back to article Ubisoft pirates game fix from pirates

Companies that take an iron fist approach to fighting software piracy are generally best served by not lifting a pirate group's code themselves to fix their own product. Ubisoft, the French video game developer and publisher, was recently caught with its pants down, releasing a pirated hack as an official fix. Ubisoft sells …

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  1. Matt
    Stop

    Yet another example...

    ..of a pirated product that is superior to the purchased version.

    Yaaay for DRM!

    When will companies realize that by making it easier to steal your product than purchase it, they are encouaging people to steal it?

  2. Chris

    Yay and stuff, but my question is..

    While it is fairly obvious that they took the .exe from Reloaded, I wonder if the hash of the two was exactly the same. If it was, then it is clearly obvious that some employee (who probably owned the game, and cracked it because the DRM sucks ass) just uploaded it. If it is different, then Ubisoft programmers altered the code.

  3. Goat Jam
    Pirate

    Meanwhile . .

    there is still no officially sanctioned fix for this totally unacceptable cockup.

    Its unbelievable that a bunch of unpaid pimply faced teenagers can provide a better customer experience than a "properly" managed company.

  4. Mectron
    Flame

    FREE VS Legal

    legal "licensed" Product:

    1. High price tag

    2. Slow down by illegal copy protection

    3. DRM illegally prevent you from backing flimsy cheap CD/DVD

    3. DRM illegally prevent you from fully enjoying your product

    4. DRM once more is proven to be 100% NON Efficient at stoping Piracy

    Free Version

    1. Afordable

    2. No illegal DRM

    3. install image can backed on anything

    4. Can fully enjoy the product whitout any illegal constraint

    5. Get a good laugh at compan\ies who spend insage amouth of many on useless DRM that had NEVER WORK (and never WILL). here is a hint, want to recoup money (not really lost) to piracy? Sue the real criminal: The company that designs those flawed DRM.

    How to make Licenced product apealing:

    1. LOWER Price (whioudld be easy, by saving millions illegasl DRM suck up)

    2. Remove any kind of DRM

    3. Increase sale, consumer satisfaction!

  5. kain preacher Silver badge

    Worries me

    That one, the company cant fix their own crap, Two they pulled it from a hackers board. What if the file was infected ???

    Funny thing., Creative Labs got all pissy when some fixed their stuff. This company just steals it and takes credit for it.

    Hmmm will there be a law suit soon ??

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Yep been there done that

    I download the cracked versions for pretty much every game I buy. I'm not very good at keeping track of my CDs, and generally can't be bothered to swap out disks just to play a game.

    Doesn't mean I think its okay to steal games though. There is only one legitimate way to protest prices or even the DRM, and that's to not buy the game.

    I'm not protesting anything, I just can't be bothered with using a CD or DVD once I've installed it.

    But what these companies fail to understand is no amount of DRM will stop pricks thieving their games. Its as easy to get hold of a game that's loaded with DRM as it is to get one that has none at all. You just download a second tiny file after you're game torrent is done. Sometimes they even come with the cracked exe in the same torrent, which is a pain for me because I don't need the game itself.

    The truth is if businesses really want to do away with piracy, there's only one way to do so. Make drm-free, downloadable games available at zero cost. Of course this would mean no more good games, but there you go.

    Oh and just because a business makes a profit selling games to people like me, doesn't make it okay for you to steal them either. You're still a thieving prick.

  7. Jo-mo
    Unhappy

    Silly people...

    I routinely download the cracked exe for every single game I buy. It saves me having to take the CD's around with me, and it means they even load up quicker. I honestly don't know why the still include CD checks - all it does is inconvenience the user.

  8. Hardcastle
    Linux

    ...yet another corp who can kiss my phat arse...

    When will Goobisoft and the rest of the BumBuds of DRM realize that the more they push DRM, the more their swag gets "pirated"? This case is a perfectly glaring example of this point. Of course there are a core of h4><0rZ that stay busy cracking that code to make their stuff leet, free it from DRM Bondage, and are happy to pass it on, but mind this: this is a small-numbered group compared to the greater community of gamers who keep it clean... normally. Thanks to Goobersoft's malbuilt "patch" that was DRM'd upp all nice and crusty, they bent their online customers over without even the benefit of a reacharound. Of course they are going to hit Goobersoft up for a Fix to their lovely Patch. The bad part for Goobersoft is that they have had their swag DRM'd up so completely that even THEY couldn't figger out how to patch it... Aye, but here come the "Pirates" to the rescue. Since Ubi couldnt figure out a patch on their own, they wiezed the cracked code and upstreamed it as if it was their own. Hypocrites, the whole lot of them; they gritch about Pirates, but they Pirate the pirated code themselves. Then, when some sharp eyes spot the Reloaded sig in the Hex and fully bust Goobersoft on it, then they yank it, and continue with the customer shagging... Without the "fix", those who bought the game legit online are Forced to become "Pirates" just to fix Goobersoft's phuxup and make their game playable again. Like Matt said, this is a "perfect" example of a company making it harder to use their product legitimately than it is to use a hacked version, and thus making many more people "pirates" than there would be if the software was DRM-Free. Will they ever learn?...

  9. BillPhollins
    Thumb Down

    Brings a whole new meaning to copy protection

    Yep, agreed. There are freetards, there always will be. But if I wanted to swap out disks all day to play games when I have a huge hard drive which exists so I don't have to, then they might as well deliver us a 1980s Amiga and let us swap floppies all day. Very annoying when you've paid 50 quid for the privelege. Problems start when your CD starts to die as well, this happened to me with BF1942.

    The DRM is mostly 3rd party apps that have been cracked, so they can easily apply them across all games that use it. And from a technical point of view, I don't really understand why they insist on CD's being present when the .exe that calls it is installed on the HDD. Why is this less secure than storing it (be it a key or dll or whatever) on the HDD when the .exe that the pirates patch is also there? Bizarre.

