Games I’m Looking Forward To: “Battlefield 3”

I have to admit that I’m a little surprised by this anticipation. Mainly because I absolutely hated the original Battlefield 1942 and my opinion of the series didn’t improve any with the successive games in the series. There’s a long standing rivalry between fans of the Call of Duty series and the Battlefield series and I’ve long been on the CoD side of that debate. I felt the huge maps and the addition of vehicles slowed things down and unbalanced the game for those folks who just wanted to pick up a rifle or heavy machine gun and find some enemies to shoot. I called it quits on BF1942 when during one game a guy in a tank sat at the single spawn point my team had left and repeatedly blew everyone away just as soon as we spawned. I didn’t buy every one of the following Battlefield games and expansion packs that came out, but I did give it another try by picking up Battlefield 2 when it was released and I did try out Battlefield 2142 at a friend’s house when that came out. Neither of those releases impressed me and I had pretty much written off the series as something I’d never enjoy.

Then I was convinced to pick up Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for a LAN party I was going to. I’ve been meaning to write a review of it for some time now, but just haven’t gotten around to it. The short version is that I again wasn’t immediately impressed at the LAN party, but later when I decided to play the single player campaign and try the multiplayer online (on the basis that I owned the damned thing so I may as well give it a fair shake) I found that it grew on me. BF:BC2 is the first in the series that I actually enjoyed playing. I’m still not a huge fan of the vehicles — in particular the helicopter gunships seem overpowered with no easy way to take them out — but at least tanks can be busted without too much trouble. I think it helps that they’ve added game modes where vehicles are either very limited in availability or non-existent, which I tend to prefer. The ability to spawn on squad mates helps keep the pace up as you’re not running over hill and dale trying to get back into the action from a distant spawn point (unless you want to). I also think the XP system in the game progresses too slowly, but that’s more of a nitpick.

One of the things I really do like about BF:BC2 is the destructible buildings. In CoD most of the guns can penetrate walls making it so there’s really no safe place you can duck down when under fire. Someone with a light machine gun can just spray the wall near where you were last seen and chances are they’ll hit you enough times to take you out even if you try to change location. I believe that bullets can penetrate some walls in BF:BC2, but it seems like walls offer more protection than in CoD. At least until someone hits it when a rocket launcher or a vehicle turret and blows the whole damned wall away leaving you exposed. Destroy enough walls on most buildings and the whole building will collapse upon your foes. That’s pretty cool. You get some protection from hiding in a building, but you can’t camp there for long periods because someone will eventually blow your hiding place to pieces.

So given that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 left such a good impression on me I was more than a little interested in seeing what Battlefield 3 would be offering and I got the chance to get a taste of it when I was invited to participate in the Alpha test. I can’t go into details due to the NDA, but it left me intrigued enough to consider preordering the final game. I haven’t, yet, but more so due to (personal) budgetary concerns than any hesitance about the end product.

Then there’s video clips of multiplayer gameplay such as this 64 player battle:

Which, I have to say, does a pretty good job of making the vehicles look awesome even if I can’t fly the planes/helicopters worth a damn. I am disappointed that BF3 won’t be available through Steam — apparently there’s some disagreement between EA and Valve over how DLC and patches should be distributed on the Steam network — but as a sweetener EA is offering a bonus free game if you preorder on their Origin digital distribution system. It appears that Origin is much better than their previous DDS known as The EA Store and I already have two titles on that platform, but I’d rather use Steam when I can.

So I’m still a huge Call of Duty fan, but my cold heart towards Battlefield is starting to thaw.

Electronic Arts wants you to sin with a booth babe at Comic Con. (#Blogathon)

Seems EA is once again trying a potentially controversial promotion for their upcoming game Dante’s Inferno at this year’s Comic Con. They’re hold a contest where the price is a date with a booth babe:

Electronic Arts is running a Dante’s Inferno contest at Comic-Con that promises “a sinful night with two hot girls” as a reward for snagging multiple pictures with any booth babes—or, as the contest puts it, committing “acts of lust.”

