Activation Bomb

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Gethsemani:
if piracy was percieved as a negligable problem and not as severely affecting the projected income in a negative way then these invasive DRMs, Online Verifications and similar would never be used.
Think of it as this, you wouldn't buy a gun or hire a guard if you didn't feel threatened. Game Publishers aren't putting in DRMs for fun or beacuse they can, they are doing it because they believe the cost of using one will be justified by an increase in profit from denying casual "pirates" the chance to use an illegal copy.

You're comparison with the alcohol problem is understandable, but it is tangencial (to begin, no gamer will barf on another for torrenting too much :) ).

Despite your different view you reach the same essential conclusion : DRM exist to "protect" revenues.
The soul bending truth is that DRMs DO NOT protect anything.

If the games are good, people with an ounce of self respect and a decent income WILL pay for them;
and they do,
which is why the game market is so profitable despite the piracy; despite, in truth, of the DRMs !
Bad games won't make money; they won't even be downloaded .

If the players suffer it is not because of piracy; but because of the corporate's greed, misinformation, and ignorance (and the all out greed of the DRMs publishers).

Something has been bugging me about new XBox games lately: namely Cerberus and EA. I haven't actually gone ahead and tried it, but can I play ME 2 without logging into EA/Cerberus? It's not a big deal, but sometimes I just don't feel like hooking my xbox to the internet just so I can play a game on it. And we are talking about a single-player title here. Same deal with Arkham Asylum and Dante's Inferno: both automatically check for new content online on start-up, and that has me wondering. This feels an awful lot like Steam all of sudden, and the reality with that service is that when my internet connection is down I can kiss any and all Steam content goodbye.

I don't like this kind of "helpful" support that leads all too easily to constant internet watchdogs.

That's why I stick to Playstation versions. PC gaming is completely fucked up with all those DRM and activations.

When the game company decides to deactivate a game you play, or when they simply go bust, you simply got 1 option: DL a crack.
That's one of the advantages of being on PC, you can solve it. It will become a problem when this activation scheme also moves to consoles to kill resales.

Just lovin the fact I moved away from computer gaming a fair while ago. Console gaming doesn't have this problem. (It has many other problems, but this is one problem I will not likely have to worry about for my console games)

As much as I hate DRM for being anti-consumer, activation done right could avoid the dead-mans-switch problem. Here's how:

1. Have the game check for a particular file on startup. If the file exists, hash it using a secure hash function. If the hash matches a pre-programmed one, skip the activation check. This mechanism can be 'protected' from tampering in the same manner as the regular activation check is.
2. Generate a random string and store it in escrow with a legal firm. Embed the hash of this string in the game. Arrange with the firm that they will publish it if you go out of business or (optionally) X years from today.
3. Write a clause into the EULA that obliges you to release the key under the above circumstances. If you're extra brave, build in a financial obligation to the consumer if you don't.

Now, not only can you remove activation from any game if you go out of business or stop selling the game, but it requires no extra effort - no digging up old code, etcetera - and because you added a clause to the EULA, you're contractually obliged to do this, so anyone who buys you can't prevent you from fulfilling those obligations.

Arachnid:
As much as I hate DRM for being anti-consumer, activation done right could avoid the dead-mans-switch problem. Here's how:

1. Have the game check for a particular file on startup. If the file exists, hash it using a secure hash function. If the hash matches a pre-programmed one, skip the activation check. This mechanism can be 'protected' from tampering in the same manner as the regular activation check is.
2. Generate a random string and store it in escrow with a legal firm. Embed the hash of this string in the game. Arrange with the firm that they will publish it if you go out of business or (optionally) X years from today.
3. Write a clause into the EULA that obliges you to release the key under the above circumstances. If you're extra brave, build in a financial obligation to the consumer if you don't.

Now, not only can you remove activation from any game if you go out of business or stop selling the game, but it requires no extra effort - no digging up old code, etcetera - and because you added a clause to the EULA, you're contractually obliged to do this, so anyone who buys you can't prevent you from fulfilling those obligations.

We, the consumers, eventually PAY not only for the game development, but also for any other expense the game company makes.
I'd rather DL a few cracks for those games still worth playing, than pay extra money for this scheme.

The opposite would actually turn out much better: have game publishers throw the switch on any game after only a couple months. Cracks would be viewed just as another kind of patch and become available everywhere after the initial period and without legal risk, because this shit wouldn't fly in court.

If the pirates already beat DRM...what's the point of it entirely? Just check the CD-Key if the player wants to play online...

If pirates want a game they will have it and they will remove your game's security for at least singleplayer. All the people who want to buy it legit will also buy it anyway...

this is the main reason i buy all my steam games in boxed copies. all i'll need to do is back up maybe a few games i bought online now and then, download a version of steam with a no online check crack when it becomes available and i'm home free.

I have removed my words from this site.

veloper:
We, the consumers, eventually PAY not only for the game development, but also for any other expense the game company makes.
I'd rather DL a few cracks for those games still worth playing, than pay extra money for this scheme.

The opposite would actually turn out much better: have game publishers throw the switch on any game after only a couple months. Cracks would be viewed just as another kind of patch and become available everywhere after the initial period and without legal risk, because this shit wouldn't fly in court.

I don't disagree, for the most part: DRM is anti-consumer and counterproductive. I'm merely pointing out how guarantees of compatibility could be provided to purchasers - and yes, it would cost extra, but realistically, very, very little. What I've described is quite straightforward, technically.

The obvious answer? Piracy. You don't have to rely on the devs to help you out, you don't have to wait for anything because the crack has probably been available since the day the game was launched, and the many servers that still host cracks for thousands of games are completely unrelated to the people who made the game, meaning they won't go down just because a certain developer or publisher went down.

I know it's not a popular subject, but when you have to choose between downloading an activation crack or never playing a game ever again, I know what choice I'll make.

What i don't understand is why companies still acquire DRM from those firms (starforce,securom,tages,etc) ?
IIRC, the idea was that the DRM is there to protect the game in the first 3-6 months after release, but since almost every game has a crack or a disk image out even days before the game hits the shelves those firms should go out of business quick, i mean don't they have some sort of guarantees provided in the contract ?

gamedev: i want some DRM please
DRMdev: i have that
gamedev: what can it do?
DRMdev: it can protect your game for 3 months
gamedev: great, that's the time period that the good PR reviews are out, give me that
gamedev on launch day: I now release the game
gamedev on launch day+1: f--- me, there's a crack on the interweb already ?
gamedev on launch day+1 on their tech forums: please uninstall daemontools,alcohol,nero,kaspersky,comodo,etc or buy another DVD drive 'cause these interfere with the DRM and you can't play the game, also don't use a crack (the game will work but we will ban you)

now, what are the clauses in the DRM contract ? does the DRM firm need to pay 10x times the contract value to the gamedev if the game is cracked in less than 3 months ? this would be nice

like TAGES: http://tagesprotection.com/main.htm?page=hackers.htm
how can anyone still believe them when games like The Witcher and Gothic 3 (both with TAGES) had widely available DVD images (that trick the disk check) and cracks in a few days after release?
not to mention that even now when the DRM check should be removed from the witcher.exe executable users can't play the game 'cause it keeps crashing on TAGES routines!!!?!?!!

also, remember the Ubisoft DRM fiasco in Rainbow6: http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/14843.cfm ? sadly, looks like they did not learn anything

The Rogue Wolf:
"Look, Mr. Game Publisher, I'm worried about not being able to play that game I paid for down the road. Why do you need online activation?"
"We need online activation because you're a dirty pirate who wants to steal our game."
"But if I was a pirate I'd just bypass your online activation."
"SHUT UP SHUT UP YOU DIRTY DIRTY PIRATE I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA LA."

...there, do I have the logic down right?

You also forgot:

"You have to wear this collar and lead whilst playing the game, and sometimes when your not."
"But if I pirated it, I wouldn't have to?"
"Yes?"
"...So, I'd have a best product if I pirated?"
"........LA-LA-LA, CAN'T HEAR YOU DIRTY PIRATES!"

At least every pc game will be cracked days after the release, (if not weeks BEFORE), so it is fine. Console gamers are probably even more screwed, with their monopolistic online networks. Once the companies go down, it will be all gone. The multiplayer games will be all gone, (yay dedicated servers) even the DD offline games can be kept as long as your system is working, and these machines are not exactly built for the ages.

Two of the three console manufacturers have much greater enterprises than gaming, and they lost billions of dollars on this "small" segment in the recent years. The only thing that makes it financially reasonable for their CEOs to stay in the game is the hope that they might start to dominate the living room with the next try. What if They are proven wrong?

Noelveiga:
But that is not the only issue here. Steam exclusives are even harder to protect in the long run. When (not if, mind you, when) Steam goes out of business it's going to take Plants vs. Zombies with it, and that's not a matter of fixing a few bytes in an exe to get it think it's authenticated, the whole game is compressed and packed away in a single file, there is no other copy and no physical proof of purchase.

Dunno, but I pirated Plants vs. Zombies like any other game...

Really, really interesting :) Nice feature

Alterego-X:

Two of the three console manufacturers have much greater enterprises than gaming, and they lost billions of dollars on this "small" segment in the recent years.

...

Dunno, but I pirated Plants vs. Zombies like any other game...

I hope you understand the deep, deep irony in this.

Noelveiga:

Alterego-X:

Two of the three console manufacturers have much greater enterprises than gaming, and they lost billions of dollars on this "small" segment in the recent years.

...

Dunno, but I pirated Plants vs. Zombies like any other game...

I hope you understand the deep, deep irony in this.

Err... No.
Plants vs. Zombies is definitely crackable, and console first parties are in a risky situation. Is there supposed to be a connection?

Gethsemani:

Worgen:

Your argument is inherently flawed, pirates are a red herring, the assumption always goes "if they didnt pirate it they would buy it" but thats a flawed argument since in all likely hood they wouldnt have unless its a special case like spore when pirating it was also a form of protest against the heavy handed tactics. Pirates are just a way for a company to say "look this is why our game had low sales, its not our fault the game sucked/was too system intensive/no body knew about it" altho piracy would probably help that last one.

Your argument with alcohol is flawed also, it didnt matter what the outcome of drinking was to the moral crusaders, they viewed it as the cause of many of sociaties ills and would not be disuaded untill it because obvious that banning it created bigger problems then allowing it did, its one of the few times in history you can see someone blaiming all of sociaties ills on something and literaly watch it blow up in their face. Other things that have been blamed include gays, women, cathlics, athiests, commies, black people, irish, mexicans, chinese, japanese, eastern europeans and many more. Some spelling may have shifted during the course of this rant.

Actually, my argument isn't as flawed as you might think (at least I don't think so, heh). I am not coming at this from a moral viewpoint, but rather from a purely economical.
Let me give you another example, Titanic would never sink right? So why invest in enough life boats to save everyone in case she sank? The smart economic move is to only buy the minimal necessary amount of life boats, because you won't need them anyway and they cost money.
The alcohol argument is kind of the same, because it wasn't a moral choice. The people holding these events sure wanted to sell that alcohol, it was a great profit. But in the end, they faced the prospect of losing money because a certain demographic of attenders got drunk and disorderly and that threatened to scare away other paying event goers. So, the profit form the alcohol had to go in favor of keeping the event goers coming.

DRMs are the same. They are usually third party software (such as StarForce, SecuROM etc.) and I can bet that they are rather expensive to buy a license for. These servers that Mr. Young are talking about also cost money to keep up and running. Now, I am not in anyway affiliated to any publisher except for buying the games they offer. But I think that if piracy was percieved as a negligable problem and not as severely affecting the projected income in a negative way then these invasive DRMs, Online Verifications and similar would never be used.
Think of it as this, you wouldn't buy a gun or hire a guard if you didn't feel threatened. Game Publishers aren't putting in DRMs for fun or beacuse they can, they are doing it because they believe the cost of using one will be justified by an increase in profit from denying casual "pirates" the chance to use an illegal copy.

oh your alcohol argument is about a specific event instead of proabition, well the argument is still flawed, its essentualy the same thing as "protect the children" everything should be banned because kids could see it and it will warp thier stupid little minds, its like arguing that everything should be set for the lowest common demoniator.

The really weird thing about the game industry is tehy seem to be much more whiny then any other about this sort of thing, lets look at movies, now maybe its because they arnt as loud but you dont see that much effort to fuck with consumers aside from reginal encoding altho Im sure they have had much worse plans that never really took off, but the point is if you buy a movie you can play it in probably any dvd/bluray player you can find and watch it as many times as you like. You dont really hear video companies bitching about comsumers letting other ppl watch movies or lending them out assuming someone doesnt go overboard.

This is why I always crack my single player games even if I pay for them. If an update is released I'll get the update and then get a new crack. And on another note DRMs are a complete waste of money that the game companies justify by thinking the pirates of the game were going to buy it if they couldn't get it illegally. Very few pirates care enough about a game to buy it if they can't dl it.

Maybe they can resell is as a classic title for $9.95? Or maybe this in a opening for a new organisation who soley sits on the internet and activates software. Perhaps a community needs to be started for this?

I go through games like a bag of chips, but there are some titles I love to come back to years later and spend weeks enjoying it again. (I'm still pissed that i cant play my PS2 games on the PS3, and that i have to dig up old OS files to run some of my old PC games.)

Companies would greatly benefit from preparing the patch to remove the drm, then state when the registration server will be shut down, then after that have the patch availible from their main company website.

As a person who buys the majority of his games on Steam these days, I don't have much of a problem with the knowledge that the Steam server might get shutdown at some arbitrary time in the future, and I find it impertinent to worry about such things when I live in a nation that is attempting to take away my freedom of information over the internet with a mandatory filter and a certain politician is blocking the adoption of an 18+ rating on games. I have more pressing concerns when it comes to my ability to play the games I want to, but I digress.

While I don't support the act of piracy, and I do not use them myself, I do know that cracked software platforms for Steam games are regularly updated and released, removing all requirement to be connected to a Steam account to play these games. Hypothetically, if Valve exploded and the Steam servers burnt out with them, I would just download this illegal software platform. I'd be committing a felony, but a justified one, I suspect. There is always the problem that the game files won't be hosted on the internet for my download, and that a hard drive corruption would lose that data forever. However, stressing about that problem is the same as stressing about a housefire burning all of your physical game disks, only you don't get insurance on electronic data.

Also, DRM to me has always appeared to be a complete misunderstanding of companies in regards to economic incentives. Largely, the consumer doesn't care about covering the publisher's ass, so to speak. The consumer is willing to part with their money ONLY in return for the electronic entertainment of a video game, the consumer isn't giving the publisher money so that they can ask nicely whenever they wish to receive the service they paid for (and may sometimes be refused). We all know that games will inevitably be cracked, torrented, etc. so the publishers MUST know. There's no way they couldn't know this piece of information and still possess the intelligence to run a publishing corporation, so why do they do it? It baffles me entirely. They spend a load of money on DRM software that buys them what? A couple of extra days before the pirates crack it? What it does get them is a sense of animosity from their own userbase, one that drives some people that would have bought the game to pirate it, and this INCREASES the problem. DRM has always appeared to me to be a fantastic way of losing money disguised as a method of saving it. It's genius on the part of the software companies that design it, but ludicrous once you get down to pulling it apart.

Alterego-X:

Noelveiga:

Alterego-X:

Two of the three console manufacturers have much greater enterprises than gaming, and they lost billions of dollars on this "small" segment in the recent years.

...

Dunno, but I pirated Plants vs. Zombies like any other game...

I hope you understand the deep, deep irony in this.

Err... No.
Plants vs. Zombies is definitely crackable, and console first parties are in a risky situation. Is there supposed to be a connection?

You are claiming that their lack of profit is putting preservation at risk and then admitting to piracy. Irony is definitely the word.

Of course, you're not making sense, either. First, it's not a matter of financial health. This isn't an if, it's a when. Support will stop across the board in ten years or in a hundred. This isn't about consumer convenience, it's about art pieces ceasing to exist on the long run. Second, your argument about consoles presumes them uncrackable as well, but all consoles and arcade games have been emulated eventually. If piracy is to become the long term keeper of these games, it will save them on all fronts, but it's still not an ideal outcome. Some sort of official long term preservation program should probably be set up.

Noelveiga:

Alterego-X:

Noelveiga:

Alterego-X:

Two of the three console manufacturers have much greater enterprises than gaming, and they lost billions of dollars on this "small" segment in the recent years.

...

Dunno, but I pirated Plants vs. Zombies like any other game...

I hope you understand the deep, deep irony in this.

Err... No.
Plants vs. Zombies is definitely crackable, and console first parties are in a risky situation. Is there supposed to be a connection?

You are claiming that their lack of profit is putting preservation at risk and then admitting to piracy. Irony is definitely the word.

