Gears Of War DRM Makes It Unplayable As Of Yesterday

from the drm-in-effect dept

It’s almost getting silly to post these examples, but it’s yet another reminder of how much damage DRM can do to legitimate customers. The latest victims? Purchasers of the PC version of Gears of War. Paul Brinker points us to the news that due to a digital certificate expiring, PC players of the game have discovered that it no longer works. The only solution? Set your PC clock back to a date prior to January 29th, 2009. Once again, it’s a scenario where the DRM did nothing, at all, to stop piracy — but did plenty to annoy legitimate customers.

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Comments on “Gears Of War DRM Makes It Unplayable As Of Yesterday”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Umm...

You’re wrong Dan, on several counts.

First this IS a case of DRM. Most video games these days do have some form of DRM, and they all punish the legal owners of the game and do nothing to stop piracy like they are supposed to.

Also, it was not Microsoft’s coding that affected the Zune. That issue hit several other MP3 players as well because they all use a portion of code done by a 3rd party that screwed it all up.

Easily Amused says:

Re: Re: Re: Think about it...

Before you go tossing names like ‘Jackass’ around at people, you should try to answer your own question…
No crack is 100% perfect, since they try to hack out as little of the code as possible to get the game unlocked. The fact that the cracks don’t stop every bit of DRM BS from phoning home still proves the software IS phoning home. The entire concept of offline games needing to contact home servers to allow the user to play IS DRM.

Simply put, no DRM means no phoning home, means no fucking broken games for paying customers.
Is any of this getting through or does it just sound like an adult from Charlie Brown talking?

Anonymous Coward says:

This has EVERYthing to do with DRM. The fact that a company plants code in a product you purchased that will break it and make it unusable is appalling. I don’t understand why there isn’t a consumer protection law against this practice. What if your microwave stops working after X amount of meals heated, or Y number of times its been unplugged from the wall? What about your car? How would you like to get stranded on the side of the road because the car manufacture had a built-in device to disable it if they found out you had bought the car second-hand? I for one would be quite angry.

We get upset when we hear terms like ‘planned obsolescence’, in other words, engineering in a way to make the product fail after to long in order to get customers to buy the product again… why aren’t more people up in arms about this obviously morally reprehensible practice of adding a ‘self destruct’ mechanism to your legally purchased products?

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t understand why there isn’t a consumer protection law against this practice.”

This is America the land of, for, and for the benefit of the corporation. The consumer is simply a revenue unit who’s sole purpose in life is to provide corporations with revenue. Of course corporations have NO obligation to provide you with anything of value and can take anything they “loan” you back on a whim.

Xiera says:

I just don't understand, I guess

I guess I just don’t understand how people continue to think DRM is okay. It’s completely illogical.

Normal, logical people go through each day realising that there are just some things that they cannot control, specifically things involving other people or “acts of God”.

Some industries, however, refuse to accept this simple fact. So, go ahead, charge for your music or your game or your movie, but do so realising that people, if they want to, WILL be able to get it for free. Besides the argument that this does not always equate to lost profits, it’s just a fact of life — some things ARE beyond your control.

It’s easy to get around this in some industries, such as online gaming. Guild Wars is a great example of this — they give away their client for free and you buy an account. (who makes Guild Wars) has no control over their client, but has complete control over the accounts on their server. (Granted someone could try to reverse engineer their server, but the result is buggy gameplay.) Here, you’re paying for the service, not the product.

(Note: maybe DRM started from this concept but devolved because people refused to acknowledge that some things are beyond their control.)

Offline games don’t really have the ability to charge for a service, so they need to count on people being willing to pay for the game. I guess the game manufacturers of offline games don’t have to accept the Law of Controllessness (awesome word, by the way), but, like gravity, that doesn’t mean it’s not the way things are.

Josh says:

Whether or not you consider this a bug in DRM code, or whether or not you consider digital signatures to be DRM, this is still a failure of DRM that stops legitimate purchasers from playing their legitimately purchased game.

The bug in the code or digital certificate is an _extraneous_ function that is not required for the actual function of the software: playing the game. If the game was coded without this feature, it would not detract in any way from playing the game. It is not a bug in the UI, or graphics, or installer, or pick your choice. It is part of something added to (fruitlessly) try to restrict what can be done with the game.

DRM = Digital Restriction Management

anymouse says:

Sheeple accepting that they aren't really purchasing a product

“why aren’t more people up in arms about this obviously morally reprehensible practice of adding a ‘self destruct’ mechanism to your legally purchased products?”

The sheeple are being worn down to the point where most of them have come to accept the fact that when they give their money to a company, they aren’t really ‘purchasing a product’ but only ‘renting a license to use the software’, which is where the Corporations want things to be….

I suggest consumers start including ‘CFLA’ (Corporation Funding Licensing Agreements) with all payments, in such a way that accepting the payment binds them to the licensing agreement (similar to the way we have to accept the terms after we have purchased the ‘product’). The Corporation Funding Licensing Agreement could be designed by the same lawyers who come up with the wording for EULA’s that consumers are stuck accepting, but the basic principle would be that end users are not exchanging our funds for a limited license, we are only licensing the corporations to USE our funds as long as we receive the benefits of the item we ‘purchased’. If the product we have stops providing the benefit that was ‘licensed’ to us (due to failures in DRM, servers being shut down, changing format, planned obsolescenec, etc), then all funds we have ‘licensed’ to the corporation are forfit and have to be returned to the consumer.

If we aren’t really buying a product, but only licensing the use, then why should we actually be giving them funds, when we can just license the use of the funds to the corporation for the duration of the license they provide to us? It would never happen, but I’d love to see the faces of the corporate exec’s if it ever did….

Dan says:

For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

Directly from Microsoft:

Digital Certification

One of the primary goals of a digital certificate is to confirm that the public key contained in a certificate is, in fact, the public key belonging to the person or entity to whom the certificate is issued. For example, a CA might digitally sign a special message (the certificate information) containing the name of a user, Alice, and her public key in such a way that anyone can verify that the certificate information message was signed by no one other than the CA; the CA thereby conveys trust in Alice’s public key.

The typical implementation of digital certification involves a signature algorithm for signing the certificate. The process goes something like this:

1. Alice sends a certification request containing her name and her public key to a CA.
2. The CA creates a special message (m) from Alice’s request, which constitutes most of the data in the certificate. The CA signs the message with its private key, obtaining a separate signature (sig) in the process. Then the CA returns the message m and the signature sig to Alice; the two parts together form a certificate.
3. Alice sends the certificate to Bob to convey trust in her public key.
4. Bob verifies the signature sig using the CA’s public key. If the signature is verified, he accepts Alice’s public key.

As with any digital signature, anyone can verify, at any time, that the certificate was signed by the CA, without access to any secret information. Bob needs only to get a copy of the CA’s certificate in order to access the CA’s public key.

A certificate is valid only for the period of time specified by the CA that issued it. The certificate contains information about its beginning and expiration dates. The CA can also revoke any certificate it has issued and maintains a list of revoked certificates. This list is called a certificate revocation list (CRL), and is published by the CA so that anyone can determine the validity of any given certificate. [/quote]

If you wanna read the whole thing:
You could also look it up on Wikipedia.

I repeat, this is not DRM. All commercial software does this.

Monarch says:

Re: For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

Sounds like a form of DRM to me. Requiring a certificate key to function, falls into the perfect definition of DRM. And NOT all commercial software does it. Only commercial software that has minor DRM. I remember a day when NO commercial software had certificates, unless they were for some type of secure login issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

It most certainly does not!!! I still have software I use from 8 years ago. Also the software that I help produce only has a license key. Which I also consider a form of DRM. However only have a key is to an acceptable form of DRM because as long as you remember your key you can always install and USE your the product.

I think even Steam’s online model is still a form of DRM. Why a lot of people accept this is beyond me. I won’t buy any PC game that has DRM in it.

Dan (another Dan) says:

Re: For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

The big issue here is not if this should be called DRM or not.

The issue is, “Why is this code even in there??” It isn’t necessary. PC games play just fine without Digital Certification. What exactly do they need to certify?

If it’s not DRM, tell me what exactly they need to certify. That it is genuine software? That would be DRM. To cerify ANYTHING implies management by definition.

Twinrova says:

Re: For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

“I repeat, this is not DRM. All commercial software does this.”
Wrong. Not all commercial software does this and helps define the scope of DRM.

Any time, (and I mean ANY time) a user has to “confirm” a key with a server, it’s DRM. It’s securing the rights of the user to the server.

If you can not clearly understand this concept, please stop arguing until you learn more. DRM isn’t just about piracy protection.

