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Controversial StarForce Copy Protection Creators Quizzed 952

Thanks to FiringSquad for its interview with the creators of the StarForce copy protection scheme for PC videogames. The author explains: "In recent months there's been an increasing awareness and alarm over StarForce copy protection. It's actually a driver that installs itself with the [Windows] games that come shipped with it, and originally it didn't uninstall when the game was uninstalled." StarForce's Abbie Sommer argues the advantages of "driver-level copy protection", explaining: "The drivers are what prevents the use of kernel debugger utilities such as SoftICE, Cool Debugger, Soft Snoop etc. Also the drivers prevent emulators from spoofing a drive, and thwart burning tools such as Alcohol 120%." The author concludes by injecting a little personal opinion into the mix, arguing: "PC games will never go away, but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy... then the number and quality of games will almost certainly decrease."
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Controversial StarForce Copy Protection Creators Quizzed

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  • Deeply scary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:40AM (#10010254)
    First of all, because I don't trust device manufacturers to write drivers, let alone game coders. How to destabilize your system lesson 1: install this shite.

    Secondly, a VMWare instance will cure all this.

    And what is StarForce anyway? The publicity from this is going to make its sales tank no matter how good its copy protection is. Hopefully this will teach the lesson better than a few lawsuits over data loss.
  • by Stripe7 ( 571267 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:42AM (#10010263)
    That is really a pain. I image all my game CD's and use daemon tools to mount them. I play upto 4 different games a night. Currently playing Fallout Tactics, Rise of Nations, NWN and Shattered Galaxy. I hate having to switch CD's. This driver will make it so even games that are not protected by it cannot no longer be mounted virtually. If I have to reformat my HD to get rid of it if I install a game that has it, I am going to have a serious talk to the game company using it if it costs me 3-8 hours to wipe my HD and reinstall all my games and utilites from scratch. I used to bill my time at US$200/hour. I should send a bill to the gaming company for putting a virus on my system that just cost me a day's work.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:43AM (#10010270) Homepage
    I thought everytime a new device was installed or driver, windows would ask you if you want to have it installed regardless of the fact it is WHQL signed. Please, is there a group policy I can change to not alow ANY drivers be it real or virtual to be installed without my explicit permission?
  • by Balorn ( 236398 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:44AM (#10010274) Homepage
    Brad Wardell (Galactic Civilizations, etc) has some thoughts on piracy and the problems with PC games:

    google groups link here [google.com]
  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:44AM (#10010279) Homepage
    The author concludes by injecting a little personal opinion into the mix, arguing: "PC games will never go away, but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy... then the number and quality of games will almost certainly decrease."
    This author concludes that the market will shrink even faster if nutty game developers insist on using obnoxious copy protection schemes just to (a) prove they're smarter than the crackers (b) show that if the choice comes down to their customer's aggravation and their own profits, then profits win every time.

    Gee, do you think this attitude might force a lot of people to conclude that PC games are such a pain they might as well buy a console and play there?

  • Terrible piece... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmayle ( 200765 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:46AM (#10010291) Homepage Journal

    This is such an apologist piece. From author's viewpoint, this is a done deal, copy protection is a necessity, and he doesn't address the issue of fair use at all. When I buy my videogames, I rarely install them, instead preferring to find a cracked version first, so I don't have to deal with all of the crap, like unwanted driver installations, that I don't know if I'm getting. The guys at Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com] have said the same as well.

    I don't play games without purchasing them (though I did as a student, because I was poor then. If I hadn't then, I probably wouldn't have the gaming drive now that causes me to purchase all of the games I do.), and I'm starting to buy less and less PC games because of the crap I have to deal with. Do you hear that, developers? That is the sound of lost sales.

    I bought XIII, which had some protection that caused the graphics and performance to slowly degrade if the CD is not in the drive. Normally, I would have kept that game to play again in the future, but instead I found someone who was looking to buy it, and gave it to them instead. One more lost sale.

    Could you imagine if a PS2 game you bought installed updated CD/DVD drivers on the memory card, and it caused problems with reading other discs? How about if you couldn't play games on your PS2 just becaused you owned an Action Replay disc? They can be used to play copied games too, you know. This sort of crap is unacceptable, and developers who realize that are in a unique position to capture extra market share. Sure, writing a crappy game won't get you sales, but with two equally good games, there are definitely people who will choose the one that doesn't treat them like a criminal if they know there is a difference.

  • Actually ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheFr00n ( 643304 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:52AM (#10010318)

    ... this is a pretty interesting point. Cedega (formerly WineX) does not have support for most of the new copy protection mechanisms around, and mentions as much in their documentation [transgaming.com]. This means that you can install and run pirated games in Linux that you wouldn't be able to in Windows.

