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Mass Effect DRM Still Causing Issues 593

Posted by kdawson
from the three-strikes-and-you're-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There was some discussion last month about the proposed DRM for Mass Effect and Spore that required the game to phone home every ten days. They backed down from that, but have left in that a user is only allowed 3 activations per license key. A license key is burned up when the O/S is reinstalled, when certain hardware is upgraded (EA refuses to disclose specifics of what), and possibly when a new user is set up in Windows. Only in its first month, some users are already locked out of their games from trying troubleshooting techniques to get the game running."
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Mass Effect DRM Still Causing Issues

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  • by cstdenis (1118589) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:59PM (#23830031)
    Thats what they get for buying it instead of pirating it. The cracked version(s) don't have any problems like this.

    Protection like this certainly doesn't encourage paying for the game when the free version is better.
    • by Reapman (740286) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:02PM (#23830097)
      So true... people still hack the software to make it work, but those trying to follow the straight and narrow get nothing but grief. How is this a good thing? Reminds me of the DRM used a few years ago (still is?) where the game was faster cracked since it wasn't constantly scanning the CD drive verifying the disc was still in there.
      • by Winckle (870180) <mark@noSPaM.winckle.co.uk> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:20PM (#23830525) Homepage
        Yep, I get that with Civ 4, which doesn't have cd keys for the game or the expansions, it has the old fashioned "disk in drive" copy protection.

        5 minutes and 3 no CD exes later my game runs even better.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by p0tat03 (985078)
          I actually agree with CD check protection... It is a slight inconvenience for the user, but not so inconvenient that I would really mind. It also offers a reasonable protection against casual (i.e. not-so-computer-literate) piracy, which is really the best any copy protection scheme can ever hope for. Anything more extreme than CD checking/CD keys, IMHO, is overkill. You will never stop the hardcore pirates - if you've stopped little Johnny from simply burning a copy for his buddy, you've already extracted
          • by Ardaen (1099611) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:16PM (#23832041)
            It depends on the CD protection. The protection scheme they are talking about doesn't just check the CD is there when you start the game, but rather checks constantly, or at least frequently. These frequent checks can cause problems and slow down the computer.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Dan541 (1032000)
              That's what programs like CloneCD are for. Alternatly you can just burn the CD and keep it in the drive while playing.
          • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:19PM (#23832063)
            But if it only stops casual piracy what's the point? I'll pirate software I own all the time to remove those annoying bits of DRM from the game. I paid for the game, I see no reason why I should have to change discs every time I change games.

            Most of the time my disc is in a different room, or packed away. And I usually forget to put the CD back, so I'll have to hunt around to remember where I put it. Having to place it into the drive just increases the likelihood that it'll be scratched.

            It also usually has the unpleasant side effect of making it hard or impossible to run via wine or emulator.

            Seriously, the commercial pirates are a lot better at providing a compelling install service than the studios are. It's really hard for me to believe that the "good" guys are the ones that are making it impossible to reinstall the game an unlimited number of times.

            Considering how often Windows has to be reinstalled, I can't imagine how this could ever fly.
            • by Bazar (778572) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:04PM (#23833735)

              But if it only stops casual piracy what's the point?
              The point is to get cheapskates to pay up. I'd argue that a reasonable amount of money is lost because people would rather pirate instead of pay.

              If they couldn't pirate, then one would assume sales would go up.
              Thats the theory behind it all.

              The theory falls short because its always remained easy to pirate the game. Download the game, then crack the exe. For some this will be out of their league, and its those people that casual DRM is most effective on.
              Taking an arms race on DRM on those that know how to crack a game will achieve nothing, because game publishers are far too outnumbered to put up a real fight.

              However in their attempt, a lot of innocent customers are getting are getting caught in the cross-fire. From having CD's fail to be read due to improper FAT tables, system instabilities from malware running in the background, and now license key lockouts.

              The sad part is, DRM on games just isn't effective, and whats worse, for all those pirates that don't/won't purchase a game, i strongly suspect they boost the legal sales of the game indirectly (viral marketing)

              I've been forced to cracking games I've legally purchased just to get around their DRM lockouts. And the more DRM they add to the games, the faster I'll resort to cracking.

              Moral of this rant was best said by vader:
              "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers"
              • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @11:16PM (#23834707)

                Moral of this rant was best said by vader: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers"

                How do you manage to get the quote verbatim, but misattribute it so badly?

              • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @04:33AM (#23836247)
                I've been forced to cracking games I've legally purchased just to get around their DRM lockouts.

                And in buying the game, you voted with your wallet for copy protection. If a game or other software uses copy protection and I know about it, I vote against it. Viral marketing and word of mouth support all die with the purchase not made.

