Security clearance of some kind in order to obtain
a game is not DRM.
Security clearance of some kind in order to install
a game is DRM.
First of all, I typed this up before I saw Lerker's awesome distillation of the issue. I tip my hat to Lerker.
Below is the criteria, or "smell test" if you will, of what constitutes DRM free software/games for me. I'm sure there are probably some holes in it, but I welcome challenges, so I can tweak my rules to cover something I may have missed.
I got sucked into this thread after I too purchased a game from GamersGate that was listed as DRM free, only to find out that it requires a phone home routine every time I install it. Bah!
The term "software" is used to refer to software titles, the content of those titles, and the essence of the software's purpose for existing. In this context, it refers to video games, defined by how the games are advertised to intice purchase, and their content solely created for entertainment value. It also includes any additional software or mechanisms which are meant only to facilitate the use of the software, such as installers.
The term "company" is used to refer to any entity which is involved in the creation, distribution, sale, or as a rights holder of the "software", or is in any other way involved in bringing the "software" to market.
Once the "software" is in my possession, whether in digital only form or physical media, I should be able to walk away from the "company", without having any further dealings with them, if I so choose, in perpetuity, without this choice impacting my ability to use the "software" in any way, shape or form (without violating the law), at any point in the future. A notable exception to this rule is listed below with **.
The "software" should not include, as part of its required installation, any additional software or mechanism that has a purpose other than that for which I originally purchased the "software", or for which the "software" could conceivably operate for its primary intended purpose without such additional software or mechanism. And the "software" should make no modifications to my computer system(s) outside that which is required to deliver said primary intended purpose.
The "software" should be designed to comply with rules 1 and 2, in such that I do not have to intervene in any non-intutitive manner, such as delving into temp folders to make copies of transient files, or obtain any 3rd party components that are not packaged and sold with the "software" at the time of purchase, such as patches, No-CD executables or other so called "cracks".
** Games or game modes that are online only, such as pretty much any MMO, seem to violate rule #1, however, this experience is integral to the operation and essence of the game. For these types of games I would say the argument of DRM is "not applicable".
- Software phoning home every time I install it violates rule #1 for sure, and probably #2 as well. It forces my contact with the "company", without which the game won't install. And it facilitates this contact with a mechanism that is clearly not designed for the intended primary purpose of the game. Verdict: NOT DRM free!
- CD check at runtime violates rule #2. Clearly, software intended to make sure the disc is inserted, even when the game is fully installed to the hard drive, isn't part of the reason I purchased the game in the first place. Verdict: NOT DRM free!
- Steam, Impulse, etc. violate rules 1 and 2. I'm required to have contact with the "company" every time I start, play, download, or install a game, that is, for games that require the client. I'm unable to do any of these tasks without the respective software client platforms, none of which are part of the essence of the game. Verdict: NOT DRM free!
- GOG games do not violate any of the above rules. 'Nuff said. Verdict: DRM free!
I want to add that I am not trying express any opinion about whether DRM is good or bad, or which DRM is acceptable or unacceptable. I'm only attempting to distinguish what I think does and doesn't qualify as DRM. It's pretty clear to me.