Friday, March 11, 2011

Not A Banner Day For EA Or BioWare

You've been hard at work on the sequel to what many people consider to be the best RPG of the past decade.  Time to sit back with a cold beverage and watch the accolades roll in, right?  Not if you are EA and BioWare.

First came the news this morning that copies of Dragon Age II seemed to contain SecuROM, a much-maligned security program that comes dangerously close to being considered a rootkit.  The problem is that this was not mentioned anywhere, and in fact BioWare a fortnight ago stated that SecuROM would not be used.  In fact, EA are enjoined (prevented) by court order from using SecuROM in any game without fully disclosing it, this one of the terms of the settlement arising from the shitstorm with Spore's draconian DRM a few years ago.

Then on top of that came a story that EA had banned an individual on the BioWare forums, but that that ban had in turn locked him out of playing all of his EA games, including his newly-purchased copy of Dragon Age II.  His crime?  Reportedly he posted (to BioWare), "Have you sold your soul to the EA devil?"  Clearly something that warrants a 3-day ban from all EA forums (including BioWare's) and all of your EA games, right?

The individual, going by the nickname v_ware, had his ban confirmed by Stanley Woo, a BioWare employee, as well as by an unnamed BioWare moderator (who refused to comment further, according to RockPaperShotgun).

Once the story started being picked up by sites such as the aforementioned RPS, Eurogamer, Kotaku and others, EA swiftly slammed on the brakes and reversed course, rescinding v_ware's forum ban and his EA account ban and restoring access to his (fully paid for) games.

Apparently it was all a big misunderstanding (as these things so often are, of course).  Now it was "an error in the system" that banned not only his BioWare forum account but also his entire EA account and prevented him from playing the games that he had, quite legitimately, purchased.  The fact that this "error" only came to light after a substantial portion of the gaming press had picked up the story and run with it, was mere coincidence.  No doubt he would still have been unbanned even if he hadn't publicised the situation to anyone who would listen.

So on a day where we should have been paying attention to more interesting things, such as this snazzy new trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, we instead get bogged down dealing with crapfests like this from EA and BioWare.

While I appreciate their apology and withdrawal of their ban, I do not believe it would have happened without the microscope that the gaming press provided for most of the day, and that EA capitulated as a direct result of this negative attention.

The SecuROM issue may be more problematic to fix, since EA are under a court order whereby they are compelled to fully disclose any use of SecuROM (and in this situation did not); violation of this court order could be considered contempt of court, with all of the seriousness that that entails.

So what have we learned?

Large corporations make mistakes, and shining a torch on those mistakes is a good way of trying to get the situation resolved.

Oh, and obeying court orders is for squares.


BioWare have responded to the SecuROM allegations and stated that DA2 does not contain SecuROM.  What it does contain is a release-day check that has many technical similarities to SecuROM, but isn't actually SecuROM itself.

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