I decided to give Sims 3 a shot – despite what Spore did for my opinions of EA. I’m not a Sims player, but I feel obliged to give it a whorl because its such a vast market segment. After playing fine yesterday, today when I tried to launch I got an error “Could not write license data”.
Now, I’ve fixed it and I’ll explain how after the bump, but before I do you need to understand a little about this error.
Electronic Arts games are now protected by Digital Rights Management software built into the Download Manager. Layman’s terms: They’ve built in a system to stop people stealing (pirating) copies of the game.
This particular error is part of that protection system. And this is the part you have to understand: this error is like a burglar alarm for EA. Despite the fact there are all kinds of things that can cause this group of errors – from problems with EA’s servers (see screenshot) to firewalls to Windows quirks to whether you signed in or not – if you try to call EA support regarding this error, bear in mind that what you are saying is “Hey, you don’t know me, and I accidentally tripped your burglar alarm, but I’m legit, honest!”
EA have to assume there is – at least – a chance you are a pirate, maybe even a cracker. So it is not in their interests to give you any help that may facilitate pirates figuring ways around their DRM protection.
Laymans terms: EA support are not going to help you. Their advice will consist of: check your firewalls, reinstall the product and “hey, for some people it helps to reinstall Windows”.
Things that can cause this error:
- Firewalls and network connection: The DRM system has to get a license to run each time you launch an EA game. If your firewall blocks the connection or if your ISP blocks the connection or if there is bad “internet weather”, it may fail and in doing so determine your copy is not legitimate. Buh-bye.
- Whether you were signed in or not: I didn’t log in the first time I played, then I noticed there was a “Free Town” I could install so I signed in, after which I was no-longer able to play my copy of the game until I applied the fix below.
- Activating the product: There are 3 places you have to activate the product/enter your registration data. During the install, in the EA Download Manager and in the Community Site. Activating/reactivating any of the second 2 after you’ve started playing may cause your existing installations to stop working (the fix below seems to help).
- Technical problems at EAs site. If their DRM system is slow, buggy or down, or if their community authentication or site is down, this may result in your game failing to get the right authorization and thus determine itself to be a pirate copy.
How to avoid this issue:
When you start “The SimsTM 3” it brings up a Launcher program, like an MMO. You won’t actually be trying to Play the Sims until you click that (>) button. It’s OK to click the desktop icon to start the launcher.
First, install. Then before you try to start the game, run the EA Download Manager and login/register there. Next, activate the game through the EA Download Manager.
Now, start the game using the “The Sims(TM) 3” icon. This will bring up the launcher.
Before you try to play, you need to log the launcher into the community too – to make sure you don’t invalidate yourself in future. Make sure you go to the community site and activate the product there too.
Now, finally, shutdown the launcher and download manager and reboot. Why the hell you have to reboot to install a game is beyond me, but it seems to make a difference.
You should now be able to launch and play the game without license issues. Network and/or other anomalies may still cause you to occasionally get these license errors and … if you need a fix…
The fix… (Windows)
Well, not “the” definitive fix. Some people are going to be screwed regardless. But I found a fix for most of my problems here, on the EA UK forums. To whit:
Click the Start button, then
- Old-style start menu users: Click Run and type the command into the “Run” input box.
- Vista/Win7 style start menu users: Type the command into the “Search” input box at the bottom of the start menu.
The command you want to run is:
rd /s /q "%APPDATA%\SecuROM"
You may want to try without the “/q” if this doesn’t work on your version of Windows (things change, and I’ve only tested this on Windows 7 and Virtual XP under Windows 7 – if you have a really old version of Windows you’re on your own).
This will remove the “SecuROM” directory from your Windows “Application Data” folder, forcing the DRM system to rebuild it next time you run, which somehow causes it recover.
I can’t guarantee this will work for everyone in all cases, and chances are some EA suit will take a disliking to this at some later point so … if this post is more than 3 months old when you read it, I’d suggest you google and check forums for any more recent advice before trying it.