  10. Chris C

    Annoyance

    While I understand authors' and publishers' desire to "protect" their product so as to protect their revenue stream, the old "you must have the CD in the drive" is one of the most annoying things in my opinion. When you've got 10-20 games or more (heck, even if you only have one or two), it's extremely annoying to have to swap discs (or find and insert the game disc) simply to "prove" that you own it. I should be able to use the discs to install the game, then put them away for safekeeping and to prevent scratching the discs. Then again, the vendor/publisher probably loves scratched discs because it means you have to buy another copy of a game you already paid for once.

    On a side note, I have a problem with this statement: "Given that Reloaded is an illegal piracy group..." I'd love to say I'm just being pedantic, but it does seem as if people in and of themselves are now considered illegal. It doesn't seem that long ago that actions were what was illegal, not people or thoughts. Then again, back then it was "innocent UNLESS proven guilty" instead of the now-used perverted and completely-different-meaning "innocent UNTIL proven guilty".

  11. C
    Alien

    @Yep been there done that

    and he said ... "The truth is if businesses really want to do away with piracy, there's only one way to do so. Make drm-free, downloadable games available at zero cost. Of course this would mean no more good games, but there you go."

    I beg to differ sir! Has anyone had a peek at the open source games available for Linux *LATELY*?!

    http://gamesuy.blogspot.com/2007/12/top-10-free-linux-3d-games.html

    "some have won awards..."

    Not too shabby eh? As if that wasn't enough, there are various frameworks with 3D engines and all, AND some people have even made use of them. What, you don't like something about one of them?? Schmooze the people that maintain it (yes, they REALLY respond!) and you'll likely get your wish!

    What's more they *don't care* if you take the game and modify it!! As long as you let others play with your mods too!

    DRM free since forever.

    cheers!

  12. Andy Tunnah
    Thumb Up

    give em a job!

    its been long established that DEViANCE/RELOADED crackers are some of the most talented coders around; these guys work tirelessly on stuff like this (and not just the illegal stuff)

    give em a job :p

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always send up 'going illegal'

    Someone else put it perfectly:

    "Its unbelievable that a bunch of unpaid pimply faced teenagers can provide a better customer experience than a "properly" managed company."

    It's not about saving money (for me), it's about availability and customer-support.

    Points in case:

    Napster/Kazaa - in the old days, provided the quickest, easiest way to sample music

    Bittorrents - The community site I belong to provides TV downloads as soon as they've aired, quickly fixed if any problems, and a good community to chat afterwards

    Bittorrents for movies - again, perfect quality, no need for physical media

    Firmware improvements - Better firmware for Sony Ericssons phones

    I could list four or five others, but the point is that time-and-time again, a small community of 20 fans can provide a quicker and more professional service than those paid to provide it. As soon as the 'big companies' can pull their fingers out I'll play ball.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    they had it right at first ....

    ok to play this game online you need a code..playing this game by yourself is good practice but thats it after you complete it its done ..the online element is everything to it so why the hell did they put a cd protection on it ????

    they should let people copy the 1 player mode letthem get hooked then they will have to buy a code or a cd/code to play online.. it's a perfect way to make more money try before you buy sort of thing ...

    my son bought this game and i tryed it offline first so did my wife then we went out and got one each ..you see it does work ...

    and reloaded arn't spotty 16yr olds they have been around far to long now ...more like pale 25yr olds that never see the sun :) but imo there hero's of the new age ...cudos guys

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    @been there done that.

    I gotta agree, despite the idiots who are running the company there are likely a bunch of developers who worked hard and probably had the gamer in mind. They probably feel as screwed over as the consumers.

    Yes DRM sucks and Ubisoft are really taking the p*ss by still not releasing the version they claim to have. But pirating games will lead to no more good games. Or worse fewer game development companies so everything will be made by EA (oh wait..).

    Try things by all means but if you want free, go open source. Ok there are very few open source games, but if you get all your other software open source then you will have money for games!

  16. Stewart Stevens

    Steam is not so bad anymore

    I once thought that Steam from Valve was a pile of complete crap. Very annoying and buggy. However they have put more effort into making a decent bit of software and at the moment it is sweet.

    I used to own a copy of Rainbow 6 and then lent it to a colleague whose son tried to eat it. The disc was left unreadable. It was annoying enough to have to find the cd each time you wanted to play but no way am I going to buy another Ubisoft product until they have satisfactory copy protection. No way am I going to install a cracked version.

  17. Kevin Johnston

    Protectionism

    There is only one type of game protection I am 'OK' with (if you have to have it make it a light touch) and that is an online verification at the point of install. After that a random check on launch if the Internet is available.

    Bioware have done this with Mass Effect and it is fine, no media required in drive XYZ: or silly page 5 line 23 word 8, remember them? Mind you they had already got past the No CD in the drive bit a while ago so there is some hope, just not much.

  18. Elmer Phud
    IT Angle

    Small people need backup

    When young people are given games on disc it doesn't take long for the discs to become covered with food and scratches. At this point the parents are supposed to go out and buy a new copy. I've rescued discs by washing them and carefully polishing with Duraglit to remove most of the surface scratches. Then they can be copied over to a hard drive using software that picks carefully through the protection stuff.

    Yes, I guess it is illegal but when children are involved in swapping game discs over then you need some sort of back-up. Far better to copy the new disc then store it away until it's needed.

    Oddly enough, that's exactly what we were all encouraged to do when everything came on a pack of floppy discs, first bit of instruction was usually to back it up and run with the back ups.

    The manufacturers don't really care if you get to play the games or not -- as long as you part with the cash, that's all that matters. We have a different viewpoint as customers - we expect to have a product we can use more than a couple of times, something that lasts longer than the next game release.

  19. Brezin Bardout

    'pirating games will lead to no more good games'

    Haven't they been saying this for the last twenty or so years at least?

  20. Bayleaf
    Paris Hilton

    Can somebody explain

    Why on this and a number of other threads people claim that copy protection and DRM are illegal? I thought that, at least in the USA, DRM was actually a part of their law (although EL Reg being a British site this of course does not apply here, but tell the mericans that). I'm not much of a gamer myself so I would not have seen any of the arguments on the subject, and am genuinely interested.

  21. Ash
    Thumb Down

    Never illegally downloaded a game...

    ... Always downloaded cracks / mini-images for them if DRM / Copy Protection is present.

    I have about 30 games installed at any one time, and I play some of them more often than others. Swapping discs constantly damages them, and good luck getting a replacement from your local retailer / game publisher when it's knackered. "That's wear in normal use. Go buy it again if you liked it so much!"

    I suppose it's the wrong way to go about it, really; As long as they still get their money, they'll keep pumping out this crud.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Kevin

    "There is only one type of game protection I am 'OK' with (if you have to have it make it a light touch) and that is an online verification at the point of install. After that a random check on launch if the Internet is available"

    And then we come to the next set of problems.

    What happens when the servers go down? Your game does not get validated so you cannot play it. That has happened before.

    What happens if you are someone who disables your internet connection to save resources when your PC is not at the top end spec-wise for the game? Your game does not get validated randomly so you cannot play it.

    Sorry, that system does not work and will be cracked as quickly as any other failed DRM. If the publishers like Ubi want to solve the issue, then dropp DRM and drop the prices. That way more games will be sold and they will make more money.

    DRM DOES NOT WORK

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Jon
    Boffin

    @Yay and stuff, but my question is..

    Ubisoft programmers wouldn't alter the code by editing the .exe file. That's _hard_. Hell, I'm a professional C/C++ programmer and I wouldn't know how to do that. I could probably figure it out if I had to, but it's much much easier just to change the source code and recompile. That would've got rid of the "Reloaded" string in the .exe, and all the other changes made by the Reloaded team.

    It sound like some poor support person wanted to help customers dispite utter cluelessness from the company. So they just took the crack, changed the documentation, renamed it from leet_warez_crack.zip to official_supported_patch.zip, and uploaded it. Now they're probably going to get fired.

  25. steogede

    @Bayleaf

    >> Why on this and a number of other threads people claim that copy protection

    >> and DRM are illegal?

    I couldn't say for certain as I am not familiar with the arguments. However, I would guess that it is probably that DRM often seeks to strip the consumer of their statutory rights (or perceived rights) such as a the right to make a backup. Like Elmer Phudd said, making a backup used to be the first instruction in computer game manuals (I think most El Reg readers are old enough to remember that). In this case they probably see it as illegal because the DRM in the patch prevents lawful licensees of the game from using it (the game or patch).

  26. steogede

    @Jon

    >> It sound like some poor support person wanted to help customers dispite utter

    >> cluelessness from the company... ...Now they're probably going to get fired.

    If he has a disciplinary hearing because he actions are "...in direct conflict with Ubisoft's policies", let's hope he turns around and points out the bit in his job description where it (presumably) talks about providing customer service and satisfaction.

    Worryingly, Ubisoft don't seem to have made any comments to the effect that preventing customers from rightfully making use of the purchased products is "... in direct conflict with Ubisoft's policies".

  27. Aaron

    Sad thing

    The sad thing about this is that the poor guy that uploaded this to help the thousands of customers that Ubisoft knew had a major problem but couldnt care less about will probably be out of a job.

    So many support companies out there get so tied up in red tape, politic's and general bullcrap that they loose site of actually doing their job. That is to help your customer's solve their issues. To often now days I hear people call support up and end up having to go else where to get the help they should have gotten.

    Plus if a company did decent testing and produced a good product in the first place they wouldnt need to patch/have DRM/or support so many people in the first place.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the first time they've 'condoned' it..

    I bought F1 Racing Championship a few years ago, also by Ubisoft, and a really nice F1 sim...

    Unfortunately, the CD protection was incompatible with my system too, and they didn't have an official fix. Their tech support advised me to find a 'no-cd' crack on the internet as they couldn't offer any other solution.

    I've worked in the industry for several years, and I have never seen the point of spending money to protect a product that is incompatible with so many setups, meaning you still have to produce 'unprotected' versions to send out to those who complain it doesn't work, when all the time, people who don't even buy the original product in the first place don't get any of the inconvenience.

  29. Stewart Stevens

    @Jon

    The scenario you paint sounds very likely. Still, what else might be in that crack? I never install cracks because I don't trust the authors. The support people at Ubisoft do deserve to be hit with a big stick over this - people's data could wind up compromised / damaged by software downloaded from Ubisoft.

    Now supposing a junior support person put up the "fix", I'd say they were naive but as you suggest had their heart in the right place. The person whose head should roll in this case would be whoever it is who is responsible for proper software release procedures / their implementation......unless the junior willfuly ignored those procedures. All quite speculative I guess, but it'd be interesting to know what happened and I hope the Reg finds this out. Very sloppy procedures from a fair sized vendor.

  30. David Webb

    DRM

    DRM in games will always *eventually* be cracked, no ifs or buts, at least until they invent the perfect system which can't be cracked. But the onus there is on the *eventually* part. Game developers naturally want to be paid, they are risking their own money, millions of pounds, on developing a game in the hope it will sell and sell well enough to bring in the cash.

    They may make 20 games a year, 15 of these games may not make a profit, and may make a huge loss, the 5 games that do make a profit have to cover the 15 titles, which may be experimental titles, like Uplink or instance.

    Now, people who download the software illegally are taking away the profits from the 5 profitable games, which is why we have a huge influx of FPS, more FPS and umm, FPS on top of that, ohh and a little more FPS just to make sure. Companies are less likely to splash out on titles which won't make them money, because the 5 games that would are making them less.

    So they use DRM, with the intention of trying to keep the game uncracked long enough so that people who are border line download/buy are more likely to go along the buy route. The hardcore downloaders who haven't even paid for the OS they are running, and wouldn't buy a game if it was £1.99 will never buy the game anyhow.

    We're already seeing the effect of bittorrent on the game scene, other than Spore, which is a truly original title, how many fully original games, genre setting games, unique games, have there been recently?

    One future is that all PC games have a pure online component, with CD Key checks, and content you have to play online, with SP content being poor, substandard, so to play the proper game you have to play it online, thats going to be the most effective DRM.

  31. Steve

    Re: they had it right at first ....

    "my son bought this game and i tryed it offline first so did my wife then we went out and got one each ..you see it does work ..."

    When I was at uni, my housemate borrowed BF1942 and we all installed and cracked it. Within two months we'd bought four original copies so that we could all get on official servers together.

    We then harassed all of our other friends until they bought it too.

  32. John

    @Yay and stuff, but my question is.. by Jon 13:42

    They would have been able to decompile it it necessary, back into ASM or something.

    As for getting rid of the Reloaded string, a simple Hexedit and overwrite those 8bytes with, Oh I don't know..... "Ubisoft!" would have obfuscated its origins in under 15secs ;)

    Seems to me though roughly what you said is right, someone was trying to help the customers where the company he worked for couldn't give a flying fig and release a game update removing the CD check.

    Its almost universal that CD/DVD checks inconvenience genuine customers and not the exact customer they are trying to target. I know I sure as hell ran all the games I bought with No-CD fixes!

  33. T. Harrell
    Pirate

    Legal ramifications?

    I wonder what the legal ramifications of Ubisoft officially releasing RELOADED's code. This definitely adds support for making copy protection circumvention legal, when a publisher officially releases it as a bug patch!

    Copy protection is simply a bad idea, end of story. It doesn't stop piracy, and it hurts consumers! Most pirated copies represent people who would have never paid for the software otherwise!

  34. John
    Happy

    stuff high prices

    Download an emulator and play all the games you used to play years ago.

  35. Neoc
    Thumb Down

    No longer playing

    All of the these hoops DRM require you to jump through is *exactly* why I no longer play PC-based games.

    So, all that DRM has done for PC Game companies is loose them a customer who used to buy a game a month until he got jack of playing the DRM "we consider you all criminals" game.

  36. Joerg

    It seems obvious that "pirate groups" are owned by software houses...

    ... this case simply proves that. Or do you really think that "hackers, computer wizards" teenagers exist ? Yeah, in the movies maybe but reality it's way different. Don't confuse it with a marketing myth...

  37. Filippo

    @Kevin

    That way, if the servers are down the game won't install. This will happen if you try to install an old game after the company disappeared. No thanks - also, the actual way Mass Effect did this is by checking every time you start the game (no internet, no starting), and limiting the number of installs as well (so you can't resell the game).

    I'd accept that scheme if the game price was appropriately reduced, to reflect the fact that it can't be resold, can't be played without an internet connection, and that there's a very high chance it will be unusable in a few years.

    As for copy protection on CDs, again, I'd accept it if the game price reflected the fact that it will eventually become unusable (even well kept CDs become unreadable eventually). It doesn't happen often, but I have played 10+ years old games at times.

    At current game prices, I expect to *own* them, not to *rent* them.

  38. Rob Cooper
    Stop

    Great Display of the Awesomeness that is DRM-Free!

    What a waste of time and money, and ultimately the effect on people that have PAID for the game losing out! This is NOT ON.

    As an example:

    I play WoW (I am a geek, so what?)

    I went to website.

    Downloaded trial.

    Good game, I want.

    I click "upgrade to full"

    I pay.

    Game downloaded.

    Done.

    Why should anyone else been any different. Blizz have done a great job in making it EASY for me to PAY AND PLAY. Theres no fucking rocket science there. The quicker and less painful it is for me to get the damn thing running, the more likely I am to punch my CC details in and pay for the product!

    DUH!

  39. Lee Fear

    The reason I stopped playing PC games

    I stupidly paid good money for Far Cry on the day of release and I hurried home to install it. It installed fine but the farce began when I loaded it up. It would not play as it thought I had some way of copying it. After a trawl through forums I found that it was due to my DVD Rewriter. I wrote to ubisoft Customer (Non) Services and did not get a reply. I trawled the net a bit further and found a no-disc patch which worked a treat. I then wrote back to ubisoft to tell them that the pirates had fixed my problem and thanked them for forcing me to follow the illegal route, I still to this day have not received a reply from them. The farcical thing is that I paid for a legal copy of the game and it did not work yet I could have downloaded the pirated version for free on the release day and had no problems at all! All the DRM does is punish people for Purchasing the game as Pirates seem to have little trouble cracking the games. I wish DRM would be made illegal as it is very anti-consumer. I have not bought a PC game since that day as at least my console games work straight from the box.

  40. Gerard Krupa
    Coat

    @Joerg

    'Or do you really think that "hackers, computer wizards" teenagers exist ?'

    I think the only people who'd dispute the existence of crackers are those people who want to deny it because they aren't able to do it themselves and can't accept that there are people out there who possess a skill that they don't (especially if those people are younger). It doesn't take a magic universal decryption box (a la Sneakers) or an autistic savante (Mercury Rising) to crack software, just a disassembler, a hex editor, a working knowledge of machine code, a 'flexible' definition of ethics and too much time on your hands.

    Mine's the one with "x86 assembler coders do it in protected mode" written on the back.

  41. Neil

    @ Joerg

    ==Or do you really think that "hackers, computer wizards" teenagers exist ?

    Well what are they? Mythical creatures?

    Whether they belong to pirate groups, or are employed by software houses they still exist

    I don't know why you think it's obvious those groups belong to software houses either.

