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The Problems With Game Copy Protection 439

Next Generation has a piece looking at the sometimes overly enthusiastic copy protection schemes used in PC games. From the article: "In the late '80s and early '90s, the games industry could do little more than ask nicely that you not pirate their wares. These days, however, copy-protection software is ubiquitous, and any PC game bought at retail is going to have it embedded on the game disc(s) in one form or another. I'm okay with that in theory, but some of these anti-piracy software programs are so potent that they cause issues for legitimate game buyers. One of the leading brands, StarForce, is notorious for not only making it difficult for a small percentage of legitimate users to load up StarForce-protected games, but also for leaving potentially problem-causing StarForce software behind on your PC, even after you've deleted the game it was protecting."
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The Problems With Game Copy Protection

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  • The problem.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZiakII ( 829432 ) * on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:23PM (#14886375)
    There to easy to crack and anyone determined can find a way around it....
    • Agreed. I had never cracked a piece of software before, and wanted to play around with the full version of Framsticks [] for a few days only, so I looked up how. It took me a few hours to go from no knowledge base to having the program cracked. I didn't redistribute, but I can imagine that someone with a less scruples on the subject likely would.
    • Re:The problem.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thepotoo ( 829391 ) <> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:43PM (#14886589)
      WHAT are you talking about?

      I've played games that require Starforce 3...namely X3 and PoP:T2T.
      I can say that anyone willing to go through the required process to break these games has no life. Basicly, these games require a special piece of (illigal) software, and then, you have to physically unplug your IDE CD-ROM drive power cable. Every time you want to play
      That's something not many people are willing to go through, thus, Starforce is doing a good job. Now, read TFA, and notice that they are doing a little too good of a job; namely, harming legit systems. It's a mess.

      • Re:The problem.... (Score:3, Informative)

        by ZiakII ( 829432 ) *
        I've played games that require Starforce 3...namely X3 and PoP:T2T. I can say that anyone willing to go through the required process to break these games has no life. Basicly, these games require a special piece of (illigal) software, and then, you have to physically unplug your IDE CD-ROM drive power cable. Every time you want to play That's something not many people are willing to go through, thus, Starforce is doing a good job. Now, read TFA, and notice that they are doing a little too good of a job; nam
        • Daemon Tools, unless something has changed VERY recently, still does not support StarForce.
        • Re:The problem.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Psykosys ( 667390 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:09PM (#14886813)
          You do have to use Daemon Tools or a similar program for the workaround/crack he's talking about, but you must also, as he says, unplug the drives or use separate software to fool the computer into their nonexistence (the latter only works with certain motherboards anyway). The D-Tools developers have been reluctant to add Starforce support, because it is updated so frequently and uses an insane number of protection measures (emulator-detection is just one of them). You can say a lot of mean things about Starforce, but it does work. I don't think anyone's cracked King Kong yet, for example, and by the time they do its sales peak will be over anyway.

          I tried this with an ISO of King Kong myself, solely for educational purposes obviously, and gave up very quickly. Then I had to use System Restore because my CD drives would not un-disappear...

          • Do people not attempt to crack the games themselves any more? What's this with trying to fool StarForce - what prevents the code from being ripped out or damaged? That's the historic way of cracking games, anyways.
            • Re:The problem.... (Score:5, Informative)

              by wolrahnaes ( 632574 ) <.ofni.wolrahnaes. .ta. .naes.> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:34PM (#14887021) Homepage Journal
              From what I understand, Starforce actually converts the executable, or parts of it, to a bytecode format which is encrypted and only usable with Starforce installed and functional. The developer can choose how much or how little to protect, generally leaving the high performance areas unprotected and a few well chosen pieces heavily protected. This effectively means that one needs to reverse engineer the Starforce bytecode or acquire the source for the executable.

              This is also why a popular method for defeating SF in the past was to use the demo binaries with the full version data, which has now led to demos being infected with this crap.
              • Re:The problem.... (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Rei ( 128717 )
                Then why can't you crack the starforce drivers to bypass or glitch its CD checks?
                • Re:The problem.... (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by dhakbar ( 783117 )
                  I'm sure there's a good reason, because StarForce 3 has been around for quite a while and many of the games it "protects" are still not conveniently cracked (Splinter Cell comes to mind).
              • Re:The problem.... (Score:3, Insightful)

                by rtb61 ( 674572 )
                I'll stick to the easist way to crack star force or any other hidden driver protection scheme, you publish games with it, I will not buy your games. I have stopped buying games as a result of idiotic protection schemes and based upon games company revenues it seems I am not the only one.

                Until publishers list on the site which protection scheme goes with which games, I wont be buying any more games. Let's see who cracks first, their bank balance or my desire to play a computer game, oh wait, I've got many

      • Re:The problem.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:30PM (#14886988)
        Dude, instead of unplugging the drives, there is another way:

        1. On BIOS, change the IDE detection to "No Drive Connected" or "Disabled"
        2. Boot WinXP. It'll ignore the BIOS report of drives and do it's own detection. WinXP will find the CDROM.
        3. Install Daemon tools.
        4. Install your pirated game from the image you downloaded.
        5. Open up your Device Manager and disable the physical CDROM.
        6. Run the SFCrack or SFFuck tools to remove SF.
        7. Play the game.

        It works in almost every case. If you have a NForce3 mobo, you don't need to do anything. SF can't determone which drives are real and which are fake on NF3 chipsets.

        BTW, X3 was a shitty game anyway.
      • Re:The problem.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @09:49PM (#14887873)
        Wire a switch between your drive and the power or just get a USB/Firewire enclosure for your CD drive

        Which is what I did, since it didn't like my drive on bloody legitimately bought games.

        It's sad when you have to crack a game that you bought.
    • Re:The problem.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trifthen ( 40989 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:53PM (#14887553) Homepage
      Actually, the real problem is that these draconian copy protections make it easier for a pirate to play a game, than the person who actually made a purchase. Why buy a game and jump through 1000 hoops, when you can just get a pirated copy with all that garbage removed? It's as if they're encouraging piracy at this point...
      • Re:The problem.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by KlaymenDK ( 713149 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @04:34AM (#14889226) Journal
        I agree.

        I manage a stack of gaming computers for a local youth center. We ditched the idea of handing out original cd's for the games that kids wanted to play, and went for imaging and emulation instead. The reasons are obvious: handling hassle; broken, lost or stolen cds; etc.

        It's a PAIN to do this. I mean, naturally we have a full set of cds (one for each pc), but still have a legitimate need to separate the original media from the actual use.

        So yes, it would be easier to just crack the fsckers (ie. use pirated versions of our legitimately bought games), but we can't do that because we're a public institution. Just great.
      • Re:The problem.... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sbrown123 ( 229895 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#14890213) Homepage
        So true. I bought a copy of Sacred for my computer some months back from Walmart. The problems went as such:

        1. First, it didn't like my virtual CD drive software. Even though the software was not running, it wouldn't let me start the game until the offending software was completely removed from my computer.

        2. The game would not work because I had anti-virus software running. I had to manually turn off the anti-virus software. Since it was Norton AntiVirus, this was quite a chore. And since I always wanted the anti-virus software running on my computer on startup, I refused to uninstall the anti-virus software or keep it turned off.

        3. It demanded that I had to load it from my DVD drive instead of the CD drive (and mind you that this is CD media, not a DVD). Unlike the DVD drive, I rarely use my CD drive so I figured just keeping the Sacred CD in the drive would save me having to load and unload the game disc whenever I wanted to play the game. Nope. Can't do that.

        4. Booting the game took forever and dragged my system almost to a halt. Durign this time, my DVD drive made some sickening sounds as it was started and stopped multiple times.

        5. After all the above, the game would still sometimes not run. I joined the voices of many others screaming at the company for producing this pile of steaming crap. All they could do was say they were working with the copy protection software company to resolve the problems. Waiting.....waiting....

        Annoyed, I downloaded a "no-cd" hack. I can't play the game online, but I CAN play the game. Thats all I ever wanted to do. This hack solved all my problems. I didn't need the game CD in the drive anymore so I could play the game when I wanted to without hunting for the game CD. My anti-virus software could remain running. My virtual CD software could remain installed. The game started in seconds!

        Ofcourse, Sacred will get an update in the very near future that will make the hack not work anymore and I will once again be stuck with a game I don't want to run because of its copy protection. :(
  • What is this uninstall you speak of?

    Seriously though, if a game is worth $50 to buy, I'm not likely to be uninstalling it anytime soon.

    • Re:Uninstall? (Score:2, Informative)

      In the days of several gig games, this becomes a real issue. If I'm playing one game and get stuck or bored with it, sometimes I have to install everything but the save-games to make room for something else.
      • In the days of several hundred gig games^H^H^H^H^Hhard drives, this never becomes a real issue. If I'm playing one game and get stuck or bored with it, sometimes I never have to uninstall everything but the save-games to make room for something else.

        Alright, maybe not everyone has 600 gb of hard disk space, but for me, even when weighing in 5+ gb per game (9+ for command and conquer: the last decade), I've got room for about an hundred games. I currently own roughly 20 games. Each one is installed in full

      • For ~$100 (the cost of 2 games) you can buy a 300GB drive. Perhaps the time has come to do so. :P
  • by dividedsky319 ( 907852 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:27PM (#14886414) Homepage
    In the late '80s and early '90s, the games industry could do little more than ask nicely that you not pirate their wares.

    It wasn't only "ask nicely" ... I remember years ago the copy protection was simply to enter "The 4th word on the tenth line on the 10th page of the instruction manual", etc.

    It wasn't so successful, but... it was an interesting idea at the time. (Even if it was a pain having to dig out the manual if you haven't played a game in a while)

    I completely forgot about that until reading this article. I'm not sure how many companies did it, but I remember this on some Sierra Online games I played (Police Quest, for one)
    • by jtorkbob ( 885054 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:33PM (#14886490) Homepage
      Masters of Orion used 'what ship is in the corner of page x'. With the recently-released Galactic Civilizations 2, they have completely disabled copy protection and they tell you so right up front. It's an interesting decision, we'll see how it works out, but it certainly relieves them of that copy protection burden.
      • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:55PM (#14886707) Homepage Journal

        My brother and I both bought copies of Galactic Civilizations 2 - one of the primary reasons I decided to buy it was because there was no copy protection. It's a good game, although I personally still prefer Ascendancy. Definitely worth the $40, but it's also nice to know that I don't have to worry about where the CD is.

        Most of my other PC games I play are hacked versions (even though I own a legal copy) because I hate having to deal with copy protection. I hate having to swap disks on my PC, and I hate having to wait the extra pointless time for whatever copy protection they use to "validate" my game CD. I've got 2GB of hard drive space used by the game, I shouldn't need to deal with the CD.

        So instead I use the warezed versions of the games I actually purchased...

        • If you hate copy protection., look at Falcon Allied Force. It's a flightsim with no copy protection. It does ask for the original CD when you apply patches, but that's all.

          LOMAC Gold, another flightsim, asks for the disc once a week. If you play daily, it's nice to not have to dig out the cd all the time. However, it is protected by StarForce, so YMMV.

          I generally go through cycles of piracy. Last year was a bad piracy year for me. I wanted to buy some things, but I can't justify giving a publisher $50
      • Nope - GalCiv II is written by StarDock, and they have nothing to do with MOO.
        Their previous Game - GalCiv - was also not protected. They thought that they'd sell about 30,000 games, but it turned out to be over 100,000 - no copy protection seems to pay out.

        And it does explain why I've bought both games. Yes, bought. I *like* not being bothered by some damn Digital Restriction Management, and the games are both very good - and well supported, on top of it.

        Have a look at [] (no, I have nothin
      • Take a look, they've done smashing so far: [] They've sold out of thier first printing, and the orders for the next printing EXCEED the first. This is UNHEARD OF for a game to sell more as it gets older. 99.99% of time, games sell the most in the first couple weeks. BTW, I bought this game, its GREAT!
      • According to them:

        "Today something unprecedented happened -- for us anyway. Several retail chains re-ordered more units in a single go than their initial order. EB Canada, for instance re-ordered a very large number. Yay Canada!

        See, typically what happens at retail is that you get your initial "sell-in". Re-orders are only designed to bring stocking levels back to that initial sell-in level. So over time, the game fades away. It's very unusual for a game to actually increase its retail stocking after the
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:48PM (#14886635) Journal
      It wasn't only "ask nicely" ... I remember years ago the copy protection was simply to enter "The 4th word on the tenth line on the 10th page of the instruction manual", etc.
      Ah yes, very annoying. So annoying in fact that I went out and got the pirated versions (without the password nagging "feature") of games that I owned legal copies of.

      That is the risk of copy protection on games (or indeed on music and movies as well). Why punish people for buying your software or music, with annoying passwords, dongles that don't work properly, DRM software that is little more than malware, and the inability to make backup copies for legitimate purposes? It's a fine way to destroy any goodwill people have towards your company, and you're only encouraging them to get the illegal, de-DRM'ed versions.
    • I completely forgot about that until reading this article. I'm not sure how many companies did it, but I remember this on some Sierra Online games I played (Police Quest, for one)

      The Infocom method required the user to possess certain physical items that came packaged with the game. You'd have to examine these items for clues in order to progress within the game. This method was really clever, as it integrates the copy-protection scheme into the game itself, while also making the game extend outside of the

      • I remember the space quest games also did something like that. For example, Space Quest 5 (IIRC) had a star map in the manual (which looked like a magazine, BTW). You could play until a certain point where you were given command of your own starship (a garbage ship), and then they ordered you to go to certain systems (to pick up the trash), and you had to check the map to input the coordinates. Basically you could still play, but without the manual you couldn't really advance any further (unless you started
      • Plus, those "Don't Panic" buttons just never stop being the coolest thing ever.
      • That can backfire though. I had a friend tearing his hair out over Metal Gear Solid on the PSOne, he was telling me how a character was asking for the number on the back of the CD, and how he went everywhere looking for this CD in the game. His jaw hit the floor when I said "Er.. they mean the actual GAME cd".
        (MGS was particularly bad for that though. Way to break the suspension of disbelief, when in game speech starts talking about the triangle buttons, and Psycho Mantis tells you to put your controller on
    • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:32PM (#14887007) Homepage Journal
      I have fond memories of Bard's Tale codewheels, and laughed for a solid ten minutes when I bought a re-released package a few years back of the old games and found the publishers themselves had added codewheel hacks to these legal, purchased versions of the games to avoid having to print up new ones.
    • I'm currently playing Wizard's Crown [] from the 1980s. The copy protection is, at random times, questions popping up on the screen that require responses from the manual.

      Sadly, the version I have for PC was a licensed rereleased collection (from 1990 or so) that I bought on eBay. I have its manual, but it is also a reprint and doesn't contain the answers to most of the questions. Sucks. (Maybe they disabled the copy protection; I dunno. Rather than find a 5.25" floppy drive I just downloaded another copy
  • by Anonymous Howard ( 18288 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:31PM (#14886459)
    The best defense against this sort of this is the operating system. The ideal mechanism for software management is for the OS to only permit software to be installed in a specific directory tree, one per application, instead of allowing software to sprinkle DLLs all over the place. Installation should be a recorded transaction which can be replayed in reverse by the OS to verify that software has truly been removed. This, along with really good privilege separation, will ensure that rogue applications cannot evade detection and removal.

    Too bad Linux doesn't do any of this...
    • _1.html []

      Have a look at their Package Filesystem.

      You never have to install a think. Any changes to the package tree get saved in a special overspill area; and it all gets cleaned up if you kill off the package.

      It's really quite neat.
    • by Nasarius ( 593729 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:32PM (#14887433)
      instead of allowing software to sprinkle DLLs all over the place

      Too bad Linux doesn't do any of this...

      No, it's really not. The whole point of dynamic (shared) libraries is that they are shared. Windows may be terrible at dealing with different versions of the same shared library, but Unix is not. There is no "ideal mechanism for software management"; there are pros and cons to any approach.

      Windows likes to have each program confined to a neat little space, except for DLLs, which are utterly inconsistent, and the registry, which is a terrible idea for many reasons. Honestly, I'm not sure how this approach is beneficial, other than aesthetically.

      Then there's Unix. Executable binaries go in a /bin, shared libraries go in a /lib (tagged with their version, so incompatible versions of a library can happily coexist), configuration goes directly on the filesystem in /etc, documentation goes in /usr/man, et cetera. A good package manager has no trouble keeping track of this for when you want to remove the package, it makes your PATH easy to manage, you know where to go when you want to reconfigure something, and so on. If you're running "rogue applications", you've got bigger problems.

    • The answer is not to put each program into its own folder...
      The answer is for each program to register everything it needs (non-shared program files, shared program files, registry keys etc etc) in a central database.
      Then, an inteligent uninstaller can remove the program.
      When the last program claiming "I need this file" is removed, the file is removed.
      Combine this with a decent way to prevent "dll hell" (i.e. any new release of a dll that is not backwards compatible with old releases gets a new filename etc
  • by msbsod ( 574856 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:31PM (#14886462)
    > In the late '80s and early '90s, the games industry could do little more than ask nicely that you not pirate their wares.

