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Bioshock: DRMShock, Bad to Worse

By Shamus
on Saturday Aug 25, 2007
Filed under:
Video Games


This is a followup to my earlier post on this topic. 2KGames, the publisher behind BioShock, is enjoying the sort of attention that only mobs of pissed off fans can give. The forums are now a place where thousands are going to unleash their impotent anger at the indifferent machine responible for marrying a game they love to a DRM system they hate. There is a thread there with over two hundred thousand views, and it looks like it’s one of a dozen on the topic.

I’m avoiding the game myself, but from reading the forums here are what looks like the primary sins of 2kGames:

  1. The game installs the copy-protection software SecuROM onto the user’s machine without warning and without asking. There is no mention of this program on the box. This means they a sneaking some fairly onerous software onto a user’s computer.
  2. The game requires online activation, and the servers for doing this became flooded and went down right after launch, meaning those that picked up the game on day one (the most avid fans, the ones who pre-ordered) couldn’t get permission play their game.
  3. There are limits as to how many machines you can have the game on at one time.
  4. There is a limit on the number of times you can install the game. Un-installing should give you an install “back”, but this isn’t working right and many people have “used up” their allowed installs just trying to get the game to work.
  5. If you “use up” your allowed installs, the process of re-activating your game is very annoying: Instead of making a phone call or providing a serial number, you have to send a scan / photograph of your disc to 2kGames. This is assuming they respond at all.
  6. When people needed help with SecuROM, the SecuROM tech support email told everyone to email 2kGames, and the 2kGames email told people to contact SecuROM.
  7. Uninstalling the game does not uninstall SecuROM. Nothing does. Once you install it, the only way to get rid of it is to re-install Windows, or dive into the registry and try to dig it out yourself.
  8. SecuROM causes conflicts with some anti-virus, anti-malware software.
  9. Most people are calling SecuROM a “rootkit”. The point is debatable, (mostly because of the varying definitions of “rootkit” everyone is using) but what is clear is that the program circumvents the standard Windows logins & permissions, giving itself “admin” powers even if it was installed under a non-admin login. This creates problems if you delete user accounts later, and it is believed that it also creates security vulnerabilities on the user’s machine.
  10. The game is available via Steam. Despite the fact that Steam already has a strong DRM system in place, the Steam version of BioShock still comes with SecuROM.
  11. Even the Demo of BioShock comes with SecuROM.
  12. Despite the presence of SecuROM, the game still requires that the DVD be in the drive.
  13. It took a couple of days to get any sort of official response out of 2kGames on all of this. When they did respond, they did almost nothing to address the primary gripes that users were having. The only substantive thing they did was increase the number of installs from two to five.
  14. As part of the response they posted a FAQ on SecuROM to their forums. Details of the FAQ have been picked over and found to be inaccurate. The FAQ is either lies or ignorance on the part of 2kGames. People have demanded further explanations, but its been two days now and still nothing more from 2kGames.
  15. In addition to the SecuROM headaches, there are lots of more common but serious problems with the game. The system requirements were already steep and required an expensive card, and now it seems that some cards which meet the minimum requirements still don’t work.
  16. Response from 2kGames support have been slow, sometimes days. When the responses do come, they rarely address or correct the problem.
  17. All of this is compounded by the fact that most places do not take returns on PC games. This means that for some the game doesn’t work, support won’t help them, and they can’t get their money back.

Again, I’m not experiencing this first hand, I’m simply going by what I see to be common themes in the forums.

Related links: The Daily Jump, consumerist, Completely Random Thoughts, hylomorph, The Rampant Coyote.

Kotaku has a response from Ken Levine.

Comments (66)

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  1. repairman Jack says:

    I am avoiding all PC games requiring online activation on principal that it is intrusive and aggravating. You are entitled to your opinion, mine is valid too especially when I spend my money!

    I would like to avoid Securom 7 and Starforce too (Jowood really screwed me over with Spellforce containing starfoce DRM) Can anyone recommend a reliable website listing which DRM is used with which PC games? I want to check before I buy, the packaging and magazine reviews withold this information because it deters buyers.

    Thank You

  2. […] says: Here’s hoping they don’t completely fuck their PC audience in the ass for no good goddamn reason […]

1 2

One Trackback

  1. By Half-Masked » Archive » All I have to say about Bioshock 2 on Thursday Oct 23, 2008 at 12:23 am

    […] says: Here’s hoping they don’t completely fuck their PC audience in the ass for no good goddamn reason […]

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