May. 8th, 2008

jackofallgeeks: (Tears)
A few years ago, I heard the first bits about the game Spore. It was
going to be everything SimEarth wanted to be. It would run through
several genres of gaming in one continuous arc, starting at the
lowest single-cell level in what was reminiscent of flOw, and moving up
through the evolution of your own user-built creature, and on into the
eventual creation of a global civilization and finally galactic conquest.
And one of the coolest things was creature creation: you could make your
creature look however you wanted, and the game could figure out how it would
walk and attack and eat. Plus, with the Internet being as pervasive as it
is, everything users made would be able to be sent back to a big database in
the sky and redistributed to every other user as in-game content. The
creature I make could become the galactic rival for some kid in Asia.

It was going to be great.

I have been waiting years for this game. Years.
Entertainment-wise, there's nothing I've wanted more; I'd buy a new computer
if I had to just to run it. So you can only imagine the soul-crushing
disappointment I feel when I say I will not be getting this game. I'm not
going to buy Spore.

Saying that hurts a lot more than it should, I think.

So, what happened? Did the game run out of budget and get canned? Was it
moved to console-only status? Did Will Wright die and in honor of him
memory they decided to kill off his legacy (if you ever played Ani-Mayhem
you know what I'm referencing)? No, nothing so positive. EA, who's
publishing the game, is shipping
it with DRM
which requires an internet check at installation and every
ten days after that. After twenty days without a check, the game will not
run unless it makes a successful check.

But Andrew, why's that so bad? You said yourself that one of the cooler
aspects was the online, user-generated content anyways. Why would
you, of all people, ever go a month without the Internet? It's not
that I don't expect to be online, it's that I expect EA to not be there when
I need them. Even if this were a 100% system that denied pirated copies
always while at the same time allowing legal copies always with 0% error
(hell, even if it just always let legal copies in with 0% error), which I'm
sure it's not because no such system exists (or probably can exist) -- even
if that were the case, how long will EA's servers be up? Microsoft just
killed their PlayForSure DRM servers (so if you have PlaysForSure music it's
basically dead space now); how long before EA decides it's no longer
profitable for them to support Spore's DRM? PlaysForSure is, what, 5 years
old? Maybe? I'm still playing StarCraft over a decade later. I would want
to be playing Spore while bouncing grandchildren on my knee. EA deies me
that.

What's more, they system will only allow 3 installs. THREE. Do you know
how many computers I've had in the last two years? Three. That's it, no
more than two years of enjoying Spre before I'm denied use of my
legally-paid-for product. All because EA wants to crack down on
piracy. And you know what drive piracy the most? Piracy-deterence
mechanisms like DRM. They add DRM to kill piracy; pirates crack the DRM;
legitimate users get pissed off by the DRM and get the cracked version;
piracy rises so developers add MORE DRM -- lather, rince, repeat. I don't
want to pay for a game that expects me to be a thief. I don't want to pay
for a game that I can't enjoy when I want. I don't want to pay for a game
that I can reasonably expect to not work in a handful of years.

I really want to get Spore. But I won't be.
jackofallgeeks: (Contemplative)
So, I pay attention to copyright law. At least a little bit, mostly where
it crosses paths with thechnology like with digital music and movies. The
production industries in music and movies are in a bad space because,
traditionally, they've had a lot of control over their content. If
you wanted music, you bought CDs. If you wanted movies, youi got the VHS,
or the DVD, or bough a ticket to see it in theaters. Now, though, all that
content is digital, and can be sent all over the place -- and more to the
point copied -- very easily.

These industries want to paint unauthorized copying as theft. They say
illegal downloaders are stealing. This is a bad application of theft
because, traditionally, when you steal something you deny it to some other
person. If you steal my car, I can't use it. If I steal your bread, you go
hungry. Property laws, of which 'stealing' is a consequence, it based on
the fact that physical items are limited by their very nature. But if I
copy a song no one loses it, I just gain it. it's like a flame which can be
passed along infinitely without diminishing anyone's possession of it. It's
like a thought: I don't lose it by giving it to you.

Still, some people I argue with hav e this perception that if you get
something for free when it's being sold elsewhere then you're stealing. You
are obligated to buy it from the seller by virtue of the fact that they're
selling it. But this doesn't hold up. Imagine someone comes out with
FooBar candy, a delectible snack. Target sells FooBar for $1.00 and Walmart
sells it for $0.50. Is Walmart stealing from Target? What if
Walmart starts giving it away, are they stealing now?

Now, imagine FooBar is made of a gooey substance which is able to
reconstitute itself, so that if you break one in half each half will
'regrow' into a full FooBar bar. Say I buy one of these, and then start
breaking off pieces and giving all the regrown pieces to all my friends. Am
I stealing?

Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in playing by the rules - if a band says,
"please don't share my music," I do my best to comply out of respect for the
artist, though I think it's dumb. If I share the music then they get new
fans, and I think most bands would rather be popular than not. Now, it does
present a troubling business problem: how do you make money if you're giving
music away for free? But the point it that it IS a business model problem,
and there ARE ways to fix it. Nine Inch Nails has been doing some really
interesting stuff, all of which takes advantage of having a loyal fan base
(which can be grown and cultivated by giving away your songs, much like
little advertisments that people will willing watch again and again). NIN
has shown that you can still sell CDs (which, peing physical, ARE limited
and not easily reproducable) as long as you can make having the CD worth
it. The point is using your infinite product to spread the flame, and then
use the blaze that results to drive sales on things that are *actually*
limited.
jackofallgeeks: (Goofy)
In disecting the tech industry, This
article concludes: it's just like High School.
jackofallgeeks: (Tears)
I'm still very upset by the news of Spore's DRM. According to updates, though, you 'should' (might?) be able to get a new installation key from EA Tech Support once you've used up your three. That's nice, that's better, but if that's the case what's the point? If you can just call them up and get a new key, why limit it at all? They also say that if they ever kill the verification servers that they'll send out a patch to removed the phone-home code from the game (something Microsoft didn't do with their PlaysForSure, as I recall). And that's better too, but like someone pointed out: if your team is being fired, making a patch isn't high on your to-do list.

I really want Spore. Really, really, really want it. But with that kind of DRM it just feels like a waste. If nothing else, I don't want to support a company that thinks this is a good idea. Which means I probably won't be getting Spore. I think a lot of people won't be getting Spore, and that makes me sad.

Under the cut is a letter I wrote up to send to the board of directors at EA. There's no contact information that I can find so I'm going to have to fudge it and hope the letters make it. I don't expect anything to happen, but I wouldn't feel right not-saying anything. I'll give it a once-over after I'm rested, then send it out.

Fowl Lamentation )

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John Noble

August 2012

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