Galactic Civilizations II: big budget game, no DRM

Clayton sez, "This awesome game company is releasing their second title using a blissfully elegant DRM free system. The game installs from the DVD, then you play the game. No DVD required in the tray, no internet connection. The Code Key that comes with the games allows you access to updates, patches, extra content, and the free ability to simply download the game to any computer should you lose your disc. Considering the crappy DRM on BioShock last summer, this is a huge step forward. The link containts their no nonsense understanding that to truly avert piracy, you must make your product worth buying, not loaded up with non user friendly DRM. These guys really deserve some credit. The game, a Turn Based, RTS strategy hybrid set in space, looks fantastic too."
With Galactic Civilizations II, we put no copy protection on the CD. But to get updates, users had to use their unique serial # in the box. That’s because our system is backed by’s unique SSD service (secure software delivery) which forgoes DRM and copy protection as we know it to take a more common sense (I think so anyway as a gamer) approach of just making sure you are delivering your game to the actual customer.

Any system out there will get cracked and distributed. But if you provide reasonable after-release support in the form of free updates that add new content and features that are painless for customers to get, you create a real incentive to be a customer.

Link, Link to buy Galactic Civilizations II


  1. A couple notes for clarification:

    – Stardock, the publisher and creator of the GalCiv series, has a no DRM policy on all the games they create and publish.

    – GalCiv II has been out since 2006, and although there’s an expansion pack scheduled for March of this year, I believe the submitter of the article (and the link confirms this) is actually referring to Sins of a Solar Empire, a game coming out on February 4th. Although both space-based strategy games, Sins is using a real-time system rather than a turn-based system as is used in the GalCiv series. I believe this is the first mainstream 4X RTS game.

    – Sins of a Solar Empire is only published by Stardock, it’s developed by Ironclad Games.

    – The producer of Sins of a Solar Empire, Blair Fraser, was recently a guest on the PC Gamer Podcast where he was asked about his thoughts on the lack of DRM. His response was basically that he really dislikes DRM and isn’t worried about piracy. He goes on to say that he believes Sins will sell more copies because of the lack of DRM. This is in stark contrast to most other game developers and publishers who often put broken and/or crippling DRM on their games to combat piracy. Of course, the DRM is cracked within days (or hours as the case may be) and the only people that have to suffer through the DRM are those that bought the game legally.

  2. Thanks, i’ll just look for somebody to give me a copy of it for free since there’s no DRM.

  3. Some more controversy to note. After announcing Galactic Civ II would not contain STARFORCE back in 2006, an employee of the company that makes STARFORCE posted links to websites to pirate Galactic Civ II further endearing themselves and their worthless product in the hearts and minds of consumers and publishers alike.

  4. @Loudiamondphillips

    Downloading DRM protected game is easier than that. You just open the pirate bay, or mininova, type title and get it.
    Once in a while there’s new, better, DRM and you will need to wait up to a week until hackers break it for their own amusement. If you bought all the games, you’d probably loose more time on DRM failures when it locks bought copy.

    Data isn’t property.
    It’s simple fact of our reality, that’s began to be obvious as copying and distributing costs are close to 0.
    To get money from games/tv shows etc you need new models. Selling data will simply fail. If you think now “piracy is a problem” imagine “teaching” next generation the evils of duplicating data. I’m already getting more information from internet that printed press. I like “Gazeta Wyborcza” and pay for the pleasure to read printed edition… knowing that the data itself I could get on their site free. Imagine generation thinking that, that’s the natural state of all “intelectual property”. Service of getting nice printed newspaper – costs, information – is duplicated without boundries.

  5. despite the lack of DRM the game went on to be quite successful. Brad Wardells theory is that you shouldn’t treat your customer as a criminal. They reward those who purchase the game with lots of extra content and other goodies.

    Their new game, Sins of a Solar Empire is getting great scores.

  6. I bought the game, i bought the expansion, i’ll be buying the next expansion and so on. I use and have a subscription to their ObjectDesktop system. I support Stardock and their software whole heartedly. The games are worth buying for their value alone and the No-DRM is just icing on the cake.

  7. Wow! Great to these guy’s still around (StarDock).
    I was a Project Manager for a design firm that did some work for them. They were very passionate OS/2 developers at that time.

    One of our designers, Kathy (can’t remember her last name) designed their last logo. And I did some game covers, I think the game was called Avarice, and some box designs for them.

    Really great guys, I’m very pleased to see them still “in the business” when so many have fallen out.


  8. I got the game for my birthday and I like how they are handling this. If you want patches or extra content you need a key, but otherwise they aren’t going to cripple it. And it’s so nice to know I never have to hassle with the game or with the DRM not working. It’s a sad day when pirating a game provides a better experience then buying it.

