CD Projekt vs. CJ’s PC: The Witcher 2′s Unbreakable DRM
Note: While the tone of this article is sarcastic, the author remains endeared to CD Projekt RED and their stance on DRM. He also applauds the dev for having helpful and quick-to-respond moderators who attempted to resolve his problem.
The Witcher 2 has the single most effective form of DRM I’ve ever encountered. By which I mean it won’t let me, a paying customer, play the game at all.
I decided to pick up a digital version of The Witcher 2 when it was on sale on Steam — as if I had a choice when Steam was selling it for peanuts — and slip into Geralt’s shoes once more. After downloading and installing the game, I booted it up, eager to begin witching.
But it was not to be. The game refused to load. I’d either get kicked back to the Launcher or watch the familiar wolf head logo appear and vanish, and nothing more.
No problem!” I thought. “I’ve been a PC gamer for 18 years. I tweak .ini files, forward ports to host servers, and manually install mods. I’ve never encountered a problem I couldn’t fix. I got this.”
After taking some preliminary steps that proved unfruitful toward getting my Witcher on, I turned to Google for answers. Hours of research spent scouring the cobweb-cluttered corners of forums led me to the following attempts at loading the game:
- Running the game as Admin
- Running the game on lowest graphics settings
- Running the game on windowed/full screen mode
- Updating my RADEON drivers
- Manually installing .NET 4 Framework
- Running the Registry patch
- Running the game after unplugging my internet cable
- Installing the game through Steam
- Installing the game through GOG, (a free download if you’ve purchased the Steam version)
- Installing the game as Admin
Exasperated and having struck the bottom of my research well, I turned to the official forums for aid. Yes, there I was — Mr. PC Bigshot — asking for help on getting a damn game to run.
The mods were quick to respond, asking questions and offering suggestions.
What Antivirus do you have? NOD32, which shouldn’t cause conflict.
Did you try running the game directly via the witcher2.exe rather than the launcher? Yes; no luck.
The following list of applications are known to cause conflict with the game — do you have any of these installed on your system? No, I do not.
Did you add an exception for the game in your antivirus and Windows Firewall? I disabled my antivirus and Windows Firewall; still nothing.
Did you try a clean boot? Yep; no go.
Did you try installing the following hotfix patch? Sure did; didn’t help.
At that point, a mod asked me to email him screenshots of the complete list of installed programs I have on my system. That’s right. Had I come upon this request before the burden of getting this game to run had broken my spirit, I would have flat-out refused this invasion of privacy. But at that point, I figured I’d gone too far to stop now. I sent him the damn list.
He emailed me back a list of third party programs he found suspect and/or out of date. I deleted them all. Did the game run after that? Of course not.
The last thing the mod suggested to me was to try some MD5 numbers in order to verify that I have a full and working GOG version of the game. If that didn’t make sense to you, then you’re not alone. The process involves downloading software to obtain the MD5 Hash of a given file and compare it to the file’s MD5 checksum. Or something. It was at that point that I threw in the towel.
You win, CD Projekt. You have defeated me. Congratulations on having the first game that I’ve ever been unable to run.