    Why do I bother to reply to these comments? I must be as lame as you :(

  42. Adrian Jooste
    Alert

    Ubisoft-cocks

    This company must have the worst customer support service in the industry. I bought Assasins Creed and unfortunately got a disk from a "bad batch". That bad batch was the limited edition version, go figure. Perhaps it was limited because it didn't work. Anyways, I still have not been able to play the game as it won't install on my system. There were 11 pages on their official forum with customers having the same problem. Their response? "We'll look into it." Nothing more has been done.

    Frankly, Ubisoft, you can stick it in your grandma. I'm never going near another one of your games again!

  43. Joe Harrison

    Bananas

    This sort of thing is the bane of my life. "Dad you know that game that cost 45 quid, er it don't load."

    Always turns out kids have not looked after physical media as carefully as one of us IT professionals might have done. WELL DUH, hello game companies, kids are like that and is it really a big surprise?

    Spent half the afternoon yesterday "repairing" some Xbox 360 CDs with a cut banana after youtube claimed it really works (it doesn't.)

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    credit where credit is due

    1: Ubisoft have been caught - drippy digits of rouge aplenty - and should compensate the original developer. Easier said than done I know... but a public 'thank-you' and apology would go a long way especially given the hoo-haa that develops when the situation is reversed.

    2: NoCD excecutables are a fantastic idea and have saved me from countless repetitions of :=: start game - read annoying message about "wrong CD in Drive" - openCDDrive - remove CD - open CD box - carefully place CD in box - click (wince) - close box - open new box - carefully remove CD from box (wince) - click - slide CD into CDDrive - close Drive - cancel autoinstaller - restart game :=: It's not just excessive wear and tear on the CD; it's a bloody waste of time; we have numerous opportunities for inadvertant scratch damage during transfer, unnecessary wear on the CD Drive itself, the likely addition of more fingerprints to smudge the optics and further risk of incidental damage if the CD is not correctly housed before closing the Drive door. "Normal" wear and tear (the damage caused by shining a laser or two over the surface of the disk) is far exceeded.

    3: A recent attempt to follow protocol when replacing the playdisk of Maxpayne2 was met with a charge of £10 plus P&P so I bought the entire game second hand off Am.az.on for less than half of that and emailed the distributor to express my disgust. The distributor isn't benefitting here, but the customer is most certaily suffering... so is it any wonder we are becoming reluctant to spend hard cash on games. How would the world react if one was required to put the XP/Vista disk in every time we wanted to make "windows" start, if one then had to look out the office disk in order to open up a word attachment to your email?

    4: Why all this protection? Is it all necessary? To install, a key is required... okay - so I read my key from inside the box - my personal key ...there are many like it but this one is mine (as for a name, how about 'melanie')... the one that will be replaced if I find it is already in use. Why then do I want to register? Well why? Are you proposing to send the necessary updates direct to my inbox? That would be a first. Are you even going to tell me that an official patch has been released? I think not, adverts for unrelated games I get plenty of but bugger all support. But you have my key and my IP... and now you are after my email address too.

    5: Most games these days consist of a rudimentary single player mode that does nothing more than whet the appetite for online multiplay (bugger all different from a demo version - It took me just 3 evenings to do CoD4 from the tanker to the airplane (don't call me shirley); a mate managed Crysis in just 24 hours. To play online there is registration (usually linked to a valid and therefore traceable email account) of a uniquely identifyable persona linked to your uniquely identifyable key, there is often punkbuster (for the likes of CoD4, BF1942, BF2, BF2142 yaa-dee-yah...) to detect illegal checksums and to prevent people from benefitting from some illegal content and scripts etc, play may also be restricted to specific servers (eg the very unreliable gamespy system housing TestDriveUnlimited or the EA controlled servers for registered BF2 games) to amass anything on a games points system.

    6: So with all this security already in place... why exactly to we need a CDCheck... if the game was easy to copy then more people would get copies to try before they buy, get hooked on the short single player mode and demand would quickly rise for the official key in order to play online. Install game, type in your official key, register or supply username and contact email address and there is then no need to go back to the disk unless re-installing after MS-VisteXpdirectXOS does it's usual 6 monthly self implosion.

    >>>> At every turn, the official game purchaser is being punished for sticking to the rules and those who are prepared to bend them slightly; those who hunt down NoCD.exe's, disk emulators, virtual image drives, masks to hide the above... etc are rewarded every time they wish to play the game. Legally, one is permitted to retain a copy of a £15 music CD as a backup... physically, one is prevented from performing the same security measure on a £30 game. Go figure Ubisoft... and someone please let EA know. We're creating a generation of pirates - because piratin's the only logical step forward from this place. Haaaa aaaAAAAAAA aaAAARRRRRRggg !!!! Sliver me Timberlakes.

  45. Mike
    Pirate

    Punish the innocent

    The whole market is rife with this...

    I bought Splinter Cell:Chaos Theory, which also came with a copy protection on the disc - was fine for XP, but not compatible with 64-bit Vista so I could install but not run the program. Have installed a NoCD patch for the exe and is fine now. Ubisoft only offered the solution of going to the 3rd Party protection maker's website, which contained an update which did sweet FA to help, so yes I had to resort to the 'crackers' to help me out with my legitimate purchase.

    Also, does it not bug you that the only place you get those damn awful 'You wouldn't steal a television' anti-piracy ads is on legitimately bought DVDs? I bet it's stripped from the pirated version - so the majority of people being told not to pirate things are the people not pirating things.

    Think I'm gonna get me a parrot and some pieces of eight, me hearties... just for the quieter life...

  46. Joerg

    @Gerard Krupa, @Neil... how naive you are...

    ..unless you are plants of some software house that don't want the pandora box to be opened, telling the obvious it's no good thing for the viral marketing hype stuff...

    Keep dreaming that coding and disassembling DRM protected code it's that easy. Just a question of time, uh? And you think that there really are people not employed and paid for doing that, to release hacks and cracks and so on, uh? Do you really think that anyone outside of the IT sector and without many years of professional work in the industry could have the knowledge and experience to do that?

    You have no idea of how much complex these things are, really. It's really naive to think that anyone could just do such a job in their spare time. It's not just a question of how much time one could have, it's a question of knowledge and documents that you need even just for trying to figure things out--documents that are not available to the public, that are protected under NDA and that multinational groups and any business in general protects with all their resources.

    Thinking otherwise it's pretty childish.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stardock + Impulse

    Stardock have clearly the best business method. No DRM on the games, only on the patches. That way you can install and play the base game as much as you like without the cd, but to patch you need a CD key and account. Since I found Stardock doing this I have bought more of their games than anyone else. Clearly a good business model since they say they sell more than enough games to cover costs!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Staggered by some of the opinions here...

    1) If you don't like DRM don't buy PC games. 'Ooooo having to keep putting the CD in the CD in the drive is such an inconvenience' What total f*cking twaddle. Like your switching betwen different games every 5 minutes? I don't think so. Get over it, get a console, or read a book.

    2) While still totally illegal, I can at least see some small argument for torrenting film and media. Program cracks though? Do you really know what backdoors and phishing scripts your letting onto your system? The same windows users who spend half their time trying defend their computers against viruses,OS and application vulnerabilities etc then happilly install 'Game unlocked + Free Zombie PC' and then wonder why their next months broadband usage goes over it's limit.

  49. Jared Hunt
    Paris Hilton

    @Joerg

    I suppose you think all those people out there that make huge reproductions of the Battle Of Britain out of Airfix models or make scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of matchsticks are all paid professionals too? After all, heaven forbid you could make a replica of something without the original blueprints!

    Just becuse something is difficult and/or time consuming doesn't mean people don't do it all the time.

    Paris - 'cos even she could be l33t if she put her mind to it...

  50. Craig McCormick

    @ Joerg

    Return to Monkey Island

    Pro-Tennis Tour II

    I was able to negate the copy protection on the Amiga releases of these games, within a few days of their being released for sale.

    I do believe I was a teenager at the time. Might have had a pimple or two, even,

    Nothing mythical about that.....

    Cracking crews/groups have been around since there was something for them to crack and will continue to be.

    @ the whole debate

    disc check protection is pointless. I have the try before you buy mentality, so I'm accustomed to no-cd cracks and such like. If the game is good enough, I buy it. If not, I uninstall it and get rid of the disc I've made. End of story.

    I don't want to base the purchasing decision on demos of the games, which will usually be very different from the finished product. Like movie trailers, you get 30 seconds worth of the best scenes in the film, to drag you in. Same with games.

    When the vendors and software houses release software products that are worth the money and I can rely on the quality, before I hand over my hard earned, then I will start to show some faith in them. Until then it's a case of protecting my own consumer rights and avoiding getting ripped off with no recourse.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Joerg - you're funny...

    Joerg, your last post is really quiet funny.

    There /are/ people who just do such work. You think Linux, gcc, vlc etc are written entirely by professional programmers being paid to do that during their office hours? Ha! We may be expert programmers but we really do work on this stuff in our spare time, unpaid.

    DRM crackers are no different, except that instead of spending their time fixing bugs in the Linux kernel or adding the latest Divx support to vlc, they're figuring out how some twist in DRM works. Nobody said it was easy but with a corpus of many million programmers globally, it only takes a small percentage to figure out useful stuff and share the info.

    And unlike most opensource development, there's actual money to be made from cracking.

  52. Neil

    @ Joerg

    So now I'm a potential undercover super secret agent for a software house too. Cool!

    On a serious note though, you should get these paranoid delusions seen to by a professional.

    So someone who is a member of a cracking group who must clearly have skills in order to reverse engineer software might have the wit to use their skills in their career and actually get paid to work as well as being a member of a pirate group? A real revelation there. How they thought of that is astonishing. We all thought they were highly skilled software engineers in their spare time whilst holding down a job at McDonalds to pay the bills.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Joerg

    It is obvious from your comments that you are unable to program anything.

    To be honest it is not rocket science to dissasmble code and find where the key check is, especially if you use a debugger to see the approximate moment that the serial key is checked, steping through the code as the program runs. then it is just a matter of looking at the assembler code and working out the memory addresses that are being used and creating a patch. Admitedly these days companies employ obscufication techniques, but to anyone who is experienced, these can be worked out with a little time and patience.

    You don't need any documents to do this, nor any proprietry knowledge. There are legal tutorials online where people have specially created demonstation programs, using the same techniques of drm protection, to teach people and show them how it is done. usually they come with a walkthrough and the answer as well in case you get stuck, kind of like a puzzle.

    Still I doubt you have enough of the (not very) "many years of professional work in the industry could have the knowledge and experience, to do that?"

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a title is NOT required

    debaser - point 1: DRM avoidance is only a solution when a DRM-free version of the media is made available as a choice for the consumer - it isn't. The "every 5 minutes" comment you make is a salivating kneejerk misread of the article and the responses - your rewording is typical of a profit obsessed, short-game focussed screw-the-general-public games manufacturer... anything you wish to disclose, tw@? ...and as for the console suggestion that too can fill the orifice from which no sunshine escapes as it is unrelated to the subject (still requires constant swapping of disks, still sensitive to scratches, cracks and jam) and thus is neither constructive nor helpful. Yes, books are fine when all a person wants to do is read a book. Are you suggesting that everyone stop supporting the games industry just because you said so?

    debaser - point 2: Again you miss the point entirely... the games manufacturers are the ones pointing their customers to the dodgy sites for NoCD craks because they are unable (or unwilling) to do what the warez community are emanently capable of, to wit: fix their shit. You sir, would be completely transparent were all the shit to become kicked out of you.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Joerg

    I think you're just trying to boost your ego. There are youngsters out there that can do just what you claim they can't. I'm speaking from the position of a 20 year IT professional that sees them run rings round me.

