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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Spore, Mass Effect DRM Phone Home For Single-Player Gaming 900

Tridus writes "The PC version of Mass Effect is going to require Internet access to play (despite being a single-player game), as its DRM system requires that it phone home every 10 days. Sadly, Spore will use the same system. This will do nothing to stop piracy of course, but it will do a heck of a good job of stopping EA's new arch-enemy: people playing their single player games offline." Is this better or worse than requiring a CD in the drive to play? Update: 05/07 17:17 GMT by T : According to a message from Technical Producer Derek French (may require a scroll-down) on the Bioware forums, there is indeed an internet connection required, but only for activation, not for all future play. Update: 05/08 04:10 GMT by T : Mea culpa. As reader David Houk points out, the 10-day window is in fact correct as initially described, so don't count on playing this on any machine without at least some Internet connectivity.
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Spore, Mass Effect DRM Phone Home For Single-Player Gaming

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  • by eison ( 56778 ) <pkteison@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:38AM (#23324424) Homepage
    I hate how publishers have finally used technological measures to achieve what the courts won't grant them. This should be flat out explicitly illegal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Steam (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:42AM (#23324476) Homepage
    Steam's a bit different - you can switch it to 'offline mode' (which happens automatically if it can't connect to the Steam servers), and it won't need to phone back again. You only need to be online to initially decrypt and update the game.

  • by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:42AM (#23324486)
    I always buy my games (who needs to download multiple Gb files anyway, it's boring), but I hate these stupid copy protection schemes.

    Most of the time I find someone posts a crack or workaround to gamecopyworld though, and they tend to work.

    Not for freetards though, not one of them comes with a serial, you still have to buy the games.

    I'll try Spore just as soon as the drm is bypassed, not before. I refuse to believe that I, as a legally purchasing game player, need to be watched by the content owner.
  • by Rasit ( 967850 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:43AM (#23324508)

    Sounds like it only re-checks *once*, not once every ten days, ad infinitum.
    No, it rechecks every 10 days according to the mods at the main Mass Effect forum. http://masseffect.bioware.com/forums/viewtopic.html?topic=628724&forum=125 [bioware.com]
    A: You cannot play MEPC without an internet connection. MEPC must authenticate when it is initially run and every 10 days thereafter.
  • by ThreeGigs ( 239452 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:44AM (#23324544)
    Update, as I read farther into TFA:

    "just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after"

    Now it's saying something different!

    Commenter: "Sure, I have an always-on net connection but what happens if I don't play for 11 days and the moment I want to play my connection is down? Are you saying I'm not going to be able to play my perfectly legitimate purchased copy of the game, even the retail version, until I get permission?"
    BioShock rep: "That is correct. And I would suggest that you contact EA Support the moment this happens (once you get your internet back) to report the issue. If there are people having problems with the system as designed, then Support needs to hear about it so they can help us evaluate it for the next game title."
  • Re:Steam (Score:2, Informative)

    by oyningen ( 1189553 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:46AM (#23324580)
    Offline mode has never worked for me. I find this out everytime my DSL is down for whatever reason, and I actually want to play a single-player game. And then I can't...
  • agreed Re:Worse. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Essron ( 231281 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:47AM (#23324588)
    dont forget air/sea travel, airports, bus stations, cabins, e-mail-less vacations.

    I need my games most when I CAN'T get to the network...
  • by AngelKurisu ( 1173447 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:48AM (#23324608) Homepage
    Quoted from the forum mod / dev person: "Yes, EA is ready for us and getting ready for Spore, which will use the same system." (on the second page)
  • by GarfBond ( 565331 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:51AM (#23324646)
    I'd say RTFA, but the clarifying details were on the second page so I won't. :)

    For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after. You can be completely connectionless for 9 days and encounter no problems playing Mass Effect. And you don't need the disk in the drive to play.
  • Re:My worry (Score:5, Informative)

    by Clovis42 ( 1229086 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:05PM (#23324890)
    As a Netflix user, I can affirm that you do not know what you are talking about. Netflix's instant view capabilities are an added bonus to an already nice system. They don't even charge extra for it. The whole point of Netflix is that you are renting movies, so no one thinks they are "buying" a movie when they watch it instantly. You don't even pay per view, you pay a monthly fee, and that fee can be really low if you want to mainly watch the instant view movies. I don't know of a better way to legally watch movies cheaply. If Netflix suddenly goes down, all you lose is the last few days of that month's subscription.

    Now, this system in TFA that is being described is a Bad Thing, because when those servers go down I can't play the game I paid $50.00 for. This is the first thing I've heard that makes me second guess buying Spore as soon as it comes out. Then again, I play plenty of Steam games, so I guess I'm not really that worried.
  • by Satanboy ( 253169 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:07PM (#23324918)
    I agree wholeheartedly.