The promotional flier asks entrants to Facebook, Twitter or email in their pictures with booth babes. The grand prize winner, handpicked by EA staff, wins “a night with the hottest girl at Comic-Con, dinner, booty and more.”

Since when did EA get into the pimping business? That’s what their promotion makes it sound like they’re doing anyway.

As it turns out EA isn’t really serious about you sinning with the boot babes. The official rules at www.sintowin.com forbid any actual sinning:

“Judges reserve the right, in their sole and absolute discretion, to disqualify any Submissions that are inappropriate for any reason, including without limitation, for depicting or mentioning sex, violence, drugs, alcohol and/or inappropriate language,” reads the fine print.

So apparently they want you to run around getting your picture taken with as many booth babes as possible and “committing acts of lust” but they don’t want any pictures that depict or mention sex or any of the other potential sins one might engage in. Seems somewhat contradictory, doesn’t it? Do they really expect these people to read the fine print and abide by it? I feel a little sorry for any booth babes they end up caught up in this promotion. This could go badly very quickly.

Electronic Arts would do well to promote “Alice and Kev.”

One of the best things about The Sims series of games has been how the program could surprise the folks who created the game with things they didn’t realize could happen. I can recall one article I read years ago for one of the games—The Sims 2 I think it was—in which the designers told a story about how a repairman Sim called to fix a broken TV managed to accidentally electrocute himself in the process and died in the house. From that point forward he’d show up as a ghost in the middle of the night and float around the house fixing anything that was broken. This was not a situation they had specifically programmed into the game and it came as a total surprise to the designers that it could happen.

With the release of each successive game the routines that run the individual Sims have become more sophisticated and the recently released The Sims 3 continues that trend. You can now define your Sim’s personality through several broad traits such as “neat” or ” hot headed” or “friendly” and they’ll act in appropriate ways based on those traits. This led one U.K. based game design student by the name of Robin Burkinshaw to try an experiment. What would happen if you created a homeless father and daughter with a series of traits that would make being successful in life difficult at best and left them to more or less run their own lives ? The answer may surprise you when you read the adventures of Alice and Kev:

Welcome to the tale of Alice and Kev.

This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. It’s based on the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3’s living neighborhood features.

I have attempted to tell my experiences with the minimum of embellishment. Everything I describe in here is something that happened in the game. What’s more, a surprising amount of the interesting things in this story were generated by just letting go and watching the Sims’ free will and personality traits take over.

The blog only has 25 entries so far and they tend to be fairly short, but well illustrated with screen shots from the game. For as short as the entries are they are very compelling and there are several points where you really start to feel for the plight of the protagonists in general and Alice in particular. The poor kid has a rough life with a father who’s anything but the World’s Greatest Dad:

When you create a Sim in The Sims 3, you can give them personality traits that alter their behaviour. Kev is hot-headed, mean-spirited, and inappropriate. He also dislikes children, and he’s insane. He’s basically the worst Dad in the world. He is a horrible human being, but he’s also amusing to watch.

[…] His daughter Alice is a kind-hearted clumsy loser. With those traits, that Dad, and no money, she’s going to have a hard life.

[…] Alice’s teddy is more than her only possession in the world. It’s the only thing that’s ever hugged her.

As her father dislikes children, he hates sleeping next to her. In the morning, he’s always the first to wake, and he immediately throws a tantrum and wakes up Alice to tell her to leave the room. Alice understandably responds that they’re not in a room, and she doesn’t have anywhere to go. Then they argue, and Kev seems to blame Alice for every possible thing.

It just gets better, or worse depending on your point of view, from there. I won’t lie, there were moments in reading their story that I choked up with emotion and judging from the comments there were a lot of other people who did the same. The fact that I can feel empathy for a virtual character having a rough time of it says a lot about how far our little hobby has come. More importantly to the folks at Electronic Arts, reading that blog makes me want to rush out and buy a copy of The Sims 3. They couldn’t have paid for a better promotion of the game than what this simple experiment is providing them.

