartoony look is handled really nicely in both graphical modes and from an initial glance I’d say the humour will be pure peny arcade.

    It’s a shame all you people with principles are gonna miss out on this. I’m not gonna let a trivial DRM issue spoil my fun.

  35. miork says:

    Wow, guys … you need to chill out a bit. This isn’t a draconian thing here, they are just simply checking your entered key with their database the when you enter it. Thats it. No checking your game copy every 10 days, or forcing you to play it on a machine connected to the internet. In their EULA they give a limit on installs, but they also say that they haven’t decided if they are going to enforce it or not… which leads me to believe that if it becomes a problem (ie to expensive or annoying) they’ll axe that too.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with trying to make a profit on a game. Unfortunately the game crackers out there make life a little difficult on that front, so they have to do something to try to discourage it (however I guess there is a cracked version up already.. oh well). Don’t think that the publishers in this case are out to get you all, they are not big brother handing out activation keys and tracking your internet surfing habits.

    And if they do end up not supporting their activation servers in a decade… guess what, they’ll probably put out a patch that gets rid of the need. Stop over-reacting. And if its that big of a problem for you, buy the game.. never enter the key and then get the cracked version…. or just get the cracked version if you feel like making the problem worse by supporting pirates and making game publishers feel like they have to get more and more evasive with their DRM tactics.

  36. Nathaniel says:

    I rarely comment on your posts, but I had to say that your edit made me happier than I’ve been all week, in a bitter-sweet sort of way.

    At least this game doesn’t make it onto the list of games I’ll regret not playing.

    Like Spore.

  37. Ian says:

    It's a shame all you people with principles are gonna miss out on this. I'm not gonna let a trivial DRM issue spoil my fun.

    Being limited as to what I can do with software that I purchased isn’t exactly a trivial issue.

    The system used for RSPOD is more lenient than many other systems, but it’s still incredibly unnecessary.

    Stardock and Introversion both proved numerous times that you don’t need heavy copy protection to protect a game. Stardock tends to go down the route where they require you to have a CD key to grab updates.

    When Introversion released Uplink, the only copy protection was a key card. Remember those? I don’t even have my Uplink CD anywhere near my computer; it doesn’t need it in the drive to run. When I want to play GalCiv2 I don’t need to run and grab the disc for it (hell, even if I want to INSTALL it, I can just grab it online). Why should I, a legitimate customer, be inconvenienced because a game is inevitably pirated?

    DRM isn’t going to stop piracy. If anything, it’s going to make people who are actually planning to purchase a title reconsider. Think about it: if I bought Mass Effect for PC and a couple of my friends wanted to borrow it and play through it, the activation system would probably freak out. I’d lose installs. Now my friend, who owns the 360 version, could loan it out as much as he wants and nobody would so much as raise an eyebrow. What kind of sense does that make?


    That said, there is nothing wrong with trying to make a profit on a game. Unfortunately the game crackers out there make life a little difficult on that front, so they have to do something to try to discourage it (however I guess there is a cracked version up already.. oh well).

    So, in the long run, what exactly did using a “call home” DRM system do for them? Any enterprising Internet’er can still grab it from the Pirate Bay and some people who were planning to buy it ultimately decided not to. They lost sales because of their decision to use such a system.

    It’s a vicious cycle, as can be proven by any questionable copy protection system such as StarForce and SecuROM. People pirate the games, publishers start adding more protection. People despise the protection and don’t buy the games, the developers consider this a sign that more people are pirating the game and up the ante on the DRM. Less people buy the game, publishers wonder what they’re doing wrong.

    So where does that leave us? Buying a PlayBoxWii60 so that every piece of entertainment software we install doesn’t feel like an impenetrable fortress.

  38. McNutcase says:

    Oh, joy.

    Oh, and I love the license terms. Any of you have any kind of file sharing turned on on the computer you installed it to? You just violated the license by installing it to a network server. Any kind of printer sharing? Heck, ever host a game at a LAN party or for your friends to play over the internet? Your box is a network server…

  39. Dreamer says:

    The tactics these peaople are using to combat pirates just feels like they’re building a huge, nigh impenetrable fortress with the back wall missing. The pirates are still going to come around the back and steal the game, even if they have to climb a few hills and cliffs to do so.

    The paying customer, however, is forced to swim across more moats, climb over taller walls, and undergo increasingly thorough cavity searches, and send back a letter begging permission to share their game with a friend. The pirates are just walking out the back snickering.

    What most publishers aren’t realizing is that they don’t need deeper moats, taller walls, and more soldiers with rubber gloves, they need to do something about that big open spot in their “defenses”.

