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PC Games (Games)

Will DRM Exterminate Spore? 881

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the please-don't-make-me-insert-a-cd dept.
AC Dude writes "Will an anti-DRM flash mob that's determined to give EA's latest sim game Spore a rock bottom rating on Amazon.com sink the game, or will Spore evolve and shed the DRM? Is this the beginning of the end for DRM-laden games? 'Over the past few years we've focused a lot on the music industry and how it has attempted to use DRM to control distribution. While DRM in this market segment has been unpopular, anti-DRM campaigns have largely fallen flat when it comes to attracting widespread public attention because of the fragmented nature of music. Games are a much easier target given the monolithic nature of their release — campaigners only need to spread the word on a handful of specific online outlets to reach a wide audience. A quick read through the Amazon reviews of Spore seems to suggest that the negative comments are already putting people off from buying the game.'"
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Will DRM Exterminate Spore?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:25PM (#24921021)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:39PM (#24921223)

      Damn you! DRM stopped me getting a p1st fr0st here, I had to stop and enter my Slashdot authentication key due to a change in Web browser.

      Can't you lot see what damage DRM is doing to the Slashdot community? Without snarky off-topic first posts this site is doomed!

      • by electrictroy (912290) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:40PM (#24923979)

        BACK TO TOPIC: Look at all the negative reviews on amazon (link) : http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B000FKBCX4 [amazon.com]

        I didn't understand the issue until I read this: "You get three installs. That's it. No install returned for uninstallation, or anything else. You install it three times, then you're out $50." I agree one-hundred percent. As a gamer who still plays ancient games like Red Storm Rising or Pirates or Populous, the last thing I want is a game that will stop working after I upgrade to my next computer (about two years time).

        I want something to keep forever, not a rental.

        • Game longevity (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JMZero (449047) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:31PM (#24924721) Homepage

          Completely agree. I've installed Starcraft probably 20 to 30 times. More if you count multiplayer "spawn" installs and what not.

          (And I've bought it 3 times now. Not because it quit working, but because I lost the discs once, and once gave my copy away.)

          Spore is intended as a huge, open-ended game with user-created content and lots of gameplay "meat": the kind of game that should be lasting 5 or 10 years. 3 installs isn't going to work for that for a lot of people. Not just people who upgrade a lot or move around or crash a lot - just regular people who like the game for more than the first year or two - are going to get bitten by this.

          • Re:Game longevity (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @05:59PM (#24925991)

            Spore is intended as a huge, open-ended game with user-created content and lots of gameplay "meat": the kind of game that should be lasting 5 or 10 years.

            Sadly, Spore does not come anywhere close to this. The best parts of the game are the Cell stage and Creature Creator... and that's not really saying a lot. [TL;DR version of this review at bottom.]

            First off, the cell stage plays almost exactly like flOw [wikipedia.org], so if you've ever played that game, you already know what this is like. You can try it out here [usc.edu] for free.

            Next is the Creature stage. You design your creature using very limited DNA points, and the most basic body parts, and then you go out into the world. This stage consists of avoiding any creatures tougher than you [Which is most of them.] and befriending or killing any creatures weaker than you, then doing this while looking for bones laying around on the ground. [Finding bones gives you additional bodyparts in the creature creator.] Killing creatures consists of clicking on them until they die. Befriending creatures consists of repeating a song, dance, charm or other emote, and doing it several times in a row. If your creature sucks at social things, you won't be able to befriend much of anything. Basically this stage is grind grind grind grind to find bones and kill things/befriend things for DNA points until you have the parts you want, and the brainpower needed to advance to the next stage.

            After the creature stage comes the Tribal stage. Here you can change the outfits on your creatures to add to their gathering, hunting, or social skills. You spawn more creatures out of a hut, up to a maximum of 12 [once you've conquered a couple other tribes.] Once again, you can do two things: Conquer a tribe or befriend them. Befriending them is essentially the same as in the creature stage, except that you need to build musical buildings to give your creatures access to musical instruments so they can repeat what music the other tribe plays. The combat is essentially summed up as: click on an enemy and wait until he dies. If you die, respawn more creatures at your hut and do it again. There are no strategies involved beyond equipping your creatures with different weapons. [Axes, torches, or spears.] The difference between these weapons is pretty negligible, and don't really add to any strategies or tactics.

            Once you've befriended/killed 5 other tribes, you move onto the Civilizations stage. Here you have a city where you add a couple buildings to change how happy your citizens are, or how much money you produce. You can also add turrets. You are also given 1 type of unit for each unit type, for a grand total of 3 different units. You use these to capture spice mines around the planet, or other cities. You can capture a city economically, religiously, or militarily. Economics involves buying the city out, religion you target unhappy cities and convert them, and with military you right click on a city and select 'capture city'. That's really about all there is to this stage. The AI generally doesn't defend itself.

            Finally you get to the space stage. You're given a spaceship and told to go plant a colony on another planet. This stage has the most gameplay in the game, by far. But it has one incredibly annoying drawback: Every 3-5 minutes, [Literally. Sometimes even more often - I used a watch.] you will have one of your colonies attacked by pirates, unfriendly aliens, Grox, or you'll have to go and deal with ecological disasters on friendly alien planets. Typically the game tries to force you to do several of these all at once. I found myself going to an allied planet to stop an ecological disaster, only to find that my homeworld and colony are under attack by aliens. This stage would be fun if it weren't for these kinds of constant annoyances. Overall the gameplay for the space stage is similar to Star Control, though in my opi

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:43PM (#24921261)

      If you don't believe in your cause enough to actually boycott the product, then you don't deserve to see your cause prevail.

      Also, I believe it is counter productive. If you pirate the game, they will know people want the game enough to jump through hoops for it. EA will just try to make piracy more difficult than buying the product. You may be saying "Great, they will take out the DRM and the game will be easier to buy than pirate!" but you're wrong. They will litigate. Think of the RIAA and where they went when music piracy got too out of hand for them. Do you want to create another monster?