As for Alice and Kev, I’ve subscribed to their RSS feed and will be following their daily updates to see how their story progresses. I may even, once I finally break down and buy the game myself, download them from their website as the author has made them available to be a part of your virtual town.

“The Sims 3” hits torrent sites two weeks ahead of its release date.

It seems any hotly anticipated video game these days is going to end up being pirated weeks before it hits store shelves. That was the case with the heavily DRMed EA game Spore and now it’s the same with The Sims 3 as it appears to already be widely available on torrent sites:

The release notes on the torrent gives pirates instructions, and a stern moral warning: “Be sure to have a firewall prevent the launcher and main game from going online,” it warns. “Support the software developers. If you like this game, BUY IT!”

This is bad news for EA as the game is still two weeks away from release. The game also doesn’t require online activation to play. “The game will have disc-based copy protection—there is a Serial Code just like The Sims 2. To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed,” EA said on the official site. “We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future.”

I don’t know if this is really all that much bad news for EA. All of the previous Sims games have been cracked and pirated and yet that hasn’t stopped The Sims from being one of the most financially successful franchises ever. Back in April of 2008 EA announced that they’d sold over 100 million copies of the game and/or its add-ons in the eight years since the first one hit store shelves. The new game is likely to sell just as well as past versions and will probably still earn EA a good chunk of change in the years to come especially given that it will have a built-in store for microtransactions that are all the rage these days.

About the only thing they should probably be worried about is finding out who in their organization is leaking their games early to the pirates. The game will be cracked and available within days of its release regardless of what protection scheme they used, but surely they should be able to keep it under wraps until at least the release date.

EA goes back to serial number copy protection for “The Sims 3.”

In a blog post on the official The Sims 3 website executive producer Rod Humble has announced that the next outing of the franchise will be reverting to less intrusive forms of copy protection:

Hello everyone I wanted to share news with you regarding our copy protection plans for The Sims 3.

We’ll have more information for you as we get closer to launch about everything we’ll have to offer on TheSims3.com and The Sims 3 Store, but we have heard your requests over the past months and here is our plan for The Sims 3.

The game will have disc-based copy protection – there is a Serial Code just like The Sims 2. To play the game there will not be any online authentication needed.

We feel like this is a good, time-proven solution that makes it easy for you to play the game without DRM methods that feel overly invasive or leave you concerned about authorization server access in the distant future.

We’re really excited to bring you the game for the PC and Mac starting June 2, 2009. The extra time we’ve taken to polish the game has resulted in an even better game experience for you to enjoy and we can’t wait for you to see for yourself!

Thanks for your passion and your loyalty.
Rod Humble

This is certainly good news as I was looking forward to the new iteration, but I’m concerned by the fact that they don’t specifically state which copy protection system they’re using. A lot of video game blogs are reporting this as though EA are not using SecuROM, but there’s nothing in the way of evidence that that’s a correct assumption. SecuROM has varying levels of restrictions and it’s entirely possible to use it as just a simple disc-based serial number protection system. Given the ridiculous level of system modification SecuROM engages in, even when not using all of its features, it would still stop me from buying the game if it were present. I’ve asked a couple of the bigger blogs to follow up and ask which copy protection scheme EA does plan to use.

Still, this is a step in the right direction at least. It won’t stop the game from being pirated, but at least it won’t be too intrusive on the legitimate users. EA certainly seems to have learned a lesson from the release of Spore which continues to be one of the most heavily pirated games of all time which many attribute to being a direct response to the use of SecuROM and the installation limits.

Got banned from Electronic Arts’ forums? You’re banned from their games too.

[Updated: Looks like a forum mod may have overstepped with his statement. According to an article on Kotaku.com getting banned in the forums will NOT affect your ability to login to EA games afterall.]

