Some portions of the Internet are ablaze today, as the news of how the protection schemes used to stop people from bootlegging Mass Effect and Spore on the PC will work has come out. Most of the reporting sites are tracing the news back to Derek French, a technical producer at BioWare, who posted the info on EA's plans to use SecuROM in both releases.
"Mass Effect uses SecuROM and requires an online activation for the first time that you play it. Each copy of Mass Effect comes with a CD Key which is used for this activation and for registration here at the BioWare Community. Mass Effect does not require the DVD to be in the drive in order to play, it is only for installation.
After the first activation, SecuROM requires that it re-check with the server within ten days (in case the CD Key has become public/warez'd and gets banned). Just so that the 10 day thing doesn't become abrupt, SecuROM tries its first re-check with 5 days remaining in the 10 day window. If it can't contact the server before the 10 days are up, nothing bad happens and the game still runs. After 10 days a re-check is required before the game can run."
So not only will you need to be online to activate your copy of the game, you'll also have be online at least once every ten days to prevent your copy from deactivating. Now, I'm sure most of you out there planning to play either game will probably be doing it on machines that are always connected to to the internet, so it's probably not going to be a hassle for most players. But that doesn't exactly make it right, either.
Personally, I'd feel a lot better about protection plans like this if they actually worked. But these days, that stuff doesn't even seem to slow down the cadre of shady dudes looking to crack software and set it free for the bootleggin' masses. So the pirates still win, and all we're left with is a protection scheme that annoys legitimate users. Well... at least they aren't using Starforce, right?
So I put it to you, the people out there actually playing PC games in 2008. You're always complaining when consoles get games first, or bitching about how PC games are getting dumbed down for "the console kids." But can you really blame developers for turning to consoles, when putting out a PC version isn't much different from just releasing your game for free, and your effort to protect your investments with a protection scheme is met with forum posts about how dudes are going to boycott your game?
What would you do to reverse this? How much over-your-shoulder spying are you willing to put up with to stop pirates from torrenting the market for single-player PC games out of existence?
My solution: Everyone who purchases the game must submit a photo containing the person who purchased the game, one photo ID for said person, the receipt for the game, and a newspaper with today's date on it. Every five days. Oh, wait, that's right, I wanted you to try to make this easier. Never mind.