                I don't pirate it. I just don't use it. There are alternatives.
          • by pecosdave (536896) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @08:54PM (#23833643) Homepage Journal
            You obviously don't have kids with kids games. It doesn't matter if you tell the kid "don't change the CD, call me and I'll do it" once kids figure out how to do it for themselves they will.

            Let me put it this way. Would you hand a bare CD you didn't want to have to buy another copy of to six year old?
          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @11:13PM (#23834689)

            It is a slight inconvenience for the user...

            If you assume that the user is on a desktop sits next to his shelf full of game discs. On the other hand, if the user has a laptop (which may not even have an optical drive) and doesn't feel like lugging all his game discs around with him all the time, it is a huge inconvenience -- so much of one, in fact, that he'd be very likely to pirate the game out of pure spite!

          • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @04:23AM (#23836205)
            I actually agree with CD check protection... It is a slight inconvenience for the user, but not so inconvenient that I would really mind. It also offers a reasonable protection against casual (i.e. not-so-computer-literate) piracy, which is really the best any copy protection scheme can ever hope for.

            For someone who travels frequently and having been bitten by having the CD case without the CD in it on arrival, A CD check copy protection is the number 2 reason on my list for not buying a program. It's right behind the dongle and right above online phone home checks. No dongle, no CD, or no internet are 3 modes if inexcusable failure. Packing light without all the baggage is required. Anything less devalues the software greatly. My laptop has a failing CD drive. It does somewhat OK with commercial CDs, but CDR playback is quite unreliable. CD read copy protection is unreliable for the laptop.

            which is really the best any copy protection scheme can ever hope for

            No it isn't. A one time registration providing a key with your registration detail is all that is required. I fill out and send in a registration form either online or snail mail and they send back a key. The key then when used with the software, unlocks it and proudly displays "Registered to Technician" (real contact information). I can re-install it as many times as needed from hardware upgrades, dead hard drives, etc. I'm not posting my key online. Piracy is not an issue. Phone home, CD access problems, etc are eliminated. It is about the only type of DRM I even consider. Anything else breaks the software when the hardware glitches. Broken software is useless. Any broken software priced above useless isn't purchased.

            The CD key is why after purchase of the Voyetra "Teach me Piano" tutorial, it was the end of buying any Voyetra software. I use an older tutor called Piano Discovery System even though it was made for Windows 95. It is simply not a hastle to run.

            Voyetra was dropped, while PDS got the expansion pack. DRM by CD check cost Voyetra several sales.

            Due to the DRM in new versions of Windows with all the Anti-Piracy difficulties, I have since moved onto Linux. Stuff installs, and works the way it is supposed to. Rebuilds, upgrades and re-installs don't break everyting requiring tech support to "Get Genuine".

      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slasTIGERhd ... ee.com minus cat> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:20PM (#23830537) Homepage
        Like many such schemes...
        The radio in my car requires entering a code every time the battery is disconnected, as the legitimate owner of the car i have forgotten the code and gone to considerable expense to get it recoded...
        The guy who recoded it didn't take very long, neither i suspect would a thief. So only the legitimate user gets inconvenienced, anyone who steals the radio will have a lot less problem with the "anti theft" mechanism than i have.
        On the other hand, my radio is obsolete (1995), a nonstandard size, and riveted and bolted into the car so it's not likely to get stolen anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The radio in my car requires entering a code every time the battery is disconnected, as the legitimate owner of the car i have forgotten the code and gone to considerable expense to get it recoded... The guy who recoded it didn't take very long, neither i suspect would a thief.

          Oh, it wouldn't take a thief long at all. Most people keep their car's manual in the glove box, which tends to have the radio's code stamped somewhere therein. If you are snatching a radio, might as well grab the manual while you are at it.

          Mind you, I agree on the value. I've not seen too many factory stereos worth snatching. There's always that guy in a crack haze who will be happy to get $5 for it, though.

      • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:23PM (#23831385) Homepage
        So true... people still hack the software to make it work, but those trying to follow the straight and narrow get nothing but grief. How is this a good thing?

        DRM is not about getting people who were not paying for something to pay for it.

        It's about getting people who were paying for something to pay for it twice.

        For example, I downloaded a couple ring tones for my phone. Phone died. I replaced the phone with EXACTLY THE SAME MODEL, but even though I was able to back up and restore all my contacts and other information, the ring tones did not transfer because there's some weird DRM on them.

        So now if I want my ringtones back, I have to buy them AGAIN, and apparently every time I replace my phone. How stupid is that?
      • by 777a (826468) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:46PM (#23832455)
        Elder Scrolls 3 - Morrowind, safedisc harmed performance so much that the developers removed it [tweaktown.com] in the first patch. The nocd crack was recommended by just about everyone [google.com].

