Pirated games work; legitimate copies don’t
June 17, 2010 10 Comments
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.