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Inside The Game Copy Protection Racket 112

simoniker writes "German game company and Accordion Hero creator Schadenfreude Interactive have been carefully considering what copy protection to use for their next game, and have documented their process in detail in a new Gamasutra article. After rejecting scratch and sniff cards, dongles, and musclebound Russian copy protection outfit NovaHammer ('You would not want any of your computer games to get hurt, would you?'), they come to the (fictional but agreeable!) conclusion: 'We decided against using any sort of copy protection on our games. After all, you shouldn't feel you are being forced to buy our games. You should want to. And if you do not want to, that is really our failure — not yours.'"
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Inside The Game Copy Protection Racket

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  • by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:39PM (#16019980) Journal
    I remember losing my Prince of Persia manual and having to guess the first letter of the last word on page 30. That was annoying enough. But it's perhaps frightening commentary on the current state of DRM that I can't tell if the scratch and sniff card is or ever was real. Honestly. Was it? I can actually see a proprietary happy company like Sony coming up with something like that...
    • by sqlrob ( 173498 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:48PM (#16020041)
      I can't tell if the scratch and sniff card is or ever was real. Honestly. Was it?

      Yes.

      Leather Goddesses of Phobos (although it was interactivity aid, not DRM) Infocom liked to put goodies in that would make you want to buy it rather than copy it.
    • My dog ate my Dial A Pirate Code Wheel :(

      Luckily, I'm still Mix 'N Mojo

    • ...Spear of Destiny? Anyone remember that in Spear of Destiny?

      id, who apparently was forced into copy protection by their retail publisher FormGen to put in copy protection, had some fun by putting in a bunch of back doors into the game.

      *gets indicted under 17 USC 1205 for saying this*

      Melissa
    • Damn, I never would've believed this [khaaan.com] could be used in reference to anything!
    • I remember losing my Prince of Persia manual and having to guess the first letter of the last word on page 30.

      what's amazing is how often you'd actually get the letter right.

      What I did when I lost my manual (actually, I loaned the manual to a friend when I loaned him the game and HE lost it) was write down the right (or wrong) answer each time, and eventually I had a list of the majority of the questions it asked.

      then, I wound up buying PoP 1 & 2 on CD years later, and it came with a little cheatsheet t
  • Wow! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 )
    Are people still copy protecting games? Why? Has a single game been rendered uncopyable because of some dodgy disk format or some stupid `squint at page 23, col 2, line 4` nonsense? Time to give it up, guys. If unprotected media works for music and films, it's good for games too.

    • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <mindstalker@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:52PM (#16020067) Journal
      Nope, but restricted online play has helped a LOT. There are many games that have been bought not out of the goodness of a gamers heart, but for the right to play on official server. :)

      Otherwise no... People with money to burn will continue to buy games, people without will continue to pirate. People with money to burn that pirate for anything other than a trial deserve a special place in hell :)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        People with money to burn will continue to buy games, people without will continue to pirate. People with money to burn that pirate for anything other than a trial deserve a special place in hell

        Are you suggesting that if you don't have money then you should be able to pirate without consequence? I really hope not. I am 100% against DRM (except for in rental situations), and I think the RIAA/MPAAs tactics have been really lame and stupid, but that's just stupid to say people who can't afford certain
        • You absolutly right. My thought was that many pirates are people that can't afford a game. (Been a few games I've copied that I keep telling myself.. I'll buy this when I have the money.. I promise). But no I have no RIGHT to copy the game, I am breaking the law. But I'm saying at the same time that people who can afford it and just don't give a damn are on a different level.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by FLEB ( 312391 )
        Nope, but restricted online play has helped a LOT.

        The problem with that? Try getting a game secondhand. Actually, I've even had enough problems getting games with just serial keys second-hand from yard sales. Perfectly usable disc, but if it's not in the right case... well, there's a five-dollar coaster. I'd look for a keygen, but there's little chance of finding one that isn't just a shameless Trojan.
        • you'd think that the monthly subscription fee would be plenty good enough. Take EQ for example, it came with a month's play included. That seems reasonable to me, although 2 months would be better. After that, you get the monthly fee.

