Digital Rights Mangling


It’s a game designed by Wil Wright, who’s the guy who designed the Sims. You may have known that.

Here’s something you may not have known:  He did not design The Sims 2, and is not designing The Sims 3.

That’s because game publishers like to keep the designer’s names off of the retail boxes.  This is so that if the development team ever loses a “big name,” they can continue to publish sequels without the mainstream public knowing about the loss of an important member of the development team.

It would be like a Star Wars movie without George Lucas, although this is a bad example, considering that movie would probably rock.

Anyway, back to Spore.  You may have heard of it.  It’s got a one star rating on Amazon.

Why?  Well, I like to see it as an educational campaign about DRM and Securom, instead of ratings bombing spam.

Now, let’s say you didn’t know about all the nasty things that could potentially come up with Securom, but go ahead and read the wiki article.  I’ll still be here.

Okay, now let’s say that you’re better informed about Securom and its issues—or you’ve already purchased the game and only read about the DRM in the Terms of Service Agreement.  This is the text you usually ignore, it’s right above the “I Agree” button or checkbox.  You’ll notice that they sneak it in between “first born son,” and “2 pints of human blood.”

Now let’s say for the sake of argument, you don’t want to install something that could potentially destabilize your already fabulously rock solid Microsoft Windows XP operating system.

Well, you could return it, if you haven’t already opened it.  Good luck getting a retailer to give you a full refund on an opened retail box of computer software.

Fortunately, I’m here to tell you what you can do about DRM.

The first thing is:  Don’t buy Spore

This is hard.  I know.

Early reviews are coming in and finding it above average, around 87%.  A lot of praise has been heaped on its creature creator and how it integrates into the gameplay by allowing people all over the internet to share their creations with the world, even in single player.

But tell me, do you really want to encounter an alien civilization composed entirely of penis-shaped creatures, complete with phallus shaped buildings and spaceships?

Well, maybe you do, but that’s none of my business.  To find out what the aforementioned situation would be like, I suggest you log into Second Life and walk around for about ten minutes.

The truth is, in reading a lot of reviews, I’m finding that Spore is probably a game I’ll have to play in order to find out whether or not it’s for me.  I really loved SimCity, for instance, but I didn’t really gel with SimCity 4.  (I just looked up the information about it and Will Wright wasn’t on the design team.  Big surprise.)  I liked The Sims initially until I realized I was playing a game about paying rent and getting to work on time.

On the other hand, the Meta Game for The Sims is great.  The one where you use a money cheat to create an exact replica of your living space, create Sims replicas of each of your housemates, then see how long it takes for them to kill themselves without your intervention.

That game is awesome.

Here’s the second thing you can do:  Buy games that do not have DRM.

I am going to really recommend Sins of a Solar Empire, which in addition to having possibly the coolest name ever for a space strategy civilization real time strategy game, is a really good space strategy civilization real time strategy game.

Sins of a Solar Empire, is a deeper version of Spore’s endgame.  Sins runs great on older hardware, and has absolutely zero DRM.  You even get a license key, but you don’t have to install it to play.  I have it installed on two machines at home because they allow two seats per license.  They allow this because they want to encourage people to play Sins of a Solar Empire.  I don’t even need to prove I own the game by inserting the DVD each time I want to play.


Here’s the thing.  People who are going to pay for a piece of software are going to pay for it.  People who are not going to pay for piece of software, are going to find ways not to pay for it, DRM or no DRM.

Here’s the other thing.  Publishers have to license and implement DRM, and that costs money.  DRM is usually broken or or before the release date and the product is unleashed on the internet as a torrent.

So the publisher is spending money on something that is ineffective, and we as consumers have to bear the cost at retail.

When we purchase a game with DRM, it’s telling them that this situation is fine.  It’s up to us to tell software publishing houses that we do not want DRM by not buying their products.  I know that Spore may be awesome, but I’m not buying it mainly because of the DRM.  I may be missing out on a great gameplay experience.

So be it.

Why should I or any of us be punished for purchasing a game legitimately?  We don’t have to be.

Here’s a quote from Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, publishers of Sins of A Solar Empire, a game developed by Ironclad Studios.

Sins, like other Stardock games, ship without any DRM copyright protection. Do you think that’s one of the keys to the game’s success?

Definitely. Piracy is a major issue for the PC game industry. But the issue has to be kept in perspective – the people who actually buy games don’t want to be inconvenienced or treated like a criminal. Everyone who buys games knows they could easily have gone out and stolen it if they wanted to. Customers expect to be treated with respect.

The emphasis is mine.  The whole interview can be read here at Big Download.

Sins of a Solar Empire can be purchased here at the Sins of a Solar Empire online store.

Oh hey sweet.  There’s an expansion coming.