Spore War

By Alec Meer on September 9th, 2008 at 9:27 am.

People really don’t like DRM. And a small but very passionate/ferocious group of people really, really, really don’t like DRM. They’ve struck back by shaping Amazon’s user reviews of Spore en masse, bringing its average rating down to just one star.

While I’m aware it’s a major issue for a lot of gamers, I think it’s a hateful thing to do on this kind of scale. I do understand their concerns entirely, and would much prefer there was no DRM in Spore. Fine, don’t buy the game yourself or crack it if you’re not happy with the restrictions and privacy violations. Write to EA or trading standards, blog about it, demand there’s a big warning sticker on the box.

Even protest ratings based on your actual negative experiences of the DRM are entirely valid, but this concerted group effort (most of whom, I imagine, haven’t actually played the game or experienced its usage restrictions first-hand) is giving innocent Amazon customers entirely the wrong impression of a game they might well love: that star rating is all that a lot of people look at. This isn’t raising awareness of DRM: it’s just making people not buy the game because they think it must be rubbish.

The DRM’s a significant problem – a problem we won’t know the full extent of for a while, I’d imagine – but my concern is that one of the most influential buying guides on the web is currently only telling one side of the story. A progressive, excellent game could get sunk because of it, and we’ll end up with more licensed tripe instead. Not that likely, granted, but possible.

Appreciate that this is a subject people feel very strongly about, but please express your comments below without bellowing abuse at each other.

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350 Comments »

  1. Dinger says:

    On seeing this yeterday, I was with Cliffski and Alec. It seems a rather out-of-proportion reaction. Then it struck me that it wasn’t.

    First, Spore vs. Sequels. Spore is very good, and does some things really well. But it’s not some risky indie project. Spore is published by the largest video game distributor in the world, and developed by the people who have what is by far the most successful PC Game ever according to every metric except perhaps the one that counts WoW’s annual revenue. EA isn’t launching a game, they’re launching a brand. They have plans to release Spore-branded products on every platform imaginable, and even some you and I haven’t even thought of yet. Every part of the game is built with an expansion pack in mind. There’s no chance in hell that a few false notes from AIM and reviewers is going to have anything more than a minor impact.

    For the AIM taking action, Spore is the ideal target. “Innovative” or not, there are a lot of suits looking to make a mint on the title, and they are going to be studying the game’s reception minutely. They will impose restrictive DRM unless they encounter LOUD resistance and the cost that DRM incurs is greater than the benefit.

    Anyway, you’d have to be an idiot not to release that 1200 negative posts all bitching about DRM were by those who haven’t played the game. My guess is this protest won’t even scratch the paint, but it is a reflection of how many of us feel.

    Yes, I bought the game. I didn’t realize until this action just what EA was doing with the DRM, and finding out made me regret my purchase. For that, I blame the reviewers. While I appreciate the finer points of the experience — and indeed good writing is its own reward — those of us who are considering buying the game need to know just what it is we’re buying. Are we purchasing a product, or three shots at installing it?

    Finally, my understanding is that uninstalling doesn’t give you an install back.
    Even if it did, it’s still very restrictive. Having to call a company to get the keys to a product *I own* just isn’t right. (Oh wait, you mean I don’t own it, I just license it on your terms? So, if I copy it illegally, I’m not really stealing it, am I?)

    (p.s., Spongy: you gotta read through ‘em all man. That’s the rule)

  2. Meat Circus says:

    @Dinger:

    “Oh wait, you mean I don’t own it, I just license it on your terms? So, if I copy it illegally, I’m not really stealing it, am I?”

    No, you don’t. And no, you’re not. Copyright is not property, and cannot be stolen.

    Does anybody expect Amazon to allow the reviews to stand if EA puts on a little pressure? Cos I don’t.

    Still, EA will be rubbing their hands with glee at all the free publicity. I expect an Amazon sales spike shortly.

  3. Mungrul says:

    Just a quick note regarding Jim’s post on telephone activation.
    One important difference: Microsoft’s Windows activation line is freephone.
    EA’s activation line is premium rate.

  4. Meat Circus says:

    @Mungrul:

    No, it’s not. It’s an 0844 number in the UK, which is a number translation service charged at standard local rate. No revenue sharing.

