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Games Entertainment Your Rights Online

Stardock Evaluates DRM Complaints, Updates Gamer's Bill of Rights 279

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-sense-anger dept.
Earlier this year, we discussed the Gamer's Bill of Rights, a document put forth by Stardock CEO Brad Wardell to address what he felt were the unacceptable characteristics of the gaming industry. ShackNews reports that Wardell has taken feedback from gamers, developers, and publishers, and updated the document accordingly. One particular area on which he focused was DRM. Stardock also published a customer report that examines the issue in greater detail (PDF). MTV's Multiplayer Blog fans the flames of the debate by asking if anyone is embarrassed about pirating video games.
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Stardock Evaluates DRM Complaints, Updates Gamer's Bill of Rights

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  • So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When are they going to add another important point to the bill of rights:

    11. Gamers shall have the right to play the game on the platform of their choosing.

    Obviously, this whole bill of rights deal is for PC's and not consoles.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:42PM (#25408727)
      I'd like to see WoW on the commodore 64...
    • by LrdDimwit (1133419) on Friday October 17, 2008 @12:08AM (#25408855)
      I can see where you're coming from with this, but that isn't a 'right'. It's a 'demand', and a fairly selfish one at that. Nintendo should be forced to license their IPs out to their arch-nemeses? (I mean, aside from Sega ;) Companies should be forced to release ports even for systems that can't handle the load?

      Not a bad idea, but needs a rethink.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Haeleth (414428)

        Nintendo should be forced to license their IPs out to their arch-nemeses?

        Why not? They could use NAT, and free up some IPs for the rest of us to use. It would be a nice gesture of support for the Internet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Nintendo should be forced to license their IPs out to their arch-nemeses? (I mean, aside from Sega ;) Companies should be forced to release ports even for systems that can't handle the load?

        I think he already addressed that when he said PC and not console.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091)

      Yeah, you get to work on recoding every game out there to play on all platforms.

      Moron.

    • ... it WILL play Crysis?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pvt_Ryan (1102363)

      12. If a gamer owns a copy of a game for 1 platform they shall be able to download versions for all other platforms at no extra cost. (I.e. I buy a game for windows and they release a linux version, I should not have to buy the game twice).

      • This I agree with! I didn't do my research well enough when I bought my mac. Imagine my surprise when I realized that most of my games that I planned to play would have to be bought again just to play them on my mac.

  • Embarrassed? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ludomancer (921940) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:42PM (#25408729)

    Embarrassed? No. I know that I will gladly purchase a game that I feel deserves my money, but I have a great appreciation of piracy for allowing me to preview a product freely in advance. Developers are not losing any money on Piracy from me. I truly wish that were the case for everyone, and we probably wouldn't be in this predicament.

    But who can honestly say those who pirate rampantly are going to buy the damn games anyway? Most of them I assume are kids who don't even have an income in the first place.

    Regardless, though I'm certainly not embarrassed by that, I am increasingly afraid of losing my job, or suffering some other form of corporate backlash. I WORK in the damn game industry. Pretty much everyone I know downloads games, and buys the ones they like. But in the last few years it's gone from something that "everyone does", to something "everyone does unofficially".
    Something that still confuses me are the kids nowadays that come in chanting copyright slogans and poo-pooing on people who bit torrent stuff. That grade-school brainwashing really does work wonders...

    • Re:Embarrassed? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by azuredrake (1069906) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:54PM (#25408789)
      When I got my first job in the game industry, I stopped pirating anything. It was in my contract that I wouldn't, and even though they obviously never would have found out, it still wasn't something I would have felt good about.

      I still hassle my roommates for pirating games that I worked on. While I'd never see any of the revenue myself (it's not like we get royalties or anything), it still really bothers me.
    • Re:Embarrassed? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @12:04AM (#25408831)

      Honestly, I'd be embarrassed to admit I'd bought a copy of Spore considering the limitations of the DRM and the fact that it's installed malware like SecureRom. The people who have torrented DRM-free copies are already laughing at the people who have already hit their 5-install limit.

      Just like I'd be embarrassed if I had bought music from Microsoft or Yahoo a few years ago, then found out that they're shutting down the license servers so that I have no way of listening to copies of songs I've purchased. People who listen to copies of those same songs downloaded from Kazaa are laughing at them.

      Pay attention to the lesson here folks. If you buy something that comes with copy protection, you are being scammed just as surely as if you were to send your life savings to the nice man from Nigeria that sends you so many emails. If there is no legitimate method of buying it that doesn't include DRM, then don't buy it at all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mollymoo (202721)

        My PlayStation (original) games have DRM, have worked for over a decade and I have no reason to expect they won't continue to work for as long as my hardware holds out. Not all DRM is bad. For dedicated gaming platforms (where you're never going to have the need to use the media on a different device) DRM is a good thing as a locked-down platform makes cheating drastically harder. I wouldn't even want to play a game on-line without a platform with strong DRM. I gave up on PC gaming because of the cheaters.

    • But who can honestly say those who pirate rampantly are going to buy the damn games anyway? Most of them I assume are kids who don't even have an income in the first place.

      So if you don't have income you can decide to not follow the rules? Does that mean kids should be allowed to sneak into theaters or into concerts? The problem really isn't that people who normally wouldn't buy the product, it's that if they allow those people to pirate, many of those who would buy will also pirate.

      ething that still conf

  • pride shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MellowTigger (633958) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:56PM (#25408799) Homepage
    From the article...

    But what's keeping all those gamers out there who don't pirate their games from standing up and saying they pay for what they play? From making not being a pirate a point of pride?

    I paid for Spore. The DRM crashed my game. The seemingly incomplete game was enjoyable for as much as it accomplished. But I feel like a sucker for having paid money on it. I don't feel pride; I feel a small twinge of something akin to shame. I helped Electronic Arts dumb down a game (so they can piecemeal add-ons to eventually yield a complete game, sometime in the future) and distribute it with DRM (which interfered in my gameplay, which the pirated version would not have done). I helped them because I can't control my addiction to gaming.

    That's why the cultural front would be a losing battle. To do the "legal" thing, I have to feel slightly embarrassed and used and out of control.

    • by cliffski (65094)

      The game crashed, what makes you assume it was the DRM?

    • I feel the same ; I bought Mass Effect (only when it came down to half it's published price, but still, I didn't like myself).

      It's a great game, but I felt ashamed to be supporting EA. I also felt uncomfortable with the activation scheme - it's definitely dampening my ardour for a new GPU, because that will require me to burn an activation.

      Games are the only things keeping a "real" Windows install on my disk now. I need Windows for work, but I'm prepared to run it in a virtual machine if necessary. The soft

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by VariableRob (1272728)
        After purchasing Mass Effect I used a crack to circumvent the activation. I felt...unclean for paying a company to treat me like that. I decided that I would take a moral stand on the issue and so I will not buy any more games with crazy DRM on them (I did the same with Starforce). Now however I am in something of a quandary, should I:
        a) Be strong! Not only will I not purchase these products, I will not use them in any way. A total boycott.
        b) Be pragmatic! The publisher will label me a lost sale due to pi
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 17, 2008 @12:24AM (#25408951) Homepage

    Their games require you to run "Impulse", and the "Impulse Dock", which is a browser-like client that only talks to Stardock. It has blogs, downloads, and such, and is required for updates to their games. It's like one of those background services required to run many games, only it's in your face.

    This is progress?

    • by Scott Kevill (1080991) on Friday October 17, 2008 @02:08AM (#25409341) Homepage

      The parent is correct. Their games do require you to run their Impulse client to download game updates.

      A recent update to Impulse did actually install background services without asking the user's permission. This was their solution to slow app launch times, by invisibly launching the service at boot time, rather than actually fixing the problem.

      • by lagfest (959022)

        And to make matters worse, for me it started *slower* with the background service running.

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      I gotta agree, I don't mind the concept involved so much as that simply find Impulse to be a particularly bad piece of shit. I find the UI unintuitive, I find the UI ugly, it's slow, it has visual bugs, it has bugs period, it has a lovely random jumble of settings, it doesn't tell me what it's doing (ie: reading all 6gb of game data while saying it's "downloading" an update), etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EricFenderson (64220)

      No, Impulse is nothing like that. I purchased the electronic download of Sins of a Solar Empire using Impulse, so I have actually used it.

      1) Impulse doesn't run in the background.

      2) I don't have to start Impulse to play Sins of a Solar Empire. Once it's installed, I can start it from an icon like any game installed from media.

      3) Impulse only runs when I start Impulse. The only time I start Impulse is to download game updates.

      4) Online multi-player accounts are created via Impulse, but you don't need to r

  • If I purchase a copy of the game, I *DO* own it. Otherwise, I have the right to get a replacement and or refund if my CD or DVD gets scratched. Does that really happen? I don't think so.

    If we gave money and got a CD, it's not a license. It's a sale. Especially when you go to the website and see the words "purchase", "order" and "buy". See Vernor v. Autodesk [citizen.org]. A good review of the decision is available at http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080523-court-smacks-autodesk-affirms-right-to-sell-used-software.html [arstechnica.com]

    So what DRM is really about, is an attempt at circumventing the first sale doctrine. Therefore, it should be declared illegal.

