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Starforce calls agent Ness!
March 21, 2006 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Not only is Starforce an evil driver-based copy-protection system that will spontaneously reboot your machine without warning if it thinks its being circumvented, not only is it on surprisingly many PC software products including a few you just might own, not only does it not remove itself when the game that installed it is uninstalled, but now they're claiming that the complaints about their software ultimately come from the Russian Mafia, and are asking authorities in the U.S. and Russia about looking into them.... (Previous Starforce idiocy on MeFi.)
posted by JHarris (62 comments total)

 
huh? Russian Mafia? Thats a good one; I'll try to work it into my own routine whenever I need to get out of trouble.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:20 PM on March 21, 2006


Seriously, though, Starforce is bad...mmkay?
posted by newfers at 10:22 PM on March 21, 2006


Yes, starforce is a piece of shit, and its developers are to all appearances batshit insane. (Now they're going to try and sue me, too. Oh dear.)

To check if you have been hijacked by Starforce rootkit: hit Window Key-PAUSE to bring up your computer properties (or right-click on My Computer or whatever you like). Find and hit the button to open the Device Manager. Go to the View menu at the top and select 'Show Hidden Devices' (I think -- I'm doing this from memory on a Korean language XP install). If you see some items that start 'Starforce', you've got teh Crud.

To remove it, use this tool. It worked for me, and I have not installed a single product that uses Starforce since I cleaned it off my system almost a year ago.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:29 PM on March 21, 2006


This post needs the batshitinsane tag.

What's particularly funny/sad about Starforce is that it's not even very good protection. It's apparently easily bypassed.

In other words, for all that pain they're putting people through, pre-emptively treating them as criminals and damaging their computers, it barely even slows down the pirate scene.
posted by Malor at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2006


buy a mac
posted by Debaser626 at 10:46 PM on March 21, 2006


Just bought a Mac after using a Win machine for a few years, I got the sweats and until it occurred to me that I'm in the gated community now. No Starforce and NO KIDS IN MY YARD!

Not MacFilterin', just sayin'.
posted by rollbiz at 10:51 PM on March 21, 2006


I hope every single mac user gets hit by a bus.
posted by jimmy at 11:02 PM on March 21, 2006


rollbiz, 'no Starforce' equates pretty closely with 'no games'. :)

There's no Starforce on the Amiga either! Buy an Amiga! :)
posted by Malor at 11:08 PM on March 21, 2006


russian mafia? with the way they do business, my guess would have been that starforce were being run by the russian mafia...maybe some kind of inter-family power struggle going on?
posted by juv3nal at 11:16 PM on March 21, 2006


It looks like that software list is glaringly incomplete.
posted by Plinko at 11:23 PM on March 21, 2006


Meanwhile, actual pirates cruise the seas.
posted by pracowity at 12:28 AM on March 22, 2006


malor: Tag added.

Plinko: Is it? Do you know of a better one? The dangers that a random game I buy will bork my system has become great enough that it's actually reduced the number of games I purchase. There needs to be some easier way to tell if a game has dodgy copy protection than scanning fine print on dozens of software packages. Something like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, I'd think.

Oh, a shout-out to my friend and blogmate Matt Matthews at Curmudgeon Gamer, who it was pointed out to me the Kotaku post with the Russian Mafia quote.
posted by JHarris at 12:39 AM on March 22, 2006


buy a mac

no.
posted by srboisvert at 12:42 AM on March 22, 2006


buy a mac....

Because there aren't (m)any games on it?
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:53 AM on March 22, 2006


Having lost interest in games over the past few years, a Mac will definitely be my next computer purchase.

I used to be a games writer and all-round games fanatic, now I really don't play anything but the top games on a few select platforms. And it doesn't bother me. Wonderful.
posted by Haarball at 1:18 AM on March 22, 2006


fortunately, this advice came in time I was able to cancel an order for a couple games. I don't need the time-waster bad enough to trash my system for it.

