This just in--Starforce still sucks.
March 11, 2006 6:16 PM   Subscribe

It turns out, in the PC game business, no copy protection doesn't mean everyone pirates your game. This makes some people angry. From the article:
"For example, we were quite disturbed to discover that the company that makes Starforce provided a working URL to a list of pirated GalCiv II torrents. I'm not sure whether what they did was illegal or not, but it's troubling nevertheless and was totally unnecessary."
via digg
posted by graventy (25 comments total)
translation: galactic civ II is not copyrighted, yet it is the number one selling piece of software, of any genre, in all of Walmart. Here is a fragment of their their press release:

So what about piracy? Remember? That's the argument why games need all kinds of DRM and CD protection -- piracy. Yet retail sales are very high. Very high despite the fact that any one of the 50,000+ people who have already purchased could zip up the CDs and put them on-line because there's no copy protection.

One might argue that not having copy protection decreases the piracy on the game because there's no copy protection to crack and distribute. And perhpas some people who might have been on the fence decided to buy the game because they didn't have to worry about losing their CD or worrying that some copy protection scheme was going to create headaches.

It will be interesting to see what the overall monthly sales stats will be when they're published next month (i.e. the ones publicly available).

Thanks to the Internet and the ease of communication, it is looking very possible that the balance of power in PC entertainment software has shifted decidedly to the players and away from the traditional avenues.

As soon as the generally available sales stats are out, we'll link to them.

posted by craniac at 6:32 PM on March 11, 2006

It is a very good game.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:34 PM on March 11, 2006

Another good example is Tribes 1.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:35 PM on March 11, 2006

translation: galactic civ II is not copyrighted ...

No. The game does not contain copy protection, but it most certainly is copyrighted.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:46 PM on March 11, 2006

All new games, regardless of copy protection schemes are available for download over the internet. The only thing copy protection do is inconvenience the people who actually buy the game and make pirated versions more desirable, due to not having to install intrusive programs.
posted by insomnus at 6:51 PM on March 11, 2006

What makes this news, of course, is that it was the Starforce copy-protection people who posted the link!

As Slashdot was saying, this is a very Mafia-esque approach.... "Gee, it'd sure be a real shame if your shiny new game GOT PIRATED, now wouldn't it?"

Starforce is a horrible company. Their system is extremely invasive, and can outright break the DVDs on many systems (making burning, for instance, impossible). The system can also cause a subtler failure, creating spurious read errors. When Windows sees these errors, it assumes that the drive is being run in a mode the controller can't support, and it gradually knocks the drive down into the slowest possible mode. (which I don't think is fast enough to even play DVDs.) This takes a week or two, so many people never realize what happened, and even removing the game won't speed the drive back up. You have to manually set it back to the original, higher-speed mode, and most people don't know how.

About the only good thing about the game is that their uninstaller seems to remove the program cleanly. But A) heyt refuse to let anyone but themselves host the uninstaller, and B) if you run a Starforced game, even after explicitly removing the driver, it instantly installs itself again.

And now, of course, C) they post links to games by companies that dare to say that copy-protection is bad for customers.

Very, very bad outfit. Don't buy Starforced games.
posted by Malor at 6:51 PM on March 11, 2006

Starforce, by the way, is a vendor of copy-protection solutions. In a sense, having Starforce personnel link to that torrent file is akin to a home security firm publishing in the newspaper where you hide the key to your front door, with an implied "if only you'd hired us, this wouldn't be a problem."
posted by chrominance at 6:52 PM on March 11, 2006

It's refreshing to see a software company that doesn't have its head completely up its butt for a change. I've spent thousands of dollars on software over the years and I hate that most companies just assume that their paying customers are criminals.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 PM on March 11, 2006

Bioware had an interesting experience regarding copy protection with Neverwinter Nights. After releasing it with some copy protection, they began getting reports that some of their customers couldn't play the game with certain brands of cd-rom drives and some other miscellanious errors.

Their response was interesting. They released a patch that completely removed the copy protection, such that you could run the game with any burned copy of the CD. I don't know how it affected their sales, but since it required a key to play online, everyone I know who played the game bought at least one copy.
posted by Rictic at 6:57 PM on March 11, 2006

In case anyone else is confused:

1. The some link points to a forum on the site of the vendor of the Starforce software. One of the official mods there posted a link to a torrent of Galactic Civilization II.

2. The no copy protection link points to 1. and asks why the Starforce people provided a means to pirate their software. They have a screen capture of the forum, with the torrent link smudged out.

3. The Starforce forum modified the post to show just three asterisks, so it now makes no sense unless you read 2.
posted by dhartung at 7:07 PM on March 11, 2006

What also helps is exposure. So some people download the game who wouldn't have before. I pirated Civ III for instance. Never heard of it before. What happens a couple months later? I buy the game, expansion pack, ect. There would not have been a sale if I hadn't tried out the game. The number of people out there who act like me is unclear; however, if you are a smaller company who doesn't have the money for advertising, allowing pirating might not be a bad deal. For companies who are spending tons of money on advertising to create artificial demand instead of allowing the product to sell itself, those are the companies who will be most upset by pirating. I wonder if the pirating issue is really an issue about the media. When the major media is owned by corporations who are more interested in selling a product through lies than giving an objective view, it seems only natural that people take the initiative to see for themselves without rewarding poor products. Capitalism is supposed to be survival of the fittest, where only the best products survive; however, advertising can counter that by creating artificial demand. The internet has caused a lot of problems for advertising because a poor product is exposed easily now. People don't have to spend money on a lot of poor products they would have otherwise bought (music cds from the major labels which have a lot of filler on them would be a good example). The advertising from the radio (payola), MTV is there, but the problem is that other than a single, the album sucks. People download the album and soon they realize it without paying a dime for it.
posted by j-urb at 7:38 PM on March 11, 2006

JM from StarForce: The purpose of copy protection is not making the game uncrackable – it is impossible. The main purpose is to delay the release of cracked version.

