Monday, June 16, 2008

Starforce and the stupidity of copy protection

Many games use a copy protection scheme called Starforce. Essentially, this program installs drivers onto your machine that will not allow you to run an application, in this case a game, without the proper disk. It is incredibly intrusive, though apologists will claim that it helps stop piracy. I doubt it. Very few of these games stay protected for any significant length of time.

Now, for fun, especially if you are a gamer of sorts, take a look at that list of games. Notice anything? Most are nameless crap that no one really ever bought. Was that because of the copy protection. I think it could be...here's my argument:

Many times I have bought a game and when I started playing it, found it sucked. Like Prey, for instance. Graphically beautiful, Prey gets dull really, really quickly. Of course, I haven't played it since I first picked it up, which means I am out $60. What I usually do is get a "cracked" copy of a game I am interested in, try it out, and if I like it, I buy it. F.E.A.R was one, I liked it enough to buy a copy (though it was on sale :) ), and, more significantly, Morrowind. Played it for an hour or two, then raced to the store to get a copy. Brilliant game. Could I have gotten the same thing with a demo version, probably. But, I had a copy, tried it, and liked it.

I have since bought all the expansions and the newest in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion. Would you consider that a net gain, or loss for Bethesda (publishers of the games)? Net gain, I would say, and a considerable one at that. The only thing I do download, still, is a No CD crack (for every game I buy). This is so I don't have to constantly put the disc in the drive each time I want to play. I hate that.

I recently purchased a game I found in the bargain bin of a Giant Tiger: Rush for Berlin. I only paid $3, so no big deal. I was going to give it to my Dad, who has been looking for a good WWII strategy game. I got it home, and read through the EULA. One section caught my eye:

...might install software alleged to interfere with your installed software or hardware...uninstalling the game will not remove Starforce...


I couldn't believe it, but really shouldn't have been surprised. I thought, however, that given the sale price, and the fact that the game was 3 years old, that they would have released a patch that does away with Starforce...many games do that (once everyone who really wanted a copy has one). Nope.

I will not EVER install something with this kind of copy protection. This only penalizes the legitimate buyer, not the pirate. Starforce has been known to screw up optical disk drives to the point that they can no longer function. Fun, eh?

The frightening part is that bill C61 was recently tabled in Canada, which makes the US DMCA look like a wimp. One part talks about making it illegal to circumvent copy protection, even if for personal use (such as the No CD crack)! Excuse me? This is insane.

This will drive me to pirate shit, just to piss them off.

Yes, stuff will get pirated, and that sucks. However, not every pirated game, or any kind of software for that matter, is a lost sale to the publisher. You cannot make a one-to-one correlation. Too many times games are pirated that the person has no intention of buying, not because they are cheap, but because they either can't afford it (Microsoft Office, anyone) and/or because they wouldn't have bought it in the first place (Prey comes to mind...if I had pirated it first, I wouldn't have bought it) :)