Gamers Not Liking Spore's Draconian Copy-protection

By Mike on 12:58 pm

Filed Under: , , ,

When Spore and Mass Effect were first announced for PC, gamers got quite a shock when they learned how the SecuROM DRM scheme would function for both games. Originally, the games were going to phone home once per week to confirm the game's key didn't match known pirated versions. After public outcry at this big brother-esque method, the number of times the game would contact DRM servers was cut drastically. Another big issue is the install limit of the games. Your game is limited to three installs maximum. In the past, a game install has been tied to the operating system, as was the issue with Bioshock. With Bioshock, if you reinstalled the OS without uninstalling the game first, that counted as one install. However, uninstalling Bioshock would roll the install clock back if you kept the same OS install. Spore is different. Intalling and then uninstalling the game counts as one of your maximum three installs. This is regardless of whether you keep the same computer and OS. If you reinstall then delete it three times, you're out of luck and have to phone SecuROM to plead your case.

According to Cnet, this method of draconian copy protection seems to have backfired on EA. As of last week, Spore had only a one star rating on Amazon due to people complaining about its DRM scheme. This very likely could be an example of the people flaming the review site. However, it does give the game a lot of bad publicity that is not unwarranted. Furthermore, it seems the game has already been cracked and has been downloaded more than 500,000 times from torrent sites according to TorrentFreak. Some of this could be real piracy but I believe a lot of it is people who actually bought the game are turning to pirated versions to circumvent the frustrations caused by the game's DRM. It's ironic in a sense. EA introduces the most restrictive anti-piracy scheme to date, and in the first week, Spore becomes the most pirated title in gaming history. The real losers here are legitimate gamers who just want to be able to play the game, but are bogged down by an increasingly paranoid and irrational entertainment industry. Once again, this game is faulty and either needs to be recalled or have a patch issued for it that either removes DRM all together or to remove the draconian three install restriction. There is no need to lock the game down that much. Personally, I refuse to purchase Spore until this issue is corrected. However, the game was supposedly overhyped so you're not missing out on anything by not playing it.

Source: Cnet

Update: We all know that DRM has become a huge issue with PC gaming. It has been shown to cripple sales of legitimate copies. I have come to realize a couple of things since first writing this article. First of all, it came to my attention that Spore uses up one install per user account on a system, where in the past, you got one install per OS key. We also all know that hard drives can fail or you can have OS problems which will require you to do complete computer wipes. That can also use up your three installs quickly. Once your installs are gone, you have to buy the game again. The reasoning behind this strict install limit is two fold. The first is a form of planned obsolescence, a business practice that is widely considered to be unethical. Setting the install limit so low forces users to buy the same copy of something over and over again. Secondly, I think this is being done to curtail the lucrative resale market for used games, a common practise by stores such as EB/Gamestop and some rental outlets. Not only can you not return a bad game to a store, you can't really sell it now either. Therefore, DRM has become less or a war on piracy and more of a war on legitimate (and naive) gamers to milk them of every last dollar. I would like to propose some laws to the way DRM in PC games should be handled in order to protect these consumers from being abused.

1. It should be mandatory for all DRM restrictions to be listed on the back of the game's packaging so consumers can read them before they purchase the title. Just saying the game is copy-protected is no longer enough. Many people who bought Spore had no idea the DRM restrictions were so strict and intrusive. You need to read the EULA to discover the restrictions, which requires opening the box, meaning the game cannot be returned. This is in addition to what was mentioned in Stardock's "Gamer's Bill or Rights".

2. DRM should not be allowed to install hidden registry strings, rootkits, or other hidden malware onto a system. In most circles, it is illegal to install any software on a computer without the user's consent, but publishers skirt around this by mentioning it in the EULA. Most people don't read/understand the EULA and publishers known this. Furthermore, users must be able to remove DRM schemes (such as registry keys, software) from their system once the game has been unistalled.

3. A game's DRM should not be allowed to repeatedly "phone home" to DRM servers. If used, this should only be allowed when the game is being installed and at no other time. Otherwise, I consider it an invasion of privacy.

4. There should be no install limits placed on games being used on the same computers.

0 comments for this post