Great software doesn’t include DRM. No communication with the server (only to register the product), no “lockout” features of any kind (regardless of a bug or not), and it’s low cost-easy access.

Only Corporate America places such heavy restrictions on its software to screw over everyone, not just pirates.

The day you realize this, the day you understand why pirates do what they do.

Dan says:

Re: Re: For everyone who thinks this is DRM...

It isn’t confirming anything with a server. The certificate is encoded into the software. Your computer is doing the locking to protect itself against malicious code. There is no server communication, whatsoever. Maybe if you’d read all of the posts before making your own, your ignorance would still be hidden away from the rest of us.

zcat (profile) says:

two ways 'around' DRM

There are two ways that ‘pirates’ can get around DRM..

1) Using a keygen approach, which means the game still has the DRM code intact, but thinks it’s a licensed copy.
2) By disabling the DRM code entirely. The software doesn’t check for keys at all.

When software gets ‘cracked’ it usually gets cracked several times by different groups, who may use either approach. In the first case, any ‘defect’ in the DRM code that affects legitimate customers also affects the ‘pirate’ version. In the second case, the ‘pirate’ game continues to work while the DRM version doesn’t. This explains why some ‘pirate’ copies are affected and others are not.

dale surrett says:


Years ago I bought a copy of Half Life brand new. After I got home a found out it used something called “Steam”. This means that I have to go through Steam to play the game I bought and paid for. It had some issue with the sound card or something and would only play about a quarter of the way through.
A few months ago I tried to install it on my current computer. I was told by Steam that the game was already activated and I couldn’t install it.
I would advise everyone to stay the hell away from any game that has “Valve” or “Steam” anywhere on it.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:


A lot of people don’t like Steam, and they have good reasons.

Contrariwise, while I can’t comment on your particular situation, I have to say that I’ve re-installed Steam on several computers over the years and never had any real problems with the licensing. Or the DRM if you prefer.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that you’re trying to re-license the current version, unaware that once licensed, you only need your account and password. Throw your old computer into the trash, install Windoze on a new computer, install Steam, give it your old account and password and it will remember who you are and what games you’ve purchased and will download the content for those games from their server. The only thing you’ll lose is your settings. Obviously you can keep those by copying your old files over (assuming you still have them or took care to back them up).

When I bought HL2 on disc it integrated it with my current license (after asking), then the same when I bought The Orange Box (I think I did that online) it did the same, and even knows I have a spare copy of HL2 and will let me give it to somebody else.

No scheme is ever perfect, but Valve has done a lot to make Steam as painless as possible. Personally I think they’ve done a good job, and while I’d prefer DRM didn’t exist at all, Steam is a decent job.

Sorry if your experience was a bad one. Personally I suggest you give it another try; even if you’ve lost your login information, the original key should let customer service help you recover your account.

MHO, YMMV, not affiliated in any way except as a more-or-less satisfied customer, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mark Rein, VP of Epic Games has weighed in..

“The problem is not related to DRM.

The online cheat detection features in Gears of War for Windows are based on digital signatures. Well, we made an embarrassing mistake: we signed the executable with a certificate that expired in a way that broke the game.

We’re working with Microsoft to re-sign the binaries properly, and hope to have this fixed very soon. We know how much this situation sucks, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

In the mean time a work-around for this is to set your computer’s date back to a date before today.”

Rekrul says:

Thank you. Not DRM. Happens to be anti-cheat.

To all you mother fuckers, eat it.

If this is strictly an anti-cheating measure, why does it prevent the game from loading at all rather than simply disabling online play?

Years ago I bought a copy of Half Life brand new. After I got home a found out it used something called “Steam”. This means that I have to go through Steam to play the game I bought and paid for. It had some issue with the sound card or something and would only play about a quarter of the way through.
A few months ago I tried to install it on my current computer. I was told by Steam that the game was already activated and I couldn’t install it.
I would advise everyone to stay the hell away from any game that has “Valve” or “Steam” anywhere on it.

Are you sure you’re talking about Half-Life and not Half-Life 2? I bought a used copy of the Half-Life Game of the Year Edition that also came with Opposing Force and Team Fortress Classic. As I recall, it insisted on installing a version of Steam, but it was only meant for online play. I played through the entire game and Opposing Force without ever signing up for anything online.

The first Dan says:

Re: Re:

Anti-Cheat is invasive software. It has to be certified as not malicious by a specific authority and have that certificate coded in so that your computer will run it no questions asked. But if you miscode the certificate, in this case the valid dates, the computer won’t allow it to run. So it is definitely either MS’s or Epic’s fault, but sometimes a bug is a bug. That doesn’t make it DRM. My original point that got me flamed so much (and I responded in kind) was that the article mislabels this as DRM. As for pirated copies, I know that there are several pirated copies that don’t work for the same reason. If you have a copy that does work, maybe the actual DRM was circumvented in a way that bypassed the certificate check as well. I’m sorry that things got out of hand earlier, but a lot of comments seemed to be replies from people who either did not read my whole posts or just fail at reading comprehension.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:


Depends on what it’s for. If its purpose is to keep people from playing who aren’t properly licensed, it’s a form of DRM, even if it’s not called that. If its purpose is ONLY to prevent cheating at the game, then it’s not. No reason it can’t be both, though. Valve reserves the right to cancel my account if I’m caught cheating, for example.

But if it accomplishes the former, and you think it’s not DRM just because it isn’t called DRM, or because it also has other functions, I think you’re being naive.

Rekrul says:

Platforms like Steam seem to be a good idea, where they can authenticate the game against your account. If there was a method like this (and appropriate pricing), I would use that instead.

The remembering who you are part is ok, but the rest of it is bad. Your ability to install and play a game depends on being able to connect to Valve’s servers to activate that game. What happens if you want to install the game on a system that’s not connected to the net? Oops, can’t do it.

What if Valve goes out of business? Sure, that looks unlikely now, but the game industry is full of companies that looked like they could do no wrong, who made a couple bad choices and disappeared. Yes, I know they’ve promised that if they ever go out of business they’ll release a patch to get rid of the activation, but unless they’re willing to put that in writing, it’s not worth anything. If the company starts going down the tubes, they’re going to be cutting costs and laying people off, not assigning people to the project of making sure that users can play their steam games offline. And what about all the patches that Steam force-feeds its users? Each one will have to be made stand-alone so that they can be downloaded like a normal file and then run on a retail copy of the game. Will they have permission to do this for all the third-party games they “sell” through Steam?

What if Valve gets bought by a larger company like EA or Activistion? Are they going to insist as part of the deal that the new company uphold that same promise to the users? Given what usually happens when one company buys another, there probably won’t even be any of the original Valve staff left after five years or so. Is whatever faceless exec who is in charge of the parent company at that point, going to honor the promise Valve made, when he decides to dump support for all the older games because they’re not making as much money as their new titles?

Not to mention that Valve has the ability to de-activate every single game you’ve “bought” through Steam if they think you’re doing something they don’t like. Search the net and you’ll find stories from people who have had their software collections rendered useless by Valve for trivial reasons. According to Wikipedia, Valve deactivated the account of anyone who had bought a (legal) copy of The Orange Box from outside their region. Valve and Steam used to support Windows 98/ME, but they dropped support for it in 2007. I’m sure you’re thinking “So what? Most companies dropped support for them long before that.” True, however Steam’s dropping of support was retro-active. Any games that used to work on those Windows versions stopped working. That means that at some point in the future, they could simply decide to drop support for XP and all your games would stop working unless you switched to a newer version of Windows.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that a company can just deactivate a working game on a whim, pisses me off. If I pay for a game, it goddamn better work for as long as I have a system capable of running it!

Brian (user link) says:

DRM Sucks

Well first of all I don’t really know all that much about DRM except what I read here and on Wiki. For the life me I can’t understand how the pc Version of one of the best selling Xbox 360 games that is just over 2 years old could have a license expire already. They just dropped Part 2, I would think that the license would have at least a 20 year License if not longer. How many people still play Gears 1 and how many people got 1 just to catch up for gears 2. I would hope the 360 version is different but who knows how can you really trust it. I am having problems with Vista and DRM for 2 months now and people who have tried to fix had it working but it gets messed up. I use to be able to watch burned movies now I can’t. I try to watch lets say American Gangster it will work and then try to watch The Dark Knight it will say a problem with copy protection and then pop in American Gangster again and it won’t read the disc at all. Wait a few days and It will play again. Appears any movie I bought from Blockbuster will play but any dvd bought after 2007 Won’t play. They told me that it would cost me a ton of money to figure out the issue, Go figure I spent $1200 for this laptop Christmas 07 just over a year old and they said it will cost at least $350-$500 to fix it. I ain’t buying nothing with DRM anything.

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