PC game DRM has been the hot topic of late with both GDC and the FTC’s DRM conference going on.
PC games developer Stardock announced earlier this week that its forthcoming update to its digital distribution platform, Impulse, will include a new DRM solution that from first impressions appears to be consumer-oriented and the least invasive of all schemes we’ve learned about so far.
Stardock calls the technology Goo, which stands for Game Object Obfuscation. Goo allows developers to encapsulate into a single file their game executable into a container that includes the original executable plus the “Impulse Reactor” virtual platform.
According to Stardock’s claims, to activate a “Goo’d program,” the owner must enter in his or her email address and serial number which associates the game to a user rather than to a specific computer. After that first validation, the game never needs to connect to the internet again.
While Stardock has a history of not putting DRM on its games for the sake of giving its true supporters the easiest experience possible, the developer does have a responsibility to its business partners who wish to sell their games on Impulse.
"One of our primary goals for Impulse Reactor is to create a solution that will appeal to game developers while adhering to the Gamers Bill of Rights," said Brad Wardell, president & CEO of Stardock. "Publishers want to be able to sell their games in as many channels as possible but don't want to have to implement a half-dozen 'copy protection' schemes. Game Object Obfuscation lets the developer have a single game build that can be distributed everywhere while letting gamers potentially be able to re-download their game later from any digital service. Plus, it finally makes possible a way for gamers and publishers to transfer game licenses to players in a secure and reliable fashion."
Both Microsoft and Valve recently detailed their own new anti-piracy methods. Microsoft’s aims to stop pre-release games from leaking onto the internet, and Valve’s ensures that only the original owner of the game but no one else can make use of the executable.
Goo can perform both of the above functions, and goes one step further in consumer-friendliness. Stardock lists three key differentiators of its Good, which are as follows:
- There is no third-party client required. This means a developer can use this as a universal solution since it is not tied to any particular digital distributor.
- It paves the way to letting users validate their game on any digital distribution service that supports that game. One common concern of gamers is if the company they purchased a game from exits the market, their game library may disappear too. Games that use Goo would be able to be validated anywhere.
- It opens the door to gamers being able to resell their games because users can voluntarily disable their game access and transfer their license ownership to another user.
Like it or not, DRM here to stay for games. Sure, the music industry may have dug itself out of the DRM trenches, but the gaming industry is hitting a different set of problems. On a positive note, companies such as Stardock are looking for the DRM solution that doesn’t harm consumers who rightfully purchase the game, which hopefully means the end of any Spore-like fiascos. Goo will launch on April 7.