Plants vs. Zombies isn't even released on the home consoles I was talking about, and I don't own either of them anyways, I'm a PC gamer.

And yeah, I know I'm hurting the PC gaming industry and I don't really care.
It would be ironic, only if I would loudly advocate supporting the industry to save their IPs, but I didn't, I just stated some obvious trends.

Booze Zombie:

MurderousToaster:
You wouldn't really be buggered if Steam went out of business (Offline mode, anybody?)

This really is a ticking clock for our screwedness. Every 'educated' gamer gets how this will destroy the industry, why doesn't the industry itself see?

Yes, but if I ever wiped my PC and I needed to redownload Steam and all of my games, I would be buggered.

actually you'd just need to copy a steam installation and your old steamapps folder and tadaaa..(yeah i know that still doesn't help when hard disk fails) but hey most games on steam i bought for the fact they were just 5 euro or something so that's a chips eating attitude..

Alterego-X:

Plants vs. Zombies isn't even released on the home consoles I was talking about, and I don't own either of them anyways, I'm a PC gamer.

I wasn't talking about Plants vs Zombies specifically. Pointing out things that are true doesn't make the things I say automatically false. The only point I made was that Steam isn't any safer than XBL or PSN for games that are exclusive to that digital download only platform.

And yeah, I know I'm hurting the PC gaming industry and I don't really care.
It would be ironic, only if I would loudly advocate supporting the industry to save their IPs, but I didn't, I just stated some obvious trends.

I assumed that you disliked the idea of software being permanently lost from your post, and the fact that you said the likely cause of this was people in the business losing money struck me as ironic. I don't think I was wrong on either of those. The fact that you don't care about "harming the PC industry" but you're exclusively a PC gamer is also ironic. And an explanation of why dedicated servers, PC exclusives and other pretty things are already gone forever.

Solution: First buy the game, then pirate the game.
You get a game with no activation and no bullshit. Best of both worlds. Problem solved.

Another great article Shamus but you could have easily made it hit home with a majority of the people here if you said "Imagine a world where you can't beat ocarina of time for the 500th time." Then everyone would realize how bad this online activation could be.

Heh, irony. I was actually playing through the beginning levels of Jade Empire when I started reading this article. I'm glad I tend to buy console versions of games, but I know it's just a matter of time before they think up a way to fuck that up, too. If they're going to insist on online activation, that's fine, but I'm not paying full price to "buy" a game that I don't own unless it is the fucking electric messiah. My income is already low enough that I should be selling instead of buying. If they were pitching DRM'd-up copies of Mass Effect 2 for $20-30 on Steam (Or maybe implementing some kind of rebate system? I don't know.) I might consider risking my money, but until then, no thank you. It makes absolutely no sense to me that someone should pay the same price to lease a game that the people who buy it do.

Shamus, I am 100% behind you and when the DRM Class War Vidya Apocalypse kicks into gear, you can count on my vast knowledge of NEET lifestyle to help gather followers for your army.

You know what i'd do if this happened to a game i wanted to play? i'd just find a pirated version of the game. If anyone came after me, i'd just tell them to fuck off, cause i have a copy of said game.
It's not that big a deal.
MMO's shutting down would make it more or less unplayable, but not SP games, you can always pirate even old shit.

I'm a bit confused. He's talking about games you buy off of web services like Steam and Direct2Drive right? Not games you buy in stores and activate with a disc and code?

The Rogue Wolf:
"Look, Mr. Game Publisher, I'm worried about not being able to play that game I paid for down the road. Why do you need online activation?"
"We need online activation because you're a dirty pirate who wants to steal our game."
"But if I was a pirate I'd just bypass your online activation."
"SHUT UP SHUT UP YOU DIRTY DIRTY PIRATE I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA LA."

...there, do I have the logic down right?

Yep. That's why I thank piracy, even if just for a single thing.

If the servers go down, I can still download Nox with patches. Or Black Isle games. Or I can just say "Hey, 2K Games, your game is good or better, but since you are idiots and think I'm a pirate before I buy the game, I might as well pirate it anyway. I mean, since you already handcuffed me".

If it is a single player game that I payed for I'd gladly download a pirated version, since I have the right to play it. Multiplayer games is a different story.

I can see valve doing that the only issue is reinstalls though if your worried there is the backup game files option burn it all to discs then if steam goes down put your account into off-line mode with your discs available problem solved

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