    They’ve made a good game, especially if you like 4x strategy games.

    I look forward to getting the next expansion and Sins.

    Finally if you buy it, get the Gold Edition. It comes with the first expansion “Dark Avatar”

  9. Oh, you Windows users! When will you learn that the only game worthy to play is Photoshop?

    –A somewhat depressed OSX user

  10. In reply to WASDman – I work for Stardock, and I can say that the original GalCiv never had Starforce protection. We did (I think) state that we were not using such methods of protection for GalCiv II, which appears to have triggered the controversial link-posting to a torrent site by a Starforce employee.

  11. This game is also generally less than $20 at Target in their budget software rack. Last night, GalCiv 1 was on sale for $8.95, and I picked up GalCiv 2 previously for a $10 sale.

  12. I second (or third) that votes for what a great game GalvCov II and expansions are.

    What I particularly like about there system is it allows me pay on my PC and my laptop.

    Many a boring flight has been made more entertaining thanks to them.

  13. @Greenreaper

    My mistake then, I bought Space Rangers at the same time, and that developer also had employees on their forum say future products wouldn’t contain starforce. I confused the two titles.

  14. Gal Civ II is hardly big budget. It doesn’t even come close to the major companies’ budget even in the underpowered gaming industry.

    I’m definitely a supporter of no DRM, but part of me wonders whether the no-DRM model is as sustainable as people say, since the big reason Gal Civ II did so well is that it got lots of publicity for lacking DRM in an otherwise DRM-full industry, plus the much-publicized StarForce attack noted earlier. When/if DRM-free becomes the norm, games like Gal Civ II won’t stand out as much and won’t do nearly as well.

  15. The devs of another 4X title, Sword of the Stars, once said the StarDock nightmare with Starforce is what convinced them to put their foot down with their publisher about using Starforce on their game.

    And now their game is also being sold for digital downloading via Total Gaming! And just to make things wild, the writer for Sword of the Stars is Clarion alumni (ok, so that’s a Cory link, not a game link, and I don’t know if she’s West or East, but link them all together and it’s.. .linky) It’s truly a small world!

  16. “To get money from games/tv shows etc you need new models.”

    Some of us actually DON’T want to see ads.

  17. Clarification

    When I sent in the link about this game, I was in fact, talking about the new game, Sins of a Solar Empire, so maybe more could hear about the game and buy it. This isn’t a huge company, but for them to be taking such an awesome (and correct) stance on DRM is great. I’m highly anticipating Sins of a Solar Empire (awesome name btw) and I loved Galactic Civilizations II.

  18. Hah. I was startled to see this, since GalCiv2 is really old.

    I was also startled, because I bought a shrink-wrapped copy of GalCiv2 in a large-chain store, got it home, installed it and was told that my code was already in use. Presumably some key generator had produced it and somebody else had registered.

    Only way Stardock offered help was by giving me a link to buy a new licence for forty-something dollars. No way.

    I could still play the game, but I couldn’t download the patch that made it not crash, so I couldn’t play it very much.

    So this is no wonder-solution. It breaks just like anything else can.

  19. @ Matthew Walton.

    How’s it feel knowing you, who worked hard to acquire property, were shut out by somebody who didn’t work hard to steal property, whilst shedding self-righteous, Marxist tears alongside Cory Doctorow?

    Sucks, but unless we beat him, it’s the dismal future.

  20. I’m with Roach.

    This is not a big-budget game. I’m a fairly serious gamer, and I’ve never heard of this game or the developer or the publisher. Call me when Bioware or something is doing it. Then it’s big-budget; then it’s interesting.

  21. Great. Now I have ANOTHER strategy game that I must buy and be useless at.

    Of course, I’ve never owned any 4X games… Might be better at them than other strat titles. With the possible exception of the Worms series

  22. This was the first game that I *didn’t* pirate in a very long time. Well, aside from entirely multiplayer games like MMORPGs. I loved that they just let me download it from their site, install it DRM-free, and play away! It’s kind of like paying for the pay-optional Radiohead album — I support these moves in principle and practice.

    If a company puts a new Securom feature on their game, it’s like a challenge (to crack it). If a company releases a DRM-free game, it’s like the opposite challenge is being made (to pay for it). Someday, they’ll learn. :P

    Also, GalCivII is an EXCELLENT game. You’ll find nothing but incredible reviews for it. Long live 4X! :)

  23. Galciv II is an incredibly addictive game. I suffered from a hard case of one-more-turn-itis that I haven’t had in years (“Uh oh, it’s 02:30… well.. I’ll just finish this turn”)

    The ship designer is not safe for perfectionists, as I’ve spent many hours perfecting my fleet designs. I haven’t played much lately (I’ve been playing the sins beta), but if I recall, your ship designs can be ported between games so it is not time completely wasted.

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