      If you can prove that you can go without the product if they don't make it in a form you like, then they will be much more likely to remove DRM, because its the only enemy left.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:45PM (#24921287)

        How the heck is EA gonna know whether he runs it or not?

        • by east coast (590680) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:52PM (#24921375)
          You don't think that interested parties keep track of what's going on at the torrent sites? Granted, they may or may not be able to come up with a real number but if they can show their buddies in congress that it's one of the most active torrents going for any significant period of time they can easily make the case that "we would have had sales if they didn't have downloads."

          I know someone is going to yammer on about how "people would have never have bought it, yadda yadda yadda" and that not everyone who downloaded it would have bought it, and this may very well be true but at least some of the torrent base was potential customers. The logic of "teh d0wnlo^d != l0st sales!!!onehundredeleven!!" doesn't go over well in the real world.
      • by cliffski (65094) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:50PM (#24921361) Homepage

        Excellent point. This is a very silly way to 'protest' about DRM. The best way to get companies to stop using DRM is to reason with them, contact them, and let them know how you feel. I can tell you 100% that no matter how many people would pirate my games, it wouldn't convince me to abandon DRM. What convinced me to do it was actually reading through what the people had to say when they emailed me on the topic.

        All rating the game badly will do is make amazon's ratings look unusable, piss off everyone who worked on the game (many of which oppose DRM no doubt), and reinforce the mentality that those who oppose DRM are doing so for childish reasons. Well-thought out, considered and intelligent emails to the publishers and developers will achieve a hundred times more, as will boycotting the game (both legal and illegal copies) and only purchasing DRM-free games.

        • by Araneas (175181) <pgilliland@rog e r s . c om> on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:18PM (#24921753)
          Don't email - spend a stamp and snail mail your comments.
        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:31PM (#24921967)

          Random question: what's the difference between a well-thought out email sent directly to the publisher, and a well-thought out comment posted to Amazon?

          Random answer: it's much more difficult to find the address of someone who cares at the publisher.

          However, I like the approach. I will not buy Spore (partially because of the bad reviews, but also partially because of the DRM), but there is no easy way for me tell EA why I didn't buy it. Leaving a comment is a simple way for me to tell EA that piracy has nothing to do with the game doing badly - Securom, on the other hand, has quite a bit to do with it.

        • by Lendrick (314723) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:49PM (#24922255) Homepage Journal

          Corporations don't think quite the same way as individuals. The best way to reach an individual person is to convince them to do the right thing, and then morality and personal pride will often compel them to take your advice (provided you were convincing). When you're dealing with a big corporation, you have to bear in mind the fact that corporations don't work with pride or morals, they work with the bottom line. Ultimately, what you have to do is convince them that your way is the way that will make them more money, and if a boycott or bad ratings are the only way of doing that, then that's what you need to do.

          I myself purchased the game, downloaded and installed the (cracked) pirated copy, then replaced the serial number in the system registry with the legitimate registration number. Illegal? Probably not, since I already own the software and I'm just downloading a backup. Breach of license? Definitely. That said, I bought their damn game. I don't intend to allow them to punish me for doing the right thing.

        • by init100 (915886) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:10PM (#24922523)

          piss off everyone who worked on the game

          They should be clever enough to understand that the criticism is against the DRM, not the game itself.

          many of which oppose DRM no doubt

          Then they should not take the campaign personally, but understand that it is aimed at their publisher.

          But anyway, I guess you are right. For example, Gas Powered Games released a patch to Supreme Commander a fairly short time after the release that removed the copy protection. I really liked this move, and it contributed significantly to my decision to buy the game.

          reinforce the mentality that those who oppose DRM are doing so for childish reasons.

          I read a few of the "reviews", and they were not childish. They were reasonable complaints against a draconian DRM scheme, fairly comparing the so-called "purchase" with a rental scheme. What's childish about wanting to play the game even after EA stops supporting it? I still sometimes play games ten years old.

          Well-thought out, considered and intelligent emails to the publishers and developers will achieve a hundred times more

          I would surely do that, if I thought that it had any chance of actually being read. But unfortunately, I don't think that it would, so why waste my time?

          as will boycotting the game (both legal and illegal copies)

          That's what I do. I really looked forward to Spore, but the DRM is a showstopper. I won't buy the game until it is put in the bargain bin for $10, or (extremely unlikely) they remove the DRM. I will also not pirate the game.

          and only purchasing DRM-free games.

          Unfortunately, those are few and far between. I can accept games like Supreme Commander, which are initially copy-protected, but which have the protection removed by the game developers themselves afterward (as the DRM is usually demanded by the publisher, not the developers).

          • by stg (43177) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:00PM (#24924235) Homepage

            Interesting that you mention Supreme Commander...

            I bought it on-line, as a download on GamersGate, a couple of weeks ago. After downloading (5 GB) and installing, it asked for the DVD. Upon contacting GamersGate, they immediately issued a refund. They also removed the game from sale at the site - looks like mine wasn't the only complaint.

            I can only imagine no one remembered to try the game out when releasing it as a download. This is a very silly way to lose money...

            BTW, I also won't buy Spore with that DRM grade.

        • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:12PM (#24922557)

          Childish or not, it's attention getting, and sometimes that's what it takes to drive the message home.

          I've tried carefully crafted and reasoned emails, and even 'traditional' letters using paper and a stamp. I've written about why I didn't purchase the game (DRM), why I would enjoy playing it, and how much I would enjoy giving them my money if a mutually acceptable transaction were possible. I've praised companies in writing for doing something I support (reasonable protection, Linux support) and crediting that for my purchase. I've explained how I've been buying computer games since buying King's Quest for my Tandy 1000 and have several large bookshelves full of game boxes I've accumulated over the years. I've explained why my purchase of new games suddenly dwindled to nearly nothing as a result of DRM and why I support companies such as Introversion who don't use draconian DRM. I've explained why I haven't stopped playing games because I passed out of the target demographic and how I have more liquid assets available now than when I was young and poor. I've tried it all, and it has all fallen on deaf ears.

