C&C Labs News Wire

— Thursday, October 23, 2008 —

Posted By: Blbpaws at 1:02:14 PM ET

Red Alert 3 DRM Update

RA3 Exec. Producer Chris Corry sent out an update on the RA3 DRM:


It feels like there's still some uncertainty swirling around our plans for Red Alert 3's PC copy protection. I want to clear the air and explain what you can expect when the game ships on Oct 28th. I know there's a lot of detail here, but I think that's what many of you are looking for, so please stick with me.

DRM and why we need it
Software piracy is a really big deal for the developers of PC games. We work for years, putting our soul into making software and it breaks our hearts to see it pirated. Imagine going to work every day for two years to create something special, only to see it stolen. Copy protection may not be a perfect solution, but we can't sit back and do nothing. The copy protection in Red Alert 3 helps strike a delicate balance between protecting ourselves from casual piracy and allowing players the flexibility to enjoy the game on multiple machines.

No disk required
Here's one thing that is unambiguously cool about Red Alert 3: you do not need the DVD in your drive to play the game. Install the game on your machine and then put the disc away in a safe place – you won't need it again unless you want to install it on another machine. All of the game content is placed on your hard disk, which helps make loading times fast and video playback smooth.

Authorization limits
Red Alert 3 comes with no installation limits whatsoever. You can install and uninstall the game on as many machines as you want, as many times as you want. But you are limited to five authorizations. So what's an authorization? The first time you actually run the game on a machine, we will authorize that machine. If you reach the authorization limit, the game will not run on a new machine. If you make major changes to the computer (switching out multiple pieces of hardware, install a new OS, etc.) you might need to reauthorize the machine. This is quite similar to what other commercial applications do.

Just give us a call...
Most importantly, and I really cannot stress this enough, we are not going to leave you hanging. If you had a run of bad luck, some hardware failures, a botched OS install, your notebook was stolen, you spilled a coke on your keyboard – you get the idea – and all five of your authorizations have been used up, just give us a call. We'll work with you and provide as many additional authorizations as are appropriate.

...Or do it yourself
It's not going to be ready in time for the game's release, but we are working on giving you the ability to deauthorize machines yourself. In a future Red Alert 3 patch, we plan to provide you with an easy way to remove the authorization on a given machine, freeing it up for use on a different computer. Now we don't know how long it will take to prepare this feature. We are shooting for the end of the year but we believe that it's much more important to implement it correctly than to rush it out the door. And while it's true that being able to deauthorize your machines doesn't address those rare “act of God” scenarios that wipe out five authorizations all at once, it will be very easy to move an authorization from one machine to another under more typical circumstances.

Looking Ahead
A few weeks ago I installed an original copy of Red Alert 2, released in 2000, on my work machine. I don' t know if the authentication servers will still be up and running 8 years from now, but if the previous C&C games are any indication, we're going to be playing Red Alert 3 for a long, long time to come. Knowing this, once the game has lived its natural life and the risk for piracy has died down, we plan to patch the copy protection out of the game. We don't have any preconceived ideas about when this will occur, but when we decide to decommission the authentication servers we will first make a patch available that will disable copy protection from the game. I think this will come as a relief to many of you; it does me.

I know that some of you will disagree with this approach, and again, I understand where you're coming from and really do respect your position. The development team is extremely proud of Red Alert 3 and I want all of you to have the chance to experience it for yourself. I hope you'll give us the chance.

This is a reasonable position for EA to take, given the current climate of DRM. It is my belief that DRM does absolutely nothing--nothing--to slow down game piracy and that advertizing certain games as "unhackable" because of their DRM has spurred people to hack them. With that said, given the position the C&C team is in, I don't think they could unilaterally decide to not use DRM at all, given the climate at EALA. Once it's been conceded that DRM will be used, this is a reasonable form of DRM to use. It doesn't change the issue, clear in my mind, that DRM isn't effective and shouldn't be used (and if you are one of those people who will boycott buying the game because of the DRM, then that's a decision I respect). 


I will go on the record now about the deauthorization tool and the decommision of authentication servers and express my doubts. The former sounds too much like the non-existent and overhyped Generals Ladder Kit to me, and the latter sounds like a dumping of all game support.

Last edited by Blbpaws on Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 11:23:45 PM.