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Games Your Rights Online

Tensions Rise Between Gamers and Game Companies Over DRM 447

Posted by Soulskill
from the opposing-interests dept.
Tootech recommends an article at the Technology Review about the intensifying struggle between gamers and publishers over intrusive DRM methods, a topic brought once more to the forefront by Ubisoft's decision not to use their controversial always-connected DRM for upcoming RTS RUSE, opting instead for Steamworks. Quoting: "Ultimately, Schober says, companies are moving toward a model where hackers wouldn't just have to break through protections on a game, they'd also have to crack company servers. The unfortunate consequence, he says, is that it's getting more difficult for legitimate gamers to use and keep the products they buy. But there are alternatives to DRM in the works as well. The IEEE Standards Association, which develops industry standards for a variety of technologies, is working to define 'digital personal property.' The goal, says Paul Sweazey, who heads the organization's working group, is to restore some of the qualities of physical property — making it possible to lend or resell digital property. Sweazey stresses that the group just started meeting, but he explains that the idea is to sell games and other pieces of software in two parts — an encrypted file and a 'play key' that allows it to be used. The play key could be stored in an online bank run by any organization, and could be accessed through a URL. To share the product, the player would simply share the URL."
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Tensions Rise Between Gamers and Game Companies Over DRM

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  • Is he bloody stupid? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Securityemo (1407943) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @10:48PM (#33336684) Journal
    The user has the key. The user can retain or share the key, or just share the material unencrypted. As for remote DRM, even if you bloody well upload large parts of the game's code remotely it's just security through obscurity. As well as a source for nusiance and flakiness/unplayability.
  • No DRM for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @10:49PM (#33336690) Journal
    Crap like this is why I put my money where my mouth is and buy from Good Old Games [gog.com]. NO DRM, NO limits on installs, easy and hassle free, and even works perfectly on x64.
  • Re:Alternative? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @10:55PM (#33336720) Homepage Journal

    Well, if the original FO3 was an indication, it shouldn't be bad. They made shitloads of cash, despite the fact that only the frontend launcher was protected... and using it wasn't mandatory.

    The DLC also was unprotected. Sure, you (or someone else...) needed to use Games for Windows Live to purchase and download... but some digging in your user profile will find you the data files. You can simply copy those directly into the game's data directory, and you now don't even need to sign into Live to access them!

    In fact, this is -required- for use of things like "fose" - which is kind of like a trainer except that it extends the game's scripting engine (and is used by any mod of decent complexity/elegance - see FO3: Wanderer's Edition for instance.

  • by cosm (1072588) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .3msoceht.> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @10:55PM (#33336722)

    continue moving away from PC games as a whole (since the console market is somewhat more secure

    The sad, slow, and painful death of PC gaming.

  • by MakinBacon (1476701) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @11:12PM (#33336820)

    There are some games where Steam can be a real pain in the ass, like in GTA4. You already have to be logged into both Rockstar Social Club AND Games For Windows Live; if you buy the Steam version, you literally have to log into three separate DRM systems to play the damn game.

    Also, Steam is somewhat scary to me because I wonder what'll happen to my game collection should Valve eventually go out of buisiness or shut down steam (probably not in the near future, but it could very well happen eventually). I'm the kind of person who still plays 20+ year old games every now and then.

  • by hughperkins (705005) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @11:12PM (#33336824) Homepage

    Personally I really like how Starcraft 2 works. I no longer need to carry dvds/cds or a dvd-player. I don't need to worry about using 'other methods' for obtaining a game I've bought before. I just need an account, a password, maybe a battle net authenticator, and I'm good to go! Can play anywhere. And I feel warm and comfortable.

    So, key parts of SC-2 security I guess:
    - the client is freely downloadable, in full, as many times as you like
    - since multiplayer is a major part of how it works, that takes care of the drm
    - we have an account, that we can use anywhere we like, on any computer

    Of course, the campaign bit isn't really secured by this method, so there are still some pieces missing from the puzzle for that, but for multiplayer games, which is I feel the most interesting to me, there doesn't seem to be a major issue?

  • "Digital property" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andorin (1624303) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @11:20PM (#33336866)

    Realistically, something is your property insofar as you can control it; my car is my property because I have the keys and can do what I want with it. (It helps that I legally own the car as well, but legal property rights do not guarantee that things won't be stolen.) If someone does steal my car, then legally I still own it, but realistically I don't have it anymore.

    Copyrighted and publicly released media such as video games are legally owned by the copyright holder(s), but realistically, they are 'owned' by either everyone or no one. Once something goes on the Internet, any privately held control over it is basically nullified. Anyone can copy it and redistribute it to anyone else. The 'owners' can come close enough to actual ownership by not releasing the media or information, but once that happens it is, for all intents and purposes, public domain.

