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M.E. takes a hint from E.T. and decides to phone home more regularly

While Xbox 360 gamers have been able to enjoy Bioware's action-RPG title Mass Effect -- and all the innuendo and controversy surrounding it -- since November 2007, PC gamers will only receive their first taste of Commander Shepard's interstellar adventuring and Captain-Kirk-esqe taste for alien romance later this month.

That is, assuming their computer can not only meet the modest system requirements, but also remain connected to the Internet for the mandatory authorization check that occurs upon installation and every ten days thereafter.

That's right, fellow PC gamers -- it seems that the complaints and furor that surrounded Bioshock's irritating activation scheme have been taken as a "how-to" rather than something to be avoided. Bioware marketing employee Chris Priestly has posted the grisly details on the official Bioware forums, and it isn't pretty for those who only have sporadic connectivity:

Q: What happens if I want to play MEPC but do not have an internet connection?
A: You cannot play MEPC without an internet connection. MEPC must authenticate when it is initially run and every 10 days thereafter.

Q: What happens if I install and activate MEPC with an internet connection, but then do not have an internet connection after 10 days? Can I still play MEPC?
A: No. After 10 days the system needs to re-authenticate via the internet. If you do not have an internet connection you will not be able to play until you are reconnected to the internet and able to re-authenticate.

The discussion thread on the Bioware forums has grown rapidly, with several members voicing their distaste to various degrees of subtlety -- some even openly declaring that they will pirate the game rather than buy it, simply because it will be less of an inconvenience.

In addition to the game routinely phoning home, the SecuROM copy protection will also enforce a limitation of three "activated" installations of the game -- any copies installed beyond this will require a phone call to EA Support. For those who recall the server issues during the initial launch of Bioshock, EA has addressed this with no small amount of confidence:

Q: There were some problems with authentication servers for games like BioShock. Is EA ready for the influx of MEPC players? Will we be able to play our games when we get them home?
A: Yes, EA is ready and we are confident there will be no server problems. EA has assured us that they have their authorization systems and customer support staff in place and ready for the launch of Mass Effect for PC. Anyone having issues with getting the game activated will be able to contact EA Support and get their problem resolved.
Gamers of the world will have to wait until May 28th to determine if EA remains true to their word, or if they will be forced to eat them.

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RE: DRM again
By robinthakur on 5/8/2008 8:31:50 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the downloading would be pretty brisk on my connection, and any amount of inconvenience in playing a game is too much for me i'm afraid. That's why I also own consoles. At the end of that download time, I would be able to play the game as I saw fit, not as EA want me to, after I've purchased the right to play it and forfeited my right to a refund.

I don't want to be prompted to uninstall Daemon tools/Nero etc just because EA deems that its possible to use them illegally as well as legally. Nor do I want the game phoning home every 10 days. I don't have to justify why I don't want it to do that. Who honestly would? Ea Servers are no more reliable than any other servers and how long will they keep them in operation? What happens after this period, does the game become unplayable? If EA has a server problem, does this mean that you can't play your game if it chooses to recheck that you aren't a thief at exactly the same time as the outage? Will this require reconfiguration of my firewall to play one game?

Not being funny, but as with most anti-piracty systems, this will not inconvenience a single person that steals the game through downloading it, because this securerom system will be the first thing which gets ripped out by the release group. However, it will annoy and antagonize the living snot out of legitimate purchasers and for that reason only, its a terrible idea.

The Result? Fewer people will buy the game. More people will download it. Publishers see this and stop putting resources into developing PC games. PC Gaming 'dies'. There has always been alot of piracy on PC. The only new thing is the fact that genuine purchasers are the ones being discriminated against. I will be amazed if they sell more copies of this versus people downloading it...

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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