Covering (but not limited to) all of my thoughts on the PC gaming scene.
Mass Effect and Spore copy protection systems redesigned
Published on May 10, 2008 By Phazon88 In PC Gaming

Another case of the customer knows best. Recently you may have heard about how a intrusive form of copy protection was going to be included with Mass Effect and Spore that constantly connected to the internet (at the rate of every 10 days) just to check your serial was valid (with no check = no play).

There was a huge uproar as a consequence, with many potential buyers saying that they would just simply not buy their title (or even pirate it on purpose) just to get rid of this major intrusion.

 

If only publishers will learn that you must REWARD your customer for purchasing your game, not punish them. Make it easier to be a customer than to be a pirate.

Thankfully the voices were heard and the decision was reversed, with the new system being limited to one online check upon install and consequent checks when you download updates (which is reasonable enough). Still the limited installs is extremely annoying as you should have the right to install the game as often as you want since you payed for it.


Comments (Page 2)
on May 11, 2008

You seem to misunderstand how it works though Gormoth. It basically means I can only install the game 3 times in its lifetime period (without needing to call their support and muck around). If I say, reformat my HDD 3 times over a period of say 2 years - how is it fair I have to come crawling to EA's support centre just to get the right to install the game on my PC?

Edit: this is of course assuming the activation method is driven via the registry or anything relying on information stored on the HDD.

on May 11, 2008
You didn't seem to read or notice the rest of my post. Like I said, the game will be eventually cracked, so this entire limit will be rendered sterile in a time period of 2 years. It is basically just to limit you from installing a fresh game on too many computers at once, that's all.

Besides, honestly, did you ever encounter the issue which prevented you from installing the game since you already installed it too many times before? Don't give me that, I'm sure you didn't. This is just an overblown exaggeration, made by pirates or people who simply don't want to be limited in any way, which is really not how it works, or at least not how it shouldn't.

MegaVolt, this is hardly the same MP3-limit issue. You can listen to a song 5 years from purchase, as it really never gets old, but you'll hardly play a game (especially a story-driven RPG like Mass Effect) more than once or twice and that's it. The devs are simply trying to protect their work while it is still sought-after. A year or two from purchase the game will be old news, and will hardly need to be protected, and this is what they're aiming at. And no, you don't own the game, you own the final copy of the game, the product itself. The devs and distributors own the game, and they have, as well as they should, complete power over it, not you, who merely dropped $50 on it.
on May 11, 2008

I haven't encountered the issue yet (and very few others would have either) because this sort of DRM is new. The only game I have that has this sort of activation is Bioshock and at least there they have a system where I can "refund" an activation by using my serial information. Without such a system being used (such as the one proposed for Mass Effect and Spore) the limitations of limited activations will be felt in the future, and trust me Gormoth in that you'd find most people would go through 3 activations after 2-3 years easy.

You have to think forwards to the future in the consequences of such a DRM design, when people want to enjoy their games sometime after purchase without being hassled of starting a support ticket at EA just to be allowed to play their game.

As for cracking it, it should be easier to be a customer than to be the pirate no?

on May 11, 2008
You didn't seem to read or notice the rest of my post. Like I said, the game will be eventually cracked, so this entire limit will be rendered sterile in a time period of 2 years. It is basically just to limit you from installing a fresh game on too many computers at once, that's all.


If the CP system basically forces me to crack my legally purchased product to be able to play it, then I will certainly not purchase it in the first place and start with the cracking right away (meaning: use a pirated version).

Your argument really doesn't make any sense.
on May 11, 2008
Besides, honestly, did you ever encounter the issue which prevented you from installing the game since you already installed it too many times before?


Actually, yes I have. But Direct2Drive's support was more than willing to give me extra activations.

Personally, I have no objection to most phone-home systems, except in that they require internet access to run. If the developers had the brains Direct2Drive did, they'd include an off-line approach to activation (either phone-in to tech support or remote-email -- just have the unlock sequence produce a request code, then next time you go to activate you can type in the request code and the unlock code you get from tech support.)

Fact is, plenty of people have "access" to e-mail, but not with their gaming computers.
on May 11, 2008
Gormoth1, first of all the install limit hampers more than how many machines you wish to play on at the moment. Many gamers will continue to play games several system upgrades into the future.

There is no such thing as good DRM. If I have to register online even one time to just to play the game, it is too many times. I paid for the product, or at the very least use of the product. I should be able to use it however I see fit as long as I am the one using it. I should not have to crack the code or download a patch to use something I legally obtained in a manner that is defined legal and fair use.

