Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category.

Gears DRM Debacle

Event like the Gears of War DRM debacle perfectly illustrate why Digital Rights Management is such a bad idea for the PC platform.

As a software developer myself, I can guarantee that there is no such thing as bug-free code.  Any piece of software that has more than 50 lines of code in it is going to have bugs, and any bug fix can introduce additional problems.  So anytime a developer adds functionality (like say DRM) to a product they are adding new possible problems.

When new functionality improves the game experience, this increased risk of problems is worthwhile to a gamer, but the addition of DRM usually provides no experience  improvements.  This is why Valve’s Steam has so much customer buy in.  Games are digitally distributed so there’s no CD/DVD required in the drive and I can buy and play a game without having to leave my house, and Steam allows me to download my purchases again if I need to.

With the exception of MMO’s, I’ve stopped buying PC games except through Valve’s Steam or Stardock’s Impulse.

Game publishers (and movie studios) need to look at what happened with the music industry.  Record studios pushed DRM in different forms for years without success, and now both iTunes and Amazon are doing great business without any DRM at all.  Customer’s pay for convenience and quality, not hassles.  Pirates won’t pay no matter what kind of protection is included.

Perma-EULA

Accept the EULA every time.  Really?

I have to scroll to the bottom, check a box, and click accept.  Everytime I want to play.  Every time.  Really?  Why.  Who that that was a good idea?  I have enough minor but necessary irritations in my work life, why should I accept a minor but unnecessary irritation in my gaming life?

WoW only requires you to do it after a patch.   Presumably because something changed in the agreement.  I wouldn’t know, I never read it.

That may be why Mythic is handling the Warhammer EULA this way.  But I don’t read this one either.  Why bother?  It’s not like I’m going to disagree with a section and decide not to play the game.  I’ve already opened the box and registered the key.  It’s too late to return it.  It’s also not going to make the EULA any more enforceable in court.

All it does is irritate me whenever I want to login a play a bit.  Which I do too relax.   Always nice to have a relaxation activity that is begins by smaking you in the back of the head.

DRM is stupid.

The music studios finally figured this out.  It hurts paying customers.  It entertains pirates and gives hackers something to do.  So why bother?  Yes, something needs to be done about organized piracy, but DRM has zero impact on that.

What DRM does impact is PC gaming.  Either people don’t buy stuff, they buy for consoles, or they download it cracked.  For example, I didn’t buy Bio Shock or Mass Effect for the PC.

Bio Shock’s activation horror stories just after release convinced me not to bother picking it up for either PC or console.

Mass Effect I already owned for the 360, but I was considering pickign up the PC version both for the UI updates and just to show support for the studio.  Then I saw the DRM announcements.  No thanks.

I did purchase Spore, but it was because I had pre-ordered from Amazon and my order shipped before the DRM hit the fan.  My fault for not researching it first.  I’ll admit that I’ve had no problems with the game yet, except for the annoyance of having to disable Process Explorer which I use as a task manager replacement.  But my problem is what happens when I build my next gaming rig.  I didn’t pay $50 to rent a game.  I paid $50 to own a copy.  If they want to sell it as a limited 3 installation rental, fine, but they need to knock the price down.  Say $30 bucks, or less.

I’m really looking forward to Fallout 3, but you can be sure that my platform choice will be heavily influenced by the DRM attached.  So DRM may not kill gaming, but it could kill PC gaming.

Just to clarify, I’m not for piracy and I’m not against DRM.  But I don’t like either one.  I do think that if you’re going to use it, DRM needs to “just work”, 99.99% of the time.  I also think that if a company wants to lock down a game as tightly as EA seems to then they need to be extremely forward about it.  A big sticker on the box and a description of the rights and restrictions on the back.  It should also uninstall with the game, period.

Studios and developers are entitled must protect their work.  But when DRM turns a game purchase into a game rental for the same $, then there’s a problem.

If I want to play a 360 game, I turn on the console and put the disk in.  If I want to play a PC game, I’d like to be able to do the same.

GIAA?

Is the gaming industry turning into the music industry?

Recently this question popped into my head.  For a long time it seemed as though the music industry was trying to kill itself.  Finally with iTunes starting to offer mp3’s, which has accelerated since the opening of the Amazon store and the Zune Marketplace, I think the music business has finally corrected its downward spiral.

If the gaming industry goes through the same learning curve, how much of today’s industry will survive?  How long will it take?  If/when it happens will I care any more?  I’m afraid it those answers will be: the largest three to four companies, too long, and no.

Like with the music industry I think the gaming industry has exaggerated this problem.  No one has any real idea how much money is lost to piracy, and I can’t think of anyway they’d really be able to quantify it.