        Part of the problem is that the developers don't usually install any DRM, it's usually done by the distributors.

        So even if the developers thoroughly test a product, but the public always beta tests the DRM.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:07PM (#23830243)
      That's the problem with most if not all copy "prevention" (the quotes are necessary, since it prevents jack) mechanisms: Those who play by the rules get shafted while those that don't get rewarded.

      The actual problem with DRM is that, unlike with ordinary goods where I have an additional value when I buy something rather than hoping it "falls off a truck". I get warrenty, I get a manual, I get support, I may get cheap(er) addons. It's exactly reverse with DRMed goods. You get more value out of "stealing" it.

      Yes, convenience is a value in a good. Actually, convenience has become a good in and of itself. Valet parking is nothing but a convenience, still people pay for it. The reason why Windows is still more in use than Linux with private users is the convenience of its use and the software for it. Convenience is a big selling point. And just this important key point is actually better when I copy&crack software rather than buying it?

      That's why DRM will fail with the masses. Not because of the privacy invasion or the "phoning home". People don't care about that. But they do care about the loss of convenience.
      • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:17PM (#23830457)
        Yup -- that's why I'll put up with Steam, but not with SecuROM: Steam is convenient; it reinstalls my games for me if I replace my hardware, prevents me from needing to keep track of physical media and CD keys and whatnot, and (ever since I've had it, at least -- I didn't get on the bandwagon at first release) Just Works; the only thing I worry about is whether I'll be able to fire up my old games and go for a trip down nostalgia lane 20 years from now when the good folks at Valve have gone on to other things.

        SecuROM, on the other hand...
        • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:31PM (#23830743) Homepage
          Likewise I have had no problems with Direct2Drive. Perhaps surprisingly the DRM is from Macrovision, but Macrovision does actually take seriously the notion that DRM can be an enabling technology. No physical CD required? And good customer support (from the Trymedia backend)? Yup. And no activation hassles for multiple/reinstalls. It's surreal that Macrovision is now the "good guy" in the world of DRM.

          DRM doesn't have to be evil. But of course it can be.
          • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:37PM (#23830843)
            People will accept DRM and actually embrace it if it adds to their convenience. Of course, there's guys like me who won't touch it with a ten foot pole, no matter how convenient, but for the majority it can even be a selling point that you don't need to "prove" anything because all the proof is already there that you're a legitimate customer because it's in their files.

            That's how DRM can work. When you use the M in the acronym as "management" and not as the "mangle" it's been used usually.
          • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:17PM (#23831321)
            D2D's DRM isn't enabling jack. A DRM-free game could achieve all the same features you mentioned (same as with DRM-free audio tracks). The only thing the DRM does is mollify the content publishers.

            That said, the sort of DRM that Direct2Drive and other similar services use is fairly unobtrusive when compared to SecuROM and its ilk.
        • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:55PM (#23831069)
          Steam is convenient; it reinstalls my games for me if I replace my hardware, prevents me from needing to keep track of physical media and CD keys and whatnot, and (ever since I've had it, at least -- I didn't get on the bandwagon at first release) Just Works; the only thing I worry about is whether I'll be able to fire up my old games and go for a trip down nostalgia lane 20 years from now when the good folks at Valve have gone on to other things.

          I have a question about steam... how does it work if you have two computers (or more)? I mean if I buy Bejeweled, on my steam account, can my wife play it while I'm playing Civ?

          I don't really object to being prevented from playing a given purchased game on two different computers at the same time... but being prevented letting my wife or kids play play ANY OTHER steam game is unacceptable... if that's how it works.

          Currently I have 1 steam title (Portal) and I'm happy enough with the service but I'm hesitant to buy any more due to this fact.

          Its also apparently impossible to give other people your games when you are finished with them. I've lent purchased games to my brothers on many occasions, and I've got games I've borrowed from them.

          I realized this when I wanted to lend Portal to one of my brothers, and realized I couldn't because it was tied to my steam account... which isn't the end of the world, he's my brother and I trust him, and I could give him the userid/password for my steam account (in violation of the steam agreement of course)...

          but that means, that while my brother is playing portal, I wouldn't be abe to play any of my steam games? Again I could live with not being able to play it while he was, but I wouldn't be able to play ANYTHING?

          And worse... apparently they use some sort of ip tracking so if a steam account is accessed from widely different locations they'll ban the account -- so now if I 'lend' my brother my copy of portal, I'm locked out while he's using it and risk getting banned if we try to access the account at the same time. (as both my brothers live in different cities?)

          Is this correct? Or have I misunderstood how steam works?
          • by Gnavpot (708731) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:25PM (#23831403)

            I have a question about steam... how does it work if you have two computers (or more)? I mean if I buy Bejeweled, on my steam account, can my wife play it while I'm playing Civ?

