BoingBoing’s Gadget blog on the continuing “Bioshock” DRM idiocy.

The folks behind Boing Boing have launched a new sub-blog on gadgets and technology that I’ve been following in my RSS reader and they have an entry on the continuing Bioshock DRM controversy. In it they detail an exchange between an angry (if someone moronic) customer and an official 2K tech support guy:

    Nemesisdesignz wrote: I installed Bioshock on my laptop under one admin user, Everything works fine, but I then tried to switch users on my computer and whenever I launch Bioshock it is asking me to enter my serial again for the game…. IS THIS GONNA CHARGE ME TWO OF MY 5 Activations???? IF SO THAT IS GAY…. I need to know this ASAP before I attempt to play this on my pc under the other user… THis is a bug if the case be….so get yo stuff fixed!

The “activations” he’s talking about are the limitations that 2k Games put on Bioshock that prevent you from only installing the game five times, which was later amended to allow unlimited installation instances, provided you uninstalled the game before you reinstalled it. (Hard drive crash? Suck it up!) Here’s the punchline, provided by an official tech support jockey from 2K Games, which was later deleted.

    2k Tech JT writes: The other way to view this, is one USER has purchased the game. Not the whole family. So why should your brother play for free?

It’s telling of the real motivation behind the DRM limits put in place by 2K Games which, honestly, comes as a surprise to no one. There’s no other reason to limit the number of installs of a single player game and it sure as hell isn’t stopping the pirates.

“Bioshock” isn’t the only game using Securom, just the most restrictive.

I’ve been doing some reading up on Securom since my entry yesterday about it and it seems that I already own a couple of games that make use of it. One of those games is another FPS called F.E.A.R. and I have to admit that the implementation of Securom on that title was transparent enough that I didn’t even realize it was there. It didn’t conflict with Microsoft’s Process Explorer, doesn’t require online activation as far as I can recall, and doesn’t care how many times you reinstall the game.  From what I understand the version included with F.E.A.R. is older than the one in Bioshock though recent patches to the game apparently install newer versions. I’ve not patched the game in awhile as I’ve not played it so I can’t say whether that’s true or if the newer versions also complain about legit apps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did as that seems to be a decision on Securom’s part and not the game publisher.

So now I’m a bit torn on the whole issue as it’s evident that it’s possible to use Securom in a way that is minimally intrusive as I’ve had F.E.A.R installed and working for months on end without ever noticing it and yet the issues that have cropped up with it under Bioshock are troubling indeed. I’m still not happy about the fact that the latest Securom tries to restrict what software I’m allowed to run if I want to play a game I paid money for and I think the nonsense with validation is just stupid, especially with the Steam version. I also don’t like the idea that I’m the one being treated like a criminal.

For the moment I’m still not all that inclined to pick up Bioshock because of the Securom, but it’s also clear that there’s plenty of other games out there I have an interest in that also make use of Securom that I’ll have to reconsider. The issue now is as much about how the publisher decides to implement the DRM as it is what the DRM itself does. Either way it’s all very frustrating.

2K Games new release “Bioshock” is great, but I won’t buy it because of DRM.

As a fan of System Shock and System Shock 2 I was very excited to learn about BioShock as it was described as being the spiritual successor to the two previous games. I downloaded the demo using Valve’s Steam service last night and played it through and was looking forward to getting my hands on the final release sometime soon, perhaps using any birthday money I might end up with after Saturday.

Then I caught wind of how BioShock brings with it some rather onerous DRM software. Apparently it uses something called Securom that in addition to requiring an active Internet connection to install the game, apparently only allows for two installations of the game before refusing to install. It seems the Securom software takes a snapshot of your hardware and then ties your CD key to that hardware and has a hard coded limit of two installs regardless of whether or not your hardware changes between installs. This can be a problem for someone like me who tends to restage his PC regularly to keep it running at peak performance and it has set the 2K Forums aflame with complaints from fellow angry gamers.