    I mention this not to promote piracy, but because it raises an interesting legal point - Transgaming are technically selling a product that allows you to circumvent copy protection - granted, in a very broad sense. But I wonder how long they'll be allowed to proceed before getting smacked down under the new US laws designed to prevent this sort of thing.

  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:52AM (#10010319)
    Ok, so we've now got a driver being installed(hope they get the Microsoft Hardware Lab to certify this thing or else Windows XP is going to bitch about this and it won't go smoothly), that'll solve the piracy problem, no one can get around a driver.

    I seem to recall some software a few years back which came with a dongle, I also seem to recall that someone managed to fake that dongle so you can pirate the software anyway. Take a lesson here people, if you can't stop piracy with hardware you sure as hell can't do it will software, in all reality Paladium(assuming it ever shows up) probably won't stop piracy. This is for a simple reason, for every guy out there trying to come up with ways to prevent piracy there are at least 100 attempting to circumvent it, and these guys are really really good. There's a lesson here, a lesson we should all have learned a long, long, long time ago, because it's been true since the first copy protection ever implemented. ALL COPY PROTECTION DOES IS INCONVENIENCE THE LEGITIMATE USER. Sorry to have shouted that, but I wouldn't want someone to miss that one. No method of copy protection every created has stopped people from pirating software and the only way I can see that changing any time in the forseeable future.

  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:54AM (#10010327) Journal
    "PC games will never go away, but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy... then the number and quality of games will almost certainly decrease."

    Almost a perfect quote from computer mags 10 years ago, yet World of Warcraft, Neverwinter Nights 2, Half-Life 2, etc are under development. How can that be? Games constantly rise in technical quality and complexity, and it's not uncommon these days to have games in development for 4 years or more. It's BIG business.

    In contrast, if predictions like that were true, we'd probably play something like Alien Invaders 2000 by now. :-P

    Personally, I think -- yes, piracy is bad if you don't buy the games you actually like. In other cases, I find it to be very useful. That games have demo versions isn't a given, especially not demo versions you can try out before a game hits the store to decide if you should get it. A perfect way to boycott junk game publishers very conveniently without having to go back to stores and returning games.
  • by Myuu ( 529245 ) <myuu@pojo.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:00AM (#10010356) Homepage
    "PC games will never go away, but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy... then the number and quality of games will almost certainly decrease."

    I can see the the logic of this, but couldn't a capitalist argue that Piracy creates a new market force vaguely resembling competition. One could argue if that statement is true, that Piracy actually forces the Games makers not to put out wasteful crap like they all to often do (come on more than 50% are crap with no audience) and force them to make stuff live up to competition. IE, if the game sucks I'd probably pirate it, if its good then I'll drive to Software Etc and pick it up.

    Of course one can urge that now the companies have to waste time and money on anti piracy software in the process and that there are games that would appear to have no audience but they create one. (Pokemon, Conker, etc, etc)

    I hope the above is coherent, too late in the night to post, I just wanted to see what my thoughts would crop up.
  • by baadfood ( 690464 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:10AM (#10010403)
    Unfortunately yes. Drivers dont HAVE to be installed using the official driver INF parser. Idiots can bypass that process and simply inject the necessary entries in the registry. All you have to do on 2K/XP is fuck around with HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Servic es And then tell the user they need to reboot as, bypassing the official APIs that would do the WHQL checking means you dont get Plug and Play driver installation. All the more reason to look with great suspicion on ANY windows app that needs a restart after installation. If the proper APIs are used the only time a Windows box really *needs* to be restarted is after youve downloaded a kernel security update.
  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:26AM (#10010471)
    1.make the games better so people are more inclined to pay for them
    2.stop charging a fortune, the cheaper they are the more likely someone will buy them
    3.include better stuff in the box (e.g. a printed manual, mabie a poster of the main character or something)
    4.use CD keys for online access to play multiplayer games
    5.make valid CD keys a requirement to access extra stuff (like how you need a vaid CD key to get onto the official Neverwinter Nights forums or how you need a valid CD key to install patches for some versions of Borland Delphi)
    6.make it easier to get replacement disks if yours are damaged/scratched/unreadable (i.e. send us the broken disks and some small amount to cover postage and we will send you a new copy of the game). Obviously it wouldnt apply for older stuff that they dont have anymore...
    7.in addition to a paper manual, how about a PDF manual straight on the CD so that when the paper manual goes missing, you have a replacement.
  • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:27AM (#10010475)
    I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you don't own the games you buy. You own a license to use those games. Big difference.

    To the extent that you have personal values of ownership (why that could be so important to you is beyond me--haven't you ever rented an apartment, or stayed in a hotel room overnight?), you already HAVE compromised them. And you did it because either you didn't know any better (?), or because you knew on some level and didn't care--the enjoyment of playing the game was worth your $50, regardless of the technicalities of why you're allowed to possess and run the code.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:27AM (#10010476)
    Has anyone found/compiled a list of games that use this copy protection so that we can vote with our wallets?
  • Illegal? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:28AM (#10010482)
    I'm pretty sure the fact that it doesn't uninstall those drivers when you uninstall the game is illegal in the UK, unless they provide a seperate unistall for those drivers and its clearly indicated at install time that you are installing two products.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert@slashdot.fi ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:30AM (#10010494) Homepage
    And many of the commercials on TV say "Own it now" etc.. or "Own it now on video and dvd" in the case of movies etc, so by their own admission you now own it having purchased it.
  • anti-competitive? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:34AM (#10010516)
    couldn't several of these 'copy protection' schemes be considered anti competitive?

    i use daemon tools, i have a collection of images mounted, for the most part old resource cds (clipart, images etc.)

    several of these copy protection schemes (i'm not sure about this one) appear to insist i not only close daemon tools but *uninstall* it before they will even run, at least that seems to be what is happening, at the point where they still complained about emulation software after closing daemon tools i simply returned them. there was another that didn't work if it detected anything to do with my external cd-rom being plugged in (seemed to hate devices detected as SCSI?) again this was annoying, the game was returned.

    maybe they were conflicting with something else as well, who knows but as a legitimate user the copy protection schemes made the games impossible to play without removing other software or hardware from my machine.

    all the comments about this inconveniencing legitimate users are correct, i'm sure if i'd just downloaded a copy then i would be fine, my brother is playing the same games a few miles away but hasn't paid a thing for them. these people seem to like throwing their customers away, its just the same for the protection on audio cds.

    if microsoft made the next version of office refuse to run if it detected firefox or mozilla on the system you could be sure hell would break out, this isn't that different.
  • by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) * on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:43AM (#10010545) Journal
    Since drivers run at Ring 0, the driver could crash the OS kernel. And this could open the door for malicious code that crashes machines with games that have that driver.
  • Re:missed something (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eofpi ( 743493 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @05:58AM (#10010590) Homepage
    I can understand reasonable copy protection systems (such as CD keys, and, to a lesser extent, requiring the CD in the drive to work). A device driver is a bit much though.

    The great-grandparent seems to think the only people trying to pirate a given piece of software fall into 3 categories: the professional pirates (who are probably impossible to stop), the office pirate (what (s)he calls "industrial software piracy"), and the home pirate ("casual copying"). They neglect to consider a couple categories that probably account for most of the .isos and cracks floating around out there: the anarchists (or other kinds of anticapitalists) who feel that it is their duty to crack it and release for some purpose or other, the people who look for a crack because they and/or several of their friends are too poor to each buy a copy, but still want to play the game, and the people who crack it for academic reasons or just to see if it can be done (this group shouldn't account for any of the .isos or cracks, however).

    One of these 6 groups is harmless; two are unquestionably a threat (or at least hope they are), and 3 are potentially both harmful and beneficial (because, although they don't get the full number of sales that they would if everyone using it bought a copy, it gets the pirates used to the software and makes them more likely to buy it (or newer versions/sequels thereof) when they have the money to do so, and increases the vendor's market share (Aside: I wonder if MS would have quite the monopoly it does if Windows had never been pirated by anyone)).
  • Re:Actually ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by C_To ( 628122 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:11AM (#10010628)
    Transgaming is a Canadian-based company [transgaming.com] so the DMCA, although not totally immune to them, does not apply to them directly.
  • USB Dongles (Score:2, Interesting)

    by managementboy ( 223451 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:12AM (#10010631) Homepage
    So what if instead of some software one uses a USB based hardwarekey. If I don`t own a valid USB Key the game does not run... IANADeveloper...
  • by qray ( 805206 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:10AM (#10010860)
    I was bitten by poorly written software installed on my system by a game I had installed. I never realized the thing had installed a program that launched at startup and continued to run. Once a minute it would go out to the manufacture's site and do who knows what. I was playing Tribes and noticed that every so off my link would get bad, about once a minute. I thought it was my ISP. While sitting watching TV I had happened to leave Task Manager up and running. I saw the CPU go to 100% for a couple of seconds. That peaked my interest. Sorted on CPU usage and waited and sure enough it happened again. I found the offending process, terminated it, did some checking and found out it had been installed by this game. AND it turned out this was what was causing Tribes to freeze ever so often. Honestly I don't mind authors trying to protect their software, but hey, leave my system alone. There are enough buggy drivers I have to live with without someone adding something else that can crash the entire system. And I wonder how long it will take for someone to create a hacked version of the driver that will negate their efforts?
  • by 0x00 ( 224127 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:21AM (#10010905)
    My brothers Diablo II LOD cd recently exploded (literally) in his drive. Called up the distributor and they said that they'd take his details and would look into it. We thought that this was just a brush off but the next day a brand new CD arrived via express post complete with a new cd-key as well.

    How many times have you actually tried to get a replacement CD from a distributor?


  • by psyco484 ( 555249 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:29AM (#10010939)
    Excellent link. I think it's also worth me mentioning that I downloaded both Etherlords 2 and XIII before they hit retail and had no problems playing the pirated versions. In fact, I never burn discs because I know I'm either going to buy the game or not, and it's only going to take me an hour or two to make that decision, so my games were all mounted with d-tools. This software does not stop pirated versions from being distributed, it's just a pain in the ass for legitimate users. The problem of course is that declining sales don't immediatly make publishers think "hey, that game must have sucked," instead they think "hey, we need more copy protection."

    And I did buy XIII, Etherlords 2 sucked. Learning that XIII uses this software makes me regret my purchase, but I'll state yet again that their software must suck because I've had no problems using d-tools.

  • by Gridpoet ( 634171 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:34AM (#10010955)
    "i want to reward publishers that make good games" Publishers dont make good games Developers do...and that is my big beef with the system right now. Developers slave long hours to produce somthing for us to enjoy then the fat corperate publishers take it and give them back pennys on the dollar for every sale. My money isnt funding the devs, its going to some nobrain middleman marketing creep for crappy advertising. ...Me...i just warez the game and send a moneyorder (or paypal if they have one) straight to the developer. thats voting with your wallet
  • by macZy ( 806680 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:53AM (#10011045)
    I am not an avid gamer but I play once in a while, and probably buy 3-4 games per year. I'd probably buy a couple more if the price was lower - $50+ is too much I think for most games (very few are worth that much money). I don't mind CD-keys, and some copy-protection, but if I cannot make bakup copies of my own cds or make cd images out of them, that will turn me off buying games. And as others have pointed out it should clearly state on the box what protections are in place so I can make an informed decision about whether to buy that game or not. I do download the occasional game, but if it is something I really like and keep playing then I pay for it.
  • This is the total truth. I so wanted to buy Far Cry. It sounded like an awesome game... and then I found out that it won't run if you have Daemon Tools on your system. That's absolute bullshit that they should be able to dictate what other software I am allowed to have on my PC. I use Daemon Tools for legitimate purposes. The only .isos on my computer are either linux .isos or legitimate software that I have purchased. I have never once ran a cracked game from Daemon tools. But you know what? Far Cry's copy protection made me want to do just that. I never bought the game because of this copy protection and the only reason that I didn't find a pirated copy was becuase I'm too lazy to search the warez sites for it. I make enough money to buy all of my games these days, and I always do just to try to support the developers that make good games. Now, if only there were some way that I could let Far Cry's publishers know that I didn't buy their game and why. Oh, and make them care.
  • Protection? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:13AM (#10011120)
    "PC games will never go away, but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy... then the number and quality of games will almost certainly decrease."

    Well, guess what. Whenever you add stuff like this to games you make gaming on a PC more and more uncomfortable. One thing is that you need updates, bug fixes and whatnot - sometimes to get the game running in the first place. A lot of the copy protection schemes wronly detects software and basically makes it a hit and miss operation to get things running by making the user uninstall pretty much all software on their computer to get the game running, because some "protection" didn't like some component - even though it may not even be related. Does it sound wacky? Yes it does. But it's never the less what some people have to go through - believe it or not.

    Besides that, who wants to actually put a cd/dvd in the machine when you have gigabytes if not terrabytes of storage these days? It's like having to put in a dongle yesteryear. Discs have a greater chance of getting scratches when you handle them, so making an image on your drive and playing off of that save the original in the long run.

    Who do these people think they help? What they're really doing is killing the pc game industry. Besides, who says their system will work on the next version of Windows? When you're making a "driver" that's a very real possibility. Then you'll have a game rendered useless. Who benefits from that? Remastered versions aren't likely to be made and generally (generally!!) people don't keep PCs around after upgrading. So you have a non-usable game.

    Guess that's why I'd rather keep my collection of consoles around. Each has its own charm. I do wish I could put a gigantic drive in each of them and store all my games on it (and yes, I do know of hdloader for PS2 and Xbox chipping), but at least I know my games will work in the future. Without patching. And I don't have to uninstall software on my computer to get things working. Guess that's why the console market is growing and the PC market is shrinking. Meanwhile crackers get to perform a valuable service to gamers everywhere by providing no-cd fixes for games that shouldn't have had cd checks in the first place. Because let's face it. No matter how good your protection is the crackers are better and WILL defeat it. Then we have a lot of people who are playing cracked games and are happy, while people who have bought the game in a shop are unhappy because they can't get it to work.