Thanks Metafilter!
posted by Goofyy at 2:09 AM on March 22, 2006


It would be nice to discuss computer related items on an online forum just one time without it turning into a mac vs windows thing. Just once.

As for Starforce, yet another anti-piracy measure that only annoys people who buy software.
posted by markr at 2:12 AM on March 22, 2006


There needs to be some easier way to tell if a game has dodgy copy protection than scanning fine print on dozens of software packages.

Before you buy a game, post its name to a bulletin board for gamers and see what people say. I don't play games, so I can't say which boards to choose, but there must be some popular ones that would do.
posted by pracowity at 2:16 AM on March 22, 2006


Wow, the Mafia accusations really do justify that batshitinsane tag. With this, the whole thing with one of the mods on their forums posting links to torrents of Galactic Civilisations 2 and the growing anti-Starforce sentiment on the web, with any luck we'll see them implode within the next few months, leaving only a bitter taste in the mouth of any DRM company that plans to use invasive methods like these in the future.

I'll freely admit to having downloaded Starforce-d games I would otherwise have bought - there's no way in hell I'd willingly finance software like this, but considering that this means they aren't getting my money whatever happens, there doesn't seem much point in missing out on the game itself.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:22 AM on March 22, 2006


it won't boot my PC (personal computer, for those who have forgotten) spontaneously, and it's not in a wide range of PC software. it's in a wide range of microsoft windows software.
posted by quonsar at 4:23 AM on March 22, 2006


quonsar, you're usually a pretty reliable personification of Occam's razor in these kind of discussions but I have absolutely no idea what you're saying in this case.
posted by NeonSurge at 4:29 AM on March 22, 2006


NeonSurge: He's saying "Not all PCs run Windows. Some run Linux, et al. Starforce only (currently) exists in software that runs in Windows."

However, considering that the term "a lot" is pretty vague, and a lot of PC software is Windows software, the question is whether "it's in a wide range of windows PC software, and windows PC software is a wide range of PC software overall" can be reduced to "it's in a wide range of PC software".
posted by Bugbread at 4:37 AM on March 22, 2006


It's really not by choice that I go down the Linux route with my PC boxen, it's just that it's the only way to be relatively certain that I am in control of what transpires when running applications. I fear the day the same happens with my Apple-branded hardware. I imagine it's only a manner of time.

More topically, the Russian mafia thing caused me to aspirate a goodly chunk of my morning bagel. batshitinsane indeed.
posted by Fezboy! at 5:59 AM on March 22, 2006


buy a mac

the more folks you convert to mac the closer you bring it to being a desirable target for exploitation.

it's not that they're magically invulnerable, it's that less ppl have them
posted by poppo at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2006


the claim that no starforce equals no games is misleading. starforce isn't in all that many games. It can be surprising to realize how many it's IN because there's no indication that it's there or that it's been installed when you install the game, but there are plenty of games that it's not there for. It's almost exclusively installed with games by those companies whose market strategy tends toward the paranoid and territorial. Doom3, for instance, has it, as does Dawn Of War. World of Warcraft does not, neither (to my knowledge) does Civilization 4.

All of those games are available on the mac, and those are 4 of the best games released in the past 3 years. There are plenty of games available for the mac (I'm a pc gamer who has recently decided to make the switch because I realized that I can keep my pc box for those rare decent games that don't make it over, and the rest are really just crappy games.), but the only problem is that sometimes you have to wait for a port. Now, I haven't made the switch yet because macs are expensive and I need to wait for the intel desktop macs anyway, but the availability of mac games isn't bad, anymore. That idea is mostly held over from the days before OSX.
posted by shmegegge at 6:38 AM on March 22, 2006


“The issue on StarForce is obviously sponsored by our competitors or organized crime groups that run CD/DVD piracy [operations]. We are now in close coopreration with [US and Russian officials] investigating the matter and trying to find out who stands behind the boycott campaign.

Yes, the conclusion that I'm now in the Russian mafia can be gained from the above statement. But then again, I'm a sentient being for the planet Thrunobulax here to control your children's minds. I'm commanded by voices to share this with the rest of planet earth.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:51 AM on March 22, 2006


shmegegge, are you certain that Dawn of War installs starforce?
I have installed that game but can't find starforce on my system nor can I find confirmation with a quick google search.
posted by Zetetics at 7:07 AM on March 22, 2006


Doom3, for instance, has it

Uhm... no. Doom3 does not have it. In fact, no id game has Starforce and where do you get off claiming that these companies are "paranoid and territorial"?

They're businesses, and they think they're doing what's right for their business because somehow they (Ubi in particular) have been sold that Starforce is a good thing.

The only way to get it to go away is to vote with dollars. But if you're going to call out titles at least do your homework.
posted by AspectRatio at 7:08 AM on March 22, 2006


Buy a Mac to get work done. If you want games, buy a game console. Most of the games for the XBox 360 (or even the PSP) blow away anything on a PC.
posted by mike3k at 7:08 AM on March 22, 2006


mike3k : "Most of the games for the XBox 360 (or even the PSP) blow away anything on a PC."

Depends what kind of games you like. Civ4 plays much better on my PC than it does on the Xbox360.
posted by Bugbread at 7:18 AM on March 22, 2006


aspectratio: chill. I may be wrong about doom3. I assumed it had starforce because whatever protection it uses behaves similarly. (I had to uninstall cloncd in order to play doom3, because it refused to run when it detected "virtual drive software.")

also, I'm almost positive dawn of war had it (but it was starforce 3), because I had to install gamejack so that I could play the game without the annoying starforce bullshit of checking the disc drive every couple of minutes and other resource hijacking nonsense.

anyway, I get off calling them paranoid and territorial because the use of starforce is based on the idea that piracy deprives companies of game sale money, which there is no evidence to prove and which there is evidence to disprove, and territorial because games have to make all their money in 2 weeks. Some companies take this to mean that they have to absorb as much of the market as possible before people realize that they don't REALLY want to buy the game, so they use starforce or other protection to delay piracy so that people will buy the game due to a lack of readily available pirated copies. there's reason to think this strategy is inherently flawed, but it's what they do either way. That's why there are all these crappy games that sell well at first and then drop off the face of the planet when people realize it's crap.

so that's how I get off calling them that. but seriously, chill. It's a website. I made a simple error, but it's not the end of the world.
posted by shmegegge at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2006


also, I'm almost positive dawn of war had it

Ok, then. I'm going to go ahead and conclude that Dawn of War does not have it.
There are many disc-checking schemes that are not starforce. On my system, it did a single disc check at startup, like most other games.
posted by Zetetics at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2006


well, you may be right, but I suppose I should add the way that gamejack works.

you tell it what kind of disc checking utility the game uses, and it then counteracts that utility. I told it to counteract starforce 3 and that worked. but again, I may be misremembering. I haven't played the game in months.
posted by shmegegge at 7:49 AM on March 22, 2006


mike3k : "Most of the games for the XBox 360 (or even the PSP) blow away anything on a PC."

Hmmm, let's see. I have a PC, and in addition to access to a 15 year + back catalogue of millions of quality games, I have emulators for pretty much every console of the last 30 years, endless upgradability and pretty much guaranteed graphical prowess.

And what do I get if I buy an X360? An overpriced console which is probably going to be out of date within a couple of years.

When added to the fact that most decent Xbox games are either PC ports (HL2) or eventually ported to the PC (Halo), I think the PC "blows away" pretty much anything...
posted by hnnrs at 7:55 AM on March 22, 2006


In Soviet Russia ...

Eh, never mind. Even in this thread it wouldn't be funny. ;-)
posted by WCityMike at 7:56 AM on March 22, 2006


dumpster a linux machine. It has great games, like XRobots, XBill, XEvil, X-cetera X-cetera.
posted by chibikeandy at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2006


and my girlfriend doesn't get pissed off when i'm on the pc cos she can still watch tv
posted by hnnrs at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2006


it's not that they're magically invulnerable, it's that less ppl have them
posted by poppo


Nonsense. Why do people choose to repeat this crap over and over again? Though they're not magic, there's more to it than that.
posted by gtr at 8:17 AM on March 22, 2006


Gtr: Starforce is a root kit that you install yourself (unwittingly) when you install your game. It's not taking advantage of vulnerabilities, nor is it installed by external sources. Unless you posit that software can't be written that would reboot a Mac, if given proper permissions by the owner of said Mac, then yes, this can happen if Starforce makes Mac software.
posted by Bugbread at 8:22 AM on March 22, 2006


Um... and it's nonsense, why?

qtr, OS X, as it's usually configured, is really easy to crack. OS X can be made very secure -- I'd be really surprised if it were not an order of magnitude more secure, in principle, than XP -- but it hardly ever is configured to be secure, in practice. When Macs become a target, there will be much crying and gnashing of teeth, because Mac users have become used to very insecure setups...
posted by lodurr at 8:23 AM on March 22, 2006


... which is different from what bugbread is saying (which also happens to be accurate) ...
posted by lodurr at 8:24 AM on March 22, 2006


mike3k : "Most of the games for the XBox 360 (or even the PSP) blow away anything on a PC."

This depends on what game and what pc hardware. Many of the games ported to the 360 look the same or worse than they do on the pc.
posted by puke & cry at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Solution: buy a Commodore 64, tons of games and nary a Starforce in sight.
posted by signal at 9:18 AM on March 22, 2006


signal : "Solution: buy a Commodore 64, tons of games and nary a Starforce in sight."

I wouldn't be so sure of that.
posted by Bugbread at 9:23 AM on March 22, 2006


I quit playing games on the PC because of always having to re-configure my system or fiddle with some annoying and irritating device driver or software thing here or there that would sometimes screw up my system so bad I would need to re-format the drive to cure it. Now I've got an X-Box, so I can still play games, I just can't save every few moments like you can on a PC. All that memory on an X-Box and they can't be bothered with implementing a 'save anywhere' feature on most games. So now I'm the curmudgeonly mo-fo wandering around my stupid first person shooter, just about to the end of a level and *boom*. Right back to square one. Crap. Perhaps it's time to give up games altogether.
I was considering getting back into building my own box and making it a dedicated gaming rig, but with this Starforce garbage. . . screw it.
And console games will *never* have the depth, graphics, *save points*, engrossing complexity that PC games have. Ever play the flight sim 'Falcon 4'? I rest my case. Just not gonna happen.
posted by mk1gti at 9:34 AM on March 22, 2006


terpsichoria: “I'll freely admit to having downloaded Starforce-d games I would otherwise have bought - there's no way in hell I'd willingly finance software like this, but considering that this means they aren't getting my money whatever happens, there doesn't seem much point in missing out on the game itself.”

Why not just send some cash to the developers? Strikes me as a pretty good solution. You could even include a smug letter.
posted by skryche at 9:57 AM on March 22, 2006


Supposedly, the work-around for starforced games is to unplug your cd drives while installing or playing the game, or something like that. Anyway, it's a pain in the ass.
posted by puke & cry at 10:13 AM on March 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Debaser626 writes "buy a mac"
poppo writes "the more folks you convert to mac the closer you bring it to being a desirable target for exploitation."

The company responsible for the Sony rootkit make similar software for Macs. The 3% talisman doesn't work in this case.

mike3k writes "If you want games, buy a game console. Most of the games for the XBox 360 (or even the PSP) blow away anything on a PC."

But NetHack isn't available for the Xbox360.
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 AM on March 22, 2006


+1 Mitheral. (Although you could play it on an X'360 if you could get it to run telnet....)
posted by JHarris at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2006


You know what? Months ago I bought a USB-powered MIDI device, and couldn't get it to work on my computer no matter what I did. All it would do is cause a kernel panic. I gave up in dismay, but didn't return the product because it was relatively inexpensive, and I thought that perhaps someday I would get it to work (on a different computer, say).

For months, I was angry at the makers of the product, who (I felt) had written drivers that sucked. They tried to help, mind you, but it was no-go.

Then I heard about StarForce, and saw that one game I had was a user of the product. I uninstalled the product, and followed the directions to uninstall StarForce.

About a week later, I thought "hey, what if StarForce was causing my USB device to crash?" and plugged it in. It worked like a charm and continues to do so. Same computer, same setup, same software except for the occasional WIndows Update and the removal of the product/StarForce combo.

Does that mean StarForce caused my problem? I don't have proof of a causal link. Nevertheless, on the strength of this experience, I'm going to make it a point to avoid products with StarForce going forward.
posted by davejay at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2006


Does that mean StarForce caused my problem? I don't have proof of a causal link.

That's just suck. USB is supposed to just sort of work, and anything that gets in the way of that is of course a bearded devil of some kind. That the company that made your favourite game might have done it on purpose is, well, it's just rude.

All it would do is cause a kernel panic.

I read those two words a lot here. What's a "kernel panic"? Is it a blue screen? I assume it's not a Warren Ellis character.

It's a shame that games publishers are pushing away their audience like this. I'm rather hardcore as gamers go, I've been playing PC games since the Soundblaster, and I wouldn't touch a Starforce'd game with a giant egg.

Buy a Mac to get work done. If you want games, buy a game console.

Lord, save us from n00veau gamerz.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2006


JHarris writes "+1 Mitheral. (Although you could play it on an X'360 if you could get it to run telnet....)"

Or get it to boot Linux, but as far as I know neither is possible on XBox360 yet. Besides which how are you going to control the game? Screen keyboard via game pad? I think it would lose something.
posted by Mitheral at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2006


ArmyOfKittens : "What's a 'kernel panic'? Is it a blue screen?"

It was new to me too. Looking on Wikipedia, it appears to be the general name for any big unrecoverable OS error screen. So, for Windows 95 and up, it's a blue screen, for Windows 3.x and OS/2 it's a black screen, and in older Amiga's it apparently says "Guru Meditation".
posted by Bugbread at 1:38 PM on March 22, 2006


Thanks, bugbread. The terms keep changing under my feet. I preferred the Atari ST's: it would either show you a row of bombs or a simple bee, and make this horrible piercing shriek. Good times.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2006


If you look at the screen shot of an actual kernel panic (linux 2.6 kernel) from the wikipedia article, you'll see that the kernel really does say "kernel panic" when it, uh, panics. It's a very old unixism.
posted by dammitjim at 1:57 PM on March 22, 2006


Thanks dammitjim. I knew I'd seen the phrase kernel panic on a kernel panic screen but I couldn't remember where.
posted by Mitheral at 2:06 PM on March 22, 2006


I always loved the fact that "BSOD"* sounded vaguely pornographic.

But, hey! They've eliminated those in XP! ...by just restarting the system whenever it crashes, but let's not go there...
--
* [Blue/Black] Screen Of Death

posted by lodurr at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2006


... all that said, my favorite error message of all time remains "Stack has collided with heap."
posted by lodurr at 2:13 PM on March 22, 2006


Or "fandango on core!"
posted by bz at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2006


After looking at that list of products, that's it, I'm boycotting too. No more bleary-eyed late nights of playing Horse Race Manager for me.
posted by glycolized at 3:09 PM on March 22, 2006


glycolized, you and I can console each other over cappucinos, as I'll need something to fill the void where Pferd und Pony used to live.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:37 PM on March 22, 2006


Games that use Starforce. Another list.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:34 PM on March 22, 2006


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