Pirated games work; legitimate copies don’t

I’ve been a long-time fan of The Sims series (although I skipped out on The Sims 2—personally I didn’t see much of a difference from The Sims 1). There’s been quite a bit about The Sims 3, however, that has caught my eye, such as a seamless playing field and the ability of full customization when it came to designing your house and your furnishings. I recently took the plunge and bought The Sims 3 and its two expansion packs, totaling at $110. Short of wondering why half-assed expansions were priced at $30 each, I shrugged it off, hoping that the customization would pay itself off. Well, it did. What didn’t were the numerous complications just to get to that point.

As you can guess, I am not all that thrilled with EA, especially considering what happened to my last CD drive when I decided to buy the Spore Creature Creator. While I was a defender of the draconian systems of DRM that EA enforced, my opinion changed quite quickly after I bought the Spore Creature Creator and my CD drive ceased to work. I would eventually have to run through regedit to delete the DRM registry keys just so it could work again haphazardly—it still wouldn’t play any EA-distributed game (like Crysis). I eventually purchased a new CD drive. The entire experience was proof enough that EA had set to stage a way to kill the PC industry—punish the PC gamers by driving them away from buying computer games altogether, thus encouraging piracy.

Still, that didn’t stop me from getting The Sims 3. That itch got the better of me and I decided to splurge. What followed was obviously a bad decision. I spent an hour and a half installing the base game and its expansion packs, only to then attempt to start it up and not be able to, as the launcher would proclaim an error and the direct executable to the game also yielded another error. I eventually discovered the culprit—it was the DRM. Apparently EADM (EA’s download manager, which is actually a mask for an always-online DRM manager) didn’t update correctly during the installation process, and since it could not authenticate my game, it would create bogus errors. I found this out from thousands of other people who had the same problem as I did—EA, on the other hand, gave me the canned response, which was, “You did something wrong, it’s your fault, try and reinstall the game.”

Reinstalling the game didn’t work. I had to eventually manually install an EADM update and then trudge through text files to change the updates so the game could recognize that I was, in fact, up to date. Six hours later, I was finally able to bring up the launcher. Notice how I said bring up the launcher and not play the game. When I tried to press the “play” button, the launcher would crash. Apparently I still hadn’t updated the game to a point where EADM would let me play the game (my bad—I thought updates were optional, but I keep forgetting we’re dealing with the Gestapo here). So I followed through and eventually got into the game. As I said before, The Sims 3 is a solid continuation of the series (especially considering the last one I played was the very first game), but for $110, I expect to be treated as a customer and not as a criminal.

I got some free 1,000 odd points for the online store. I got some items for free, curious to see what difference it had in loading times. Despite being marketed as a custom content safe haven, The Sims 3 slows down to an atrocious rate to the more custom content you have installed in the game. Loading times can go up in minutes if you download a house from the Exchange that is using a bunch of custom swatches on furnishings and wallpaper. So when I deleted the items to test loading times and went back to the store to redownload the items, I found out I couldn’t. That’s not to say you’re not allowed—you certainly are, as the option is available if you’re logged into your account. It’s just that the items never actually download again. I’d click the redownload button numerous times but to no avail. Again, yet another problem numerous people experience, and, as you can guess, EADM is the culprit once more. EA’s canned solution? Reinstall your game.

Perhaps the worst part to this experience is what exactly happens when you download custom content that’s on the exchange. I’m talking about custom items in this case. Apparently nothing good comes from it. There was a phenomenon with an item that was a child’s doll that was included in some houses from the Exchange. An update to the game would eventually flag the item as a no-no for EADM and it would be recognized as something that was cause enough for EADM to not let you start up your game. People had to (you guessed it) reinstall their games and wipe their save files just to be able to play The Sims 3 once more. This is on top of the crashes you’ll experience in the game without the help of EADM, such as the saving crash (so pretty much every time you attempt to save the game you run the risk of the game crashing and losing all of your progress anyways).

So color me curious. I “own” the three games now, so I decided to sail the seven seas and check out what the pirated version was like. Most developers like to spin tall tales of how pirated copies of their game are more buggy, glitchy, or have missing parts to the game that won’t let you progress. But after playing the pirated version of The Sims 3 and its two expansions, I can say that’s a load of shit. Without the terrible EADM acting as Big Brother, it took one installation for the game to work. That was it. And since EADM is deactivated, you can put in all the custom content you want into the game and not worry about it being flagged as a “no-no” item.

At this point I’m wondering if it’s just better to simply pirate the single player games I buy and never touch the purchased copy other than to use the CD key (at which point the pirated copy is rendered to a legitimate copy anyways, except you don’t have to deal with DRM). If there is one thing EA has proved through the experience, however, it is that DRM does not work. It does not help them protect their precious investments. EA is not hurting from piracy—Spore and The Sims 3 have been the PC sales chart toppers in the past two years. So why continue the sham? Why continue to punish your customers? Why continue to overload your customer service department from thousands of people flooding the lines with complaints that are directly tied to DRM? Short of the greed excuse, EA could just as well stop being gigantic corporate asses and go back to their measures beforehand this garbage about a declaration of war against piracy (a war they will never win). At which point they would STILL sell their games in the frequency they are seeing now and probably then some more, as gamers like me wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not my legitimate copy of their product will mess up my computer or not.

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

10 Responses to Pirated games work; legitimate copies don’t

  1. Lonethar says:

    I have heard stories like your many times and I find it funny that this is something that companies still defend. You actually made this point before if I recall because after I looked into it myself. (This was in your Spore blog I believe…?)

    Amazing! All I can say is how do people even put up with these measures when it MUCH simpler to just go another route?

    • Agamemnon says:

      Yeah, about the CD drive specifically in my Spore review. Felt it was worth mentioning again, considering EA hasn’t changed one bit. But this just goes to show that they are still giving ammunition to people to continue to pirate games out the wazoo if this is what legitimate customers have to face.

  2. Avelives says:

    Good to see your still alive and raging against the corporate machine Aga, Im from way back on flagshipped.com in case you dont recognise the name. So this is where you are hiding out these days, and Lonethar as well. Will have to check by from time to time, I always enjoyed reading your articles.

    As for DRMs they are the devils work, they are a perfect example of the close minded approach that the suits and money men have to business ventures. The few modern examples which exist generally prove that if you treat your customers well and with an Iota of common sense they will not pirate games nearly as much as games developers like to think.

    Indeed as you point out most DRMs simply make people look for pirated versions. I think there is another agenda as well, its no huge revalation that many games nowadays are released in a substandard half finished state compared to years ago with Devs employing a release now patch later mentality first seen in MMOs that now seems to have infected most SP games as well. This is another reason for the DRMs, they know more and more people dont trust new releases and get pirated versions to test out before they buy (with good reason in many cases) and they stupidly believe that DRMs will scare people into not doing that…

    Personally I avoid any game with a draconic ‘always on’ DRM unless its called Diablo3 in which case I may make an exception.

    • Agamemnon says:

      Hey there Avelives. Project_XII is still writing as well, although he’s on gameriot.com. Hopefully he’ll get out of there soon enough and start doing his own thing as well.

      Personally I don’t think there is a game today that doesn’t have some sort of DRM, but few are as restrictive as EA’s approach. My last grace with this was GTAIV when it was on sale on Steam. Not only is Steam itself a DRM service, but you also needed 1) to register for a Social Club account with Rockstar just to launch the game and 2) you needed a Windows LIVE account to “sign in” to play the game as well. It wasn’t until a) the game was fully updated, b) the registration with the Social Club went through, and c) I had updated Windows LIVE to its current version that the game finally did not crash to desktop when I launched the application.

      Personally, to me, gives me all the more ammunition to continue to pirate the games that I purchase. Not only for the avoidance of DRM and wanting a copy that works, but also because you can cheat to your heart’s content in single player (I had to heavily mod GTAIV before I could use a very powerful in-game trainer, and because I have, I face having my Windows LIVE account being banned if I even dare to enter multi player). The third reason might be one every PC gamer can sympathize with–sometimes a game’s demo does not accurately represent what the full version offers, or, in most cases, there isn’t a demo at all. And every single electronic’s store’s return policy is, “You open it, you can’t return it.”

      The video game market simply continues to exist without caps and regulations and the people that benefit the most from it are the publishers. DRM is just one more step to try and ensure the highest profit revenue as possible. And note I say profit revenue, because nothing is lost in a pirated copy other than a potential sale. No goods are “stolen,” thus production costs are not negated. As Spore proved, if people enjoy it, they’ll go out and buy the game (Spore had a 1:1 ratio of purchased to pirated copies).

  3. Avelives says:

    Yeah Ive said Hi to Project before but I believe the gameriot site has gone the way of the dodo now with Sol no writing his own blog (seems he couldn’t be bothered running the site anymore to many spambots and whatnot)

    Myself Ive considered doing a games blog but I feel so disenfranchised with the PC gaming market nowadays that honestly I barely play any new games at the moment. Go back about 6 or 7 years and earlier and I would never have considered pirating a game, maybe Im naive but my perception of the games industry back then was that largely speaking the PC games market was a much more varied place and the developers had alot more integrity, unbound as they were from the pressures of big corporate machines.

    Back then development houses often created labours of love, even when they sucked you felt it had been created with good intentions. Fast forward to now and more and more buying a PC game feels like the equivalent of going to a rough area downtown, pulling down your trousers, bending over and waiting to see what happens. Theres so much money in gaming today that its become a purely financial pursuit for most developers and they have little concern for their legitimate customers as long as they make their money, perhaps it was always like that and I just never saw it, who knows…

    DRMs are just the first step towards the future for developers, it wouldnt surprise me at all if in a few years most games require constant internet connection and all files are saved on secure servers to prevent any piracy at all. If they can get away with they will, I swear its one of the reasons so many developers are falling over each other to make MMOs.

    My solution was to buy a PS3 :)

    In other news have you witnessed the utter fail that continues to follow Bill Roper around since his new role at Cryptic studios began, by sheer coincidence (im sure) his arrival happened at the exact time that two promising MMOs became huge piles are poo. It beggars belief the man can still find a job.

    • Agamemnon says:

      Yeah, we all had a good laugh when Roper and Sulic both got hired on to Cryptic. Project and I joked about how the job interview went:

      Cryptic: So I see it says you were the CEO of a video game developer. Flagship Studios, correct? Could you tell me about that?
      Roper: Well, I run around production time and money and threw it vastly into marketing, which fell flat on its face. I then drove the company face-first into the ground because I didn’t know what I was doing and even ended up not paying some of my employees once the company was going defunct.
      Cryptic: I see…and why in the world would we want to hire y–
      Roper: I worked for Blizzard.
      Cryptic: You’re hired!

  4. LeQuack says:

    Still wish there was something that could be done about those digusting parasites (talking the pirates that just pirate because they’re lazy bastards), but it looks like DRM has gotta go.

    • Agamemnon says:

      Piracy will never stop, no matter how hard the industry giants will try. And they have been trying real hard in fact–so hard that it’s been hurting legitimate customers. Although it appears people are smartening up and realizing online authentication is a pretty good way to go–I just wish they weren’t all choose Steam as their host.

  5. Cricri says:

    Reminds me of Gears of War for PC: I bought a legit copy with my hard cash, only to find out that I couldn’t get it to work. After much frustration, I got a hold of a pirate copy on a tip, and sure enough, it worked great. Lesson learnt: yeah, I’m not going to spell it out for you, and if I did, a SWAT squad you come down crashing my door within the hour.

    • Agamemnon says:

      It’s always great to read stories about people that run chip modding services out of their home are often retrieved that way–by tactical assault teams expecting Osama Bin Laden hunched over with tweezers over a very dangerous-looking Xbox 360. I wonder how long it will take before things like this will simply be the video game industry’s first baby steps to being taken seriously and to coming under different law that would need to apply to more than just movies and shows as the same “problem” as pirated video games.

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