Rime, or, When DRM Gets in the Way

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Rime, or, When DRM Gets in the Way

The issue of protecting copyright in video games has long been a problem, much in the same way it's been for movies. One of the more recent developments in video game protection is digital rights management (DRM), but what happens when DRM actually gets in the way of a good time? Reports suggest that Rime is the latest to suffer from this development, though there's already controversy brewing.

It wouldn't be the first time that DRM got in the way--many like to reference the SecuROM incidents here--but reports suggest that the Denuvo DRM used to protect Rime from content thieves is actually slowing down the game's performance.

Strong accusation, but one with a little research behind it. One of the crackers that broke through the DRM included some evidence in a readme file, noting that Denuvo protection was calling for anywhere from 10 to 30 triggers every second during gameplay to authenticate the game. Sounds like a lot, and sounds even more like a lot when compared to several other triple-A titles like Prey, Nier and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, which called for about one or two triggers every few minutes.
So we're talking about a system that is, at minimum, calling for somewhere around 36,000 triggers in the space of six minutes compared to games calling for maybe two to four triggers in that same space. Just the math alone makes this look patently ludicrous and wondering why in the world Rime is calling for the equivalent of Tower of London protection when most every other game on the shelves is okay with fireproof safe under the bed-grade protection.

Naturally, this is a development both the game's maker and Denuvo itself emphatically deny, which is no less than anyone would expect from such a development. After all, no game maker or DRM maker in his or her right mind is going to get up in front of gamers and say "We deliberately sabotaged your gaming experience in order to prevent hacking. We don't care, we don't have to. What are you gonna do about it, scrub? Pirate our game? You already bought it!"

A Denuvo spokesman went so far as to say "Prior to release, we performed benchmark testing on the protected vs. unprotected versions of Rime. There was no performance impact on the version that is protected with Denuvo anti-tamper vs. the unprotected version."

That's a statement that's just weasel enough to be true; after all, if you ran the game on equally poor-quality computers for benchmark testing, you likely wouldn't notice the difference between one catastrophe and the other.

Still, considering that many gamers are reporting performance increases after Denuvo departed Rime, including improvements in both load time and frame rate issues.

Look, we all know how important DRM is, but when it starts getting in the way of a gaming experience, that's not the time to issue indignant press releases swearing up and down that DRM isn't a problem. DRM often IS a problem; just ask anyone who's tried to play an old game that doesn't have an instruction book any more. While most wouldn't fault DRM if it checked at the rates Prey and Nier did, 10 to 30 times a second sounds ludicrous.

There has be be a better solution than this; if DRM keeps getting in the way, that's going to send plenty of players to cracked versions without DRM. And if DRM doesn't work, then what's the point, other than to keep gamers who already wouldn't pirate games on a reservation that's actually painful by comparison.

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