2K Games new release “Bioshock” is great, but I won’t buy it because of DRM.

As a fan of System Shock and System Shock 2 I was very excited to learn about BioShock as it was described as being the spiritual successor to the two previous games. I downloaded the demo using Valve’s Steam service last night and played it through and was looking forward to getting my hands on the final release sometime soon, perhaps using any birthday money I might end up with after Saturday.

Then I caught wind of how BioShock brings with it some rather onerous DRM software. Apparently it uses something called Securom that in addition to requiring an active Internet connection to install the game, apparently only allows for two installations of the game before refusing to install. It seems the Securom software takes a snapshot of your hardware and then ties your CD key to that hardware and has a hard coded limit of two installs regardless of whether or not your hardware changes between installs. This can be a problem for someone like me who tends to restage his PC regularly to keep it running at peak performance and it has set the 2K Forums aflame with complaints from fellow angry gamers.

According to 2K Games this shouldn’t be a problem so long as you remember to uninstall the game prior to restaging your PC, but what if your PC is in no state to do an uninstall beforehand because of hardware failure? What if I make some changes to the hardware or buy an entirely new computer rather than just reinstalling it on the same PC? What if I want to sell the game after having played through it transferring the license in the process? What happens if Securom goes out of business and shuts down the servers that handle the registration process? Or just decides the game isn’t popular enough to keep the servers up any longer? Don’t really know because the folks at 2K Games aren’t responding to these questions so far.

It gets even worse, though. The makers of the DRM are so paranoid that they’ve designed it so it will not run the game if certain perfectly legal and legitimate Windows tools are running such as Microsoft’s Process Explorer:

I wrote SecuROM the following email:

    would like to know why your company has implemented functions in your SecuROM protection software for detection of Microsoft’s Process Explorer (specifically its kernel driver PROCEXP100.sys) and if detected the software fails to run.

    I have this problem with the C&C3 game, in which I bought and installed a legit copy, although it will refuse to run if Process Explorer has been loaded and its driver into memory.

    It is very difficult to deal with this since there are only 2 solutions:
    1. Unload the driver by restarting the computer everytime you want to play while not loading MS’s Process Explorer.
    2. Install a rootkit on your computer to hide a specific Kernel module drivers. (Easier said than done)

    I am just wondering why you have your software set up in a way of refusing to run the actual code from the developer if a legit tool like Microsoft’s Process Explorer is loaded.
    You might as well have it install a low level keyboard filter driver to prevent any user from press Ctrl Alt Del to bring up the standard windows Task Manager.

    I can see how you would be concerned with various exe debuggers, but why a task manager? How does this pose a threat to your security routines?
    Do you plan on ever fixing this, or will you continue to block more Microsoft’s tools to better manage your system or corporate network?

    In my opinion this kind of security restriction just promotes others to bypass functions and subroutines in the packed security executable (via methods of debugging and disassembling the code), by use of debuggers,  just so others can continue to have a stable system and clean of malware.

    I really think you should provide a security patch to your SecuROM software allowing various [currently blocked] and LEGIT Microsoft tools to run in the background so one can better manage how the system operate.

    In truth, do you really think someone who bought the software and has a legit copy is going to try to “hack and bypass” security options by use of Microsoft’s monitoring tools?

Here is their response:


    ‘Process Explorer’ has dumping capabilities as well as registry monitor / file monitor capabilities. This could be used to trace the behavior of SecuROM.

    Therefore, we do not allow the game to start when this software is active.

    We have no immediate plans to allow this software in the future.

    Best regards,

    SecuROM Support Team
    SecuROM on the web: http://www.securom.com
    or via e-mail: support@securom.com

That is just stupid, “trace the behavior of SecuROM” many apps can monitor data.

I’ve had BioShock on my wish list for quite awhile now, but I just took it off because it’s not worth the hassle. For $50 I expect to be able to install it regardless of whether or not I have an active Internet connection and I expect to be able to reinstall it as many times as I wish. The sad part is even the version available through Steam is plagued with the same DRM limitations in spite of the fact that Steam itself already limits you by its very nature. Needless to say this is yet another example of how a company’s attempts at curbing piracy only punish the folks who legitimately purchased the game and, in fact, encourages those same legit users to turn to the pirates to play the game they’ve paid for. When you treat your customers like thieves they may end up behaving like thieves.

I’m very disappointed by this as I was seriously looking forward to playing this game, but the DRM is a deal killer for me and I don’t own an Xbox 360 to play it on there. The sad part is that it doesn’t appear to have stopped the pirates as there’s already several iterations of the game on the various BiTorrent sites for both the PC and the Xbox 360. Whether any of them are actually successful cracks I don’t know as I’ve not downloaded them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were successfully cracked already. Either way there’s already a flood of people who have either dropped plans to buy the game or are intending to return their unopened copy as a result of this idiocy. I’m one of them.

26 thoughts on “2K Games new release “Bioshock” is great, but I won’t buy it because of DRM.

  1. But don’t you see? That’s the beauty of DRM.

    Anything that can be used to monitor its use is perceived as an attempt at cracking the DRM. Unfortunately for them, that isn’t going to stop anyone.

    Creating a security system through which one has to perform certain actions to get something to work is akin to waving a flag at a bull, a challenge.

    Every time they create something hack-proof, adversity makes better hackers. I may be preaching to the converted here, but I felt like rambling.

  2. The sad part is even the version available through Steam is plagued with the same DRM limitations in spite of the fact that Steam itself already limits you by its very nature.

    Man, that seems pretty asinine in spite of the half bottle of wine and 4 beers in me right now.

    I mean, seriously, it’s Steam.  How can you go about faking that shit?

  3. I picked it up and installed it yesterday not knowing any of this nonsense. Now I almost wish I hadn’t. What a bunch of bullshit. Once I purchase a game, it becomes my property to do with as I wish. This is some Windows Vista shit is what this is. Only two installs? Are you kidding?

    Perhaps, though, 2K Games will hear the screaming and do something about it.

    Is it just me or is the whole “Games for Windows” thing ruining PC games?

  4. Too bad 🙁 I never played Half Life 2 because of their Steam crap, and this is much worse.

    Well, I can live without that game. Apparently they don’t want me as their customer. Good job at shooing away potential buyers.

  5. This has been around for ages on expensive software, I have encountered it in (the former) Macromedia’s Studio and Adobe’s CS2, and it is a real hassle. On one computer I installed CS2 on, it kept demanding reactivation because it thought the hardware had changed (it hadn’t).

  6. It’s just getting ridiculous and the only ones suffering are the honest users. That’s the part that kills me about all of this. If it were actually stopping the pirates I could see the sense in it, but it isn’t. All it’s doing is pissing off the people who actually spent their money on it.

  7. I wonder if renaming Process Explorer’s executable will fool it, say pe.exe.  PE doesn’t use any custom DLLs, so it may work.  If not, maybe you could edit PE’s executable with a hex editor to change obvious strings to less recognizable ones.

  8. Woah, I was considering buying the game. There is no way I’m going to now. I’m always upgrading and I also have a bunch of developer tools on my machine as well.

    I have had really bad experiences with SecureROM games I have purchased in the past. I’m not really looking for a repeat.

    ps. Les, you are a maniac. You have been posting a staggering amount lately. I especially loved the WoW videos. Hilarious.

  9. I just looked at Gamespot and low and behold:

    BioShock PC launch short-circuits

    Installing BioShock on a PC requires a user’s computer to connect to 2K’s auto-patch servers before the game can be played, something made impossible for some time today when the 2K servers crashed. 2K’s own forums were alight with disgruntled BioShock buyers who were prevented from playing the game due to the required connection. As of publication time, 2K’s official Web site was timing out, as was the BioShock Cult of Rapture site.

    I would think this has to do with the SecureROM and not patching.

  10. An update:


    Great game. After reading this thread, I’m not sure really what the fuss is about over the authentication issues. Who here needs to install the game on more than two systems at once? I’ve had zero issues with my PC’s performance after install. Maybe I’m naive about DRM, but this just seems like a lot of whining over nothing. Oh well, someone will release a crack soon and then everyone here who is concerned about their security and privacy (and wallet) can download that mystery file and see what happens.

    Les, do yourself a favour and buy this game soon. You’re going to love it. It was definitely $50 CAD I do not regret spending at Futureshop.

    Oh and btw, I’m running it on XP, not Vista. It looks and sounds rad. The DX10 optimizations are optional under Vista. I hope more games come out like this.

  11. Slightly better news here…

    With a swathe of announcements sure to send shockwaves reverberating throughout the BioShock internet community, publisher 2K Games has replaced BioShock’s initial limit of two simultaneous PC installations with what community manager Elizabeth Tobey calls a “5 by 5 plan.”

    Under the new terms, users will be able to install the game on up to five computers, with the ability to reinstall the game on each computer up to five times. 2K will release a “revoke app” that should address issues resulting from the original limitations.

    Nah, still sux.

  12. rgjp, the issue isn’t how many PCs I can install it on at once rather it’s how many times I can install it before it refuses to install. At the most there’s one other person in my family that might like to play the game and even if I could only install it on one PC at a time we’d just wait until I finished the game and then move it over. There’s also the matter of the game refusing to run in the presence of other legitimate applications such as Microsoft’s Process Explorer. I’m a tech support guy. I have that installed. It’s a legal and legit application. The folks at Securom have no right telling me that a game I’ve paid money for won’t be allowed to run because they don’t like some of the legit apps on my PC.

    Spocko, those changes help but only address two of the issues people had. It still does nothing about Securom blocking execution if there are apps it doesn’t like installed on your PC. At the least, however, the Revoke app they’re putting out is a big help for people who restage often. I’ll give them kudos for that. I may consider buying the game once a crack is out that kills the Securom of if they ever release a version for the PS3. Until then I’ll hang onto my money.

  13. Incidentally, it turns out that the demo also installs the Securom crap on your PC so if you’ve played the demo you’ll need to clean out the Securom from your system.

  14. According to Wikipedia:

    [The Bioshock demo] creates a number of registry entries which are undeletable even with full administrator rights on Windows, short of a reformat

  15. In the bigger picture, it’s an ever-escalating battle for control over PCs, i.e. personal computers. It’s not just the game vendors, think Microsoft…

    From my point of view, it’s really quite simple. If the vendors don’t trust the users, then why should I trust the vendors? Their DRM shit has a proven potential to mess up the whole OS and to introduce security vulnerabilities and I don’t want any part.

    I haven’t done much game playing in recent years, but I’m not going to open my wallet unless I’m satisfied I’m not paying for the privilege of installing malware.

    As far as 2K is concerned, they can stuff their “5 by 5” plan. I used to re-install games more than a few times years down the road. Any kind of limitations to how often I can re-install and the very dependency on a vendor remaining in business and/or not pulling the plug on activating a specific game is not acceptable to me.

  16. Interesting stuff. Somehow Bioshock doesn’t seem like the tipping point for a world where DRM takes over our computers and we cede control to software publishers. Even XP has online activation, no? Are people not used to this kind of thing by now?

    I feel your pain, Les, on the fact that Process Explorer excludes you from enjoying the game. Perhaps it’s time for a work computer and a gaming computer existing separately in your household. $$$, I know.

    Funny, I used to care about this stuff more back when I couldn’t afford to actually buy games. The crack will come. It’s a single player game anyway, it’s not like you folks are falling behind the curve in online play, so all there is to do is wait.

    BTW I played Bioshock for like 8 hours yesterday.

  17. *nod*  I am quite familiar with Steam and many of its flaws, both real, imagined and overblown.  I was hoping that Mr. Steam Crap himself would expound on his terse statement.

    Mostly was curious which of the above flaw categories his antipathy fell under.

    With regards to Bioshock, whether 2 or 5, there is no limit on reinstalls which I find acceptable.  Ditto on any piece of software attempting to dictate the contents of my RAM.  Bizzare that companies keep trying this when even half-assed casual software pirates will have a cracked version running in less time than it takes to drive to the software store and back.  Only those who actually shell out real money for the product get probed from behind by the restrictions. 

    I get tired of being a broken record on this subject, but when have copy protections ever been anything more than an annoyance to legit users?  *grumble*  From code wheels to install keys to back plane dongles…enough!

  18. I am yet another person who purchased Bioshock (on its release day, too), only to read about the DRM woes a couple of days *after* I purchased it. And now I’m feeling the Securom sting. Today I installed a new hard drive – and *BAM* Securom thinks I have a completely new system. It’s such a fantastic game and I want to see it through to its conclusion, but I now have a rather sour taste in my mouth. I’m going to have to use up one of my precious reinstalls because of a hardware “upgrade”. And what will happen the next time I want to modify my system? Will I have to resort to cracks simply to use a piece of software I paid for?

    Prior to my getting this new hard drive, I was a little cramped for space on my computer. It would appear that enormous disk drives will soon become a necessity – people will be too afraid to uninstall software out of fear that they may not be able to re-install them at a later date.

    This may very well be the last time I purchase a piece of software on its launch date. The next game I’m really looking forward to is Hellgate: London, and I was planning to get that one on launch day as well. Although now I think I’ll wait a week or so.

  19. Hi everyone.  Here in South Africa internet is very expensive, and not everyone can afford it.  Thus games like Bioshock will not be a best seller here.  Our internet charges per month is about $80 and trust me, it is more off than on.  Bandwith is also very limited.  The $80 per month is when you signed a 2 year contract with a company.  BUT one thing about South Africa is piracy.  Bioshock will only be released in two weeks time here, but the pirated version with no online activation allready arrived.  So guess which one I am going to buy tomorrow.  SORRY 2k, but you guys never keep to your release dates in our country, also I WILL NOT go through all that DRM shit.  It is pathetic.  Does 2k really think piracy can be stopped?  The funny thing is the more they try to stop it, the more they make the legal users suffer.  Then, legal users buys the pirated versions because of the crack and availability.  It is a shame 🙁

  20. ok, im not 100% positive but im petty close, i use a laptop made by ASUS, not ACER, ASUS, and its a gaming laptop, but anyways. i have been having trouble with bioshock as well, it would run the banner, and then every 1 out of 20 or so times i ran the game, it would actually not freeze. ive been reading your guys bitching, and instead of adding more about what i want done, which i did think about doing, and i agree totally with everyone who says down with securoms bullshit computer KGB, yea well anyways i think i might have a bit of a problem solver for those who run the game on vista, if you go into the games game file and do the following it should run like it was intended to, no wait i take that back, it should run like it would if 2k hadnt gone with the pain in the ass shit streak of all copy right protection, anyways, change the games privy level to run as admin, and then allow it through your firewall, or internet anti virus and whatever else could possibly inhibit it from running, i just did this while watching burn notice…excellent show, and to my surprise it ran not once, but twice in a row and im about to run it a third time

  21. i bought c&c3;from a company called woolworths
    due to the lots of comp gear i have around the house ive mis-placed the game, have since replaced the windows but have the original files,
    i dont have my key is there a temporary way i can play it while i have a look for my original key to put into a prebuilt reg key?

    http://www.megagames.com or http://www.gamecopyworld.com
    they usually have game cracks like no tomorrow

  22. Pingback: Games I’m Looking Forward To: “BioShock Infinite” | Stupid Evil Bastard

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