            Only one PC can be logged in to a Steam account at a time.

            Most singleplayer games under Steam can be played in offline mode, which somewhat resolves this.

            The safest way around the problem is probably creating one Steam account per game, but that also removes a lot of the convenience in Steam - and convenience is our reason for accepting their Digital Restrictions Management.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by arkhan_jg (618674)
            You can log in to the same steam account concurrently on different pc's but only the last one logged in is 'online' - the others are effective in offline mode, though you still appear to be logged in until you try to use online stuff.

            You should be able to play any single player offline or lan games ok, but going into online games will likely fail on steam auth; so you could play tf2 while your brother plays portal, but you won't both be able to play tf2 and hl2 deathmatch online at the same time, for exampl
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by damiangerous (218679)
          the only thing I worry about is whether I'll be able to fire up my old games and go for a trip down nostalgia lane 20 years from now when the good folks at Valve have gone on to other things.

          You will. Steam runs in offline mode now, no reason it won't in the future. Just back up the games.

    • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:30PM (#23830731) Homepage Journal
      Thats what they get for buying it instead of pirating it. The cracked version(s) don't have any problems like this.

      I think it's worth pointing out that the two methods (purchasing and cracking) aren't mutually exclusive. When a company adopts draconian (or just plain stupid) licensing tactics, you can still purchase the software (for legal, moral, etc reasons) and then proceed to download a crack for your copy or just a cracked one via "the usual places". It's not ideal and not perfect, but at least you can run the software you paid for.

      At my last job we had some software that required a hardware dongle attached to a license server. The problem was that the licensing software used some hacked-up bastardized version of NetBIOS which meant that only clients on the same subnet as the server could connect and authorize themselves. After weeks of haggling with the company and them refusing to fix their crappy licensing software ("It works for everyone else!") we just found a license crack online and applied it to all the client workstations.

      Were we legal enough to survive an audit? I have no idea, but we we were fully licensed for all the clients connected and I think that's what mattered.
      • by ady1 (873490) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:08PM (#23831947)
        Nice theory.

        One flaw, you can't bypass copyright protection without violating EULA (and DMCA in the US)

        Regardless of how fuzzy and warm you feel, software makers (microsoft being a prime example) mention in their EULAs that if you bypass the protection, your right to use the software is revoked (no money returns) and if you keep using it, you are no different from a person who didn't pay for it in the first place (maybe ethically or morally you are) but not according to the law.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:00PM (#23830051) Journal
    a user is only allowed 3 activations per license key. A license key is burned up when the O/S is reinstalled, ...

    If you own Windows Vista, then you'll have about 3 days to use your license ;-P
               
  • Well, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:00PM (#23830059) Journal
    That's the downside from copy protection. If you make it too weak, it is easily cracked. If you make it to strong, you lock out legit users. Try to avoid 99,999% of that or you will get disgruntled customers and that's a big no-no for companies. Since Spore is a single-player game, a harsh copy protection will only tick off legit costumers. A free bit of advice, DON'T. It will cost you more than you will get from it.
    • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FinchWorld (845331) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:06PM (#23830201) Homepage
      That's the downside from copy protection. If you make it too weak, it is easily cracked. If you make it to strong, you lock out legit users.

      And it'll still be cracked

      Since Spore is a single-player game

      and mass effect too...

    • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:15PM (#23830405)
      There is no distinction between weak and strong copy protection. No matter how strong, it will be broken. Whether 1% or 0.000001% of the people have the skill to break it is meaningless, it only takes one person to break it. Then it's spread millionfold through the net. Whether someone else breaks it too doesn't make a difference.

      There is a difference between copy protection that is a minor nuisance (i.e. having to have the disk in the drive to use the software) and a major nuisance (i.e. disabling the software altogether after a while). The first will be swallowed grungedly. The latter will cause people to find a way to get around it to use the software they legally bought again.

      If this has any effect, it will make more people search for ways to disable copy protection. It will show people who didn't even think about copying how to do it, how to acquire "cracks" and how to download cracked software.

      And once the initial "work" is done to get a hand on such software, the incentive to keep doing it is immense. It does take some time initially to dig up sources for cracked software, but once you have the source, getting more software without buying for it is fairly trivial.

      So the net effect of crippling DRM methods like this is to drive more people towards cracked soft. Because once you know where to get it, it's easy to get more.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:01PM (#23830085)
    Why the heck should I buy that crap? No game is good enough to make me jump hoops like a circus lion. Personally, I'd feel insulted. I get to cry, rant and rave, spend my time and money trying to find a solution to their copy protection problem, while I watch others play the cracked and downloaded copies.

