Hit role-playing game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has received its first official patch, and gamers are being treated to an extra bonus with their bug fixes: a removal of any digital restrictions management technology included with their copy of the game.
DRM, known by its proponents as Digital Rights Management and by its detractors as Digital Restrictions Management, refers to technological measures designed to help curb illegitimate copying - but which often cause no real trouble for the professional pirates while inconveniencing those who actually paid for the game.
The patch, which brings the game up to version 1.1, has been specifically developed by CD Projekt RED to remove all DRM from the game - owing, the company claims, to a disconnect between the aims of DRM and those of the development team.
"Our goal is to make our fans and customers happy and to reward them for buying our game," explained development director Adam Badowski in a statement, "and DRM schemes do not support our philosophy as they might create obstacles for users of legally-bought copies. Our approach to countering piracy is to incorporate superior value in the legal version.
"This means it has to be superior in every respect: less troublesome to use and install, with full support, and with access to additional content and services. So, we felt keeping the DRM would mainly hurt our legitimate users," Badowski explained, weighing the hope of protecting the game against piracy against the troubles caused by DRM and finding the technology lacking.
"This is completely in line with what we said before the release of The Witcher 2: we felt DRM was necessary to prevent the game being pirated and leaked before release," Badowski claimed. "This purpose has been served, so we are pleased to let our users enjoy the full freedom of game usage they deserve."
While those who chose to buy the game through CD Projekt's own GOG.com service received a DRM-free version as standard, retail buyers or those who used a different service will have received a locked-down copy - and Badowski is ashamed to admit that they'll have had a poorer experience for it.
"It’s important to remember that the PC platform is far more complex than consoles," he explained. "DRM adds another layer of complication and potential problems - we saw this clearly in our game. Pre-release tests showed only small performance differences compared to the DRM-free version."
Sadly, that wasn't what users experienced, Badowski admits. "We were unpleasantly surprised when some of our fans reported much larger differences - up to 30 per cent lower framerates. This was another clear signal that we had to remove DRM as soon as possible - the quality of our users' gameplay experience is absolutely our number one priority!"
For those who want to enjoy the game as the developers intended, as well as those who want to take advantage of the free Troll Trouble downloadable content pack, are advised to upgrade - but they'll have to do so manually, as the patch will not be rolled out through the in-game auto-patching system.
The Witcher v1.1 patch can be downloaded from the official website.