DRM, the uncertain future of gaming

In lieu of recent events, myself, being an avid gamer is troubled by the seemingly endless dispute over “always-on” video games. Xbox 360 controllers.  Photo credit: Rodrigo Denúbila, used under a Creative Commons license.

DRM or Digital Rights Management, is an access control technology used by video game and software developers to limit the use of content after an initial sell; “always-online” is a DRM used to inhibit undesirable use of video game content, and has struck up quite the controversy.

First came Diablo III, a seemingly flawless return to dungeon crawling that made the franchise famous in the late 1990s. When the 2012 reboot was released it was the fastest selling PC video game to date, selling over 3.5 million copies within the first twenty-four hours of release, according to Blizzard Entertainment.

Because of the use of DRM and an “always-online” restriction, the Diablo III servers were overloaded. Users began to experience errors including “error 37” which reads, “The servers are busy at this time. Please try again later (error 37). This made the game unplayable for those effected.

Then came SimCity, the 2013 launch of Maxis and Electronic Art’s latest installment of its popular city creator simulation could have gone better…. a lot better.

EA’s SimCity, like Diablo, also uses an “always-on” style of DRM. When the game launched, it too had heavy server woes, caused by the fact that a user cannot play without logging on. This caused error messages just like Diablo, locking out gamers who tried to log on and play the game.

Maxis’ studio head, Lucy Bradshaw, said in an interview after the March launch with Polygon and Kotaku about SimCity, “It would take “a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game for single player.”

But the real meat of the story comes from Youtube user UKAzzer, who modded SimCity to play the game in “debug mode.” While in this mode, players can create cities, build outside of normal boundaries and save a city’s progress, all while being completely offline. And the kicker is he only omitted two lines of code in the games programming to do so.

I am conflicted. I enjoy playing video games, and supporting the developers of games I like. But if these developers are willing to lie to me and the rest of their loyal supporters, just for a buck, why would I support a company like this? Every relationship needs trust. If we put our trust in a game developer, that game developer should put their trust in us.

Nicholas Wedyke

Managing Editor

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