    They can, and do, disassemble and hack code (the DRM is just on the playing, the program files are still there ase .exes) Whether you agree with what they do is another discussion but denying it goes on is just foolish.

  56. Neil

    @ debaser

    'Ooooo having to keep putting the CD in the CD in the drive is such an inconvenience'

    Yes, it is bloody irritating actually.

    Case in point: yesterday I was listening to a CD on my laptop, and decided to have a look at the DVLA theory test software which is installed. I needed to go find the CD, stop my music and put the shitty disk in for the software to run. I've bought the software, why the hell do I need to dick around proving to the installed software that I've legally bought it every time I want to use it? Each time it happens I want to punch someone in the face.

  57. Joerg

    @Anonymous Coward

    You don't have a clue of what you are talking about. How old are you, really? Disassembling it's easy for you, uh? And cracking DRM protected and encrypted code it's even easier, right? Of course, so easy, they developed it to let everyone crack it, that's the purpose of encryption and DRM systems for you.. they spend millions in R&D to ensure that they don't give any real protection.. sure. Yep... Keep dreaming...

  58. Joerg

    @ Anonymous Coward

    So you are frustrated because you see others better than you at your job and without understand complexity of things you think that they are that good and able to crack DRM protected code, uh?

    Keep dreaming and believing in myths, you are getting fooled by them if that's the case. You sentence above "(the DRM is just on the playing, the program files are still there ase .exes)" clearly shows that you have no clue of what you are talking about, really. Study DRM systems basic specifications and standards for a few months and then maybe you could see how much complex and difficult things really are and maybe you could even stop dreaming and get back to reality.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @ AC

    Owwww...get you. How are things down there on your level? Really ruffled your little anorak didn't I?

    Seriously, there's never an excuse for personal attacks like that on El Reg. In doing so most people will disregard any useful comments you might make and see you for exactly what you are.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Joerg

    Fsck off tw@

    I'm not frustrated by youngsters that are better than me at coding, it's not my area of skill anyway. I also understand the nature of life, I'm orders of magnitude better at what I do than the previous generation and the same holds true for the generation(s) that are following me. That's life, learn to live with it.

    Why on earth would I want to study a discredited and failed technology. There are tens, possibly hundreds, more so called black hats working to break DRM than there are advocates trying to strengthen it. It's an arms race that's already been lost.

    You should try coming down from cloud cuckoo land and realise that, despite your fantasies, DRM is breakable and has been broken. Time and again.

    You could, perhaps, return to your (sock-)puppet masters and report that they'd be better off trying a new business model that doesn't alienate their customers. That's true for games publishers, music companies and film companies. If the end users weren't dis-satisfied with the costs and/or restrictions imposed on them, they'd be less inclined to try to circumvent controls. You will always get those that want something for nothing and DRM will not stop that but publishers could go a long way toward reducing their numbers by reappraising their methods.

  61. Joerg

    @Anonymous Coward

    You keep dreaming, insulting and acting in a childish way. Do you really believe that the world is full of hackers and crackers able to break DRM protected code?

    You live in your own personal fantasy world. What you see on movies it's not always true, you know..?

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Black hats?

    The people who break DRM aren't only black hats. I'm sure there are white hats around who do it as well. The majority of these guys do it for fun and for the challenge.

    I personally go out and play bad golf and spend hours on the driving range trying to get better, that doesn't mean I am the best golfer but I can still hit a shot worthy of the pros now and again. Similarly I enjoy beta testing games and trying my best to break them by doing things the designers never intended.

    Similarly I have friends whose idea of fun is to code up an open version of Transport Tycoon from scratch, it will take them a long time but I'm sure the end product will be totally professional even though its been written by a couple of guys in their spare time.

    In both cases you can see that amateurs can often do just as good a job as professionals because they are actually interested in what they are doing, they get a kick out of breaking the DRM or rebuilding a derelict aircraft (like the Vulcan).

  63. Ross

    asm, cracking, etc

    Ah, the allegattion that assembly language is some mystical beast raises its head again. It's a lie.

    Yes, I imagine software corps pay folk to reverse software made by their rivals. I know for a fact car manufacturers do it with cars, Sky are reputed to have done it with satellite/cable DRM, and I see no reason that software houses wouldn't do it, even if it were only to learn new tricks.

    However, you don't need a PhD to do it (although if you want to get paid for it will probably help) Reversing isn't a matter of staring at reams of hex dumps whilst blathering on about some crap a la the late night TV movie you saw this weekend. Modern tools like IDA Pro, Olly Debug (which was written as a hobby, not by a wage slave) and SoftICE make the job infinitely easier. Note I said easier not easy - it's not something you spend 3 minutes watching a YouTube video of then jump right in, but anyone with an IQ over 100 *can* learn.

    Game cracking has been going on for decades. Monkey Island 1 had a codewheel that you had to use everytime you loaded it up, and it got cracked and thrown up on various BBSs. Remember X-Force? Did they do it for cash? No, for "props". It still happens now. Yes, organised crime will work in this area, but as with botnets, some folk do it for the bragging rights. I mean hell, just go on IRC and you'll see what I mean.

    To Joerg et al - I'm going to say one thing. Breakpoints....

  64. jeffrey
    Thumb Up

    @AC Monday 21st July 2008 16:23 GMT

    off topic I know

    From what I've played of open Transport Tycoon, it is a very good game, done to a proffesional standard, - So thanks to your friends who have put the time in. (and also to the people who ported it to UIQ 3 so that I can play it on my P990i). A testement to the work of coders who do things in their spare time for fun.

  65. Heff
    Pirate

    Static versus...

    And now, Beating joerg like a red-headed-step-child, with math!

