Hello, and welcome to Friday! Today I’ll be discussing the bane of the modern gamer: digital rights management, or DRM as it is more commonly known. To begin with we start with a little history lesson. In ages past games used primitive forms of DRM. To start a game of Civilization the player would be asked to consult the manual and find which two technologies were required to learn technology ‘X’. Other games required players to find word X of line Y on page Z. The Monkey Island series used themed code wheels to authenticate games. None of these games required the young internet to authenticate.
More recently games have used CD keys to authenticate products. Having a unique code did not always matter unless the player decided to play online. Blizzard went as far as to allow you install a multiplayer only version of Starcraft on additional computers using the same CD key for each. This made large Starcraft LAN matches inexpensive in organize. These keys often required no online checking like games do today.
Modern DRM increasingly requires players to have a constant and stable internet connection. Few gamers have not heard of the now famous ‘Error 37’ from Diablo 3. During the recent Steam summer sale Ubisoft’s UPlay system prevented a number of people from playing their newly acquired games over the weekend. I experienced issues with Anno 2070 myself. I completed a mission only to find that the game could not update my stats when it was over. I was forced to use the control panel to quit the game as the only button available said ‘try again’.
I have heard many gamers say that they do not mind staying online to play their games. The rise of MMOs has made many feel they need to be online to play. I found myself saying this to my
fellow slaves colleagues recently, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that this is not the way it should be. Requiring a connection can allow devolopers to add some interesting features to their games, but could these games not check for a connection and update themselves if one is found? Would Diablo 3 be a better game if the auction house was removed and Blizzard made an offline mode available?
Indie developers are currently leading the way in DRM-free games. Many are coming together for the humble indie bundle; a collection of games that are DRM-free, cost whatever you want to pay for them and support charity. I believe that soon the day will come when the big publishing houses see what DRM is doing to their games and reputation and stop adding it in. That day is still far off, but the as more people support DRM-free games it gets closer every day.
How about you readers, have you fallen foul of error 37? Have you been kicked out of a single player game because your internet dropped? Let me know in the comments!