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 3)
on May 11, 2008

I have mixed feelings on this.

I definitely don't like intrusive copy protection.

But I also have seen vocal groups bully companies into things that others might like (like mini expansion packs).

on May 11, 2008
Frogboy: Could you explain that last sentence? Maybe it's just the time or that English isn't my native language but I totally don't get what you are trying to say

Vocal groups as in customers? When did they ever ask for mini expansion packs? And which "others" might like it?
on May 11, 2008
The Sims.

Lots of expansion packs, there has been significant flak over how gay EA is for milking the franchise in such a manner. To some, and I haven't played any of them and have no idea what my own opinions would be, that method of introducing new content is an affront to their intelligence and must be squashed at all costs. They go around pissing and moaning when it's even suggested, it is assumed that the game is handicapped in advance to leave room for the updates, a purposeful exploitation of the customers. I figured they were just prolific code monkeys and since people kept buying them, they kept making them.

on May 11, 2008

Frogboy: Could you explain that last sentence? Maybe it's just the time or that English isn't my native language but I totally don't get what you are trying to say Vocal groups as in customers?

When did they ever ask for mini expansion packs? And which "others" might like it?

Listen to what psychoak said.

A lot of people like mini-expansion packs (I do). I want to make them too. But there are lots of "vocal" users who are opposed to the idea for various reasons who try to bully developers into not making them.

I personally intend to make mini expansions for all our future games. But I can put up with the complaining since I own Stardock and thus can make the final call.  But most game developers do not have that luxury and nearly every game I play I wish I could buy more content for rather than the current role of "one or two big expansion packs and that's it". 

 

on May 11, 2008
An example of a good mini expansion off the top of my head is the Alexander expansion for rome total war. It added a bit of new content, specifically a new campaign for 5-8$
on May 11, 2008
I have mixed feelings on this.
I definitely don't like intrusive copy protection.
But I also have seen vocal groups bully companies into things that others might like (like mini expansion packs).


Is this a hint for the future of GCII? If so, I want your lunch money!

As for the Mass Effect thing, didn't plan to buy it- I won't even buy the Orange Box since it has EA's name on the bottom. That's how I feel about the way they do business. From now on, I'll only support companies with reasonable DRM practices (Thankfully, the genre I like has a good number of companies with reasonable practices)



on May 11, 2008

Here's what I know about the DRM issue:

1. My computers die often. I've had this one a year and a half or so, and it's a major source of prayer.
2. I'm not gonna steal a game, but I do crack DRM's on games often enough because I can't be bothered to search through my catacombs full of disks. However, the tougher the DRM, the tougher I weigh the game.
3. I'm gonna buy an inferior (or inferiorly hyped) game before buying one that requires a second computer just to run the DRM software.

Here's what I've heard about DRM:

1. What you "buy" is more of a six-month rent in the case of videos.
2. It gets increasingly hard to accquire music and video without DRM (When was the last time you checked YouTube? Any movie pirating site? iTunes? It's not hard to find DRM-cracked or DRM-free stuff).

Here's how I know DRM is always weak or overly-heavy-handed.

1. Video capture, audio capture, and other "legitimate use" means are able to crack any DRM.
2. Any DRM can be bypassed, with hardware, cracks, and software (often legitimate).

Don't make me bypass your protection, because then I will.

 

on May 12, 2008
DRM is the suck. W/that scheme, I'll probably still get mass effect, because I'll probably only be interested in playing it once anyways. Or maybe I'll wait till I get a ps3 and get it as a 'greatest hit' for 10-20 bucks a couple years from now. But I'll avoid spore if it has it because I might be interested in it for a long time if I were to have it, and the hassle of re-authorizing is just somethin' I don't wanna have to deal w/the hassle of. I'm an adult, I have enough hassle w/out having my video game hobby adding to it, and I'm definitely not gonna pay for the benefit of adding the things that hassle me in life, even if its a game I'd otherwise want. Plenty of other games out there. Console games, independent games, old games, and I just got an Amazon Kindle that is eating up most of my free time (aside from the personal computer, my favourite toy ever). Its bad enough Vista itself will give me hassle as I change hardware over the years, one such program on my plate is more than enough for me.

People should test this stuff out in courts. Local, state courts, under consumer protection laws. Different states will have different takes, but you might be lucky enough to be in a state that wants to protect your rights as a consumer. So the moment you run into trouble w/a game you bought in such a way, pay 15 bucks or whatever it is these days for a small claims court suit, you'll probably win by default since I doubt a company like EA would send a rep to your local court over a judgment of at most, a couple thousand bucks (more likely a couple hundred). In most states, consumer protection laws also provide for attorney's fees to the winner (otherwise what consumer in his right mind would sue best buy over a 50 dollar item, and what lawyer would represent him?), so go find a contingency basis consumer lawyer. Unfortunately, the biggest problem - what if in the future the company goes out of business and you cannot activate it anymore? No one to sue when that time comes, even if you would win.

