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Games Your Rights Online

Can You Fight DRM With Patience? 309

As modern DRM schemes get more annoying and invasive, the common wisdom is to vote with your wallet and avoid supporting developers and publishers who include such schemes with their games. Or, if you simply must play it, wait a while until outcry and complaints have caused the DRM restrictions to be loosened. But will any of that make game creators rethink their stance? An article at CNet argues that gamers are, in general, an impatient bunch, and that trait combined with the nature of the games industry means that progress fighting DRM will be slow or nonexistent. Quoting: "Increasingly so, the joke seems to be on the customers who end up buying this software when it first comes out. A simple look back at some controversial titles has shown us that after the initial sales come, the publisher later removes the vast majority of the DRM, leaving gamers to enjoy the software with fewer restrictions. ... Still, [waiting until later to purchase the game] isn't a good long-term solution. Early sales are often one of the big quantifiers in whether a studio will start working on a sequel, and if everyone were to wait to buy games once they hit the bargain price, publishers would simply stop making PC versions. There's also no promise that the really heavy bits of DRM will be stripped out at a later date, except for the fact that most publishers are unlikely to want to maintain the cost of running the activation, and/or online verification servers for older software."
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Can You Fight DRM With Patience?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:42AM (#31520340) Journal

    Can You Fight DRM With Patience?

    I realize that this is in the game section but allow me to recount a story from not two weeks ago. A story in which I almost threw my XBox 360 through the goddamn wall. I have one machine that runs Windows XP and connected to that via cat5e cable (shared internet connection) is my XBox 360. In order to share my media (about a TB of MP3s and Videos -- all very legal unless it is unlicensed video), I need to have this Zune software installed. Fine. I had installed it a while ago and though somewhat resource intensive in its UI and "bus service," it worked.

    Then I upgraded my computer's CPU from a single core to a quad core. I decided to rip my newly acquired MST3K licensed DVD of The Final Sacrifice [wikipedia.org] to watch Zap Rowsdower in disgustingly high definition (better than my VHS rips anyway) across a network on multiple devices.

    The Zune software stopped working. Blew an error box whenever I started the service.

    I reinstalled the Zune software. Nope. I went to Microsoft's support. Searched everywhere. I uninstalled the .NET libraries related to the Zune software (the bloat is really hilarious) and all updates. Reinstalled everything. Still not working.

    Finally I found that my error code was related to me not having valid ... you guessed it ... DRM user files. What I did to cause my DRM files to shit the bed, I'll never know. Is it hashing something with a unique processor string? Was it the extra two gigs of RAM I also added? I don't know. I do know I wasted the better part of a night and did not get to watch Zap ask if they have beer on the sun.

    The fix was simple. You had just had to run some executable in Windows that re-initialized all your DRM files. So I tried to run it. Guess what. You can't run it if you don't have valid DRM files in your Local Settings directory. So I deleted them. No luck. Same behavior as if I had tried to start Zune. So I Googled. And I searched my OS hard drive for anything with 'drm' in the title. Curiously enough, my Netflix installation had some executable to the effect of drmreset.exe. At this point, I would try anything. I tried it and it worked. I couldn't believe it.

    Now, I'm thinking it's good I didn't use the Zune software to rip anything to DRM encrypted format ... because I bet resetting your DRM files in your user directory make those files undecryptable.

    And what caused all this? I still don't know. Was it because I had the Netflix silverlight crapware installed to watch Netflix? Was it because I had XNA installed as well? Was it simply a CPU upgrade? I have a masters in computer science. And this is the shit they expect your regular consumer to figure out.

    In my unfortunate above example, DRM is unavoidable. I couldn't "wait" that out. I couldn't watch streaming media on my game station. Something that should "just work" was hilariously disabled by none other than DRM. It's everywhere. Especially in gaming. This is just one story of DRM inhibiting my ability to enjoy something I paid money for. And it pisses me off. To the point of slowly migrating away from gaming. If you haven't had to tangle with DRM and you're a gamer, just wait. You will.

