PC Game DRM measures are evil

The last few months my jaw dropped to the floor so many times reading about and experiencing the new DRM systems deployed by game publishers I think it’s going to stay there forever. A couple of tales straight out of the hell a paying customer has to go through to get his/her game working follow behind the break.

Game companies need to understand that once pirated copies are, by all means, easier to activate, use and get support on compared to their legal counterparts, it’s time to pause and reflect, instead of shoveling yet another inherently flawed activation procedure on the pile. (Update: Tsk, tsk. It’s like they do it on purpose.) (Update 2: A nice article on SavyGamer)

GTA4
DRM: Securom, Online activation
Extra bloat: Games for Windows Live, Rockstar Games Social Club.

Not only was a horrible port performance-wise, it included SecuROM – a copy protection system residing even after products are uninstalled, an online activation and required GFWL and the Rockstar Games Social Club to run the game.Add Steam in for the poor souls who bought it online, and I hope you haven’t ran out of memory yet and are willing to solve the numerous compatibility issues which arise from having all this crap updating independently.

The Games For Windows Live project has failed: it is far too console-centered and the usability is laughable. I sincerely hope it dies a quick, painful death.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
DRM: Steam, Tagès

I wanted to buy this in the Steam holiday sale … Until I read that it included Tagès copy protection. This consists of having a shady ring-0 driver installed on your system, checking bitstreams on a level where it just might cause all kinds of havoc. Of course, since it’s a copy protection system, the company developing it can’t really tell what it’s doing down there. Regardless of this annoyance, it’s even more baffling why this should be included with the Steam version of the game.

Hey, developers: Steam provides copy protection under the form of online activation, and custom executables for every user. A user is nothing with just the binary files on the disk. I can only guess that this decision was made out of lazyness, or out of fear of being locked into Valve’s Steamworks system and being unable to sell your game on any other digital game platform, because they won’t sell any game involving a competitor technology. Well, I’ve got an answer to that: nobody’s forcing you to use the whole she-bang of Steamworks. A simple licensing of keys to Steam is enough, just like you would license them to any other online game download store.

Bioshock 2
DRM: Online Activation, SecuROM, GFWL (since you have to be logged in to play and save your game)

Upcoming highly-anticipated shooter Bioshock 2 amps up the annoy-o-matic to new levels. Bear with me. This has gone batshit crazy. The same measures count for the Steam version, whereas Steam (by the platform of choice) could easily cover 2K’s bases on all of the three DRM fronts. And which f*ckknuckle thought saving in the cloud was a great idea? I’m sure 2K can distill awesome graphs and bars out of the save data information, but when my ISP does maintenance operations or is just having technical difficulties, I cannot continue to play my game where I left it. Or even better: after an epic boss fight which took me way too long, I’m unable to save. Flawed design, and backed up by GFWL, I don’t have any hope for the execution.

As long as these practices continue, these companies will not see my cash. I’ll be playing their games long before regular customers do, with far less annoyances. Business rule number one: take care of your customers.

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