          You'd think the companies would prefer more monthly subscriptions over the minimal profit of selling a boxed copy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The point isn't to make it impossible, it's to make it more difficult than just going out and buying it.

      As such, it doesn't actually take as much copy protection as content creators generally think. A single bit flag that commercial CD burning software respects would be enough.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Threni ( 635302 )
        > The point isn't to make it impossible, it's to make it more difficult than just going out and
        > buying it.

        It's easier to buy (create an account, sign in, order, select payment, enter credit card details, wait 4 days for it to turn up in the post) it than it is to download it off then net (find torrent site, enter game name, click, download, install)?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mugnyte ( 203225 )
        make it more difficult than just going out and buying it.
        "going out" and buying it is vastly more inconvenient.

        A single bit flag that commercial CD burning software respects would be enough
        Why care about burning a CD when disc space and bandwidth is cheap?

        Variations on a theme:
        - Bytes transferred to user's machine + swapped disk images can run the complete game.
        - Bytes captured from user's machine + swapped disk images can be copied.
        - Tricks to look for original media are removed fr
      • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
        A single bit flag that commercial CD burning software respects would be enough.
        So make a law telling you what you can and can't do with your own CD drive? Not to mention, there are all these errors....

        1. Hacked apps, or apps made to ignore the bit flag.
        2. Hacked isos that don't have the bit flag
        3. If #2 is enforced by CD checks, then crack them.

        And back to step one, only without the legal ability to burn CDs as you wish.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Reminds me of the dongle protection used in Robocop 3 on the Amiga. The head of the company proclaimed that the title would be impossible to pirate. (You can read all about it in an issue of the Amiga diskmag "Grapevine". Somewhere between issue 8 and 17. Sorry, can't be more accurate than that... I know I read it recently.)

          The game called the dongle regularly. It wasn't a protection laid on top, it was woven into the game code. The head guy was saying how damn hard it'd be to crack, and while it may be cra
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Slipped and posted before I was finished...

            Anyway, to add a final line to the above, if a game is good, it'll sell. Protection is there just to protect shitty games.

            The game companies can't have it both ways.

            If you're that convinced copy protection works, then you obviously believe I can't copy the game... So why the fuck can't I return it to the store if it's a pile of shit?

            If they KNOW it doesn't work, then why continue to include. As far as I'm concerned, if a game has copy protection on it, I should be
      • copy protection ... A single bit flag that commercial CD burning software respects would be enough.

        Given a choice between software that always respects this flag, and software that allows you as a user to ignore it, which one would you want to use?
      • Unfortunately, the DRM in games often makes it easier to download, patch, and play--no worries about having the right disc on hand, no swapping discs when you switch to another game. Hell, I even crack the stuff I pay for.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Haeleth ( 414428 )
          Unfortunately, the DRM in games often makes it easier to download, patch, and play--no worries about having the right disc on hand, no swapping discs when you switch to another game.

          So I guess you love systems like Steam, then? Download and play, perfectly legally, without even having to worry about finding a crack or trusting the pirates not to have stuck any malware in there.

          As more and more companies catch on and begin to distribute online, the convenience argument will dry up too. I wonder what lines
      • The problem with DRM is, that even if you do go out and buy it, it's still very difficult. (Try reinstalling half of today's games after a complete hard drive crash.)
  • I disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davevt5 ( 30696 ) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:52PM (#16020065) Homepage Journal
    While the gamer in me rejoices when reading this, the practicality of things are such that copy protection is needed. I agree all attempts to thwart the pirating of games never succeed 100%. But what about the vast majority of people that don't know the intricacies of bitsettings and book types and after toasting a few CDs they give up. Sure, they can get a torrent of the packaged release that circumvents these measures.

    But in the end stopping /some/ piracy will result in more money in their pockets.

