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EA Patches Spore, Eases DRM 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the slowly-but-surely dept.
EA has released the first patch for Spore, the purpose of which is to fix a number of bugs and tweak some gameplay settings to be more entertaining. Some of the visual effects were upgraded as well. They've also officially responded to the complaints about Spore's DRM, stating their intention to increase the number of allowed installations to five and to set up a system to "de-authorize" systems in order to reclaim the installation credit. They plan to allow multiple screen names per account, which was an issue for many families trying to play the game. This comes not long after EA made similar changes to the DRM of upcoming RTS Red Alert 3, and after Spore's DRM protest spread to in-game creature designs. Reader SoopahMan notes that users in EA's Spore tech support forum are reporting a number of new issues caused by the patch.
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EA Patches Spore, Eases DRM

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  • by Verteiron (224042) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:16AM (#25082623) Homepage

    I wonder if they actually believe this is going to change how people feel about the DRM, or if they just don't care and are trying to curb the Amazon comments?

    • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:22AM (#25082659)

      Easy. You make enough people happy that the protesters can be comfortably ignored. Deactivation isn't enough for me, but it's no longer renting the same way it was. Add in a promise to completely disable all drm if/when they shut down the servers and I think you could get most people onboard.

      Not me, but enough of the mainline gamers for it to matter.

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:26AM (#25083165) Journal

        Well,the limited activation BS equals no sale for me. When I buy something I want to actually BUY,and the limited activations make this an expensive rental. I still have games from the old DOS/Win9X era that I like to break out and play by companies long gone which I couldn't do if they had this crap. Which,of course along with killing the right of first sale is the point. To turn the whole business into an expensive rental so when a company gets bought out the buyer can simply kill the activation servers and get paid all over again for new keys.

        And any promise to get rid of the DRM when they shut down the servers is just a lie. Today most of the companies get bought out,which means their promise is worthless unless it is written in the EULA,which I'm willing to bet it's not. So sorry EA,but this is one customer that won't be buying your product until the limited activations are gone,period. This is a game,NOT iTunes.

        I would STRONGLY suggest everyone spread the word and keep as many folks from buying the game as possible,because in case you haven't heard other games are going to end up with this crap. The next one to have the limited Activation stench is Crysis:Warhead. So please spread the word and keep EA and the other major players from stealing your right of first sale!!! And as always this is one old gamers 02c,YMMV

        • The only company I could believe shutting down the DRM when they die is Valve's Steam, and I'm still fairly skeptical of that.

          Luckily I'm not a big fan of the crud being churned out by Big Content these days, and quite happy with independent publishers who dare to stray from clickity-click click FPS type games. Though I do enjoy a good run of Halo from time to time:-)

          So yeah, I hoard my old Microprose DOS games, and some really old EA titles for the Commodore 64, and share them with others when I can.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Drantin (569921)

            The only company I could believe shutting down the DRM when they die is Valve's Steam, and I'm still fairly skeptical of that.

            LGP [linuxgamepublishing.com] has stated that everyone in the company is authorized to release patches disabling DRM if the company goes under...

            All LGP employees have the authority to produce, on their own, and without the order of the company, such patches, should the company be unable to produce them or to request their production, on the event that LGP ceases trading.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by CSMatt (1175471)

          The next one to have the limited Activation stench is Crysis:Warhead.

          I wouldn't worry, since no one is going to be able to run the game anyway.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          That's not technically true, the DMCA anti-circumvention section includes exemptions for certain things. One of those things is basically if you can demonstrate that the protection is harming you by preventing you from making non-infringing use of the materials within the next couple years.

          But yes, I do agree with the sentiment, I'm not going to be buying until it is free of unreasonable DRM.

      • by SL Baur (19540)

        Add in a promise to completely disable all drm if/when they shut down the servers and I think you could get most people onboard.

        Maybe, but EA's rep is shot with me. The last two games I've bought with their name on them crash often enough to make them unwinnable and what's the point in playing a game like that? I already have a family subscription to World of Warcraft ...

        EA - you suck! Or you just have no clue how to program a PSP, or maybe both. At least Blizzard doesn't kill me and make me restart every time I reach a new level after doing something hard.

      • I studied psychology (yeah, go figure) and one thing I liked to learn was how to control people.

        One thing you can do is ask or impose something completely insane and then settle for something less. Everyone will be happy.

        On the other hand, this "something else" would have been rejected without a second thought if it had been proposed first.

        So, this patch will most likely make people accept the DRM more easily.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door-in-the-face_technique

      • C3PO: Surrender is a perfectly acceptable alternative in extreme circumstances! The Empire may be gracious enough to...

        (Han nods at Leia who promptly turns him off)

  • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:19AM (#25082639)

    We're willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we're hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

    Not only does this sound hilarious ("essential to the economic structure...") but not once in the history of software piracy, as far as I know, has DRM -ever- stopped piracy.

    I have to wonder if the CEOs and the decision-makers are out-of-touch and naive. Who do they think is actually going to believe this shit? Do they? Frankly, I don't think any actual malice is going on, just complete stupidity by non-techies easily wowed by the DRM snake oil.

    People like to go "ugh EA is fucking us!" and also complain "But the DRM actually hurts sales!" (probably true) and yet they STILL bang their head against the wall. If DRM worked, then the EA fucking us thing might be true. But given how worthless DRM is and how hackers break it the day it comes out (and often, before, as was partly the case with Spore) I frankly have to wonder if someone is simply just out of touch.

    Actually, I have a better idea. DRM is being used not because it works, but because someone (or some group, the people responsible for fighting piracy or such?) in the corporate structure ants the people up top to think they're doing their (impossible, and they likely know it) job so they don't get sacked. DRM stinks of a product of bureaucracy.

    • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:26AM (#25082681)

      To stop piracy they crack down on BT through various means. The purpose of this DRM is to destroy resale value and make people need expensive reactivations/buy new copies if anything goes wrong/so they can shut down the servers and switch to a new model any time they want.

      This is similar to how child porn is used to justify measures that do nothing to prevent the people who make it, but seem to have an awful lot to do with curtailing protest against the gvmt.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:46AM (#25082787)

        Your first paragraph sure nails this thing. That is precisely what DRM is about. Not pirating software but to make it harder to resell games. Games companies have already mentioned that places like Gamestop that sell used games hurt the developers.

        Sony and Microsoft are combating it in a similar way with the PS3 and XBOX360. They are trying to push for more games being sold through PSN or XBox Live. Your reselling of games at that point is pretty much toast. What they don't seem to realize is that in the long run this hurts them too because by not being able to trade in the online purchased games they users are not able to afford purchasing as many new games.

        • Actually, I've heard that point before and forgot to consider it. Yeah, the whole "EA is fucking us!" thing might be true then.

          But now I wonder, if DRM hurts sales all-around, then it even prevent the initial sales that may have ended up a reseller like GameSis still stronger, and EA should know this. So maybe my "appeal to the pointy-haired boss" is still stronger--or another version of it that I forgot to mention, "make the shareholders think we're trying to maximize sales," which may be an even better

          • by SL Baur (19540)

            Yeah, the whole "EA is fucking us!" thing might be true then.

            They produce half-assed games that either suck if they don't crash, or suck because they do crash. A couple of their Sims titles on GBA were not too bad though.

            I'm really, really pissed at their stuff on PSP though. Computers and electronics should *never* crash, ever, and games that crash deserve their own ring in hell.

            For EA, fucking customers is a way of life.

    • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:42AM (#25082771)

      Not only does this sound hilarious ("essential to the economic structure...") but not once in the history of software piracy, as far as I know, has DRM -ever- stopped piracy.

      (1) The goal isn't to completely stop all piracy of the product, just curb it. Some people would prefer to just buy the game rather than waiting for a crack or having to hassle with it. While it varries, this is the case sufficiently for companies to consider it worth the downsides. Of course this isn't the case when the DRM more trouble than just waiting a bit more for a clean crack, or if the crack is out before the game actually launches (as happened with Spore).
      (2) BD+ is still pretty locked down.

      • I already considered your point and I thought the implications of my post addressed that. When has DRM even -curbed- piracy? Again, Spore's DRM was cracked before the game was even released in America (iirc it was released early in Australia or something for some reason, maybe accident?). The DRM gets cracked pretty much the same day, and the cracked versions are easier to deal with, to boot. So how, exactly, is piracy being curbed in any way, shape, or form? Nobody "waits" on the crack, except usually

      • by morari (1080535)

        I didn't know that there was any hassle involved with cracking games. Generally I just copy an .exe over to replace the original--an .exe that had be crafted by some unknown hacker days or even weeks before the games official release at that!