  5. Alec Meer says:

    They shouldn’t be charging at all, frankly.

  6. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Shadowmancer:

    “should DRM have a negative impact” you can only install the game x amount of times plus internet needs to be on constantly to authenticate your game all the time, if thats not a negative impact then what is?

    You can install the game as many times as you want. After the installs “run out”, you need to call someone. Yes, not particularly convenient and certainly not free, but certainly better than most costumer support situations I’ve had to deal with in my life. Besides, just how many times do people plan on uninstalling and installing Spore? Seriously.

    And this still dodges the issue somewhat. Does DRM have any ill effect on Spore’s celular stage? Does it mess around with the space stage? Do you need to be online to get by in the tribal phase? That is what I’m trying to get at. DRM is ridiculous and needs to be stamped on. But once you’ve gone through installation and you fire up the game… How does the game play? Most people won’t know, because all they’re reading is FUCK DRM RWAAAR.

    That’s a disservice to both tthe game, the readers and to anyone willing to genuinely solve the DRM problems.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    @Alec:

    ‘They’ are not charging, since it’s no revenue sharing. EA make no money from the call, which I think was Mungrul’s implication. Dunno the situation outside Her Majesty’s dominions though.

    EDIT: Turns out they do revenue share, but it’s not premium rate. You’re right that it is out of order that they provide this ‘service’ via a revenue-share phone line.

    Thanks, Mungrul.

  8. Zeewolf says:

    Jonas: No, Spore is not going to get sunk by this, though that is what many people are hoping.

    But other games, from smaller companies, are getting hurt by the same kind of tactics from the same kind of people. Just look at those nasty “boycot starforce”-sites, most of the games listed there are from smaller developers. And a lot of them are very good, and a heck of a lot more interesting than what’s being published by the big guys.

    When people decide to go bananas over copy protection, it’s games like Space Rangers 2 and TrackMania that suffer the most.

  9. Mungrul says:

    Sorry, you’re right, it’s not premium rate, however, from what I can find out regarding 0844 numbers, the company buying an 0844 service DOES receive a percentage of the revenue.
    My implication was that EA are making money off of this. Turns out they are.
    As Alec says, EA should NOT be charging for such a service.

  10. mrmud says:

    Frankly not enough people really care about freedom (of being able to install your game as often as you like) for it to have a big enough impact on EA by just not buying the game.

    Loosing cash is the only way that EA is going to change their mind and this is one of the best ways to attain this goal. As such I wholeheartedly agree with it.

  11. Po0py says:

    Just a note. Spore will not let you install if you have Daemon Tools installed on your system. The dvd just spins in the drive without registering. I’ve just had to uninstall Daemon tools just to get this thing working. :(

    I shall vent my fury on amazon uk. :)

  12. Guido says:

    @Jim Rossignol: “Are you saying you missed out on these games because of the way their DRM worked?”

    Yes, I did. What a pity, right? I’m not really consequent in places though because I’m actively using Steam meanwhile (for TF2 among other things)…

    Playing the things anyway would mean that I’d have to pirate them, and while I might maybe have done such things in the past I don’t anymore, out of principle.

  13. Guido says:

    @Diogo Ribeiro: “Protesting outside retailers and official (or fan-based) forums has a higher chance of raising awareness than in Amazon.”

    I disagree. Because of the novelty value of the Amazon coup, every fan-based forum and gamer blog will pick this up within the next few days, and it might even reach mass media.

  14. Seniath says:

    @Po0py: You sure? I installed it fine with Daemon running.

  15. Paul says:

    I still can’t even use the online features (which are so essential to the game the box says a connection is required), thanks to some server or production fault at EA.

    Three days later, I’m starting to get REALLY annoyed.
    Terrible launch.

  16. Ragnar says:

    @Diogo Ribeiro

    I’ve had to deal with in my life. Besides, just how many times do people plan on uninstalling and installing Spore? Seriously.

    A lot of times. If this is a good game, I might want to play it in 10, 15 years. If I reinstall it once a year (due to reinstalls of windows or hard drive crashes or computer upgrades). I frequently play old games and it would be too big of a hassle to do this if I were to call some support line every time I want to install my games.

