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What Modern Games Are DRM-Free? 630

IceDiver writes "I used to be an avid PC gamer. However, I have only bought 1 game in the last 18 months because I am sick and tired of the problems caused by the various intrusive, and sometimes damaging DRM schemes game publishers insist on forcing upon their customers. Once burned, twice shy! The EA announcement that upcoming releases will include SecuROM, along with verification requirements and major restrictions on installations left me wondering which recently released or upcoming games (particularly major titles) are being released without DRM? Are there any? How has DRM affected your game purchasing? Will EA be negatively affected by their DRM decision?" The ongoing DRM controversy was stirred by the recent launch of Spore. We discussed the public outcry from Amazon's reviews (which were subsequently taken down and then re-posted). EA's response to the outcry was to say that only one percent of accounts tried to activate the game more than three times, which is the limit without help from their customer service. Meanwhile, their efforts to find a "balance" between preventing piracy and not hampering legal users may not have been as successful as they hoped. According to Forbes, a P2P research firm found that illegal copies of Spore had been downloaded over 170,000 times already. So, is it time to create a whitelist for game publishers and developers?
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What Modern Games Are DRM-Free?

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  • by PunkOfLinux ( 870955 ) <> on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:35PM (#24987033) Homepage

    Multiwinia doesn't have DRM as far as I know :) That's a pretty cool-looking game, I gotta say. Introversion does an AWESOME job with their games, in all reality.

    Plus, they run on Linux natively! :D

  • by WARM3CH ( 662028 ) on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:37PM (#24987051)
    Try Sins of a Solar Empire [], one of the best games of the year that has no copy protection. So far they have sold 500,000 copies of it which is huge considering the modest budget.
  • by Nathanbp ( 599369 ) on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:41PM (#24987077)

    Sins of a Solar Empire [] made by Stardock is a recently released DRM free game (their other games are DRM free as well).

    We've discussed Stardock's [] anti-DRM [] policy before.

    No affiliation with Stardock, just a happy customer.

  • by the unbeliever ( 201915 ) <chris+slashdot@atlgeek . c om> on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:58PM (#24987211) Homepage

    Referring to Steam games as "not having DRM" is sort of funny.

    Steam *is* the DRM, although it is an acceptable version thereof in my (and many slashdotters) opinion.

  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by JoeFaust ( 25587 ) <joefaust&yahoo,com> on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:02AM (#24987237) Homepage

    Good Old Games [] has just entered beta. They are offering older games for $5.99 - $9.99, completely DRM free. They've got some great games in their catalog, including Fallout [] & Freespace [].

    Being DRM Free [] is one of their major selling points.

  • by bmgoau ( 801508 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:03AM (#24987243) Homepage

    Sins of a Solar Empire is also completely free of DRM.

    It scored pretty much 9/10 in every review.

    Sins of a Solar Empire is a science fiction real-time strategy computer game developed by Ironclad Games for Windows XP and Vista and published by Stardock Entertainment in February 2008.[1] Sins is a real-time strategy (RTS) game that incorporates some elements from 4X strategy games; promotional materials describe it as "RT4X."[2] []

    Stardock Entertainment are also responsibile for the proposed "Gamers Bill of rights"

    The Gamer's Bill of Rights:

    Gamers shall have the right to return games that don't work with their computers for a full refund.
    Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
    Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game's release.
    Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
    Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
    Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won't install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
    Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
    Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
    Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
    Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play. []

  • y'arrr (Score:2, Informative)

    by azadam ( 250783 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:12AM (#24987297) Homepage

    I'll admit I snagged a copy of Spore in advance of the USA release. Played it for a day or two, and gladly coughed up dough for a legit copy once it was available.

    Illegally downloaded copies != lost sales, I'm sure I'm not the only person who did it.

  • by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:13AM (#24987299)

    Well, they have said that if that scenario ever occurred that they'd release patches (for the activation stuff). I guess we just have to trust them at this point.

    As for the hardcopy/softcopy, this is what backups are for (and steam makes it easy to burn to DVD for games you've downloaded).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:15AM (#24987311)

    Sins of a Solar Empire is *not* DRM-free. If you get it via digital download or if you want to get the updates, you have to install Impulse. Impulse is similar in purpose and function to Steam.

