Posted by: talkjack | October 4, 2008

The Witcher Enhanced Edition DRM

If you have legally purchased a retail copy of The Witcher for the PC, you are entitled to a free upgrade to the Enhanced Edition. This is awesome news, because the original Witcher is a good game which should have been great. The Enhanced Edtion fixes the badly translated dialogue so that it now makes sense, and improves on game performance significantly. In other words, this is the game you should have received for your money the first time. The Enhanced Edition also features cool new features and extra adventures, which make it a neat expansion too.

The bad news is that if, like me, you purchased The Witcher in Bully Britain then you did not get a manual. That always felt cheap to me, especially as I paid full price for the game. Customers in the US got a proper manual, all I got with my retail Atari version of The Witcher was a pdf on the dvd.

Why is the lack of manual a problem? Because of DRM. I’ll explain.

When you have spent ages downloading the gigabytes of files from the official site, you will try to install them. Thats when the problem comes – after the huge download. The setup program for this free game update found the legal, original game installed on my pc and then refused to install because the game had not been ‘activated’ online. WTF? I have a legally purchased copy and a genuine disc in the drive and Tages DRM installed secretly with the original game, and still they want online activation. Only you cannot activate online unless you key in the registration number printed on my manual. Bugger! No manual.

Swearing ensues. You assume that you have been stitched up because you should have received a manual in the game box but someone must have screwed up when they packaged your copy. Then you try googling and if you are successful you will find out that the UK version of The Witcher deliberately excluded a manual. Hence you have no registration code. Hence you cannot complete the online activation DRM check, hence the expansion refused to install. Talk about excessive DRM!

To save you time and trouble, here’s how you get out of this mess

You need to contact Atari, explain yourself, and wait a few days. They will kindly send you a code to pass the DRM check and to install The Witcher Enhanced Edition.

If you contact Atari in the UK then try emailing UK.CustomerServices@atari.com. Ensure that you provide the serial number printed on the back of your original game box. On my copy of The Witcher I found it in the bottom right hand corner below the bar code and above the ‘Made in Europe’ text.

If you contact Atari in the US then you might get a faster response. tech1@atari.com dealt with me after I logged a support call throught the Atari website. They did not want a bar code number from me. However, I read on forums that they would ask for the serial numbers printed in very tiny characters around the inside of the game disk. I supplied those just in case and was sent a registration code by return email a few days later.

Why did I try both? Because there were no clear instructions on either the UK or US Atari sites at the time I checked their FAQs. I did not know which site would help me or which would be quicker. It turned out that both were helpful, but the US support was quicker.

Conclusion

Tragically, by the time I had waited days for a registration code my time off work was over, and I was unable to actually play the game. So The Witcher Enhanced Edition is another example of a DRM system which stopped an honest customer from playing the game whilst people who download pirate copies were having all the fun.

This is a tragedy, because the gesture of giving away the expansion for free was a very kind and generous act towards customers. Given that DRM does not really stop piracy, all that has happened is that what should have been a pleasant and happy experience for me has been soured because of DRM.

I don’t blame the pirates, I blame the decision to impose DRM. DRM really does interfere with honest customers more than it should these days. In fact, paying the salaries of support staff to issue codes purely to pass the DRM check must reduce the amount of profit Atari made from my purchase in the first place.

Also, in order for the DRM to work, the official Witcher website tells you “We strongly suggest that you exit all antivirus/firewall programs before initiating patch installation.” and “You must be on-line throughout the installation process so that your registration data can be verified” I find this unacceptable because it places my computer at risk. However, the DRM has forced me to choose between being able to install the bug fixes or keeping my computer safe online. This really isn’t good enough!

The wacky world of DRM huh?  Let’s not forget that my original game still installed Tages DRM system on my computer in addition to these checks. When I bought the original game, the fact that it did not require online activation swayed my decision to buy. If I had known that in order to get the fully bug fixed version of the game to work I would have to go through days of hassle in order to activate the setup program for the enhanced edition, , or I never would have bought a copy in the first place. Online activation is never totally reliable, and therefore unacceptable.

Having said that, when I do get more time off work I am looking forward to a proper gaming session on the bug fixed version of The Witcher, which should be awesome. Thank you CD Projekt for releasing this upgrade.

(c) Copyright Talkjack 2009

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