Hey brad, here's an alternative and risky business model for ya. I'm drunk, so forgive how crazy it is, but it sounds good to my drunken self. When you are completely done w/updating one of your games, for the indefinite future that is, release the source code under a restrictive license to paying customers and maybe an additional nominal fee (5 bucks or so). If anyone makes anything w/even a line of that source code, they agree to pay you X% of any profits they make off it, if they charge for whatever it is they make (they can release their creations for free too, their choice). They have to house their creations through you and your site. Zero tech support for them from you, they have to know enough to handle it on their own. Pick some game you're not too worried about in case the experiment doesn't work and the source code gets a little too free out there. Perhaps leave an essential part of the game cooked and unalterable, that'll still require a stardock account for customers to use, and w/a call home feature so you can tell who out there is using it and make sure you're getting your $$. You get free expansion-packs/total-conversions keeping interest in the base game long after you've stopped working on it, all done w/labor you didn't have to pay for, plus you can 'borrow' all the really good ideas (put that in the license) a decade from now when you are making a 128 bit version of the game for 'windows bla bla', a platform for which all that source code will by then be totally useless. =>

If anyone uses my patented drunken style business technique and it works out, contact me and give me some good dark beer as my reward, I just ran out (and I'm too drunk to go buy more). =<
on May 12, 2008
I have the perfect example: I have a friend, a sherif, 57 years old. He had to have an operation, and he way going to have to do some recouping for several weeks at home. So, I got him GCII Dread Lords to play during his recoup. When I came to visit, I'd watch him play, and we ended up pretty much playing this one LONG game together over many weeks. Anyway, his computer conks out, so I help him buy a new one. That was the LAST time we ever play GCII, because the game reads that his computer is different (a fact that freaked out my friend to no end, because in his generation, NOBODY had the right to come "into" your computer and look at stuff). Anyway, after almost a month of trying to re-register it, he gave up. The box sits on his desk to this day (I see it every time I come over), but he refuses to try to reinstall it again because he got so frusterated (and I REALLY wanted to finish that game).

Anyway, I love GCII, and Sins, and I understand the need for copy protection, but this registration thing has really been a far bigger pita than any copy protection I've had to deal with so far in my life.
on May 12, 2008
A lot of people like mini-expansion packs (I do). I want to make them too. But there are lots of "vocal" users who are opposed to the idea for various reasons who try to bully developers into not making them.


Customers try to "bully" developers? What? How should that ever be possible? Do they drive to the developers house and toilet-paper it?
Last I checked people complained on forums about a policy they don't like. That hardly qualifies as bullying in my opinion ...

About mini expansion packs: I think they suck. So far at least. That's why I write on boards that they suck if it comes up.
The main problem might not even be the mini expansions.

Look at the whole piracy thingy for example. Pirates pirate software, honest customers have to endure the DRM crap for it. In other words: Honest customers pay for the mistakes others made.

With the idea of mini expansions it's not that different. My point is: Most (all?) mini expansions that have been made in the past sucked. Horse armor for example. It was a total rip-off and mini expansions got a very, very bad reputation because of exactly that. I as customer right now associate mini expansions with ripoff and tryin to milk money out of customers.
So now you as a developer have to suffer for the mistakes of others. Mini expansions got an aweful reputation in the gaming community and it will be hard to change that.
on May 12, 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.


I have to, reluctantly, somewhat agree to that remark.

psychoak, you can, and encouraged to, call or Email the tech support under these circumstances. This will set you back a bit, true, but I believe it's worth it for the company that wants to limit you from installing on million computers.

Frogboy, psychoak's comment repeats the same exact iteration people are constantly posting on threads like this in general, and in this thread, specifically (with an added bonus of swears ). Yes, it sucks, but I still believe it's the company's right to protect their IP any way they can, especially if the outcome doesn't require you to use a CD in drive to play. Not every company shares your model of business, man. You have to respect that as well. And no, I'm just a gamer, not a developer.

I fail to understand how the mini expansion packs have any relevance to this thread, though.

MegaVolt, who's me to tell you? I'm nobody, but then again, I'm not the one that tells you anything, since it's not my call, it's the company's. You know, the guys who made the thing, and want to be paid for it without you abusing their IP? They're telling you. All I'm saying is to try to understand them as well. I regard Stardock as the future and the solution to piracy, but like I said, sometimes this business model just doesn't work, and in that case, I sure as hell prefer an alternative that allows me to play without having the CD in drive, and if they limit the amount of times I can install their game for it, so be it, it's their call and I can live with that.
on May 12, 2008

I fail to understand how the mini expansion packs have any relevance to this thread, though.

I guess it is linked with the fact that consumers, if they are vocal enough, can change what developpers/publishers are ready to do. When they want to put an horrible DRM scheme, it is a good thing. But it may not be a good thing if they prevent some developments that others customers may want. I think frogboy has the following articles in mind http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/309309/The_existence_of_for-pay_stuff_doesnt_hurt_you and http://forums.galciv2.com/307072

on May 12, 2008
Gormoth1: Yes sure, the guy who made the game can do with it whatever he wants. If EA wants to charge 2000 bucks for Spore. If they decide not to sell the game but instead let every customer sign a lease on it they are allowed to. It's their game after all, they can do with it whatever they want.
But then they have to be consequent and stop blaming pirates for their complete failure.
Going around and crying "oh no pirates are destroying our sales" while simultaniously treating customers like criminals and delivering an inferior product - that simply doesn't add up.

But they do not let me sign a lease or a rental contract or anything like that. I buy a product.
Not too long ago it was even law that if you buy something, it is yours and you can do with it whatever you want. Sadly, the content industry was able to change these law with their stupid lobbying and now circumenting copy protection is illegal in many countries. But that doesn't change the fact that if I buy something, I expect to really own it.
I hope that politicians will get at least some common sense and correct these utterly stupid copyright laws (here in Europe at least some countries are moving in the right direction, see for example the Pirate Bay debate).

But as long as EA tells me that they sell, not rent, me that product I demand to be treated like it.

Actually it would be funny to buy the game (in Europe), try to install it 4 times and then let a court have a look at the whole thing.
on May 12, 2008
Yes, a company has the right to protect its IP. However, consumers have a right to call them on their stupidity, and this is the problem- we don't do that enough.

on May 12, 2008
That was the LAST time we ever play GCII, because the game reads that his computer is different


All he should need to do is delete the sig.bin file and reactivate. It only ever becomes an issue if you copy the game directly from one machine to another, rather than reinstalling via SDC.
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