    Is that the message I should get out of this? Buy and cry, but copy and enjoy?
  • by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:04PM (#23830135) Homepage
    I warned people about the same BS with Bioshock. You don't want to pay $50 to just hire a game, because anything that stops you from using what you buy is hiring.
  • Spore... (Score:4, Informative)

    by JediLow (831100) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:04PM (#23830151)
    Well, I was looking forward to getting Spore when it came out - if this DRM remains though there's no chance that I'm going to buy it.
    • Re:Spore... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mascot (120795) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:13PM (#23830371)
      At least Bioshock and Mass Effect have used it so far. Unless enough people protested by not buying those, I don't see why they'd remove it from Spore.

      It's a pity, but a lot of people either are ignorant about the DRM, or don't care. Obviously they never bought music from an online store that since shut down.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by apoc.famine (621563)
        The problem is with the protest part: If enough people "protest" by not buying it, the "truth thermocline" (shamelessly stolen from a previous comment posted here today) will convert that into a "piracy" problem.

        As I understand it, it goes like this:
        CEO: Why are our sales low, Level 2 Exec? Is it piracy?
        Level 2 Exec: Why are our sales low, Level 3 Exec? Is it piracy?
        Level 3 Exec: Why are our sales low, mid-level manager who actually knows what's going on?
        Mid-level manager: Well, our DRM is so restrictive,
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Gnavpot (708731)

          The problem is with the protest part: If enough people "protest" by not buying it, the "truth thermocline" (shamelessly stolen from a previous comment posted here today) will convert that into a "piracy" problem.

          If a game has DRM I cannot accept, I am not going to buy it OR pirate it.

          Reason 1: By ignoring the game, I do not count in any piracy statistics which can be used as an excuse for stronger Digital Restrictions Management in their next game.

          Reason 2: I believe that I will hurt the game company mor

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Znork (31774)
      Same here. I've bought most SimCity games (as far as they've worked under cedega), and was going to buy Spore once it got there, but this is simply a total dealbreaker. This is product is defective by design.
    • Re:Spore... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:20PM (#23831361)
      Spore is an EA game. You'll be lucky if it doesn't kick you in the nuts when you install it.
  • Screw Piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:05PM (#23830173)
    I legitimately own this game and use cracks on it anyway. I don't see why I should be inconvenienced more than the pirates.
    I do this with all my games, mainly because I don't want to have to have the disk in the drive if there's no legitimate need for it.
    • Re:Screw Piracy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DarkMage0707077 (1284674) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:19PM (#23830503)
      I personally prefer "Sins of a Solar Empire" creator's model of copy protection: the game will technically work fine if you pay for it or not...for version 1.0.

      If you want updates and any add-ons they come out with, though, you need to purchase a key(one-time purchase only, mind) in order to register the game.

      I love it: I downloaded two of their games and tried them for 3 days. One, I got rid of; the other, SoaSE, I liked so much that I went and bought a legitimate key to register with online.

      Granted it has its flaws: it would be very easy for someone to pirate a game with this kind of "protection". Even the key itself would be easy to spread around, I bet.

      But if you actually like the game, don't you want to see improvements and add-ons come out for it? And/or more games like it? Most people are aware that these things cost money, and without that money, no more will be made like it. So if customers like what they see and want more, they come back and pay for more.
      • by Digital_Quartz (75366) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:42PM (#23830913) Homepage
        Erm... I hate to tell you this. The Stardock games all "have no copy protection" for the V1.0, but as soon as you install an update, it asks you for the key, and then it does product activation [stardock.com], much like BioShock and Mass Effect.

        The Stardock product activation is much nicer than BioShock or ME; instead of a hard install limit, the install limit is rate based. In other words, you're only allowed [unspecified number] of installs per [unspecified time period]. There's also none of the "can't be running any debugging tools" nonsense that SecuROM comes with.

        The "unspecified"s in there make me a bit uncomfortable, but it's a bit better than SecuROM.
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:10PM (#23830293) Journal
    I've liked some of Bioware's earlier releases, but I guess I'll just keep on waiting for Mass Effect, till they come to their senses.

    Honestly, if Bioware never 'needed' DRM (outside of a license key) for earlier games such as the Baldur's Gate Series, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, etc, and made millions upon millions of dollars of revenue, why do they suddenly need such restrictive DRM? I guess it's to keep people like me from buying the game who probably otherwise would.

    Publishers, pay attention: DRM doesn't generate more revenue, it costs you revenue. It's costly to develop and deploy, and to some extent, reduces your sales. I doubt a single person who would have pirated a non-DRM'ed version will actually pay because of the DRM, but it definitely goes the other way - some percentage, even if small, of potential customers who would have payed will be turned off by the DRM and will simply not purchase the game.