          I've been thanked for my thoughtful comments, but educated in the business realities that make my position untenable, though regrettable. I've been accused of being irrelevant, since I'm only one person and what does the loss of my $50 mean anyway - there are plenty of people who buy the game so who am I to question things. Hell, I've been accused of pirating just because I stated that I won't purchase a game due to DRM or other factors, since I must obviously be incapable of resisting the impulse of playing a hot game (eg. Bioshock) because no gamer would willing avoid playing (so if I didn't buy it, I must have pirated it).

          In other words, the reasoned approach has fallen on deaf ears, at least based on the fact that DRM and such has become increasingly more draconian as sales continue to dwindle for PC games.

          It's very difficult for even a motivated individual to have any impact because even statements like "I'll never buy one of your products again as long as you continue this undesirable practice" have no real meaning. What do I matter to the bottom line?

          I've concluded that organized efforts are more likely to get attention because the potential impact is much greater.

          Question the methods if you will, but I think people have figured out that organizing is the only way to get companies to listen.

        • by mopower70 (250015) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:36PM (#24923057) Homepage
          I respectfully disagree. Everyone knows Amazon's rating system is usable and worth reading already. Game designers know that and so do customers. Writing a well written poor review panning your game because of this feature is like writing an open letter to the manufacturer. If I was in charge of a product that received that much well thought out, well written bad press on such an influential site as Amazon, I'd be looking for some heads on a platter.
        • by scubamage (727538) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:37PM (#24923071)

          Excellent point. This is a very silly way to 'protest' about DRM. The best way to get companies to stop using DRM is to reason with them, contact them, and let them know how you feel. I can tell you 100% that no matter how many people would pirate my games, it wouldn't convince me to abandon DRM. What convinced me to do it was actually reading through what the people had to say when they emailed me on the topic.

          All rating the game badly will do is make amazon's ratings look unusable, piss off everyone who worked on the game (many of which oppose DRM no doubt), and reinforce the mentality that those who oppose DRM are doing so for childish reasons. Well-thought out, considered and intelligent emails to the publishers and developers will achieve a hundred times more, as will boycotting the game (both legal and illegal copies) and only purchasing DRM-free games.

          No it isn't. I'm pretty sure the way capitalism works is by speaking with your money. These are people who are vocally boycotting the game, and explaining why. Also, if you look at the actual 1 star ratings, they all give said ratings for genuine, factual reasons. If they were accusing the game of killing puppies, or eating babies, then I would say its juvenile. However, they aren't. They're stating that it installs software similar to a rootkit. They're explaining that if the servers ever go online (as they did in the case of PlaysForSure and Yahoo Music) that you lose all ability to play your game. These aren't infantile gripes - they're very valid concerns from their consumer base.

        • by mxs (42717) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:07PM (#24923505)

          Excellent point. This is a very silly way to 'protest' about DRM.

          Indeed. Of course, the OP just posted a link, without giving any justification -- he might not want to protest the DRM at all.

          The best way to get companies to stop using DRM is to reason with them, contact them, and let them know how you feel.

          Been there, done that. EA does not give a fuck. EA's "customer service" representatives give even less of a fuck. There are more reasonable people out there, and there are more reasonable companies who are getting it right from the get-go, too. Those do deserve to be supported.

          I can tell you 100% that no matter how many people would pirate my games, it wouldn't convince me to abandon DRM. What convinced me to do it was actually reading through what the people had to say when they emailed me on the topic.

          What made you choose DRM in the first place ? Was it just a knee-jerk reaction and marketing department mathematics ? Nowadays there are several companies trying to sell DRM technologies (and succeeding) -- I wonder what their marketing pitch is.

          All rating the game badly will do is make amazon's ratings look unusable,

          Why ? If the rating is driven by the customer having a genuine gripe with the product and the way the company deals with its customers, then a bad rating does seem to be a perfectly valid way to represent that -- especially considering that you /have/ to deal with the company after buying the product -- say when you upgraded three of your computer's components.

          piss off everyone who worked on the game (many of which oppose DRM no doubt),

          Quite frankly : good. Not to slight Will Wright here, but the way the game is delivered is also part of the experience you deliver. An excellent movie with crappy cutting, post-production, or delivered on bad film stock deserves to get bad ratings, too -- even though the acting may have been spectacular.

          Amazon allows you to post comments. You can elaborate on why the game got one star and not five.

          and reinforce the mentality that those who oppose DRM are doing so for childish reasons.

          I can't subscribe to that notion. Besides, if the company delivering the game feels I am childish and should not be taken seriously -- good riddance. I can spend my money elsewhere, at a company that will actually treat me with respect.

          Well-thought out, considered and intelligent emails to the publishers and developers will achieve a hundred times more,

          In some cases, it may. In the VAST MAJORITY of cases, your mails will be filed away under "handled customer support queries", or thrown straight in the wastebin. We had this discussion with EA on Mass Effect. Guess what. Nothing changed. They just don't care. They know the gripes, they know the reasons for them, I assume they have intelligent people there who understand the issues having been brought forward. The only thing I can conclude from their actions is that they don't care.

          as will boycotting the game (both legal and illegal copies) and only purchasing DRM-free games.

          That will actually help. (I can't see how boycotting illegitimate copies helps in this case, but it's not a good thing to do for other reasons)

        • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:09PM (#24924387)
          I don't know about computer games, but I think it is perfectly legitimate for my Amazon rating for CD's to be affected by DRM. I basically buy compact discs to feed my iPod. So any disc that won't play in the computer is of little value to me, and deserves a 1-star rating, especially since they don't always mention that it's not technically a compact disc.
    • by alta (1263) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:27PM (#24921901) Homepage Journal

      Wow, 3k seeds and 77k leachers... Sounds like a succesful game.

  • It might. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:26PM (#24921035) Homepage Journal

    I really want this game but I will wait until a patch is available that turns off the DRM.
    Some would call it a crack but if I buy the game then I say it is a patch.
    A piece of code that improves the program is too my mind a patch.

    I have have had more problems using DRM software that I have paid for than I would ever have hunting down pirated copies.

    Companies have got to learn to stop treating paying customers and criminals.

    • Re:It might. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:30PM (#24921089)

      Reminds me of Supreme Commander, they had 'securerom' with the original DVDs, but once installed it downloaded the usual patches, one of which disabled it. So, authenticate once and then you never have to worry about playing with the media in the drive.

      I think its the best compromise we're likely to get.

      • Re:It might. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Subliminalbits (998434) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:39PM (#24921221)
        Supreme Commander was a case where the developers were forced to ship games with Securerom, but they had no requirements placed upon them about removing it via a patch. Since that was the case, they abided by the letter of the law and then immediately stripped it off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Fweeky (41046)

          The patches took a few months, it's not like they patched SecuROM out on the day of release. I would hope most publishers would be happy with that, though given it's relative rarity, I guess not.

          And their next RTS, Demigod [demigodthegame.com], will be published by Stardock, released via Impulse and have no DRM to speak of.

    • Re:It might. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by McBeer (714119) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:42PM (#24921253) Homepage
      As with most things, a crack to remove the DRM has been out since day one. Enjoy.
    • Re:It might. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by caramelcarrot (778148) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:48PM (#24921341)
      I'm waiting until either the game comes out on Steam (the only DRM I'll tolerate, since it actually ASSISTS with roaming and such) or the DRM is removed. Bullshit, I'm not going to waste however much on a game that will only be reinstalled three times - especially given how it's marketed as a sandbox that you're likely to keep returning to.
      • Re:It might. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cheesey (70139) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:05PM (#24921565)

        Some Steam games have both the Steam DRM and something else. Bioshock, for example, came with SecuROM regardless of whether you got it from Steam or a physical shop. (This is why the demo didn't work on my PC, and this is why I didn't buy it.)

        Like the DRM used in games consoles, the Steam DRM is tolerable because it works properly, and the rules that it imposes are consistent across nearly all of the games (Bioshock being an exception). We do not see this "flash mob" rating all the XBox games as 1: why not? Because the DRM in that case doesn't get in the way.

        Many of the problems with DRM can be solved by standardisation, but the standard must not only involve a single DRM platform for all software, but also a single online service for authentication. This would be a trusted third party - like a bank. It would assure us that purchases will continue to function after the publisher goes out of business. Steam does both of these things quite well, although we are all assuming that Valve won't go bankrupt and sell its IP to a company with less of a clue.

        • Re:It might. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SleepingWaterBear (1152169) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:53PM (#24922305)

          Many of the problems with DRM can be solved by standardisation, but the standard must not only involve a single DRM platform for all software, but also a single online service for authentication. This would be a trusted third party - like a bank. It would assure us that purchases will continue to function after the publisher goes out of business. Steam does both of these things quite well, although we are all assuming that Valve won't go bankrupt and sell its IP to a company with less of a clue.

          Standardized DRM would do nothing to fix the primary problem with DRM, which is that it doesn't work. If you standardize DRM it will be no time at all before we have standardized cracks. Besides, there's no particular reason to assume that some third party will be more stable or reliable than game publishers.

          Given that their basic business model is broken (providing a service that makes products more difficult to use while failing to prevent piracy) I would in fact go so far as to say that any company like Steam is unlikely to be around in a year or two. The solution for game companies is to find a way to sell something other than the program itself which only they can provide. Given the degree to which games are becoming integrated with the internet, this isn't such an impossible idea.

      • Re:It might. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by harl (84412) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:04PM (#24923451)

        Read your license agreement again. You rented the game. You didn't even get a discount for buying a crippled copy. They can cut you off at any time.

        Steam is the furthest you can get from acceptable DRM. Please see the stories on here about people loosing their content because the company they bought it from decided to shut things down.

  • Hey (Score:5, Informative)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:27PM (#24921043) Homepage

    I agree. DRM on games sucks. Thanks to DRM on games, it's nearly impossible to play certain games on Linux with Wine, because things like SecuROM don't like Wine. Pretty worthless 'rights management' if it prevents a legitimate customer from using it.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:28PM (#24921057)

    and I'm a geek, a gamer (though mostly console) and a slashdot reader. The general public are screwed!

    Spore is ace, and frankly if it wants to shaft my vista installation it's welcome to it. It's the only thing I use vista for.

  • The idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:29PM (#24921067)

    The server side community is an integral part of the game. What do they need DRM for? Are they so used to annoying their customers that they just added the DRM out of habit?

    • Re:The idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thermian (1267986) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:42PM (#24921257)

      The server side community is an integral part of the game. What do they need DRM for? Are they so used to annoying their customers that they just added the DRM out of habit?

      Because they are too big as a company for people with a clue to make policy decisions. The DRM choice will have been made by upper management who weren't really understanding the impact it will have.

      After all, they still think DRM is a good thing.

      The DRM has made me certain I will not be buying this game. Its no loss anyway, there are plenty of games out there, and if the concept is good, someone else will do something similar soon enough.

      • Re:The idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

        by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:17PM (#24921731) Homepage Journal

        The DRM has made me certain I will not be buying this game.

        No kidding. I'm going to skip Spore due to the DRM.

        Its no loss anyway, there are plenty of games out there, and if the concept is good, someone else will do something similar soon enough.

        And this, right here, is really the heart of the matter. It's a freaking game. Entertainment. It's not a necessity. I don't need Spore. I may want to play it, but if they make it painful to use, then forget it. It's not like I really lose anything. I'll just do something else.

        When will publishers realize that? It's not like we have to play their game. It's just entertainment, and there are a million other options out there. I'm not going to blow money on something just to be treated like a criminal.

