'Spore' gets grief for anti-piracy software

The Turtok species is trying to kill me.

The Katmondo are my allies.

I'm trying to befriend the Wurbles, but it might not work out, due to some other interplanetary commitments I'm hoping to maintain.

The latest computer game from the creator of The Sims lets players design and manage a virtual species, all the way up to thbuilding rockets and venturing into space to encounter other virtual life-forms.

It's an ambitious adventure, but not long after its release, Spore's anti-piracy scheme has already been the subject of much grumbling.

Owners have to activate the software online to enjoy all the features of Spore, such as access to online content.

Under the terms of the game's built-in "digital rights management" (DRM) software, one copy of the $50 game can be installed on three computers.

But those who have had a bad experience with this sort of software say the system counts computer upgrades as separate installations.

In essence, they argue, EA is making people rent, rather than buy, the game.

At Amazon.com, some 2000 or so people have given Spore the site's worst possible rating; nearly all cite the DRM software as the reason for their contempt.

"I have no interest in paying full price for a game that I will be severely restricted from being able to play at a later point," one commented.

EA, for its part, says that people requiring additional installations can call the company's customer-support number to plead their case.

It is too early to tell if the flap will have an impact on the game's long-term success.

Aside from the DRM complaints, the game's reviews have been generally positive, if not wildly enthusiastic.

I nudged three friends into playing it last week.

One found it to be derivative of other games, one had complaints with the game's interface, and one said she simply found The Sims more addictive.

- Mike Musgrove 

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