EA Continues Draconian DRM Policies - General DRM Discussion (Thread Title Change)

First off, wow, what a great discussion. This thread is a shining example of what's great about GWJ.

Second, let's get the "me too" out of the way: I was really looking forward to Spore, and now I'm not going to buy it. Same with Red Alert 3--I loved what the C&C team has done with the franchise, and I have no doubt that I'd thoroughly enjoy the schlock in RA3... but I'm not going to buy it.

This DRM is just too much. I often do what some others have mentioned--I go back years later and install games to enjoy them again. Based on my experience with EA products, I have little doubt that won't be an option for Spore or RA3, both of which I could otherwise have enjoyed for years.

kuddles wrote:

I really don't understand how people can actually claim that they are seriously concerned about not being able to play their games because of some highly implausible scenario in the future where the authentication servers go offline and no solution is available, when the other part of their argument is that all DRM gets cracked eventually.

The problem is that this is scenario is not implausible at all. EA has a history of dropping online support for games well before people are done with them. Someone else mentioned EA Sports games, but SimCity is another good example. I was disappointed recently when I went back to reinstall SimCity and discovered that the online parts of the game no longer worked. Simcity.com is now all about "SimCity Societies", a fun, but inferior game.

I used to enjoy going through and playing some of the more creative region maps and adding user-generated content. Can't do that any more. If SimCity had used an online activation system similar to Spore's, I doubt I would have been able to reinstall it at all. Sure, the copy protection may have been cracked, but frankly, for me, grabbing some pirate's hacked version of the game and having god knows what malware come along for the ride is not a solution.

Tkyl wrote:
duckilama wrote:

Whatever happened to the Right of First Sale?
Was that deemed invalid and I missed it?

I was going to ask the same thing. The last time I checked, EULAs still allow this (I haven't seen the Spore EULA). The DRM seems likes I complete contradiction of this right.

Spore EULA wrote:

3. Transfer. You may make a one time permanent transfer to all your
rights to install and use the Software to another individual or legal
entity provided that: (a) the technical protection measures used by the
Software supports such transfers; (b) you also transfer this License and
all copies of the Software; (b) you retain no copies of the Software,
upgrades, updates or prior versions; and (c) the receiving party
accepts the terms and conditions of this License. You may not be able
to transfer the right to receive updates, dynamically served content, or
the right to use any online service of EA in connection with the
Software. You may not be able to transfer the Software if you have
already exhausted the terms of this License by authenticating the
Software on the allowed number machines. Subsequent recipients of
this License may not be able to authenticate the Software on additional
machines. EA may require that any end user of the Software register
the Software online as a condition of use and/or purchase additional
licenses. NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING, YOU MAY NOT
TRANSFER PRE-RELEASE COPIES OF THE SOFTWARE.

Looks like the Spore EULA may violate the Right of First Sale under several conditions.

Duoae wrote:

Summary of costs/sales:
B1>B2

Timeline 1 = -A -B1 +X -Y
Timeline 2 = -A -B2 +X

I was told there would be no math.

BadKen wrote:

Looks like the Spore EULA may violate the Right of First Sale under several conditions.

So after doing a little bit of reading on Wiki, it looks like there have been some discrepancies regarding Right of First Sale and Computer Software. It looks like the Supreme Court tends to rule in favor of the Right of First Sale of computer software, but courts in other districts have had mixed decisions.

I'm not a fan of DRM, and I'm disappointed that EA is going with what sounds like a needlessly intrusive approach.

I probably would have purchased Spore even if I'd known about the DRM issues beforehand, simply because I want to support native OSX games (I dual-boot to play TF2, but that's a testament to how much I enjoy playing on Stan's, rather than an indicator of my love of BootCamp).

I sympathize with the folks who are unwilling to purchase games with sufficiently-annoying DRM (a line which reasonable people can draw in different places).

Companies really have a couple options regarding DRM:

* Don't implement anything, and hope that the added sales offset any losses from piracy.
* Don't implement anything, and target niches which are less prone to piracy (Sins of a Solar Empire does this, I think)
* Implement minimally-intrusive DRM like Steam, and hope any sales lost to DRM objections are offset by sales gains from people who would otherwise pirate the game
* Implement strongly intrusive DRM, and hope any sales lost to DRM objections are offset by sales gains from people who would otherwise pirate the game

EA's chosen this last option for now. I don't think it's their most effective choice, but that's not my choice to make.

In terms of precipitating change through boycott - that can be a useful tactic, but stuff like the Amazon ballot-stuffing can come across to others as closer to the angry-venting end of the spectrum than the lobbying-for-change end.

Actions like Onikaze mentioned are more likely to carry weight with decision makers, I suspect.

I'm mildly insulted.

My Spore CD-Key has QQ in it.