    I got burned on Half Life 2. I bought the game on release, and was unable to play the game for 2 days because steam was down. I made a decision at that time to never buy another product that requires online activation.

    I have not played bioshock, or the orange box due to this.

    I will not play spore or mass effect due to this either.
  • Re:FFS (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:11PM (#23324968)
    Steam versions of Bioshock phoned home at every game startup.
  • Re:I wouldn't mind (Score:3, Informative)

    by Danse ( 1026 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:15PM (#23325056)

    I'm surprised at the 10 days though. That seems kind of long to me. Sounds like something a cracker could exploit. If there is a timer there is a way to stop it.
    Even if there wasn't a timer, unless the server somewhere is providing some critical component of the game itself that can't be replaced, then the game will be cracked. It's that simple. Once people figured out how to create their own WoW servers, then it was possible to play a cracked version because they no longer needed the service provided by the real servers.

    These are just the facts of life, and the game publishers are simply pissing people off with these stupid attempts to prevent something that they can't prevent. They aren't even making it harder for anyone really, except maybe the cracking groups, but they love this stuff and compete with each other. It's the legitimate customers that have to put up with all the crap, not the pirates.

    They should look to Stardock as an example. Create a good game, and ask your users for their support so that you can continue to create good games. Treat your customers with respect and decency, and they'll respond to that. Especially for niche games, Stardock's titles have done very well with no intrusive DRM. They have a key that you use that gives you access to updates, that's it.

  • Re:Annoying (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:16PM (#23325062)

    Mostly because it won't do a thing to prevent piracy. I really don't understand how they can keep coming back to this idea of requiring a CD in the drive or an active internet connection for single-player games. It makes no sense and only inconveniences their customers. The pirates just replace the executable with a cracked version and have no trouble at all.
    Exactly. All this copy protection/DRM crap is absolute garbage. It never hurts the pirates, it only hurts the legitimate customers. As you said, pirates are breaking the copy protection anyway. They'll never have to deal with this crap.

    The person this is going to hurt is some guy who goes out and buys the game but doesn't have an Internet connection. He won't be able to play, but there'll be a dozen downloads on BitTorrent and hundreds of pirates will be playing just fine.

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:33PM (#23325490) Homepage
    Its on page 2:

    "For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after. You can be completely connectionless for 9 days and encounter no problems playing Mass Effect. And you don't need the disk in the drive to play."

    Every 10 days after. The game will be checking every 10 days. If you've been 10 days since its last check and it can't get online, it won't run.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tambo ( 310170 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:36PM (#23325546)
    Making an unauthorized copy is a violation of the copyright holders rights.

    Even in America, where copyright is more heavily imbalanced in favor of owners and at the expense of the public than any other nation in the world - even here, you're wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use [wikipedia.org]

    Fair use exists to protect many actions that a purchaser of a copyrighted work might take, even if it's unauthorized. The DMCA may have warped some of that, but it's already eroding under court challenges, and it will continue to do so.

    - David Stein
  • Re:FFS (Score:4, Informative)

    by grammar fascist ( 239789 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:36PM (#23325560) Homepage
    And here's another two sales [shamusyoung.com] lost on the DM of the Rings guy. (Plus a hilarious comic.) Is there some public list we could all sign stating our refusal to buy these games?
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:51PM (#23325870)
    Because he's telling the truth. NWN was particularly problematic and indeed if they determined you were having legit problems, they'd send you a version with no SecureROM. They kept tweaking it with various patches, and eventually gave up and just patched it out.

    I've had similar problems, Civilization 4 Beyond the Sword said my disc wasn't valid. I took it back to Target in case there was a problem with that particular disc (media errors do happen) but no, it just didn't like my DVD drive. Ya well, a patch from GCW fixed that.

    You'll also notice that many trainers/cheat programs tell you that you need to get a no-cd patch. The reason is that the copyprotection these days gets real paranoid and if something tries to debug the program (which is how many trainers work) it'll halt execution. So just patch the protection out and the trainer works fine.
  • by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @12:58PM (#23326006)

    Exactly what I was thinking. What happens 10 years down the line when I try to play a game or watch a Movie that has some funky DRM on it, but I can't because the company is out of business or has shutdown the DRM server.

    It's happened [slashdot.org] before [slashdot.org].

  • Re:My worry (Score:2, Informative)

    by camg188 ( 932324 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @01:03PM (#23326106)
    You sir, are a dumbass for not understanding Netflix's straight-forward business model. It is a rental. It is advertised as a rental. If you damage or don't return a disk and don't have a decent excuse (like mailbox theft) you will be charged to replace the disk.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by LarsG ( 31008 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @01:18PM (#23326384) Journal
    Copyright is a legal right granted by the government. Making an unauthorized copy is a violation of the copyright holders rights.

