Racing Game Developers Sacrifice Playability On The Altar Of Anti-Piracy, Deliver Laggy Mess To Paying Customers

from the delivers-true-to-life-'driving-while-having-a-seizure'-experience! dept

The endless battle against videogame piracy is mostly composed of Pyrrhic victories and self-sabotage. The suckers who actually paid for the software tend to receive most of the abuse while pirates not only avail themselves of hefty discounts, but games uncrippled by mechanisms meant to defeat them.

PC gamers who have gotten their hands on a copy of Forza Horizon 3, an open-world racing game, are finding that the game's DRM is turning their high-speed thrill rides into far less entertaining slideshows.

According to a post on the official Forza Motorsport subreddit, a user by the name of dkhavilo discovered that his CPU performance was being heavily consumed by something called EFS while playing the VIP Access version of Forza Horizon 3. EFS, otherwise known as Encrypting File System, manually forces Forza Horizon 3 to constantly de-crypt relevant files during normal gameplay – a mammoth task for a driving game based around exploring an open world environment at breakneck speeds. The game is simply too big and too complicated for the DRM software to keep up, even on platforms featuring a Solid State Drive compared to the traditional Hard Drive storage systems, and as a result Forza Horizon 3 runs like shit for all but the most ridiculously powerful home computers.

It just wasn't enough for the software to "phone home" upon boot up, or perform periodic checks in places where it might not inconvenience players as much -- like menu screens or online lobbies. Instead, it appears the EFS-based DRM is decrypting nearly every single asset the software uses during gameplay. Players with decent gaming computers are reporting frame rates as low as 10 FPS -- not exactly the sort of thing that helps convey a sense of speed.

This is happening to players who wanted to experience the game before its general release. $20 gets players "VIP" access… and a host of DRM issues. And that's just an add-on. The game is only available in bundled editions that run from $60-100. That's a lot to shell out for a game that thwarts pirates by becoming unplayable for paying customers.

The company has responded, but in less than useful fashion.

We are aware of in-game stuttering issues that have been reported by the community on certain configurations on PC. We have some performance improvements coming in the next update, but in the meantime if you're having problems we would recommend to try to allow the game to set the default video settings to see if it improves your experience.

So much for the advantages of PC gaming. Build a rig to your specifications and company reps tell you to use bog-standard settings to keep from being tripped up by anti-piracy and anti-hacking asset checks. If gamers wanted a one-size-fits-all gaming experience, they'd have settled for the console version. And there's no guarantee that will work. The problem has been linked to on-the-fly decryption of game assets, which isn't going to be solved in all cases by using default video settings.

There's a fix on the way but it's tough to see how the developers are going to get around built-in asset checks that run through Windows EFS. There's no easy "switch" to turn that off. While I understand developers are concerned about software piracy and cheaters/hackers ruining the online experience of honest players, there's simply nothing to be gained by irritating those who've spent perfectly functional money on deliberately-broken software.


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  • identicon
    s8, 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:04pm

    Cracked in 3....2......1..

    And once again, a cracked version will appear online within' days/hours that will have the DRM and phone home stripped and the "pirates" will own a far superior version than those who paid for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:12pm

    EFS -- soon to be a cheat!

    Somebody's gonna just replace EFS on Windows with a little null encryption adapter...but only for the pirates!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:26pm

    When will companies take the hint? Blizzard insisted on making Diablo 3 need to pull stuff from their servers, and forced you to update to play even the single player. Then they stopped supporting my OS. They even added a line to their "supported systems" page saying you may have to update your OS to play them game, but that wasn't there when they originally released it. I asked for a refund and they refused. So I will never buy another game from them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Hans, 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:43pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 29th, 2016 @ 5:26pm

      "When will companies take the hint?"

      When a sufficient number of people vote with their wallets.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:26pm

    god i so want to post about this in /r/pcmasterrace just to see those smug nazi bastards dissemble trying tell me how this is still such a better experience.

    But that would mean posting in /r/pcmasterrace.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 5:05am

      Re:

      Hey, considering some of the crap that other people let 'games companies' get away with, and as a member of that specific subreddit, I think you missed the point of it - to mock anti-intellectual bullshit that comes out of companies.

      This is one of those things that should be mocked mercilessly for beaing stupidity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 5:53am

      Re:

      they can get the cracked version without drm. boom roasted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 7:05am

      Re:

      Well, actually, this really isn't anything against PC's or their capabilities. But rather shitty Devs doing shitty things, again shitting on the PC platform. From bad ports,to devs that don't care, to scaled back end results (I'm looking at you The Division, and GTA4 Port off the top of my head) unfortunately the PC platform continues to suffer because of the forced exclusivity of the "console wars."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        SoulForge, 30 Sep 2016 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        The devs don't do this. Publishers add this kind of garbage later on most of the time.

        Most game devs will tell you this kind of bad shit will happen and it is a horrible idea.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      They'd actually tell you EFS is shit for not letting them play at 60fps, not claim this is better.

      Unlike politicians, they do at least have some reliability.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 29 Sep 2016 @ 8:07pm

    We made this great game. Suckiness brought to you by Copyright!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 9:29pm

    been there, done that.

    Launch of DarkStar One. Bought the game, installed it, couldn't play it. Ended up having to pirate a german version, then patch english language on top of it, then crack it to play my legally bought game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 9:49pm

    They should be forced to play their own game on regular systems.

    One often wonders if any of the top people are forced to deal with what the end consumer gets, and if that disconnect is the issue.
    Playing the dev version without the shit DRM that game looks amazing to the CEO, but having never seen the system choking because you made a left & it has to decrypt 200 bushes before you can move forward is the only explanation.... because if they played the choking end user experience they still shoved out the door they should be fired.

    This is another massive fail by a big publisher, and eventually players need to just stop buying crap to get better treatment. If you want better treatment, vote with your wallet, stop giving them money because in 15 patches they might get it right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radix (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 10:00pm

    Am I reading this wrong, or does this have nothing to do with DRM? EFS means you've encrypted your HDD, which is completely independent of even installing the game, let alone dealing with whatever copy protection they are using.

    This sounds more like the game has a shit-ton of small graphics assets that need to be loaded on the fly, and if the HDD is encrypted, that adds a lot of overhead. It can almost certainly be mitigated by installing to an unencrypted partition.

    I may be way off base here, if the DRM is encrypting files rather than the OS, but if that were the case, I would expect the issues to show up in many more PC configurations. I have a hard time seeing that getting past QC. It's much more likely that they either didn't test the game on an encrypted device, or at least not one at the lower end of recommended hardware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2016 @ 10:48pm

      Re:

      From what I can tell at a glance, the problem isn't that users have their HDDs encrypted of their own will. The problem is that the game itself takes advantage of EFS to encrypt it's files, presumably to make life difficult for hackers and pirates, as there isn't really any other reason to encrypt game files. The result is that every time the game needs to load something from the hard drive, it first has to decrypt it. So people's computers end up split between running the game, and decrypting a bunch of things for it that use AES256 encryption.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:12am

      Re:

      "EFS means you've encrypted your HDD"

      No, it doesn't. You can encrypt single files and folders with EFS.

      "I have a hard time seeing that getting past QC."

      Generally speaking, DRM is normally applied very late in the development process, and usually against the opposition from those who develop and QA the game. It's more likely a management decision that's been applied against the wishes of those who know what they're doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    plonked plonker, 29 Sep 2016 @ 11:33pm

    rejuvinated scrum wood

    i have never bought a game since moving to linux 10 years ago as the companies refuse to support any other operating system but winblows. sucks to be them. i therefore have never given them my money even though i would in a heartbeat for the games i used to like to play. but if they did move to linux and do this the whole community wouldnt just call them out on it they would illegally fork the entire game as we already paid for it and we want to play it. as it is now we have as a community made some games work by programming a file to make these windows games work in some cases. not many but.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 7:58pm

      Re: rejuvinated scrum wood

      but if they did move to linux and do this the whole community wouldnt just call them out on it they would illegally fork the entire game

      That's hard to do with closed source. Not necessarily impossible, but hard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:29am

    I was going to buy this one, but given that my PC is mediocre at best and having now read that I'll be avoiding it until such time as this issue has been resolved. Well done DRM!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 5:08am

    This kind of crap will continue as long as gamers continue to open their wallets.

    In other words, this crap will continue indefinitely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 6:48am

    Meanwhile pirates are feeling none of it. Win?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 30 Sep 2016 @ 7:54am

    I wonder if the game mags get a DRM free version. They all were fawning over this game.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/08/09/forza-horizon-3-is-mind-blowing-in-4k

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      Possible, or it could be that they were using machines powerful enough that they could run it even with the DRM without too much hassle.

      But yeah, I'd say it's more likely that they got DRM-free copies, 'to give the best impression'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:07am

    DRM hurts people who pay for games/music/video/software... DRM does not hurt people who are called "pirates".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:38pm

    Guess what game I won't be playing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 4:51am

    And this is why I stopped buying PC games when the DRM insanity started.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 1:58pm

    Simple answer. DRM/EFS etc has to be in from day one of development.

    It'd take 10 years longer to build even a simple flappy bird clone if the programmer was fighting DRM all the way.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 2 Oct 2016 @ 8:25pm

    "We're sorry that you're experiencing less than satisfactory performance from our software. Please try updating your video and audio drivers to the latest versions and defragging your hard drive, and see if that fixes the problem."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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