Eh. Well I guess I'm not buying Spore then. Kinda turned off by all this debate.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

If they are convinced DRM isn't a big deal that isn't going to hurt sales, they need to put up or shut up. Tell me on the box that you use SecuROM with activation. If you don't and I don't find out until after I get home and open the box, then you either need to accept a return or accept that I and people like me will be pissed off about it.

I don't know that my 9 year old nieces (or their parents) would understand what "SecuRom with activation" would mean on the box. But I do note that my Galactic Edition includes the notice "INTERNET CONNECTION, ONLINE AUTHENTICATION AND END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT REQUIRED TO PLAY...." on the outside of the box, right next to the ERSB rating.

I don't think EA was trying to hide the ball on this one.

I also recall a conversation on GWJ around the launch of Mass Effect that discussed that Spore would include SecureRom authentication.

For me, I think I would prefer SecureRom DRM over having to keep the disk in the drive at all times. I travel a lot for work and having to carry a whole host of DVDs so that I can play whatever strikes my mood late at night in my hotel room is WAAAAAY more inconvenient (for me) than this SecureRom process that I didn't even notice.

I fully understand that others may determine that the inclusion of DRM is sufficient enough a justification to forgo playing a game. I totally get that. For me, with limited time these days, I need to only purchase the games from which I am going to get my greatest bang for my time/buck. I've been waiting for Spore for so damn long, that neither DRM nor computer specs were going to get in my way of playing (I upgraded my laptop earlier in the summer for Spore (thanks GWJ tech forum for the help in my selection process)). To each their own.

Another sore point: I'm being made to install the EA Download Manager if I want "patches and certain features." More junk software on top of the DRM. Great.

Duoae wrote:

Now for the assumptions:

1. If we assume that people who pirate the game won't buy the game regardless of whether the game is cracked or not then we end up with the same number of pirates whether complex DRM is used or whether it's just a disc protection.

2. If we assume that casual copying is stopped in both cases then there is none of that going on.

3. Marketing and all consumer factors are equal excepting the DRM issue that we're bearing witness to.

4. Assuming that it costs more to implement complex DRM rather than a simple disc copy protection - including server maintenance and patches etc.

5. X will be equal in both timelines following points 1,2 and 3.

Summary of costs/sales:
B1>B2

Timeline 1 = -A -B1 +X -Y
Timeline 2 = -A -B2 +X

Therefore, in this simple thought experiment it could be said that having complex DRM is actually detrimental to both company and consumer since a product that is pirated before the street date has no protection from piracy since it only takes one pirate version to be released. You cannot predict if a product will be leaked before the release of a game or not and quite often DRM schemes can slow down and disrupt a user's experience (e.g. Titan Quest). I'd argue that there's little difference between having a game pirated a day before release or a day after it, though i'd need to see preorder to actual sales conversion on a timeline and i'm never likely to get anything like that

I think this is the problem here. I honestly believe that when talking about DRM in theory others like myself would support a non invasive but effective solution and do not support a non-cost effective solution.

When talking about DRM I for one do not think about the specific use of the tool in spore. Whether or not that is the tool that should be left to others not myself.

I am hardily in favor of copy protection. In a way to manage ones asset to prevent theft or deter theft.

I am not in favor of anything that create legitimate headaches for the consumer. I am not going to debate this case because I nor anyone here (that has spoken up yet) has had a negative experience with Spore's version of copy protection.

Duoae wrote:
kuddles wrote:
Parallax Abstraction wrote:

MSN Music and Yahoo Music went offline with no solution available. These are two large companies who could easily have kept the servers online to support their paying customers but instead left them hanging.

MSN Music servers aren't shutting down until 2011, and they haven't said that decision is final. Yahoo is offering replacement tracks or a complete refund. I fail to see how that's "left them hanging".

Wasn't that only after hysterical outcries and media coverage of the events in question? Why should we have to wait for bad press before expecting a positive result?

Exactly. They were planning to leave people hanging, they only changed their policy to save face. My point is that it shouldn't be left up to these companies to decide when customers can no longer access their paid content. If you pay for something, it should be yours to use when and how often you want, not only until the company involved considers it no longer financially worth supporting.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

There's another question I meant to put in my original post that I'll put here as well:

If publishers are convinced that the people screaming about DRM are a vocal minority and they want to be as transparent about their DRM practices as they claim, why does no one yet state clearly on the box what DRM they use? Why not allow us to be informed before making our purchase if they're so convinced it won't make a huge difference in sales? Many people who are ticked off are Spore's DRM didn't find out it was there until after they bought the game and couldn't return it. And I can guarantee you that the clerk at EB Games won't have a clue.

If they are convinced DRM isn't a big deal that isn't going to hurt sales, they need to put up or shut up. Tell me on the box that you use SecuROM with activation. If you don't and I don't find out until after I get home and open the box, then you either need to accept a return or accept that I and people like me will be pissed off about it.

