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Anti-Denuvo Outcry Takes Over ‘NieR: Automata’ Discussions

Slated for release on March 17 on Steam, potential NieR: Automata buyers take over the game’s discussions page with anti-Denuvo threads.

A title that fans have been asking for since 2010’s Nier, NieR: Automata garnered very positive reviews for its PlayStation 4 version, which came out on March 7 in North America and March 10 in Europe. Its release date being officially announced on March 3, the PC version will be fully available in less than a week on Steam. While waiting, fans and potential buyers take over the discussions page with topics regarding the game’s potential performance and its use of Denuvo, the latest DRM trend adopted by major publishers.

Reasons presented by consumers as to why Denuvo is bad vary. Some claim games using the technology will be unplayable whenever its servers shut down, while others rage over how long it will take modders to modify NieR: Automata‘s executable in order to unlock its resolution and framerate. The discussions go back and forth as Steam users argue about the ins and outs of the technology and attempt to dispell misinformation.

NieR: Automata

How it works

Denuvo developers refuse to detail how the anti-tempering tool works. It successfully prevented a multitude of games and software from being pirated within their release windows, but the service isn’t bulletproof. The Chinese group 3DM (popular among video game pirates) revealed in 2014 that Denuvo consists of a 64-bit encryption machine that collects information on each specific hardware in order to generate a unique cryptographic key, thus making the cracking process twice as hard.

In the past, developers who contracted Denuvo and players who were affected by it claimed that the technology hinders a computer’s performance and lifespan by actively writing data onto storage media. The company attempted to dispell those claims by stating on their official website that “Denuvo Anti-Tamper does not constantly read or write any data to storage media.” The accusation died out over the years, barely being mentioned nowadays.

Shutting down

Potential buyers seem awfully concerned with what will happen to games whenever Denuvo servers are shut down. The tool is built in a way that it requires internet access every once in a while to verify files. Although it isn’t clear how often the verification occurs, users claim it has to happen every other day, while others suggest it happens once with every game update.

According to PC Perspective, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst only allows for four activations on different machines once every 24 hours. As soon as the first activation is made, only three more can be made on different machines within the next 24 hours, after which four more will be possible in four other machines and so on.

Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7 (which took pirates five days to crack) potentially connecting to Denuvo servers.

Titles such as GOD EATER 2 Rage Burst (as well as its prequel, GOD EATER Resurrection), which make use of the technology, don’t seem to connect to any servers upon initialization. Other titles such as Resident Evil 7 will attempt to connect to unnamed servers everytime the game is booted up, even if players aren’t connected to the internet.

This need for authentication worries players who think games using Denuvo will become obsolete whenever the servers are shut down. According to them, publishers won’t bother with removing the encryption, making Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Dishonored 2, for example, unplayable on PC.  Contrary to that, a handful of developers has voluntarily removed Denuvo from their games, including ID Software (Doom), effectively proving that the anti-piracy method doesn’t have to be permanent.

First released in 2007 and discontinued in 2013 (with a late update coming out in 2014), Games For Windows – LIVE (GFWL for short) was largely disliked by the gaming community. The fate of the service didn’t affect the availability of many games using it, as publishers and developers offered players the possibility to migrate their progress to other services where the titles were available. Capcom not only supported the progress transference but also allowed Resident Evil 5 owners to reactivate their keys free of charge on Steam.

Should Denuvo come to an end, it’s only reasonable that publishers will remove it from their games if they care enough. Worst case scenario, gamers will have to resort to piracy to replay such games on PC.

Modifications

Back in August, PlatinumGames gave interviews where they discussed various aspects of NieR: Automata, including the PC port. Controversially, they stated the PC version would be locked at 1080p and 60 frames per second. The community, always craving higher resolutions and framerates, is also furious about this as it might take a while until modders manage to apply modifications.

According to many PC gamers, Denuvo prevents modifications to a game’s executable. Steam user Erebus the Inexorable states that “It doesn’t fully block mods, but anything meaningful (say, long-term community fix type stuff, hex edits, and the like) is impossible as long as Denuvo is in place.” 2B <<This cannot continue>> further clarifies by saying “you can use things such as .dll hooks, but nothing more, making higher quality mods such as the Dark Souls fix for PC seemingly impossible if […] the game has Denuvo.”

On their own thread titled “Denuvo doesn’t affect you unless you’re a pirate,” Steam user Vit starts by saying “it doesn’t affect you at all and doesn’t prevent modding.” They say modifying Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is perfectly possible and also mention a Just Cause 3 multiplayer mod that injects changes to game files beyond the main executable.

The future of DRM

Whereas the 3DM group claims that piracy won’t exist in the near future thanks to the advancements made in anti-tempering and DRM technology, the community and some developers would like to think otherwise. As pointed out by Marcin Iwiński, co-founder of GOG.com and CD Projekt RED, DRM doesn’t work. Not only will games using protection be cracked sooner or later (with Resident Evil 7 beating pirates’ Denuvo records, its crack being developed five days after its release), but they also hurt potential consumers who may not be capable of purchasing a $60 title right away.

The practice is embraced mostly by big publishers who have been in the business for decades. As gamers and critics like to point out, such choices are made by corporate individuals to benefit the corporation regardless of what the public desires. Practices such as DRM, season passes, meaningless DLCs, and microtransactions won’t end as long as the community continues to buy these products. Whatever people say on discussions means close to nothing to those in charge when compared to sales numbers and how successful the game, season pass, or microtransactions were.

NieR: Automata

Whether Denuvo is consumer-friendly or not, those bothered by its existence and wishing to play NieR: Automata on PC can only hope that Square Enix will decide to remove the technology sooner or later. The game’s Day One Edition can now be pre-purchased on Steam. It will become officially available on Friday, March 17.

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn’t grow up with video games as many of his colleagues. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

Editor for MMOExaminer.

Inquiries: gabecav@mmoexaminer.com

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