    How many more roubles would they get if just 1% of people intending to pirate the game bought it instead?

    ----
    This writing may not necessarily reflect my thoughts and beliefs -- but it probably does.
    • Re:I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:00PM (#16020117)
      I dunno, as to if no copy protection can work I suggest you ask Stardock. They seem to have sold a ton of copies of Galactic Civilizations 2, and in fact are still selling it (if you don't have it, buy it, it's great). Do people warez it? Of course but then they warez everything. You show me the most locked down software, I'll show you the crack for it. Yes even things like Cubase 3 which has more code for protection than for program.

      Something you also can't forget is copyprotection software isn't free. Macrovision doesn't had out Safedisc out of the good of their hearts you pay for it, most likely a per disc license. So while you may get some more money from people that can't copy the disc and don't know how to look for a crack online, you'll lose money in having to pay for that protection. You might assume it's more, but have you done a study to see if that's the case? You also have to take in to account what happens if legit users get locked out. Starforce is notorious for not working on legit copies, and for even hosing systems. You end up footing the bill either in terms of patches, refunds, lost business, or all three.

      Either way, it's clear no matter what protection you use, people can and will break it and your game will get warez'd. It's also clear that it is possible to make money on a game with no protection.
      • Re:I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:01PM (#16020489) Homepage Journal

        You alluded to this with your comment about locked out customers, but that's only one of many problems that copy protection causes. Not only do you as a company pay for the protection, your customers pay for it, too. The only difference is your customers keep paying for it over and over every time something goes wrong with the protection software.

        There are a great many expensive products for which the protection is so buggy that people buy the software, then download the crack and use it because the "protection" contributes so negatively to the overall stability of their computers. Then, there are the apps that start out with the carrot (software authorization), then suddenly give you the stick (telling you "We're not going to give you a software key. If you want to replace your computer, you have to go out and buy a dongle to reauthorize this.")

        I got burned by that once. Never again. Antares, Inc. is now on by absolute do-not-buy blacklist until they change that policy, and I recommend alternatives to their products to anyone who asks me about them. I don't care how good a product they develop. From now on, I won't even look at it. If I've spent several hundred dollars on an app, I expect to be treated better than that, and not forced to spend more money just because the manufacturer has decided that repeated software authorizations are costing them too much money. Life's too short to deal with companies like that.

        The more draconian the copy protection, the more your users flock to alternatives. That's why I now use Digital Performer (no key) instead of Cubase, and Melodyne (software-only key, but only after emailing them to make sure they weren't about to force iLok on me) instead of Auto Tune, and that's why I will never use products by Waves and countless others. I vote with my dollars and purchased software whose authors didn't treat me like a criminal. I will continue to do so and encourage others to do likewise.

        • Then, there are the apps that start out with the carrot (software authorization), then suddenly give you the stick (telling you "We're not going to give you a software key. If you want to replace your computer, you have to go out and buy a dongle to reauthorize this.")

          I'm going to leave it to others to dissect your larger point(s) and to weigh validity of your perspective (say, as to whether or not semi-serious copy protection really is treating buyers like "criminals" or not).

          I am, though, going to g
          • by cluke ( 30394 )
            Nice theory, but it doesn't seem to necessarily be correct:

            E.g. this guy [wsu.edu]
            "I imagine that the original image in the minds of those who developed this expression was a donkey or mule laden with cargo rather than being ridden, with its master alternately holding a carrot in front of the animal's nose (by hand, not on a stick) and threatening it with a switch"

            Not does wiki, for what that's worth [wikipedia.org]

            Here's a better source [bartleby.com] "Combining a promised reward with a threatened penalty"

            This is closer to your ideas [phrases.org.uk]
            : CARROT AND
            • : CARROT AND STICK - Yes, this phrase has been discussed here previously. I thought the origin of this expression was pretty clear. But it turns out there are two schools of thought - 1. carrot ON a stick (a carrot dangling on a string on a stick before a stubborn mule) and 2. carrot and/or stick (alternating punishment and reward).

              You are school 1 obviously, but 2 seems valid too, and the way I have mostly heard it used.


              I guess my point is that, having grown up around plenty of rural folks - includi
          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            For some reason, in the past couple of years (by my observation), people have started referring to the carrot as some sort of reward, and the stick as some sort of opposite.

            Past half a century, at least.

            http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/carrot.html [wsu.edu]

        • by cgenman ( 325138 )
          It's at the point where I automatically crack all of my games. I just can't be bothered to keep the CD's around, nor would I be likely to find them if I did. I pick up maybe a modest game or two a month, but over the plast 20 years this has added up to well over 300 titles in my collection.

          Furthermore, my PC purchasing has dropped precipitously, as I can only play roughly two out of three purchased games. The rest generally refuse to run, usually due to buggy copy protection. Which means I have to bring
    • by spahn ( 227384 )
      $5.00
    • I want copy protection that does not mess with windows system drivers, is alleys running in the background sending info to whoever wants it, and does not work because of some other app that you have installed on your system.
    • by Behrooz ( 302401 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:01PM (#16020789)
      The practicality of things is that most copy protection schemes inconvenience legitimate users.

      I hate having to find/switch CDs. I really hate programs which prevent me from even running off of virtual drives so I can image the CDs rather than having to listen to my buzzing CD drive all the time, and I can't stand programs that will not let me legitimately run the game with a legitimate CD in the drive if I have virtual drive software installed on my machine.

      And when I find a form of copy-protection annoying enough, I no longer purchase games which use that method, because it's less effort to warez it than it is to fiddle around with my system to get the copy-protection working.

      So, game publishers: Get with the program. If you release good games which don't inconvenience the user, I'm a potential buyer. Otherwise, the best you can hope for is that I'll check it out with warez and buy the sequel if you've learned your lesson.

      Today's object example:
      Battlefield 2: Copy-protected to some degree, but mainly relying on individual CDkeys to encourage players to purchase for online play, doesn't hassle me about running it off an image, and since I've got my CD key stored securely and everyone I know has the game, I don't have to worry about losing my disks. Excellent game. Total sales to me: $50 + $30 expansion pack.

      Silent Hunter III: Copy-protected with StarForce, known for being nasty and occasionally *damaging DVD drives*. Since they still haven't released an official no-starforce patch for SH3, the only way of getting rid of the Starforce crap is warezing it, so total sales to me = $0. Great game though,and SH4 won't be using StarForce so I'll definitely pick that up when it comes out.

      Galactic Civilizations II: No copy-protection, legitimate purchase provides the option of free access through an online account for new patches/content, no hassle, ongoing support. Total sales to me = $50.
       
      • Agreed 100%. Copyprotection does not inconvenience 99.9999999% of pirates at all. As I posted previously, it only takes *1* person to crack it (minor inconvenience if they're skilled enough) and host a torrent, and the genie is out of the bottle.

        Same thing with product activation, etc - no pirate with the activation hack is inconvenienced, but every legitimate user is, every time they need to re-activate, etc.

    • I actually agree with you, and am glad to see that you were modded up.

      If a copy protection scheme can prevent casual copying which would apply to the vast majority of the players, then it seems like it would be beneficial to the company. I've obtained games illegally and you know, it can be so frustrating and time consuming that it's usually better to just pony up the fifty bucks. It also *feels* wrong to go searching torrent sites loaded with porn links to find games and cracks. If games could be casual
      • The one thing that chaps my ass more than anything about this whole copy protection business is that even though all this software has protection, we STILL can't return software to the store. Sure some places will let you, sometimes for a fee, but for the most part software is a no-returns item.

        This is something that really gets me about the games industry. The practice is unfair and I think should be illegal (it might already be), we can be sold a product that doesn't work despite the box saying it will

      • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
        I'll never forget Total Annihilation and the countless hours I spent playing it with my family. Nor will I forget that only *ONE COPY* of the game was required for everyone to play. Good times.