An article over at the Ripten Video Game blog reports on a post by a community moderator in the Command and Conquer forums that suggests EA is taking a hard line against its customers. Basically if you say something in the official EA forums, any of them, that causes a moderator to ban your account then you won’t be able to login to any EA games you own:

Well, its actually going to be a bit nastier for those who get banned.

Your forum account will be directly tied to your Master EA Account, so if we ban you on the forums, you would be banned from the game as well since the login process is the same. And you’d actually be banned from your other EA games as well since its all tied to your account. So if you have SPORE and Red Alert 3 and you get yourself banned on our forums or in-game, well, your SPORE account would be banned to. It’s all one in the same, so I strongly reccommend people play nice and act mature.

All in all, we expect people to come on here and abide by our ToS. We hate banning people, it makes our lives a lot tougher, but its what we have to do.

Those banned will stay banned, but like most other internet services, its not that hard to create a new fake e-mail account. However, its a lot harder to get a new serial key =)

Nice to see they take such a light hearted approach to potentially locking video gamers out of the games they’ve purchased because EA didn’t like something they wrote on the forums. Considering the number of people who have been banned for expressing their anger at the company on the forums, well, I can see another potential class action lawsuit arising out of this decision. They really are working hard to ensure gamers have every reason to hate them as a company it seems.

Sent in by SEB reader “Matt”.

EA boss on DRM protesters: Half are pirates and the other half are stupid.

The folks over at Gamasutra.com landed an interview with Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello wherein he claims to hate DRM but says it’s necessary due to piracy. He goes on to address the massive online protest over Spore using SecuROM:

“So far, Spore has outsold Sims 2,” he notes. “Commercially, it’s doing very well.”

“Everyone gets that we need some level of protection, or we’re going to be in business for free,” Riccitiello says. But he sees a lack of understanding among “a minority of people that orchestrated a great PR program. They picked the highest-profile game they could find,” he says. “I respect them for the success of their movement.”

“‘I’m guessing that half of them were pirates, and the other half were people caught up in something that they didn’t understand,” he says. “If I’d had a chance to have a conversation with them, they’d have gotten it.”

Thanks John, for telling us you think we’re either thieves or fucking idiots. But let me give you a clue for free: The pirates were all busy downloading your game off of the torrent sites five fucking days before you even put it on store shelves. Why the hell would they bother protesting your game when it was already cracked and on the Net?

And I would absolutely LOVE to have a conversation with you on the topic. Not that I think I could change your mind with my stunningly persuasive argument, but just so you could hear my stance on why I’m not buying your games straight from me. I’d also love to hear you explain how DRM stops piracy on a title that was being pirated before it was ever released? I’d also love to ask you to man up and admit that this is less to do with piracy and more to do with stopping second-hand sales of your titles because you’re upset at how much money GameStop and other companies are making.

This becomes obvious to anyone who reads the Spore EULA which states that there’s no guarantee that you can transfer the activations over to whomever you sell the game to. It’s also clear by the fact that more and more games are coming with features that will only work for the initial purchaser of the title:

Game publishers and developers have long been frustrated by their inability to get a cut of used game sales at retailers such as GameStop.

Rather than just complain, though, game makers are now starting to provide gamers with incentives to not sell their games at all or, at least, not buy used games.

[…] For example, each copy of Gears of War 2 will ship with a unique, one-time-use code for downloading extra multiplayer levels.

Once the code has been used, subsequent owners of that copy of the game will be unable to download the levels.

And NBA Live 09 will include a similar free, one-time code for accessing daily roster and stat updates.

If you buy a used copy of NBA Live 09 and the previous user has already redeemed the code, you’ll have to pay $20 to get the updates.

Isn’t NBA Live 09 one of your company’s titles, John? Why yes, yes it is. At least have the balls to own up to the fact that what you’re attempting to do is to limit what legitimate customers can do with the games they buy from your company rather than stopping piracy. Because we both know that you’re not going to stop the pirates anytime soon and we both know how pissed off you are at all the money GameStop has been making off of second-hand sales.