    You might want to read the entire USC 17 instead of stopping at Â106. Making a copy without authorization from the copyright holder is a violation in many circumstances but not in all.

    For starters, there's Â107.
  • by silviuc ( 676999 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @01:20PM (#23326438) Homepage
    It's not about your "digital" rights or any kind of rights. You do not have any, anyway. It's about their rights. You are just a sheep.
  • by Feanturi ( 99866 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @01:30PM (#23326624)
    Absolutely, I buy all of my games yet nearly every one of them gets its protection removed one way or another since I hate switching discs around when I want to change games, and also hate the risk of an accidental scratch every time I have to take one out. The routine is something like this: Get home with game, begin installation, look for official patches while waiting and start downloading those... Then while the game is patching, I attempt to create a working disc image to mount with Daemon Tools/YASU, and if that doesn't work then I go looking for a crack for the patched game. I prefer disc images to cracks since you never have to worry about getting an updated crack when there's another official patch for the game. Although full disc images take up a lot of space, HDD space is dirt cheap these days. I've got around 75 games installed at the moment and only three of them still require the disc.
  • Re:My worry (Score:5, Informative)

    by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:24PM (#23328328)
    I just cancelled my pre-order for mass effect PC in the UK. I went through the new securom nightmare with Bioshock, and ended up returning my game for a refund. I'm not going through this again.

    Here's the problems:
    Bioshock didn't ship with a complete game on disc, leading to hours waiting for overloaded servers to connect and deliver up the missing parts on launch day. EA servers are well known for struggling when there's heavy load so I expect there to be similar problems.

    Bioshock securom shipped with two lifetime activations. Reinstall windows? New activation. Replace motherboard? New activation. New user account? New activation. Every time after that, ring up tech support, spend a while on hold, then proving you own a legitimate copy by sending a digital photo of disc plus serial number to tech support in the US, while from the UK. Expensive, slow and very very frustrating, especially since the techs initially wouldn't even help for the first few days. It tooks months in the end for the 'release an activation' tool to come out, and that's a nightmare in itself.

    3 activations? Given the amount I upgrade my gaming PC and reinstall windows, I'll be out of those in months if not weeks. I'm *not* jumping through hoops on the phone every time to reinstall my legitimate owned game because I've upgraded hardware and reinstalled windows more than 3 times in the lifetime of owning the game. And before you ask, my legit copy of windows is VLK licenced, and doesn't require activation.

    Now the new and worse activation nightmare. Activation every 10 days? So I decide to install on a gaming laptop. If that laptop doesn't have an internet connection at the time I want to play, I won't be able to, because it's been sat unpowered in the bag for a fortnight, and I don't have an internet connection. Heaven forbid I want to play mass effect on the train, or on holiday.

    Putting 'internet required' on the box does not excuse this rediculous scheme. They're going to massively inconvenience thousands of legitimate gamers wanting to play their own property when they choose, and they simply won't be able to. I won't buy a single player game that's deliberately crippled to stop me playing it unless I check in with the licence servers before I play. I've better ways to spend my money.

    Pirates, on the other hand, will be playing a completely unencumbered game without any problems. It took less than 9 days for the bioshock DRM to be patched out and the cracked version to hit the internet. Legitimate paying customers are still massively inconvenienced by the DRM and stupid hoop-jumping, while pirates get a simple and easy experience.

    I can't think of a better way to kill sales of the game and drive people to piracy than this new even worse version of securom than Bioshock.

    And spore? I was really looking forward to that game, even more than mass effect. But I'm not going through the frustration I had with securom on bioshock again. No damn way.
  • Re:My worry (Score:2, Informative)

    by Littleman_TAMU ( 589126 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:06PM (#23328936)
    Yes, you can. You have to connect to Steam to setup offline mode, but after that you're set. https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=3160-AGCB-2555 [steampowered.com]
  • by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:58PM (#23331714)
    Record players have a following, as a matter of fact they are bigger now than they have been over the last several years, as the people who like records aren't the type to embrace things like iTunes so I see them here to stay. It's more like a audio cassette tapes, a technology that's been totally outclassed and no one really ever liked in the first place. Can you even buy an audio cassette player anymore?
  • Re:My worry (Score:2, Informative)

    by iainl ( 136759 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:29AM (#23334878)
    Burnout 3 is an exception - they turned that server back on in time for the XBox Classics thing where you can download it for the 360.
  • Actually, this happens, and EA does it. You may have meant it as a joke but its not.
    Here's a list of thier dozens of titles including 2006 and later games they've disabled online services for already:
    http://www.ea.com/information.jsp [ea.com]

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer