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Sep 10, 2008



"you don't buy this game, you rent it" well you rent almost all software, you have a limited license to use, you generally can't re-sell etc. I'm not opining about whether this state of affairs is a good or bad thing, but I do think it's interesting that DRM externalize a legal / power relation that is in the contract with much software - let the debates commence (outside the IP community).


Great topic -- it may be worth factoring in the gameplay issues as well, which Tim tackles briefly here. I suppose it stings even harder to have this kind of restriction on use when the game is also limited in appeal (though granted, these gameplay reviews are very early returns).


The DRM issues aren't in place on cracked/pirated copies of the game - and yet it's still getting poor user reviews amongst pirates. The gameplay itself is stifled and boring. The only innovation in gameplay comes on the first part (creature creator) and the last part (space ace). Everything else is tedious window dressing, completely unlike any Will Wright game to date. A big disappointment all around. The DRM issues just make it worse.


OK so DRM can be a headache but is a limit of three installs really so terrible? How many people have >3 game-capable machines they need to install on? And if you do you can still ask for more...


I'd be careful about spending your hard earned money on this game regardless of the DRM issues. My impression is that Spore was engineered for the mass market and as a result the gameplay simply isn't very deep or compelling.


Let's see, gotta install it on my desktop. Then on my laptop so I can play it while travelling. Then I need to reformat my hard drive to reinstall the OS (that's the kind of thing hardcore computer geeks do on occasion) and then reinstall the game. Whoops, that's all 3 installs, now I'm screwed and can't install it ever again.

Better to just go find a torrent and grab the cracked pirate version.

Stupid EA.


As someone who's had 3 different logic boards in less than a month thanks to nVidia's bad video chips, I'm not buying the game. I would have used up my 3 installs. I have no need to install a rootkit-like piece of software on my Macbook Pro either. I must say I am amused by the people who claim they are downloading cracked/DRM free versions but still sending the purchase price to EA.


Thomas' review of Spore (linked in his msg) is accurate. The game's a big paint-by-number coloring book.

The DRM thing is unfortunate, particularly when given a de facto thumbs up from a Will Wright type Big Guy.

The overarching social vs. individual play theme, which I thought might be realized more clearly and interestingly in the Spore implementation than in existing mmos, is simply vapid in that implementation.

I am disappointed and dismayed.


Ren - Funny thing is, that's not actually the way the law works. The doctrine of first sale does allow us to resell our used software - but at the same time it is not illegal for them to create DRM that does not allow us to resell. The only choice we have in this regard is the one that many of us are taking - refusal to buy games burdened with such DRM.

I am one of those folks that's OK with Steam... it may authenticate and all that happy stuff, but the limitations it inflicts are very minor. I like the fact that I can go to a friends house, log into my account, and demo my games for him.

If Spore comes to Steam, I may consider buying it... but not as long as it has the current SecureROM Digital Restrictions Management installed. Quite frankly, I regret having bought the Creature Creator.


I think Spore is an example of a game that got way too much hype for too many years, and was never going to be able to deliver on that hype. My wife played it and loved it, and she's a pretty critical gamer. She also doesn't read hype or gaming news for the most part. I played it and enjoyed it, though I have not played much yet (I look forward to having time to delve into it further).

The thing is, for many years, people have talked about Spore like it was going to bring about some kind of gaming revolution. Procedural content and all sorts of other amazing things were going to make Spore the most revolutionary game ever. Well, that is a tough bill to fill. Too many people were expecting a combination of The Sims, Castle Wolfenstein, and Pong as far as its ability to transform and expand the industry.

On the DRM issue:

Wow, EA is just poison for games, isn't it? They used the same DRM on Mass Effect, and it hurt sales badly there as well. They actually scaled back their original DRM plan, which not only limited you to 3 installs but phoned home every time the game launched. I actually wonder if Spore phones home, come to think of it.

This DRM, like most DRMs, completely ignores the motivations and realities of piracy. I blogged about this last month (http://tinyurl.com/5rnu57) in response to some interesting feedback Cliff Harris (of Positech Games) solicited from people who pirate his games. DRM actually CAUSES a lot of piracy. Does that many any sense at all?

I think all of us here know about how much piracy DRMs prevent... somewhere close to zero.

In the case of Spore and Mass Effect (the two major EA games I know of that share this DRM), it definitely resulted in less sales - if not marketwide, at least from my household. But for this DRM, we would have purchased two copies of Mass Effect (one for me, one for my wife). But for this DRM, we woudl have purchased three copies of Spore (one for my wife, one for our daughter, and one for me). But when they hit me with a DRM like this, I'm sure as heck going to at least reap the benefits of it. So we just installed Spore on 3 PCs here at home instead of buying three copies. I cannot help but thing our experience is not unique.


I haven't had time to go out and buy games, or to play them, once I got home, but I switched off the hype a couple years ago, so I'm not really sure what it is people were expecting that they were let down from.

And since we're talking about games in general, and player rights in specific, I'm surprised Terra Nova didn't pick up on Stardock's announcement of a Gamer Bill of Rights, which they released a week and a half ago at PAX. Items 4 and 9 are rather blatant criticisms of DRM on games.


I've played through almost all of it (well, I'm only guessing that I'm halfway through the space age...could be more than that to go). And I tend to agree with Michael Hartman above: it was overhyped and delayed for, what? Two years? But despite the high expectations, I think it's a very good (but not, excuse the pun, a stellar) game. (That's around 12 hours so far.)

Is it revolutionary? Mmmmmmmm not really. But maybe I'm not seeing enough importance of the "procedural content" (truth be told, I'm not sure what that even is!).

Some things are irritating (heh, DRM aside...), but it's done well in terms of game play, game balance, and it has a lot of Cool Sandbox Factor going for it, in my opinion.

The slightly multi-player facet is pretty minor, from my experience thus far. It's kinda cool to know that some races/creatures I encounter are made by other players, but knowing that the AI is running them and the creator has no clue that I'm befriending them or destroying them dilutes the fun of that.

Is it a virtual world? Well, I'd say more yes than no. It's a fairly simple one, and it's not persistent, but it's a world, I think.

I'm one who rushed right out to get it Sunday and then spent 7+ hours playing it. I wasn't giggling and ooing and ahing the whole time, but I sure didn't want to stop either.


Actually, responding to Tripp - if you check out your own details in spore, you get a list of how your creatures are faring in other games as well (like if they were exterminated, allied with, havng a war etc) I thought it was a nice touch.


The difference between this DRM and something like iTunes is that you can't 'decommission' a machine and get the 'installation credit' back. If you could do that I wouldn't mind it so much. Granted if you have a system crash it wouldn't help, but if you're upgrading your gaming PC it'd be nice to cleanly de-install and get the credit back.

The slight silver lining to the DRM is that the disk isn't required to play. For me that's a nice factor, but doesn't excuse the DRM.

All that said, I've been playing way past a reasonable bedtime the last two nights. I'm not sure how long that'll last, but so far I'm having a lot of fun.

Every phase is pretty reminiscent of some game we've played before (I'll assume, given the audience of this site) but creating all the buildings and vehicles and creatures and stuff is mighty compelling to someone as artistically challenged as I am. My girlfriend has yet to actually start a game...she's just having fun building stuff.

I dunno, for me it fits in nicely with my current life & gamestyle. I'm glad I got it.


I "played" the EADM game for about 4 hours, including editing the Registry, re-installing Flash, switching my default browser from Firefox to IE, deleting the EADM -- I forget what else.

It all ended well, but, unlike Shakespeare says, it was really not all well.

For me, the EA Borg is still *really good* at producing the same Madden game it has made for... how many years now? And not much else -- except for amazing stories about all-year crunch time. Woe be unto Warhammer, for it too is an EA game.

But, that said, I like Spore.

I like it because it is not a game for gamers. An analogy to what's happening with Spore's public reaction might be if Universal advertised a special-effects-heavy blockbuster like Iron Man -- and then delivered Kabuki. (If you know how Will Wright thinks, you would have expected Kabuki, not Iron Man.)

In fact, the "game" that Spore reminds me of more than any other is Katamari. This is because Spore has more than its fair share of moments like:
1. What the heck is *that* doing in this game?
2. Why did they think I'd *care* about that?
3. This is really *all I'm supposed to do*?
4. But for some reason, this is oddly pleasant. (Well, that's what I feel at least.)

Seth Schiesel called it a bad game but a good toy. I'm not even sure it's a toy, really. But while 100 big budget games out there just re-inventing or re-furbishing the wheel (see, e.g., EA generally), even if there are pieces of this that fail as a game, I still think it's awesome.


p.s. Oh, and just to be more directly responsive to Mia's OP -- yes, the DRM side of the game is absolutely terrible.


I think it's an authoring tool. I think even thinking of it being a game fatally screwed up the project. I think that if they'd thought of it as an authoring tool, and created an expressive environment or canvas for it, they'd be vastly better off in creative terms and no one would come away disappointed. As it is, even the minimal thought they put into the minigames was an enormous waste. Two out of five stages are a total waste: they're like Fisher-Price RTS games. The first two are ok, but once you've done them enough, they get kind of wearisome. Can't say too much yet about the full experience of Space, but I'm not feeling optimistic.

Will Wright and Peter Molyneux need to be locked up in a room together and not allowed out until they've designed a game that's a game, or until they agree that whatever else they do in the future, they won't call it or imagine it to be a game.


Just something I'd like to add. While I don't own the game, I hear the DRM is pretty sensitive. that is, even upgrading your video card will count as a reinstall. Also, people have been saying that once the 3 (re)installs have been used up, EA has been often been refusing to allow reactivation via phone, etc.

Really don't know how they think this will help them.


I wonder about the possibilities of what an automated Glider-type bot could do in Spore vis-a-vis running n-variations and permutations of evolutionary scenarios. Unfortunately, in view of Blizzard v. MDY and the licensed v.owned distinction that seems to be perpetuated here, that may be not possible. Haven't bought it yet or read the TOS though.


Not that I blame him, but it makes me want to buy a game much, much less when I read this response to suggestions that the game may be dumbed down:

We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players. “Spore” has more depth than, let’s say, “The Sims” did. But we looked at the Metacritic scores for “Sims 2″, which was around 90, and something like “Half-Life“, which was 97, and we decided — quite a while back — that we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of “Sims 2″ than the Metacritic and sales of “Half-Life.

I respect the concept of building a game for casual players, but isn't it possible--especially with a game with this many levels--to keep it challenging for some of the rest of us? Or to offer offshoots and subgames? And what happened to the creator of Sim City that he now is eschewing depth and difficulty for $ (I know, I know, the Sims happened)?

Either way, the DRM issue doesn't bother me THAT much. I would prefer it if companies used the Stardock model: verify once, download/activate as many times as you want. But the DRM in this game isn't really onerous enough to stop me from getting it. The lukewarm reviews dropped me in my tracks, though (not the user reviews).

I see the Amazon review kerfluffle as a great example of the diminishing returns of digital participation. It is effortless to create (or rate) a review, so we tend to assign less and less importance to the reviews themselves. Sort of like an e-mail peititon drive. The easier it is to click a button and send a nasty-gram to your representative, the easier it is for them to justify ignoring it. Amazon also (righly or wrongly) shows no sign of modifying its placement of products based on the average review, so I suspect the impact is minimized on that account as well.


I am surprised people are being so critical against the DRM security system. I personally think that since they have made the game, they deserve to protect it. I understand that 3 activations may be a little on the strict side. A more appropriate number would probably be around 5-7, but it only takes a couple minutes to call EA and have that reset after all.


Brad -- is there actually a 1-800 number for EA customer service? It certainly is not prominent on their website.

I'm finding the Amazon wave kind of interesting in itself. Apparently, Fred Beneson's Blog spotted this on the 7th at 3:44 p.m. when he wrote:

As of this post, there are 14 “1 Star” reviews versus six 4 and 5 star reviews, by people who said that they won’t buy it (which admittedly isn’t quite the same as a review of the game itself) because it has DRM:

Then, that night, we get Boing Boing (10pm) and then Kotaku (2am on the 8th) chiming in and Slashdot (12pm on the 8th).

Honestly, what the Amazon ratings say to me is not so much about Spore's DRM, but about the ability of tech news blogs to start a 1-star comment snowball rolling downhill.


Keep in mind, David Brake that you can only install one per user, not like earlier incarnations ala mass effect where you can install it on 3 different machines with different credentials. The vice grip just got tighter.


@Brad: Well, let me put it like this. Why should I have to pay $50 to go through the hassle of calling a company that obscured their phone numbers, often refuses to provide me with support for other games of theirs I've bought, might not be in business in a few years (computer/gaming industry isn't that old), then wade through some tedious "push 1 if you need to ...", more waiting, then dependent on the whim of some support guy on whether I can play the game I bought for (I've heard EA isn't always granting activation to users past the 3 limit, and from what dealings I've had with them, I believe it).

The Yarr edition has none of this...Not that I've ever cared for Spore as a game, I won't be buying or pirating DRM regardless.

But here's something that happened to me. In gearing up for a long flight, I wanted a game to play during those hours I'd spend in the plane. I bought a game, installed while I had some time to kill before boarding...and then when I tried to play, ran into the activation scheme. "Connect to the internet or call us to verify." No wifi at the airport, so that was a no go. I called, went through the stupid phone system...only to get an answering machine where I could leave my name, number, and game serial and they would eventually call me back with the activation code.

Needless to say, paying $30 for my own inflight entertainment and then not getting to use it kind of pissed me off.

In short: DRM sucks and is annoying and shouldn't ever stop me from using a game or any other media I legitimately bought. (Which I think is about the only thing it does, since pirates never have to deal with it...). I mean, I know people want to protect their work...But unless you take as drastic measures as, say, the developers of IDA (and even then...), you're simply not going to stop piracy. If a publisher has to do DRM, they should take a tip from Valve/Steam or Stardock and not ask their customers to bend over.

