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User-Generated Discontent: Spore/Mass Effect DRM

Alec is in bed. I do the photoshopping. The results are never pretty.

All it’s taken is one little post and a landslide of others follow. At least that’s what’s happened when Bioware’s Derek French reveals that Mass Effect and Spore will be coming with a fairly hefty piece of DRM attached. It won’t just activate online when you first install the game – it’ll also have to check in to the server regularly to continue working. If ten days go by without a check-in working, the game stops working. In other words, major lengthy internet outage, no playage. Since RPS-comrade Rossignol is going to be having that kinda length of time offline shortly, this has to be frowned at.

Beneath the cut: Derek French’s full post, just so the actual words people will be arguing about are present in the vicinity if this spirals out of control into another 300+ post thread about the P-word. Oh – and a few more initial thoughts too.

Derek French says here…

Mass Effect uses SecuROM and requires an online activation for the first time that you play it. Each copy of Mass Effect comes with a CD Key which is used for this activation and for registration here at the BioWare Community. Mass Effect does not require the DVD to be in the drive in order to play, it is only for installation.

After the first activation, SecuROM requires that it re-check with the server within ten days (in case the CD Key has become public/warez’d and gets banned). Just so that the 10 day thing doesn’t become abrupt, SecuROM tries its first re-check with 5 days remaining in the 10 day window. If it can’t contact the server before the 10 days are up, nothing bad happens and the game still runs. After 10 days a re-check is required before the game can run.

Please feel free to ask any follow up questions in this thread and I will try and answer them when I can.

Hmm.

With Spore and Mass Effect trying this, you have to wonder which other future AAA Electronic Arts game titles will have it. If it manages any effect at all, you have to suspect it may be all of them. Equally, if there actually is a noticeable avoidance of either game due to it… well, the two factors will balance against one another. I’d suspect the former would outweigh the latter – the average consumer won’t even be thinking about the nature of DRM when they pick up the box, no matter how carefully labeled French claims it’ll be. “Internet required,” is a different thing from “Internet required perpetually”.

The other thing that strikes me is that PC piracy is clearly on their mind. On one side, you have them trying strong DRM methods to try and secure more traditional PC game fare. On the other, they have things like Battlefield Heroes where rather than trying to fight piracy, they create a game that completely bypasses piracy as a worry. I wonder what else they’re thinking of.

EDIT: I didn’t quote the later post where French confirms that it is every 10 days not just once. Foolish me.Here it is. And here it is:

For clarity, though, an internet connection is not required to install, just to activate the first time, and every 10 days after. You can be completely connectionless for 9 days and encounter no problems playing Mass Effect. And you don’t need the disk in the drive to play.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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