NeverWinter Nights (NWN) Patch 1.23.6734
This essay is listed under "Internet Culture" on my web site because this isn't a review of Boiware's NeverWinter Nights, but a review of an unusual decision they made in distributing patch number 1.23.6734. Let me quote the readme:
Neverwinter Nights Game
- We have removed SecureROM disk checking.
Let me explain why that last line is significant.
NeverWinter Nights requires the "Play Disk" be inserted in CD ROM Drive in order to play the game. SecureROM was the copy protection system used to ensure someone didn't just burn a copy of the CD and use that instead.
This had two consequences.
You couldn't play the game using a backup CD. I found this to be an issue because my Play Disk was getting badly scratched, and I found out a batch of the first run disks had a tendancy to crack and require replacement. Boiware had an official response of replacing the CDs.
You couldn't play under Linux and Wine. NWN has had active Linux players since day one. This is because a Linux client has been promised, and by and large, it's fairly easy to get the Windows executable up and running under Linux using WINE. Sadly, SecureROM prevented the game from running under Linux, as Linux and Wine did not provide the access SecureROM needed to validate the game disk.
There have been tech issues created by the copy protection.
Removing SecureROM accomplishes several things.
Allows Linux players to play NWN using Wine. This should reduce the number of whiny "When will the Linux client be out" e-mails bioware must get on a daily basis.
Allows players to use backup CDS. The first day after installing the patch I spent an hour playing with a backup CD. The original CDS now rest comfortably in the box, awaiting the day when I need to reinstall for one reason or another.
Ends the cycle of unauthorized patches. Web sites that specialize in "No CD" patches and the like have been releasing updated cracks for each and every NWN release. I suspect that continually rewriting the SecureROM detection code for every patch was one of the reasons the higher ups at NWN decided to end the cycle.
Shows an unprecedented level of faith and trust in the customers. To the best of my knowledge no company that was using CD COpy protection has subsequently released a patch that disabled it. It's unheard of, and it was a refreshing change of pace in the days the RIAA trying to cripple America's technology infrastructure for the purpose of maintaining control of music distribution.
Personally, I applaud boiware for releasing this patch, and hope other companies follow suit.
You can view some discussion threads on this patch in the Boiware tech support forums.