  • by Alonzo Meatman (1051308) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:31PM (#24921103)
    All the reviews I've read about Spore have said the same thing - great toy, boring game. I'd think that would be far more likely to repel potential buyers than some scuffle over DRM.
  • Nope, neither. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:33PM (#24921127)

    Will an anti-DRM flash mob that's determined to give EA's latest sim game Spore a rock bottom rating on Amazon.com sink the game, or will Spore evolve and shed the DRM?

    Neither. This strategy will result in more people discovering that Amazon ratings are simply manipulated by both corporate shills or advocate shills, devaluing the ratings system itself.

    Hopefully, this will result in Amazon cracking down on shill reviewers, and modifying the system so that those who attempt to game the system in either the positive or negative direction have a substantially reduced score.

    • Bingo (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:37PM (#24922059) Journal

      Neither. This strategy will result in more people discovering that Amazon ratings are simply manipulated by both corporate shills or advocate shills, devaluing the ratings system itself.

      Bingo.

      The waking call for me was when I stumbled upon the preorder page for Gothic 3, mostly out of sheer surprise that it existed already and it showed an unrealistically close release date. Back then it wasn't even in _alpha_. Even the official site and press releases had nothing more than a couple of "look what the engine can do" screenshots. There was no information about the story, the world, or anything. And again, nobody had a playable demo yet. Probably not even the devs, yet. So it seemed way premature to even have a preorder page.

      Well, a few fanboys had already taken upon themselves to post glowing reviews. If you listened to them, it was the greatest game ever. Superb gameplay, the best fantasy story since Tolkien himself, no bugs, the best graphics ever, etc.

      Needless to say, when the game was released a year later, it was nothing like that. I suppose the other categories are subjective, but let's just say that the "no bugs" part was waay off the mark. And the "a hamster can kill godzilla if it hits first, because it'll then keep interrupting the other" gameplay way at least for me a huge turnoff.

      I can't remember the exact games, but I remember I looked at another couple of yet unreleased games the same day, out of morbid curiosity. Yep, you guessed, the fanboys or maybe shills (take your pick) had already written tons of glowing reviews.

      So anyone who takes the Amazon ratings as anything more than comedy relief, is bound to have a bit of the surprise sooner or later. Probably sooner.

      Mind you:

      1. The situation isn't Amazon-only, nor games-only. When you give zealots, fanboys, trolls, and shills, who already exist to force their opinions and views upon everyone else, a forum whose purpose is just that... well, what did anyone expect?

      2. Even without that, the amount of sheer stupidity in user reviews online is either hillarious or worth losing faith in humanity. I haven't yet decided which. (And I mean, seriously, stuff like, for a soundproofed Sennheiser headset, where the whole _point_ is that they massively dampen outside noises, someone hat taken the time to write a review to the effect of, "OMG, they're crap! If you put them on, you can't hear anything else, not even the doorbell or phone! Stay away from them!" And that's actually one of the milder examples of online stupidity.)

      3. The whole point about tastes is that they're subjective. What may be TEH GRATEST GAME EVAR ;) for me, might be the most boring thing ever for you. I can see a point in trusting a reviewer or forum member who you've already established that he has the same tastes as you. Or maybe taking a reputable source and taking just the facts and ignoring his opinions of them. (E.g., "ok, he hated it because it's turn based, I like turn based, sound interesting.") But trusting some random guy online to tell one what to buy? Why? How stupid is that?

      So, on the whole, that yet another group of zealots has taken it upon itself to pollute that already-polluted resource... well, it's a bit like spitting down the hole of an outhouse. Amusing, but won't make the contents any worse than they already were.

      Hopefully, this will result in Amazon cracking down on shill reviewers, and modifying the system so that those who attempt to game the system in either the positive or negative direction have a substantially reduced score.

      I'm not opposed to the idea, but I'd wonder about how would it work. How do you distinguish between, basically:

      A. Some hypothetical corporate shill, giving everything from company X top marks just because he was paid to.

      B. Jenny Gamer who likes to play with dolls, bought The Sims because it sounded just like that, and genuinely liked it. And then bought the 7

  • Development of DRM: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:33PM (#24921137)
    I don't understand how the cost of developing DRM protection on games and then dealing with the support costs of having DRM can outweigh the "cost" of a few pirated copies of the game.
    • by gfxguy (98788) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:19PM (#24921781)

      I don't understand how the cost of developing DRM protection on games and then dealing with the support costs of having DRM can outweigh the "cost" of a few pirated copies of the game.

      Pirated copies that likely wouldn't have resulted in sales, anyway.

      I'm not defending copyright infringement at all, especially on something so non-essential as a game, but it's been quite clear to me that accepting some amount of pirating and SAVING money by not having to pay for (or develop) the technology that only pisses off your honest customers is probably a pretty good way to go.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:02PM (#24923417)

      As far as I know, no publisher has bothered to do a study on the topic. However I'd be suspicious that the sales gained by DRM preventing copying are not enough to offset the cost of said DRM. Most companies don't develop their own, they buy an off the shelf one. SafeDisc, Securerom, etc are all products you can buy. Like most things of that nature, the prices aren't listed on the website. However, I'm going to guess they aren't cheap. Most development tools, modules and such for games aren't.

      So they would not only have to result in higher sales, but it would have to be by a non-trivial factor to be worth the money. If your DRM costs $200,000, and you only get 5,000 more sales out of it, chances are you didn't make any money (remember for a game to be $50 retail, the publisher is probably getting less than $20/copy).

      I think it is just kinda accepted on faith that DRM is worth it by publishers. I've never seen any sort of study from them, or anyone else, showing that yes indeed it does increase sales by an amount significant to offset the costs.

  • by Alaren (682568) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:34PM (#24921143)

    Forget the DRM. Spore just fails to live up to its promising premise.

    Actually, my 5-year-old and 3-year-old love it. They create creatures in the creature creator and play the cell and creature levels over and over. I barely completed the tribal stage before I got bored with it.

    The fact is, PC games are the only digital medium I see taking a genuine hit from piracy, because pirating PC games doesn't change them (and sadly often makes them work better). People want their books to be books. They want their movies to play on their TVs. And everyone listens to music, even complete luddites. A technical person can make these things happen, but most people don't even know where to look for pirated stuff, let alone how to make it work.

    The skillset required to tweak a PC for gaming and really enjoy PC games overlaps significantly with the skillset required to play pirated games. Consequently, there are two ways to really turn a profit on PC games: make the game online-only, or release a mega-hit. And face it--if you release a mega-hit, people will accept the DRM. Grudgingly? Sure. But they'll accept it.

    Spore was supposed to be a mega-hit (and who knows, maybe it will be). But I would submit that Spore, while fun enough in itself, is basically five mediocre games crammed together and bundled with an amazing, stellar toolset. This makes it easier to complain about stuff like the intrusive DRM, but DRM is the least of Spore's worries, I think. Given the chance to do it again, I'd wait for Spore to hit the bargain rack at Wal-Mart.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by caramelcarrot (778148)
      How about you play the game all the way through, and don't just complain when you get bored after the first two stages? Which, I might add, are practically tutorials and character development leading into the later levels?
      • by truthsearch (249536) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:14PM (#24921701) Homepage Journal

        If you're bored after the first two stages, why would you move on to the third? A game is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun relatively quickly, there's no point in playing it.

        Maybe you're a masochist, but apparently he's not.

      • by HolyCoitus (658601) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:53PM (#24922311)
        Have someone step on your scrotum over and over. I've seen some videos where people like it. You just have to keep going until it gets good, just like everything in life.
      • by Alaren (682568) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:00PM (#24923397)

        I got bored around the end of stage 2. But I played them all because I kept hoping it would get better.

        It really didn't. I mean, the last stage is probably the best, but only by comparison. I actually wish the first stage was a little deeper, with greater evolution options (no matter how long you play the first stage, there will always be creatures with more parts than you can ever afford). But overall, each stage was basically "meh."

        Notice that I haven't said I wouldn't buy the game again. My kids love it. For me it was an interesting experience but I wouldn't call it "great fun" and I'm certainly not hungry for more.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:35PM (#24921169)

    All the messageboards commenting on the game are discussing the issue - and most everyone realizes that they tend to move games from machine to machine over the years, or at least are forced to reinstall windows enough that a 3 install limit is FAR too limited a deal. Oh, and uninstalling the software anecdotally does NOT appear to give you 'back' installs of the game so far.

    I've worked making software protection schemes on occasion - from encrypted dongles with 'click counters' to sequentially mutating upgrade codes linked to custom hardware to send customers to extend licenses, all to make sure software was limited in terms of what users could do with it under license. This is one limit that really is too far for honorable customers.

    The biggest suspicion is that all this was done to minimize the chance and value of the reselling the game. I can see that perspective... but if it's at the cost of actually selling the game in the first place, or of pissing off future customers, they've made a terrible mistake.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by Mascot (120795) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:37PM (#24921199)

    For once I find myself happy a game has DRM. I was going to buy Spore, until I heard of the DRM. Once that information became available it was off my to-buy list and I forgot about it.

    Then a few days ago I am informed there's a cracked version available. I decide to see if it lived up to the hype and install it. Three hours later, I delete it out of boredom.

    If it hadn't been for DRM, that would've been money out the window. There can be but one conclusion. DRM really is there for my benefit.

  • by Surt (22457) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:39PM (#24921217) Homepage Journal

    Sadly it's just terrible. Horribly boring. Evolutions is largely meaningless. There's basically no point in playing more than once, even going down a completely opposite tree was an identical experience. Just painfully dull.

  • by topham (32406) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:39PM (#24921225) Homepage

    At one time the various methods of DRM used to be a nuisance. However, in the last few years they have become a hazard. Getting tired of this crap, if I ever have to fix another PC that gets screwed over by bullshit DRM (screwed up CD/DVD drivers, etc) I'll be filing a lawsuit.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:58PM (#24921465) Homepage

    I own Mass Effect PC. No, really. As in went to the store and bought a copy. The game is great.

    But the DRM? Not so much. A few days ago it just decided to stop working for a while, and instead of running would tell me that I wasn't authorized to run it. Seems odd, since not only was I running it just fine before that happened, the box is still sitting on my desk. Why am I not authorized to run a game that I paid for, while some guy who pirated it can run it just fine (and with shorter startup times due to the lack of SecuROM)? Nobody has ever really had a good answer for that other then "bend over and take it."

    Since then it started working again as inexplicably as it stopped working in the first place, but the whole thing put a bad taste in my mouth.

    Now, throw the three install limit on top of that, and I'm really not sure why I should ever give EA another dime. In fact I am sure, I'm not buying anything from EA again until they start acting like they care about paying customers more then pirates.

    Spore is the first on the "would have bought, but won't due to DRM" list for me. It won't be the last. EA can try to blame it on piracy all they want, but the fact of the matter is that they're doing more damage to their own sales then any pirate ever did.

  • Selling pretty well (Score:5, Informative)

    by kopo (890010) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:00PM (#24921483)

    A quick read through the Amazon reviews of Spore seems to suggest that the negative comments are already putting people off from buying the game.

    This line from the product page [amazon.com] seems to suggest otherwise:

    Amazon.com Sales Rank: #1 in Video Games

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:02PM (#24921511)
    I don't know about you guys, but the DRM is the most exciting part of the game I've seen so far! Find out what programs must be stopped before proceeding, navigate the legal work, avoid deadly lockdowns! They are like today's minotaur's maze -- for free!
  • Thank you! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Freedom Bug (86180) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:02PM (#24921517) Homepage

    Slashdot has just saved me $50. I was an hour away from buying this game, but a 3 install limit is insane.

  • by Emperor Shaddam IV (199709) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:03PM (#24921531) Journal

    I'm an avid gamer. My first games were games like Zork II, Ultima I, II, II I played on my C-64 and 20 or 30 carts I had for my 2600. I've played most of the major Sims, Strategy Games, and RTS titles. Everything from Dune II to Warcraft III. From Sim City I to CIV IV. From MOO to the demo copy of Sins of a Solar Empire, which I'm about to try.

    And let me say, Spore is an interesting game, but after playing it yesterday for the first time, I think it was a real let-down considering the type. I would say that its a GOOD game, and I actually had some fun during the creature stage "tweaking" my creature, but the cell stage was a boring arcade style game. And the tribal stage was a let down because basically all you do is collect food and either kill the other tribes or play "music" to impress them.

    Not really an "in depth" game like I was expecting. I'm on the civilzation stage, and I was a little disappointed to find out that you have to "harvest spice". Come on, how original is that? That goes all the way back to Dune II and Dune 2000 from Westwood. At least they could have come up with something original like "Smithore" ( M.U.L.E. )...

    So I think the negative reviews are probably just that. Negative reviews.

    Although one cool thing was that I encountered one of the creatures I designed about a month ago with creature creator show up in the creature phase of the game in "EPIC" size! It proceeded to "eat" half my population...

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:03PM (#24921537) Homepage

    An excuse to dump PC games completely. They already have pulled most of their sports franchise games (which pissed me off).

    Look for Bioware even to drop the PC.

    In the short term, dinosaur clueless behemoths like EA getting out of the PC gaming market will be bad, BUT keep in mind the installed base of PC's is STILL far greater than that of any console, that means opportunity for others to enter the market. There is opportunity there, and where there is opportunity, there will be those who will take advantage of it.

    EA et all pulling out of the PC arena will serve to give indy and start up gaming companies more oxygen.

    EA has been only barely relevant as a game publisher for some time in the PC arena anyway. Other than their sports sequels it's been forever since they've put out anything groundbreaking. Burdening their mediocre game lineup with DRM just makes it worse.

  • by zifn4b (1040588) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:03PM (#24921543)

    DISCLAIMER: I'm a die-hard PC gamer. I go all the way back to the Commodore 64 and I've owned and I have had the privilege to play some of the best games of all time.

    PC gaming is already in a fragile state. There is much competition from the Console market. Cheaper hardware, less compatibility problems, more stability and no DRM (at least until they go all download based). Assuming that DRM will eventually permeate every PC game, it could very well be the factor that pushes PC gaming over the edge. It just adds one more reason to choose Console over PC as a gaming platform. Soon, everyone will compare the two and most likely arrive at the following conclusions:

    • With a PC, I have to upgrade my hardware almost every year just to play the latest and greatest games. With a console, I just buy a game for my console and it's guaranteed to perform decent because the game developers develop specifically for that hardware.
    • With a PC, I have to install the game, download updated drivers and deal with software incompatibilities. In addition, most technical support departments are awful at helping users with these issues and more often than not leave them to fend for themselves. With a console game, it just works out of the box.
    • I can play a console game on as many consoles as I wish but it can only be one console at a time. I can only play a PC game on a certain number of PC's and after that I have to go through a time-consuming, annoying process to make my case to get additional activations.

    In today's day and age, consoles are unfortunately what most people want. They want to go buy a game at the store, plug it into their console and start playing right away. As much as I hate to say it being a long-time PC gamer, this is just one more nail in the coffin for PC gaming.

    If the PC gaming platform is going to be saved there are many issues that need to be addressed. Gaming PC's need to be cheaper to be competitive with the price point of Console rivals. There has to be some sort of compromise about DRM. There has to be a way to raise the level of quality (stability, hardware support) of PC releases. Most PC releases, especially console ports, seem like they were just slapped together. Lots of products are released that are buggy as all hell and you have wait for 2 or 3 patches to get to play the game properly.

    I sincerely hope that PC gaming lives on but right now it seems like it's fading away.

    • by Tridus (79566) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:25PM (#24921881) Homepage

      My father in law was an avid PC gamer too. Then he had two games in a row fail to work on his machine due to weird DRM incompatabilities with his hardware. We could never figure out exactly what the problem was, since he wasn't doing anything all that strange and although it was a custom-built system, it was all pretty standard hardware.

      He solved the problem by buying an Xbox 360.

      He expects that if he buys a game and puts the disk into his machine, it should run. DRM caused that to not happen. To me, it doesn't seem like an unrealistic request (and the Xbox has no problem doing it).

      And people wonder what is killing PC gaming? Its the companies that make PC games.

  • DRM Debate Problem. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:35PM (#24922041)

    The problem with the ANTI-DRM movement is the fact they don't separate themselves from good Non-DRM advantages vs Bad Non-DRM advantages.

    Being able to copy a game and give it to a friend (who may give it to an other friend or post online) is exactly what they want to stop, they want people to pay for their copy. These aren't Not-For-Profit companies, They want to make as much money from their product as possible. If you don't understand that then move to Cuba. So any debate that goes I wouldn't get it unless it is free, will fall on deaf ears. Or Piracy as a marketing method, for the next version (that is why they give free demos).

    In order to fight DRM you need to convince people of some real advantage that not having DRM will have to the Legal Copies Purchased owners who run on software and hardware that they officially support.

    Back in them old days of the 1980s when games fit on a Floppy disk they had copy proctection on it. Normally putting a bad sector on a disk causing the disk copy method to skip that bad track. Allowing them to fairly successfully prevent illegal copying of programs. (pre internet day made it hard for someone to find the crack) however this only lasted a couple years and they went back to normal files (non Copy Protected). Why did this happen because the Copy Protection had a lot of flaws for legit use of their software.

    1. Floppy Disks didn't last very well so a Backup Copy was considered good practice, where the game was actually normally run on the backup disk keeping the master disk safe. So Copy protection put their media at risk (chances are people wouldn't buy a new copy if it was gone)

    2. Hard Drives were becoming popular they loaded faster and easier to and cleaner (no mess of disks flying around) People wanted to use this mass storage mechanism to run their products faster then before.