    What? I was able to put a 16 byte sector inside a 256 byte sector, which itself was located inside a 1024 byte sector, on a floppy, in the late 70's. Even the best copy programs had a hard time to crack that. I have produced things like that and I have seen others doing similar things. Most people could not copy such games. And hey, there were always people who knew how to do it and there will always be such people.
    • Apple II games had all kinds of copy protection schemes, and there were all kinds of tools to get around them. Nibbles Away, Lockmaster, Locksmith, etc. Some games had holes punched in the disks in various places and wouldn't run of those areas could be read/written to. Etc.
      • Hex editors and disassemblys worked nicely for those of us who weren't script kiddies.
      • The Apple II was (and still is) also good to produce copy-proteced disks for computers with a floppy controller of the Western Digital family. Format a track with the WD controller, put the floppy into an Apple, write the same track with the Apple "controller" (it is actually just a shift register) for a brief moment and interrupt the procedure so that only a small fraction of the track gets overwritten. The Apple does not care about the index hole and starts to write at a random location. With a bit of luc
  • Caught in the middle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:33PM (#14886478) Journal
    I used to steal software left and right (please feel free to tell me how it isn't theft so I can summarily ignore you). Then about 8 years ago, I really thout about it and deleted anything illegal, or outright bought it (very expensive conviction, let me tell you ).

    I don't illegally copy, and don't think anyone should. Yet I am annoyed by all the inconveniences that I have to put up with in the name of protecting someone's profits. Registering crap, difficulties in backing up. Annoying requirements to periodically validate, etc. I will return products if they are too invasive. I am tired of being assumed guilty.

    Yet, I see nothing improving. I fear than in 20 years we will look back at this era and view it as a "golden age of computing". Things will be locked down so tight, and all software will be pay-as-you-go.
    • Please, don't play victim here. You're conviction screams the fact that you're the average Joe and this is what happens to Joe. It's just the way the world works: Joe gets a big stick in his behind with the Law as lubricant.
    • I have to agree.

      Back when Napster was "the shit", I was downloading any song I had the slightest interest in. About 70% of what I downloaded I eventually deleted, but I still kept a lot of the songs. About 5 or so years ago, when the whole music-copyright thing was becoming an issue, I thought about it and decided to support the artists. Since then, I've been gradually buying CDs to replace the supposedly-not-legal songs; I predict that I've spent about $400 in CDs, and I still have a couple dozen albums to
    • by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:17PM (#14886885)
      Yet, I see nothing improving. I fear than in 20 years we will look back at this era and view it as a "golden age of computing". Things will be locked down so tight, and all software will be pay-as-you-go.
      And I will be outside gardening, which I like to think of as programming the biggest computer there is.

      Someday we will have DRM for nature, too...because we are idiots.

      Then we'll all be wiped out by the natural equivalent of a DRM violater, a virus, and in the waning hour of our species we'll wonder why it seemed reasonable to associate imaginary monetary unit value with a particular breed of rose, and why we thought we, as interesting but limited programs in the Great Simulation, thought we could realistically prohibit the Universe from doing as it sees fit with the codes that it has created age after age without any input from us.

      And the answer is pretty simple. We have an unmitigated greed for stuff and more stuff. Which means eventually, we'll all get stuffed.

    • I wish everyone would make this conviction as I'm sure it would drive more people to Free and Open Source software. It's ironic how history repeats itself. I believe it is inevitable that proprietary software makers will continue to add more and more draconian restrictions on what people can do with the software they have purchased. Including the so-called "Software as a service" movement that aims to charge consumers a subscription fee to access software. The proprietary operating systems, with the aid
    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:02AM (#14888483) Homepage
      Whenever I buy a game, the first thing I do is run the No-CD crack on it. Then I scour my system for the anti-piracy security software and spend 1/2 hour deleting it. If you don't think those things sap resources, try saying that after you've had a machine for 6 years and installed 30 or 40 different games with competing security systems.

      Then I generally have about 10 minutes left to play the game before real life rears it's ugly head.

      I've moved back largely to console games. It just isn't worth an hour or two of hassle to play a game that is legally purchased. At a time when publishers should be pushing to raise the value of the retail product, instead it is much easier to get an illegal copy with the useless crap stripped out than to live with the restrictions the box set forces upon you. I don't have the slightest idea where my copy of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is, and so if I wanted to play it without the No-CD crack I'd be out of luck. And I worked on that thing!

      As a side note, most of the people I've spoken to in the industry don't like copyprotection schemes. But everyone feels that if they don't use them, they will be liable to their shareholders. It's the safe option. And the toothbrush salesmen look to Macromedia (or whoever)'s presentations on how 1st month sales can improve by 20% by investing 500,000 dollars in their scheme. They're not math deficient, they just forget sometimes that ticking off your customers does not make for a happy client base.

      • I've moved back largely to console games. It just isn't worth an hour or two of hassle to play a game that is legally purchased.

        You've really hit the nail on the head, here. I've been a huge PC gamer for about 15 years now. In fact, I just spent last Saturday evening at a friend's house playing some games, and his teenage son could not get over my vast collection of games. (I introduced him to Outlaws for the first time, and he loved it!) After all this time, though, I find I'm getting more and more put o

  • 80's & 90's... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Forbman ( 794277 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:34PM (#14886496)
    In the late '80s and early '90s, the games industry could do little more than ask nicely that you not pirate their wares.

    No, they did do some things. Rumors of bad sectors on floppies burned in by lasers. Certainly floppies that had sectors marked as bad where the installer/runtime had code to force the disc controller to check for the errors and overlook them if they were found (i.e., intentionally put there), which prevented casual disk to disk copying.

    Then HD's came out, and many forms of copy protection that were to stop floppy-floppy copying did not play well with those who wanted to run their games off of the HD. Eventually it was business software that had the worst problems with this, and they were the first ones to give up on it, lower prices to the point where the "fun" of copying programs was reduced, etc. Games came along shortly after. The least obtrusive game copy protections, IMHO, were those that required the manuals. But they were easy enough to defeat programmatically (SoftICE...), too.

    Now with CloneCD, DaemonTools, the Internet (availability to NOCD cracks), etc., it seems like the industry should just realize that $50/game in the US probably wouldn't be as profitable as $19.00 and minimal CD protection. Requiring the CD to play a game, if only to keep SecureRom happy (all the media content gets d/l to the HD usually anyways...) sucks. And to think that some of the no-copy stuff is getting pretty sneaky (installing device drivers?) with little/no concern for user's computer, etc.

    If they're that paranoid about it, they should just license MS' activation technology and methods, or go full on-line (where they can control the servers).
    • I don't think it will be long before the physical media requirement is done away with, as it doesn't work all that well anyways, and since internet usage is so widespread, just require Steam or XBox-Live style home-phoning. I know people hate it, but in a lot of ways Steam is the least annoying, most convenient way of purchasing protected software I've ever used. Edge cases where physical media are purchased but no internet connection is available could be handled with Windows-style phone activation.
    • Re:80's & 90's... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cliffski ( 65094 )
      "the industry should just realize that $50/game in the US probably wouldn't be as profitable as $19.00 and minimal CD protection."

      yes... and no.
      I sell my games for $22 and no copy protection. And no surpise, some assholes bung them on p2p. Thanks guys, you are the people encouraging me to use online activation and authentication.
      At the end of the day publishers and developers dont want to waste any time or money on DRM, but the ease with which pirates allow people to get free copies forces their hand. Next
  • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:35PM (#14886502)
    Ahh, the 90s.

    "Now geek, don't you copy this game!"

    It's like saying...

    "Now Homer, don't you eat this pie!"
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:35PM (#14886504) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of the good old days - the late 80's to early 90's, to be exact, when games came on floppy disks and companies like Psygnosis were well-known for the execution-protection, err, copy-protection on their games.

    In fact, my friends and I had a saying - "Psygnosis - Latin for won't boot".

    Good to see the youngsters will get to enjoy that experience. Of course, back in the day, when you were done playing the game you rebooted your computer and the system was back to normal - you didn't have the games leaving little turdlets behind like they do now.

    Kids today. Always have to go us old farts one better.
  • It used to be that I'd say "I won't buy or recommend anything I have to struggle to get working due to copy protection." Recently it was "I don't buy copy-protected games." Now? If it's not Software Libre, I pretty much don't want to play it.
    • Re:I just don't (Score:3, Interesting)

      If it's not Software Libre, I pretty much don't want to play it.

      Yeah, but i'm still waiting for the Open Source equivalent to Silent Hill... or Castlevania... or Indiana Jones...

      speaking of Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade game was awesome, to pass the game i didn't only have to figure out the clues, i had to study the authentic paperback edition of Henry Jones' diary that came with the game. I could admire the map of Alexandretta, or the mural paintings. I still remember myself looking for the cable Codirol
  • by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:41PM (#14886573)
    What they really need to do is work with the makers of the next storage medium (and quit putting games on CD sets in the US. A game that needs 3.0 GHz + Processor will probably have access to a DVD drive...). Movie makers have been teaming with hardware makers since macrovision to deter pirating. The game industry should try a similar approach instead of trying to tweak existing technology to help them.
  • by ToxikFetus ( 925966 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:47PM (#14886631)
    Step 1: Buy game
    Step 2: Install game
    Step 3: Download NoCD crack from MegaGames, install crack, copy ISO to hard drive, run Alcohol %120, run program to hide Alcohol %120, yadda yadda yadda...
    Step 4: Play game
    Step 5: Realize that you probably spent more time protecting your computer from DRM perversion than actually playing the game
  • YAAAARRRRR!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xtieburn ( 906792 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:50PM (#14886660)
    and the only people not affected by these copy protection issues.

    The pirates.

    Oh the irony, best get your eye patch on and set sale to bittorrent and usenet!
  • by morryveer ( 870752 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:00PM (#14886744) Homepage
    I've got stuff on my PC that is far more valuable than this $50 game. There is now way I'd buy a copy protected game for fear it'll damage my photos, financial files, and the like. If there is any sort of worry, on my part, that it'll make my system unusable, I don't want it even in the same room as my PC. Just in case it also has airborne viruses. /gotta go make some more backups.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:03PM (#14886771) Journal
    Here's a pretty damn complete list of protections ections.shtml []

    It includes how to detect the protection, how to back 'em up and usually a bit about how each one works

    I remember that many years ago, I based my cd-burner purchasing decision on it's ability to rip/burn copy protected discs.
  • The only people that game copy protection effects are those who legally buy the game, it's not hassling anyone else.
  • by mikeswi ( 658619 ) * on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:11PM (#14886832) Homepage Journal
    I flat refuse to install anything with StarForce on it. Google starforce and you'll see plenty of articles and rants about it.

    I have games that include SecureROM (GTA SA and VC) and SafeDisc (Sim City 3000) and I've never noticed them causing any problems or installing anything other than registry entries. StarForce, on the other hand, installs hidden device drivers, which totally fuck up a cd/dvd drive in some PCs. On some XP machines, it can cause actual physical damage to the burner. It also elevates access priviledges for user-level applications, although I can't imagine why the hell it does that.

    Fuck all that. Not on my machine.

    After seeing the commercials for Brothers in Arms, I decided to buy it. Then I noticed this disclaimer on the publisher's web site:
    "NOTICE: This game contains technology intended to prevent copying that may conflict with some DVD-RW, and virtual drives."

    I looked around and discovered it was StarForce, so I just put my credit card back in my wallet. Then I sent an email to the publisher to tell them they'd just lost a sale.

    Funny thing is, there are four different cracked copies of the game's .exe file at gamecopyworld. I'm sure I could find a copy of the whole game somewhere if I bothered to look. Not only did they lose a sale because of their anticopy software, it turns out the damned thing doesn't work anyway. Real good business decision there.
  • I've often found (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zarthrag ( 650912 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:16PM (#14886877)
    That most games are *easier* to pirate than buy legit. The *valid* reasons are actually pretty extensive. I've played demos. Liked them. Then I bought them only to find that it doesn't work on my computer, and there is no patch. (Gawd-dammit EA! I hate you fuckers!) To make matters worse, I can't return it (Even WAL-MART fears I might be a pirate, aaargh!) An AMD XP 2500+ with 512MB and an ATI 9600XT isn't a flame thrower, but it should run everything to some degree.

    Also, I have kids. Young kids. And any gamer-parent knows that the first rule is to hide your CDs. I keep my originals SAFE. I MUST copy them onto the harddrive and use an image, or copy the disc. One minute alone with my computer is all it takes...

    Requiring the CD also introduces unnecessary wear. DVDs are exponentially more vulnerable. I bought MGS2:Substance on DVD for PC, and the installer won't run due to a CRC error, le cry! I should be able to send my CD back for another - I can't exchange w/o the packaging - 3 years later.

    To copy the original that I got from a store, I need a daemon tools and alcohol, so protections that require I not own those programs piss me off - at least put it on the damn box - It's my money and I deserve to know.


    I could fire up bittorrent, download, install/patch, visit gamecopyworld, and start playing without having to go to the store, get bilked, figure out how to *keep* my game, and *then* play crappy FPS XXI (barring hardware issues and lack of patches.)

    Shit, I've had freaking pop-cap games not work! Diner-Dash, crashes randomly - even after reinstalling windows. (Only thing left is to install new/more memory, and maybe a mobo replacement...) "Tech Support" doesn't exist, I get the middle finger for my $50. ...No wonder consoles are "winning."
  • by Mr. Vandemar ( 797798 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:18PM (#14886890) Homepage
    I don't know if anyone but me has noticed this, but Galactic Civilizations II (a recently released game), has absolutely no copy protection, and it's wonderful. No worries about losing my CD key, any sort of online authentication, or anything else. A great game, and a great set of developers.
  • ...if we could rent PC games. (And I'm not talking about services like Gametap that only offers really old games that came out years ago.)

    I'd rather pay $15/mo to a Netflix style service and get PC Game DVDs and CDs delivered to me than go to my local retail store and spend $60 (or go online and spend $40 + shipping) on something that MIGHT be fun and may provide me with a few hours of entertainment depending on how quickly I finish the game. If I rent the game and really like it so much that I'll want to
    • by snuf23 ( 182335 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:13PM (#14887291)
      Renting computer software without permission of the copyright holder was made illegal in the US by the Computer Software Rental Amendment Act of 1990 [].
      In a nutshell:

      On December 1, 1990, President Bush signed into law the "Computer Software Rental Amendments Act," an amendment of section 109 of the copyright law, prohibiting the rental, lease, or lending of a computer program for direct or indirect commercial gain unless authorized by the owner of copyright in the program. Behind the amendment was a concern that commercial rental of computer programs encourages illegal copying of the rented programs, depriving copyright owners of a return on their investment and discouraging creation of new works."

      Previous to this amendment, you could rent computer software. I used to rent software via the mail for the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers back in the '80s - long before GameFly.
      About the only thing you can do is buy used games on auctions sites like ebay or
  • by pluke ( 801200 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:31PM (#14886996) Homepage
    A little off topic as this discussion is mainly PC based, but has anyone cracked the Saturn's copy protection yet? Unpopularity combined with a nasty unreadable track has left it uncracked for over 10 years now as far as i know
  • C'mon now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:32PM (#14887003)
    They could protect them if they wanted to.

    My 1st retail game (for XT! in hercules mono graphics!) had a required play disk AND an ID the photo in the manual.

    All this activation stuff sucks tho, what if you want to show your kids/grandkids what you used to play 20 years from now? Is that online activation still gonna work :(

    Not that putting in the 5-1/4" key disk is much better but it DOES work.
  • Old days (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxkrn ( 635044 ) <> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:46PM (#14887079)
    I remember the old days of enter the third word found on page 5, line 2. I even remember the first time I got out the hex editor and found and changed all the words to 0x20 (space) or 0x0D (CR) to by pass it.

    Then there were the floppy disk protections that you had to use Copy2PC and neverlock or something like that... Ah CGA Testdrive, dating myself here...

    The last game I bought was Star Wars: Empire at War. It has SecureROM7 protection and detects and refuses to run on my virtual game drive. I legally own the game, and the game drive software, but can't use it. So I have to have the CD in drive to play. Okay, not so big a deal right? Well it refused to allow that to be running and wanted me to un-install it so all my OTHER games that do work with it would be affected.

    That combine with the extreme LOW quality of Electronic Arts games, I have finally given up on them. Just yesterday I went back and started playing old Star Control II. (now open sourced as []">The Ur-Quan Masters) and having just as much if not more fun.

    And lets not forget []">SDL Sopwith another CGA classic!

    New games are over priced, have poor game play and just don't entertain me anymore. The funny thing was, I think it was Star Control 1 that was one of the games that asked for word found on... that I cracked back then. Now SC2 is open source and free. Good times!
  • by Anti_Climax ( 447121 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:53PM (#14887132)
    I bought the collectors edition of HL2. I'm not into counterstrike or any of the other games, I just wanted HL2. I installed it on my machine and tried to run it and ended up spending the better part of 2 weeks trying to get it working.

    I had the priviledge of participating in live chat, e-mail and phone support with several different reps working from scripts in India. None really knew what was going on, but their flow charts did point in the right direction: there was some problem with the DVD or the drive that was keeping the game from running.

    Upon launch the HL2.exe process would run, ramp up it's memory and processor usage and then quietly quit. no error, no feedback. After several reinstalls of both game and OS I exchanged my dvd for a new one, only to have the same problem. Rather than swap out my drive I pulled disc check crack off the internet and sure enough the game loaded without any issues.

    Not only is there issues with their remote auth for the game, but there are issues with the SecuROM protection they use on the actual discs, forcing me to crack my legit copy of HL2 just to get the damn thing to *run*.

    Apparently they removed this protection later via a steam update, but prior to that it was easier for me to pirate the game than to launch it legitmately.
  • DRM Victim (Score:5, Informative)

    by GutSh0t ( 91783 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:05PM (#14887212)
    I recently purchased Battlefield 2 from EA. After a Lengthy install, the game refused to run stating I had CDRom emulators on my system (I didn't). I verified in my device manager that there was a single CDRom and it was the physical one in the machine. I opened a support ticket with EA and got many canned answers that had nothing to do with my problems. When I finally got the attention of a tech there that had some insight, I was basically told I'm screwed. They didn't know why and weren't willing to refund my money. Compusa was also inwilling to provide a refund as the box had been opened. So I'm stuck with a $50 game I cannot run legitmately. I did however finally get it to run using pirate mechanisms.

    Once again, this shows their copy protection only hurts those that buy the game.
    • Visa (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phorm ( 591458 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:36AM (#14888783) Journal
      My friend, this is why I make my purchases on Visa. If it don't work, backcharge. In most cases, when nobody else supports you, and the big guys are big enough that they can happily screw you, Visa will still bend them over, because they are bigger.
    • Re:DRM Victim (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cortana ( 588495 )
      Take them to the small claims court.
    • ...and stop being such a wimp. There is no way in hell this is legal in your country. If it doesn't work, you get your money back. All you need to do is learn and quote the specific law and you get your money back straight away. The magic phrase here in the UK is "it's not fit for purpose" in this case.
  • by Anubis333 ( 103791 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:43PM (#14887507) Homepage
    I am a bit late in this thread, but I actually pirate software I have paid for.

    That's right, I pay for a license, then download pirated copies. Why?

    Because the copy protection schemes are so intrusive, I just cannot stand them. I do a majority of my 3d work ona laptop, and I don't have USB ports to spare for my 2+ dongles, much less want to run the risk of the dongles being stolen, OR should I mention the fact that the laptop won't even fit in the fucking case with the dongle on OR the fact that the sentinel driver software for the dongle is unstable and I don't want another 3rd party service running. Games too.. I grab a NO-CD crack for every game I own. All the data is on the HD, why should I have to have the damn disc in my cd drive constantly spinning up and spinning down eating my battery power? Not to mention that it *renders the optical drive useless*. It's so obnoxious.
    • So write to the company and request a refund for a defective product, then bring it to the attention of the newspaper when they tell you they won't. Newspapers love stories of companies ripping people off.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:55PM (#14888165) Homepage
    The StarForce protection system apparently installs a virtual device driver [] that takes over the CD-ROM. That's similar to what Sony was doing.

    To find the intrusive Starforce device, look in Windows Device Manager, select Show Hidden Devices, and look for Starforce in the Non-Plug and Play tree.

    Now that's something an application program should not be doing.

    There's a StarForce removal tool [], but it's from the Starforce people, and probably should not be trusted.

    Starforce is threatening to sue Cory Doctorow [] for calling their product "malware". That would be amusing if they went through with it.

  • by Zanthrox ( 835290 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:21AM (#14888739)
    What really annoys me about games that require the cd/dvd in the drive is they won't actually run from the cd/dvd. Back in the DOS days some of the first cd games were quite well behaved -- they'd save a few savegame or config files on the hd, and run the rest from the cd.

    I'd rather just pop in a DVD in my nice fast DVD-ROM game and have it play all the movies and load game data from there. I know HD space is cheap these days, but it seems inexcusable to require users to have cutscenes they'll only see once loaded on their hard drive..

    Playing from cd works for game should (still) work for PCs too.

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:34AM (#14888779)
    In recent months, there were numerous threads on the Bethesda Softworks message boards regarding whether TES: Oblivion would be released with Starforce as its copy protection scheme. Most people posting to these threads were steadfastly against the use of Starforce, and many stated that they would outright refuse to buy the product if it included Starforce.

    Not too long ago, [] published a podcast interview with Pete Hines, the PR guy for the Elder Scrolls series. He was asked about the antipiracy scheme that Bethesda and Take Two planned to use on the PC version of Oblivion, and more pointedly, he was asked about Starforce.

    He said (paraphrased) that while they couldn't comment on what antipiracy scheme they were going to use, they were not going to use Starforce.

    Score one for the consumer.

  • Bah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WWWWolf ( 2428 ) <> on Friday March 10, 2006 @04:33AM (#14889220) Homepage
    "In the late '80s and early '90s, the games industry could do little more than ask nicely that you not pirate their wares.

    Annoying copy protection existed back then. We once mailed a Commodore 64 game collection back to the store because two of the four games didn't work. They came back with a note: "The games work just fine! If they don't, flip the disk drive to stand on its side." I flipped the disk drive to vertical position and lo! The games worked.

    But yeah, I really fear about over-enthusiastic copy protection. Back in the 64 days, I didn't play some of the games I couldn't copy with my ordinary floppy duplicator or cartridge's freezer. I was kind of worried about wearing down the floppies (never mind that 99% of my C64 floppies still work.)

    And now, I have one game that has StarForce in it. Assuming I had a Windows 2000 or better, which I don't (unless you count Linux as "better", har har har ho ho ho), I'd need some intricate procedures to play the game, like powering down, opening the case, disconnecting the hard drive that has Linux, installing a spare HD, closing the case, installing the operating system on it, and then the games, and play. Yeah, insane compartmentalization just to play a few games! Why? Heard rumors that Starforce can hose entire HDs. Would not be fun to lose Linux partitions due to some idiotic copy protection scheme?

