The Many Doormen Of GTA IV

By Alec Meer on November 29th, 2008 at 9:18 am.

IGN’s got a remarkably long Q&A up with some anonymous mouthpiece of the Rockstar hivemind, specifically detailing all the various copy protections and mandatory login guff next week’s murder simulator will require to install and run. There will, it seems, be quite a few barriers between you and your hooker-killing; the internet will not be happy.

First, the DRM. Gentlemen, start your squealing:

GTA IV PC uses SecuROM for protecting our EXE… Product Activation is a one time only online authentication when installing the game. GTA IV has no install limits for the retail disc version of the game, and that version can be installed on an unlimited number of PCs by the retail disk owner.

Which seems about as reasonable as SecuROM gets, but of course there are those who object violently to its mere presence. A few weeks ago, the RPS inbox was stuffed with outraged mails about Fallout 3 employing some fairly gentle SecuROM variant that didn’t, in practice, seem to impact installing or playing the thing at all; we didn’t post about that because, well, what’s to say? Similarly, there’s no Spore-esque installation restriction madness here, just the brief inconvenience of it checking your install key online.

Much more worryingly, there’s no offline activation option (e.g. a phone line) at all. If your PC isn’t on the web, you need to track down an internet-connected PC from somewhere else to register/activate your game on your PC’s behalf, via some as-yet unrevealed system. Could be annoying.

SecuROM will, I suspect, be the least of GTA’s problems. Certainly, what bothers me more – what, if I’m honest, makes me impotently rage like a common AIM – is that GTA IV requires both the unloveable Games For Windows Live and a further app known as Rockstar Social Club. Both must be logged into for online play, and both lurk and nag even if you play only offline. Bypassing or removing either one means the game will not run. GFWL is a bitter we’re getting used to swallowing now, and at least we know it does the Achievements thingy and multiplayer matchmaking. What isn’t at all clear is what RSC really brings to the table in addition to GFWL, or a convincing justification for it being mandatory.

Furthermore, while GFWL only runs when GTA4 does, the Social Club is an external application, which runs outside of the game. As well as this potentially eating up system resources and leaving yet another icon in our overburdened system trays, it’s heckuva lot of hoops to jump through just to play your game, no? Especially if you also throw in a Steam login, or whatever other digi-distribution app you might buy it through: that’ll involve three seperate usernames and passwords. Ludicrous.

I’ve experienced these two systems first-hand, having played GTA IV PC for a review. I believe I’m not yet allowed to discuss it, but what I will say is that GFWL and RSC are not invisible systems by any measure. They certainly make their presence known. Let’s hope their demands don’t trip up our driving’n'killing shenanigans too much.

If, however, all these mandatory checks end up simply wasting our time rather than genuinely improving our GTA experience (and there is every chance yet they will be a force for good – e.g. RSC’s neat video replay editing/sharing feature), then this will be a certain case of publisher paranoia and control-freakery causing them to treat their audience with contempt. Even at this stage, I strongly feel that Rockstar should patch the game to make RSC an option rather than a necessity. It might enable some cool stuff, but it’s only going to annoy people who just want to play the singleplayer mode. We’ll see how it all feels and what the community’s reaction is next week, anyway.

Again, read the full q&a here.

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177 Comments »

  1. Larington says:

    What a shame.

    Yay – I can edit once more, thank you RPS gods (And anyone who helped push the fixes/changes through)!

  2. Blimey says:

    It comes to something when we pretty much know exactly what new PC games have to offer in terms of cheap thrills way before they come out and the only thing the we have to learn about are the indignities and frustrations. I already pretty much decided that I’m more interested in Saints Row 2 and am more likely to buy that. I’m a pretty simple minded guy who probably can’t handle the serious oscar level narrative and life simulation offered by GTA4 as I didn’t like get much out of these elements in San Andreas.

  3. subedii says:

    Seems like every dev has to add in their third party “social networking” app these days. If you get the Steam version you’ve got all three, Steam, GFWL, and Rockstar Social Club.

    Times are going to be weird unless some sort of standardisation comes through. It seems like a good way to split the playerbase between different ways of organising an online game, none of which is compatible with the other. Having my friends list get split between GFWL and Steam is annoying enough as it is. Who knows, maybe somebody will eventually release another app to tie together and co-ordinate accounts list from all of those. A bit like “Gaim” but for friends lists instead of IM accounts.