    I wonder how big a share of the piracy market that's really just legitimate users wanting to get a copy that isn't nearly unusable because of copy protection.

    Hey! The PC market is still shrinking! Quick! It must be rampant piracy. Quick. Invent more copy protection schemes that will stop the piracy!

    Man. This post should really get a +5 sad.
  • by clifyt ( 11768 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:30AM (#10011199)
    So Grid,

    The publishers do nothing? They don't front the cash to make certain the game is going to be funded? They don't take the chance that its going to be another Daitakata and sell nothing (well I hoe that game sold nothing -- it probably made billions), they don't make certain that a developer can actually focus on the game as opposed to doing a few other cash cow projects in the meantime (I know one company that actively makes military systems to pay for their games -- a good friend of mine said fuck this shit and quit because he's a pacifist -- well in real life, you wouldn't want to go head to head with him).

    The publisher makes everything possible is most cases.

    Why does ID use a publisher these days as opposed to going it on their own -- they certainly are big enough to do so. They do so to limit the risks knowing someone else will take the heat if something bad goes down.

    So, voting with your wallet? No, you are stealing and a stupid motherfucker. You are trying to renegotiate contracts that the developer thought were good enough to put their name down on an get the benefits from.

    This is as moronic as the motherfuckers that steal music from P2P services and then claim to send money in through other services that claim to send the money to the artists (without realizing that it fucks over folks like me that tech for artists, occasionaly doing backup work, all in all making them sound good, or my best friend that is a killer songwriter but lost most of his vocal capacity a few years ago and now accumulates his gold and platnium albums solely via writting the songs for these idiots. Its stealing from people like him and me.

    Again, this is a direct analogue to what you are saying. And I can guarantee that you've *NEVER* sent a single dime to a developer. Thats voting with your wallet. Its fucking idiots like you that are the cause of copy protection on software.

    Having said this, yes, I use to use cracked software -- only after I owned the original software. I had done this as far back as the commodore 64 where the copy protection involved banging the 1541's drives to read normally unreadable tracks. No more. If the copy protection is not something I like on my computer, I don't use it. This is why my main music software uses a dongle as opposed to disc protection -- or challenge response (either calling the company or lugging a 600 page manual trying to find the pages to type a phrase) -- I can live with that because it means I can install it on as many computers as I want an I just pull out my key ring and pop the dongle in the USB slot when I need to use it.

    I understand why some use copyprotection and the idiot above is a perfect example. Unfortunately, I've see too many companies go under or bought out for pennies on the dollar by companies that just wanted another feather in their cap solely because of piracy. I know one music software company that has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for a year or two now, even though everyone has a copy of their software. Its a shame I run into so few that actually own it. Each and everytime folks claim that they aren't doing anything wrong, they aren't using it for monetary gain.

    Sadly, this is the same excuse I hear when motherfuckers give cracked copies of games to their friends...after I'm finished with a game, I give it to friends, but not until after. Just like a book not as in here's the key to the bookstore.
  • by jwdb ( 526327 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:41AM (#10011263)
    but you don't own the games you buy. You own a license to use those games.

    So if I only own a license to play the game, does that mean that they are required to replace the CD if it becomes scratched or worn? How about making a copy of a friend's to replace my own? No? Why not? I didn't pay for the CD, I payed for the license, so it doesn't matter if it's the original or a copy or even a cracked version from the net...


    Maybe you better rethink your stance.

  • DEMOS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaleco ( 801384 ) <greig,marshall2&btinternet,com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:54AM (#10011361)
    I noticed on that list that there are several demos. It is completely unacceptable that a demo could install this dubious software, when it's distribution does not constitute piracy in anyone's terms. I hope these games give users a warning about what they are going to install.
  • by SillyNickName4me ( 760022 ) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:08AM (#10011467) Homepage
    > It should be considered as what it is, after carefully looking into the situation. If it turns out that the trojan-like effects were agreed to in the EULA or wherever, then it's not really a trojan, to the extent that the original trojan horse was a trick, whereas this one wouldn't be.

    Of course one could argue that before bringing it in, the Trojas should have looked inside the horse, its not like it was unknown that such a construction would be hollow and a good place to hide in (just like EULAs are a good place for hiding things)

    The end user will in many cases have no clue whatsoever about the potential consequences of this if they find it in the EULA to begin with.

    At any rate, if this is what they want, let them make an auto booting CD with all their junk on it so they don't have to install it on my harddisk.

    I can quite live with a game that boots from CD and only works when booted from the original CD provided I can obtain a spare of the CD in case it breaks.

    This would also give the game producers a lot more control over the environment they are running in (and you could still use the harddisk for updates as long as you keep them seperate from the OS and applications there and don't try to stick them into the users config.
  • by MadHungarian1917 ( 661496 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:14AM (#10011515)
    For reasons like this PC game installs are verboten at my house on any machine but the designated game box.

    Windows is simply too crufty by far to risk destabilizing a machine which you need simply by installing a game.

    You would think that the corporate titans would realize the only purpose of a corporation is to provide goods and services which people may or may not choose to consume.

    Right now the current crop of MBA's thinks their customer is Wall Street and the 'customers/consumers' will blindly purchase anything they choose to provide.

    i.e. Britney, Spiderman Alien vs Whatever, Any recent Disney production.

    These people need a reality check
  • by mausmalone ( 594185 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:15AM (#10011521) Homepage Journal
    There's another scheme like this that isn't StarForce.... I can't remember the name now, but it's the one that edits your MBR. I actually had a program that told me "This requires [such and such] copy protection software. Would you like to install it? (You will not be able to run this program unless you install the copy protection.)" Needless to say, I was shocked... and didn't install it. Although I hate the terrible copy protection software, I'm much happier when software makers are upfront about using it.
  • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:17AM (#10011539)
    Already installed. What's next? Booting directly from the game CD into a custom anti-piracy OS and disabling any access to Windows?
  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:18AM (#10011546)
    As for me, I will NEVER buy a StarForce game.

    And how in the world are you supposed to know what copy protection they have? It's not like they advertise what copy protection methods they use on the box.
  • by Feanturi ( 99866 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:21AM (#10011576)
    Actually, not the first time it's happened either. Some game I bought in the last few months, don't remember which one, has some elaborate copy-protection scheme that seems to think I'm running CD emulation software. I'm not, but couldn't play my brand new game without googling for a crack first. That's not right, I shouldn't be forced to resort to such things.
  • It's not "back to the future", it's "forward to the past".

    Back in the early '80s I bought a game for the Apple ][ called "Wizardry". This game had an extremely delicate copy protection mechanism that depended on matching the speed of the disk to a timer. I used to play it on three or four different Apples at different times, and there were slight variations in the speed of the disks. After a while, I could no longer play the game except on one particular machine... the drive speed on that machine had apparently been changing slightly over time and the copy protection had adapted the floppy to it.

    Eventually I went to one of the local pirates and did something I'd never done before... begged a cracked game off him. I actually had him copy a cracked version of Wizardry on top of my original diskette. It was the only way I could depend on being able to run it.

    Seriously, in the not-too-distant future, I imagine the first thing I do after I buy a new game is to go download the pirated version.

    "You're safe and sound now, back in good old 1982."
  • by LiberalApplication ( 570878 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:41AM (#10011758)
    Seriously, in the not-too-distant future, I imagine the first thing I do after I buy a new game is to go download the pirated version.
    It's kinda sad, and it really annoyed me. Being not too much of a gamer but a bit of a WWII buff, I went and purchased Call of Duty [callofduty.com] the day it came out. Now, I have a homebrew system with no internal optical drive (I'm a bit of a pc-modder too), and so I installed it from an external firewire DVDR drive. I'm not sure what form of copy protection CoD has, but get this: It installed, but refused to run. Upon further investigation, I learned that it wouldn't run from external drives. In fact, it won't even run if you have any virtual drives set up on your system either. In order to play the game, I would have to uninstall Nero, get an IDE CD-device, and perform some frustrating driver juggling tasks because I also have an NVidia NForce2 chipset based motherboard.

    That was just unacceptable, so I did the only thing I could do to play the game I purchased: pirate it.

  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:44AM (#10011786)
    Some game consoles work like this even now. That way, you never worry about someone upgrading the OS out from under your game and now your game needs patching. The solution is to have the CD basically being a bootable CD complete with loader, OS, and autorun the game that is on it. Not a bad idea actually...
  • by Art_Vandelai ( 596101 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:00AM (#10011926)
    "I can quite live with a game that boots from CD and only works when booted from the original CD provided I can obtain a spare of the CD in case it breaks."

    Exactly - I don't know why taking a CD out of its case and sticking it in the drive is such a big deal. I've probably purchased over 100 games in my lifetime, and not once has a CD become damaged so I couldn't play. The chances of the CD being damaged before the next sequel comes out is miniscule.

    What bugs me more is how the game companies are putting long advertisements/splash screens at the start (EA Sports, anyone) which can't be bypassed, at least with the regular executables.

  • by josiebauer ( 591057 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:28AM (#10012210) Homepage
    And some of us have grown up and continue to play games, what the hell does being grown up have to do with playing or not playing games? I'll never understand why people continue to equate game playing with being juvenile. The reason not many grown ups in the past played games is that they didn't grow up with them. For those of us who have had the hobby since we were kids, why the hell would we give it up just to be "responsible grown ups" in someone elses eyes? People find their interests and hobbies when they are young, and most often continue with the same hobbies for their entire lives. I also will not buy games with this form of protection, but my husband and I have mostly stopped buying PC games at all and stick to consoles. Most of the games that come out for the PC now are just MMORPGs and FPSs, neither of which can hold our interest for any length of time.
  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@NOSpAM.neverbox.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:38AM (#10012311) Homepage
    Exactly. I just ripped a piece of software called 'Street Atlas USA 2004' that I legally own (It came with a GPS, and the owner purchased some nicer software from the same company, and gave it to me.) to my laptop's hard drive, using Alcohol 120%. Frankly, I don't want to have to remember to make sure I have the CD with me in case I happen to be in the middle of God-knows-where when I need it, and I wouldn't want to suck the laptop's batteries even if I did. Luckily, it didn't come with any sort of copy protection, and worked fine under Alcohol. (And it's pretty good for a piece of software given away for free.)

    Anyone who thinks ripping and burning tools only are for illegal software and music copying are delusional.

  • You can't be serious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ryosen ( 234440 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:41AM (#10012347)
    Not playing games is a sign of being an adult? I guess that's going to be some crushing news to my grandparents who still play bridge and scrabble on a near-daily basis.

    Seriously, I can't stand self-righteous pricks who equate game-playing with immaturity. If you want to take life so seriously as to not allow yourself a bit of liesure time, go right ahead, but don't make the foolish mistake of taking a holier-than-thou attitude simply because you have some sort of bullshit hangup derived from Corithians 13:11 or some misguided belief that creative and imaginitve play is not as important for an adult as it is for a child.
  • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd AT harrelsonfamily DOT org> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:41AM (#10012351) Homepage
    And how in the world are you supposed to know what copy protection they have? It's not like they advertise what copy protection methods they use on the box.

    Well, HERE [boycottstarforce.org] is a good starting point. Isn't the internet wolderful?

    The last game that I purchased (that did not come bundled with hardware) was Knights of the Old Republic. And to LucasArts credit, it said in big red letters on the bottom that it used technology to prevent copying. I am very much looking forward to KOTOR2, but if they use StarForce, then either I will pass, or I will wait until a crack exists before purchasing the game.
  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:50AM (#10012457)
    Well, the crackers *could* have inserted a malicious payload into the game. On the other hand, the manufacturers *certainly* have. Not to mention that cracking groups usually do that sort of stuff for cred, and distributing viruses wouldn't do much for that. Plus the sad fact that I trust the integrity of crackers more than I do the integrity of a publishing house.
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:17AM (#10012848)

    If Bill Gates wanted, he could include a clause in the Windows XP EULA that requires all users to twirl in a circle three times on the request of any MS employee.

    Certainly. However, I have never signed or otherwise accepted a single EULA in my life. Mr. Gates is certainly welcome to prove otherwise, if he can. Until then, I'm going to ignore any unilateral declarations from him.

    What ? You say that I can't install the software without accepting the EULA ? How strange. I clicked on "No, I don't accept" and it still installed. Must be a random bug. You say that I really pushed "Yes" by mistake ? Prove it. Sorry, install logs aren't proof, they're far too easy to tamper with.

    That's because it's a license agreement: as your end of a contract, you agree to accept MS's conditions, while they fulfill their end of the contract by allowing you to use their software.

    I don't need an EULA, I already have the implied license I got when I purchased the media and packaging the software came in from the software store. Here's the receipt as a proof of purchase. I upheld my part of the contract - I paid you money. That's the only contract I ever entered with you, Mr. Gates, and my end has been fulfilled.

    Now, since I don't see my signature or any other evidence of any agreement on my part on those EULAs, I'm going to ignore them as garbage they are.

  • by Fishstick ( 150821 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:57AM (#10013424) Journal
    Yup, I hear that.

    I made the mistake of 'activating' NFS3 that came with my tnt card I bought years back. I enjoyed the game, played it thoroughly, put the CD on the shelf somewhere.

    Fast forward to earlier this year -- the machine where NFS3 was installed is gone, obsolete and recycled for parts. I have a newer machine that I'd like to play NFS3 on -- New force feedback steering wheel and everything.

    I have the CD and it works fine, but I need to activate the product in order to play it. Surprise, doesn't work. The website and email address and phone number are all gone. Googling around finds that they went under and someone else bought up their assets.

    Call them and finally reach someone who says "game is over 5 years old, we don't support new activations". Not new activation - reactivation on new machine. I'm allowed to do this eight times -- no mention of a time limit. I paid $20 to play this game that came with my vid card, and I wanna play it some more.

