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PC Games (Games) Entertainment Games

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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  • Re:The answer... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bistromath007 ( 1253428 ) on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:48PM (#24987129)
    So, which part of the industry do you work for? There's no way I'll ever believe somebody who isn't paid to be on that team will ever bat for it.

    Some of us "dirty bastards" have a damn good reason to do what we do. The way art and culture is commodified in this society is dangerous and wrong, and is responsible for many of the corporate abuses we see today. I don't feel that I'm stealing anything when I download a game, because the company that made it doesn't own it and can't sell it to me. Art and entertainment are, in a sane society, services which each person pays for in proportion to the piece's personal value to them. The companies I like will get my money after I have played their game and determined whether it deserves to be in my personal collection or not. Until then, it is part of the library of collective consciousness which must be free to access in any free society.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2008 @11:50PM (#24987141)

    And DRM makes me a pirate.

    I'm a single childless guy on an average wage and therefore have some spare money about. I generally buy games. Or at least, used to. However the DRM in Bioshock and Portal (more time playing the DRM than playing Portal...) amongst others have seriously affected me. Pirating the game instead of purchasing it means that once I have it, I install and play it, instead of 'fight the DRM'. I don't think I've downloaded a single big-name game title that didn't work first go. I certainly have purchased such a thing.

    So, while my hourly rate isn't much, for both Bioshock and Portal I spent more hours than my equivalent wage would cost to buy the game, in Portal's case that's after tax :)

    Funny thing is that despite both games having convoluted and misdirecting self-help support sources, the problem in both cases was that I had software installed that can mount .isos. Yes, that's right. Other operating systems have native support for this function because it's so damn useful. Game companies on the other hand treated me like a pirate for having such software installed.

    So now I'm a pirate, due to the pain that game companies have caused me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be moral here - after all, I am stealing my entertainment - but the actions of the game companies have turned a paying customer into a pirate. Now there's an own goal for you...

  • by WDot ( 1286728 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:02AM (#24987233)
    The Unreal/Unreal Tournament series of games, including UT3, don't have DRM. However, Gears of War DOES, so avoid that one.

    As far as I know, Call of Duty 4 does not have any DRM. Searching "Call of Duty 4 $DRM" where $DRM equalled DRM, SecuROM, and Starforce, turned up nothing relevant.

    Be warned, both of those games are basically only good for the multiplayer, so keep that in mind.

    The Civilization series has strong single player, if you're into turn-based strategy, has no DRM, and really only requires a quick No-CD crack to be completely convenient. This includes every Civ I know of (2 to 4 + expansions).

    Telltale games from what I've experienced has no DRM. Their Sam and Max series of adventure games, when purchased directly from Telltale's site, can be redownloaded over and over. This is no large technical feat, however, as their episodes are ~80MB a pop.
  • by ZeroFactorial ( 1025676 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:08AM (#24987263)
    I can see how many people would consider it acceptable... however... what happens in the future if the steam servers go the way of all the earth, and you want to play a game that you paid for, but you had to wipe your drive to reinstall your OS - so you haven't got a hard copy, and you can't download the soft copy you paid for...

    You might say "i won't want to play it by then", but trends in retro gaming would beg to differ on the point.
  • by PIBM ( 588930 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:15AM (#24987315) Homepage

    Someone randomly found the CD Key of my old half life game before I finally got to install steam. When I did, wanted to play back half life along with the updates, I was denied access to online play because I could not register the game.

    I contacted them and the reply was to send them the cd & box, along with a proof of purchase (I had bought the games over 8 years before!) and 20 bucks to cover the replacement.

    That would have been the only solution, short of buying again. I'm not using anything in steam or that I might think might end up in steam again.

    As for his question, World of Warcraft is DRM free, and the upcoming WOTLK is also supposed to be free of it too!

    I guess that count as a particularly major title :)

  • Re:The answer... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ustolemyname ( 1301665 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:18AM (#24987341)
    First of all, lumping all slashdot readers and posters into the same group is a logical fallacy, so I'll ignore that.

    Personally bitten me? My purchased copy of LightWave 9.0 (and that is way more expensive than a video game, believe me). Comes with a hardware dongle, which is small, tiny, necessary, and easy to lose. For a while I was "in between computers" and had my hardware dongle on a keychain, and the software on my external harddrive. Lost the keychain, and am now quite tied to my new box (mmm... dual quade-core opterons...). Seems that thanks to "copy protection" I am unable to get a new dongle without re-purchasing (expensive!) software. All I have to say is, yay pirates[1].

    I agree, don't BOYCOTT developers, as this further puts them under the illusion that piracy is killing their business model (like boycotting the RIAA), but certainly make them aware of your opinion on how annoying DRM truly is (similar to how we complain about lack of linux support). 1. (On a side note, cracking lightwave made my decision to make this box linux only much easier this time, as it was the one thing I needed windows for, and lightwave runs quite will in WINE, IMO)
  • by aliquis ( 678370 ) <dospam@gmail.com> on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:30AM (#24987409) Homepage

    Personally I appreciate how Blizzard had the sense to remove the look-for-CD-protection in Warcraft III, of course a cd key is still required to play on battle net.

    Their stupid requirement of having to use the CD and the risk of getting banned from bnet by patching the game or whatever made me use the original one ending up with big enough scratches on the CDs for being unable to install the game, for one of the discs to validate as a genuine one and finally this:
    http://cdcrack.istheshit.net/ [istheshit.net]

  • by MetaPhyzx ( 212830 ) * on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:34AM (#24987433)

    well, blizzard isn't perfect.

    I suffered a bout of ID fraud in which there were several online purchases of The Burning Crusade on a card of mine. All of the purchases were in to European arms of Blizzard.

    I tried to resolve this with Blizzard as at the time I'd had an account, and my son as well (no CC attached, using Game time cards only and none of these purchases were to my legit accounts). They responded with the typical "maybe someone charged your card...a family member" email they usually send.

    I called Blizzard as well and asked to speak to someone in account security. 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.

    Prior to this experience, I was a solid Blizzard fan. Bought all their games, had a good time. They sent me an email after the bank did their business, I suspect it said they were freezing my account because of all this biz, but at this point I didn't care, and still don't (and probably won't unless they directly apologize, but that's unlikely to happen).

    Blizzard could do no wrong with me, and now they can't really do right. They make wonderful products, but horrid customer care. Hence, I won't be buying anything from them.

    Ironically I've had good luck with Valve. I had a copy of Half-Life 2 with which the CD Key had been used; I took a snapshot of the discs, with the manual key in view (and reciept) and emailed it to Valve. It was fixed in an hour. Same thing with EA and my copy of BF2.

    When I bought the Orange Box, I wasn't aware that it came with HL2, and Steam asked did I wish to gift it to someone, which I did. The thought that Steam isn't guaranteed bugs me, but as I've said.. I've had good experiences.

  • UT (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dargon ( 105684 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:39AM (#24987471) Homepage

    Personally, I liked how they did it for UT, and UT 03/04, Cd is required to play for the first 3 months or so, then release a patch that removes that requirement.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @12:58AM (#24987569) Journal

    ... as long as you reconnect to Impulse to generate the new key. At least that's my experience with Galciv2. If I were to copy the game to another computer, it would not run until I put Stardock's software on the machine and validated my copy. That is DRM.

  • I have a rather amusing problem with steam as well, easier to solve than yours thankfully, but more stupefying. Everytime I run a game, then quit it, then try to run another game Steam suddenly forgets I own any games until I restart it.

    Steam is not a good service. I should be able to run my games without requesting permission from another program, no ifs ands or buts about it.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:17AM (#24987691)

    I'd like to say that, though I despise what they did making generics illegal in the computing world (blizzard v. bnetd), I've never heard of them using the ruling to kill any websites.

    I've been to a couple free servers, and blizzard simply out-innovates them. One particular "server-which-must-not-be-named" had so many bugs with the shaman class it was impossible to play it, and examination of their tracker shows they are simply not capable of keeping pace with the blizzard game updates.

    Despite their dishonesty, they were compelled to compete with free and have done so. Kudos to them for doing what 3 other full industries refuse to do.

  • by bistromath007 ( 1253428 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:35AM (#24987813)
    But... that's basically exactly what he is complaining he can't do. So if he can, what is he complaining about?
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:35AM (#24987815)

    I contacted them and the reply was to send them the cd & box, along with a proof of purchase (I had bought the games over 8 years before!) and 20 bucks to cover the replacement.

    My Steam account got hacked (after my pre-Steam Half Life/Opposing Force/Blue Shift keys were registered with it) and all I had to do was send them a photo of the CDs and the CD keys. No payment was necessary.

    'Course, I still hate Steam too, purely on principle.

  • by Locomorto ( 925016 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @01:43AM (#24987865)
    Persoanlly I prefer to give money direct to the developers when I can. Even on steam (which is quite nice IMHO), I'm sure they (valve) take a stake too. One game I did this for was World of Goo (which just went gold btw). In you pre-order, you also get a preview of the game which is mindnumbingly awesome. Disclaimer: I don't work for 2dboy, nor am I affliated with them in any other way then being a big fan.
  • Steam problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Digital_Quartz ( 75366 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @02:05AM (#24987967) Homepage

    Steam hasn't always been so perfect. When HL2 first came out, I already had a Steam account, but I signed up for a new account since HL2 came with all the games I had in my first account.

    I forget exactly when this was (I think it was near the XMas rush after HL2 came out, I don't think it was when the game first came out), but one of Steam's authentication servers died under the load of all the new users signing up for HL2. The result was that all new accounts (including my "second" account) could not login to Steam (although my old account worked fine). It meant that lots of people who had purchased HL2 couldn't play it for two or three days, which kind of sucked.

    I do like Steam, but I'll buy a game on CD (with a good old fashion disk-in-the-drive copy protection system) if it's available rather than buy on Steam.

    I don't have any real problems with Steam, though. One day when Valve goes out of business, life will get a little interesting, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    I imagine Steam would be a lot less fun if I was on dialup.

  • by protektor ( 63514 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @02:49AM (#24988245)

    You want to see the game companies sit up and howl like a howler monkey? Get the federal government to pass a law saying that everything sold at retail has the right to the "doctrine of first sale". That is that if I buy it and don't want it anymore I can legally sell it to whoever I want and companies can't do anything to interfere with that.

    You would see most of these DRM schemes disappear over night. This crap of your key tied to your account and you can give it away or sell it would be up in smoke. All these insane EULA's that say your not buying a copy of the software just the right to use it would be gone. Also they wouldn't be able to say hey if this blows up your computer it's not our fault, you can't sue us. Because then they would have to abide by the doctrine of fitness for sale.

    As it is right now software companies love to tell you, we own it not you. We're just allowing you to use it for awhile, and we don't promise anything other than there are some bits that your allowed to use that might do something or they might not do something, just be glad we let you look at it at all.

    Oh yea and don't you dare try and make anything compatible with our stuff, that's illegal. We sure showed those BNETD guys, and the Overhead garage door, and the printer ink guys not to ever try and be compatible with us. Why should we let you in on our ability to steal...excuse me..get all the money we can get from you? That's our money in your pocket and we'll be dang if we are going to share it with anyone else.

    Game companies and software companies in general hate the software resell market, because they aren't get anything from it. They don't want you to buy 1 copy and sell it to another guy who does the same. Dang that could mean like 5-10 people who bought the same copy over a 2+ year period and they only got 1 sale. They sure can't allow that to happen.

    Game companies *HATE* EB Game, Gamestop, and your local used game shop. They think they should be criminalized and run out of business for interfering with them making obscene amounts of profit. After all that isn't your money in your pocket it's their's and how dare anyone deprive them of it.

    Then the whole thing of telling people what they can and can't do with software once they bought. Oh sorry you can add 5 extra lives and 1000 bullets to the game that effects the balance and by passes our protection, it's not allowed. 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? Why is software so special when compared to other fields? It shouldn't be.

    CD Key tied to accounts, and updates tied to specific people, and it's all non-transferable. Those are things that block the "doctrine of first sale" and should be out right illegal to do. If I want to sell my game I should be able to do it without any extra fees paid to anyone. I don't pay extra for my books I donate to the local library, or when I sell a book to a friend. Why is software suddenly special and needs to be protected different and given differnt rules?

  • by FoolsGold ( 1139759 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @03:20AM (#24988395)

    I suppose that's fair enough, particularly as a software engineer. I happen to like Linux too, but it just has too many issues and not enough benefits for me to convert... for now, and on this hardware. Who knows what will happen in a year's time. It's just from my perspective as a simple desktop user though, and solely my opinion obviously.

    Thanks for not being one of those annoying zealots that I see so often here or on the Ubuntu forums. :)

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday September 13, 2008 @03:53AM (#24988559) Journal

    It's not your problem that someone stole your key...

    Actually, it kind of is.

    Suppose it was a console game, and someone stole your physical game disc. Should that be their problem?

    I find it much easier to keep track of a few pieces of information than a physical disc -- and, were this not the case, I could always write that information to a disc and keep track of the disc. With pre-Steam Half-Life, I could potentially lose the CD. With post-Steam Half-Life, so long as I don't lose my password, I can re-download the game.

    I think that hardly counts as "defective".

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

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:13AM (#24988645)

    Are you 14? I ask only out of curiosity. If you are, carry on. If you're older, for shame sir

    I'm not the original AC, but I share his opinion. I'm 31. The point is, anyone who wants a pirated copy of almost any popular game just has to haul their ass over to the pirate bay, look for a popular torrent of it and download. The DRM will have been stripped and everything will work just perfectly.

    People actually paying for games will be presented with games that might not work with their hardware (I've seen games that only work with CD drives on a specific list, and if your drive isn't one of those you're SOL... time for a downgrade), or might not run if they have certain perfectly legitimate software installed (I've heard of games that refuse to run if you have debuggers, virtual CD drivers or even fucking Process Explorer installed). Even if they get the game to run, there's a significant change it'll stop working if they upgrade their hardware too many times.

    Yes, DRM is an encumbrance on the paying customers but not on the pirates. This seems perfectly clear to me. So when you see people complaining about DRM, generally speaking they have paid.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:25AM (#24988695) Journal

    You won't get any sympathy pumping diesel into your gasoline car, so why should you be entitled to a full refund when you try to run Crysis on your GeForce3?

    Mostly because, for that gasoline car, you know you need gasoline. That's it.

    In addition to a better video card, you also need at least Windows XP (2000 won't cut it), a fast, modern CPU (either 2.8 ghz for XP, or 3.2 ghz for Vista, but they recommend 2.2 ghz dual-core), probably 2 gigs of RAM, and 6 gigs of free disk space. All of that is quoting the official system requirements.

    And on top of that, for it to run acceptably, you have to be reasonably free of viruses, spyware, and crapware -- that last bit probably ruling out most Vista installations. And to appreciate it, you probably at least want an optical mouse.

    And even if you meet all of the above, there may well be some subtle incompatibility -- it's entirely possible the game just won't like your soundcard, for example.

    So, for most people, the answer to satisfying all of these is simply "Buy a new computer."

    I'm not arguing that people shouldn't be responsible for the health of their system, or for knowing roughly what it's capable of, but it's far more complex than the fact that your car doesn't take diesel. And I know I couldn't determine, without actually installing a game, whether it would work.

    I would agree with giving refunds where the game is crippled by technical issues, but the phrasing as-is is pretty vague.

    I imagine that's part of the point.

    Short of patching critical issues, the company doesn't owe you diddly squat.

    Maybe it's the wording -- I know I at least expect critical issues to be fixed, and too many companies are content to let the community patch it, or simply let the game fester. Especially if it has console ports.

    I know that when I installed XP 64-bit, Steam refused to install in the default directory -- "C:\Program Files (32-bit)\Valve\Steam" -- because it had characters Steam didn't expect (the parens). In other words, a new OS feature caused Steam to not work. (Granted, I probably could have installed it in a different place, but along with no working soundcard, this didn't bode well. I tried nVidia's 64-bit demos and was appropriately impressed, then I uninstalled it and went back to 32-bit XP.)

    Another example is Beyond Good and Evil. It had two huge problems. The first was a way in which you'd end up with an unplayable savegame, with no way to fix it other than to download a third-party tool to patch your save.

    The second was a weird bug which seems to be related to CPU scaling -- I would guess that it's using some metric other than wall time. I say this because it worked fine on my desktop, on which I believe I'd disabled cool&quiet, but it was always unplayably fast or slow on my roommate's laptop, which had Intel's CPU scaling turned on.

    Just as it's unreasonable to expect developers to catch every single issue before release, it's also unreasonable for a game to simply stop working after a few months, or if the gamer buys a new computer. The only solution I know of is to expect patches.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 13, 2008 @04:28AM (#24988703)

    But then it's offline and steam is still slow to load.

    Steam has serious issues if your connection is slow or flaky (in my case I suspect my ISP was doing some sort of filtering behind the scenes as my connection seemed ok). It used to take ages to load the main interface and then didn't know what games I owned.

    I highly recommend UCL [cs.rin.ru] (source code available) for playing offline games that you own. I found that loading Lumines was much faster with UCL than Steam in offline mode. Word of warning: I once had to log out and back into steam after launching UCL before it would let me join TF2 servers.

  • by dontmakemethink ( 1186169 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @05:16AM (#24988845)

    In every arts related job, there are the expressive parts that you love and the administration jobs that you hate. Every game maker is founded by people that just want to make great games. Then they have to deal with the bullshit that is required to make their games a success. Is it any surprise that game makers, the RIAA, and every other arts related industry has shit the bed when it comes to marketing their products.

    Let's face it, for every pirate out there, there are 100 people who are qualified to devise a way to market artistic digital media in a way that makes everyone happy. One problem stands in their way:


    I could go on for days, but most readers here have some insight into the situation, how much would you have to be paid to attempt to devise a reasonable scale for game makers to be reimbursed for their efforts?

    Think about it, who wants that job? Worse yet, who's willing to pay for it? Everyone acknowledges it has to be done, but it's the ugliest job in a sexy industry. "Hi, I want to work for your modeling agency, got any grease traps you need cleaned?"

    I record my own albums, book my own shows, drive the tour van, set up the stages, sometimes run sound myself, make my own posters, etc etc etc, and if I can do all that at age 34 and still run a successful studio, house tech at a local venue, AND still write good music, then these pukes who call themselves artists but can't deduce a way to bring their art to market can eat my shit. In fact, I happen to have a nice fluffy one brewed up just for EA.

    Fire in the hole.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Saturday September 13, 2008 @06:05AM (#24989009) Journal

    ... but what happened to personal responsibility? Everything the GP did, he did of his own free will. PC gaming is not some fundamental right that big gaming companies are depriving him of. If he's becoming a monster, then he should probably lay off the games for a while.

    That said, he seems to be aware of the morality of his own actions, which is a damn good start.

  • You seem to be forgetting that unlike a physical disc where they will have to break in and take the thing,with those stupid keys there are automated keygens out there that can spit out dozens of keys per second until they find one that hits. Does that mean that if one of those keygens hits YOUR number you should just suck it up and buy a new game? This is also why I don't use Steam. I had the Half Life I:Game Of The Year Edition and my key got keygen'd.

    And now we have crap like Spore where they are obviously trying to take away our right of first sale by making everyone afraid to buy it second hand,and they wonder why piracy just keeps going up? Maybe if you didn't treat you customers like sh*t maybe they wouldn't be pirating. I know I have gotten to the point that I won't buy ANY game until it reaches the $20 or less bin because I know they will have a good working crack out by then so I won't have to worry about my system getting "Secure Starforced Buttraper V2.0" infections. As a PC repairman I have had to fix countless machines with "weird crashes" and it turn out it was SecuROM'd. And I have thrown away quite a few drives from folks that got the Starforce PIO bug.

    So while I would be happy to buy on release day to try all the new games I simply won't because of DRM. And I wanted to pick up Spore until I heard about the 3 activations BS(thanks Slashdot!) so that one won't even be on my "pick it up when it's cheap" list. But as always this is my 02c,YMMV

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato