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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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 7:56pm

    Re:

    I'm guessing the QA all happens before the DRM is added.

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