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Is it time to discuss distribution and anti-piracy yet?


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You guys underestimate the power of copy protection against the average consumer. This will no doubt erode over time as more people will become more computer savvy. But even then it will still be well worth doing.

In the words of HL Mencken:

No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
Basic plain jane copy protection, nothing fancy that might PO the ligitimate customer, is what is called for.
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The copy protection on Silent Hunter 3 and on Flaming Cliffs is the only one I've heard of yet that is working.
Like I said before - you can never stop piracy.

(Just like 128bit encryption is not 100% safe)

Nothing is unbreakable, nothing is 100% safe.

If it were my software company (which it isn't) I'd add CD keys to the CD's, find bargain priced unobtrusive cd protection and implement a manditory on-line registration process before PBEM and TCP/IP Multiplayer game hosting is possible. (lets face it, if you don't have internet, you ain't playing PBEM) Put on the box "An internet connection is required to play PBEM and TCP/IP Multiplayer.

So now you have a three layer protection to defeat. No doubt someone will crack it eventually, but I still stand by my earlier statement that big sellers like BF2 are the ones the punks really like to crack. What this scheme does is keep usually honest Joe Gamer from calling up his buddy and saying - "Man this is a great game, I'll burn you a copy!"

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Sadly, anti-piracy measures mostly affect the paying customer. just look at how it works when buying music online: "no, you must buy music from store A if you want to play it on your player X. But if you switch to player Y, you can't play the music you bought. You have to buy it again from store B. And player Z, which plays the format we use, doesn't play music in this format with our copy protection"

I only play CM, so I've never encountered StarForce. But adding drivers is often a shortcut to a BSOD.

Isn't the current method effective enough? Are the most draconian methods the best solution? As I said, they mostly is a PITA for the person who paid, not for the one with the cracked version.

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Thanks for the article.

The article states one very important thing, you have to ensure that copying the game isn't worth the effort.

To avoid problematic copy protection systems light starforce I think a combination of "light" copy protections is a possibility. Such a combination, that makes the effort bigger for the pirate but comes at nearly no cost/risk/time loss for the legitimate buyer, could look like this :

1) A simple CD copy protection for the people that don't understand computers too well. At the same time it raises the actual effort for those who want to use an illegal copy since they have to at least look for a no-CD crack on strange Internet sites (security).

2) A simple registration code. Again the casual pirate has to take the time to find one and can´t never be sure that the key isn't blacklisted for online play or even nastier patches (though battlefront would never release a game that requires a patch let alone patches smile.gif ).

3) A printed manual, not a pdf file!. While this isn't an option for the simpler mass consumer games that even brain dead can play without the manual, for a more complex game like Combat Mission it is. What is the use of having a working copy of a program that you don't know how it works. Even if you can rent the game, copying 70+ pages is quite an effort. While being an effective copy protection it benefits the legal buyer too (HINT :D )

[ September 16, 2005, 05:40 PM: Message edited by: moneymaxx ]

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I think you have to accept that there is going to be a certain amount of piracy. Thinking you are going to eliminate it one way or another is just naive.

That said...

The system that Macromedia utilizes is very nice and unobstructive.

Basically...you enter a CD-KEY. That key is verified against an internal hash that recognizes it.

So you've probably spotted the infraction here. People can figure out that hash and make a keygen. This is where layer 2 comes into play.

An online agent runs in the background when the game is active. Just a small little client that every 10 or 15 minutes sends a quick signal to a licensing server with just the CD-KEY. If the CD-KEY matches any other CD-KEYs in the database it kills the license and upon reboot asks for a new key.

This nag, coupled with updates to the hash that make keygens obsolete basically just makes it difficult to break.

CM is a niche game. I don't think people will want to spend the time to break this system. And I think that it'd be pretty easy to institute. If you're online it checks. It's such a small byte sized transaction that it's unlikely you'd ever notice the communication.

Seems like a non-instrusive way to ensure people are paying before playing!

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medlink,

There are several issues with the Macromedia implementation. Firstly is the continuos sending of data, I am uncomfortable with this. Secondly, you have to be always online.

I would have presumed that USB dongles are cheap enough now to be viable. Maybe the technology isn't?

All I can say is that when the anti-piracy solution requires hidden system level drivers that monitor your use of your system and stops you from using legal applications and then stops you from making a legal backup copy, then this will always almost only effect the honest punter.

Which in the end will either...

A. like myself move on - I still hold hope that I do not have to totally move on

B. turn to piracy out of anger at having paid good money to have to buy a product to then have to buy another CD/DVD drive to install the product, to then find that the anti-piracy software has cause your system to go belly up or other compatability issues which for the average punter will require technical help from a computer shop, i.e. more money.

One guy cannot disable the soundblaster utility 'Cthelper' without getting this Starforce error "Internal error when accessing one of the application's libraries. Contact your Customer Support. Error code: 1450.

3.4.76.0; 300D; DrvReg failed, LE: 1450"

Took him three days to sort it out. But what F is starforce got to do with the soundblaster utility?

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Originally posted by Rista Blodörn:

Besides, if I cant backup my original game disc, then its is a violation aginst the law, It is my legal right to be able to do a backup...

No, it isn't. It's your legal right to have one backup at a time, but the ability to make that backup isn't guaranteed by the law. You are, for example, not allowed to bypass any technical copy protection.

Yeah, Swedish law isn't very smart in this respect...

Originally posted by moneymaxx:

A printed manual, not a pdf file!.

PDF manuals rule! ... provided they're properly designed for online reading, with hyperlinks and a generally suitable layout.

In my work I sometimes have to fix some advanced defibrillators, and the service manual is a PDF.

Troubleshooting and the following instructions how to do work like charm! Links all over that take me straight to the relevant page in the document.

Unfortunately all game manuals I've come across have been nothing but unprinted books, which I need to print myself to use properly.

With simulation games like CM the manual is usually more than 250 pages, so the associated personal printing cost match or exceed what it would cost me (as the end consumer) to have a properly printed manual shipped with the game.

The most recent example I've encountered is even worse; a scanned 1/3 of the manual to "Sim Golf", which I bought the other day. :( The most interesting chapters and pages were simply not scanned to make the 90+ page printed manual fit in a 35 page PDF. :mad: ... and no page indexing! :mad:

Originally posted by moneymaxx:

... copying 70+ pages is quite an effort.

Try 270 pages, which is more like the CM manual...

Cheers

Olle

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Now, I'm going to preface this by saying that I may totally be speaking out of my ass here:

Seems to me that the biggest anti-piracy option for CM is simply its general lack popularity. Don't get me wrong, I really love CM, and I hope CMx2 is a top seller for the year. However the simple fact remains that hard core wargames are just not popular. If there is not a lot of intrest in a game, people arn't going to go out of their way to pirate it. I'm gonna level with you guys, in my darker days I tired to get CMAK off the net. I gave up after a week, its just not there. Don't get me wrong, I don't think developers should not do anything, but I don't think people who legally bought the game should get screwed but some overly restrictive or buggy copy protection. In the end its only a speed bump. As wargamers we of all people should know that a new and better defensive tech only spurs the development of a weapon to defeat it.

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  • 3 years later...

I don't like DRMs as without internet we could no longer play.

So, why can't we have both protections on a game? Cost?:

I will be ok for a DRM if it's a nocd AND we still can play using the CD if we can't/don't want to use internet.

So, when will there be a patch for CM:SF adding a nocd? (drm or not)

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Ran out of time to edit my last post, but the current copy protection seems to be enough to prevent casual pirating. However, if more protection is needed CD Keys would be an added boost to protection, or using EA's copy protection Securom(?) since well a lot of people already have EA games.

Starforce is one of them that would probably be needed to be avoided. I remember when Ubi stopped using it after some pretty big backlash against it, and I, for one, would not purchase any game using Starforce. Even if the newer versions are supposedly fixed its like the Nazi party sayed hey guys we stopped murdering millions of people you wanna join us now?

And the use of dongles would also be discouraging. It notches up the entry level of the game and may scare away possible new customers.

Also I kinda agree with Dillweed Combat Mission has a fairly small audience. However, I think the larger problem is lack of a awareness on the part of the consumer. As an example, Stardock's games seem very niche at first but have made quite a profit, and Gal Civ 2 was one of the top selling games at Wal-Mart for a while. Which I attribute to the amount of attention it got pre launch. However, I found out about Combat Mission by reading an old article in the magazine Games for Windows, formerly Computer Gaming World, called Tom Vs Bruce.

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The great thing about eLicense is...

1. It's affordable.

2. It's unobtrusive to the customer (one time registration, can be played offline, no CD needed, no dongle or anything else required).

3. It works. Customers don't have tech problems, it works with our distribution methods, and (most importantly) it isn't cracked 5 minutes after it's released.

We've not found anything else out there that can do all three.

Steve

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Ran out of time to edit my last post, but the current copy protection seems to be enough to prevent casual pirating. However, if more protection is needed CD Keys would be an added boost to protection, or using EA's copy protection Securom(?) since well a lot of people already have EA games.

Starforce is one of them that would probably be needed to be avoided. I remember when Ubi stopped using it after some pretty big backlash against it, and I, for one, would not purchase any game using Starforce. Even if the newer versions are supposedly fixed its like the Nazi party sayed hey guys we stopped murdering millions of people you wanna join us now?

And the use of dongles would also be discouraging. It notches up the entry level of the game and may scare away possible new customers.

Also I kinda agree with Dillweed Combat Mission has a fairly small audience. However, I think the larger problem is lack of a awareness on the part of the consumer. As an example, Stardock's games seem very niche at first but have made quite a profit, and Gal Civ 2 was one of the top selling games at Wal-Mart for a while. Which I attribute to the amount of attention it got pre launch. However, I found out about Combat Mission by reading an old article in the magazine Games for Windows, formerly Computer Gaming World, called Tom Vs Bruce.

Securom is from Sony and it's cracked in about 5 seconds. Funny you mention EA games, eLicense is listing EA Sports as one of their customers :)

You are mixing DRMs left and right in your post, but you need to keep in mind that one DRM is absolutely not like the other, and eLicense is by far the best we found out of the entire bunch (and we researched the market for two full years).

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I used to be in audio engineering and the software we used had serial port protection. If you lost on of these it was a huge production to get another. On just that merit alone I would never support a company or product that decided to go backwards 10 years and make a user use hardware copy protection. These are games folks, not $700 audio software suites. What makes these games special from other games? No other games use physical copy protection. And don't get me started on SecureRom and the other copy protection services. Garbage all of them, I could point to thousands of PO'd customers who have had to deal with this intrusive junk. It just isn't worth it. I think BF can look at their sales and see that perhaps maybe a few sales are being lost to piracy, but the market that buys wargaming games usually is not the person who torrents command and conquer. So I think this whole post is pointless, though good suggestions. But piracy is not something you will ever stop regardless what silly device you imagine. If people want to pirate it, it will be pirated. What keeps me warm and cozy at night is knowing these games are usually way beyond the interest level of your casual gamer/downloader and the community will continue to support BF's games.

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As far as I know Stardock doesn't use any copy protection, and their games have been selling pretty well.

Exactly :D Although they do require registration in order to use patches. But their system works because they have a program which combines their store, download manager, and security into one. Still, it works, they're still making games.

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cabal23,

If people want to pirate it, it will be pirated.

Unless they technically can't :D So far (knock on wood) nobody has been able to pirate any of our eLicensed games except for a single build when one of our developers forgot to set something correctly (i.e. user error). And since this form of copy protection is a one time, non-invasive form of protection... everybody wins. Which is why we're not changing anything ;)

What keeps me warm and cozy at night is knowing these games are usually way beyond the interest level of your casual gamer/downloader and the community will continue to support BF's games.

Keeps us warm and cozy too :) Even when we hear about our games being sold for $1 in a marketplace in Kazakhstan (or one of the Stans... I can't remember which) it does make us wonder how much piracy is going on.

Steve

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cabal23,

Unless they technically can't :D So far (knock on wood) nobody has been able to pirate any of our eLicensed games except for a single build when one of our developers forgot to set something correctly (i.e. user error). And since this form of copy protection is a one time, non-invasive form of protection... everybody wins. Which is why we're not changing anything ;)

Keeps us warm and cozy too :) Even when we hear about our games being sold for $1 in a marketplace in Kazakhstan (or one of the Stans... I can't remember which) it does make us wonder how much piracy is going on.

Steve

A quick search shows multiple torrents for CMSF, and a few for ToW (these are the only two titles I looked at), as well as plenty of no-cd patches for the various versions of CMSF (but not, oddly enough, for 1.11). So, erm, don't be too sure.

I dislike CD swapping intensely....I have far too many games....so I make sure I don't have to. Counter-intuitively, this means I am almost completely unbothered by whatever security system the developer cares to use - excepting physical stuff like dongles. I would never buy a game that used one. I admit to a preference for electronic internet registration on installation because it saves me some time.

Oddly enough I've never had any problems with Starforce, but I know people that have. I think I've only got one game that uses it though.

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That's because we have partners who refused to use eLicense and instead used one of the more invasive, easily cracked, and more expensive forms of copy protection. So why did they use such a useless system? Beats the hell out of me :( We know better now.

Yeah, requiring a CD sucks. Always has, always will. eLicense is also very forgiving of hardware changes, which is also really nice.

Steve

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