Treating customers like criminals is not good business, no matter how lax your measures are. If you give people a quality product that is considered a good value, and provide extras that make it worth registering the product (registering should not affect the product itself, only the extras) then you would find fewer people would pirate and more would buy.

Stardock is a perfect example of how companies should treat consumers to limit piracy. Are you ever going to be entirely free of piracy? No, regardless of what industry you are in, how good your product is or inexpensive there will always be people that are determined not to pay. People have been known to run cables from their neighbors houses for cable, phone, and internet. I have seen people put their trash with other peoples trash so they would not have to pay for it. I have even seen people go to restaurants with the intention of complaining so they could have a free meal.

In general most people are willing to pay for goods and services they feel have quality, value, and convenience. If you take away one or more of those factors people will find other ways to get what they want. DRM takes away portions of all 3. It is used to monitor your use, force you to do things that are unnecessary such as having a CD in the drive, limit the ways it can be used even if those ways are legal and appropriate, limit the potential of the product hence lowering the quality and the value. The fact is the gaming, music, and video industries are creating pirates out of frustrated consumers.

While DRM on computers is bad, DRM for movies is worse. Check out the limitations for Amazon UnBox. DVDs come region coded, encrypted with CSS, and most come in only a Full or Wide screen format. You are forced to see the FBI warnings and Anti-Piracy videos, you have to fight through security tape and cases designed to keep people from stealing the disc and you are forced every so often to buy new DVD players because the encryption has been updated. If you want to play them on your computer it can be even worse. It is no wonder they have such a piracy problem. The only people getting a convenient, quality product at a decent value are the people that didn't pay for it.
on May 11, 2008
As i understand it you can reinstall it on the same computer how many times you want. But you need to call EA when you want to install it on the fourth different computer.

As long as the 3 computer limit will be removed after some time I’m fine with it. I’d hate to discover I’m out of installs and try to find a phone number somewhere on the internet in five years when i decide i want another run of Mass Effect.
on May 11, 2008
As i understand it you can reinstall it on the same computer how many times you want.


Yes, with one caveat: if you change your hardware 'significantly', you may trigger a new activation. Problem is, no one can clear up exactly what will trigger it, and no one has said whether or not reinstalling your OS on the same machine will also require a new activation.
on May 11, 2008
Gormoth, you're reasonable, something that can't be said for some of your opposition, but you're not logical.

A three activation limit, assuming it works flawlessly, is the bare minimum for anyone who uses three computers. Lets say you have your almighty desktop, your significantly less powerful laptop that you use when the desktop is inconvenient, and your work computer that your nice boss lets you dick around on during your lunch break. An entirely legitimate setup, all three activations at once.

Now, due to the joys of imperfect programmers the world round, one of your computers suffers an irrecoverable error, the operating system no longer loads. Very easy to achieve, very problematic. There are ways of getting around almost every problem, but sometimes you're just plain fucked. There goes an install. For the rest of your life, any time you want to install that third one, you get to call EA and blow their tech support for an activation.

Ok, so most people only use one computer, they'll get to screw three installs before they're done for. Don't suppose you ever mixed a Via kt133, sound blaster live and win2k before? The joys of crashing a dozen times a day. It was a memorable experience. It was also cause for reformatting irrecoverable disk errors that halted the boot process more than those three times in a single week. I also had UPS drop my computer once, gotta love a physically broken hard drive.

Shit happens, this system of copy protection becomes a severe hassle once it does. That it will be cracked before the need to bypass it arises is irrelevant, the company is still shoving a stick up your ass just to do it. A rounded, smooth sanded stick instead of the spike shod, piston mounted version they were originally going for, but still.
on May 11, 2008
If a game's copy protection has the effect of making my ownership temporary, ie limited installs/activations and the like, then it is effectively a rental, not a purchase. In that case, I will pay exactly what I would pay to rent a game, and nothing more.
on May 11, 2008
You didn't seem to read or notice the rest of my post. Like I said, the game will be eventually cracked, so this entire limit will be rendered sterile in a time period of 2 years.


But where is the logic in that? Why should the consumer have to rely on a crack to be able to use his game as he wants?

It is basically just to limit you from installing a fresh game on too many computers at once, that's all.


So, how many is too many? 2? 3? 7? Who decides the number of computers I (or anyone else) have at home and install the game on is too many?

This is just an overblown exaggeration, made by pirates or people who simply don't want to be limited in any way, which is really not how it works, or at least not how it shouldn't.


Why is it that people who support this DRM scheme (or at least argue that it's reasonable) automatically assume that anyone that is upset with it is a pirate? Consider this: pirates don't give a fiddler's fart about this or any other DRM. They're going to be using a cracked and DLed copy regardless of the copy protection. So the question remains: why is the customer saddled with this?