    That's why I think the term "digital property" is an oxymoron. It can't exist because of the nature of the Internet, which is the unbiased sharing of information from one computer to another, and no DRM garbage will change that.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:05AM (#33337096)
    I stopped getting tense after MechWarrior4. When that stupid game didn't work in any CDROM drive I owned due to DRM, I stopped buying new games for PC. I only play old games or open source games, both of which I have plenty.
  • Re:No DRM for me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Totenglocke (1291680) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:09AM (#33337116)
    Yes, with GOG you own it forever and can re-download it at any time. They also provide updates so that the games will run perfectly on new OS's, even if it's an old DOS game and you're running Win 7 64-bit.
  • Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:26AM (#33337176)

    Unfortunately, many publishers really ARE stupid when it comes to DRM. They think it is a fight they can win. Also they get focus on the wrong thing. They want to reduce piracy at any cost, rather than focusing on increasing sales, which is what matters.

    Even if you could make a 100% uncrackable DRM it wouldn't be useful is said DRM was so invasive that nobody was willing to purchase you game. You've have stopped piracy, but killed sales. It would be like a store so determined to eliminate shoplifting that they sealed all exits except one and had armed guards strip search all customers and employees. It'd probably work but nobody would shop there so in the end it would be worse than doing nothing at all.

    I'm quite sure the reason Ubisoft is changing is because their DRM has probably cost them sales, as well as costing a good deal of money to administer. I know I'm two of the sales they lost. I was planning on getting Assassin's Creed 2, since it looked like the first one but with the annoyances taken out. Also Settlers 7 looked interesting. After hearing about the DRM, I wrote them off. I didn't pirate them, they've been cracked despite the "server side processing" shit, I simply played other games. There's no lack of good games out there, I lack the time to play them all so if they want to be assholes that's fine, I'll just spend money elsewhere.

    What publishers need to concentrate on is DRM that is non-invasive. I'm not saying DRM is worthless, I'm sure there are people who are cheap and won't pay if they can easily get away with it, but you want to make it so that the DRM doesn't hurt legit users, but actually helps them. Steam is a good example in that regard. If you get a Steamworks protected game, it is to your benefit not to crack it. Reason is when you register it on Steam you get all updates automatically from good servers, and you can redownload it as you please, again from fast servers. It actually improves your experience, makes things easier. So even if someone doesn't care about doing the right thing, the easy of use, their laziness, can convince them to pay.

    If companies wise up and start focusing on increasing sales, by making things better for legit users, rather than trying to decrease piracy, I think it'll go a long way.

  • by judeancodersfront (1760122) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:08AM (#33337388)
    There have been numerous $20 DRM-free indy games that were pirated just as much as everything else.

    There is no reward for companies that go DRM-free. The people that pirate do so because the pirated version is $0. Good will does not convert pirates.

    The only solution is remote processing. Don't let the client have all the code.
  • by judeancodersfront (1760122) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:17AM (#33337440)
    the best solution is to move some of the code to the server.

    The chunk method can keep pirates at bay but an effective implementation would be cost prohibitive. Games just aren't designed to be broken up into a hundred pieces.

    MMOs and web games are the future of pc gaming since they keep so much code server side. That and casual games that are purchased by demographics that have low piracy rates.
  • Re:No DRM for me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:25AM (#33337482)

    > intentionally defecting
    [citation needed]

    It's far more likely that the "old games" were written for whatever hardware was around at the time rather than being coded strictly according to the specifications.

    A classic example is Quake 2, which doesn't run in OpenGL mode with current drivers without some tweaks. Not because the current drivers intentionally break it, but because it made certain assumptions about the length of the result from glGetString(GL_EXTENSIONS) which no longer hold (i.e. modern cards support far more OpenGL extensions than even existed when Q2 was written).

    A lot of DOS-era games don't work on modern PCs simply because they're too fast. Example: Ultima Underworld II scales to frame rate. The fastest PC which was around when it was written might have managed 5 fps. A modern PC could do 60 fps without breaking a sweat (i.e. the CPU will spend 95% of its time waiting for vsync). That's a problem, because the motion calculations use integer arithmetic, and at 60 fps the motion per frame is less than one unit, which gets rounded to either 0 (positive) or -1 (negative), meaning that you can travel south-west at an alarming speed but can't move north or east.

  • by Vaphell (1489021) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:06AM (#33337938)

    i hear ya

    recently LAN thing backfired quite nicely - there was a tournament at gamerscom or whatever that was called and battle.net lagged few times not to mention dropped connections in a best of 3 showmatch. There were thousands of people watching it live and via internet and players were lagging and dropping. Epic F.A.I.L.

    I read the forums from time to time and I really hate how when some rather clueless casual player asks '- there is only one profile, how can i share it with my brother?' fanboys counted in dozens rush in to inform him he's being cheap and should fork out 60 bucks for his brother too, because sc2 is the best thing since sliced bread. It doesn't matter that these brothers have only 1 pc.

    Recently blizzard announced that 1st name change is free (because many people were not aware of permanence of their handle and typed some junk to play, just like in sc1 where you could have multiple nicknames), but they will charge later. Price is unknown but to charge few bucks for running an sql oneliner? Seriously?

  • by Vaphell (1489021) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:22AM (#33337996)

    have you heard what happened in a first big tournament with $5k prize just 2 days ago? Players repeatedly lagged and in a showmatch Korean pro dropped TWICE in a best of 3 match. Do you think that they had a shitty connection?
    Thousands of people watched it live, you can imagine how much of a fail that was.