  17. Leelad says:

    I love my dongasaurus and FUCK YOU to anyone who doesn’t

    Seriously.

  18. grumpy says:

    I don’t think it’s a problem. Spore is doing fine. And if it doesn’t? Perhaps EA will get the message, at least. ;)

    Anyway, you don’t have to look very closely at the Amazon reviews page to see *why* people are giving it 1 star. It’s not like people are writing reviews saying “The game sucks”. They’re saying pretty clearly “You’re not buying a game, you’re renting it. Install it 3 times, and it’s useless”
    I think that’s the important thing. Simply rating the game down, making it look like a bad game, would be the wrong way to attack this problem. But taking a highly visible website, and writing *why* it is being rated down. That’s excellent.

    Besides, just how many times do people plan on uninstalling and installing Spore? Seriously.

    Let’s see. A Windows reinstall a year. Perhaps a computer upgrade every two years. Three years then, and I’ve run out. Maybe a lot less. I hadn’t planned on my mobo dying last month, but that forced me to upgrade and reinstall everything.

    Of course, we all know that it’s irrelevant to the angries too, who WOULD HAVE PIRATED IT ANYWAY.

    They just use the foolish DRM as an excuse to try to convince us that piracy is acceptable.

    [I think shouting abuse is the same thing as debate]

    No, I don’t want to pirate it. If that was what I wanted, I’d have pirated Spore on *release day* Because, you know, there was a crack out by then despite the DRM. I’d certainly have pirated Mass Effect, since it’s been out for months. DRM doesn’t hurt those who want to pirate. It hurts me, because I’m dumb enough to a) pay for my games, and b) expect them to work two years from now.

    And honestly, Spore is the *perfect* game to complain about DRM in.
    1: It’s not a small indie project. It’s not like Wright will be in financial trouble if they lose 2000 sales. (Both because it’s EA, rather than Wright, who’s paying the bill, and, because it’s going to sell like wildfire anyway, and unlike AwesomeIndieGame, a few thousand copies less means *nothing* for Spore.
    2: DRM isn’t even *necessary* for Spore.
    2a: It’s targeted at casual gamers, who don’t pirate games much.
    2b: It has a major online component, which means they could just tie your account to your cd key, and you’d be forced to play offline if you pirated it.
    2c: the DRM employed here is truly crippling. It’s not just “we install hidden drivers you never notice”, or “you need to activate the software online”. It’s “you probably won’t be able to play the game two years from now, unless you call us and beg for a reactivation”

    No, I don’t think the Amazon thing is out of proportion. I think it’s pretty much perfect. I can’t imagine a better game to target with it, and I can’t think of a better way to draw attention to the problem.

    Are you saying you missed out on these games because of the way their DRM worked?

    I did. Well, I missed out on Mass Effect, and if I’d known in advance, I’d have chosen to miss out on Bioshock as well.
    HL2? Nope, I don’t mind the DRM there. It doesn’t prevent me from reinstalling the game. Sure, I’m screwed if Steam’s servers go down, so it’s far from perfect, but at least until then I can play the game just fine. Unlike with Mass Effect and Spore. That’s where I draw the line. I can live with DRM, as long as it doesn’t prevent me from playing a game I bought. It mustn’t prevent me from playing today, tomorrow, next year or a decade from now. Not even if I reinstall the game every single day. (Of course, wear and tear on the DVD might cause a problem then, but the DRM itself should not be a further limitation)
    Or at least, if I’m only leasing the game for a couple of years, I want a reduced price.

    And I know several others who have missed out on one or more games because of the restrictive DRM. You sound like this surprises you?

    And one thing I think a lot of you are missing is this: Not everyone speaks english. And not everyone speaks english as their first language. Not everyone relishes the thought of calling a callcenter in India, to speak to speak english to a guy whose accent is even worse than yours, just to be able to play the game you *bought*. Do they have supporters speaking every language, covering every country? I doubt it.

