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Socoder -> Off Topic -> Copy Protection

Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 16:22
HoboBen
So, imagine you've slaved for years on a game and invested a few hundred quid on artwork and music. You've got it packaged and boxed, in your hands - this piece of art that you've given more attention to than you might your own child one day. Hell, this project *is* your child!

You need to sell a few copies to recoup your expenses, and hopefully fund a sequel.

Would you use copy protection methods, and what methods would you use?

-=-=-
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Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 16:46
Orion Pax
To be honest if your making a game to sell to the public, your most likely going to use a publisher. Something like that would probably be decided by the publisher. Most methods today used are based on non copy-able info on the cd that a normal pc can not duplicate unless you have something like alcohol 120 (sp?) or other similar software So their not implemented by the programmers. Not usually I think. My opinion. But as far as designing your own or implementing your own to sell on your own I have no friggin clue!

EDIT

Oh and keep in mind.....any thing DONE can be UNDONE. Or at least mimicked.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 16:57
HoboBen
I haven't got a finished game yet, so this is all hypothetical

But yeah, your last point - with enough effort, anything can be bypassed.

A lot of copy protection can be incredibly annoying (games that promise LAN network play, but require the CD be in the drive at all times and are impossible to duplicate, so you don't have any way to play it!)

Steam, while not without problems, I think works well.

-=-=-
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Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 17:14
Afr0
Steam, while not without problems, I think works well.


It did, but only for a month or so. Needless to say, you can now find pirated versions of HL2 all over the web. However, what *is* neat about it is that, to this very day, you still need a Steam account with a valid CD-Key for HL2 to get the Source SDK. In that respect, FPSs have a slight advantage on games of other genres, in that alot of programmers will usually buy the game just to make sure they can make mods for it properly. Other games should start releasing SDKs too, to give their games more value. How cool wouldn't it be if Spore came with it's own SDK for instance (ok, bad example, because Will Wright's games usually sell < 1000 000 copies worldwide anyways, but I have always wanted to see the source for his games).
As a matter of fact, I heard rumours about Peter Moleyneux thinking about releasing the source for Black and White. That has still not happened though, AFAIK, which sucks.

Also, I think this whole thing about games companies loosing money on Piracy, while not being entirely untrue, is a slight bit overrated. I read on MSN News (at least that's what I think it was) a couple days ago that most people who downloads movies over the net are actually watching those same movies more on cinema and renting them more frequently on DVD than other people. I think this might also be the case as far as games are concerned.

Edit: Now you might be saying to yourself 'Yes, but I downloaded that and that game, and I didn't buy it!'. Well, did you happen to play it for very long? Probably not. Fact of the matter is, alot of games today are really bad, and most games that you would download and play for hours on end more often than not ends up getting bought anyways (at least that is the case for me).

Edit2: As a matter of fact, while I do admit to downloading a few games now and then (but I still buy them, remember?), some games are so good that I even decide months, or even years, in advance that I will buy them the moment they come out. One example? Spore. Nothing will stop me from buying that game in it's original packaging, unless there's a snowstorm on the day it comes out so I can't get to the store and I'll end up downloading it because I can't wait to play it.

Edit3: Another example is GTA: San Andreas, which I downloaded the moment it came out. I still bought it when it was like a year old or something though, and I don't regret it for a second. The packaging and manual is so good I take myself reading it from time to time even today, and I still keep playing it.

Edit4: One problem that keeps cropping up for me personally with games that I bought is that I keep lending out games to people, or leaving the CDs scattered around the house, and then when I want to play them I end up having to spend hours on end just looking for the bloody CD to play it. In those cases I usually end up downloading it again, but yeah. What would be really neat is if you could pay a bit extra when you buy the game to get your own personal storage locker on the developer's server from which you could download the game, should you ever loose the CD. That's what Blizzard did in a way with WoW, but that's a bit different, because it's an MMO, and you still need a valid account to play nonetheless.

Edit5: This idea with storage lockers would be particularily useful in the case of large companies like, for instance, EA. Think about being able to pay a small membership fee to be able to buy new games online (or RL) and store them on your account so you could download and play them anywhere! Kind of like Steam, only without the annoying client. I like the idea of a web interface better. After all, you would have to be connected to the internet to use such a service anyways.

Edit6: Most users harddrives are getting so big nowadays that most of the time you probably wouldn't even have to download the game alot of extra times after you got it initially, at least not if it's a game you play often. In that respect, companies operating such web interfaces wouldn't have to spend too much money on monthly bandwidth either, though obviously it would be great to have the *ability* to re-download the game should you ever need to.

Edit7: Wow, that's alot of edits...

-=-=-
Afr0 Games

Project Dollhouse on Github - Please fork!
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 17:35
Orion Pax
The steam engine, back in the day I remember was a pain. I really didnt like playing counter strike because of this. ( did CS use steam?) So my personal opinion I wouldnt use it unless since then its become more user friendly and not such a pain to use or aggravating.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 17:57
JL235
This discussion partly depends on what you mean by copy-protection. I presume you mean for stopping people from copying the game, but it also partly ties into copyright and decompiling games. For that I know that a lot of big developers build and implement code obfuscation tools in order to make their games harder to decompile.

Copy Protection doesn't work but it does deter (a few). I think the best copy protection schemes I have ever seen are ones which are aimed to make it more difficult or annoying to copy the game rather then aiming to make it impossible. Like the old 'look up word 20, on line 5 of page 69'. That method is still far more annoying then the copy-protection on most modern games.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 18:01
Stealth
The slickest system I've seen so far, is with Adobe. (Microsoft too?)

You have to enter your serial number as usual, but to activate the product you have to call them up or go to their website. You provide the serial, and they give you an activation number. That means when they want to install the game on the machine, they have to "okay" it with you. If you notice they are going nuts and installing it on 25+ computers, then you just stop giving them activation numbers.

Now generally speaking, a simple website to do this works just fine. Considering majority have internet, this usually isn't a problem for people legally using your software. Although for more popular products, providing a phone line and/or a mailing address is nice.

And giving them 30 days to activate the product is a good idea. Especially if they have to mail in for the activation number.

On the flip side, if you make it and it's popular, someone will crack your system. It's just the way it works. No system (in this day in age) will be %100 effective.

-=-=-
Quit posting and try Google.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 18:35
mike_g
Lol, the Adobe copy protection is useless. You chose to register by phone and crack it to stop it communicating with adobe and use any activation code. Not that I'm a pirate - I don't need to be. The gimp does everything I want as far as photo editing goes and I can even play around with the code and make stuff for it with Gtk+. Open source all the way.

That said server (only) activation via keycodes is the only effective method of preventing piracy without going software nazi and punishing your users. Many PC games nowadays use copy protection systems that is effectively malware. Its ironic when pirates can get the product free of it.

MAC address locking can work well, assuming your licence restricts it to a single machine. And, users don't know how the software is protected and don't tend to change their HW address.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 18:52
JL235
Photoshop is still easily the most pirated piece of software on the internet.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 19:21
mike_g
Copy Protection doesn't work but it does deter (a few). I think the best copy protection schemes I have ever seen are ones which are aimed to make it more difficult or annoying to copy the game rather then aiming to make it impossible. Like the old 'look up word 20, on line 5 of page 69'. That method is still far more annoying then the copy-protection on most modern games.

I'd have to disagree with that. At the end of the day valid users still have to refer to a book, so its annoying for everyone. Nothings stopping anyone from packaging the docs with it.

On the other hand software that installs dodgy custom drivers, written by people that dont fully understand kernel of the OS (IE: Windows) they are dealing with, and dont properly test their products has been nothing but problems. At best they cause instability and are hard to remove. At worst they are effectively rootkits.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 19:41
Stealth
mike_g Lol, the Adobe copy protection is useless. You chose to register by phone and crack it to stop it communicating with adobe and use any activation code.


That goes exactly with my point of anything popular, will get cracked.

While I agree Adobe copy protection is useless, it is a good method.

-=-=-
Quit posting and try Google.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 20:13
Orion Pax
I like the book idea. I remember those days. I still have old atari games for my atari 800xl computer that required the book to play. Nowadays people type up docs and upload them to doc websites so that still isnt 100% either but I think in the end of the day the best as it will be a very long time before some one decides to type it up. Plus you can make it a completely random word that is looked up. But you would have to have the entire book data'd up in the program and make it ridiculously huge.

Well maybe its not the best. But to an extent its decent.
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 22:06
Nolan
While I agree Adobe copy protection is useless, it is a good method.


If it's useless, then how is it good?


If you put too much trouble into protecting your software, you run the risk of aggravating legal users, which would probably be worse than allowing a few pirates to crack a copy.

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nolandc.com
Fri, 11 Apr 2008, 22:16
Stealth
It's useless in the sense that people have cracked "Adobe" brand software (due to the popularity). There isn't a real solution at the moment to prevent people from cracking software.

However it is still a very good method of software protection. Crackers have just entirely bypassed the process to get around it.

-=-=-
Quit posting and try Google.
Sat, 12 Apr 2008, 06:11
Jayenkai
Audiosurf uses an online scoreboard hub. You have to register to get on there, and if not, no highscores.
Considering how big that is, I can't imagine crackers have works around that..


*does a check*
Oh, well, never mind then..


I guess no matter what, there's a way around it.
Heck even World of Warcraft has it's emulated servers, for pirates to continue to play on.

Maybe just giving people a good demo really is the only good way. I wonder how many people pirated Doom, vs how many played it's "1st episode" demo?

|edit| For the purposes of "Some people are being a little too honest in this thread!", this thread will be given certain "amnesty" style rights.. But don't blame me if everyone starts calling you a pirate!! |edit|

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Sat, 12 Apr 2008, 07:02
HoboBen
Wow @ Audiosurf. I wasn't expecting that. I did a quick google, and it's quite surprising how sophisticated some of the tricks are - there's people who have got it working with a "fake" server that Audiosurf thinks is the real thing, people attempting to construct special audio tracks to get insane scores and Steam achievements, etc.

I think really copy protection is only a deterrent, and often does no more than annoy the people who bought it legally, as anyone running a cracked version are free from the trouble, really.

The first Civilization game I think had a nice approach - a few turns in, it would ask you a question that required the manual. Not one of those "look up word 20, on line 5 of page 69" things, it used the civilization advances tree to make the question, which I quite liked as a feature. If you don't have a manual, there's copies of the answers on the web now but it was probably quite effective in 1991.

I think also it's far more beneficial if you accept piracy as unavoidable, and instead look for ways to benefit from it. It's free advertising, may get people excited enough to pay for a sequel if it's really good, and if there's certain online/account only things, like updates that require a serial number to download then essentially you've given people a really big demo that they may enjoy enough to pay for (though, of course, some people will find a way around that, too!)

Then again, I'm a hobbyist and I'd be quite pleased if I finished something worth other people pirating. I might feel different if programming was how I made my living though.



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