    Also, DRM like this violates the Doctrine of First Sale [wikipedia.org] - you know, that little concept that if you buy a book, recording, or copy of a computer program, you can let your friends read it, listen to it, libraries can lend it out, etc. Any DRM which prevents lawful re-use of a legally purchased copy should itself be illegal, but of course our corrupt congress which only cares about pandering to rich lobbyists don't care about flushing a century of copyright law down the toilet.
    • Honestly, if Bioware never 'needed' DRM (outside of a license key) for earlier games such as the Baldur's Gate Series, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, etc, and made millions upon millions of dollars of revenue, why do they suddenly need such restrictive DRM?
      I'll give you a hint [slashdot.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joe_n_bloe (244407)

      Also, DRM like this violates the Doctrine of First Sale [wikipedia.org] - you know, that little concept that if you buy a book, recording, or copy of a computer program, you can let your friends read it, listen to it, libraries can lend it out, etc. Any DRM which prevents lawful re-use of a legally purchased copy should itself be illegal, but of course our corrupt congress which only cares about pandering to rich lobbyists don't care about flushing a century of copyright law down the toilet.

      The law and precedent is clearly present now, but EA will never come around on this voluntarily. If someone were to take them to court over their restrictive licensing/authorization practices, it would take a while, but that would put a stop to it. As far as I know, companies that sell software that is clearly sold, not rented, must follow the first sale doctrine; a shrinkwrap "license" that specifies otherwise is simply illegal.

      But no one has really challenged this yet, and especially not in the case of g

  • by Krinsath (1048838) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:10PM (#23830297)
    The same that I've sadly come to the conclusion about many times. Your best bet is to buy the game, stick the box on the shelf and then use the pirated version. I'm all for creators receiving compensation for their work because they work hard and pour themselves into their work, but at the same time I'm not going to let their (or more correctly their publisher's) paranoia about what might happen to their software deny me the goods/service I paid for. As the a sage bit of advice goes, the people who were going to steal your product were never going to be your customers and generally going to draconian lengths to stop them will make your actual customers steal your product because it's less hassle than the legitimate version. SecuROM in particular has been a grievous offender in this regard.

    I'm not sure where they got the idea that treating their legitimate customers to a worse experience than the ones who steal their product was all that smart, but I'm pretty sure it was from the same think tank that told the RIAA that suing their customers would be good for business.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:31PM (#23830749)
      I'm all for creators receiving compensation for their work because they work hard and pour themselves into their work

      That's the difference between you and me. I'm all for punishing dimwits who treat their customers as their enemies.

      My solution is to simply avoid buying and using the product. I'm sure others will only omit the first part. But no game is worth stepping into illegality.
  • 3 activations?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sokkalf (542999) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:12PM (#23830341) Homepage
    I still have old games I install from time to time, most notably the Baldur's Gate series.. They have survived tens, if not hundreds of OS (re)installations (including getting them running in WINE, virtual machines etc) and various computers I've had over the years. With a limit like this, I certainly wouldn't have bought it again, but probably pirated it.
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:14PM (#23830379) Homepage
    I really think this kind of bullshit violates the first sale doctrine. By and large the courts have never sympathized with the view that shrink-wrapped software is licensed and not bought; and this has been confirmed in some recent higher court rulings.

    When you guy a game, you have bought it. The courts now *clearly* recognize this. (To wit the recent case involving auctions of Autodesk software on eBay in alleged violation of Autodesk licensing.) You definitively have the right to sell it. It seems that along with that right must come the right to use it yourself .

    I wonder why Will Wright subjects us to this shit, or at the least, why he tolerates it. Why hasn't he gone the Sid Meier way and left his lame publisher? If EA wants guaranteed income, why not charge a reasonable subscription rate for online gameplay and content?

    Meanwhile I don't see any way that EA will be made to stop this short of a boycott (not likely with Spore and Mass Effect) or legal intervention. EA already got the smackdown for its illegal employment practices; why not its illegal "licensing" practices?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eddy (18759)

      Developers without fail will publicly blame the publishers, neatly "forgetting" to mention that they, the developers, agree to the terms in the contract when they sign it, thereby validating it. If they really didn't want this DRM crap then they wouldn't leave control of it to the publishers, but they do, time and time again. Then they try to shift the blame.

      Us gamers need to realize this and not accept the weak excuses of developers who support these braindead DRM schemes.

      I don't know about t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:18PM (#23830491)
    I picked this up from Target Sunday night after a buddy of mine told me that it was out for the PC. I came home and installed it...

    I think it took 4 hours to decompress 9GB off of the DVD. I'm not sure, I ended up falling asleep before it completed.

    So, Monday night, I came home from work to play it. What a pain in the ass.

    a. needs new drivers, but
    b. looks as good as BF 2142 (which worked on my older drivers and ran faster)
    c. we're talkin' "high seas" choppy (12-16 fps) even on 800x600 with linear aliasing and no music.
    d. OTOH BF2142 can run in 1600:900 widescreen at 60 fps.

    Did I mention that it failed to load after (I kid you not) 10 minutes on the splash screen? Apparently, the SecuROM DRM blacklists SysInternal's Process Explorer. Yeah, major hacking tool. Whatever.

    Ok, so, I upgraded drivers, turned off PE and rebooted (!), and fired it up again. Like I mentioned, choppy sound fx and graphics and crazy load times (we're talking no UI response for upwards of 10 minutes).

    Eventually, I did get to "play" for about an hour or so before an uninterruptable cutsceen black-screened-of-death my computer. Why oh why aren't they using industry-standard works-forever Bink video? Or if they are, they've seriously misimplemented it.

    It should go without saying that this game appears to have undergone the most lazy subcontracted porting job from the xbox to the PC.

    Against my better judgement, I'm putting it on the shelf until they release a patch rather than returning it. (Mainly because I don't think Target accepts software returns...)

    Bottom line: I got what I deserved for buying this game without doing any research beforehand. (Surely, this is 2008, and Big-Name games aren't released in a broken state, right? wrong.)
  • Just like my DVR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0y (169660) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:29PM (#23830691) Homepage
    My Comcast (Motorola) DVR threw constant HDCP warnings when turned on, despite the fact that I had nothing but an HDMI cable between the DVR and my TV set.

    After the third consecutive week of being screwed out of watching South Park live (and paying over $150/month just for the television services) I returned the damn thing, and I now use Torrent to get ALL my TV content. When I find a decent ISP I'll be canceling the Comcast Internet too.

    I was more than happy to pay for the service. But when their copy protection continuously fucked me over (despite other markets getting firmware updates to fix this known problem more than a year prior) I decided to stop rewarding bad behavior.

  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:33PM (#23830781) Homepage
    I wonder what effect a pile of non obscene letters and email would have at Maxis. Would "the word" get down to EA?
  • Behold! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pecosdave (536896) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:35PM (#23830823) Homepage Journal
    The users did purchase their games, but low, the game installer caused much discord. From its discord came much reinstalling. From the reinstalling came excess activations, and from the excess activations came denial. Among the users there was much unrest and gnashing of teeth.

    And it came to pass that the users gathered together and announced their lamentations unto the manufacturer, but the manufacturer heard their lamentations not declaring "For ours is to profit and yours is to consume, for the criminal he doth consume, but from that that the criminal consumes he also copies, and allow others to consume from the results of my minions labor. How doeth it profit us for a criminal to copy, and how doeth I as the provider of my minions labor know that you, and those gathered with you are not a criminals? Nay, not only is it safer for me to lock in the results of my minions by allowing not but three activations, it profits me even more if those activations are squander on unclean install and hardware not fit for supporting our products."

    Then the users hearing this from the manufacturer brought their lamentations unto Slashdot, for Slashdot has a voice which carriers farther than just the voices of the users alone, but the manufactures still heard their lamentations not.

    In the months that followed there was much casting of stones, but the fortress of the manufacturer had high walls and the stones cleared them not. The users then declared "We will trap them within their stone walls, and we will purchase their products not, and in time, when they hunger, they will come forth from their walls and allow us unlimited activations, for they will have empty wallets."

    In this plan there was much wisdom, but the bulk of the users had not the courage to uphold this plan, for they were already committed and could survive without their games not. Among the users was a multitude for which the plan fell upon deaf ears, and money continued to flow to the manufacturer as water flows down a river.

    And it came to pass that a band of users gathered together and gave their lamentations unto the pharacies, and they stated unto the pharacies that for the loss of their wages they were entitled a class action.

    The spies of the manufacturer were many, and the spy among the pharacies reported back to the manufacturer of the news of class action. It was then that the manufacturer relented, not of wisdom, or of kindness, but of cowardice, for the manufacturer loves his purse and the money which it contains and wanted to part with that the he has already obtained not, prefer instead to risk the reduction of that which comes in by way of bandit interception.

    The users upon hearing this declared that it was good, and their activations were good until the end of days.
  • It's EA... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BulletMagnet (600525) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:36PM (#23830825)
    Is anyone REALLY that surprised?

    Note to John Riccitiello and the meatheads at EA: Take a page from Brad Wardell and the folks at Stardock Entertainment - DRM doesn't work - his words were....