    You may feel that such a system is acceptable, but it is still DRM. You cannot install the game whenver you want, wherever you want. If the Impulse servers go down, people cannot activate their games.

    I was recently put in the uncomfortable spot of having bought and paid for the game, but then finding out I needed to use Impulse to get it. I didn't agree with Impulse's EULA, so I could not get the game. Stardock is refusing to give me a refund.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:25AM (#24987375)

    re: Half-Life 1 and my original key being stolen.

    Same thing happened to me. I sent in the CD case liner (which includes the barcode proof of purchase -- according to the instructions you were *not* to send in the original box or jewel case and for games older than a certain date, the receipt was also not necessary) and a check for $10 (the processing fee at the time, October 2007).

    I received my CD liner intact back from Valve soon after having all of the HL1 games activated on my account. It went through pretty quick.

    They also never bothered to cash the check.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:35AM (#24987437) Journal

    DRM Lite. You need Impulse to patch it, and validate it after patches.

  • by Chiaro Meratilo ( 1036598 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:37AM (#24987457) Homepage
    You are aware you can just run Steam in offline mode.
  • I won't link to it, but is the domain name for those who want the NO-CD or cracked versions of the games. It is mirrored by various web sites throughout the world.

    A warning that some of the cracks may have malware in them. You bought the ticket, so take the ride. As Hunter S. Thompson would say.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:41AM (#24987847)

    Blizzard could do no wrong with me, and now they can't really do right. They make wonderful products, but horrid customer care.

    Blizzard is also evil w.r.t. things like bnetd [], FreeCraft [], and WoW Glider [].

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:47AM (#24987887) Journal

    Move, or rename the file sig.bin file and try to run the game. This is a digital hardware signature generated by the DRM software in Stardock. Without this digital signature that is generated from a hardware signature it will not run. You will be prompted to activate your copy.

  • Re:The answer... (Score:4, Informative)

    by protektor ( 63514 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:57AM (#24987941)

    Amen brother. EA and the other gaming companies have been pissed off for years at Gamestop, EB Games, etc that they resell their games used to customers and they don't get any slice of the pie. The gaming companies at one point wanted to make reselling games commercially illegal. They were like why should we only get 1 sale when 4-5 people have bought it from EB Games, played it and sold it back to be resold again. That has really been pissing of the computer game companies and they have slowly been working to make that less and less possible.

    If you want to know if it working, just look at the historical data. EB Games used to sell a ton of used PC games, not so much anymore due to online activation keys and other forms of DRM. The PC industry has slowly been able to kill the resale industry of PC games, and now they want to do the same exact thing to console industry if they can.

    Game companies want to make it illegal for you to give away or sell your old games you don't play anymore because it cuts in to their profits for them to sell another copy instead of someone getting or buying your old copy. Have you actually read some of the EULAs that they make you agree to? Most of them do not allow you to resell or even give away your game to someone else, only you can use it and play it. It has *ZERO* to do piracy and 100% to do with killing the resell industry.

    Don't believe me read some of the old news articles on this and ask the game companies what they think of the used game resell industry.

  • by Digital_Quartz ( 75366 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @02:09AM (#24987999) Homepage

    "Completely free of DRM" is a stretch; there's an activation step for downloading any patches for any of their games. Ditto if you buy their games online.

    But, their activation doesn't have a finite limit on the number of installs, rather it limits you based on the rate of installs. They don't publish the numbers or details, but essentially they're only going to stop you from activating if you activate WAY too many times in a month. I wish they were a little more transparent in terms of defining exactly how it works, but it isn't too bad. It's WAY better than "3 activations per purchase" (or 2 for Microsoft games).

  • Re: Punkbuster (Score:3, Informative)

    by TypoNAM ( 695420 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @02:52AM (#24988259)

    Punkbuster (Made by EA, hmm) is a terribly buggy and resource intensive program that is ineffectual at BEST.

    Punkbuster is made by Evenbalance which isn't related to Electronic Arts. Now EA Games does license Punkbuster from Evenbalance to use in various games and the same goes for Activision and ID Software.

    Now the part about it being buggy and resource intensive I can testify that is definitely true. Even a monster of a machine like mine using an ASUS Maximus Extreme, Q6600, 2GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM, and GeForce 8600 GTS it'll choke on games like Call of Duty 4 whenever Punkbuster does screen captures that get uploaded to the server for analysis at an interval (some every two minutes) which can make a difference between you successfully killing a player or getting choked and they kill you instead. I have heard there are a few tricks to get around that in CoD4 such as forcing the game into multiple threaded mode by configuring the graphics setting Dual-Video Cards to true even though you only have a single card with one GPU processor.

    Another bad thing with Punkbuster is that if your pb client is even slightly out of date with updates such you were gaming all night and then fourteen hours later once you've woken up and decided to play the game again on the exact same server and there was an update, well you'll get kicked off with in a minute due to some communication error with your pb client of which the only fix is to manually update the pb client by running the pbsetup utility. Talk about annoying...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @03:00AM (#24988305)

    I second the vote for Sins, and Stardock. I was also happy that Sins works under wine, and I happily bought it a few months ago.

    Unfortunately, Stardock's download manager, "Impulse" does not run under wine, which made the download itself a chore, and will shortly make it impossible to buy/run Stardock games under linux.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:12AM (#24988637)

    Except that's not actually true. Windows requires just as much time at the command line as Linux does. Most of the higher level system management tasks work a lot better when done from the command line, and IIRC somethings can't really be done at all via the GUI.

    Try living without robocopy once you've used it a few times, it's the copy function which Windows should have defaulted to, it's just that good. Network interfaces, the CLI utility does a much better job for most things I need than the GUI utility does.

    You _can_ get away without learning much when you use Windows, but that's because most of the actually useful utilities are hidden away and not easy to get at by people that don't read reference manuals in their spare time.

    And ultimately, Windows just has brain damaged defaults which are pretty much mind blowing. In cases like robocopy, to have a good functioning utility available and to then not be able to implement a copy function which works as it should, is inconceivable.

  • Re:The answer... (Score:3, Informative)

    by William Baric ( 256345 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:40AM (#24988737)

    First, I still have to see a video game I could consider as "Art", at least as valuable art. They are entertainment, they can be part of pop culture, but art (as in Beethoven, Rembrandt or Shakespeare)? Sorry, but no.

    Second, a painter can work on his spare time, a musician and a writer too, but video games are now an industry. They are not about one artist expressing himself, they are a business. Most people who work in this industry do it mainly as a job, meaning for the money, they don't do it for the love of "art" or "culture". Maybe you don't care about their paychecks, but I'm pretty sure they, on their side, don't give a shit about your culture and your sanity.

    Anyway, even if "sane" life depended on commercial pop culture (and I disagree, BTW), I don't see how being free (as in beer) is a necessity. Affordable, maybe, free, no way. If you think it's normal to pay for food, which grow on trees by itself and also which is far more important to your life than a video game, than why don't you find normal to pay the people who create cultural products?

  • by kbranch ( 762946 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:51AM (#24988771)
    You're not paying a licensing fee, you're paying a subscription fee. The former lets you use your software while the latter lets you use Blizzard's servers. Big difference. WoW keeps working just fine if your subscription expires, you're able to log on to private servers without any issues (admittedly, Blizzard would love to stop that too, but they haven't been able to sue the private server projects out of existence). The only thing you lose is access to the official Blizzard servers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @05:35AM (#24988907)
    I think he meant that someone had generated a valid key which happened to be his. In that case there'd be zero fault with the owner. Just the method used to verify the purchase.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @07:21AM (#24989263) Journal
    There are lots of good open source games for people who prefer something a bit more graphical too. Some examples:
    • Battle for Wesnoth [], a turn-based strategy game with some great single-player campaigns.
    • Vega Strike [], the game Elite would have been if it had been made for today's hardware (honourable mention to Oolite [], which faithfully recreates Elite but with updated graphics).
    • Nexuiz [], a superb FPS with completely new artwork, levels, and game design based on an incredibly heavily modified version of the Quake 1 engine.
    • FreeCol [] (and, of course, the classic FreeCiv []), open source clones of the old Colonisation and Civilisation games, with large numbers of updates (and distressingly good single player AI).
    • Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid [], a complex platform game, full of gratuitous blob violence[1]. A sequel [], this time in full 3D, was released last month.

    With complex and polished open source games in almost every genre being available, it's quite surprising how much people spend on commercial games from companies that treat them like criminals. Wikipedia has a good list [] - I've not played more than a small fraction of them.

    [1] This doesn't quite count as open source. The game is all GPL'd, but a number of images were things the author 'found on the Internet' and are used without a valid license. It was removed from the OpenBSD ports system last week because of this, as the author refuses to address the problem.

  • Half Life 1 is 9.99 on Steam.

    There's a pack that contains HL1, 2, Portal, TF2, CS:S, CS.. pretty much everything Valve put out. I bought it for like $70. That's about the price of ONE brand new game.
  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by miscz ( 888242 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @08:25AM (#24989503)
    Fallout 2 was released in 1998. Back in the Win9x times nobody cared about priviliges (it wasn't exactly a multi-user OS) and everything was supposed to run with administrator priviliges.
  • by Drantin ( 569921 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @09:46AM (#24989909)

    Ah, and Freecaft did change its name, it's around as Stratagus []

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @09:58AM (#24989973)

    Couldn't get past the snaky rep who basically said they won't talk to you.

    I called the bank and had them issue charge backs

    Funny, in my experience "Sort it out now or I report you to the bank and let them sort it out" is a pretty effective way of getting problems solved.

    It's not particularly diplomatic but then neither is getting the bank to issue a charge back.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:14PM (#24991033)

    This bnetd thing, I don't know, might be ok, might not, but give it's purpose of being able to play net games with hacked versions

    No, its purpose was to play games (including legitimately purchased ones) without having to deal with Blizzard's servers. For example, IIRC for a while it was the only way to play Starcraft over a TCP/IP LAN until Blizzard added support in a patch (Starcraft 1.0 could only do IPX LAN games).

    bnetd was at least as legitimate as FreeCraft.

    Also, the problem with Glider is not about cheating -- if I played WoW, I wouldn't want Glider bots around either. The problem was the argument Blizzard made, that Glider was a DMCA violation. Blizzard should have just kept banning accounts instead of setting a bad precedent for everyone.

  • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @02:58PM (#24992345) Homepage Journal

    It's now called Bos Wars [].

  • by bdenton42 ( 1313735 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @07:11PM (#24994187)

    You're twisting the meaning of DRM to make a business model you don't like look bad. There are valid reasons for disliking Blizzard, or WoW, or even any pay per month MMO, but DRM isn't one of them in this case. If you want to get into technicalities, DRM is Digital Rights Management. I don't think the EULA qualifies as a digital restriction.

    I never said that I disliked this model... I have two accounts which I use extensively. I simply am saying that the subscription service is to protect their digital rights just like any other copy protection method would.

    I would also note that in addition to requiring a subscription the disks include a key which is required as well... you cannot just give those disks to anyone, the key will not work again, nor will they have a subscription.

    It is no different than having a subscription music service which disables your music when you cancel your subscription. Blizzard is trying to protect it's digital rights every bit as much as the music and movie industries.

    I'll grant that the subscription model is a relatively low intrusion DRM compared to having key disks or installing malware on your system but that doesn't make it any less of a DRM method.

  • Also you paid good money for the game, full retail, but you can't put it in your gaming shop or cyber cafe without paying us more. Do car rental places pay special extra price for their cars? What about a library that loans out books?

    The United States, home of Slashdot, restricts the "rental, lease, or lending" of copies of computer programs. However, nonprofit libraries such as those run by government agencies or educational institutions are exempt. 17 USC 109(b)(2)(A) [].

    Why is software so special when compared to other fields?

    Because it is so much easier for an end user to make a new copy[1] of a sound recording or a computer program than any other kind of work.

    [1] "Copy" here includes phonorecords.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @09:40PM (#24995063)

    Me again, the AC up there.

    I bought Portal standalone, not in the orange box or through steam. Trust me, it has DRM.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351