    I'm also kind of worried about another thing - legislating the copy protection. Here we have things like Starforce or the Sony CD copy protection, they're trivial to break with a little bit of hackery, but hey, that's illegal. People can get away with killing people if the person in question was trying to kill them, but it's not okay to protect your own data and information confidentiality from insidious copy protection systems that are trying to destroy your stuff! Would it be use arguing that breaking a known, provenly harmful copy protection system is nothing but self-defense? Hmm...

  • Meanwhile we have a sleeper hit called Galactic Civilizations 2
    It has NO ZIP ZERO NONE copy protection at all. Instead, they give feature filled updates and patches that require a valid serial # to download.
    Here's what the latest patch does (and this was done in just a week or two, unlike the just announced and badly needed to fix critical issues Battle for Middle Earth Patch that wont be ready for release for a month): []
    Notice that while there's a good amount of bug fixes (lots of it stuff most people wouldn't even notice) there's also a lot of added features and game content.
    Here's an example of what fans have done in ship design in the game, incredible stuff: []
    They just sold through thier first printing run after a couple weeks after release. And the 2nd batch of orders EXCEEDS the initial order! This is frigging UNHEARD of. No game sells more copies weeks after release than the first weeks. (except maybe half life 1, and that was from the most popular online FPS in the world, a free mod incidentally, called Counter Strike). And this from a game with no copy protection.
    THIS is the model that should be pursued by game companies, improve the game as an incentive to buy it. Actually multiplayer games that let you only play online with a valid serial is a good method in and of itself to encourage purchasing a legit copy of a game. I've never understood why they felt the need to add additional copy protection if the main game that people are interested in is multiplayer.
    Or at least companies should adapt the alternative model below:

    Epic games has a great model I wish companies would emulate. After a few months to a year, they will often release a patch which REMOVES all cd based copy protection (you still need a valid serial to play online). Its GREAT not to have to put in the Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2k4) DVD anymore when I want to play the game. I just click and go! After all, most copy protection is only designed to just delay a crack from being released on the internet. If it can just be delayed for a couple weeks (or even a few days), they get over the biggest amount of sales and pre-orders, and all the people desperate to play will probably have bought it. Even the copy protection people admit that its practicaly inevitable that a game will get cracked, they just hope to delay it. And almost always, the pain, suffering, incompatability and annoyances are mostly felt by LEGITIMATE CONSUMERS who have a purchased game! The pirate will just go grab a crack somewhere and apply it and hes set.

    Anyway this is just my 2 cents. And all the above without mentioning the thing that is called Starforce. I'd better not say anything about that or else I could get sued: eatens_.html []
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:13PM (#14892118) Homepage
    I have told this story before here on Slashdot, but it needs repeating. I will try to make it as short as possible.

    I started using computers with a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (and later upgraded to a CoCo 3), around 1984. About a year later I got my first floppy drive (!) - yeah, I was stuck on tape until then, sue me! Anyhow, one of the first games I begged my parents for was a game by a Canadian company called "Diecom Software". The game was "Gates of Delerium". Basically, it was an Ultima clone for the Color Computer.

    When it finally arrived in the mail (there was some kind of Canadian postal strike that happenned at the time, and a lot of mail got held up for a couple of months at the border or something), I read the manual, and saw, to my dismay, that there was a form of copy protection on one of the floppies. Basically, you could make a backup of the game floppy (the player data floppy was not protected), but if you wanted to restore the floppy for whatever reason, you had to restore the backup to the original game floppy. If the game floppy became damaged, you would need to send off to Diecom to receive a "new" blank floppy with the protection on it for it to work.

    Oh well - I made my backups, played the game, enjoyed it - but never finished it. Fast forward about 15 years...

    I get my old computer and all my old floppies from my parents, and I decide that I want to take all of that old software, and move it onto an emulation system. I build a PC running DOS and a few CoCo emulators (mainly David Keil's emus), with a 5 1/4 floppy drive I pick off of Ebay. I find out I need a new drive for the CoCo (my original died for some reason), so on Ebay I find another, get it installed, etc. I decided to try out some of my original floppies. Most of them work. I begin the process of transferring stuff (most of it my old BASIC code and stuff I typed in from old Rainbow and Hot CoCo magazines), and trying it out on the emulator. The majority of it works great. Some of it fails, the floppy is bad. Then, I get to Gates of Delerium.

    I tried to run it on my CoCo 3, and it fails to work. I try it on my CoCo 2 - still fails. It gets part way (text title screen loads), then it just hangs. Nothing I do makes it work, I am at a loss. I put it on the "back burner", and continue with the conversion. I get it done, and I would say 95% or so of my data transfers fine - which isn't bad considering the age of the whole system and floppies. But Gates of Delerium - what to do there?

    I decided I would try to contact the owner of Diecom software. Through a bit of googling, some link tracking, and whatnot - I eventually get in contact with one of the founders (Dave Dies, incidentally, and he was working as a programmer of cell phone games). I talked to him about Gates of Delerium, mentioned my problem, but he wasn't able to help me - most of the stuff from the Diecom days was gone, the rest was in some storage unit or warehouse that he didn't have the time to search through. I asked him if there would be a problem with me attempting to create a clone of the game from my memory - he said he didn't think there would be an issue, given the amount of time that had passed, etc. I also asked him about the status of the copyright on all of the Diecom software (there were some nice CoCo 3 pieces) - this he wasn't sure on at the time, and was hesitant to say anything, especially when I asked him about abandonware.

    So - there I was - no closer to having my copy of the software, which I had the manual, original floppies, etc - ie, I owned a real license, not pirated - but the floppy was dead, and I couldn't get it to run - I had no recourse. What to do?

    Some more time passes, and I eventually join the CoCo Mailing List, and I recount my woes there. One person responds to me saying he had a copy of the game as well. To make a long story short, me and two other guys eventually, through a bit of coding, some very deft hardware usage by one dude (without which we never would have gotten anywhere), who had a KopyKat (or

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.