  40. Jabor says:

    Well, I guess I’m not buying it then.

    I would have thought they’d know better, but I guess not. We’ll see who’s laughing after this tanks badly.

  41. Suzene says:

    How sad. Ah, well; $20 more for me.

  42. Miral says:

    Most online download systems seem to work this way. Telltale used something similar for Sam & Max, I think. And Steam works with the same basic idea.

    @Ian: It’s probably that sort of casual “piracy” (loaning the game to friends) which they’re trying to kill off. After all, I think we’re all agreed that this isn’t going to do jack to hardcore pirates. So the only explanation (assuming they’re not just being idiots) is that they’re trying to get friends/coworkers etc to recommend games to people as ones they should buy rather than simply loaning them the game directly. Any purely offline approach won’t work here (any provided key will simply be given along with the game), so online activation is the only possible choice.

    And I have no doubt consoles will start heading down this route too. In fact they already have, for the downloadable games.

    Of course I’m not thrilled by the idea, and I want to know that a game I buy today will still be installable in ten years’ time, but I can see where they’re coming from.

    I played the demo this morning, in fact, and this thread has made me waver from “definitely buying” to “I need to think about this some more”. But I’m not sure there is a really good answer here.

  43. Allen says:

    I miss the good old days of “Enter your CD key” and “Do you want to register online? Y/N?”

  44. Rival Wombat says:

    Got to love the way the EULA explicitly says that you don’t own the game you paid for. Honestly, that’s the part that bothers me most. I likely wouldn’t under the normal course of playing the game run into the restrictions of the DRM, but I still think I’ll pirate this game because at least that way I’ll owe it.

    I pay for software, I own it. And RSPOD is on the pirate bay already.. a good thing if you paid for it and can’t DL it because there servers are hammered.

  45. Nilus says:

    Rival Wombat, Take a look at the agreement with 88% of software. Almost all of them say you don’t own the software. You are paying for a license to use it.

    As far as this DRM goes. How is this any different from Stardock. I am pretty sure you need to put you CD key in to play GalCiv and that it goes out and verifies its valid online.

    Anyways you guys enjoy your 20 dollars. Personally the DRM didn’t stop me from buying the game. Its got the Penny Arcade Humor built into a fun game. It seems to play more like a JRPG then a Adventure game, which was a suprise. But overall I am enjoying it.

  46. eski says:

    I bet Tycho is kicking himself for the DRM rant. I think thats actually the core of the problem. The DRM impelementation in RSPD is actually pretty light on relatively speaking, but its the fact that PA itself chose to decry a similar system of activation mere weeks before the launch. If they hadnt done that I doubt whether anyone would care.

  47. Nathanael says:

    This is why I buy Stardock games, but won’t buy this.

  48. Zaghadka says:

    Ah, so Rainslick Precipice is on the Slippery Slope of Intrusive DRM. How deliciously ironic.

    Screw you PA.

  49. Winter says:

    So wait, does it limit downloads or installs? If it’s downloads then i don’t see a problem, but i assume it’s installs given that people are freaking out.

    Anyway, i guess if you aren’t as hardcore as our noble author you can always buy and then crack it. (Maybe send them money but don’t download anything just to give them a hint.)

  50. Limond says:

    If you all had read anything other then just this blog. IE the Penny-Arcade forums, or the playgreenhouse forums, then you will all understand that the DRM on PAA:OTRSPD:E1 is very light and almost negligible. Members of HotHead have said that they will be very lax on the number of times you can install the game. They are very level headed and have said that they will not abruptly cut off the servers should the company go down.

    The system they are using is just like a CD key. It is only required at the install of the game, you don’t need multiple keys for multiple platforms. No other internet usage is needed. It is merely for documentation that you have installed the game and not spread it out to hundreds of people.

    Though they are social commentators, and do it for a living, unlike everyone here. They all need to make money some. I am sorry for all of you who can not see past that. I played the game and enjoyed every minute of it. I will not weep for you who refuse to buy it.

    I have actually lost some respect for shamus this blogs author for his absolute refusal of it.

  51. Zerotime says:

    Limond: Shill much?

  52. Alex says:

    Not the first time I’ve spotted hypocrisy from Mike and Jerry. Didn’t they use to hate Macs? Then there’s the whole Dr. Raven Darktalon Blood and Merch things… I’d say that I expect this kind of crap from EA but not from them, but I have to remind myself that Penny Arcade is a company, with employees. It is a business. They are not a giant, monolithic corporation, but they’re certainly not the underdogs anymore.

    But honestly? This sounds like a decision made by higher-ups than the likes of the two cartoon representatives on the box. This does irritate me, but judging from their surprisingly recent comments on the subject of Securom and DRM schemes, it seems like something that just wasn’t in their control, or that they knew was inevitable. I don’t think of them as Gods or anything, I’m aware that they’re self-admitted assholes. That’s precisely what makes them popular. But this doesn’t strike me as their specific -flavour- of jackassery.

    Maybe Tycho made that post on his thoughts about DRM as a sort of warning. Whatever the case, making a post(and a comic) utterly blasting DRM, and then immediately endorsing a product with DRM makes them look like hypocrites. Even if unintentionally, and even if no real damage occurs to their bottom line, it doesn’t put them in a flattering light.

    It’s a shame too. Just yesterday I was thinking of buying RSPOD, and I’m the kind of guy who NEVER buys games for my PC, online or otherwise. I don’t know if I can say I respect them less, since I doubt they made this call or even approve of it. But it’s certainly kept me cautious about buying any of their stuff in the future.

  53. Mephane says:

    “If you all had read anything other then just this blog. IE the Penny-Arcade forums, or the playgreenhouse forums, then you will all understand that the DRM on PAA:OTRSPD:E1 is very light and almost negligible. Members of HotHead have said that they will be very lax on the number of times you can install the game. They are very level headed and have said that they will not abruptly cut off the servers should the company go down.”

    Lax DRM is still DRM is still crap. Period.

    “The system they are using is just like a CD key. It is only required at the install of the game, you don't need multiple keys for multiple platforms. No other internet usage is needed. It is merely for documentation that you have installed the game and not spread it out to hundreds of people.”

    Well the EULA and pretty much everything else does not say so.

    “Though they are social commentators, and do it for a living, unlike everyone here. They all need to make money some. I am sorry for all of you who can not see past that. I played the game and enjoyed every minute of it. I will not weep for you who refuse to buy it.”

    No one wants you to “weep for us”. And believe it or not, DRM is not necessary to do a living from creating video games. Not at all. I don’t know why so many people still believe in this myth. *sigh*

    “I miss the good old days of “Enter your CD key” and “Do you want to register online? Y/N?””

    Me, too.

  54. GAZZA says:

    To those of you who agree with Limond – if the DRM is so lax, then why not just leave it off? Are you worried that without some DRM people will just pirate it?

    As has already been noted: people are already pirating it with the DRM.

    This game is directed, primarily, at fans of Penny Arcade. By no stretch of the imagination is this your normal “Mum and Granddad” who don’t know any better – fans of Penny Arcade are absolutely aware of what DRM is, why it’s bad, and that the cartoonists themselves are against it. Their target audience are the very ones that are most aware of how hypocritical this is – especially since a recent post of Gabe promoting the game promised no DRM as a feature. Either Gabe is misinformed or lying – how are either of those desirable traits?

    Basically, it comes down to whether or not you like the guys enough to give them $20. And I, for one, like them a lot less now that it’s been revealed that they think I’m a thief.

  55. Nicholas says:

    This is getting ridiculous. I haven’t bought many PC games in the last few years (Sins of a Solar Empire nonwithstanding), and those that I do get are usually a few years behind trend.

    I didn’t mind this stuff when you were just typing in long long keys and Blizzard’s approach of only letting one copy/key play multiplayer at once – that was an elegant and effective system that I was willing to go through a little trouble for.

    Limited installs are a deal-breaker for me though. I am morally opposed to downloading cracked versions. So, basically, I’m going to have to stick to the shrinking number of titles that don’t have stuff like this.

    Please, please, please let Blizzard be sensible enough not to put this on starcraft 2…

  56. Alan G says:

    Oh well, another game for the “will not buy” pile. The trailer looked fantastic, and I was going to buy it.

    I love the “if we are going bust we will release a patch” attempt response. I can just see it now, boss walks in the office to announce they are broke and the administrators are coming in, but they have agreed that the developers can spend a couple of extra days writing a patch to fix the DRM and leave some servers running allowing people to download it.

    Yet those of us who object to being trated like criminals aren’t living in the real world.

  57. Mephane says:

    “I love the “if we are going bust we will release a patch” attempt response. I can just see it now, boss walks in the office to announce they are broke and the administrators are coming in, but they have agreed that the developers can spend a couple of extra days writing a patch to fix the DRM and leave some servers running allowing people to download it.”

    Haha, that is totally ridiculous. Microsoft did not even offer anything to customers who were hit by them shutting down their “playforsure” DRM-activation servers. And MS is not even broke!

    Who on Earth would really believe that those companies will release such a “no DRM patch” in such a situation. Most of them will, by that time, give a shit for the customers affected. Because they already did when they decided to implement the DRM in the first place.

  58. kamagurka says:

    Shit. I already bought it. Oh well, it runs like a dead dog on valium anyway, so I don’t think I’ll get Episode 2, even though the game itself is fun, funny and I really like the combat system.

  59. Nilus says:

    So what you guys want is to do away with all copy protection. Now I understand that in a perfect world we could just trust the consumer to not steal but this is reality. Sure 100% of copy protections can be cracked but I bet the number show that even the smallest form of Copy protection will put a road block into casual pirates.

    I really think this is typical internet chest beating. “DRMs are Evil, Fuck you Penny Arcade, You guys are hypocrites. etc etc”. People are blowing what is essential a need for a CD Key into something much much worse. At least you don’t need a CD in the drive to play, or have to input a word from the instruction manual everytime you want to play.

  60. Ron says:


    If you believe that there are games with no cracks, then you have never been to . Please go there and see if you can’t find a crack to a game. It only takes a week or two for a new title to be found on that website, usually.

  61. Nilus says:

    Ron, I said 100 percent of games do get cracked. My comment said that any form of copy protection will generally stop casual pirates. IE non computer savey people who don’t even realize you can get cracks on the internet or don’t want to be bothered to search for one.

  62. GAZZA says:

    The thing is, Nilus, that:
    a) The savviness of your average gamer is going up, not down. Grandad may not know how to use Bit Torrent, but Dad might – and Junior certainly does.

    b) The audience for this game are Penny Arcade fans. Even if such a fan started out with close to zero in Net Literacy, merely following the strip and the comments of Tycho and Gabe would teach them what they need to know. So in this case in particular the target audience almost DEFINITELY knows where to get cracks. It won’t even be a road bump – so why bother annoying your audience with DRM that you KNOW will not be effective, because YOU YOURSELF have previously told your fans where to find the cracks?

  63. Alan De Smet says:

    Limond: “They are very level headed and have said that they will not abruptly cut off the servers should the company go down.”

    A worthless commitment.

    They won’t “abruptly” cut off the servers. So, they’ll give me a grace period of a year or two, and after that I won’t be able to reinstall the game? Not much of an improvement.

    Also, if the company is going down in a bad way, in bankruptcy, the courts will decide what they do. If they put “We’d like to run out authentication servers for another year or two” or “We’re like to release a patch that removes the DRM,” the courts will laugh at them. Neither will raise money for creditors.

    And what if Hothead gets purchased? Sure, the purchaser will promise up, down, left, and right to be nice, but once management changes you can take any promise not written on paper as garbage.

    Things Hothead could have done (and may yet do!):

    Publically commit to releasing a patch that eliminates online activation, say in one year. You’ll still a key, but it won’t check online. The overwhelming majority of the income will come in the first six months.

    Embed the purchaser’s name and address in the key. Display “Sold to Name at Address” on the opening screen. Adding accountability should dramatically cut down on sharing of keys. Add in an online blacklist; if the game detects an internet connection, it will check if a given key has been blacklisted. (Obviously if the server is down, the blacklist is treated as empty.) Sure, you can thwart this by taking your computer off the internet, but how many people will bother?

    When the series is complete, release the game on CD without online activation. I gather they’re doing the CD release, but don’t know about the activation. This is what Telltale Games is doing, and they’re apparently making enough money to branch out into more games. Telltale is especially awesome: if you buy the season pass, you not only get downloads, you get the CD for the price of shipping and production, something like $7. I’ve done this for the last two seasons of Sam & Max and have loved it!

    “They all need to make money some. I am sorry for all of you who can not see past that.” That’s completely unfair. I am happy to pay for this game.* I wish plenty of profit on companies that make good games. Telltale Games has money from me for the two Sam & Max seasons, and I’m fully expecting to open my wallet for season three of Sam & Max and the upcoming Strong Bad game.* You’re introducing a false dichotomy. I believe it’s possible for Hothead to make money while ensuring that I’ll still be able to play the game in a decade. Telltale has accomplished it. Stardock has accomplished it.

    * I haven’t downlaoded the demo for the Penny Arcade game yet, and Strong Bad’s game doesn’t have a demo yet. So my willingness to exchange my money for these games is predicated on the demos being fun. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume these are games I want.

  64. Alan De Smet says:

    Nilus: “People are blowing what is essential a need for a CD Key into something much much worse. At least you don't need a CD in the drive to play, or have to input a word from the instruction manual everytime you want to play.”

    If this was just a CD key, I wouldn’t mind. If I had to have a CD in the drive, I wouldn’t mind (as much, to be fair). But this is neither. This relies on online activation. If I reinstall the game in a decade, and Hothead went out of business years earlier, I’m locked out of the game I purchased.

    This isn’t chest beating. This is a real concern. I occasionally break out decade old and older games to replay. Dealing with archaic hardware and software requirements is hard enough. Thankfully I can solve most problems, legally, with software like DOSBox. (And I expect in a decade I’ll just download XPBox or an equivalent.) Adding in a reliance on a third party is madness. Sure, I can download a crack, but thanks to the DMCA, it’ll be illegal to download software I need to play a game I paid for.

  65. Craig says:

    It seems pretty apparent that Gabe and Tycho do hate DRM, and that they (along with Robert) had pretty specific instructions on how the DRM was to be handled. Of course they were commenting recently on the proposed draconic EA DRM, and not on all DRM in their recent post but many people seem unable to tease out such nuances.

    Hothead is the publisher, they ultimately have the right to try and protect the property the paid for and published. It is in fact trying to keep honest people honest, but at least Hothead going the heavy handed route.

    I can fully appreciate people hating DRM enough to not try the game, speaking as somebody who has had to put tape on a sony cd to rip it. However Gabe and Tycho can hate DRM and still not have enough clout to make the publisher allow the game to be copied with no copy-protection at all. It doesn’t make them hypocrites, it just makes them human and able to make compromises like adults do.

    Personally I picked up the game for the 360 so I won’t have a problem with servers closing up shop in the future.

  66. GAZZA says:

    Gabe advertised the game on its release by specifically including the phrase “No DRM”. That makes him either misinformed or a liar. I’m happy to believe it’s the former, but it still makes the claim wrong.

    If they’d been forced into the compromise – which, judging by Gabe’s claims about how anal they were being is difficult to believe – then a comment along the lines of, “Look, we tried to get it with no DRM, but we were overruled – we did, however, make it as painless as possible” would have been fine. Saying that it has NO DRM is just wrong – whether intentionally or not.

  67. Mark says:

    I would disagree with the author that using DRM “cost them sales” People have been pirating games since games came out. There are some people (like yourself and others who post here) who won’t buy a game because it has DRM. Most people who pirate though don’t care about DRM, they just want to play the game for free. It’s a huge leap in logic to equate the presence of DRM with an increase in piracy. I’d say a better logic set is that piracy made the companies include DRM to prevent theft. Pirates circumvented this and DRM got heavier and worse… Pirates have always existed and will always exist. The increase in piracy rates equates with the subsequent increase in prices to help the companies turn a profit on a game when they know there will be lost sales due to piracy – it’s a never ending cycle, but even if game companies decided to stop, remove DRM and reduce prices to what they used to be, piracy would continue at the same rate because, well, heck, if you’ve been getting it for free, why stop now?

    Oh, and is Amazon’s MP3 store with no DRM doing any better than Apple? Nope…

  68. Cory says:

    WTF? I bought the game. (Ep2 as well.) There was no DRM. I used the same game on multiple operating systems, concurrently, backed it up, etc. There was no problem. None.

  69. Shamus says:

    The game has online activation.

    Try installing the game while not connected to the internet. You’ll see it.

    (Unless they changed it. And if they removed the DRM, then I’ll buy the game.)

  70. Moustafa says:

    Shamus: I already have the game (Linux version), so I tried just loading it with the network disabled. It loads, says that it cannot connect to HotHead’s servers while it’s loading, then continues on to the main menu.

    Then on to the actual game.

    However, it does tend to freeze up when you want to actually leave the game.

    I take it the game’s DRM is closer to the CD-Key way of doing things than Steam.

    Incidentally, I had originally bought the game because Gabe/Mike said “No DRM”. I think it’s still the case, and it’s not as horrifying as SecuROM or any other method of restricting use, but I agree that no DRM would be the best way of working, albeit in a better world.

    Overall, I think the Steam and HH method is far better than the EA one, and until a perfect solution comes up, this will have to do.

  71. Cody21282 says:

    Well good thing I havent gotten this yet. I thought that these guys were a anti-DRM after the stuff they put up on Mass Effect, but just goes to show you they are as bad as everyone else, if not worse

  72. Shamus says:

    For whatever reason, this particular post has become a huge target for spammers. I’m sick of deleting them, so I’m closing comments here.

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