Anyway, that's all the ranting of one who's been burned by DRM a few times and is just a tad bitter ;)


having "bought" the game via the Serial Key for Spore, it's actually somewhat dubious as to wether i "have" bought the game, or even if i am actually renting it.

so, depending on your POV about software licensing, i'm probably in that 4th category of spore players, those that didnt buy the game, rent the game, steal the game, they bought a serial number and downloaded the game.

or in that 2nd category, the evil consumer, as opposed to the rich, dumb consumer.

i still have to agree to a EULA page of nondescriptive legalese pertaining to my user rights, so i suppose that i am just renting it regardless of my status as an owner or purchaser or renter.

as for my irregular purchase of Spore, by buying a cd-key, i only paid half what i would have paid if i had bought it from the EA download store, or 1/2 of the U.S. retail price, and 1/3 or 1/4 what i would have paid in a retail store for the boxed copy. the only downside is that there's no official media, and the key may become disposable when EA decides they don't like it, but that same risk extends to retail box owners and EA downloaders too.

is that evidently a concern for EA or other publishers ? perhaps. does it concern me as a consumer ? yes. but only because there's no real competition or safeguards for consumers in the industry.

sure, it's wholly not something that publishers appreciate, i.e. going to all that effort to sell a full-retail-price box, or the same-value full-retail-price download, when i can find someone else with the game media, put in my serial number and it's playable, unique to my identity and profile information, and there's no DRM or other protective measures, making it more accessible and playable than the standard game.


Brad wrote: I am surprised people are being so critical against the DRM security system. I personally think that since they have made the game, they deserve to protect it. DRM and Copy Protection is a fig-leaf. It does nothing to defeat those who they claim to use it against, punishes the legitimate customers and has been known to damage OS functionality or destroy hardware.

By the way, the required phone-home feature of your single player game is fully encrypted. What information about you is it collecting and sharing with EA and their "trusted" business partners?

The only thing game companies deserve is the money I spend on it. They do not deserve to make my computer unusable nor install low-level drivers, especially without telling me. They certainly do not deserve to treat me like a thief.

Since they do do all that, they will not get my money until they stop doing all that. Doesn't mean much for Spore, it was never a purchase, but it certainly did stop my purchase of Mass Effect PC cold.


For years you complain because "Games and gamers" are not as "socially accepted and understood" as movies and media properties/culture in all things monetary and press related.

Today, just as digital entertainment-games becomes the new mass media, you complain because you don't "own" the entertainment product's that someone else created and paid for.

When's the last time you "owned" the movie you just paid 10 bucks a ticket to see in the theatre?. When's the last time you "owned" the movie imprinted on the Bluray DVD you paid "40 bucks for ?

You never did, and you never will. All entertainment products are LICENSED for the Viewer/players personal usage by those who are in business to create such products.

Get over the "I paid for it- I own it" myth of software entertainment products that is part of the new - everthing is MINE MINE MINE - myth of the spoiled thumb flicking generation force fed dreamy bullshit by old hippies on Tenure or VC paystubs in Northern California.

I'm going back to being dead now.
Crap, you think I let Disney own "Thumbs UP?"
They only rented baby...and you don't own it either..so

Kids, Grow UP.


go take a nap grandpa.


@ Siskel

This particular complaint is not necessarily about ownership as much as the ability to freely use the service purchased. There is no way to truely "own" a game. People don't purchase games for the purpose of acquiring its models, textures, game engine, or anything else considered proprietary by its authors. Some companies freely allow players to manipulate these things anyway. People really buy games to play them. When this purchase does not allow full freedom, the buyers have a right to complain. When the installation also includes programs (like SecuROM) that access the most basic functions of the user's machine without consent, this is what you get:




It's pretty obvious that EA has gutted this game to sell a ton of expansion packs later. In addition Securom is a broken piece of software that can disable your hardware! It's very similar to Sony's infamous rootkit, which is the reason people are so upset about it.



re "Kids, Grow UP.".

response: "Fuck you Dad, your hypocritical morality is a sham."

Anyway, Spores a heck of a load of fun, but the brains of the game are all in the space stage. I've been at it for a while now, and the space game just keeps getting more intreguing as it goes along. Damn grox!

But yes, its clear that theres an expansion market being brewed up here.


I bought spore and have been trying to get a refund ever since. No luck though EA has an impenetrable wall. I should have waited to buy it.


There is a decidedly short term outlook on all this. What if books from a thousand years ago could only be read by three individuals before one had to contact the original publisher to request more licenses?

Yes, this software may enter the public domain in 75 years or more, but as it exists now, will we still be able to "read" it next century?

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