Just as I speculated: “Spore” DRM is about blocking resales of the game.

Thinking of buying a second-hand copy of Spore? Might want to think twice:

According to the buyer, his copy of the game was purchased from “a crotchety old redneck,” but the buyer didn’t get the necessary information needed to get into the game’s main account, and thus couldn’t play. A call to customer support was no help; sellers have to give the purchaser the account name and password, almost like a World of Warcraft account. Unless buyers get that information from the person or store they get the used game from, nothing can be done. EA will not let you open another account.

The portion of the game’s EULA that deals with sales is interesting; the company technically allows it, but EA won’t make it easy on you. “You may not be able to transfer the right to receive updates, dynamically served content, or the right to use any online service of EA in connection with the Software,” the agreement states. “You may not be able to transfer the Software if you have already exhausted the terms of this License by authenticating the Software on the allowed number machine [sic]. Subsequent recipients of this License may not be able to authenticate the Software on additional machines.”

I speculated about that possibility in a previous entry and I elaborated on it in a comment at the GamerDNA blog. I’m only surprised that it took this long before someone fell victim to it. All the claims that SecuROM is on Spore to prevent piracy are now revealed for the total bullshit they are. It’s not about piracy, it’s about limiting the first-sale doctrine. If you bought it they want you to keep it whether you play it or not. Don’t loan it to a friend, don’t try to resell it, make those fuckers buy their own copy so we get a few more bucks.

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?

“Spore” gets a shitload of 1 star ratings due to DRM.

Out of the (currently) 230 reviews for Spore at Amazon.com some 199 of them are 1 star and the comments make it clear this is due entirely to the SecuROM DRM. Some of the comments include insights such as:

This type of DRM with not stand, man

Do not treat your customers as “Criminals First”. The DRM has already been cracked and is online anyway, so what was the point, seriously? The only people who are being punished is those of us who actually pay for quality games.

NO DRM! – Jason C. Roskam

A sentiment I agree with completely.

DRM is a no go

Their DRM copy protection is outrageous. Limiting to 3 installs for a full price PC game is not going to cut it. They are inconveniencing their customers for a game many have anticipated for many years. To prove the folly of gimping their official disc, I think I’ll pass for now. My pirated copy will keep me busy in the interim.

NO THANK YOU EA!

You’d think someone at EA would take note of the fact that their DRM has actually driven at least one person to the pirated game, but chances are they’ll just use it as an excuse for why they need DRM.

Personally I’m torn once again. I really was looking forward to this game as was everyone in my family to the extent that we were seriously considering buying three copies at some point because we’re all going to want to play it at the same time. That’d be a total of $150 from one household alone, but the presence of SecuROM and the three install limit bugs the shit out of me. I’ve only played a small amount of Bioshock because I refused to buy it for the PC due to the SecuROM and was limited to trying it at a friend’s house. It’s finally coming out for the PS3, but I don’t tend to care for playing FPS games on a console (much prefer keyboard and mouse) so Ken Levine will probably never see a dime from me for his excellent game. Now I’m seriously thinking I won’t be buying Spore either because of the DRM and that’s seriously disappointing. I doubt EA will get the message as it’ll probably still sell well enough for them to consider it a success, but badly enough that they can jump up and down about the problem of piracy. For legit customers it’s a no-win situation.

Found via Twenty Sided.

“Spore” hits store shelves today.

In a rare Sunday release you can now pick up Spore from a retailer near you. It seems to be netting scores in the 8 – 9 range and a lot of people are wondering why it’s not getting 10’s considering all the lavish pre-release hype it got. The folks over at MTV Multiplayer did an interview with Will Wright to get his reaction to the reviews:

I read Wright that Times paragraph and this is what he said:

“I haven’t read that, but it’s interesting. The feedback we’re getting from people is that everyone has some level they like and some level they don’t like. A lot of the reviews I’ve read have said that the Space Stage was far and away the best and they were disappointed by the earlier stages because they were too simple. Other people have said the Creature Stage is their favorite and that the Space Stage seems too complicated. We knew, since we were using different genres with every level, that everyone would have ones they really clicked with and ones they didn’t. We’ve pretty much seen that. There hasn’t been any consistent feedback. Some people have said the Civ phase is the best.”

When I talked to Wright, I had played deep into the Space Stage, which I was enjoying. But I had seen complaints from hardcore game reviewers and message board posters that all of the stages have less complex gameplay than many gamers had hoped. As wonderful as the content creation and sharing options are, the one consistent complaint I’ve seen is that the gameplay seems to have been “dumbed down” for the sake of appealing to a more casual audience. Was it?

“I’d say that’s quite accurate,” Wright told me. “We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players. “Spore” has more depth than, let’s say, “The Sims” did. But we looked at the Metacritic scores for “Sims 2″, which was around 90, and something like “Half-Life“, which was 97, and we decided — quite a while back — that we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of “Sims 2″ than the Metacritic and sales of “Half-Life.”

Considering the fact that The Sims and The Sims 2 are two of the best selling titles of all time I can’t say that his approach is a bad one to take with Spore. I won’t be writing a review of it anytime soon as it’ll be awhile before I can swing a copy. Anne’s still looking for a job since the move so we’re living on a shoestring budget, but we hope to pick the game up as soon as money isn’t quite so tight. We’ve had great fun with the creature creator so far and I can’t wait to put some of them through their paces in the actual game.

“Spore” already cracked and available through Bittorrent.

The folks over at Game Viper are reporting that Spore has already been cracked:

After news of Spore breaking the street date in Australia, we hear that Spore has already been cracked by a group called “RELOADED” despite it’s use of SecuROM, the anti-pirating software. (the same one used in BioShock) There are currently over 10,000 people downloading the game on just one public torrent tracker. All this 4 days before the game even comes out in North America.