    As for the DRM, well at least they didn’t go with the install limits. Online activation is a default for Steam purchasers anyway, but as you noted it could be an annoyance for people buying the store version, depending how the “offline” verification works. Hopefully it’s not too complicated, I just tend to worry about the day the servers are taken offline with systems like that.

    I have to wonder at the continued insistence of sticking third party DRM on top of Steam installs though, when it doesn’t really do anything extra to prevent casual piracy.

  4. SuperNashwan says:

    Here’s a clue how carefully Take2 have considered the logic of their DRM implementation: You will need an active internet connection to activate the software and the retail disk is required to be in the computer drive in order to play. Authenticated by remote server but still needs the disk in the drive. GG. If this escapes zero day piracy I’ll eat several hats.

  5. Heliocentric says:

    Do I need the disc in the drive? Thats all i need to know, I will own this game but i’m quite happy to have it on steam even at a steam premium.

  6. subedii says:

    For the store bought version you’ll need the disc in the drive.

    Well, assuming they don’t release a crack within a week anyway. Or assuming you don’t want to break the law by using one on your purchase. :P

  7. Digit says:

    If I don’t need the disk in the drive, I will be happy. Then again, I’m buying from Steam so I doubt there will be a disk unless Steam has changed drastically. ;)

  8. subedii says:

    It’s a new feature. With the Steam version they mail you out a disc to keep in your drive. It doesn’t contain the game as such, just an encrypted file that the executable will search for.

    Every little helps in this fight.

  9. Pidesco says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t GFWL widely regarded as completely fucking atrociously awful?

  10. AbyssUK says:

    sigh.. why do they bother… i’ll wait for a cracked exe.. be a whole day maybe two after release.. idiotic waste of money by rockstar.

  11. Heliocentric says:

    I don’t mind limited online activations, or them logging my ip address or whatever.

    Just let me put the disk back in the box after the install.

    I have enough junk on my desk as it is.

  12. rei says:

    If this escapes zero day piracy I’ll eat several hats.

    Some people have interpreted the online activation to mean the executable doesn’t actually come on the disk, and you need to download it separately. That’s just guessing, though.

    Of course, review copies and such have the executable anyway, so not sure how much that would even deter 0day piracy.

    In my opinion they’re almost certainly shooting themselves in the foot doing this, and it’s hard to understand why they would do that. Maybe they feel the game’s main demographic is particularly prone to piracy, so they need to pull all stops.

  13. emdeehay says:

    I’d imagine forcing GFWL and RSC for all buyers and GFWL+RSC+Steam for Steam buyers would just push people towards cracked/pirated versions that don’t require those… or does it have great multiplayer or something? Strange decision, IMO.

  14. subedii says:

    @ Pidesco: It largely was, but they’re trying to re-brand themselves as not quite as atrociously awful.

    Removing the charge for “Full” (i.e. not outright hamstrung) access to multiplayer was a good start. They’re going to be adding in support for Live Marketplace quite soon, so you’ll be able to buy the DLC that was previously free on the PC. :P

    (Oh how I wish I didn’t believe that last sentence)

  15. Icarus Tyler says:

    I find it interesting that it comes with “no installation limits”, as if that were something special.

    Next thing we know is that every game comes with “no installation limits”, except of course the very few that have these.

    See the pattern?

  16. cliffski says:

    I have securom installed and don’t mind it at all. HOWEVER, the thought of a game bundling in a load of mandatory crapware would put me off buying it way more than any DRM. I don’t even use steam because I hate having some always-on bullshit (like ituneshelper.exe) clogging up my machine.
    Here’s the way digital distribution should work:

    Dude* pays for game online.
    Dude gets download link direct to an exe (password protected link).
    Dude downloads and installs game
    Dude has fun

    Any additional steps are just fucking annoying. That’s how I sell my games, and nobody seems to have a problem with it.
    Bah, moan etc.

    * or dudette

  17. Freelancepolice says:

    GFWL is fairly innocuous in my experience. I’ve got it on Fallout 3 and as I use a 360 etc. it was all fairly painless to get working. It also means I get my achievements (boo) for my 360 account (boo) by playing fallout 3 on pc (yay)

  18. subedii says:

    Personally I’m more concerned about where these measures lead for the second hand market. Many retailers outright refuse to accept PC games as it is. Add in online linking to hardware, and it becomes pretty much impossible to sell second-hand since you can’t verify that the disc you’re getting isn’t just a coaster.

    The cynical part of me (that is to say, the larger part of me) gets the feeling that was always the point with such systems to begin with. Devs and publishers have been really storming against the second-hand market as of late.