I am not the fucking idiot you seem to think I am, John.

Electronic Arts modifies “Spore” DRM again, but still doesn’t address SecuROM controversy.

EA Games Label President Frank Gibeau sent the folks at Kotaku.com a press release about DRM used on Spore which again demonstrates that they just aren’t getting the message. They continue to think the issue is solely about how many installs the game has and they continue to repeat the lie that DRM stops piracy:

Two weeks ago EA launched SPORE – one of the most innovative games in the history of our industry. We’re extremely pleased with the reception SPORE has received from critics and consumers but we’re disappointed by the misunderstanding surrounding the use of DRM software and the limitation on the number of machines that are authorized to play a single a copy of the game.

We felt that limiting the number of machine authorizations to three wouldn’t be a problem.

Let me put this simply: You were wrong, but this is only one of many issues you are wrong about. The limited number of installs may not have been as big an issue had the utility to revoke an authorization been available from the get go, but it would still have been an issue. The claim that the limit is to prevent piracy is ludicrous given that the game was, as has been said many times previously, cracked and on the P2P networks five days before it hit store shelves. Even if you’d managed to keep it under wraps up until launch day the likelihood of it being cracked within a day or so of launch is very high so the DRM and install limit does nothing to prevent piracy.

The only other obvious conclusion to draw from the install limit is that you’re attempting to eliminate the secondhand sale market which the folks at Gamestop have been making millions off of. One of the big draws of digital distribution is that it would effectively negate the ability to turn in a game to Gamespot when you get tired of it and an install limit would seem like the best of both worlds. Sell them a disc, but eliminate the resale possibility.

* We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.

We know it’s a problem, but it’s not one that we – your legitimate paying customers – should be punished for. Which is effectively what you are doing. As a reminder: Spore was effectively stolen five days before launch so your solution to piracy was ineffective. That means the only people being affected by the DRM are those people who paid you for the game. The pirates have already stolen it and will continue to do so.

* We have found that 75 percent of our consumers install and play any particular game on only one machine and less than 1 percent every try to play on more than three different machines.
* We assured consumers that if special circumstances warranted more than three machines, they could contact our customer service team and request additional authorizations.

That’s nice, but it’s irrelevant. Most of us who have concerns over the number of installations we’re allowed are probably part of that 1% that will put it on a single PC. It’s not how many PCs we can put it on so much as how many times we can put it on a particular PC that’s the issue. Some of us restage and upgrade our PCs on a regular basis and could use up a three install limit in the course of a single year. Bumping the installs to five only delays the inevitable. Providing a utility to deauthorize one of the installs helps, but is still a pain in the ass that shouldn’t be necessary. Sure we can call your nice support people and ask for additional authorizations, but we shouldn’t have to be interrogated just to install a game we bought and paid for. I have tons of EA games that I bought years ago that I still install and play every so often, some of them on a computing platform (the Commodore Amiga) that no longer exists as an active platform as far as Electronic Arts is concerned. I don’t have to call your customer service people to install and play those games so why should I have to do it for this or any other game?

But we’ve received complaints from a lot of customers who we recognize and respect. And while it’s easy to discount the noise from those who only want to post or transfer thousands of copies of the game on the Internet, I believe we need to adapt our policy to accommodate our legitimate consumers.

Going forward, we will amend the DRM policy on Spore to:

* Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
* Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
* Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines. When this system goes online, it will effectively give players direct control to manage their authorizations between an unlimited number of machines.

Sorry, that’s not good enough to get me to plunk down the $50 you’re asking for. You haven’t addressed the fact that SecuROM itself is part of the problem as it is known to cause issues with some legitimate hardware and software people may have installed in their machines. It’s also known to update itself without notifying or getting consent from the owner of the computer and even if it was working previously those future updates could potentially introduce problems. Additionally it’s known to send encrypted data back to a server without informing the owner of the PC what info it’s sending or why and that falls under the definition of spyware.