        I think that EA is just mad because Spore turned out to be really, really lame. It's little more than bits and pieces of several other games cut and pasted together in the most asinine of ways. The Creature Creator itself is fun, but the gameplay is bland at best and th

    • You know that a suitspeak explaination is going to be condescending and unhelpful when you see the phrase "our consumers".

      FFS, if somebody buys your product, they are a "customer".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Actually DRM is working.

      I don't buy, or download the game.

      So, even tho they are losing a sale, they aren't being hurt by me pirating.

      Now, if I could just put the game on the hard drive of my non internet pc and play, I'd buy the game - but even I know that's just silly talk.

      YAY DRM!

      • by Hes Nikke (237581)

        the crack that is floating around (arrrr!) will let you run spore on your non-internet pc. bonus irony points if you do it with a retail copy.

    • I have to wonder if the CEOs and the decision-makers are out-of-touch and naive. Who do they think is actually going to believe this shit? Do they?

      Actually, from the very limited sample I've seen (two people, for two different products, to be exact) they actually do believe that it'll help. That somehow _this_ time, surely people won't find a crack for their hare-brained protection scheme, at least until the first weeks have passed and the sales went past their peak.

      Frankly, I don't think any actual malice

    • by Aereus (1042228) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:02AM (#25083261)

      I wonder what they have to say about the fact that the game was already cracked before the release date, and more than half a million people pirated it in the first week alone? How do they still justify that it prevents piracy?

      In many cases the crack lets you get the game running faster than trying to mess around with driver and firmware upgrades to get the DRM functioning.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        I wonder what they have to say about the fact that the game was already cracked before the release date, and more than half a million people pirated it in the first week alone? How do they still justify that it prevents piracy?

        Obviously that they need tighter controls and better restrictions.

    • by init100 (915886)

      But we're hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games

      I don't have to understand or accept anything at all. If I'm out to buy a game, I set the criteria for what is worth buying, not you (you = EA, or any other publisher, in this reply). Having no activation scheme is such a criteria, and no complaining that you need it will make me change my mind. If you stick with any activation scheme, my money will remain in my wallet, and you can keep your game to yourself.

      If everybody did this, your so-called "economic structure" would break down completely, despite (or

    • by arkhan_jg (618674)

      DRM on pc games has very little to do with stopping piracy, they're not THAT stupid. It's easy enough to make casual 'here mate, have a copy of this' rare without the huge level of measures affecting users. If anything, these measure are indeed pushing people to work out how to find torrents and CD cracks.

      No, it's about locking in legitimate customers, and killing the doctrine of first sale. Copyright infringers are not buyers, and likely never would have been. However, someone that buys a USED copy from a

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      but not once in the history of software piracy, as far as I know, has DRM -ever- stopped piracy.

      It has stopped casual copying of the original media. Which, as I recall was a much more epic issue in the past in the software industry.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They could have acted sooner. alot sooner. now it's too late. they put me off, and I wont be swayed with this pathetic "fix"

  • by lowlymarine (1172723) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:19AM (#25082647)
    From Benjamin "Yahtzee" Croshaw of "Zero Punctuation" fame:

    "They could not have missed the point further if they had fired in a completely different direction and the point was in another country altogether."

    The point is, EA, I WILL NOT be treated like a criminal. 5 activations is more than 3, yes, but it's still less than infinity, the number I should have. The number every other game (BioShock and Mass Effect aside) gives me. And I will not buy a single-player game that you can turn off at any time for any or no reason. Period. So back off the insane DRM or you will never get another penny out of me ever again. And I doubt I'm alone in that sentiment.

    • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:29AM (#25082697)

      They say "let us manage your rights, you can trust us." I say "let me manage my rights, you can trust me."

      The difference is, I've never helped someone pirate a game I bought, and I don't buy games with DRM (aside from dumb shit like cd keys/anything that is replay vulnerable)

      They screw over honest players time and time again.

      Until the free (pirated) version is harder to make work than the expensive broken version, I'm not buying.

      Or rather I'm buying from competitors and skipping Spore because it is, as noted below, a shallow, tedious clickfest.

