Friday, April 02, 2010

Copy Protection - grrrrrrrrr

I really hate them, the new copy protection systems that demand you stay online the whole time.

I’ve started playing computer games in 1994 (a looooong time ago) and then games were distributed via floppy disk (for PCs). Copying such a disk (or 3 of them, or 5 of them, or 20 of them) was relatively easy, so most companies used an in-game copy protection. Usually, when you started the game, you either had to answer a question (like “What’s word 25 in line 10 on page 3 of the manual?”) or there was a gimmick that came with the game and that you manipulate somehow to actually get the game running. Of course, there were people around who got around the copy protection and thus cracked the game.

The most annoying of those copy protections came with the game “Alone in the Dark 2”. While the first zombie gangster (don’t ask) was attacking you, you had to put two playing cards with holes in them atop each other and find one symbol on the lower one that could be seen on the upper one.

One of the best copy protections of that kind came with the floppy version of “Day of the Tentacle” (there also was a CD version with voices and without copy protection). After a few minutes of playing, Bernard (one of the characters) was helping Dr. Fred to reconfigure the time machine and had to find the right amount of vinegar, oil and croutons for it (that’s “Day of the Tentacle” humour, don’t ask). The right amount depended on the picture at the lower end of the given page.

When the CD came out first, a CD recorder was so expensive that normal people couldn’t afford it. Thus the new games didn’t need a copy protection. When the recorders got cheaper, the new copy protections were pretty much like the old ones.

Then the DVD replace the CD, recorders were expensive again. When the recorders got cheaper once more, the new copy protection was a special code that was on the back of the game package or the manual that you had to type in during installing the game (or when you first started it). That was the CD-Key (it came up during the use of CD and never got renamed).

By now, a lot of games demand online activation. That’s something I don’t like at all, but can live with – if I really want to play a game. But new games from EA and Ubisoft (and almost all games from Valve) require being online the whole time while playing the game. The version of the game is completely bound to an user account, so you can’t resell it after you’ve finished playing (which I do in order to keep the amount of games on my shelves below a certain number). In addition playing offline in the single player campaign is no longer possible. As I’m rarely playing online (no WoW here) and only start up my router when I really want to go online, I’ve decided not to buy any game with such a copy protection. I find it highly problematic to be bound that completely by a company and – as anyone online – can’t guaranty being online without any slight glitches. And even worse, should the company experience difficulties with its servers or online connection, millions of players can’t even play a single player game.

I wonder why companies spent that much money on such measures to, basically, punish the honest customer who buys a game legally. Currently the new copy protection is working, but it’s only a question of time before it is cracked again.

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