We’re willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we’re hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

This argument doesn’t wash because SecuROM hasn’t protected your work from piracy and it’s probably a good bet your insistence on it has less to do with stopping piracy as it does stopping secondhand sales of your game. You’re not stopping the pirates, but you are fomenting a lot of ill will from your long-time dedicated customer base made up of people such as myself. I refuse to spend good money to be treated like a criminal, but that’s what you are insisting you must do for the sake of your “economic structure.” There are plenty of other equally ineffective copy protection schemes out there that you’ve used for years that were less of a problem than SecuROM is so if you insist on putting worthless copy protection into your software at least go back to one that is less of a burden on your legit customers. Otherwise the sales you lose won’t be solely due to piracy.

Electronic Arts still doesn’t get it. Responds to DRM controversy in “Spore.”

On the one hand I suppose I should be impressed that Electronic Arts bothered to respond to all the complaints about the SecuROM DRM at all, but the responses they gave to MTV Multiplayer show they still don’t get it:

Complaint: A legitimately bought copy of “Spore” can’t be activated on more than three different computers — ever.

EA Response: That will be changed, according to the EA spokesperson, who told Multiplayer that the current limit on the number of computers that can be associated with a single copy of “Spore” is “very similar to a solution that iTunes has. The difference is that with iTunes you can de-authorize a computer [that you no longer want associated with your iTunes content]. Right now, with our solution, you can’t. But there is a patch coming for that.” The official timeframe for that patch is “near future.”

*Some stats regarding this issue — EA provided Multiplayer with updated information indicating that it is rare for consumers to perform installations of recent EA PC games on more than one PC, let alone three

They then go on to show that the vast majority of purchases of Mass Effect, Spore Creature Creator, and Spore are only authenticated on one PC and very few ever do three PCs. However this completely misses the point. Very few of us are worried about being able to use Spore, or any other SecuROM protected title, on more than one PC as much as what happens after the third restage or upgrade causes us to hit the three install limit. Yes we can call EA and request a new license and perhaps it’s as easy as pie to do, but we shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t have to do it with Red Alert 2, but I will if I buy Red Alert 3 and there’s no valid justification as to why. It doesn’t stop the pirates in any way as they had Spore five days before it was available in stores.

If your restrictions don’t actually prevent piracy then all they do is inconvenience legitimate customers. If you continue to insist on them after a game has already been broken then I can only assume there is an unstated ulterior motive for requiring the online activation and install limit. My guess would be A) to gather usage information and B) try to squeeze extra sales out of gamer families. The latter of which is likely to purchase multiple copies of the game anyway.

Complaint: Consumers fear there is spyware being installed by the SecurROM copy-protection software incorporated into the game.

EA Response: “There’s no viruses, no spyware and no malware…We have located a download off of one of the Torrent sites that is a virus. The thing I would say to the consumer audience is that, if you’re concerned with a virus on your computer, the chances of that are infinitely higher when you’re downloading off of a hacked version than it would be downloading the authentic game. We would never put any spyware on anyone’s computers. That’s not going to happen.”

This falls to address exactly what it is SecuROM is phoning home about, which it is known to do. Exactly what information is it gathering and sending off across the net? If you refuse to tell us then it’s exactly like Spyware in terms of spying on us without revealing what info it’s communicating. If SecuROM interferes with the operation of legitimate software and hardware, which it has also been known to do, then it also fits the definition of Malware.

Pretty much everyone knows that downloading a hacked copy is risky, but there’s plenty of virus-free hacked copies that don’t spy on folks out there for the taking. The response also assumes that people who don’t buy the legit version will turn to the hacked copy and that’s not necessarily the case. A lot of us will just refuse to buy the game costing you sales because we don’t appreciate being treated like criminals.

Complaint: The “Spore” instruction manual claims that a purchaser of “Spore” can allow multiple users to create online accounts with a single copy of the game. The game does not allow this.