    DRM, now matter how complex, is a static quality. enough monkeys, enough keyboards, enough time, even 1024bit encryption can be broken, see?

    DRM is a puzzle. If you make a puzzle, and you're stupid enough to announce it took 8 million dollars and x years to create, someone is gonna wanna solve the puzzle. Because you cant modify DRM once its in place, its a forgone conclusion that eventually that DRM will be cracked.

    time + incentive > static DRM.

    I mean, come on. The nth step is a distibuted computing app that cracks DRM encryption. run it as a plugin in azureus/mu/your P2P app of choice. Now a crack-group can have access to an effective distibuted supercomputer; that gamers everywhere will volunteer to be a part of to get their hands on a cracked copy of Quake XXXVI.

    DRM is just a tool to try and make pirating a game difficult enough so that you go out and buy it. Sad thing is, Big business < small group ingenuity. Reminds me of NASAs lunar module controls; billions of dollars of computing power. USSR used effectively a clockwork music box of "pegged" instructions.

    cometh the puzzle... cometh the solution.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Joerg

    You accuse me of being insulting yet that's exactly how you started your contributions to this thread. I don't believe that the world is full of hackers and crackers but I'm not so 'up my own arse' as to deny they exist.

    Just because you don't have the skills or intelligence to do it, don't try to boost your own ego by denying it can be done. You're inadequacies aren't representative of the population in general.

    The proof (it goes beyond evidence) is the fact that these games have been cracked. As have all other DRM methods so far deployed. If your paranoia won't let you accept that there are far better coders than you are then continue in cloud cuckoo land.

    @AC. I know that not all crackers are blackhats, it was a simplistic view to make the point. That point bears repeating: It's an arms race that's already been lost.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in your own words, debaser...

    <What total f*cking twaddle> - a general insult to everyone who posted previous to your outburst. Great place to start when you go to such length later to have a go at me about ruffling your feathers.

    <some small argument for torrenting film and media> - really mate - you never actually bothered to expand or justify that ... it just popped out randomly, another glib mouth off by the mouthpiece devoid of reason or argument. I agree though, there most certainly IS a small argument (the try before you buy one, featured heavily elsewhere on ElReg but the relevance to DRM quite escapes me since NoCD executables rarely reside on torrent sites, the best are found at G-C-W).

    <then happily install> - wrong in so many ways (I corrected your spelling for free) - you're really not very good at this. Nobody is "happy" about installing unknown 3rd party software, many are not keen to install windows FFS. It is even more insulting to have your valued supplier send you off to find, download and install unknown 3rd party software because they can't fix their own problem. Grabbing a replacement exe and overwriting the original is small fish by comparison. What really pisses people off is when someone grabs the wrong end of the stick and runs with it. Heel boy!!! (You do GET sarcasm don't you? - it's the *lowest* form of wit and should therefore be just right for the two of you).

    <Get over it> - get over what exactly? This was a collection of just reasons to object to excessive DRM security measures before you blew in - the best you can manage is "read a book"??? On you go then... I'm not stopping you.

    <Owwww...get you> - LMfAO... that is such a gay phrase. You offering to scratch my eyes out too?

    <How are things down there on your level?> - My level is not *down* from you, it is at worst *across* - you want to chastise me for being insulting then might I respectfully suggest that you try to avoid making the same mistake (*nobody* loves a hypocrit) or do us all a favour and just stop being a complete dick. You undid all the possible benefits of your reply right there and then. Nice one.

    <Really ruffled your little anorak didn't I> No - you proved what a complete fool you are and I merely bothered to point it out. Three cheers for me eh?

    <never an excuse for personal attacks like that on El Reg> - I have to disagree on that point; sometimes all we have, after certain idiots insert their 2p, is to call them for the misinformed fools that they are. To do otherwise would effectively condone the outlandish comments that they had made and reduce the value of ElReg to gossip and here'say (which is fine for a Friday afternoon). Should you wish to continue your disagrement with that idea then might I suggest either [a] - read some of the moderator replies and/or [b] Go read a book.

    <In doing so most people will disregard any useful comments you might make and see you for exactly what you are> please feel free to ellucidate my simian counterpart. I recognise your right to voice your opinion just I have a right to disagree with it. That won't make either of us correct. Pick 12 peers ...

  68. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: in your own words, debaser...

    OK, I'll let that one through but can we down tools now please? Ta.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @ Sarah Bee

    Sorry sweetie - got ma goat a bit. The tablets are helping.

  70. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @ Sarah Bee

    One day at a time, AC.

  71. Chrisdfw
    Black Helicopters

    Patch was never tested! It only works for one round!

    The funny thing about that patch UBI was so proud of, the main hardcore feature the patch adds to the game only works for one round and then the game loses its settings and reverts to normal.

    So not only did UBI not test the patch with Direct2Drive users, it didn't test it at all.

    There is actually one Vegas 2 server admin that hacked the patch and fixed it for his own servers to play hardcore mode. UBI hasn't released a patch to fix the patch but hackers seem pretty good about fixing stuff and they don't have the source code.

  72. Paul Stephenson

    @Joerg

    C.O.R.E - Challenge Of Reverse Engineering - one of the predominant cracking groups. I draw attention to the R.E bit. Prior knowledge you say? Which part of reverse engineering means you know what the code is already?

    Did not Compaq invent the 100% IBM compatible BIOS by reverse engineering the IBM BIOS itself?

    DRM has one function, to protect the income of the producer, it has only one effect, to harm the consumer. Much like a lack of standards does.

    I note in point that my DRM free mp3's play in both media player, and iTunes, thus my mp3 library can be used in both applications and on my iPod. The story with AAC/WMA - forget it!

    Some points a little off topic, but just a winder point on how DRM fails.

    Is it not legal to use a NoCD crack anyway? Using a NoCD crack is different to using a pirated version of the product if you own the original media. I might be confusing NoCD with BackupCD cracks though.

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