Yeah I think at some point they do need to be extremely clear about the exact nature of the copy protection on PC games. I would also like them to be even more clear about Hardware requirements.. but I suppose that might be pushing it

No argument there either. One thing I always tell people who are thinking of buying a PC game is "Make sure your system meets are least the recommended requirements. The minimums are lies." I haven't seen a Spore box yet but a few people have said that it does state Internet activation is required. That's a good thing and I'll give them credit for that however, it would also be nice to see the part about limited activations mentioned too. What they've done is certainly better than nothing but I suspect a lot of consumers might be taken back by seeing the limits.

Just want to reiterate my agreement with the transparency stuff here. If EA was more forthcoming about what's going on and put the user in control of the keys, i.e. iTunes Music Store, Steam, etc. this would be a non-issue for a good chunk of the people complaining. Myself included.

They could've thrown an intern on this for a week and knocked it out of the park.

I'll make a constructive suggestion here. First, I'd prefer no DRM at all. But if they have to use it, rather than this kind of activation DRM, I'd like to see kind of an opposite approach - I'd like the program to try to phone home for activation permission, and if it finds no one at the switch, I'd like it to automatically okay it.

That way, when they stop supporting the game, they stop limiting its use. It's kind of like a dead-man's switch for DRM. As I understand the way it works now, if the program finds no one at home, you'll just be f***ed.

Jayhawker wrote:

Most of the anti-DRM rhetoric fails becasue it is complaining before they actually have an issue.

Sorry for stupid analogies, but that's like saying you shouldn't complain about dangerous chemicals in the plastics around you, until they actually ham you.
Even if we don't have issues, its WRONG to limit the number of times you can install the game (calling EA begging them for more copies doesn't make it any better). Its wrong when securom install malware on your PC.
This is still not black/white; we shouldnt have to choose between no DRM or very intrusive and limiting DRM. There is plenty of space in between.

One of my favorite things about PC gaming is upgrading my PC. I know for some people it is the reason they hate PC gaming, but for me I love the thrill. Work for 2-3 hours carefully assembling everything and plugging everything in, then installing Windows and drivers and hoping for no crashes. First thing to do is to install a game that I could only play on medium settings and now see if I can max it.

One of big things I love about PC gaming is that I can fire up most of my old favorites like Heroes of Might and Magic 3. I've probably installed that game 6 or 7 times. 3DO went out of business after that game came out, and imagine if it HoMM3 had activation. I would now have a coaster. EA may not go out of business any time soon, but I wouldn't put them past them to shut down their activation servers in a few years. Maybe they'll release a patch so the game doesn't need online activation (or maybe they'll charge you $5 for it).

I'm not really interested in Spore but I am interested in Mass Effect and the DRM is really putting me off. I'd probably just suck it up if it was a game I was really looking forward to like STALKER Clear Sky or Silent Hill 5, but I can say with 100% certainty EA lost a Mass Effect sale because of their DRM. I wish EA would just suck it up and put their game on Steam. I don't want to use their download manager.

It's annoying but I'd prefer having to put the disc in the drive instead of activations. Drives are cheap, and I have 3 DVD drives in my case so I don't have to do much shuffling.

[last minute edit]
I know Valve could go out of business too, but to this point Valve has shown me that they more concerned with the consumer than EA.

Shadout wrote:

Even if we don't have issues, its WRONG to limit the number of times you can install the game (calling EA begging them for more copies doesn't make it any better). Its wrong when securom install malware on your PC.

We Fremen share common values - values learned from enduring harsh conditions, harsher even than draconian DRM.

Farscry wrote:

So here's a better question: EA has lost at least two sales of this game due to DRM (Fyedaddy's passing on it for the same reason). Can anyone say that they were specifically tipped towards purchasing the game due to the DRM?

Yuppers. I've changed my mind from a definite purchase to a firm No unless they change their DRM practice for this title. I understand (and support) the general use of copy protection but I simply cannot support this method. I remove/reinstall my software (including Windows) far too often for this method to be a viable option for me.

Is the DRM on the Mac side of things too?

I'm still tempted to pick up Spore and RA3... but the DRM is kind of turning me off, I'll admit. If a game is good, I want to be able to scrounge around and dig out the CD in five years (if not more) and be able to play with it again, show people "Hey, this is what we *used* to do!", and whatever. I have no faith that this will be possible using this system. Strangely (or perhaps not), if it were Blizzard or Valve and not EA in the equation, I'd feel better about it.

Having a long history of supporting stuff far after it's past its prime engenders a lot more trust for this kind of thing than having a recent history of ceasing support only a couple of years from release.

trip1eX wrote:

Is the DRM on the Mac side of things too?

