Remember when Namco made those ill-advised – and, might we add, thankfully never acted upon – comments about Ubisoft's Dark Lord of All DRM? Remember when The Witcher 2 entered the picture, and suddenly you got a horrible sinking feeling in your stomach as it clicked that, yeah, Namco might be planning to similarly lock the game down and throw away the key? Well, here's developer CD Projekt swooping in to save the day in a very, very big way.
See, CD Projekt also owns digital storefront/blessing Good Old Games, but it's making an exception on that “old” bit with The Witcher 2. Yep, the gorgeous-looking dark fantasy RPG will be casting its spell on GOG on day one. And – better still – it'll be, in GOG's own words, “100% DRM-free,” just like all other GOG titles. Oh, and just in case you – through some Olympic medal-worthy mental gymnastics of entitlement – were able to read that last bit and say, “Huh? That's all?,” a pre-order will also snag you any one of five free games, including Divine Divinity and Gothic 2.
Now then, join us in prostrating ourselves before CD Projekt and screaming “thank you” at the top of our lungs. Also – most crucially – please don't pirate the hell out of this. Otherwise, this seeming end to DRM will probably only be the beginning.
It seems like so long ago that we were skeptical Steam could get us to stop bitching about DRM and provide a viable distribution system that both publishers and game players could live with. Well, we're not finished groaning about DRM, but there's no denying Steam does what it's supposed to, and does it well. Perhaps too well.
According to U.K.'s weekly gaming rag MCV, some retailers are threatening to ban games that integrate the Steam service on fears that Steam has a monopoly on the download market.
"If we have a digital service, then I don't want to start selling a rival in-store," said the head of one of U.K.'s biggest gamers retailers. "Publishers are creating a monster -- we are telling suppliers to stop using Steam in their games."
A purportedly big-name digital service provider backed up those remarks, saying "At the moment the big digital distributors need to stock games with Steam. But the power resides with brick and mortar retailers, they can refuse to stock these titles. Publishers are hesitant, but retail must put pressure on them."
Should retailers be concerned that selling games with Steam baked in only pushes users towards buying games through Valve online, or is this just another 'wambulance' call?
The MPAA's DRM promotional site is the latest victim of the internet machine that is Anonymous. The loosely affiliated group of hackers replaced the CopyProtected.com page with a manifesto regarding the state of copy protection technologies in digital media. The hacked site also showed a graphic based on the Pirate Bay logo reading, "Operation: Payback". After a few moments, the site would redirect users to the Pirate Bay. CopyProtected.com is currently still down, but the Anonymous content is gone.
The posting read in part, " You are forcing our hand by ignoring the voice of the people. In doing so, you bring the destruction of your iron grip of information ever closer. You have ignored the people, attacked the people and lied to the people. For this, you will be held accountable before the people, and you will be punished by them.” It is unclear what further action Anonymous will take in Operation: Payback, but they will probably make sure we know about it.
This is just the latest step in Anonymous' underground war against copyright holders. Recent DDoS attacks against the MPAA, RIAA, and the Ministry of Sound have drawn attention. Do you think these efforts are unethical, or is it a proportional response to the actions of copyright holders?
Intel has laid to rest all doubts over the authenticity of the alleged HDCP master key code that was leaked onto the internet a few days ago. The chip maker on Thursday confirmed that the code is indeed what it was claimed to be in an anonymous post on Pastebin.com.
"We can use it to generate valid device keys that do interoperate with the (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) protocol," Intel spokesman Tom Waldrop told CNET. The Intel-developed High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) protocol is used so that only licensed devices can play copyrighted-protected content, with each HDCP-compliant device having a unique set of keys.
However, Intel isn't overly concerned about the impact this leak might have. "For someone to use this information to unlock anything, they would have to implement it in silicon -- make a computer chip,” Waldrop told Fox News.
Having trouble playing Blu-ray flicks from Universal and Warner Brothers on your Samsung player? If it's any consolation, so are scores of other users.
Here's the deal. Something funky in Samsung's latest firmware -- version 2.09 -- for its line of BD-Px600 Blu-ray players is preventing the unit from playing movies like "The Hangover" and "The Book of Eli," two must-see movies, by the way, in case you haven't watched them already.
As is predictably the case, the SNAFU deals with copy protection, and once again, it's the paying consumer who pays the price. While software pirates are merrily clogging up their ISP's pipes downloading movies from BitTorrent sites, several Samsung Blu-ray player owners are forced to sit back and wait for a fix. The good news is a fix is on the way, but not until September, the company said.
Does that mean early September or closer to the end? Nobody knows. Samsung BD-Px600 owners may be able to watch their legally purchased/rented Blu-ray movies next week, or maybe several weeks from now. And if we sound particularly critical about the whole situation, consider that this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Earlier this year, Samsung BD-UP5000 and BD-P1400 Blu-ray players coughed up a hairball when owners tried to watch "Avatar" on Blu-ray. Samsung did fix the issue, but is this really the future of HD movies on the home front?
There's not a whole lot to like about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but one of the more onerous provisions of the law is a ban on circumvention of DRM and similar "technical protection measures". The decision handed down today from the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress has resulted in three exemptions in this law. That is, three situations where it is now acceptable to break digital protection schemes.
The first exemption allows users to "Jailbreak" an iPhone or other handset in order to run legally obtained, but unapproved software. Apple had previously hinted that this activity could be illegal under the DMCA. This change was done to enable consumers to increase the interoperability of their devices. The EFF also secured new protections for artists that make fair use of copyrighted content in video remixes, or mashups. Noncomercial artists are now permitted to break digital protection for this purpose. Get ready for some YouTube celebration mashups.
