DRM Issues Spoil Steam Holiday Sale

By Chris Faylor, Jan 02, 2009 10:37am PST

Some of those that recently bought GSC Game World's S.TA.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky and Egosoft's X3: Terran Conflict were temporarily unable to activate and play those games, due to reportedly resolved problems with the TAGES-run authentication servers.

Both games utilize TAGES DRM to enforce a 5-machine activation limit, and received a resurgence of attention as they were featured in the Steam Holiday Sale. The promotion saw 10-75% discounts on games sold via the PC digital distribution service.

Upon attempting to run either game, first-time players were told that they needed to activate their copy with a serial number. Some attempts were met with a network timeout error, while others, such as Shacker Stucky_101, report they that had no problems.

The issues began cropping up en masse between December 26 and 31, going by two separate threads on the Steam forums. The problem also spawned a lengthy thread over at the offical X3: Terran Conflict forums.

The problem was reportedly resolved as of this morning, as both Shacknews and many posters in the Steam thread were able to successfully activate S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky.

Though most of the complaints stemmed from Steam users, it is thought that the server issues affected all new buyers of the above games, with the Steam Holiday Sale bringing the issue to the attention of more Steam users than normal.

The issues have caused many to question the need for third-party DRM on Steam, which is itself a form of digital rights management as players must sign-in at least once to download and activate their purchase. Only certain Steam-sold games feature third-party DRM, with a game's publisher ultimately deciding if it will sport third-party DRM.

Both S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky and X3 were self-published on Steam by GSC and Egosoft, respectively. Ubisoft is another DRM-utilizing Steam publisher, while EA surprisingly removed DRM from its Steam offerings when they debuted in December.

Thanks to Shacker Bulaba0 for the tip.

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  • I bought X3: Terran Conflict a few months ago, and had NO PROBLEMS with TAGES. And for those complaining about the DRM, and the 5 reinstalls, don't. After a year of the games release, they'll release a patch that disables it completely. So unless you know that you will install the game onto 5 computers, or reinstall it 5 times within a year, which is not going to happen for most people then I'd say you don't have anything to worry about. TAGES is NOT STARFORCE.

    Also, I do enjoy the game, though it has a few audio glitches which is probably due to some of my codecs interfering with what the game preferrs to use. The game is VERY sensitive to codecs, so check out their forums for more advice. Other than that, I'm fine. Also, according to a bunch of people from the X3:TC forums, a bunch of the 8x00 cards from Nvidia seem to have some performence issues that they're looking into. My 2900XT works fine, and slows down only when a lot is going on, or if I decide to turn up SETA to 10x. Granted, it slows down at about 5x, but I'd say it's still pretty good for an older ATI card. It's no 4870, but I'm not complaining.

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