Updates announced Tuesday for Valve’s Steamworks platform bring a new, more approachable method to anti-piracy. This new solution will, according to Valve, eliminate all DRM. The digital distribution pioneers may be on to a new non-intrusive method which will allow legitimate buyers to rest easy with their purchase.
Steamworks is Valve’s suite of services and tools offered to developers and publishers for free. It allows developers to integrate the steam distribution method for their releases. The goal is to streamline development to what most would agree as a very reliable method of digital distribution for games. Available for a year now, some games have already shipped with Steamworks implementation. F.E.A.R. 2 and Empire: Total War are two such examples.
The new solution, dubbed Custom Executable Generation (CEG), offers non-intrusive piracy protection by creating a unique game for each purchased copy which would be tied into the user’s Steam account. From the press release:
A customer friendly approach to anti-piracy, CEG makes unique copies of games for each user allowing them to access the application on multiple machines without install limits and without having to install root kits on their PC.
The user would be able to do whatever they want with their game once purchased. No paranoia over installation limits, no struggles with keeping track of many different CD keys, and best of all, no additional ‘piracy monitoring’ software to install alongside the game. No matter where you are, if you have Steam, you can log in and play.
This won’t prevent piracy altogether, and it is hardly perfect. Users will still be able to pirate their own copies of games. Despite that ability, CEG will give Valve a very simple method to track ownership back to the original pirate and ban their account.
There will also still have the problem of multiple users in the same house. If you purchase Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead, only one person will be able to play any of the games at one given time. Another family member or friend will not be able to play Left 4 Dead while you play Team Fortress 2 on another computer as both games are under the same Steam account. A slight limitation when many would suggest others should be able to play different games simultaneously.
Though CEG is not the ‘perfect freedom’ that we want with our purchased media, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Gabe Newell is a large proponent of DRM-free gaming, and on top of the greatly successful distribution platform he’s developed, he’s pushing the market towards a proper approach to piracy prevention.