Spore DRM

Remember when I blogged that I won't buy DRM infested software anymore which phones home and which only works as long as the game developers web servers are running? (HL2, Bioshock, ..) Looks like this attitude has become mainstream now: There are now about 1000 negative Spore reviews on Amazon.com, where people are complaining about that DRM shit.
Interestingly, amazon.co.uk seems to have deleted all those reviews.
Great, maybe someone will listen now.

(logo created by Alfredo Daniel Rezinovsky, licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 Argentina)

twelve comments, already:

I hope you realise the irony of an anti-DRM post directly after a post about piracy problems with your own software ;)

Not that DRM actually stops piracy of course, but you have to have some sympathy for them trying to find a way to combat it.
steve () (link) - 09 09 08 - 18:11

Sure, but I think there is a slight difference between

a) an application simlpy requiring a license-key to be entered once


b) an application requiring you to register online, restricting you to N number of copies, stopping to work if the developer wants it to and requiring an internet connection and/or an inserted dvd in order to run. :)
niko - 09 09 08 - 19:34

...and don’t forget it installs a fucked up spyware driver into your system which won’t uninstall ever.
oleg - 09 09 08 - 20:39

I’m not saying it’s right, but you can at least see why they feel they need something like this, after all you’re getting ripped off by pirates yourself, and you’re nowhere near as big a target. Rootkits and hidden services are out though.

License keys are usually cracked before the game even hits the store so are completely useless as an anti-piracy approach unless verified somehow. You might as well have no protection at all if you go down that route, if you’re a high-profile target like a top-tier game.

So, without DRM you either accept rampant piracy (which can be a viable model for indies actually, provided you sell ‘enough’, but for big-budget titles not doable), or you include a significant online component which can verify 1 key per user at one time, or you just drop the PC as a target.

Some people think all PC games will just move online eventually, with standalone games only appearing on consoles, because it’s the only way to defeat piracy – the device on the desk is just too compromisable. Probably not entirely true, but the signs are that it’s not far off, and that’s a bit sad.
steve () (link) - 09 09 08 - 22:00

Playing the devil’s advocate and ignorant consumer…

I purchased Spore and downloaded it from EA’s site. I had no problems with installation or authentication. If I need to reinstall more than three times (the number three is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the EULA or any documentation that I saw), I’ll call and get EA to reactivate my copy.

How many of the people complaining on Amazon actually purchased the game and tried it out? How many are just trying to hype the DRM? I know that there were at least 6 reviews on Amazon.com complaining about the DRM before the game was even released.
Michael - 09 09 08 - 23:52

actually I find DRM is more an annoyance to paying customers than it is a real hurdle to piracy. since at some point the code will be in memory in decrypted form and it is possible to patch it out (which is illegal in a very strange way given that the OS has to patch the image anyways…;), same for all game data (unless recent GPU developments have led to graphics adapters that can assemble encrypted images or something like that). so for any such protection to have at least some effect it takes a considerable effort on behalf of the game/app developer, to hide the protections. with some luck it takes a cracker just as long to remove the protections as it took to put them in.

it is somehow similar to the ‘do not steal movies’ crap they put on every DVD. i do not want to see that when i bought a legal copy, it is really annoying. similar to some DVDs where you have to sit still and watch copyright notices in 35 different languages until you can go back to the menu, the player blocking the menu key due to one of the unfeatures of DVD interactivity. hell, this is my DVD-player (ok, actually it belongs to my ex, but she lent it to me), and my time, and when i want to go to the menu i want this to happen.

not that i am advocating piracy, i am just considering DRM and copy protection the wrong way to fight it. it annoys those who behave, and those who misbehave are rewarded with less annoyance. i also admit i have no better idea; especially with games it is rather uncommon that people get a service contract.
xaos - 10 09 08 - 10:49

steve: “but for big-budget titles not doable” What makes you think that?

Michael: “How many of the people complaining on Amazon actually purchased the game and tried it out? How many are just trying to hype the DRM? I know that there were at least 6 reviews on Amazon.com complaining about the DRM before the game was even released.” How is that relevant?
Matthias - 10 09 08 - 10:55

I think what he meant is how many people complain about DRM who haven’t actually used it. :)
Jonathan Snyder (link) - 10 09 08 - 20:52

A few months back I borrowed Mass Effect from a friend and installed it on my machine. It ran well, I liked the game, I played it for couple of hours and I decided to buy it. So, I surfed over to Amazon.co.uk to buy a copy and noticed all the posts about DRM, then I realised – I’ve spent a third of my friend’s copy of this game by installing it on my machine. I was shocked and disgusted, also embarrassed about turning his game into a coaster. I called EA to ask if he could get the activation back when I uninstalled it and replaced it with my own bought copy, they said I wouldn’t.

So I removed it from my basket and gave him half of the price of the game instead, plus rather than recommending this great game to all my friends I told them what a piece of crap it was and why they should avoid it at all costs.

I still feel so bitter about this I’ll probably never buy another game by EA, I still feel cheated and used and could never trust them again.
Gaz - 10 09 08 - 23:19

I’ll bet you a majority of those complaints are from people that are trying to pirate the software…
Spintz - 11 09 08 - 15:18

I doubt anyone would try to pirate this game and fail, a DRM-free download was publicly available several days before it was for sale in the shops. Unfair practices like this only make the download option more attractive. The choices are download unethical software that may contain a virus, buy unethical software that does contain a virus, or simply don’t play at all.

Back on topic, I heard that Polish versions of EA games come in English and without DRM. If people only support the DRM-free versions maybe they’ll change their mind about it in the future.
Gaz - 11 09 08 - 22:00

The biggest complaint I have isn’t about DRM, but the one-account per game rule… no matter how many installs. The game is locked to one spore account while the creature creator was not. Which means a family of gamers will have only one online spore account and everything they do in game – accomplishments, creatures, vehicles, etc. – will be mushed together in one account with no real way to distinguish who in the family did what. Only option is to buy a new computer and a copy of the game for each family member. Not an option here.
TParker () (link) - 13 09 08 - 23:14

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