    Hell, given the quality of the Danish translation in Spore’s creature creator, it’s pretty clear that any non-english support you’re going to get is half-assed at best.
    I don’t even know who I’m going to get the pleasure of talking to if I phone them. Do I get redirected to a callcenter in India, speaking (mostly) english? Do they have one in Sweden, covering all of Scandinavia? Norway, perhaps? IBM insists on giving me german support, for some reason. Or I *could* lucky, and they have a support center in Denmark, and they’ll still have it when I need it.
    (Ok, so it’s not a huge problem for me, assuming that whoever they are, they can speak english in addition to danish, but not everyone are confident in their english skills)

  19. nikos says:

    Erm, submitters on amazon may have not played the game, may not achieve anything by doing this, may not even affect the sales of Spore and may drive innocent/stupid buyers away.

    However, there’s one thing about protest: it’s generally going to be something that breaks something, that make you late for work, that somehow annoys someone, because of the belief that if that wasn’t the case there is not going to be any effect. And that’s true: only in an ideal society does there exist an orderly+effective complaint system where you can achieve what you want without ruffling *any* feathers.

    So yeah, abusing the notion of a review, of score, misleading potential customers etc etc. All bad things, but (for some) necessary in a protest like this.

  20. Colthor says:

    I hear you brother. Of course, we all know that it’s irrelevant to the angries too, who WOULD HAVE PIRATED IT ANYWAY.

    They just use the foolish DRM as an excuse to try to convince us that piracy is acceptable.

    So, are you going to back up your assertions with some kind of evidence, or just be all angry?

  21. Nallen says:

    The thing about DRM is that it appears to be totally ineffective. I mean the game was out on torrent before release if I understand correctly thus rendering the concept or DRM on retail versions utterly pointless.

    I really don’t like piracy, and I really don’t like DRM. The idea of making a profit out of people legitimately installing a game they’ve purchased makes me positively sick to the back teeth.

  22. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Ragnar:

    Yes, although in the large spectrum of videogamer tendencies, how many people find themselves in the same position as you? Enough to warrant a change? I’m not one to use anecdotal evidence – just the anecdotes themselves, mind – but I’m terrified of the way some of my peers handle their PCs. Hard drive formats once a month? Periodical operating system and software reinstalls? To me, that’s unbelievable. And has been unnecessary, no matter how pundits have tried to spun it my way – even with the random crash. The only major crash I’ve had actually happened this last week, where my gaming PC all but died, to the point where it won’t even let me format my HD. But before it, I can only remember one time where it had severe problems, and that was because of a virus – which, incidentally, was also fairly quick and painless to deal with.

    And in terms of hard drive installation life, I’ve always had a tendency to keep games installed for years (since my HDs don’t seem to fail as much as they do other people). It’s certainly not an excuse – as this would make me no better than the very viewpoints I’m somewhat criticizing – but in general terms, most gamers don’t have as many tech problems as the rest. Difficulties? Yes, but not rampant, head on crashes. And their interest in games probably does not go for long as ours do. You or me would reinstall a game we loved in the next 10 or 15 years – they most certainly would not, as the memory had been replaced by some other flavor of the month. Unfortunately (or not, depending on where one comes from), part of Spore’s audience is casual like that.

    So, your reasons are good. They’re as good reasons as any, really, and Bioshock certainly seems to be an object lesson; but how many games use this medieval protection schemes? Again, enough to warrant a change?

  23. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @grumpy:

    Let’s see. A Windows reinstall a year. Perhaps a computer upgrade every two years. Three years then, and I’ve run out. Maybe a lot less. I hadn’t planned on my mobo dying last month, but that forced me to upgrade and reinstall everything.

    That example presumes that in one year, you still haven’t finished Spore. It also assumes that in two to three years, all the installation ‘slots’ will be gone (which is not true, since it then switches into activation by phone), and that you still may not have finished the game.

    Why bother, then. Seriously. Spore is a lot more casual and friendly than some of the stuff that gets pumped into the PC, and quite agreeably shorter in a way, too. If between one to three years, you believe you may not have finished it, I’d suggest that it is not a problem with the game or its DRM.

  24. NikRichards says:

    To be honest I think the DRM issue is a moot point with this game.

    It’s a fun toy, but due to a lack of gameplay meatyness I certainly wont need 3 Installs. Doubt I’ll need 2.

  25. Meat Circus says:

    @Colthor:

    I’m not angry.