    • by thesupraman (179040) on Friday October 17, 2008 @02:57AM (#25409513)

      Go read up on copyright, as part of the 'deal' that is copyright, the rights to the item are supposed to become public after copyright runs out (which is getting longer and longer, but that aint the point).

      With DRM, how exactly is the public going to get their free access that has been bought and paid for by supplying (through the state..) the protection of the product during its copyright life?

      Any copyright holder who uses DRM that does not time out at the end of copyright is reneging on their half of the contract that is copyright, so why should they get any protection through it?

      State Copyright OR Private DRM, I say. No state protection for DRM!

      • by Zironic (1112127)

        That's a rather good argument I think. Anyone that uses DRM should lose their copyright automatically since they've accepted the burden of defending it themselves.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      I noticed that "Gamers should have the right to resell the game" was put in the list of "Illegitimate complaints" with the justification "Not saying reselling programs is right or wrong, only that it is not the function of DRM to make it hard or easy to do this, it's a separate issue."

      Regardless of whether the function of DRM is to make this easy or hard, with most current DRM systems, reselling the game is made hard as a side-effect of the DRM. Whether or not that's intentional is something we could argue

  • When I was in school, I didn't feel bad about it because I didn't have the money anyways. 50 bucks for a computer game? I would've had to save 2-3 months to afford that, and very, very few games lasted that long before I was done with them, so it wouldn't have been a sustainable model.

    Later on, when I could afford games, I bought most of the ones I played. And that was ok. I was occasionally unhappy because it sucked, which is a lot worse if you paid for it, but it was mostly ok.

    But ever since the game indu

  • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Friday October 17, 2008 @06:08AM (#25410371) Homepage
    I want a DRM Bill of Rights, an agreement between Publishers and End-Users about what their DRM software can and cannot do. It needs to be palatable to both the Publishers -who want to protect their copyright and investment in the software- and to the users, who want to be able to use software they paid for not only today but in the future.

    1) Right of Free Use: If you limit number of installations, the publisher MUST provide a "revoke" tool.

    What it entails for the publisher:

    The Publisher is allowed to limit the software's installation to one or more computers based on their hardware configuration and registered online ("Activation"). They must provide a free stand-alone tool, preferably on the same distribution medium, that the User can use to de-authorize previously activated computers. The total number of Activations and De-activations must be unlimited in number, but can be limited as to number of uses in a particular time period.

    How It Would Work:

    When you install a game, the software must be activated online as is the standard practice today. However, what this Right provides is a method for the User to de-activate an installation so the software can be transferred to another computer, either due to hardware failure, upgrade or resale. This tool needs to be provided free to the user, preferably on the CD/DVD with the game (or downloaded if the game is purchased through digital distribution) and must be stand-alone. De-activation would require proof of ownership (the CD in the drive and the CD-key should be enough), and would display a list of all computers authorized to run that software. The User could then select the computers to be de-activated. Note that this tool does NOT have to be run on the Authorized computer, or require the Authorized software to be installed. In order to prevent misuse of this tool, the Publisher can allow only a certain amount of Authorizations/DeAuthorizations per day/week/month, but cannot limit the TOTAL amount of de-Authorizations.

    2) Right of Activation: If the publisher requires Activation, they must provide some assurance of method to bypass this should the method of Activation no longer be available.

    What it entails for the Publisher:

    The Publisher is allowed to require the User to Activate their software through the method of their choice. But if that method should no longer be available (be it due to technical or financial reasons), they must ensure that the user can continue to use the software they paid for even though the Activation service is no longer running. This assurance can take many forms; a legal promise to release a patch should the Activation Servers be taken down and a waiving of rights to take legal action of any third-party who rights software to allow the same, or a universal "key" that is held in escrow, to be released only should the Activation servers go down, that allows installation and use of the Software without Activation.

    How It Would Work:

    Basically, the Publisher needs to provide the User with a "back-door" that can bypass the Activation requirement should they chose to no longer allow Activations, either because it is costing them too much money or they are no longer in business. The best way for the User is if the Publisher has a patch or some sort of universal serial number that allows the User to bypass Activation; this patch/key is held in escrow until the Activation Servers go down and is then released to the general public. Of course, this may dramatically compromise the usefulness of the DRM, so other methods can be used, for example: providing source-code and funds that can be released to pay a programming team to successfully develop a patch after the fact. Alternately (but least palatable to the User) the Publisher can simply promise to release code and not prosecute should a third-party (e.g., a "cracker") want to develop some method to bypass the Activation (but, note, they must provide enough code to make this a possibility)

    3) Right to P

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