EA Response: The company has already stated this is a misprint in the manual and referred Multiplayer back to a statement issued by “Spore” executive producer Lucy Bradshaw apologizing for “the confusion.” But EA has not replied to Multiplayer follow-up questions regarding why the company implemented this restriction and what EA makes of complaints from households that include multiple people who want to have separate “Spore” accounts associated with a single copy of the game.

Of all the issues raised, this one is probably the lowest concern of most of the complainers, but I can see how it would affect households who only have one PC. It’s telling that EA would choose to address this over some of the more substantial complaints. It also says a lot about the restrictive nature of SecuROM that they had to drop this feature as a result.

Complaint: The requirement for a “Spore” user to have their ownership of the game automatically authenticated every time they access the game’s online features threatens to render the game useless if EA someday turns the “Spore” servers off.

EA Response: “If we were to ever turn off the servers on the game, we would put through a patch before that to basically make the DRM null and void. We’re never walking away from the game and making it into a situation where people aren’t going to be able to play it.”

At last they finally address one of the more meatier complaints. It’s great to hear that they’ll patch the game to remove the DRM if they should ever decide to walk away from it, but the pirates don’t have to worry about that right now. My response to EA is this: Good. Call me when you decide to release that patch and I’ll consider picking up a copy of the game. It’ll probably be quite cheap by that point in time and you’ll likely never see the revenue because it’ll probably be a second-hand sale so you still lose out on getting my money.

Here’s the part, however, that shows just how much Electronic Arts doesn’t get it:

The bottom line shared to me by EA spokesperson Mariam Sughayer today is that “EA has no intentions — nor will they ever — to make it easier for people to play a pirated game… than to play an authentic retail copy.”

You’ve already lost that battle. Legit purchasers of Spore must authenticate the game online at least once before they can play it, the cracked copy doesn’t require authentication, legit owners have an install limit of three PCs max, the cracked copy doesn’t, legit customers may lose the use of legitimate and legal software and hardware on their PCs thanks to SecuROM, the cracked copy doesn’t interfere, legit owners will have to run a special application to “de-authorize” their PCs when they hit the three install limit or they have to call EA and be interrogated by a helpful customer service rep, the cracked copy doesn’t require that, legit customers have to hope EA keeps their promise to release a patch to remove the DRM should they decide to no longer support the game, the cracked copy doesn’t have any such concerns.

Explain to me how it’s not easier to play a pirated game than an authentic retail copy? Better yet, explain to me why I should pay $50 to be treated like a criminal when your DRM doesn’t stop the pirates from getting the game five days before it was officially released?

“Red Alert 3” will also have SecuROM DRM.

It appears the folks at Electronic Arts are doing everything they can to ensure I never purchase one of their PC games again. Word over on the official support forums for Command and Conquer says that the upcoming Red Alert 3, a sequel to my all-time favorite RTS, will use a slightly more lenient SecuROM DRM scheme:

Hi guys—

I’ve been hearing your concerns about the DRM situation and wanted to get back to you with some information about our plans. In the case of Red Alert 3 (and all PC titles coming out of EA), we will use SecuROM – the same copy protection that the EALA RTS group has used on our last three titles. This time around, however, the copy protection will be configured to be more lenient than we’ve supported in the past.

I know this can be somewhat of a polarizing topic, and I thought it would be best to open the lines of communication with some facts:

– We will authenticate your game online when you install and launch it the first time.

– We will never re-authenticate an installation online after the first launch. In other words, no reaching out to a central server post-install to see if you’re “allowed” to play.

– You will be able to install and play on up to five computers.

– This system means you don’t have to play with the disc in your computer. Personally, I think this is a huge improvement over our previous copy protection requirements, which have always required a disk to play.

– Life happens. I know it’s unlikely, but for those unlucky few who install the game and have their machines nuked (virus, OS reinstall, major hardware upgrade, etc.) five times, EA Customer Service will be on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

-You can, of course, play offline without impediment or penalty.