The last ruling is not a new provision, but rather a renewal of an existing exemption. The Librarian of Congress reaffirmed a 2006 rule that protects cell phone unlocking from prosecution under the DMCA. The locking of a phone to one carrier makes it harder to use or resell later. It's important to note that none of these new exemptions mean that companies have to stop using DRM, just that we are actually allowed to break it in more situations.
Pirates are nearly as tricky as they are sticky fingered, so maybe it’s time for the gaming industry to get tricky right back. After all, just take a look at the scoreboard. Pirates: one million. DRM: negative three. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens has a pretty big trick up his sleeve.
"My answer is for us as publishers is to actually sell unfinished games -- and to offer the consumer multiple micro-payments to buy elements of the full experience. That would create an offering that is affordable at retail -- but over a period of time may also generate more revenue for the publishers to reinvest in our games," he told CVG.
"If these games are pirated, those who get their hands on them won't be able to complete the experience. There will be technology, coding aspects, that will come to bear that will unlock some aspects. Some people will want them and some won't. When it comes to piracy, I think you have to make the experience the answer to the issue - rather than respond the other way round and risk damaging that experience for the user."
Does that sound a bit insane to you? Because it’s really not. Free-to-play MMOs like Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online more or less fit that model to a tee, minus the initial fee for the main game. And that’s working out pretty well for them, from the sound of things – that sound, of course, primarily being “ka-ching.” So applying that model to something that’s not an MMO seems like a no-brainer to us – as opposed to current DRM-based models, which had to have been conceived by someone who literally lacked a brain.
When a publisher starts extolling the virtues of Ubisoft’s Alcatraz-level DRM lockdown, it doesn’t matter how far you read into their words; at the end of the day, it spells trouble. And so it was when Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai declared Ubisoft’s system functional – if not exactly ideal. Shortly afterward, Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt attempted damage control by vaguely stating its intentions, but that backfired -- leading many gamers to fear that the dark fantasy sequel had truly gone over to the dark side.
Fortunately, CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kiciński has released a statement that paints a much clearer picture of The Witcher 2’s DRM situation.
“Given the concerns expressed by players and growing media speculation, we have decided to make public our internal DRM policy,” he said. “Although we are the game’s developer, we obviously won’t be making a unilateral decision on the DRM protection that is applied to The Witcher 2. Nevertheless, our internal rules and guidelines should reassure players.”
“As per our policy, we will do our utmost to prevent the adopted DRM solution, if any, from making life difficult for those who acquire legal game copies. I can’t imagine using any protection that would deprive game fans of any of the pleasure that will come from playing the game, as has been the case with other notable PC game titles,” he explained.
“Notable titles,” of course, likely include Settlers 7, Assassins Creed II, and Splinter Cell: Conviction, among others. Which means that avoiding the example set by those games is part of CD Projekt’s company policy, for Pete’s sake. So take a deep breath, everyone. The Witcher 2 is in good hands.
Upon reading The Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai's pro-Ubisoft-DRM spiel, we imagine a decent many of you probably did double-takes as you put two and two together over and over again – always reaching the same confounding result. The Witcher 2. With DRM. Does. Not. Compute. After all, developer CD Projekt heads up Good Old Games. That's about as anti-DRM as you can get.
Namco Bandai and CD Projekt are separate entities, however. And fortunately, this is one instance where left hand and right aren't quite in agreement.
“Our distributors commented [on] the Ubisoft-like DRM securilty solutions, and we’re receiving a massive feedback about applying such in The Witcher 2,” read a post on CD Projekt's Facebook account. “There’s nothing to worry about, as nothing is decided yet.
“And still, it’s a private opinion. You know CD Projekt RED’s opinion about DRM, right?” the developer added, referring to Good Old Games.
That tree-demolishing gust you just felt? That was thousands of Witcher fans breathing a collective sigh of relief. Thank goodness, too. Geralt's not the handsomest guy around, but his ugly mug's still a far prettier sight than a big, game-obscuring “Connection lost. Please wait.” screen.
Going to the dentist sucks. It’s like mouth hell, with tongues of flame replaced by regular tongues, drills, needles, and toothpaste so awful-tasting that it makes us want to wait 30 hours before eating instead of 30 minutes. But until the day we invent super-powered ray guns that blast our teeth clean in the blink of an eye, the dentist is – sadly enough -- our only option. That, more or less, is how Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai feels about Ubisoft’s almost universally reviled DRM system.
"I will be very honest. I think it's a good [approach] for one reason: I have no alternative today. Is the best one? Certainly not but as of today if I can make something else I'll do it, but it's better to do something than not do something,” Namco Bandai Partners VP Olivier Comte said. “At the moment they are doing a good strategy.”
He added, however, that Namco Bandai’s doing everything in its power to craft a better, smarter successor to the DRM throne. Even then, though, the publisher still sees gray skies ahead.
"I'm convinced that whatever system you put in place you can be sure that two hours before putting it out it'll be cracked in Russia. I think that the combat against piracy is very complicated because it's very complicated to explain to a 12-year-old that drag and dropping a file on a PC is piracy - he was born with this,” Comte explained.
Between the rainbow of racial slurs on Xbox Live and now this, it seems like the solution to all of gaming’s ills is simple: eliminate all 12-year-olds. Thoughts? Seems pretty sensible to us.