  19. Jeff A says:

    Has there ever been a game that could completely avoid being cracked and pirated? Ever?

    They spend all of this time and money to prevent the game from being cracked and shared for what? Many people who pirate games wouldn’t even buy it in the first place, but since it’s free, they will download it. So it’s not like secuRash is helping to reclaim lost revenue either.

  20. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Ah, come on Tyler, there’s a very easy way around installation limits: Just crack the damn thing.

    No really, if customer harassing is some devious plot to raise acceptance of pirates, then well done dolts.

  21. subedii says:

    CAn’t edit my comment, but can I say I completely agree with Cliffski in how I’d prefer games are sold online? Because I completely agree with Cliffski in how I’d prefer games are sold online.

  22. Larington says:

    I must admit, I do have a certain intolerance for programs which delight in getting in the way. Theres having faith in your product and thinking its brilliant… And then theres being really fricken annoying.

  23. Larington says:

    And my ability to edit has disapeared again, how odd.

    So either editing breaks after the first comment, or a switch just got switched back. *shrugs*

  24. Mogs says:

    No plans to buy this anytime soon.

  25. Aftershock says:

    Its a special reward that you get for being the first poster.

  26. spd from Russia says:

    yeah kill second-hand market! its costing publishers more than piracy

  27. spd from Russia says:

    btw games4windows was broken crap in gow but in fo3 I never noticed it untill I pressed something accidentaly. so its not that bad. better than steam you have to log on to

  28. Tei says:

    Well.. I will not buy the game now.
    That is sad, because looks like a fun game, other than behing other shady console port. But he!.. there are lots of other publishers that want my money. This guys don’t want my money enough.

  29. Xercies says:

    At least this is a bit better then EA, were going to screw you after 5 activations. Its still not perfect. But having to have two programs is just really annoying. How will that work online? Do you go through one, the other, both? Its unclear how they will do this. If they say you can go online on both it the community will be split in the middle and that would probably make lots of problems with friends on one or another.

  30. SlappyBag says:

    God fucking sake, this really pisses me off. I only bought a bloody game (i’ve already pre-ordered this) and thats all I expect, not some shitty extras that I must run every damn time.

    I’m cracking this tbh.

  31. DBeaver says:

    Too bad… and I was actually looking forward to playing it (I don’t own any consoles, they’re madly expensive where I live). I’m still waiting for the final verdict, when the game comes out, but if it’s anything near this description, I’ll just go back to playing GTA2 again…

  32. Valentin Galea says:

    Is like the’re begging to be pirated:)

  33. Optimaximal says:

    The Rockstar Games Social Club application is required to run in order to launch and play the game.

    *sigh*

    GFW I can sorta stand since it does live separate to the game and I can ignore it, but making me run a service/seconday program just as a fucking launcher? I’ll happily join the queue for a workaround.

  34. Garrett says:

    @ cliffski:

    Steam only needs to be running when you are actually playing a Steam game. If you don’t want it running during startup, just disable that feature (if it’s even on by default; I don’t remember). When you are not using it, you can close it at any time by right-clicking the tray icon. Steam leaves behind no “helper” processes after quitting, and it doesn’t install drivers or services to enhance its functionality (unlike SecuROM). The same goes for Games for Windows – LIVE and (probably) the Social Club; like PhysX, GfW LIVE cannot run outside of a game that uses it. It will only burden your system resources when playing a LIVE-enabled game. Microsoft may at some point launch a standalone client, but that hasn’t happened yet (and even then you could close it afterwards just like Steam). I’d much rather have to fire up msconfig and uncheck a few boxes on the startup tab than worry about what services/drivers/etc. are being secretly installed by the latest invasive DRM experiment.

    Your ideal for digital distribution will only ever be viable for developers who are nobodies. For a non-indie title, it only takes one file sharer to make that purchase and then seed the file to thousands of players. Without even a serial key check, nothing stops every one of them playing a valid, fully functional copy as soon as they have the whole file. Once they do they tend to leave the client running for a while, enabling others able to get the game even faster.

    Gamers know that DRM doesn’t stop copying, but this doesn’t stop companies using it anyway. They hope that DRM of any degree will kill “casual piracy” (friends loaning discs, second-hand copies, etc.) while keeping the freeloaders out for as long as possible, which can result in some sales to those who just can’t wait for a crack; unfortunately, they drastically overestimate the number of converts versus the number of customers lost by DRM. SecuROM’s most recent incarnation has caused problems for customers in every game it has afflicted (BioShock, Spore, Far Cry 2… you name it, SecuROM breaks it) while not significantly delaying crack releases, and yet companies merrily continue to include it in new games; it seems they are more concerned about delaying or converting the freeloaders and casual sharers than ensuring their customers can actually play the game they legitimately purchased (er, sorry, “licensed”). SecuROM does little to stop copying (especially since many games have “0 day” warez releases), but companies hope it will still do some good.

    DRM that provably harms customers is not the right approach, but neither is the total absence of DRM. Steam has often been touted as the ideal future of DRM; Steam’s model discourages freeloaders while not (deliberately) conflicting with the user’s hardware or software, and rewards legitimate customers with an impressive feature set. This is the complete opposite of SecuROM, which suspiciously watches customers to make sure they aren’t filthy, greedy pirates and refuses access if it spots “unwanted software” (the sad irony is that the genuine pirates actually have SecuROM disabled). If every game ended up requiring Steam for copy protection purposes, most players would welcome it.

  35. ack says:

    @Garret:

    Games with copy-protection or DRM get cracked. Often ahead of release. Tell me where the difference is between that and “it only takes one file sharer to make that purchase and then seed the file to thousands of players.” It only takes one pirate with a cracked copy who puts it on TPB for thousands of players to be able to play it.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re a inidie dev or EA.

  36. TheSombreroKid says:

    my GFW 360 & pc accounts didn’t integrate, i’ve got a pc and 360 account with excatly the same name and differant achivements and stuff and if you type it into these gamercard apps it pulls up the 360 one does anyone know how i can fix this by chance?

  37. TheSombreroKid says:

    the thing about steam is it’s even simpler than clifskis method, you pay it comes it updates itself you never need to ask for a url again if you lose your exe these are valuble services, not that steam is pervect but people appreciate some of the things it does.

  38. MetalCircus says:

    What’s acctually new in the PC version of GTAIV anyway? If it’s just a bloody replay feature then you may aswell stick with the xbox 360 version, because this sort of guff is nonsense.

  39. Doctor Doc says:

    Talking about doormen, will there be CD-keys and anti-cheats?

  40. subedii says:

    Aside from the (pretty intuitive) editor, the PC version’s also getting:

    - Updated and higher res graphics / textures (to be expected really)
    - 32 player multiplayer
    - New multiplayer modes and better multiplayer filtering and matchmaking
    - Ability to create your own custom radio station (apparently this was lacking in the 360 version for some reason)
    -

  41. subedii says:

    Oh, and the benefit of being able to aim with a mouse. :)

  42. Smurfy says:

    Just posting so I can edit it.

  43. Smurfy says:

    Hey WTF

  44. Krushr` says:

    The problem is, once EA said they were doing DRM and name dropped SecuROM, everyone has been screaming ‘SecuROM == Bad!’ since, the fact is, we’ve been subjected to SecuROM for years now, just in the form of basic Disc Checks.

    I don’t have too much of an issue with what Rockstar/Take 2 are doing here either, Online Activation at install? No worries, you’re not limiting the number of copies I can play.

  45. Jonas says:

    This makes me first happy that I got it for X-Box 360 instead of waiting for the PC version, and subsequent sad that it makes me happy that I got it for X-Box 360 instead of waiting for the PC version.

  46. Pags says:

    I echo your sentiment, Jonas.

    Too much bloatware around nowadays. It just seems like everyone has seen the success Steam has been and though “hey we can throw in something intrusive and memory-hogging too”.

  47. Pags says:

    thought*

    Wow, that edit function did not last long.

  48. Junior says:

    I’m actually feeling rather insulted by this, after sticking it through, patiently waiting for each PC release to play the superior moddable versions of all the recent games. They now cough out this news, it’s getting beyond being treated like a criminal now, I’m being treated like a retard who needs social networking software to play online with people.

    This had better be a top notch conversion for all this aggro.

  49. Heliocentric says:

    Ever since edit was added (even now its gone) pages with comments scroll really slowly. I’m on opera mini on my mobile though.

  50. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    I was very pleased to find out that my STEAM version of Fallout 3 didn’t require any extra stuff besides STEAM. No further DRM. It might be a hassle for PC devs, but just using STEAM makes it very easy for the customer. (I see that I’ve been saying STEAM a bit often in this post…). It would not be nice if the social club thingy was some sort of antisocial DRM thing.