To quote Stan Lee, nuff said.
posted by bardic at 7:57 PM on March 11, 2006

If my brother hadn't already sold me on getting this game, I probably would've bought it for this reason alone.
posted by Ryvar at 8:07 PM on March 11, 2006

JM from StarForce: The purpose of copy protection is not making the game uncrackable – it is impossible. The main purpose is to delay the release of cracked version.

And how many hours does this brilliant scheme delay the release of the cracked version?
posted by straight at 9:43 PM on March 11, 2006

Ryvar, you and me both. I thought the Starforce people were evil before this, now I'm completely convinced.
posted by nightchrome at 10:22 PM on March 11, 2006

Most games are cracked before the release date or on the release date. So if publishers are paying starforce to delay there games being cracked i don't think there getting there moneys worth.

I have found that when i pir8 a game and have played it for more then a few hours. I will go out and buy the retail copy.

What is it that attracts slimeballs to the market of selling security solutions?
posted by Dreamghost at 12:25 AM on March 12, 2006

Rictic writes "They released a patch that completely removed the copy protection, such that you could run the game with any burned copy of the CD. I don't know how it affected their sales, but since it required a key to play online, everyone I know who played the game bought at least one copy."

There must be more to this, my copy of NWN is fully patched but still insists on the original play disk and will not work with a burned copy. I've really got to get around to cracking my latest install.
posted by Mitheral at 12:28 AM on March 12, 2006

And how many hours does this brilliant scheme delay the release of the cracked version?

Let's see.

Galactic Civilizations II (unprotected)
Official Release Date 2006-02-21
Unofficial Release Date 2006-02-28

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Lockdown (Protected by StarForce 3.6)
Official Release Date 2006-02-14
Unofficial Release Date 2006-02-12/2006-02-14

The Apprentice (no protection)
Official Release Date 2006-02-28
Unofficial Release Date 2006-02-25

Winter Challenge (Protected by Starforce 3.7)
Official Release Date 2006-02-10
Unofficial Release Date 2006-02-04/2006-02-12

(On Starforce protected games, the earlier releases are not actually stripped of the copy protection, so you will have to use simple programs (Less intrusive than the actual Starforce program) to fool the game. The proper releases are easy to use and require no extra programs.)

These games were picked at semi-random and I'm sure you could find some starforce games released a lot later and some unprotected games released a lot earlier, but judging by these few examples, copy-protection is not a major factor in determining when a game is released on the internet. Sometimes, copy protection companies do roll out new versions and cracking these might take longer. It's a competition and the releasing groups take pride in releasing first and releasing a working version that is easy to use.
posted by insomnus at 12:30 AM on March 12, 2006

It amazes me that companies still buy Starforce's copy protection, when it can be just beaten by simply disconnecting the CD/DVD drive. Admittedly that's a fairly extreme length to go to, but I've done it so that I can play Silent Hunter III without having to fish around for a disc or leave it in my drive.
posted by Navek Rednam at 1:03 AM on March 12, 2006

Navek: Assuming you're on a windows machine, you don't have to manually disconnect it. Just go to your hardware menu and disable the drive.

control panel/system/hardware/device manager
posted by Plinko at 1:27 AM on March 12, 2006

and I can just pop out my optical drive and achieve the same ends. But Starforce totally fucked up my desktop (installed with a demo of Peter Jackson's King Kong game, no less. why protect a demo? why?)

I have to use NoCD hacks for my GTA:San Andreas. I bought it, but after install, the game won't recognize the disc in the drive (you know, to play).

While people love/hate Steam for their practices, I love that I don't have to worry about discs with it, since I downloaded the game directly.
posted by Busithoth at 6:22 AM on March 12, 2006

One of the bizarrest uses of Starforce I've seen is Trackmania Nations, a free game. There is no disc to protect and it's free to anyone who wants it.
posted by Navek Rednam at 8:52 AM on March 12, 2006

Busithoth : "why protect a demo?"

Apparently hackers were using the demo executables to quickly get around Starforce. So now they Starforce the demos too.

I've got a lot of games from 10 years ago that still play fine (other than hardware issues) that have minimal protection. What I worry is that in 10 years, when I feel like playing a game I buy today, I won't be able to because of a missing authentication server or something.
posted by graventy at 9:14 AM on March 12, 2006

I would love to crack all of my purchased games. Swapping CD's -- and having to worry about them (I've lost 2 older ones recently and am having trouble locating new copies to purchase) is a pain.

It's like music CD's. Why have them? Once I've burned every one I own, I'd personally like to pawn the lot of them.
posted by dreamsign at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2006

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