According to 2K Games this shouldn’t be a problem so long as you remember to uninstall the game prior to restaging your PC, but what if your PC is in no state to do an uninstall beforehand because of hardware failure? What if I make some changes to the hardware or buy an entirely new computer rather than just reinstalling it on the same PC? What if I want to sell the game after having played through it transferring the license in the process? What happens if Securom goes out of business and shuts down the servers that handle the registration process? Or just decides the game isn’t popular enough to keep the servers up any longer? Don’t really know because the folks at 2K Games aren’t responding to these questions so far.

It gets even worse, though. The makers of the DRM are so paranoid that they’ve designed it so it will not run the game if certain perfectly legal and legitimate Windows tools are running such as Microsoft’s Process Explorer:

I wrote SecuROM the following email:

    would like to know why your company has implemented functions in your SecuROM protection software for detection of Microsoft’s Process Explorer (specifically its kernel driver PROCEXP100.sys) and if detected the software fails to run.

    I have this problem with the C&C3 game, in which I bought and installed a legit copy, although it will refuse to run if Process Explorer has been loaded and its driver into memory.

    It is very difficult to deal with this since there are only 2 solutions:
    1. Unload the driver by restarting the computer everytime you want to play while not loading MS’s Process Explorer.
    2. Install a rootkit on your computer to hide a specific Kernel module drivers. (Easier said than done)

    I am just wondering why you have your software set up in a way of refusing to run the actual code from the developer if a legit tool like Microsoft’s Process Explorer is loaded.
    You might as well have it install a low level keyboard filter driver to prevent any user from press Ctrl Alt Del to bring up the standard windows Task Manager.

    I can see how you would be concerned with various exe debuggers, but why a task manager? How does this pose a threat to your security routines?
    Do you plan on ever fixing this, or will you continue to block more Microsoft’s tools to better manage your system or corporate network?

    In my opinion this kind of security restriction just promotes others to bypass functions and subroutines in the packed security executable (via methods of debugging and disassembling the code), by use of debuggers,  just so others can continue to have a stable system and clean of malware.

    I really think you should provide a security patch to your SecuROM software allowing various [currently blocked] and LEGIT Microsoft tools to run in the background so one can better manage how the system operate.

    In truth, do you really think someone who bought the software and has a legit copy is going to try to “hack and bypass” security options by use of Microsoft’s monitoring tools?

Here is their response:


    ‘Process Explorer’ has dumping capabilities as well as registry monitor / file monitor capabilities. This could be used to trace the behavior of SecuROM.

    Therefore, we do not allow the game to start when this software is active.

    We have no immediate plans to allow this software in the future.

    Best regards,

    SecuROM Support Team
    SecuROM on the web:
    or via e-mail:

That is just stupid, “trace the behavior of SecuROM” many apps can monitor data.

I’ve had BioShock on my wish list for quite awhile now, but I just took it off because it’s not worth the hassle. For $50 I expect to be able to install it regardless of whether or not I have an active Internet connection and I expect to be able to reinstall it as many times as I wish. The sad part is even the version available through Steam is plagued with the same DRM limitations in spite of the fact that Steam itself already limits you by its very nature. Needless to say this is yet another example of how a company’s attempts at curbing piracy only punish the folks who legitimately purchased the game and, in fact, encourages those same legit users to turn to the pirates to play the game they’ve paid for. When you treat your customers like thieves they may end up behaving like thieves.

I’m very disappointed by this as I was seriously looking forward to playing this game, but the DRM is a deal killer for me and I don’t own an Xbox 360 to play it on there. The sad part is that it doesn’t appear to have stopped the pirates as there’s already several iterations of the game on the various BiTorrent sites for both the PC and the Xbox 360. Whether any of them are actually successful cracks I don’t know as I’ve not downloaded them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were successfully cracked already. Either way there’s already a flood of people who have either dropped plans to buy the game or are intending to return their unopened copy as a result of this idiocy. I’m one of them.