  • by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:10AM (#31520446) Journal

    You can't win against a profit motive.

    Yes you can, by withholding said profit from them. I refuse to buy games at new prices unless I know in advance the game is completely worth it... for that there needs to be a basis of trust that goes back some games. Once i've been screwed by a mediocre game that's made even crappier by requiring activation/disc inserted/internet connection I see this as a reduced value for those games... DRM devaluates games. I won't refuse to play it, but I will wait until it hits the bargain bins (and that can be surprisingly fast sometimes).

    Once game publishers see that they can combat piracy with 'added value' (extra's and artwork) instead of the 'reduced value' that DRM offers they will see profits rise again.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:36AM (#31520582)
    Here's an anecdote for you. It's something I'm considering sending in an email to Ubi once I have a few more instances under my belt.

    Browsing the gaming section of my local supermarket (they still sell PC games! I'm amazed at that) I encountered a guy roughly my age looking at Assassin's Creed II. He'd spotted the "Constant Internet Connection Required to Play." sticket on the front, and was looking at roughly the area I'd say was the "System Requirements" part of the back now. I asked him what he thought of the "Always On" DRM.

    "I don't mind. I have broadband anyway."

    Surely you're aghast at the prospect of all of the bandwidth usage! The sheer audacity of UbiSoft for insisting that you're connected to the internet to play a single player game!

    "No, not really. I have 30GB per month, I never use it."

    Does it ever slow down or disconnect quickly when someone else in the house is downloading some music, or have to reboot your modem / router sometimes?

    "Yeah, but I usually play a game while it reboots."

    Well, every time that happens the game will pause. If it's disconnected for too long, it will quit and you lose your progress. You don't get the option to save.

    "Well, they do say to save early, save often!"

    - And this is why DRM is here to stay. Nobody else cares.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:47AM (#31520634)
    naaaa, there is enough stupid rich people to justify every business plan in the world.

    if you don't believe me, lookup vertu.
  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:55AM (#31520680)
    I bought an XBOX to avoid dealing with DRM on the PC (I know the XBOX is DRM'ed to death, but at least stuff generally just works out the box), but now that I have a shiny 250gb hard drive with my favourite games installed to the drive I *still* have to stick the original disk in when I want to play (which makes me sound lazy, but in reality I have two XBOXes in different parts of the house so I have to go disk hunting whenever I want to change games or just go play upstairs so my other half can have the big TV, etc), which is absolutely ridiculous in this age of cloud computing and digital distribution. Meanwhile people pirating games have none of the hassles of DRM, while other people can use no-CD cracks to circumvent the need to have the disk in the drive. Add on the hefty price tag of games and you have to wonder what incentives there are to honesty these days.
  • by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:55AM (#31520686) Journal
    Yeah, gamers are impatient... but the other (even easier) alternative is just downloading a cracked copy of the game. If only studios start seeing these 'losses' as a result of the reduced value of their games and work on that instead of making their games suck more.

    A friend of mine buys a lot of games brandnew, but has been screwed by crappy DRM several times (disc unreadable errors halfway into the game or refusal to run after install etc.) and the fix in this case was simple: torrent a copy of the game without the DRM and it worked fine. But I bet this friend shows up in the studio's statistics as 1 succesful sale and 1 torrent download they missed out on, so he should have paid twice for a defective product. Doesn't the research show time and time again that people who torrent the most also spend the most cash... so I would bet there are a lot more people like my friend who fix the game's biggest artificial bug (DRM) by 'illegal' means. I'd say that instead of reducing illegal downloads DRM contributes to it, and it might even make it completely legal since torrents of games without DRM 'defects' are a consumers right (to fix a defective product you own).
  • Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:37AM (#31520866)

    That's what I do. Waiting before buying games has one big drawback: you're out of synch with the rest of the market. And several advantages:
    - less/no DRM
    - lower price
    - patches
    - mature community/forum
    - more feedback on how good the game is
    - opportunity to try it at friends

  • by jonaskoelker ( 922170 ) <jonaskoelker&yahoo,com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:56AM (#31520948)

    I have a masters in computer science. And this is the shit they expect your regular consumer to figure out.

    No! An emphatic no!

    They don't expect regular people to figure this shit out. They expect people to become annoyed, give up and buy more of their stuff, because paying more money "makes the annoy go away".

    That of course just "a side effect" of the battle against those evil pirates whom the good regular customers should blame for the rising prices.

    (... My ass!)

  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @08:21AM (#31521172)

    Funnily enough I have this cheap no-name external-HD/Media-Player device that allows me to play XViD and DivX encoded files on my TV. I can either play files from my PC via Ethernet (NOT streaming, just files in shared folders), from the internal HD or from USB mass storage devices.

    There are out there other (more expensive) devices just like it that play HD.

    No DRM, no issues: my PC doesn't even need to be on. It's not even brand new technology: I've had this for 3 years now.

    Going for media playing solutions from the likes of Sony, Microsoft or Apple is like tatooing on your forhead "I'm a Dumb Media Bitch".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @09:14AM (#31521676)

    When I like a game, I do some research on it:
    - if it has DRM, I don't buy, instead I just play they pirated version
    - if it doesn't have DRM, I buy it and play it

    The wonderful thing is that buying a game and playing it are completely orthogonal right now. I can reward "good" (DRM-wise) companies without depriving myself of the good games that are published by "bad" companies.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:06AM (#31522332)

    Great so I have SecuRom on my computer because of that peice of shit Bad Company 2 which has been FULL of bugs since its release.

    And we're not talking just bugs...we're talking feature incomplete bugs... What a fucking pile of shit Bad Company 2 is.

    The game is ok... but the quality in which the software was released.... is criminal.

    It's as if they said "fuck it, lets just put this alpha out"

  • That's what I do, if the game has crap DRM on it that's going to stop my computer from burning disks and other nonsense it's not going on my computer. I recently saw Civilization IV 'The Complete Edition' for sale and reading the back of the box it said in a nice yellow box "DRM Free. The Complete CIV IV experience with no Digital Rights Management limitations." - so I bought the game finally.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @11:02AM (#31523042) Homepage Journal

    Besides, both 360 (as well as PS3 and even many TV's) use Universal Plug and Play for streaming on network, not some proprietary 360-only technology.

    It's too bad it doesn't actually work. I couldn't even get my 360 to play media from my Windows XP WiMP, which Microsoft swears works, nor from the WiMP beta in early Windows 7 Ultimate.

    The 360's streaming functionality is a total lemon due to being designed by Microsoft. XBMC is a thousand times better and Microsoft should donate some Zune streaming support (however universal it's supposed to be) into XBMC and release it themselves. I'd probably even pay for it. It would be worth it so long as I got updates, and was still allowed to install themes. I don't even need local media storage and playback, I have all kinds of computers that can stream.

  • by the_bard17 ( 626642 ) <theluckyone17@gmail.com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @11:08AM (#31523112)

    What everyone's missing with that "Permanent Internet Connection Required" sticker: It doesn't require a permanent connection to the internet. It requires a permanent connection to Ubisoft's servers.

    So your single player, offline (except for the DRM) game doesn't work if Ubisoft's servers are down, regardless of the status of your internet connection.

    Blame it on bad server maintenance, pirate clans attacking the Ubisoft authentication/login servers, whatever... Since Ubisoft released Silent Hunter 5 and AC2, they've been having intermittent problems with their DRM. Subsim.com has quite a few threads on the issues.

    So when folks pick up their AC2, can't play it weekend after weekend, I hope they'll remember it the next time they're staring at a "Permanent Internet Connection Required" sticker.

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