MegaVolt, this is hardly the same MP3-limit issue. You can listen to a song 5 years from purchase, as it really never gets old, but you'll hardly play a game (especially a story-driven RPG like Mass Effect) more than once or twice and that's it.


How can you speak for others? Maybe that's true for you, but it certainly isn't for everyone. I've played through Baldur's Gate at least a dozen times, BG 2 slightly fewer, NWN1 8 or 9 times (can't recall how many exactly anymore), and NWN2 3 times so far.

Many of us are hardware enthusiasts. I'm not hard core, but I enjoy tinkering with my machines. I have one that's not connected to the internet (and I don't have a wireless network), so the on-line activation requires me to haul that one downstairs just to activate the game. My other (main) rig is connected to the internet. So there's 2 of my 3 activations. I upgrade fairly regularly on the connected (main) machine and move the old parts to the other machine. Upgrading is going to cost me my last activation on my main rig. What happens when I move the old parts to the other one? I have to call in. Then when I upgrade my main machine, I'll have to call again, with yet another call when I move the parts to the other one again.

Does that sound reasonable to you? It sure doesn't to me, and it certainly doesn't mean I'm a pirate.

And how many activations do you think EA is going to give me before they say "Too bad. That's all you're getting?" This DRM is totally unreasonable.

on May 11, 2008
I`ve been looking forward to trying Mass Effect since I heard it was comming to the PC. I would buy it if EA stuck with they`re original 10 day check, I`m still going to buy it with this protection. I`m "assuming" that in the future when the games sales have run they`re course that this activation limit or the previous 10 day check would be patched out. Although I have been told that assumption is the mother of all f^%$ ups. This situation also makes me wonder what`s in store when Dragon Age is finally released.
on May 11, 2008
I`ve been looking forward to trying Mass Effect since I heard it was comming to the PC. I would buy it if EA stuck with they`re original 10 day check, I`m still going to buy it with this protection. I`m "assuming" that in the future when the games sales have run they`re course that this activation limit or the previous 10 day check would be patched out. Although I have been told that assumption is the mother of all f^%$ ups. This situation also makes me wonder what`s in store when Dragon Age is finally released.


I would be worried that if the majority of people think the way you do and say "I don't care, I'm going to buy it anyway", and thus give tacit approval to such a copy protection scheme, that you'll see the same thing for Dragon Age. Actually, chances are, it will be worse because the publisher will see that this DRM scheme will fail to stop the game being pirated, so they'll go for something even harsher and we'll be in a worse position than we are now. All I can say is, you're free to do as you please of course, but I urge you to vote with your wallet, make a stand now and say "No way."

It's what I'm doing, and believe me, I've been pretty excited about both Mass Effect and Dragon Age. But with this DRM scheme... no-can-do for me.
on May 11, 2008
"I don't care, I'm going to buy it anyway"


Of course I care. I dislike the protection as much as every other paying customer. This is a very difficult issue to deal with right now. Stardock`s sales are apparently doing very well right now with they`re approach to copy protection. I would say that valve is also doing very well with they`re approach. I have HL2, EP1, and EP2 installed right now. I of course would prefer not to have to use steam, I have given this issue quite a bit of thought. I came to the conclusion that if I have to use steam to ensure that valve continue`s to be a profitable company and a PC game developer, Sign me up. I`m willing to jump through this hoop if it means I`ll get HL3. I wish it didn`t have to be this way. I don`t know what the answer to this problem is, The thing that concerns me is continued PC game development. This industry is my favorite past time, I vote with my wallet by supporting PC games.
on May 11, 2008
If a game's copy protection has the effect of making my ownership temporary, ie limited installs/activations and the like, then it is effectively a rental, not a purchase. In that case, I will pay exactly what I would pay to rent a game, and nothing more.


There is the truth. +1 karma for that

MegaVolt, this is hardly the same MP3-limit issue. You can listen to a song 5 years from purchase, as it really never gets old, but you'll hardly play a game (especially a story-driven RPG like Mass Effect) more than once or twice and that's it.


Who are you to tell me how often I should play my games? I purchased them, I play them whenever I want as often as I want to. If I want to play the game in 10 years I will. And I won't buy a game if I have to hope for the company to keep maintaining the activation server.
Just because you don't enjoy playing older games again other people might thing different. People like me for example. I still enjoy StarCraft and I still even play through the Monkey Island series (well, not the 4th part ...) every now and then.

As posted by Vinraith: I company that tries to rent the game to me instead of selling it will certainly not get 50 bucks for that.
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