Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Denuvo And Dodgy DRM

 This was the start of my problems - Denuvo on a Steam game failing
to activate when I clicked "Play" for the first time

DRM And Denuvo

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I like games and I'm not a fan of DRM in any form (I even think copyright is often too restrictive). I’ve had bad experiences with DRM in the past – from not being able to play games or watch a film, to having to send a projector back. Often DRM creates backdoors and insecurities in your system. You may not notice these. I also like to be able to back up my games in case the company goes bankrupt or disappears or just stops supporting the game. DRM such as Denuvo prevents games from being run on Linux. Finally, I turn off the router when we lock up at night. Sometimes I still play games or use my PC. Things which require periodic online connections then stop working. There are other reasons. It's why I go out of my way to support DRM-free games and their publishers (you should see my list of games on GOG!) while avoiding games with DRM. So adding DRM costs publishers sales, and costs them extra money in ongoing licences and support. It’s not automatically true that digital padlocks = more profit.

I thought I'd mention an experience I had recently with Denuvo DRM, since when I ran into problems I couldn't find useful help online. In fact, one source told me: "Sounds kinda fishy. More like malware on your system." So even the normal behaviour of Denuvo when it kicks in resembles malware to some users. That's rather telling. Yet it’s what happens if the game can’t connect to their servers when it wants to (something you have no control over). Because there was so little documentation of what happens I thought I'd write this. If you end up in the same position as me then this might at least explain what is going on.

My Experience With Denuvo In The Resident Evil 7 Demo

It began when I heard about a free Resident Evil 7 demo on Steam. I've always been a fan of Resident Evil games, so thought I would try the demo out and see what the new game was like. I've avoided ever buying a Denuvo game. I only bought Doom 4 recently because they've now stripped Denuvo out of it. But I saw this demo included Denuvo and thought "What the hell, it's free, how bad can it be?"

Getting to play it was a nightmare.

"What's this?" I wondered, as I followed the game's link

I managed to download the game, but when I first went to play it I was having Internet problems. So instead of running it popped up a box with hundreds of random characters in that I was supposed to paste into a "codefusion.technology" web page. Of course, I couldn't access that web page on my PC because my Internet connection was down. I could maybe use mobile Internet on my phone, but there was no way I could type in all those random characters and symbols, to get another page of hundreds of random characters I'd then have to type on my PC (presuming that would work). I used my phone to try and find out what this codefusion.technology thing is - nowhere does it mention DRM or Denuvo, it was later that I realised that's what it was, but they try and hide the fact from you. You can't even truncate the URL to get to a homepage - it gives no information at all.

The Denuvo codefusion pages if you don't let them
run scripts in your browser - not very helpful ...

Days later I got the router and Internet problems sorted. When I eventually got to the codefusion.technology web pages they were blank. Yet more hassles until I worked out that it was trying to run some scripts that were rightly blocked by my browser as security risks. I had to enable those. Then the button to get the code I needed didn't work due to Adobe flash errors, and requests to install new versions of that. Lots of time was wasted along the way. I eventually got it working. All that just to play a demo. Needless to say, the experience left me bitter, and it negatively affected my enjoyment of the demo.

It would not be easy to type all that in by hand.
Note that the button to copy the text didn't even work
without updating third party software

Never Again, Denuvo, Never Again

There is no way I'd ever pay for a game with Denuvo in. So much wasted time and hoops to jump through if you have this kind of problem.

Anyway, these are examples of the pages Denuvo sends you to: one, two, three, four. Beware the hassles of any URL which contains support.codefusion.technology.

I'm surprised gaming sites haven't written more about Denuvo and how it works, and what problems it can cause, since it seems to be used a lot more now. Maybe because it's one of those things where - if there are no problems - you don't notice it and assume it is fine. But as soon as you hit a snag (e.g. Internet access problem) it becomes a massive headache. My first experience of Denuvo will be the last.

Update: 30th January 2017
It turned out that Denuvo on the full Resident Evil 7 game was cracked in less than a week: so it made little difference to pirates, while putting off people who would otherwise have bought it (such as me). Read more here, here, and here.

Update: 14th October 2017
It turned out that the game Abzû also included the (presumably) Denuvo DRM. There was no warning on the Steam page or I'd have never bought the pile of crud. Refund requested. The publisher and Steam should always list when games have activation DRM. The only way to be sure is to get games from GOG instead of Steam, wherever possible.



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8 comments:

Unknown said...

1. Game couldn't connect to Internet and asked verification codes. I get it, online connection for single player games is ridiculous.

2. Your browser didn't let you know the pages were trying to run plugins so you could allow them ? Sounds like you need a new browser.

3. Your Flash wasn't up to date ?

So basically you wrote a piece based on your router failing and you not using your software properly ? THEN you link it on RPS for all to read ?

Karl Drinkwater said...

Hi Matte,

1. Yes. Without explaining why, or using the name of the DRM, and in a way that many users would find suspicious.

2. I use Firefox (Chrome as backup), but disable third party scripts by default. I wish browsers were set up to do that automatically. If a site tries to run scripts from other domains they're blocked unless I make an exception. Many malicious sites will fail; it also blocks many attempts at tracking and privacy invasion.

3. I only allow software I trust to auto-update. Nothing I regularly visit uses Flash - it seems to be a leftover on sites that haven't been updated. I've sometimes found Adobe software to be unreliable and clunky. I manually update it if I need to (though more often than that I just ignore the site - if they're still using Flash then it's a personal cutter for excluding some of the many sites I visit in a day). An annoyance with Flash is that, even after I update it, a day later it will probably say it is out of date again. So I normally just ignore anything with Flash now.

4. There are more reasons for Internet problems than a router failing, all of which are out of the control of the user. And when this happened to me I wasn't even sure what was happening or what the codefusion thing was - nothing informative came up on my searches. So I thought I'd share my experience of Denuvo, in case it was useful to anyone else getting sent to the codefusion site. It also illustrates some of the problems for the user that this kind of DRM causes.

Apologies if this has no interest to you, but I wish I'd found something like this when I was trying to understand what was going on. It may also be useful to companies considering using Denuvo - to show what a user perspective on it can be, and how it affects the perception of the software it is attached to. No post is of interest to everyone though. I have to admit that I do not use my software "properly", if properly means leaving at defaults and allowing all third party scripts and software to run. You may be shocked that I also use a firewall that blocks outgoing traffic unless I allow it (unlike the Windows default), and block adverts. I'm pretty sure neither of those are normal Internet use, but I like to be in control of my PC and what it does, rather than the other way round. And yes, I did share the link to this piece online, in a post about the Denuvo-using game that caused my problems, so that seemed relevant. I know it would be relevant to me as part of a purchasing decision, and sharing links is quite common and standard nowadays. Once again, sorry that this post was not of interest to you.

Karl Drinkwater said...

(Re: my Adobe Flash comment. It seems that every time I go to a site that uses Flash the error message is that the previous version of Flash is "vulnerable". I update it and shortly after it seems the same thing happens. That's why I don't like Adobe Flash. None of my other software is regularly blocked and marked as "vulnerable" despite being updated hundreds of times. And yes, I have just been told that Flash is blocked as "vulnerable" since writing my comment above!)

Karl Drinkwater said...

("And another thing!" as Spike Milligan might have said ... whenever I update Flash, Adobe tries to install unwanted third party software - you have to untick a small box to disable it. I disapprove of that kind of behaviour. "Down with that sort of ting!" Father Ted.)

Handler said...

IT sucks that they added Denuvo to a damn demo. Ditto to a single player game. And it does seem liek a goose chase it sent you on. Why don't they include the word Denuvo on the page they send you to? Are they so ashamed of the crud they've built in to the game? Shared.
Most decent companies avoid that kind of DRM, or at least strip it out quickly (Inside, Doom4).

Anonymous said...

I won't buy RE7 until they dump that shit.

Unknown said...

I tag every Game on Steam that uses it with 'DENUVO 3rd Party DRM' and then filter that tag out globally, if i don't purchase them anyway, i don't need to see then either.

They say Denuvo is only against Pirates, but in Reality it's against Consumers, because only Consumers will run in such Issues, the Pirates won't ever see them on their cracked Versions.

As a Consumers i don't see why i should pay money to get an broken and inferior Product.

I also really hope that malware will get blocked on Windows 10, like the other malware (Starforce, Securom, Safedisc,...) was blocked. It's only a matter of time anyway, till someone finds a way to uses it to piggyback ransomware or whatever.

And i don't expect them to take responsibility if that happens, if they even hide their malware behind obscure textboxes without any brand, name or any info to identify them .

Karl Drinkwater said...

Some good points there, thanks!