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CDV Officially Drops Starforce Copy Protection 80

simoniker writes "Publisher CDV has officially announced that it is dropping the controversial StarForce game copy protection scheme from its games, and is using the TAGES protection scheme instead, in what it calls 'response to consumer demand'. This follows Ubisoft's dropping of the scheme in April, as controversy continues about StarForce's allegedly negative effect on PCs. However, it's notable that the StarForce drivers have just passed Microsoft's 'Designed for Windows XP' certification programme, according to the company's official website."
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CDV Officially Drops Starforce Copy Protection

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @02:48PM (#15396846) Homepage Journal

    Publisher CDV [...] is using the TAGES protection scheme instead, in what it calls 'response to consumer demand'

    Funny, I would have assumed 'consumer demand' would demand no copy protection at all!

    This is just substituting horse shit with cow shit then having a PR hack spray it with perfume to make it smell like the company is doing you a favour.

    • I'm sure "consumer demand" would entail free games and a pony.

      I'll take dropping Starforce, thanks.

    • No not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @03:09PM (#15397001)
      Condumers would LIKE no copy protection at all, but they appear to be contented with copy protection that's unbotrusive and unproblematic. However they do demand that their games work, something Starforce isn't very good at.

      So no they aren't giving consumers what they want, but they are giving them what they require. I won't boycott all copyprotected games, I can live with Safedisc and such. I did, however, boycott all Starforce games because they are problematic.
      • Condumers would LIKE no copy.......

        Oh my, I hope you get over that cold soon....

        Either that, or like me, sometimes the "fat finger" slips a bit on the keyboard.
      • What is your definition of "unbotrusive and unproblematic"? It seems that most/all copy-restriction schemes in current use on games are based on "you must have the game CD/DVD in the drive to play". Having to keep track of where all the CDs/DVDs are and futz with the drive every time I decide to play a different game is, IMO, obtrusive. Having to lug them all with me to a LAN party (and make sure they all get home with me again afterwards), as well as the possibility of the CD/DVD ultimately being scratc
        • For most consumers, having to insert the disc isn't a big problem. I, like you, hate it, but for most people it's on par with playing a DVD or playing a console game. Want to watch a DVD? Have to insert the disc. Same thing with playing a computer game. We don't like it because we understand that all data needed is stored on the computer, but the action itself isn't out of the oridinary.

          However more than that is generally obtrusive, thigns like code wheels, and such. Those have gone away since consumers DID
    • Either you're a troll or you don't know jack about Starforce.

      Number 1 on my list is games that work and don't crash my computer by secretly installing a broken device driver. Starforce doesn't meet this demand.

      Quite a bit lower is a total lack of copy protection. Like the other poster said, I'll take the removal of Starforce, thanks.

      • Not trolling, I know all about StarForce.

        You feel content to put the original disc in your drive to play a game, go for it. Don't whine when a publisher won't replace a scratched or missing disc.

        • hypothetically, if you dropped or lost your toaster, would you expect Sunbeam to replace it for free for you?
          • by NuclearDog ( 775495 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @03:35PM (#15397200) Homepage
            Your toaster sits on your counter all the time.
            You are required to constantly move CDs around because all the games require the CD to be in the drive to play.

            If your toaster gets scratched or takes some slight damage, even just wear and tear, it stills works fine.
            You scratch the wrong sector off of a CD, it's toast (haha punny).

            It would cost them what, $20? $30?, to replace a toaster.
            It probably costs a publisher $0.50 for a pressed CD. If that.

            If they're going to require me to put the CD in the drive every damn time I want to use their software (it could sit safely in its case on my shelf if it weren't for the copy protection), then yes, I do expect them to replace it when it finally stops working.

            ND
            • You scratch the wrong sector off of a CD, it's toast (haha punny). My teeth disagree. :(
            • If you don't like the toaster comparison then think of a cellphone or an iPod.
              • How about thinking of this:

                Unless the game company puts the copy protection requiring a CD into the game, you could simply leave the CD in the case all the time, except the odd time you have to reinstall it, giving it almost no chance to be damaged. There is absoloutely no reason to require a CD simply to use a program besides the copy protection.

                With something like an iPod, you have to actually pull it out to use it, etc, with the CD the only reason you have to pull it out of the case to use it is because
                • So compare it to other disks. Your console games could be installed to the hard drive, so you should get free replacements there? In theory your DVDs could be ripped into memory in a DVD player. Free replacements?

                  If you don't like it, don't buy them. You are agreeing to their terms by purchasing them. Period. End of story.
                  • "Your console games could be installed to the hard drive, so you should get free replacements there? In theory your DVDs could be ripped into memory in a DVD player. Free replacements?"

                    In theory.

                    In reality, for console games you need a mod chip installed, which the companies are quite against, and for DVD movies you have to break the CSS/other copy protection the companies have put on there to prevent exactly that.

                    "If you don't like it, don't buy them. You are agreeing to their terms by purchasing them.

            • I have well over a thousand music CDs and several hundred console and computer games as well. Some of them date back to the beginning of the format. I have never -- NEVER -- damaged a CD to the point it won't play/boot/install/whatever. For crying out loud, be careful with your stuff.

          • Of course not. I'm concerned about the intangible bits off the disc. A backup or crack protects you in the eventuality of damage or loss.
          • But Sunbeam would have no problem with me building an exact copy of that toaster for my own personal use.
          • If you went into your workshop and made yourself an exact duplicate of that toaster, would sunbeam sue you unless you mass produced ans sold them?
          • hypothetically, if you dropped or lost your toaster, would you expect Sunbeam to replace it for free for you?

            Sunbeam sold me my toaster, I own it. It's my property, and my responsibility. The game publishers sold me a license to play a game . . . I believe that most of them (the licenses) include a media replacement clase (for a cost almost equal to the selling price of the game at release).

            However, I don't see scratching CDs as something that is that big an issue. If you're adult enough to play PC games
        • I bought a student copy of Matlab, and somehow the CD got cracked. Since the copy-protection for that particular release depended on the CD being in the drive during use, I was able to convince MathWorks customer service to replace the CD, although I had to pay their standard shipping/handling charge. I would expect any software publisher that cared about its customers to so the same thing.
          • What if MathWorks went out of business? Without a backup you would not be able to use the software. You also mentioned that you had to 'convince' Mathworks to send you a replacement disc, implying that this isn't a straightforward and easy task. In addition you had to pay for the privilege of continuing to use your software. if you had been able to backup the original CD and were using that backup instead of the original you would have had none of the above problems.
  • Thank you (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gerbalblaste ( 882682 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @02:52PM (#15396879) Journal
    Despite the forth coming commecnts about the desire for the absense of copy-protection this is a big step forward.

    I hope many more companies see fit to follow suit.
    • Re:Thank you (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grub ( 11606 )

      How is it a big step forward? The only people who ever jump through copy protection hoops are the legitimate consumers. Even then many, myself included, use a no-CD/DVD crack so the originals are kept safe in the package.
      • I wouldn't care so much about copy protection if it actually worked and was transparent during legit use.

        I fail to see why anybody would need to make copies anyway. You can argue "backups", but that's just a cheesy excuse. If you destroy the product somehow, it's not really unfair if you have to rebuy it. In that sense, the ability to make backups would be a benefit of the medium, but the fact that it's so exploited by theives negates that benefit.

        What I really hate is having to have the CD in the tray. Onc
        • If you destroy the product somehow, it's not really unfair if you have to rebuy it.

          Funny, game companies are always telling me I'm buying a "liscence" to use the game, not an actual product. Therefore, I have the right to sue for a refund if they are not holding up their end of the liscence by providing me with the software, correct?
          • Just out of curiosity, what led you to believe that this was a Civil Court?
            • Um, wouldn't that be the only choice? It's not like I can go to the police and say "Hi, I'd like to report Lucasarts for third-degree theft, please..."
              • What I love is how folk have been brainwashed into this mentality, that you don't need to backup the disk and, if something happens, you should buy it again.

                Am I the only one who remembers earlier games on floppy where the first thing the manual said was "BACKUP THE DISKS!" Why the hell shouldn't we be allowed to do that now? I've got stuff I've bought online that uses Elicense. First chance I had, I downloaded warezed versions. If Elicense ever goes tits up and I want to reinstall the software, by not brea
        • You can argue "backups", but that's just a cheesy excuse. If you destroy the product somehow, it's not really unfair if you have to rebuy it.
          ...
          I'm sick of having a fully functional game on my system that I can't play becaue the CD has a scratch over the 50 bytes of data that "proves" I really do own the bloody thing.

          Ummm...
  • Demand! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @02:53PM (#15396882) Homepage Journal
    in what it calls 'response to consumer demand'

    It's funny - usually when PR types talk about "consumer demand" it's a bunch of unimportant hyperbolic nonsense.

    "Due to consumer demand, we've brought back those yummy red M&Ms!"

    "We now make our stylish womens' sweatpants that say 'juicy' across the bottom in sizes up to 40, thanks to overwhelming market demand!"

    "Disney is releasing Lion King 8: Simba Mauls a Wildebeest because the fans demand more Hakuna Matata!"

    This is one of those rare occasions when the consumers, as a whole, demand something of an industry and get it.

    • Re:Demand! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Harinezumi ( 603874 )
      Reminds me of the old Soviet catch-all justification. "In response to a flood of requests from the workers, next Saturday will be a nation-wide unpaid workday!"
    • I don't care about the red ones, I want the Orange ones that tasted good.
  • by metoc ( 224422 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @02:57PM (#15396928)
    Microsoft's 'Designed for Windows XP' just means that the software meets certain criteria, and does not mean well designed, well written or bug free.

    One would assume that Microsoft Internet Explorer and Office Word are 'Designed for Windows XP'. I also suspect that some spyware, viruses and trojans could pass if the authors paid to have it cerified as 'Designed for Windows XP'.
    • I'm pretty sure the main reason they went through the hassle of doing that is because once Windows makes the jump to 64 bits signed drivers will be required.
    • Microsoft's 'Designed for Windows XP' just means that the software meets certain criteria, and does not mean well designed, well written or bug free.

      True, but it means that it meets minimum standards so that it can be easily removed and won't critically destroy system stability beyond repair. One of the requirements is to pass verification testing - where the driver itself is tested (details not shown.) This isn't the main concern.

      This is simply after-the-fact damage-control, since most versions of Star

      • Given how Starforce works fine on some systems, then totally buggers others up, without knowing how Microsoft test it, I'm not convinced anything has changed. Starforce is still a damaging trojan.
        • Given how Starforce works fine on some systems, then totally buggers others up, without knowing how Microsoft test it, I'm not convinced anything has changed. Starforce is still a damaging trojan.

          Yes, but it is a 'Designed for windows XP' trojan now...

          MS probably uses just a few test systems to run its test on.
          How many drivers are WHQL certified but are still crap? A lot of them.
          Certification of starforce is another example that their certification means absolutely nothing.

    • This is the interesting bit
      "T1.2 Kernel mode drivers must pass verification testing"

      I'd like to know what they mean by this. Does it mean the drivers have go through HCT and been signed. I'd guess not as test

      "T1.3 Device and filter drivers must pass Windows HCT testing" isnt included on the list.
    • I'd agree to that. It is just a way to pay and get certified. If you use winblows tools to make software on winblows software - then how can it NOT get the "designed for windows" certificate.

      coming to that.. i see hardware - regular keyboards and serial port mice with a works with XP tag on it! that's a laugh!

  • TAGES (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@[ ]y.net ['xox' in gap]> on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @03:03PM (#15396973) Homepage Journal
    I thought it was interesting that the one thing that the summary didn't link to was any information on the new scheme, TAGES.

    A quick Google brought me to their site [tagesprotection.com]. It's mostly corporate PR-speak fluff, but there are some hints there:
    Our main technical asset is our specific mastering process which builds up a programmable "secure area" on the disc. The secured area is used to protect useful application data sets or encryption keys. ... With TAGES(TM) there will never be a generic crack, and there will never be one-to-one copies. It is physically impossible. ... Nevertheless, we consider emulators to be a real threat and have all the necessary flexibility to be able to react immediately, with much more powerful solutions than blacklists - which are a very limited answer to emulation.

