Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let's talk copy protection!

Sheesh! Spore is still more than 90% one-star ratings on Amazon. Yes, because of the copy protection.

As someone who bought and installed Spore legal-like, lemme add my words to the fray.

First, the fact that it checks to make sure you're valid when you log in to play on-line. That passes muster in my book because you're logging in to play on-line. You're logging in as a specific player to share content with other players. I don't know how you could do that without verification.

Second, the fact that it initially checks on-line when you install. Meh. I don't like that idea for most games, but it's an on-line game. Playing it on an offline-only computer would be a little like just playing solitaire.

Third, the fact that it is allegedly very invasive. Haven't seen that to be the case. Far as I can tell, this version doesn't rootkit, doesn't run a process in the background, doesn't really do anything other than verify that you're using the same computer. There is the hassle of running out of installs and having to ask them to clear your records, but I don't honestly see that as a problem.


Because it's already hacked.

The game's only been out for a little while, and it's already been cracked wide open. The world's "greatest" (certainly most malware-arrific) "piracy prevention system" was destroyed in less than a week.

I don't think they've got their own "gray shard" for content sharing yet, but give it a few weeks.

If I ever decide to play Spore again - maybe after they release a gameplay patch to either take out all the gameplay or put in some actual gameplay - I'm certainly going to install a cracked version.

Because I don't like invasive "piracy protection". Because I don't like it when someone installs something without telling me. Because, frankly, I don't like EA.

It's not what the protection system does. It's what it implies. It implies that they are willing to cripple long-term playability in favor of... what, exactly?

Not preventing piracy, since it takes roughly 45 minutes to download a cracked torrent. Delaying piracy two or three days?

Yeah! What a great reason to make it so I have to use the pirated version three years from now, when EA is bored of maintaining the game. Great. Thanks.


Christian Olsson said...

This is a terrible story for 2 parties - legitimate users who simply wanted to play Spore and couldn't because the activation servers went down and EA because Spore was cracked even before it was released.

Often developers walk a tightrope with the tradeoff between protection strength and the degree of impact on legitimate users but this was a failure on both dimensions! Is this really what the publisher wants to 'accomplish'? Why not use a solution which is friendly to honest users, has no impact on development time and the strongest available protection against crackers - see the whitepaper "Is Anti-Piracy/DRM the Cure or the Disease for PC Games?" which can be downloaded here

Craig Perko said...

Don't know why, but your post didn't show up in my inbox, so I didn't read it until now.

I'll read the whitepaper, thanks for the link.

The gist of your comment is the same as mine, I think.

It's stupid to think that something that doesn't work at all can be made to work by making it more severe and invasive. That's like saying, "Oh, smelling smoke didn't cure my pneumonia, obviously what I need to do is light myself on fire."

Um, not that it's a stretch or anything...

Craig Perko said...

Ugh, Byteshield really turns it up to eleven. Basically, they say that the way to not piss off users is to tell them that you're going to be watching their every move, instead of doing it secretly. :P

While Byteshield seems less irritating than some of the more invasive systems, it also does not offer the security that invasiveness is supposed to enable.

It works like this: the game is delivered incomplete, and Byteshield replaces bits of code with valid code once registration is complete. They're very proud of this, talking about "even tens of thousands of pieces of code can be changed" and that hackers would have to fix each of these independently in order to get the game to run.

Except that, if I have a valid copy, I have the valid code. Just disable the fucking internet check (ten minutes of work) and distribute my install.

No, I don't think it solves any damn thing.