    I agree that Spore is the ideal target for some kind of DRM protest, since there’s no way on God’s Clean Earth that some shouty geeks are going to ‘sink’ Spore, but may kick up just enough of a stink that some execs in EA take note.

    However, as I see it, this protest does not seem like a spontaneous outpouring of consumer anger, but an organised assault from an Angry Internet Man forum, many of whom I suspect had no intention of buying the game in the first place.

    The net effect is to undermine the message of the protest (DRM is fucking stupid), and make the protestors look childish and spiteful.

  26. araczynski says:

    meh, i personally have nothing against these types of tactics. if people detest the drm they should have the right to say so.

    personally i think the game is weak, with or without any drm, and i’m not going to bother with it.

    although i do wish him luck with good sales/milkings, as they made the effort to create something unique, which is a rarity in today’s age of EA crap sports titles and general copy/paste games.

  27. Horatius says:

    DRM leaves a bad taste in my mouth, even if the basic product it’s attached to is delicious. Blogging, and other polite ways of saying DRM is bad is certainly fine, but companies ultimately view sales as the main indicator of success. Hacking away at Spore’s sales might not be in the best taste, but it’s probably the only tactic that EA might pay attention to.

    DRM in software, and other systems that are designed to fight piracy tend to only encourage it. DVDs, compact discs, and games that have irritating copy protections become less attractive when the cracked versions are free of such nuisances.

    I’d still really love to play Spore, but then again Dwarf Fortress is completely free of DRM and much cheaper… ^_^

  28. Colthor says:

    @Meat Circus:
    The assertion I don’t like is that the AIMs wouldn’t've bought the game anyway. I doubt there’s any way of actually measuring it, but as Nallen said it seems the pirates are the people who don’t have anything to worry or complain about, they still get theirs fine. Which makes it worse, I suppose; EA get some negative publicity, have to pay SecuROM, lose a few sales, but all for naught.

    @Diogo Ribeiro:
    You never replay games a few years later?

  29. Meat Circus says:

    @Colthor:

    I don’t have any hard evidence. But I’ve seen enough of these sorts of discussions where DRM is put forward as legitimising that which would have happened anyway.

    Slashdot’s recent discussion on this had, as its first and most highly rated comment, a link to the torrent.

    I suspect that those that would have pirated the game anyway find DRM to be a convenient channel for assuaging their guilt and legitimising their conduct.

    It’s another reason that DRM is fucking stupid.

  30. CitizenErazed says:

    Can’t believe I read all that. Okay, a few points.

    One: If you’re reformatting your system every few months, you need to look at how you manage your system. For comparison’s sake, I run a dual-boot system, and I’ve /never/ had to reinstall windows due to data failure. It just takes a little maintenance.

    Two: If you do have a system failing every few months, look at your hardware. PSU? Dodgy mobo? In the meantime, at least do what any sensible user should be doing, and keep windows and your data on seperate partitions.

    Three: Those two aside, Windows XP has (as has been pointed out) exactly the same DRM, and I’ve never seen anyone boycott that. It’s very easy to boycott something that wouldn’t affect your life – let’s see some of those do it when it’s something that makes your gaming possible.

    Four: Okay, let’s move on from there. If you seriously hate the DRM, and aren’t going to buy the game because of it, fair enough. But, instead of an unfocused DRM WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER AND RAPE YOUR FATHER rant on Amazon, how about focused complaints to EA? Okay, all well and good they might not listen, but a thousand emails appearing within the space of two or three days will give them pause. If they hear about a thousand potential customers who will not buy their product due to the restrictions, that’s £30,000 they’ve potentially lost. Small beans maybe, but there’s probably someone somewhere within EA who recognises the potential future revenue there.

    I do have one other point, but it escapes me.

  31. CitizenErazed says:

    Oh yeah, what Meat said. I know of two people in my relatively small circle of like-minded internet geeks who have already pirated the game, using DRM as an excuse. If you want to pirate, fine, okay, be my guest, but I fail to see how you think you’re going to change anyone’s mind about DRM – best case, they won’t notice thousands of people stealing their work, and worst case, all you will do is confirm to them that even stricter DRM is needed.

    Oh dear, we’re discussing piracy. Shall I just leave now?