    They were supposed to look into it and get back. Never heard from them. I guess this is a $20 lesson. I don't want to play the game badly enough to waste any more time over it.
  • System Shock 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CelticWhisper ( 601755 ) <celticwhisper@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @12:08PM (#10013563)
    Though it doesn't use StarForce, this same issue befell me with System Shock 2. Ever try to get this running on a Win2K/WinXP system? I'll give you a hint, the -lgntforce parameter is NOT the end-all be-all of running this game on an NT system. 3 days of playing musical OSs later, and I finally get the thing running using a cracked EXE on a pure install of XP-no patches, no DX9, no SP1, just the core OS. Of course, I can't install any of my other utilities because I'm paranoid they're going to screw up SS2's delicate copy protection scheme. And yes, I did buy the game.
  • Errrrr, what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quixadhal ( 45024 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @03:20PM (#10015868) Homepage Journal
    "but if the market keeps shrinking due to the increasing ease of piracy..."

    Since when has the computer game market EVER shrunk, for ANY reason? What kind of drugs do they think we're on to try a line like that, and where can I get some?

    The only way piracy hurts the industry is in killing of some individual games that were poorly marketed, or poor enough quality that nobody was willing to fork over $50 to get a new coaster. In just about every other way, piracy serves as free advertising... people who can afford to buy it, will hear about it and go buy it. People who can't, won't anyways.

    I buy games and then download no-cd cracks for them, since I already lost one cdrom drive due to Diablo II's copy protection thrashing (it eventually blew the alignment to the point where it wouldn't read anything without multiple retries). I consider this trend of copy protection to be invasive and childish... a CD isn't a game, it's a delivery mechanism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @03:44PM (#10016149)
    Indeed. It's rare, but ISOs have been released with (accidental) virus infection before. They get nuked instantly and avoided like the plague, the releasers are horribly embarassed...

    Not to condone piracy, but the "global warez scene" is a great example of a self-monitoring network, due I think to the fact that its principles are based on quality, skill, and respect.. as opposed to profit, which only seems to corrupt and distract.
  • by Hank Reardon ( 534417 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @04:17PM (#10016525) Homepage Journal

    So let's say the stores tack on 100% or 50% or the game wholesale cost. That would mean that the distribution house is selling the games wholesale at (100%): $20 - $30 per game or (100%): $10 - $15 per game to the stores.

    The company I work for is currently looking into selling console games to the masses and we've been in contact with various distribution channels recently. From what I'm hearing from the distributors, the above statement isn't true.

    The weird thing is, no matter who we talk to, the best price we can get for something like, say, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is $1.00 below the suggested retail price. I've been told by our contacts that everybody gets roughly the same price breaks and that the best we'll ever be able to do is two or three dollars below MSRP.

    I have no idea where Best Buy, CompUSA, Walmart and all the others who sell games are getting their product. I've been told in various contacts that there is no dealing with publishers unless you're a game distributor, so it appears that a direct deal between Best Buy and, say, Activision isn't what's at play here.

    If the large-chain retailers can get price breaks of only $3.00 per copy from these guys, I have to wonder if they're keeping games as a loss leader.

    Of course, I've got to wonder if somebody's blowing smoke up my ass regarding the whole supply chain for video games.

    The math is mostly sound, but you're a little low in estimation of the production cost. You have to figure overhead into the cost of goods sold. Office rent, utilities, hardware costs, Worker's Comp insurance, company-paid portions of Social Security and other stuff like that inflates your cost to a company a bit. Based on my department, a $70,000 per year employee without health benefits costs the company an additional $20,000 in overhead expenses.

    You also need to factor in things like lawyers and licensing. Neither is cheap, and licensing hits in funky places. Look at video formats, for example. You're going to need a lawyer just to work out the contract details for including BIK video codec stuff. BIK wants prominent placement in your product, via a splash video, and the laywers have to argue about the order in the start up animations, if it uses sound, whether or not the user can click through it, etc.

    It's clear from the price that somebody's making a killing off of video games, but I'm not really sure where it's going.

  • by StillAnonymous ( 595680 ) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:42PM (#10018750)
    Actually, it does!

    The protections that are in use on most of today's games are SecuROM and SafeDisc. They're wrappers around the original executable. They're made this way so that the publisher can easily protect an executable without having the source code. It encrypts the original and decrypts it when you have the original CD in the drive that contains the auth code. Part of the wrapper has the code which checks for verbotten software like debuggers and cd-rom emulation.

    Once you've decrypted the executable, you can remove the wrapper and you have the virgin exe again, sans all the bullshit checks and instability associated with the kooky code they've added (you really gotta see this shit to believe it, they break every rule in the programming books).

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner