Gaming My Way

15 Sep

Electronic Arts Still Doesn’t Get It

Hey everyone, great news! Red Alert 3 is easing off on DRM!

Except, not really. Sure, you don’t need the CD to play anymore, and that’s a cool feature.

But they still use SecuROM, which, as I explained in a recent piece, has caused problems with my computer before. Others also report it causing problems, though some say they’ve never had a problem with it. Given my experience, I just say no to SecuROM.

They still have an installation limit, which doesn’t address the issue of me being able to reinstall a game as many times as I want, hassle free, in order to play again. And no, having to call EA for another activation is not hassle free.

The game still requires a one time online authentication upon installation, which, while not a huge deal in theory, can be a huge deal if those activation servers go down. And when lots of people buy a game, sometimes technical difficulties happen. Like with Spore. Not to mention if EA just doesn’t feel like maintaining the servers anymore, something firmly in their control, not in the control of consumers.

In short, all they did was tack on a couple more installations and remove the need to have a CD in the drive while playing. They changed nothing substantial, and did nothing to address the real issues with DRM.

Let me say this in no uncertain terms EA, if you want to regain the customers you are losing. This goes for any other company who uses DRM as well.

1) Do not use SecuROM. It does cause harm to some people’s computers. If you purchase rights to use other software to prevent piracy, be sure it does not harm the computers of your customers like SecuROM does, and be sure to clearly state on the box that the software is required. ON THE BOX, not in the EULA, and not in tiny fine print. If you create your own software, same rules apply. And don’t even consider Starforce.

2) Do not limit the number of installations. Five is too few, ten is too few. I’ve reinstalled Final Fantasy VII ten to fifteen times over the years to play again, sometimes to completion, sometimes not. Same goes for Lords of Magic. I uninstall them when I’m done for awhile to make space for other games. People have a legitimate need to reinstall sometimes, and having to call you to ask for permission is unreasonable, and a hassle. If I buy something, I expect to be able to use it without the hassle. You have no way of knowing how many installations is reasonable to a given customer, so don’t put a limit on them.

3) Only use online authentication of any kind for online features. If you don’t need to go online for any other reason, it is inappropriate to use online authentication. Authenticating for online multiplayer is cool, customers need the internet and for your servers to be up to play online anyway. Your servers and the internet are not useful to customers in any way for single player, and could be a detriment if they need to be accessed but are not up. Don’t make life harder on your customers by requiring them to access them when it isn’t necessary for them to do so. Give them a reason to go online, and they will.

In addition to this, security measures of any kind that are implemented should not collect information about the customer other than the CD-key in use without express permission of the customer. Furthermore, collection of any information other than the CD-key should not be required to play the game. Our info is ours, not the company’s. This part may not apply to EA, I don’t know, but I’m adding it since I’m trying to set some reasonable guidelines about what they can do to come up with reasonable DRM.

Also, any DRM software, in addition to not compromising the functionality of the computer, should also not compromise the functionality of the game. This has been an issue for some games that use SecuROM and other forms of protection. If the game crashes, then you need to fix it, not say it’s good enough since at least it’s secure.

One final note. I likely wouldn’t buy Red Alert 3 anyway, as it’s a bit outside the norm for games I play. So no sale lost there. However, EA did lose my business with Spore, and I expect they’ll publish other games in the future that I’ll be interested in. If they want me to buy Spore, they need to fix or remove the DRM they use for it. I really would love a chance to play it… and no, I won’t go pirate it. If they want me to buy other games in the future, they either need to have no DRM or an approprate DRM system in place that doesn’t harm my computers or create undue hassle for me. After all, they could acknowledge any DRM system they come up with will be cracked in a quick enough time so that it’s not going to help them anyway, and focus on attracting customers to buy the game instead of trying to convince pirates who won’t buy the game anyway to stop pirating it.

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