      I hate half baked games nerfed to appeal to the IQ of 60

    • by karmatic (776420)

      but it's still less than infinity, the number I should have. The number every other game (BioShock and Mass Effect aside) gives me.

      That's not entirely accurate... [2kgames.com]

    • 5 activations is more than 3, yes, but it's still less than infinity, the number I should have. The number every other game (BioShock and Mass Effect aside) gives me.

      How many activations do the games included with Windows XP or Windows Vista give you?

  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:35AM (#25082717) Homepage Journal
    and it works great. no issues with drm at all.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:40AM (#25082751) Homepage
    I read that as "EA Patches Spore, Erases DRM"
    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Actually it's only now I read your comment that I realised I misread the title.
  • Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:07AM (#25083101)

    I'm honestly not entirely sure what I've been let down by. Perhaps it's something to do with the DRM or maybe it's just a random bug in the game. Whatever it is, I haven't been able to actually play the game for over a week now. I've Google searched the problem endlessly, but haven't been able to come up with a solution and I've even resulted to dealing with EA support (albeit comically*) to try and figure out what's wrong.

    I purchased the game the day it came out, installed it without a hitch and had a generally okay time playing the game. It wasn't everything I had dreamed it would be, but I found it fairly entertaining in its own right. For whatever reason, on the third day the game stopped working. I hadn't updated my system, changed any settings, or done anything that should suddenly stop the game from working; but for whatever reason, it just stopped working.

    I've pretty much stopped caring and even if I were to get it working again I'm not entirely sure how much more I would play the game after having to deal with as much crap as I have. I looked over the patch notes and it seems as though there might be a potential fix, but of course I'm running the Mac version of the game so who knows when they'll actually patch that. After dealing with EA, it hasn't even been the DRM that's turned me off so much as the customer support in general. I've finally become a casualty to this monster that people have been decrying for so long. I guess I'll take my number and join the group.

    * In case you were wonder I've been undergoing support through EA's online support system. This entails me submitting my problem and them getting back to me sometime within the next three days with generally unhelpful advice. The last piece of advice I got was from a guy (every time someone has got back to me, it's been a different person) who instructed me to follow steps which started with "Go to Start -> Run ..." despite the fact that I'm on a mac. I got a pretty good laugh out of it, but at this point I really have to question how much EA has their shit together. From my end the answer seems to be, "Not very."

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I looked over the patch notes and it seems as though there might be a potential fix, but of course I'm running the Mac version of the game so who knows when they'll actually patch that.

      It just uses a Windows binary within a 'compatibility layer' from Transgaming (known for Cedega). So you don't have to wait for a Mac-specific patch.

      • by jonwil (467024)

        The windows patch may not necessarily work on the mac if the mac version of Spore is like the mac version of C&C3 and contains programmable pixel and vertex shaders that are customized for the mac version.

  • I seriously don't think the DRM has hurt Spore's sales. There are too many people out there who are in the "I have to have this game" mindset. The proof of this is all of the bittorrent people who don't have the self control to hold off on buying the game even if the DRM bugs them.

    The time when DRM will truely negatively start effecting sales is when the game loses it's hype. I think the negative press right now is actually the kind that will make the hype last longer. You know, the harder something is

  • That gives me infinite installations!

    For god's sake! I could see a limit to the number of installs in a certain time making some sort of sense, but they've still removed any resale value.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ash-Fox (726320)

      Nope. Still going to pirate it

      What gives you the right to pirate this game?

      You don't own any legitimate copy, you're not a customer, you have no right to play a game just because you want to play it.

  • Unfortunate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thyamine (531612) <thyamine@oLISPfd ... m minus language> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:45AM (#25083941) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately I was looking forward to trying this game, especially since it was available for OS X, and of course the interesting hype and all. And while I don't think they are going to notice that I don't purchase it, the limit on installations just seems beyond silly. I will accept some DRM if it makes them feel better but doesn't limit me beyond keeping a CD in the drive or perhaps a serial number around. But just as other people here have said, I can't tell you how many times I've installed Starcraft or Warcraft or Quake.. You get the point. Unfortunately, working in the computer consulting industry, I have very much seen this type of attitude from managers/owners/PHBs where they are really too far removed to know how bad it is or they get sucked in by some 3rd party explaining how great (in this case) DRM will be for sales and helping combat piracy.
  • by Etrai (1014023) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:09AM (#25084039)
    ...no one has said it outright: DRM (and plain old copy protection if you care for the distinciton) only punishes those who care to buy the software. While this might not have been the intent this is the reality of the matter.
    Stardock saw it, why can't EA (et al.)?
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      ...no one has said it outright: DRM (and plain old copy protection if you care for the distinciton) only punishes those who care to buy the software. While this might not have been the intent this is the reality of the matter.