  32. Tom says:

    This has been posted before here, but I think it kinda makes clear why drm needs to be stopped before it conquers the Europe/World like fascism did. I mean I can live without playing spore, but RA3?!?

    - You will be able to install and play on up to five computers.

    And then:

    - Life happens. I know it’s unlikely, but for those unlucky few who install the game and have their machines nuked (virus, OS reinstall, major hardware upgrade, etc.) five times, EA Customer Service will be on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

    Yeahh, thats sooo unlikely(Both that windows pcs break, and that ea support will help). And guess what, I have 6 pcs, and I want to play my perfectly legal copy of insert game tile on all six of them. Cause I kind of own them, like my shoes, which I wear on all 4 of my feet.

  33. Nick says:

    I don’t really have a problem with the DRM. I’m just not a DRM zealot.

    I DO, however, have a problem with the game crashing fairly consistently and having no autosave feature.

  34. Dinger says:

    By definition, Windows is a hard drive memory leak pretending to be an OS. To run it well, you need to reinstall the OS regularly. Sure, we don’t do it, but we should.

    So Diogo, by your last post (“If between one to three years, you believe you may not have finished, that’s not a problem with the game” ), you’re admitting that EA’s DRM amounts to a long-term rental.

    Those little “fact boxes” in reviews should specify not only publisher, developer and genre, but MSRP, online prices, and DRM scheme. That way, reviews will do their part in indicating not only who made the game, but just what exactly it is they’re selling. They can use the space freed up by removing the number score if they like.
    Heck, as many other aspects have their own symbology, how about some for DRM:
    Smiley Face: No DRM.
    Marijuana Cigarette: ShareWare
    Peace Symbol: FreeWare
    Briefcase with Radioactive symbol on the side: Activation code
    Red Telephone: Online Activation
    Van with antennae and “Flowers By Irene” painted on the side: monitors your computer use and conflicts with some programs. (Alternatively: Mother-in-Law)
    Hitler Face: repeated, mandatory online verification
    Game Box in Toilet: Limited Installs.

  35. No Picnic says:

    I’d like to speak up only to say I don’t mind DRM that much usually. I think pirating the game is immoral because I believe the companies who make the game deserve to get paid for their product. But that’s kind of beside the point. DRM just doesn’t annoy me. Of all the problems in the world, this is one I can deal with.

    Edit: Hey, Nick! It’s good to see I’m not the only one out there.

  36. Nallen says:

    Why bother, then. Seriously. Spore is a lot more casual and friendly than some of the stuff that gets pumped into the PC, and quite agreeably shorter in a way, too. If between one to three years, you believe you may not have finished it, I’d suggest that it is not a problem with the game or its DRM.

    What a farce of a response. If you buy a game it is none of anyone’s concern how you decide to play it!

    Saying that DRM having an impact on how you choose to use a licensed piece of software is your own fault really is a ball crunchingly bad argument.

  37. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Colthor:

    Read my replies to Ragnar and Grumpy. I am not defending DRM as its been implemented in Spore, nor am I leaving the possibility of replaying out of the equation. However, there’s a bit of a difference between “you can only install three times” and “you can only install three times from the DVD, at which point you need to activate it by phone”.

    Once again, I’m not defensive of DRM. As a gamer, every fiber of me screams against it. All I’m arguing is:

    1) There are better ways to get the point across;
    2) Crucifying Spore is not one of them – taking your ass out of the chair and going to retail stores in organized campaigns, for instance, is;
    3) Replayability is likely not a factor for whomever is behind decision making, as that’s one of the goals the industry has, by far and large, took a rather bing dump on. It leaves some folks out of the loop, and as such is understandable it annoys them, but once again, this is a different battle altogether. If you’re interested in Spore, play it now. Then after you finish it, honestly argue about whether you’ll be replaying it and not. And if you will… The only change is the activation method.

  38. The Sombrero Kid says:

    it’s EA’s fault for taking part in a capitalist democracy, the main way consumers get what they want is by voicing their opinion and voting with their wallets, EA is susceptible to this is because of a system they helped create, and consumers only right of expression is to convince people not to spend money, in capitalism you need to compete for the the consumers, therefore EA needs to compete with these people to get their rating up or find a way to appease them.

  39. Styngent says:

    Anybody who crticises Spore for its large target audience might as well go and bang the anti WoW drum in the WaR article. Fact is its the only PC game in a long time even worth paying money for. Aside from the fact is has great presentation and an original idea, it’s one of even fewer games that has long term potential. Given the fact people are willing to pay up to £10 for an Mmo and spore does bundle a fair selection of online features, it doesn’t give me many sleepless nights to know that one day (in the very far feature) I’ll have to make a quick and painless phone call.

    Fact is the game is getting misrepresented on amazon, and for all the wrong reasons. Just another case of a swing and a miss by the interent militia.

  40. grumpy says:

    One: If you’re reformatting your system every few months, you need to look at how you manage your system. For comparison’s sake, I run a dual-boot system, and I’ve /never/ had to reinstall windows due to data failure. It just takes a little maintenance.

    Data failure is more like bad luck. If a harddrive fails, you’re screwed. (Unless you’re running RAID, which few people are). I don’t see what that has to do with maintenance. Sometimes, hardware fails. Not often, but it happens, and the problem with it is that it’s unpredictable.

    at least do what any sensible user should be doing, and keep windows and your data on seperate partitions.

    And that helps me how? Sure, I can recover my savegames. But I can’t recover the installation. It’s still used up an “activation slot”, and I’ve no way of uninstalling it, because the Windows it was installed on is gone. You seem to be missing the point here.

    Those two aside, Windows XP has (as has been pointed out) exactly the same DRM, and I’ve never seen anyone boycott that. It’s very easy to boycott something that wouldn’t affect your life

    Two things. First, it’s not exactly the same. XP “regenerates” activations over time. If you run out, you can leave it for a few months, and then you can magically install again. That makes it a non-issue in most cases (since few people are reinstalling multiple times in a few days). And second, the fact that we don’t have a *choice* about Windows doesn’t mean we should accept the same thing in cases where we *can* choose, does it?

    But, instead of an unfocused DRM WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER AND RAPE YOUR FATHER rant on Amazon, how about focused complaints to EA?

    Because they pay more attention to things that can hurt their bottom line. If they make a decision that causes users to give their product bad reviews, it’s something they *have* to react to, at least if it grows big enough.
    If I send them an angry email, why would they care? A protest only has a chance of working if it’s visible. If people just send mails to EA in private (where to, anyway? Do you have a suitable email address we should send it to?), no one else notices. EA might, but they *know* that it won’t get any further. If they keep quiet about it, no one even *hears* about these protest emails. So what do they do? They keep quiet about it.
    Something like the Amazon thing? Well, if they don’t react, *everyone* hears about it. So they have to act. Which is most effective then?

  41. David Resden says:

    There ain’t much else to say on this issue, as it’s already been said in the hundred odd comments above, but despite this… I figured I’d add that I wont be buying Spore.

    Why? I’ve been burnt by DRM before… Running a small business I own a legitimate copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium, cost an arm and leg too… You’re allowed to install the suite on two systems at the same time… So one I use as a render farm for After Effects, and the other I use for Photoshop and Premiere, sending work over the network to the other computer, then using that computer to render the new elements.

    Being a small business, I work from home a lot, so at the end of some days, I deactivated the suite on one computer, went home, and reactivated it on the home computer, rather than pirate it for home use. That seemed like a sensible and fair option to me… I wasn’t using it illegally, it wasn’t been used at the same time as another PC etc.

    One day, I reactive it, to discover a message telling me I’d “run out of activations”. Bam! I can no longer use the entire Creative Suite. £1500 down the drain. Turns out you can only activate the product 25 times.

    I rang up Adobe, and asked what the hell was going on, and I had to basically BEG the hotline (All at a premium rate I might add) to allow a final activation after they explained. Eventually the guy agreed, I was using it legitimately and without breaking their end user license agreement.

    So now, I have to be very careful with the computers I’m using at work and home… Already my workflow is slowed down. If one breaks, or I need to wipe the HD. That means I can only use ONE version of Creative Suite… Unless I go begging for another activation again. If I have to reinstall five more times, I’m completely screwed, and it’s unlikely I’ll be allowed more.

    £30 for Spore is a lot of money to some people. But £1500, is a huge investment for a small business. If I have to pay out that again, my business will suffer.

    So that’s why I wont be buying Spore. DRM is too restrictive, too invasive, and too dangerous for the end user.

  42. Shadowmancer says:

    @ Diogo Ribeiro If you read the terms and conditions of the drm it says an install also counts as changing hardware in a computer, so at christmas when you put in new ram a new processor and graphics card you have already expired all the installs.

  43. grumpy says:

    1) There are better ways to get the point across;
    2) Crucifying Spore is not one of them – taking your ass out of the chair and going to retail stores in organized campaigns, for instance, is;

  44. M.P. says:

    I disagree with the review. Dissatisfaction with DRM has raged for decades and the industry consistently ignores all complaints, making it more and more draconian instead of less. Complaints to EA would fall down the gaping black hole of its customer support, the relevant industry regulator would be powerless, the store you bought the game from would be unsympathetic, and raging in places like this (where you’re only preaching to the flock) is pointless.

    The only way to make publishers take notice is to complain in a prominent public place where our complaints will also be viewed by the wider public – because, let’s face it, for games like Spore, “hardcore” gamers would constitute perhaps 1% of its sales.

    As long as you accompany your rating with a comment justifying it (“I found the copy protection on this game so restrictive that it curtailed my enjoyment of it”) then why is that not legitimate?

  45. Shadowmancer says:

    I prefered it when pc games were good in the 90′s when they came in giant cardboard boxes with a4 manuals and a small cd case for the game and they didnt come with a cd key all you did was install and play, but today pc gaming is like breaking into a fort, input unique wrongly spelt cd key here, hold on activating your game and verifying it. Steam has a better modern way buy game download game play game enjoy game.

  46. Tom says:

    taking your ass out of the chair and going to retail stores in organized campaigns, for instance, is

    Ok, lets head over to insert retail store name here kick the sales guy in the stomach , smash his shop windows and of course burn some copys of spore. I guess that would sway public opinion ;)

  47. Myros says:

    Im sorry but actions like this have always been the way to create change when dealing with large corporations. ie strike actions etc Unless you hit the bottom line, which is of course the only thing that matters, nothing would ever change.

    Very often when protest such as this occurs it does hurt those who dont deserve it, take for example petrol lorry drivers – a strike action may be aimed at the employer but it also ‘hurts’ the regular drivers who cant get petrol.

    You can agree or disagree with this process to achieve goals but it can be effective and it has a long historical record.

    And IMO you have to be careful about getting involved in a ‘backlash’ as what is it exactly you would be supporting? This protest is against DRM not spore, spore is just the innocent bystander. If you take action against this effort you are in effect taking a stand FOR restrictive DRM. Interesting choice :)

  48. Hypocee says:

    I think they’re entirely in the right. You’re not buying the game, you’re buying a product which includes the game and EA’s bullshit means there’s a very good chance – a certainty in the long run, if you’re lawful – that the product you’re buying won’t work. It was tough choosing whether to buy Spore or not; eventually I decided that the mere attempt to make a game this big based on wonder and creativity meant I had a moral obligation to throw money at the team, regardless of what their stupid bosses were up to. I can definitely see the other side, though, and it’s sort of an all-or-nothing decision; if I’d tipped the other way, I think I’d have had to rate it a 1 or maybe 2 to indicate a product that demonstrably fails to work by design.

  49. fanciestofpants says:

    Slightly offtopic; Whats with the “Oh no, it’s black and white all over again” agrument? Am I the only one who fuggin loved that game? And still does? (The sequel was pants, however)

    Strikes me as a theory that sounded clever and many a knuckle-dragger jumped right on board.

  50. NeoTheo says:

    not fond of DRM, but “using all your system resources” , for gods sake talk about over statement.

    id rather it was without the DRM, but really, i loose Cd’s after a few weeks let alone years, so i doubt its THAT much of a issue for me.

    what about mmo’s ? you pay for them, the day the servers get turned off your screwed, nobody wants there 30Quid back after that happens.

    big fuss by internet warriors over something that whilst isnt good, is hardly stopping something from being fun to play.