Yep. Friend of mine couldn't run it on his iMac because it didn't recognize his network connection at activation time.

BadKen wrote:
trip1eX wrote:

Is the DRM on the Mac side of things too?

Yep. Friend of mine couldn't run it on his iMac because it didn't recognize his network connection at activation time.

That's interesting. My daughter had installed it my my MacBook, but failed to activate it. So I ended up activating it from the ice rink while she was practicing. I used a signal from a hair salon in the area to log on. Worked like a charm. I then activated it on my iMac at home without a hint of a hiccup.

I just posted it in the Sacred 2 thread but I thought I'd post it here as well.

From RPGWatch the upcoming DRM for Sacred 2:

Quote:

* 1 box, 2 licenses
* 1 license can be used online at a time; implying you use either your PC or your notebook, but not both at the same time.
* 2 can be played via LAN
* 2 can be used for SP
* unlimited installations, 2 activations
* Activations can be revoked through multiple channels (online-auto, online tools, offline). Revoke & re-activate can be done an unlimited number of times.
* One PC component can be replaced without problems. Beyond that revoke & re-activate is the recommended procedure.
* There will be an emergency hotline for DRM issues due to failed hardware, etc. The manual page with the key serves as proof of purchase.
* The hotline will be available 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. For standard phone rates. (This may apply for Germany only.; ed.)
* Internet connection is needed during installation. The FAQ explains you can use a friend's PC for manual activation though.
* You can play without the DVD. It´s not needed in the drive.
* No private data will be transfered during the activation process. You cannot even enter critical data.
* The activation servers will be available for the next couple of years. Should this no longer be the case, the DRM will be patched out.
* "A transfer to a third [party] is not part of the license." (transl.)

Link

stauf7 wrote:

I just posted it in the Sacred 2 thread but I thought I'd post it here as well.

From RPGWatch the upcoming DRM for Sacred 2:

*Lots of Sane and Reasonable words*

EA take not : If you absolutely have to have DRM... THAT's the way to do it!

I can tolerate that approach they're taking for Sacred 2.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

I'll make a constructive suggestion here. First, I'd prefer no DRM at all. But if they have to use it, rather than this kind of activation DRM, I'd like to see kind of an opposite approach - I'd like the program to try to phone home for activation permission, and if it finds no one at the switch, I'd like it to automatically okay it.

That way, when they stop supporting the game, they stop limiting its use. It's kind of like a dead-man's switch for DRM. As I understand the way it works now, if the program finds no one at home, you'll just be f***ed.

A simple firewall rule would render that way ineffective.

My preference is steam. I know there was a phone home thing in spore, and that really didn't bother me much. It is effectively what Steam does. And if you have issue with that, the good old disk in drive to the rescue. Not sure why this choice was made. Oh well.

I don't have a problem with what they're doing with Sacred 2. The terms are much more lenient but the key point is this: They've promised in writing to patch out the DRM eventually. I don't mind activation based DRM as long as the assurance is made that is will be removed when no longer necessary or when they decide to take the servers down. EA has staunchly refused to do that. If they assured the community that they would eventually remove it, I would have already bought Spore.

Going back early in the thread, because I can't let this go:

Just because it did not stop it does not mean that they did not slow it down.

Hint: if the pirates ship it BEFORE YOU DO, you didn't slow it down.

Ok, after reading the whole thread, one thought occurs that I haven't seen anyone else raise.

In this one case, the DRM is not as big of an issue as it would be with most games, because Spore is very reliant on user-generated content being delivered from EA servers. If the activation servers go down, so will the rest of the cloud, and the game's not likely to be nearly as much fun. With Spore, worrying about activations isn't as smart as it ordinarily is.

However, it's also extra-stupid of EA to include copy protection on a game with such a strong online component, because that component alone would be a big incentive to buy the game.

With RA3, though, hmm. I dunno. I don't put anything I really care about on my gaming Windows box anymore, so it's not as big a deal as it used to be if the system gets screwed up with DRM. But I also re-image on a regular basis, which is going to play hell with limited activations. I suspect I'll probably pass until they remove the limit, like they did with Bioshock.

But I also re-image on a regular basis, which is going to play hell with limited activations. I suspect I'll probably pass until they remove the limit, like they did with Bioshock.

Couldn't you just make the Spore install part of the image?
Clean windows install, with anti-malware, add Spore, make image.
Then you could "reinstall" a million times without having to reactivate, couldn't you?

EDIT: Better yet, install Spore on a VirtualPC image. Doesn't that short-circuit the whole thing?

EDIT: Better yet, install Spore on a VirtualPC image. Doesn't that short-circuit the whole thing?

Not a bad idea, and entirely legal. Bravo. It solves the problem for the end-user, but doesn't solve the overall problem, though.