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5 Types of DRM We Hate

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It’s the day after Valentine’s Day. While for some yesterday meant going out to the 5-Star restaurants or proposals or wine on a beach or whatever, others instead sat back and played a game (with or without a special someone). Sometimes though, a little thing called DRM gets in the way of our romantic LAN of murdering through clans of evildoers. Nothing’s worse than getting delayed from your nice, relaxing night. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our favorite interference tools outside of cats and tiny humans: it’s DRM we hate!


 

1. REQUIRING A CD TO PLAY AFTER INSTALLATION

This is my current woe, so it’s at the top of the list. While we have mostly migrated away from this problem to other forms of DRM, like how a disc of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim just did a faster install and was launched through Steam, it’s still a frustrating example. You’ve entered the Key for the game in the installer, everything is completely on your system, and there’s no real reason to even need that CD/DVD/etc anymore. Well, except that the game refuses to let you play it without the disc. Understandable in theory, this is just frustrating if you’ve multiple games with this DRM on a laptop or you’ve lost a disc while moving or so on. With No-CD patches (I wonder why they’re still mostly called this when we’ve been on DVD for so long) abound, this just feels like something to crack or get around just for convenience’s sake. So while I prefer this over some of the other DRM, it’s still a pain when I want to play Diablo II for the first time in 2 years and realize I’ve moved a few times and have no idea where that CD is.

This box may be a recurring theme for my day.

This box may be a recurring theme for my day.

2. PASSWORD CHARTS TO PLAY A GAME (OR OTHER OUTSIDE INPUTS)

Some of the younger audience may not remember this, but I promise it used to be a thing. You’d be playing a game when suddenly you’d get a password prompt if you wanted to continue. Alternatively, you’d go to launch the program and have to find two passwords in order to start. Does anyone remember WIBARM? It’s older than I am, so probably not, but getting into that game was a pain. Password DRM consisted usually of being given two symbols that corresponded to a password chart written on super dark and hard to read paper so you couldn’t copy it and give it to a friend. You’d find your symbol on the X-Axis, then one on the Y-Axis, then punch that password in, then do it two more times while you tried to see if that was an “8”, “3”, “E”, or whatever because jagged black font on maroon paper was how this was done back in the day. It was a novel concept until the paper with the passwords went missing, and much like example 1, a frantic search occurred to try and play your game. A similar concept existed with some Sierra games like King’s Quest, but in this series the passwords were prompted mid-game and required an included code wheel. How cute.

3. ALWAYS ONLINE AUTHENTICATION

I think we’re all pretty familiar with this one. While at least Steam and other retailers are nice enough to have offline modes, there are still games that require you to always be online to play them  even if it is a single player experience. Diablo III caught major backlash at launch for this game decision, as well as in Electronic Arts’ newest SimCity game. Why is this a thing? While there have been excuses like a game using cloud computing, thus making the persistent connection necessary, why would that ever seem acceptable? Your game can’t be run on my computer alone, instead your server has to do the work? That’s inexcusable, in my opinion. I can understand multiplayer games needing a constant connection to ensure there’s no tampering, but when I’m trying to have a solo experience, I don’t appreciate being locked out of my game because a server I have no real need to connect to is down. Just no, guys. When DRM becomes more of a hassle than piracy, that’s when the piracy occurs. Although, I note in Origin, SimCity now has the tagline of “Your city. Your way. Now offline.” Did the consumer actually get listened to?

Single-player offline mode - now a selling point.

Single-player offline mode – now a selling point.

4. MODIFIED FILES ON PIRATED COPIES

You know, I can’t truly be upset with this one. I think it’s really a marvelous idea. When the game “believes” (for lack of a better term) that you’re playing on a pirated copy of the game, it alters the game experience. Players of Serious Sam 3 that pirated the game were graced with an immortal pink scorpion…thing. Probably the most famous example of this kind of DRM comes from EarthBound. Multiple layers of copy protection were put in place, but the player could still play the game. However, random monsters appeared at a much, much higher rate, and the game would proceed to freeze during the encounter with the final boss, wipe all of your save data, and reset. How can I be mad; that’s just the Dev Team thinking of everything. However, DRM like this did have the chance to randomly appear if you had a modded console, were using a cheat device, etc. So while it’s a clever feature, I would have hated to have been the little kid with a Game Genie that thought he’d finally beat a final boss, only for something like this to happen. Sadly, due to possible false alarms, it goes on the list.

5. A DRM SERVICE THROUGH ANOTHER DRM SERVICE

You know what game series everyone apparently loves? Assassin’s Creed. I got some of the games on Steam, which while a platform for selling games, also functions as DRM. While the offline mode means it doesn’t always have to be connected to the internet, you have to launch your game from within Steam. So why do I also have to go download Uplay, Ubisoft’s proprietary store and DRM, which must to be running in order to play my game?

To play my Ubisoft game that I bought on Steam, I have to load another program very similar to the one I currently am running. This is a waste of my time and space. Anything that Uplay does could be better served in some other capacity. Put my achievements and rewards directly into the game. If I need a login, do like EA (and believe me, when I’m suggesting EA to you as a model, we have problems) and just have a login within the game that just needs an account on a website. Hey, why not just pull an Origin and only sell your titles through that platform so I don’t have to run two things at once? I got Assassin’s Creed 3 free with a graphics card, so I downloaded Uplay and played it. When I had to load Uplay to play the second game or any of it’s spinoffs, I didn’t bother loading the game or reinstalling Uplay. That’s more work than needed for this.

If I wanted to play Child of Light or Watch Dogs on Steam, I’d still have to use Uplay. Why give me the option to buy your game through another platform if I’ll still have to use yours? It’s kept me from playing any Ubisoft game out of principle, and while I know we all love to rag on EA, at least when Origin gained momentum, they moved all their titles to that service and they only require that one service. I don’t like that mySteam library will forever be missing Mass Effect 3, but it’s so much better than clicking an icon for the final game to be met with an Origin page instead of the launcher.


Eh, DRM. It’s gonna be around, it’s going to interfere with our lives sometimes, and we’ll just keep dealing with it. Have a fun DRM story? Have a terrible DRM story? Comment it! If you’d rather read a scathing commentary of a game instead of my eye-rolling snark at DRM, go read Deborah’s brutal Revolution 60 remarks. If you know what I did with my Diablo II disc, please tell me so I can stop digging in closets for it, because I just want to summon a bunch of dead things and make them kill stuff for me.

This box may be a recurring theme for my day.

Seriously. Where is it?

About David A. Reeves

David is a 25 year old graduate with a BA in English, and he's wondering how all of this adult stuff crept up on him. He has a large love of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy, a lack of budget sense during Steam sales, and is involved in an abusive relationship with the MMO genre. Outside of gaming, David can be found reading books with swords and magic, suffering from writer's block on that story he said he'd write, enjoying a hookah or a beer with friends, and trying not to say anything inappropriate despite the overwhelming urge. He's an odd fellow.

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