        Minor correction: TA required one CD per 3 players (but ten players still required only 3 CDs). It came out in the transition phase between 1 CD per player and 1 CD per match games when games allowed a certain number of players per CD in multiplayer (I remember other games implementing such a system as well). Starcra
    • by ClamIAm ( 926466 )
      But in the end stopping /some/ piracy will result in more money in their pockets.

      Really? Then why do you not reference any source that has reached this conclusion? Oh wait, that's probably because there are none. If copy protection was actually proven to significantly increase the profit on media, it would be used every single time. Unfortunately for you, no such proof exists.
    • by smash ( 1351 )

      But what about the vast majority of people that don't know the intricacies of bitsettings and book types and after toasting a few CDs they give up. Sure, they can get a torrent of the packaged release that circumvents these measures. But in the end stopping /some/ piracy will result in more money in their pockets.

      These days, all it needs is *1* person to crack it, and the rest of the world can potentially download it via bit-torrent (or whatever the p2p flavour of the month is at the time). Burning a CD

  • by TheStonepedo ( 885845 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @05:59PM (#16020112) Homepage Journal
    a joke going right over your head. How can you take seriously an article supposedly on copy protection when it's about the designer of mockeries of real games? The site is a (good) joke, but no comments should be posted with serious thoughts on the ins and outs of copy protection. Enjoy the funny and propose something more interesting than the scratch-n-sniff dongle. The Fast and the Furriest: Drunken Swerve with a breathalysing dongle could prevent copying and unlock new swerve powers and furries for each increase of 0.01% alcohol by volume. Drink up!
    • I would sooo play that game.
    • unlock new swerve powers and furries for each increase of 0.01% alcohol by volume

      Well that's no fun, I'll have all the content by noon then. :(
    • by Xentor ( 600436 )
      Thank you. I was seeing so many serious responses to what can't possibly be a serious article, that I was starting to lose all respect for the /. community.

      I mean, come on... Guys... The article looks like a cross between Monty Python's Flying Circus, Godfather, and Clerks.
  • Arg (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <`deliverance' `at' `level4.org'> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:05PM (#16020145) Journal
    Games companies need to stop being so reasonable, I'm going to go broke!
  • Game On (Score:2, Funny)

    by shoma-san ( 739914 )
    All my games have been cracked before I even download them.
  • What the..?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:48PM (#16020408) Journal
    Heh. Silly me. I was really expecting an account of the state-of-the-art of copyright protection schemes. Y'know, Valve's details, current other mechanisms, etc.

      TFA instead gives a belly-laugh of some strange russian software copyright company. Pardon the ignorance here.

      I guess if I wanted to get a real summary, we go yet again to the Grouptionary [wikipedia.org].
  • Simple Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:57PM (#16020472) Homepage
    To make sure you'll sell your game, just make sure that the official game packaging is so INCREDIBLE AMAZING AND COOL that the gamer will miss having the experience of owning it. Include a fantastic shining printed manual in full color with high-quality paper (a detailed manual, by the way), a CD whose cover has bright 3D effects, a futuristic or medievalistic box, one or more game character miniatures, coupons with codes allowing a gamer to obtain things he would love (such as game magazine subscriptions, calendars, official strategy guide etc.) at noticeable discounts as well as coupons to access ultra cool sections of the official website, such as, let's say, one where the buyer would be able to register his name and have the chance to win a trip to know the game developers with everything paid, and so on and so forth.

    In short, add value to your official package by offering things a pirate would never be able to provide and people will simply prefer buying from you.
    • I doubt there is anything you could add to the package that I would want but couldn't find online. I like information, not miniatures and posters. It might convince some people to buy the product though.
    • by Vacuous ( 652107 )
      The company was called Working Designs. Despite several hit games they are out of business.
    • by shmlco ( 594907 )
      All of which have to produced in quantities up front, and cost money that may never be recouped if sales don't meet expectations, and when the pirates steal the game anyway.

      That's why I expect to see the demise of the PC game, as developers move to consoles and proprietary hardware that is much, much more difficult to get around. Those that don't will consist more and more of "online" games, where you're going to need that SN and a valid account.
    • Lets get real: given the choice between paying $60 for MechCommander (which came with an excellent bound manual the size of a small Bible) and paying $55 for the bare CD, 95% of the game-playing public would go straight for the CD. The paper box is getting thrown out within 48 hours of opening it. Coupons to buy the strategy guide at a discount could only possibly motivate a pirate if they were going to pirate the game but purchase the strategy guide legitimately, which probably covers a total of 0 people
  • by gsn ( 989808 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:55PM (#16020768)
    Funniest damn article I've read in a long time - seriously get to page 3 it gets good.

    The guy has a great point - I've bought a lot of games in recent times, sometimes long time after they were released so that the price goes down (Valve episode 1 price down you bastards - its been out long enough) and they are games I'm rather devoted to. Half-life anything, Jedi Knight and Dark Forces, Quake, C&C, AoE, Duke, Legacy of Kain, Mechwarriors, Wing Commander anything (I want more of the last three and I still hold out hope for DNF!)... its a long list. I'll probably cae on Galactic Civilizations 2 in a bit because I've been told its the games Masters 3 ought to have been.

    There are games I've pirated and deleted, the latest being Prey. Meh. Make your game worthwhile to me and I will buy a copy. I remember when I was in the midst of LoK each game cost more than the last and I still bought them - fricking Defiance was 50 bucks when it came out. It was worth it and I wanted it. The prices have gone up a fair bit so I'm not surprised that piracy has. Especially when a large chunk of your target audience is under 25s and a lot of that is still in school and college earning 6.25 an hour.

    The cd protection is just annoying - fricking cd-keys are such a pain to keep and I hate that I cant legally back up so many of my cds now. I tried reinstalling Diablo last year and was heart broken when the disc had a CRC error all of sudden. I bought the damn game and now I can't play it because some money grubbing bastards at Blizzard were more bothered about their profits than my fair use. Bought it used again but I really ought not to have had to. If they have to have copy protection it'd be nice if game companies just made their games FOSS after a few years because they aren't going to sell it anymore really. Abandonware is a great idea guys!
    • by gsn ( 989808 )
      After posting this I skipped over to Ars and what should I see but an article [arstechnica.com] on free legal Mech Commander games [mechcommander.org]. Even Mechcom 2 which was from the Redmond beast! It'll be a good weekend. Seriously more companies need to be taking note. Give your loyal fans something atleast.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "There are games I've pirated and deleted, the latest being Prey. Meh. Make your game worthwhile to me and I will buy a copy."

      http://www.3drealms.com/prey/download.html [3drealms.com]

      Sheesh! There's absolute NO WAY a publisher can please a pirate. The above is a FREE demo, so people can try-before-they-buy, AND THEY STILL PIRATE. Then to add salt to the wound, they complain. Maybe all the content creaters SHOULD go out of business, just to shut all the complainers up* (my money's on some BITCHIN about that too)

      *And for th
  • I remember getting some games from Loki Software, and they were not copy protected. I dutifully purchased
    my copies and requested others to purchase also, rather than just burn copies for them (though I made
    backup copies for myself.) But Loki went out of business. I was under the impression that it was
    because too many linux users were pirating their games, but maybe it was just that the linux market
    was too small.
    • Loki's business model wasn't very scalable - while the concept was very noble, ie porting games to linux, the practicalities of doing so doesn't pay a whole lot.

      there simply aren't enough linux users willing to buy software YET, and even if they are being paid money to port the games to linux (e by publishers), they aren't going to pay enough to grow a business properly.

      For a game developer to truly become successful in the current industry, developers absolutely NEED to create their own IP. Look at any of
    • by WWWWolf ( 2428 )

      I think it was the difficulty of having a small market to begin with, and not getting enough of different releases out to keep people buying the stuff. They were probably understaffed and not getting enough porting contracts.

      I mean, I bought Quake III Arena, SMAC and Myth II (the latest after their bankruptcy though)... that from the whole lineup of Loki, not exactly a whole lot. (Plus Q3A was an iD game - they would have got a Linux version out with or without Loki's help, anyway.) I mean, when I bought

  • by dfloyd888 ( 672421 ) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @08:32PM (#16020918)
    Right now, NWN 1 has piracy protection done right. After patch 1.66, NWN doesn't need the CD. However if you want to play multiplayer online (and possibly automatic update, not sure), you need to have a valid CD key stored on Bioware/Gamespy's servers. Pirated CD key? It gets disabled in their database. Keygens? Yes, they fool the client, but because Bioware's servers have a list of genuine keys, it won't get far when going online.

    This is enough protection to keep 95% of the people from pirating the game. The last 5% will end up finding a crack from somewhere and bypassing it, even if it entails yanking hardware cables to disable physical drives.

    Thumbs up, Bioware.
    • Not to mention the insane customizability of NWN. I mean, when you buy it you're really buying a "D&D Style Game Construction Kit"... And with all the stuff out in the community for it, you could make some seriously cool stuff... although there IS a learning curve.
    • by Sage Gaspar ( 688563 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @12:19AM (#16022020)
      Right now, NWN 1 has piracy protection done right. After patch 1.66, NWN doesn't need the CD. However if you want to play multiplayer online (and possibly automatic update, not sure), you need to have a valid CD key stored on Bioware/Gamespy's servers. Pirated CD key? It gets disabled in their database. Keygens? Yes, they fool the client, but because Bioware's servers have a list of genuine keys, it won't get far when going online.

      That's actually a model more and more companies are using, partially because of the move towards downloadable games instead of retail boxes for convenience on both sides with less distribution overhead. You get a lot more impulse buys that way as well.

      Also, with episodic gaming and subscription models, someone losing their CD means less money for you. I know that back in the day, one of my NWN disks got scratched beyond repair, a new expansion came out, my PW upgraded to the new expansion... if I had my NWN install I would've bought the expansion, but as it was I just let it go and moved on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eison ( 56778 )
      One day, your legitimate key will be disabled, and you'll wonder why you used to argue that it was a good thing for a company to treat their legitimate customers with even less rights than thieves, who are at least innocent until proven guilty.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dfloyd888 ( 672421 ) *
        Of course, copy-protection and DRM assume the buyer is a potential thief. However, a serial number system like the one present in NWN is by far the least of the evils for commercial software protection.

        Game companies have to answer to the suits at the publishers whose first, second, and third concerns are how the fast the game will recoup them money with very little thought to the long haul, and likely no thought to user's systems. So, if a game publisher can get a release out that doesn't install some Dr
  • don't copy because they are cheap bastards, but because they don't have any money. I have at least half a dozen chronically unemployed friends who all use old laid-off scrapheap computers of mine. They can't come up with $50 to pay their bills, so if they copy some lame game to play on their AthlonXP 1800+ w/ GeForce2, it's not like some game producer was losing a sale.
  • rofl (Score:2, Funny)

    who said Germans have no sense of humour ;-)
  • Windows X64 (Score:2, Interesting)

    By far the most annoying thing I've found about driver-based copy protection is that not one of them works on windows 64-bit. There are many games that I -have- to crack because otherwise they won't run on my pc at all. A friend of mine mentioned that he has a game that is like this (can't remember the name), but the company making the copy-protection HAS released a 64-bit version that works with 32-bit games, but atari (I think) won't release a patch for the game that includes it, forcing him to crack it a
  • I'll put it out there as a prediction that the greatest barrier to piracy in the next few years, will not be any form of DRM, but will instead be the danger of infecting malware into your system with pirated copies of the software. Anti-virus vendors for years has been stringing the public along with subscriptions and downloadable signatures, that today the top anti-virus software isn't able to detect 5% of custom coded trojans. They've completely slacked in developing true heuristic scanning and detection,

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