Fat lot of good that copy protection is going to do EA now, but will they remove it? Not on your life. This also shows just how ineffective SecuROM really is. The only people it punishes are legitimate customers.

Atheists up in arms about religion in “Spore.”

Well this Will Wright interview with Eurogamer isn’t going to do our image any favors:

Wright told Eurogamer: “I think our bigger fear was that we didn’t want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good, sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players.”

Life in Spore is created according to the theory of panspermia – which hypothesises that it has been seeded on Earth from elsewhere in the universe. But it’s the mere presence of religion in the game’s civilisation stage that has raised hackles amongst some in the gaming community.

“I didn’t expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side,” Wright revealed. “But so far I’ve had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists.”

Seriously, who out there thought that a game that is essentially “SimEverything” wouldn’t have at least some reference to religion in it during the civilization stage? There’s some research that religion itself is a by-product of our evolution, but even if that weren’t the case it’s still a viable and potentially interesting aspect of civilization to include.

“We have a number of team members that are pretty religious,” he continued. “And so in design, on the team, in our small, little microcosm of players out there, we tried our best to make sure we weren’t overtly offending any religious people, but yet we wanted to include the idea, the concept of religion in the game.”

Wright, however, who described himself as an “atheist”, insisted that with Spore he was not trying to pronounce on the issue one way or the other:

“We didn’t want to go too far down that path: we leave the whole creation of the universe question open,” he said. “Obviously as the player you’re coming in and playing something like a god, directing the evolution of a species, but we never really state who you the player are.”

When you think about it it’s not so much a game about evolution as it is “Intelligent Design” (I’m surprised the IDiots haven’t jumped on it as promoting their cause) so the inclusion of religion isn’t out of place at all. So lighten up you atheist game testers out there and try to keep in mind that, not only is it just a game, but you assholes got to play it before anyone else.

Number of creatures in “Spore” database exceeds number of known real species.

I’m just guessing here, but I think that Will Wright and Maxis just maybe, possibly, probably, might have a wee hit on their hands when Spore is released this September:

AFP: ‘Spore’ computer game’s alien population exploding

“I was really hoping we’d get 100,000 creatures by September and a million by the end of the year,” Wright said Monday while demonstrating “Spore” on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo video game trade show in Los Angeles.

“We hit 100K in 22 hours and a million by the end of the first week. The numbers are just blowing us away.”

A week ago, the number of creatures in the “Spore” database exceeded the number of known species on Earth.

“It took them 18 days to reach the number of creatures on Earth and, by some accounts, it took God six days,” Wright joked during a presentation onstage at the vintage Orpheum Theater.

I have to admit that I’m impressed with the variety of things people have managed to make using the Creature Creator so far. So is Will Wright who presented his favorites at this just past E3. Everything from a recreation of the Companion Cube from Portal to chairs, airplanes ships, and passable humanoids. The last being particularly impressive given they intentionally designed the Creator Creator to discourage human looking critters.

Me, I’ve yet to design something I’ve not wiped out with my godly hand because I wasn’t happy with it. Whereas my wife, being the amazingly creative person that she is, already has a growing library of critters ready for when the game is released. Considering that she’s only using the demo and not the full $10 version of the Creator makes the variety of her designs so far that much more impressive.

“Spore” creature creator is out. Penis monsters are on the rampage.

You just knew this sort of thing would happen. The Spore Creature Creator program has been out only a day or so and already there’s plenty of folks developing overly phallic monsters. Monsters such as the following aptly named “Spore Penis Monster.” Note that this could be considered NSFW:

According to the fine folks over at Kotaku.com:

Proud members of the Spore creature creating community have risen to the cock-filled occasion, crafting dozens of new lifeforms, all based around having huge schlongs. A quick search of YouTube submissions for “spore penis” returns about 150 videos, revealing discoveries like the Penisman, the Penizaur, the Peenisaurus, the Penis Goblin and the brilliantly named Penis Creature #1029438.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I find it mildly amusing, but I do have to wonder how EA plans to deal with the inevitable outcry that’s going to occur when some 10-year-old playing Spore lands his creature’s space craft on the home planet of the Penizaur right about the time a parent walks by the computer and asks what the hell they’re playing. Someone’s going to claim that their precious snowflake has been irreparably harmed by seeing vaguely phallic video game characters and try to sue before too long. Keep in mind that you’ll also be able to design vehicles and buildings in the game as well so you’ll most likely have Penismobiles and PenisTown to deal with.

This is an issue that confronts any game that allows player created input. It’s going to be an issue for LittleBigPlanet when it hits as well as a number of other games that are coming down the pike. I love the growing trend of games that allow you to produce your own custom content and I don’t necessarily have a problem with people who want to make some of that content edgy or naughty in nature, but it does raise some thorny issues on how to keep those folks from pissing off the folks who would find it offensive. Especially considering that there will always be griefers who will go out of their way to try and inflict such content on others for no reason other than to piss them off.

 

 

Videos of “Spore” creatures are up on YouTube. Also Sporepedia is up.

While the game itself won’t be out until September, the creature creator will be released on June 17th. The folks at Maxis have already given it to some folks to try out including a bunch of celebrities that are competing to win money for a charity of their choice by designing a cool creature. Already there are some very interesting designs showing up on the Official Spore YouTube channel. Here are some of my favorites:

As you can see, the variations in form are pretty impressive and this doesn’t even include the editors for buildings and vehicles that the full game will come with.

They’ve also launched the Sporepedia which already has 739 creatures in it. This also shows off a wide range of forms, but is no substitute for seeing them in action. Can hardly wait for this game to come out.