      It also stops casual copying of the game from it's original disc.

  • Overwhelming Gall (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:36AM (#25084147)
    From Frank Gibeau's open letter:

    ... we're hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

    I can't believe the gall of EA to speak about the PC game industry like this. Here is the largest third-party game publisher in the world (unless Ubi Soft has them now), holding exclusivity contracts with multiple major sports franchises so their yearly Madden installments have no competition - who routinely releases malfunctioning games to the end consumer - who has been called out for overworking and underpaying its employees - who would rather charge you a buck to unlock a cheat code, or put ads in your game, than respect you as a customer - and this guy has the nerve to speak about what is good for the industry?

    No, EA. Not buying it. Not buying your game, not buying your bullshit. Cry me a fuckin' river about software piracy -- no way I'm feeling sorry for you being hoisted by your own SecuROM petard.

  • Even when they release the promised deactivation tool, how would you know the seller followed the proper procedures to deactivate it if you were to buy it used?
  • by Drakin020 (980931)

    It's not the Secure Rom or anything like that which bothers me...

    It's the limited installations. I cannot think of how many times I've installed an OLD game like C&C Gold or Red Alert. Would the authentication servers still be online over 10 years later? That's why I hate limited installs.

    Make it unlimited or I'll continue to pirate.

    • That's it exactly. I still play SimCity 2000, Warcraft II, Master of Orion, and several other old games. I wouldn't be able to play them now if they had limited installs.

      Hell, my (still hypothetical) children are going to be playing those games, too, because I'll be able to install them 10+ years from now. Anyone playing Spore in ten years will be playing a pirated copy.

  • by Gavin Scott (15916) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:23PM (#25086427)

    Spore has two problems. First of all it has rather annoying DRM that probably actually has negative effects on about 1% of its players. But more importantly it's just not that great of a game. It's style of play and features will probably appeal strongly to about 10% of players.

    So the game is not going to do anywhere near as well as they hoped. But the gameplay problems are probably at *least* 10x more the cause of this than the DRM issues.

    But who are the developers going to blame? Which do you think is more likely:

    A) Developers admit "The game wasn't that good really. Next time we'll try harder. Sorry about the $50M we spent over four years."

    B) Developers blame DRM protests saying "This game is a failure only because of the DRM related issues. We are saddened by the fact that so many people were pushed into bootlegging the game which prevented its being a commercial success."

    Anyone else think "B" is slightly more likely?

    The net result is that everyone blames the DRM stuff so that they don't have to take any personal blame for the failure. And so the anti-DRM crowd gain a huge win that will dramatically reduce DRM use in the future, even though DRM probably had little to do with the relative success of the game.

    G.

    P.S. After wandering through a computer store and seeing hundreds of copies of the game in both regular and collector's edition versions this weekend, I have a new tag-line for it:

    Spore: It's what's in stock.

  • Spore looked kinda neat. As a -casual- gamer, I mostly replay games I already own like Civ and the Ultimas. Some I've played for years on a progression of a dozen computers. I usually buy one or two new games each year and Spore looked like a fresh, innovative addition to my collection.

    Then I heard about the DRM. No sale! I may eventually pirate it once its good and cracked, but I'm not in the habit of paying for the privilege of being hassled.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:03PM (#25089571)

    Over on the official Spore forums all threads about SecureROM, DRM, or questions about these threads are now being instantly LOCKED by EA/Maxis moderators. Also, this was edited into one of the threads by a moderator:

    http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/3869.page

    quote:
    SecuROM as been discussed and discussed so much and it causes arguments in threads. If you want to talk about DRM SecuROM then please use another fansite forum. If there is any change you will be able to read it on the official Spore site.

    Please do not continue to post theses thread or you account may be at risk of banning which in some cases would mean you would need to buy a new copy to play Spore. /quote:

    So it would appear EA/Maxis's OFFICIAL stance is that if you question them, they will lock your account and force you to purchase another copy.

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