    I don't buy the whole "physical impossibility" part. If you can read the data off of the disk with their special APIs and drivers, then those drivers can be reverse-engineered and someone else peel the data off and distribute a hacked version. The data is there, on the disk, they're just storing it in a way that the system can't normally access, without special code that they license out and allow software developers to integrate into their protected application. It's the same thing that game developers have done for years -- there were some old Apple II titles that did strange things with the floppy drive in order to pull off similar tricks.

    *yawn* At any rate, just more security through obscurity. Not that I care, particularly, as I don't run Windows (or, for that matter, play games), but I find the whole area interesting enough to keep an eye on.
    • This is further down on the google result for TAGES [cdfreaks.com] and seems to show that TAGES is actually easier to defeat then the other methods.

      Then again, ALL of them have been defeated so is there any point in being the one that took the most time?

      Is TAGES however friendlier to the paying customer? Since none of the copy protections systems work the only thing that can be hoped for is that they inconvenience the paying customer as little as possible.

      Offcourse no copy protection at all would be the easiest way not

      • This article is over 2 years old. I have a feeling that things have changed since then, but I don't know. I tried searching and only found old information.

        Can anyone do better?

    • Re:TAGES (Score:2, Informative)

      I found an article about tages which explains how it works quite nicely (infact its the discussion where the protection is essentially given an autopsy).
      Theres enough info there to understand the way it works.

      Have a read of it [cdfreaks.com]

      Its all about how the disk is corrupted by having 2 index links on the disk both point at a a sector with the same identifier, but that when the disc head is travelling in one direction (as the disc rippers do) it misses completely the data hidden in the duplicated sector.
      The only way
      • This article is from 2002, and has activity up until last July. I think that TAGES made some changes since then, but I don't know.

        Copy protection has been (and will always be) an idiotic race between the tortoise (legions of hackers) and the hare (copy protectionists)

        Tortoise wins every time.

        • I realise the article is quite old, however as with many things, the underlying technology is likely to be variations on the theme.

          Tages works to prevent casual copying and thats the main area of concern.
          If its implimented with a cleaner system footprint then it is doing its job.

        • It is true that it's old, but the article also describes TAGES as a spinoff company created to market a particular copy-protection scheme which was invented by two other, much bigger, companies.

          Now, perhaps I am displaying a personal bias here, but I generally don't expect a whole lot from such spinoffs. They have one core technology, and they're going to milk it for all it's worth: dress it up in whatever clothing they can, call it whatever names they can invent for it, and generally run with it as far as
  • by garylian ( 870843 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @05:08PM (#15397771)
    The fact that several game companies, including a major studio like UbiSoft, has dropped StarForce due to CD drive problems, is a major sign that the company is in trouble.

    At this point, even if they could prove beyond a shadow of doubt that their protection methods don't cause any harm, their reputation is effectively ruined. Enough game players are savvy enough to find out if the StarForce protection is on a desired game, and avoid that title if it is present. And game publishers are figuring this out.

    The industry may be a multi-billion dollar one, but these guys aren't about to kiss off customers over a single protection scheme, when there are so many others out there. They will lose more revenue from potential paying customers than they will lose to customers that are soley interested in a pirated copy.

    Besides, just about all games are released with enough bugs that a patch is pretty much a necessity. Look at how Stardock handled Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords. No copy protection, but if you want to update that game, you better enter a serial #. Any pirated CD is basically a demo, and once you patch it, it is the full version.

    At this point, I'm just happy with any game that doesn't want the CD/DVD in the drive. I switch games too often.
    • >>At this point, I'm just happy with any game that doesn't want the CD/DVD in the drive. I switch games too often.

      That's the ultimate answer. Game companies will begin to use publishers like Valve and systems like Steam.

      Now, I'm not saying Steam is perfect; no protection system ever is. Hell, I see the "full version all steam games" torrents up at TPB. Never having tried, I can't attest to their workability.

      However, as a consumer, having one central app that lists games avalable along with prices is great. I can do three clicks before bed and have the game ready to play the next morning. And that's on slow DSL. I don't have to drive to the mall or wade through Wal Mart. I don't have to dispose of 5 layers of wrapping or figure out a way to store a CD and keycode.

      But, as much as I love online distros, lots of companies are going to die because of it. A perfect example is rFactor. Now, I like racing sims. I'll throw them on the PC, play them a few weeks, then go on to something new. After a month of WoW, I'll go back to the racing sim to kill some time. However, even though I bought the download edition of rFactor, I only get 5 installs. I've had it under a month and I've already used two of them. I'll never get anything from that publisher agian. Limiting installs for online distros is not a step forewards; it's a huge fucking leap backwards.
      • That's the ultimate answer. Game companies will begin to use publishers like Valve and systems like Steam.

        And Steam is why my latest computer is a Mac and not a gaming PC. I *REFUSE* to allow Windows machines on my network any direct net access, no exceptions. I don't do multiplayer, and there should be no requirement for single player to have net access. Since I wasn't getting a computer for HL2 any more, there was no need to stick with PCs

        So I'm on consoles now for all my gaming.
        • >>I *REFUSE* to allow Windows machines on my network any direct net access, no exceptions.

          Then you are an idiot. Bad admins can fuck any system. Good admins can secure any system. Sure, zero-days do exist, but the vast majority of those are propigated via "click me now" or "open this funny email".

          Saying Windows is bad just lumps you in with all the other conspiracy theorists.

          >>I don't do multiplayer, and there should be no requirement for single player to have net access.

          And there isn't. Aft
      • > However, even though I bought the download edition of rFactor, I only
        > get 5 installs. I've had it under a month and I've already used two
        > of them.

        You only need to use a new "install" if you install the game on a new computer (or a heavily upgraded one). Reinstalling on the same hardware does not cost you an "install" if you care to read the support forums.

        Let's assume you change computers once a year. That means you can play the game for 5 years before you need to worry about running out of fre
        • That's the same lame argument MS used with Windows XP. It's *never* a problem for me because everytime I install at a lan party or anything, it's from a cracked version of XP Pro. Pity the poor sods who have to do it legitimately. Limited installs, locked to similar hardware, etc. I've swapped video cards, HDs, NICs, and such at lan parties, built new machines from impromptu shopping trips. This "should only change once a year, tops" is for the CEO's computer at the game companies, everyone who works in the
          • While I do agree with most of your comment... I will point out that Steam has great modding capabilities. Hell.. you can install the HL2 SDK directly through steam... and when you create mods with it they are automatically added as a new game in steam.

            Further if you download and install third party mods they are automatically integrated into the steam system... complete with auto-updating.

            Honestly, there isn't much of a better system out there for dealing with mods. Maybe Oblivion comes close, but even it
    • Starforce was attractive when it was impossible to play pirate sf3-protected games. With the release of DT4 (and previously sfcure), that advantage was thing of past. Publishers are abandoning SF because it is probably too expensive for the level of protection it currently offers.
    • At this point, even if they could prove beyond a shadow of doubt that their protection methods don't cause any harm, their reputation is effectively ruined.

      StarForce is still very successful in the corporate sector (non-game software). However, if they need to change anything (and they do), it's their PR. They've accused people with legitimate complaints of being worthless software pirates, they staged a fraudulent unwinnable contenst to prove their product's stability, and they posted bittorrent links
  • Score one for the good guys.
  • Lets see, what were my last major gaming purchases: 1) Civilization 4. Bought this from direct2drive, which nigh-totally eliminates my copy proctection hassles (although I had to log into their website through Internet explorer to actually validate the game -- oh noes!). 2) Oblivion. Same deal. 3) Half-Life 2. Snagged it via Steam. I heard a lot of sound and fury about how obtrusive that was going to be but the process was very seamless for me. 4) WoW. Ever wonder why MMORPGs are so big in China?
    • Well, I'm a slow learner. After going through hell with several StarForce protected games, I'm now on the StarForce boycott. The StarForce paradox is that you have to buy the software to find out if you'll have any problems with it. Then if you do have problems, the software has been opened and you can't return it. You lose and they still get paid.

      I also abhor the idea of a game installation stashing ring 0 drivers on my system without my knowledge or permission. My computer and operating system are *m

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