Cracking the code

Theodore R. Griffiths
Staff Writer

Video game piracy has been a debated practice in the PC gaming community for years. This has resulted in the creation of complex counter-measures like always-on DRM (Digital Rights Management) or simplistic actions like access codes. While access codes are an accepted reality when you purchase any PC game, the always-on DRM has created public relations nightmares for Blizzard and EA with their recent releases of Diablo III and SimCity.
Most people look at video-game pirating as a modern practice, but it actually started in 1982 with the release of the Commodore 64. The games for the Commodore 64 came on cassette tapes (like that old Bob Seger tape that your dad played on repeat) so pirating was simple if you had a twin-deck tape recorder. The modern process is a bit more refined, but a lot more complicated.
Games today need to be “cracked:” hackers deal with the process of online authentication and the need for a physical copy of the game isn’t there anymore. Sometimes hackers are even successful at cracking games with always-on DRM, allowing a game that required a constant internet connection to be played offline, which was the case with Diablo III.
I don’t exactly condone pirating, but I understand the practice and the reason for its popularity. I approve of mass pirating only in cases like Diablo III and SimCity, when the gamer is subject to the efficiency (or lack thereof) of a company to keep their servers stable and running.SnLUI8K
The SimCity launch was a nightmare for anyone who pre-ordered the game or bought it on launch day without reading reviews before their purchase. Most players were in a constantly refreshing 30-minute waiting area because the server couldn’t handle the high volume of users. The launch of Diablo III less than a year earlier had the same issues, and should have been a warning to EA before they shipped a broken game.
Gamers lost their patience and a similar sentiment was shared by everyone who purchased the game: “If I spend my money on a game, I should be able to play it wherever and whenever I want.” While the problem of always-on DRM has yet to be solved within either Diablo III or SimCity, the pirating community took the problem into their own hands.
Within a month of the release of Diablo III, a brand-new crack allowed gamers to play their copy of the game (or a pirated version of course) offline. This was all that the people who originally purchased Diablo III wanted, yet it required an anonymous hacker to fix the problems that should have been addressed by Blizzard.
Blizzard stated that the always-on DRM was to prevent cheating and piracy, but in doing that they alienated an entire section of gamers who never even think about taking a game online and play video games for an immersive single-player experience. When Blizzard tried to prevent piracy with this DRM, they actually forced certain players to endorse piracy and steal a game that they would have gladly paid for in the first place.
EA is now in a similar position with SimCity and, while they stated that they would consider an offline mode, those rumors have been proven false, leaving myself and a lot of other fans of the series waiting for an offline crack. My sentiment is, there is no reason for a required Internet connection for a game that I will absolutely never take online. EA lied to everyone when they explained that SimCity offloaded calculations to EA’s servers, which would have been a valid reason for DRM, but then a developer who worked on the game explained that the servers are not handling any of the computation. That sounds like EA’s already-tarnished reputation being destroyed.
When I spend $60 on a video game, I expect the experience to be my own, not what the company who made it tries to impose on me. I don’t want to interact with other people online because when I sit down to play a video game it’s to unwind and forget about the horrible people I had to deal with all day. I don’t need a 12-year-old child screaming in my ear about whatever he did to my mom last night, and I sure don’t need to be connected to the internet to play a single-player RPG. Give us our seclusion and we’ll stop pirating your games.