  • by Xiph (723935) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:54AM (#33338112)

    Parent is right.

    I've lost out of more or less a generation of games.
    I stopped pirating after in my last year of uni, then realized that the drm was too intrusive.
    I'm stuck playing civ 4 (all expansions, all paid) and a few steam-games, like defcon, some hl-mods and portal.

    DRM has basically been a wedge against cultural proliferation, and as such it sucks much more. I almost cry, when I realize that there are games, that I would love to play, but I just will not install them on my computer, due to digital rights management. Bioshock, spore, assasins creed 2, company of heroes, silent hunter 5 and many many more.

    DRM is the reason i buy music anymore, i got a sony-infected cd and apparently hadn't turned off auto-play after adding a new dvd-drive.

    the people who do install this fit the description:

    Bunch of cocksuckers ramming their shit up our asses.

    Because they deprive the world of cultural enrichment. They do so without regards to the fact that promoting cultural enrichment is the very reason they have copyright in the first place.

  • by f3rret (1776822) on Monday August 23, 2010 @04:48AM (#33338346)

    no LAN play for SC2... SC2 is linked to one and only one battle.net account ever (effectively getting rid of resale and eliminating multiple people being able to play online via one copy of the game)... bnetd. etc

    From what I heard from an SC-geek friend of mine, Blizzard has a 'pro'-version in the works for tournaments and stuff.
    You still need a copy of the game per machine you want to play it on, but Blizzard will send out a representative with the hardware and software to set up a local server. Needless to say you will have to pay through the nose for one of these 'tournament' licenses, will you'll have to pay until the pirates get ahold of this thing, or write their own.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:20AM (#33338494) Journal
    Then you take them to the small claims court and get a refund of the entire cost of all games you've bought, plus damages. In most of the civilised world, they are required to offer a refund for defective goods. You can not waive statutory rights in conditions of service, so if those parts of their ToS will be considered invalid.
  • by RichiH (749257) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:31AM (#33338746) Homepage

    I decided I wanted to play Bioshock. Yes, it's a few years old, but so what.

    Living in Germany, I can only buy a censored version. I am over 18 and want to play the game as it was intended to be played. Steam not an option, then.
    Looking for physical media, I realized that SecuROM is still used with the DVD variant. I refuse to install any such thing on any machine I own or maintain.

    I contacted Steam support, looked around the web, etc. I tried _really_ hard to play by the rules.

    Long story short? I bought a DVD and installed Bioshock from an age-old torrent that has been alive for a few years now. To add more irony to irony, the torrent download was faster than the typical Steam download and apart from a single .reg, I did not even install Bioshock. I runs happily from where I extracted it.

    People... DO NOT MAKE IT HARD FOR ME TO GIVE YOU MONEY! You would think that should be obvious...

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:53AM (#33338846)

    I think all older gamers have some story like this. I still buy games, but only very, very seldom. My 'gaming pc' is actually being used as a media center now since I use it for gaming so seldom. Anyhow, my story:

    Neverwinter Nights. I stick it in, start playing... 10 minutes later it crashes. No errors, just gone. Try again. And again. And again. Eventually I went online and got the NoCD crack thinking maybe my CD drive was bad. It fixed the problem. Thing is, my CD drive wasn't broken... The DRM was. Yes, it prevented me from playing the game I had purchased.

    After that, I couldn't trust things to work right out of the box. I knew that this would only get worse, and it has. I think Oblivion is the first game in years that I didn't install a NoCD crack immediately after purchase.

    Now, I generally just buy small games for the PC, usually from Big Fish Games. They almost always have a demo, and I don't buy the ones that don't.

    Instead of buying big games for the PC, I usually rent them for my consoles. The developers lose out on a lot of money and I save a lot and have less hassle.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 23, 2010 @07:24AM (#33338970)

    I was going to mod you (+1, Everything You Said Is True), but decided to post instead so I could observe that unfortunately, you and I seem to be a relatively small group compared to the vast numbers of freeloaders out there.

    As a guy who runs software development businesses, I can appreciate that a games company isn't doing this for fun, they're doing it to make a living. In cold, hard maths, if they are looking at piracy rates of 90% on a DRM-free title and DRM can cut that down to 80%, that doubles the amount of income they're making on that game, which probably does a lot more than doubling their profits after sunk costs are taken into account. I fear that easily outweighs any losses to a few people like you and me who won't spend their hard-earned cash on a game with those kinds of restrictions.

    There seems to be an entire generation now who have this "everything I want should be free" entitlement culture. I'm sure it's partly to do with being able to rip things like games and music on-line, but it's also a lot to do with how the kids are brought up: walk through the city centre on a Saturday afternoon, and most of the 12-year-olds have more expensive phones than I do. If I wanted something nice when I was younger, I had to help with the household chores or do my homework, and my parents would give me enough money to buy a little treat if and when I had fulfilled my other obligations. When was the last time you heard about a child having to work for their phone? This is not a healthy trend, but as long as it is socially acceptable to get whatever you want without having to work for it, it's going to be a tough market that companies like computer game vendors to operate in.

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