    3. Upgrades those 5 1/4 disks drive systems were being replaced with 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 inch disk as well game size for new versions have gotten bigger. Wasting space for DRM was not efficient, on those small disks and people can often take 5 1/4 disks and put it on one 3 1/2 . As well they could see the end of the 5 1/4 disk so by forcing Copy Protection means once the drive goes so does their program.

    None of this issue back then were about fluffy ideals (or as Fox news would call them, Crazy Hypi-Commi-Liberal UnAmerican ideals.) You need to prove that DRM is bad for the company and effecting its bottom line or will effect it soon. This thing on Amazon may or may not last. However people have been getting better at reviews and sifting threw the Glowing Reviews or Negitive Reviews and finding the middle stuff that actually give a good story of the product.

    • by init100 (915886) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:00PM (#24923385)

      In order to fight DRM you need to convince people of some real advantage that not having DRM will have to the Legal Copies

      How about this: If Spore didn't have DRM, I would have bought it in an instant. But since it has DRM, especially a particularly draconian DRM scheme, there is not one chance in hell that I'll buy it. I'll not pirate it either, since that would tell EA that I couldn't stand abstaining from playing it, which I surely can.

      So in my case, the DRM equals a lost sale, nothing more, nothing less.

  • by IronChef (164482) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:41PM (#24922115) Homepage

    A hugely anticipated game ships with the most oppressive DRM yet. Aside from a handful of educated gamers not buying it, the backlash consists of Amazon comment spam... and this is supposed to be the end of DRM? It looks more like just the beginning.

    Tell you what, when a hugely anticipated triple-A title from an outfit like EA ships with no DRM, why don't we call THAT the beginning of the end.

    • by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:41PM (#24924905)

      People forget that the Amazon Comment storm stopped Quicken from continuing to impliment similar draconian DRM on TurboTax. In fact said comments and reduced sales actually caused them to reverse previous policies. They completely removed the DRM and actually allowed via the EULA more copy rights to the owner than previously existed in the next years version. I was part of that boycott, choosing that year to use TaxCut instead of TurboTax. Not only that but the executives at Quicken got the wake up call that the guys selling them the DRM were snake oil salesmen.

      Don't discount the power of a comment boycott. It hurts a publisher in the pocketbook directly by informing customers of the DRM before purchase, rather than after. These potential customers now aware of the problems before purchase then avoid the game entirely choosing not to deal with the problem. Even if there are still sales the real power of the boycott can only be seen in the total sales, not the day to day sales. Amazon's comments are a powerful medium to educate consumers. Amazon comments in the case of quicken caused a media storm and dramatically hurt sales of the DRM laden TurboTax.

      Based on previous comments from the executives of EA it will probably not make an impact on their decisions and motives, unlike Quicken. But if it keeps happening on every game they distribute then they will either vacate the PC game market or quit using DRM. Both scenarios are good for PC gamers as they are currently the biggest DRM publisher and PC Game developers will choose to use other publishers.

  • by guidryp (702488) on Monday September 08, 2008 @01:51PM (#24922283)

    I don't care about Spore. But I won't buy a game with call home DRM. When the servers aren't working someday, you can't play your game. No thanks. Just look at Microsoft and Yahoo music services to get a clue how long these servers will run.

    So if the game I am waiting for actually has this crap. I won't buy it. This is after buying BG1, BG2, NWN and all expansions, plus KOTOR. I love Bioware games. But I will not buy into this kind of DRM nonsense.

    And you know what. It will still get busted and copied, they are just alienating the purchasing customer. Or soon to be former purchasing customer.

    But hey it's OK, I still have NWN and 10000 mods for my RPG fix if these guys don't want my money.

  • What DRM? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nicklott (533496) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:03PM (#24922429)

    As far as I can see no commenter yet has actually installed this game, it's just a bunch of "EA Sucks"/"I won't buy this (but I wouldn't have anyway)"/"It will run under WINE" rants based on stories they've read on slashdot.

    I bought it and installed it and, aside from the usual serial number, I've not noticed any DRM yet.

    And probably I won't because I won't be playing it again. DRM won't kill Spore, brain dead gameplay will kill Spore. Such a beautiful and well executed concept has been ruined by Will Wright's desire to go for the Sims-level market. There's nothing even remotely challenging about the first stages, though the concept and execution are great, then the last stage over-compensates by being impossible (it's basically Elite II without the tedious flying bits, but you always start next to large and aggressive empires who give you not a chance). I truly hope that they have a change of heart and produce some kind of advanced gamer mode patch to make the promising pre-space stages deeper and longer, but having read WW's unapologetic response I won't be holding my breath.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @05:57PM (#24925959) Homepage

    The DRM isn't helping, but the biggest problem with Spore is it's a huge disappointment.

    I don't know about you, but I played through most of the game in one sitting. I started out as a little googly-eyed bacteria, and got to the space exploration stage. At that point, I got so intensely bored I just stopped playing.

    There isn't anywhere near enough variety in the game to keep things interesting. The only challenge is patience, there is no skill involved, and very little thinking. The various creatures are interesting to see at first, but after a dozen races they all start looking the same. It's hard to specialize your critter, because the parts look different but have very similar stats. You can get the fastest legs, the meanest teeth, the strongest arms, all on the same char. There are no tradeoffs.

    What's worse is one stage has little or no bearing on the next one. It feels less like evolution and more like 5 mini-games bundled together. Your race's appearance carries over, but the abilities/stats become irrelevant. It is difficult to lose in any phase, and downright impossible in some, thanks to unlimited lives.

    I think we all got hyped up about the potential, but reality (EA) came along and made sure this game was anything BUT epic. They probably did this so they can release expansion packs later on, because had they delivered the game we thought we were getting, there would be no room for expansion.

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