DonAithnen (donaithnen) wrote,

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Once upon a time there was a game called "System Shock 2." People talked about it and said it was really cool. I watched some people playing it at work and it did indeed look pretty darn cool.

I'd just bought a second-hand computer at the time that actually had a 3D card, my first ever, for the purpose of playing games, so that was one of the games i picked up. It started up fine and i went through the tutorial section, or at least tried to. I don't remember the exact details about six or seven years later, but you start out and have to choose which class you're going to be by choosing one of three doors. I believe you go through the a little tutorial section in there and then exit out into another section. However whenever i tried to take that exit the game would always freeze trying to load the next room. I tried several times and it didn't matter which class i picked, same result. My system was theoretically fine, it managed to load and go through the tutorial after all, but there was some weird kind of incompatibility that only kicked in at that point. It wasn't fixed with the then-current patch and i couldn't find any obvious posts at the time about what might be causing the issue. I could have spent more time digging into the issue or trying to contact tech support, but even back then i had a backlog of games, not as many as now but i was also busier with work back then too, so i just ended up setting the game aside somewhat regretfully and playing something else. Every time i've upgraded computers since then i've thought "maybe i should dig out System Shock 2 and try it out now," but never actually follow through on the impulse.

Now, 8 years after the release of System Shock 2 we now have BioShock, which is supposed to be a "spiritual sequel" to the previous game. There has been a lot of hype about it, which i wasn't paying much attention to. I didn't even actually know it was supposed to be a sequel to System Shock 2 at first. However i was rather impressed by a commercial i randomly saw of it while at dinner last week. I was actually vaguely thinking of getting a copy, the first PC game i'd be getting in quite awhile, though i wasn't sure if my current machine could handle it.

Then a couple days after the release there started being reports of various problems. The first is that the rather draconian DRM would only let you install the game twice each on two different machines. Oh and did they mention that uninstalling the game _doesn't_ give you a credit back on box version? (As opposed to the downloadable version from Steam.) It seems at least a few people have had difficulty with the installation process and the multiple attempts just to get the thing installed for the first time have burned through all their licenses before they even have the chance to play the game. On top of that when people started digging into the installation process they found that it installs "SecuROM", which (possibly among other things) apparently installs some nasty stuff in the registry which some people say sometimes shows up when you run rootkit detectors. There has been a lot of heated "debate" about exactly how nasty SecuRom is, and whether or not it actually is a rootkit, and whether or not the technicality matters. The fact that SecurRom is made by Sony certainly hasn't helped keep the "discussion" level.

So of course this has resulted in lots of complaints, but for the first day or two (or three? or?) email sent to 2K Games resulted in an email response saying installation issues should be directed to SecuRom, and emails sent to SecurRom resulted in an email response saying installation issues should be directed to 2K...

2K finally started responding in the forums (which were overrun with comments of course) saying they're getting things worked out with SecuRom and that they've raised the installation limit to 5 installations on 5 machines and that they're working on a utility that will give you credit back when you uninstall the game, but that doesn't really help a lot of the fundamental issues.

One of which is their FAQ. I love this bit:

Does SecuROM fingerprint my hardware? What does this mean?
SecuROM does not fingerprint the hardware. When an activation is performed, a unique ID is generated to identify the system being used for the activation process.

followed shortly by:

If I put a new piece of hardware, such as a new video card, ram, hard drive, or a new motherboard, into my computer, will I have to reactivate my game? Will this count as one of my “allowed” computers?
No. You won't have to reactivate unless you change several pieces of hardware and this will count as one of your 5 allowed computers, if reactivation is required.

So either they're stupid and don't understand what fingerprinting is, or they're evil and they're trying to rules lawyer their way out of it. Great choice.

Given all this i'm not sure if i should just give up any hope of ever playing the game, wait a year or two to see if they come out with a less DRM infested version later, buy the game and then download a crack, or just give up in the other direction and install whatever it is they want to install and accept that i may not be able to play the game a couple years from now if they go out of business or decide to shut down their authentication servers.

How much do i want to support them for making a good game with an interesting story? How much do i want to punish them for the stupid DRM stuff? These are the kind of complicated philosophical issues that require lots of thought and analysis and usually result in me saying "Oh fuck it all!" and going and playing some other game instead :)

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