Spore, DRM, and my EA/Mac Install Woes

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I heard that Will Wright was coming out with a new God-level game called ‘Spore’, and I decided I must have it. Then I read the website for it and heard that it was years away. So I settled in for a long wait. And then realized it was being released only for the Intel Mac chip (graphic designer for 10+ years, sorry, Mac-based household, always has been, always will be, even back when Mac was on OS 9). So I sighed and gave up and figured maybe someday, far off in the future, I’d eventually be able to afford a new Mac computer, top of the line, dual processor with the Intel chips, maybe even some nice video cards under the hood, etc.

Just prior to my 38th birthday this year, I picked up a used laptop. Intel quad core. Mac. Finally, Spore was within grasp. Oh yes, patience is a virtue, and a weapon, but that’s another post. Birthday came in August, and I decided it was time to indulge that put-off pleasure, so I ordered the game. Special deal for waiting so long… picked up the new Expansion Pac (Galactic Adventures) and the base game came along “free”. Package deal. The game arrived a couple of weeks later (snafu on the address… sent it to work but didn’t include the full work address, so had to pick it up from the UPS center).

First Failure to Install

Finally get the game home, install it on the Mac, and run it. Downloading patches. Patches? Yep, patches. Took so long, it seemed to hang the machine, so I’d force quit and try to resume. Finally realized that the patches took forever, so I wiped the game from the machine, installed it brand new again, and let the patches install. Finally. The game is set on the machine, I enter my key code, and then the game tells me “Cannot connect to the licensing server.”  The same error panel tells me I’m not connected to the internet,  but the browser windows I’ve been surfing through while waiting for the game to finish patching tell me otherwise. 

I surf the net looking for forums or boards to find out if this is just me, or if other people have been having issues. I mean, the Digital Rights Management trojan, er, “protection” that SONY included got them in a lot of trouble with their fan base when the game launched originally. I found plenty of people with the same issues I was having, so I read through their “solutions” and tried those first.

Second Failure to Install

Following the advice from the interwebs I removed the game again and reloaded anew, just to be sure. No luck, same issue, “Can’t connect to license server”. So I powered down and up again, but this time logged into my laptop with an Administrator’s account. Once there, I installed SPORE from the beginning, let it patch, and then restarted in the normal user account.

Same error. “Can’t connect to license server.”

Going Official

At this point, I’m done with the interwebs advice, so it’s time to turn to EA’s noteworthy customer service. I say ‘noteworthy’ because many of the forum posts and information about the installation troubles were loud in their criticism about the lack of support from EA. But… not having much in the way of options…

I opened my official job ticket with EA’s customer service. I figure it’s a turnkey solution, so I explain the situation, explain I’m on a Mac, explain what I’ve already tried and done. And wait for a response. Next day, it comes.

The instructions begin with the phrase, “On your computer, click the Start button and…” 

Start button? START button? Dude, I’m on a Mac. I don’t have a Start button. Sort of like how humans don’t have dorsal fins. Whole different species. And did I not mention this in my complaint?  I returned a polite note pointing out that I was on a mac, and imploring the help staff to please *read* the complaint, and either pass Mac-based solutions to me, or else pass the ticket off to someone on EA’s side who understood Macs.

Where we are now

Weeks into the process, it’s still ongoing. I DO have to say that the quality of care from the customer support staff has improved drastically. So far I’ve turned off the IPv6 setting (latest) from within the Admin account, I’ve done a traceroute and sent the results to the EA staff, I’ve been told to bypass the router (I actually plugged the laptop into the modem directly, no luck — I’ve also updated the firmware for the router, no luck). System Profile was uploaded early on in the process.

Thanks for nothing, Sony

I’m posting this on the blog because this is a very real issue with DRM. Sony continues to show an appalling lack of vision or understanding of the changing paradigm of the digital age by trying to impose outmoded and outdated tactics of ownership and rights enforcement on the world, instead of thinking outside of the box, or learning how to offset any losses due to piracy by monetizing the experience.

Yes, that’s right. Monetize the experience. Make money by charging access to the online component of the game. Don’t install complicated DRM devices… provide a month’s free access to the Sporepedia and the online content, and then charge $1 a month or $50 for a “product lifetime”  subscription fees to the Spore servers.

Why? Because the game is brilliant. (I have access to a PC laptop and the game installed just fine there. Don’t worry… according to the DRM licensing I’m allowed up to 5 computers with simultaneous installations. Still within my legal license.) 

Let me repeat that… the game itself is brilliant. Sure, there’s a couple of usability issues I’d change, but they’re minor, really. Despite my tribulations in still not getting it installed to work on my main computer, I’m still loving the game itself. 

That’s how good the game is to me. Imagine my raving about this if I could have actually had it work on my Mac. One month and counting.


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