The S word...

Probably more of an issue to most is the copy protection system that 2K Games has employed on the PC version of BioShock. The game uses SecuROM technology and requires online activation. Annoying, but not a massive problem if you’re buying the actual game. What 2K didn’t tell you from the outset though is that the SecuROM software limits the number of installations.

According to 2K Games, it originally limited you to two concurrent installs, which means that you can have the game on two systems at any time but not a third system unless you uninstall one of the previous ones. A lot of gamers were saying they had problems with this system – authentication servers going down so the game cannot be activated, uninstalls not being registered and problems with systems preventing uninstalls being completed.

In light of these problems, 2K Games' community manager, Elizabeth Tobey, responded to the many queries that were popping up in 2K's own forums. Sadly, this statement included some information that wasn't 100 percent true – either intentionally or unintentionally.

BioShock: Graphics & Performance That dreaded S word... BioShock: Graphics & Performance That dreaded S word...
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The following day, Tobey issued an official statement regarding SecuROM on The Cult of Rapture homepage. The statement detailed how 2K Games would increase the number of concurrent installations from two to five, with each computer now able to have five reinstalls.

In the game's technical FAQ on The Cult of Rapture, the publisher also revealed that it is preparing a revoke application that will allow customers to regain activations when they uninstall the game from their machine.

"2K increased the maximum computers you can install the game simultaneously on from 2 to 5. We are also preparing a new “revoke application” that will allow you to de-authorize computers so that you may move the game to another computer without "using up" one of these activations. This increase in the limit will cover most users' issues, and the revoke application should alleviate remaining concerns. Of course, if you still experience any issues, please feel free to contact support."

In light of the controversy and many complaints surrounding the PC game, there was only one thing we could do; open the door and throw a copy of the game into Tim’s corner of the bit-tech labs whilst yelling the words; “TEST! TEST!” over and over again... Yes, we were prepared to sacrifice a copy of BioShock just to complete this review.

BioShock: Graphics & Performance That dreaded S word... BioShock: Graphics & Performance That dreaded S word...
Click to enlarge

Having gone through the installation procedure six times on two different Windows Vista PCs (alternatively, meaning twelve installations) and then one more time on another machine running Windows XP Professional SP2 over the course of an afternoon, we're happy to report that there were no installation issues. The game activated without a problem on each machine and despite the uproar surrounding this, it's not quite as bad as one is led to believe.

With that said we then tried installing the game on a machine with AVG Anti-Virus installed and it told us that BioShock.exe was infected with a virus. This is something that has been widely reported and it's a known false-positive, but it led to no end of problems getting the game to install on that particular machine.

Even after closing AVG, we still encountered installation problems because, when the installer downloaded the latest patch, it continually gave us an error saying that the signature on the file was invalid. The only way that we could get the game to install on this particular machine was to uninstall AVG before attempting to install BioShock – that is, quite frankly, far from ideal and is a hindrance to those that are legitimate paying customers.

It has to be said that activation is, in some ways, a pain in the backside for those legitimate customers that are going out to buy the game. This is especially true if you don't have your gaming PC connected to the Internet. There's also the fact that some people refuse to install SecuROM on their machines just on principle – that, alone, may lead to more piracy than is normal for PC games. While we agree that SecuROM is bad and 2K Games could have handled the situation much better than it has, this form of copy protection is certainly nothing new and many publishers have been using it for a long time.

I guess the good thing to come out of this scenario is that Ken Levine, BioShock's Lead Designer, revealed that the game's copy protection – or at least the activation portion – will be removed from the game at some point in the future. He claimed that "This activation is for the early period of the game when it’s really hot and there are people really trying to find ways to play the game without buying it."

It's a fair point, but this whole scenario wouldn't have caused such an uproar if 2K Games had been a little more open, and lenient for that matter, from the outset.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04