Mass Effect 3 Has Import Issues and Reveals EA’s Untruths About DRM

Mass Effect 3 Has Import Issues and Reveals EA's Untruths About DRM

The launch this week of Mass Effect 3 is a huge event in the gaming world. It is a Bioware RPG, which already makes it a big deal. But it is the end of a trilogy that has sold millions of copies across platforms and has enchanted gamers who have fallen in love once again with the same characters we find in every Bioware games, but now with different names and in a non-Star Wars sci-fi setting.

But there are a couple of clouds hovering – issues with importing your existing character, and some DRM details that cast an unfavorable light upon EA (again). Let’s take a look.

You Look … Different, Somehow

If you are a fan of Mass Effect, you have likely played through the first two games at least a couple of times, and have at least once taken the same character through both games – importing your Shepard from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, and seeing how the decisions you made in one game impacted the next.

Sure there was a lot lost, but there were a few major carry-overs that made you feel ‘in control’ of the experience. But more than that, in a cinematic game like Mass Effect, the way your character LOOKS plays a role – and most players put a decent amount of time and effort into the appearance. As referenced in this Ctrl-Alt-Del comic, the main character becomes YOUR Shepard, the protagonist who defines your adventure.

Now we are hearing from Kotaku as well as Ctrl-Alt-Del and others that the character import isn’t working correctly. Actually it is worse than that – the problem appears specifically if you created a character for the original Mass Effect and then brought that character into Mass Effect 2 and are now looking to continue with your character through the conclusion.

Here is what is happening:

Everything went well enough. I picked my character file, and then it asked me which save game to load. After confirming that I wanted to use these files, a screen appeared with a “Saving File” icon, and then, nothing. It just sat there. Frozen. I rebooted my Xbox 360 and attempted to import the character again with the same result, and tried a third time after installing the game to the hard drive. It appears that I’m not the only one with import problems.

And from C-A-D:

I’m anxious to play, but I just can’t bring myself to do it without my Shepard. I’ve played through a dozens of hours with him over the past two games, I just know I’m not going to enjoy the game as much or connect with the character if suddenly he looks totally different.

There is a big thread at Bioware about it – but the bottom line is that it is a known and acknowledged issue that Bioware is supposedly working to address. BUt if importing your character matters to you, hold off playing Mass Effect 3 for now.

Um … That Wasn’t What You Said Last Time

While we are at it … another week, another example of EA caught not being exactly ‘honest’.

First off, what is this all about? SecuRom is a DRM client which initially got a bad reputation for making deep level system access and reporting things about your system without permission, and for installing a low-level driver to monitor activity (i.e. rootkit). Since then there have multiple ways that folks can implement SecuRom into their game – from the basic disk check of a game like Fallout 3, to the deep integration in other games. EA claimed that Dragon Age II didn’t use SecuROM, but a site called ‘Reclaim Your Game’ had evidence to show otherwise. Now that Mass Effect 3 is out and EA is pushing their Origin service … Reclaim Your Game has taken a look – and GUESS what they found?

Here is a bit from an article at GamePolitics:

Reclaim Your Game tweeted that EA and BioWare continue to use the SecuROM DRM scheme for its games. The latest to use it is Mass Effect 3, but it appears to be integrated tightly into EA’s Origin client. EA has insisted in the past that it is not using SecuROM in its software releases on PC. When RYG uncovered it in Dragon Age II, EA told Ars Technica at the time that “Dragon Age II does not use SecuROM DRM.” The company has not publicly commented on RYG’s latest findings.

Reclaim Your Game CEO Lisa Pham explained to us this morning in an email how they uncovered the DRM scheme in the PC version of Mass Effect 3 and in the Origin client.

She said that she, along with her husband, uncovered the fact that SecuROM has been integrated into EA’s Origin software. They came to this conclusion by tracing every file and registry key that is installed and executing when running Mass Effect 3. She says that EA may have managed to “clean” any evidence that SecuROM is within Origin once it performs a “release date check.” Very few DRM schemes use this method. One file that wasn’t hidden, “dsspacker_launcher.exe,” links back through to “Sony DADC through its file details/properties.”

While Pham knows that people might want to argue the semantics of their findings, her company is focused on “the process, methodology, planning and execution behind how games and DRMs are made for consumers/gamers.” At the end of it RYG comes to the conclusion that any game released through Origin will “use a release date checker will be integrated with SecuROM as it was originally designed by EA.” Pham notes that two previous releases through Origin – Kingdoms of Amalur and Battlefield 3 – will show similar patterns to what they found in Mass Effect 3.

EA has not disclosed to its 9 million Origin users that it has integrated SecuROM into the client.

Reclaim Your Game is dedicated to searching out hidden tracking and DRM schemes in order to push publishers to be honesty and stop treating customers like criminals.

Personally the presence of SecuRom wouldn’t stop me from buying Mass Effect 3, but I really wish that EA would just be honest for a change. A year or so ago they seemed to be gathering back some customer goodwill … but spent 2011 squandering it and it seems 2012 will be the same. They lost my sale of Mass Effect 3through their greedy and exclusionary choice to not put Mass Effect 3 on Steam. The SecuRom part certainly doesn’t instill confidence, though.

Have you played Mass Effect 3 yet? What do you think? Do these issues concern you at all?

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!