Red Alert 3 is shaping up to be a world-class RTS game that will give you many hours of enjoyment. I think it would be a shame if people decided to not play a great game simply because it came with DRM, but I understand that this is a very personal decision for many of you and I respect that. As you might imagine, I’m a lot less respectful of those people who take the position that they will illegally download a game simply because it has DRM.

Either way, we’ re very proud of the hard work our team has put into this game and we hope you will all enjoy it when it launches.

I’m so not happy. So not happy that I took the time to leave the following comment on that thread:

    I’m a 41 year old gamer who has bought numerous titles from Electronic Arts all the way back to the original Archon on the Commodore Amiga back when EA was just a small company run by Trip Hawkins. That was back in 1982 and I was 15 at the time. In the 26 years since I’ve spent countless thousands of dollars on EA games for the Amiga, PC, and various consoles. I’ve watched over the years as the copy protection became more and more intrusive while doing nothing to actually stop the pirates, but the games were good and the copy protection not much more than an annoyance so I spent the money and enjoyed myself. It’s safe to say that I’m a long-standing fan of EA and many of the titles they’ve put out. Red Alert and its sequel remain two of my all-time favorite RTS games and I was eagerly looking forward to playing the latest installment when it is released.

    Electronic Arts, however, has decided to reward my (literally) decades-long loyalty by making use of one of the more problematic DRM systems available. These days I make my living as a PC support specialist and there are various legitimate programs, such as Process Explorer, which may or may not run properly if I have SecuROM installed on my systems. SecuROM said this was an attempt to stop people from hacking their DRM system, but considering that Spore was cracked and on the Bittorrent sites almost a week before its release it doesn’t seem to be stopping the hackers. In fact the only people being inconvenienced by this DRM system are legitimate customers who have paid for the software. You’ve already admitted that even if it works fine without conflict for the vast majority of your customers there’s still likely to be a subsection who run into problems. I believe you called that “Life Happens” in your original post. What a great attitude to take with your paying customers. It was enough to get me to take the time to register an account just so I could let you know how I feel about it.

    I’m done being treated like a criminal in order to use the software I’ve paid for. I did not purchase Bioshock despite being a fan of the original System Shocks because of SecuROM, I did not purchase Mass Effect for the same reason, I also haven’t purchase Spore in spite of following its development since its announcement, and I won’t be purchasing Red Alert 3 for the same reasons. I don’t care how many copies you allow me to install before I need to call your support line. I’m testing software and OS installs all the time which means I’m restaging my PC on a regular basis which means it won’t be long before I have to start calling and explaining why I need a 5th, 6th, 7th… 20th reinstall to some poor sap on the phone. Meanwhile Joe Pirate Boy is able to enjoy his copy as much as he wants and reinstall it as much as he wants without having to call anyone.

    There are three of us in my family who were dieing to play Spore so much so that we would’ve spent $150 for three copies of the game just so we wouldn’t have to wait for one person to stop playing before someone else could start, but now its not going to happen. I still play my copy of Red Alert 2 some eight years after it was released and it still installs just fine without any need for an Internet connection or calling someone up on the phone. Will I be able to do that with Red Alert 3 in 8 years? Will you still have registration servers running for it and someone sitting by a phone ready to grant me my 130th install? Will you release a patch at some point that removes the DRM so that nonsense won’t be necessary?

    In summary: Explain to me why I should spend $50 just so I can be treated like a criminal?

Every now and then some PC developer goes on a rant about how piracy is destroying PC gaming. I say what’s destroying PC gaming is the bullshit DRM schemes. While they whine about how some game they just released has been cracked and downloaded some 10,000 times being the loss of 10,000 sales (which isn’t entirely true) they manage to overlook the loss of sales from people like me who are sick of the pirates having the hassle free version of the game. If the reaction to Spore is any indication then people are starting to get fed up and the publishers risk alienating the few people who are buying their software.