    "Blaming piracy is easy. But it hides other underlying causes. When Sins (of the Solar Empire) popped up as the #1 best selling game at retail a couple weeks ago, a game that has no copy protect whatsoever, that should tell you that piracy is not the primary issue."

    I love SotSE and it's about as hassle-free of a game as it gets. WHY does nobody else other then Wardell and his group get this?

     
  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:09PM (#23831227)
    When you really look at DRM as a whole, the only ones who actually get stuck with "playing by the rules" are the ones living in constant fear of life-destroying debt and the loss of their freedom at the hands of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Unfortunately, unless you risk severe penalties to learn how to side step all the tricks and gimmicks these companies use to catch and litigate against those who "experiment with the dark side" (or those who suggest they might be "considering" it), exactly how does one safely rebel against a system where the real "bad guys" hold all the cards (money, lobbyists, politicians, lawyers, law enforcement, DMCA-like laws, etc...) in a country like the United States, where government was once supposed to protect us from such no-win situations?
  • PC Gaming is dying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WiglyWorm (1139035) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:27PM (#23831437) Homepage
    because the companies that provide the product refuse to treat their customers like anything but common thieves.
  • Foot in the door (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rekolitus (899752) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:57PM (#23831793)

    On the whole, it's a pretty disgusting press technique EA's gotten away with here.

    EA: Mass Effect and Spore will have invasive DRM that re-checks with a central server every 10 days!

    Bad press happens

    EA: We learned our lesson. Mass Effect and Spore won't use that invasive system we were thinking of using. We decided we had to listen to our customers, so we decided we'd use this less invasive method (which is still invasive, and is the same system used on Bioshock)

    Good press happens, despite the fact that EA has just said it would use the same protection system as Bioshock, which got bad press for... having an invasive protection system that locked legitimate consumers out of their own games.

    This is called the foot in the door technique [wikipedia.org], and at least up to this article, EA pulled it off masterfully.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:04PM (#23831905) Homepage
    It's funny, just a few days ago my Mass Effect started acting up, and I was close to the end already, so I went looking for a crack... god, there are tons of fake ones out there, or half-working ones that don't let you save (demo executable?).

    I eventually found a home-made (vs warez-released) crack, by some guy name Gniarf on some random forum, that works 100%. I don't know who Gniarf is or how he pulled it off, but if a random dude on a forum is able to crack the DRM in Mass Effect, it seems to me like EA wasted a shitload of money on that DRM for absolutely nothing.

    What did EA gain from the DRM ? A bunch of frustrated customers who got clobbered by the 10-day activation, as many had predicted. Would it have sold less copies without DRM ? Doubtful, seeing how quickly the fix was produced. It's not even a race anymore, the cracks come out so fast, I wonder why the game houses even pretend to put up a fight. Dead horse much ?
  • by Xelios (822510) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:23PM (#23832133)
    ... by calling EA's technical support line. Of course, if you actually get through to someone compatent enough to help you you deserve a medal. And a refund for the phone call (no, it's not free...)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arkhan_jg (618674)
      The poor sod on the mass effect forums is on 10 days and counting on trying to get EA tech support to give him another activation for his own property.

      As far as I know, no-one has actually been helped yet with the activation problems by EA tech support.

      It may well be that this is another lie from bioware PR up there with 'uninstalling it will give you back an activation' and 'you can reinstall on the same pc without using a new activation'* and 'you won't need multiple activations for each user account' - a
  • by farbles (672915) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:33PM (#23833929)

    I bought Mass Effect for the PC. Fool that I am.

    I won't make the mistake again. I too got caught out by having that hacker tool from bleeding Microsoft, Process Explorer running. After a half hour wasted I figured it out and got the game going.

    Games that require the original CD to play annoy the crap out of me. I have big hard drives, I can store a damn image on one for years and install and play the game when I feel like, even if I do misplace the CD. But not with these DRM pieces of crap.

    Games that will only install 'x' number of times annoy me. What if I dual boot with Vista and with XP? Oh, there's two of my three installs gone right there. And if I swap out hardware to see what runs better? Too bad so sad.

    Games that need online activation annoy me. If I want to haul that game out for a laugh five years from now will those activation servers still be online? Pfft, right.

    So EA, enjoy the money for Mass Effect, I'm hoisting the Jolly Roger from now on with your products, and a cheery FU from me.

    The kicker is that after a couple of hours of play my impression is the game isn't much fun anyway. I find it more annoying to play than fun and I hate a third person view I can't change to a first person view. Maybe some folks like that but I don't. So the lesson is to try the pirate version before even thinking of buying the game and if you really really feel the maker deserves money after that, buy the game and stick it on a shelf and keep playing the hassle-free pirate version.

Steve Jobs said two years ago that X is brain-damaged and it will be gone in two years. He was half right. -- Dennis Ritchie

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